Sheridan Su

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Passion for Family Meals

One of my favorite things about working in a restaurant kitchen is having family meals with the staff. These are the meals eaten by the cooks, servers, bussers, wine sommeliers, managers, dishwashers. It is often prepared by someone belonging to the kitchen staff, before guests arrive.

Some days, it can be whole roasted chicken with natural jus with potato puree or shepard's pie and then rhubarb cobbler for desert. Other days, we only have trimmings available from that beef ribeye I just butchered or scraps of vegetables. Staff meals can mean the Mexican cook in my kitchen feeding the entire staff tacos, made from the beef trimmings. Another day, the Indian prep cook will turn out beautifully cooked vindaloo and chicken masala. It doesn't matter what is on hand, but cooks will find a way to make magic from humble ingredients. (Usually!)

Macaroni and Farm Vegetables poached in Tom Yum Broth

Steamed Snapper with Ginger and Scallion

Thomas Keller devoted a section to family meals in his book, The French Laundry. It is titled, "The Importance of Staff Meal". He writes, “Staff meal was first about the fundamentals of cooking … Can you be passionate about cooking at this level? If you can make great food for these people, create that habit, have that drive, that sincerity, and keep that with you and take it to another level in the staff meal, then someday you’ll be a great chef. Maybe.”

Staff meals are simple, fun, and diverse. These meals bring the team closer together and is meant to keep everyone happy. That is why I am passionate about it.

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