Staff Meals: 10 L.A. Chefs/Restaurateurs Recall the Best and Worst
|Flickr user djjewelz|
|Spicy "Crack" Krab Cake at Starry Kitchen|
When I worked at Maxime's in Chicago, it was an offshoot of the Paris restaurant, I remember that there wasn't any place to sit down [for staff meal]. They never made it into a nice tradition. But I remember having boiled salt pork with water -- and this was before pork belly had any panache. And it also wasn't very delicious.
Also, when we would make a consommé, and they would take float [all of the leftover meat and egg scraps], which has no flavor, and we would be served that for staff meal.
At our restaurants, a lot of Susan [Feniger]'s and my my inspiration for Border Grill came from the delicious staff meals at [former restaurant] City. Our mushroom empanadas, our avocado cilantro salsas, a lot of the stew type dishes. Ropa vieja came from a staff meal. The line cooks take turns making staff meals, and they get kind of competitive with it, and really wanted to make it shine. It's an important part of our restaurants.
As far as "staff" meals that I do with Wolvesmouth...I normally don't eat the day of a dinner, so the next day I usually cook everyone brunch and we hang out the whole day eating eggs Benedict, French toast with maple or nutella, roasted potatoes, bacon, sausage, fruit, cheeses, baked beans, and mimosas or Bellini, depending on the season. It's usually a three to four hour staff meal.
As far as the best staff meal I have had, I have worked in quite a few places but I am going to say it was at Nostrana, in Portland, Oregon. Making pizza, breads, and roasting vegetables in the wood-burning oven, and we would also make a nice salad to balance out the weight of everything. Simple quality ingredients cooked really well with attention to detail.
4. Nguyen Tran, Owner/Manager, Starry Kitchen:
One of the best internal staff meals: the creation of the Spicy "Crack" Krab Cake. It's become one of our most popular dishes, and something our sous chef developed, and we ate behind the scenes. Who woulda thunk it?
But actually, my favorite staff meal so far was from the party that preceded Test Kitchen. They served hors d'oeuvres, fancy tiny desserts and then some which was all good... but man, was I hungry! I was about to leave the party and head out to In-N-Out, until I noticed they started having staff meal with some awesome Peruvian chicken dish topped with fresh salsa... and I kinda crashed the "party" to see if they had any more left, and indeed they did. My buddy Ricardo Zarate asked if I wanted any (I had two servings ^_^). That was a nice staff meal (and I wasn't even part of the staff that time!!).
I kind of like staff meals more sometimes because it's more comforting and hearty too (at least from my perspective). And honestly, I like kicking it with the staff sometimes more than anything else. It makes me feel one with the people (when I'm not wearing my banana suit ;D).
3. Zak Walters, Chef/Owner, Salt's Cure:
The chef I worked for in San Francisco, Denis Leary, (Rubicon) would often make secret staff meals, and if you were on his good side or had a good day you got the invite. His favorite was lamb tagine and socca. Lucky for me I always got invited...
The best staff meals usually happen Monday or Tuesday. That's because one of our cooks likes to party and ends up bringing back a really good nam prik (mortar-pounded Thai salsa) from the weekend festivities. Variations include: nam prik pla ra (fermented gouramy fish), nam prik het (roasted mushrooms), nam prik ta daeng (red eye salsa), et al. You steam some veggies and sticky rice, grill a few sausages, fry up some bottom feeder fish and flank steak jerky, then you've got quite a feast on your hands.
1. Johnny Yoo, Chef de Cuisine, Lukshon:
As far as best and worst, nothing memorable enough to remember.
But when I worked at Sona, it was the only place where it was mandatory that all staff stop what they were doing, at 4:30, and had staff meal together with a white tablecloth table setup in the back of the restaurant. I thought that was pretty cool.