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Just around a month ago I was invited to explore the Bloomin’ Brands headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Of course, there was no way that I was going to deny that opportunity! I wasn’t going to escape the cold weather like many of the others who were invited. Instead, I was going because I simply LOVE Outback Steakhouse! Outback has a great atmosphere and I know that I am always welcome no matter what I’m wearing with a 2 year old on my hip. I arrived at the beautiful Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, and upon entering my room, was greeted with a fun goody bag. I spied Skittles immediately, so I knew that Outback and I would be fast friends.

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We enjoyed dinner at the original Outback Steakhouse on Henderson Avenue on the night that we arrived. This particular Outback was opened by the original 4 owners over 30 years ago! I knew that there was a lot of history behind the doors to that kitchen. Once we were seated we had the pleasure of dining with some of the top hitters in Outback’s marketing department, including the Senior Director of Outback Marketing Communications, Steve Greer. He even passed around his Field Guide, which outline an Outbacker’s commitments to their peers and customers. We were served what seemed like every appetizer on the menu. I, of course, ordered my favorite. Alice Springs Chicken with french fries. We even finished off our meals with Mini Milkshakes, which are seriously AMAZING!

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The next morning we set out for the Bloomin’ Brands headquarters. This was exciting because our group was literally the only group of bloggers to EVER be invited to the headquarters or test kitchens. It was a true honor to be exploring the Outback Steakhouse Headquarters! We enjoyed a quick breakfast and were then introduced to the President of Outback Steakhouse, Jeff Smith. Jeff is probably one of the most inspirational people that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. When asked why he continued working and doing what he does each day he replied “To Win.” A simple answer like this is the root of success for the Outback Brand.

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After our chat with Jeff, we took a tour through the top secret test kitchen. I worked in restaurant management for many years throughout college and never dreamed that a test kitchen would look the way that it actually did. It was really cool! We met Chef Paul Fabre, who is the VP of Research and Development . He showed us the Outback test kitchen, as well as the kitchens for Carabba’s and Bonefish Grill. It was really neat to see that the kitchens are all next to each other, allowing the creative juices and inspiration of each kitchen to flow to the next.

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We then got to watch a demonstration by Paul and his kitchen crew. They showed us how they make a fresh salad, washing and cutting the vegetables and even making their own ranch dressing and croutons. I never knew that a huge corporate restaurant like Outback would actually prepare their foods fresh in each kitchen, but they do! They even make their own chocolate sauces and whipped cream! Truly unbelievable to think that chefs at 750 Outback  restaurants put that much time and energy into doing what they love most!

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We then learned how to create everyone’s favorite, the Bloomin’ Onion. Our demonstration was given by the chef who actually prepares every Bloomin’ Onion that you see in advertisements such as print ads and television commercials. How cool, right?

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And that is the finished product! Delicious as usual!

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Once the demonstration was over it was finally lunch time. Thank goodness, because the smells and general idea of food were really starting to wear me thin. I needed to eat! And eat we did! The best part? We got to try their brand new Moonshine BBQ menu, which was top secret at the time! This new menu was absolutely amazing. I ate so many Moonshine BBQ Bacon Wrapped Shrimp that I was actually slightly embarrassed.

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But I guess I didn’t care that much because once the Moonshine BBQ Ribs were served you could bet that I ate all of them! I have been dreaming of this menu since eating it, and am so excited that it finally launched on May 21st! I am even considering taking on my Moonshine BBQ Name, Maisy Mule Kick Fine.

What’s your Moonshine BBQ name?