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Everything posted by mike_r

  1. i agree. this makes me stop and think about the concept of tipping as a whole. when we purchase things like shoes, clothes, tools, etc. the price is usually set; and generally salespeople make their living off of comission. when we eat out, the price is set, but we are expected to tip the server based upon his or her performance; this then augments the pitifully low wage the restaurant pays the server (usually in the neighborhood of 3-4 bucks an hour). this doesn't make a lot of sense, when you think about it; it's just the old carrot-and-stick method of management, combined with an economic man sensibility. why not build the cost of the server's labor into the price of the meal, as the cooks' wages are? in some respects this makes sense; this way the restaurant can keep prices just that much lower, and the server's wage comes directly from the guest's pocket--which is additional motivation for the server to be attentive and provide prompt service. the only problem is that they make SO MUCH MORE! tip pools make a certain amount of sense, but what was unfair at first becomes rather insignificant when divided too many ways. the concept of adding a service charge to the bill and then using that to pay an equitable wage to both front and back of the house has arisen here; and honestly this makes a lot of sense. an 18% service charge is what i have seen recently; this makes sense to me, as long as the money gets to where it is supposed to go--that is, as long as the restaurant is honest about apportioning the service charge fairly among its staff. i don't think there really is an answer here; the idea of tipsharing is a good one, but i understand it to be illegal in some states to forcibly divide tips between both front and back of the house. i guess its up to us as members of the industry to take it upon ourselves to provide equity where and when we can.
  2. the joy of cooking, natch. was given it by my mom when i moved to chicago to go to cooking school. also use maida heatters book of great chocolate desserts. the devilish cake recipe is one i made for my eleventh birthday, as my mom loves to remind me; the fbi cake was another frequently requested item in my household growing up.
  3. ooooh man this has been pet peeve of mine for years! i've been a professional cook (in that i get paid to cook) for nigh on 6 years now, and never have i worked at a restaurant where the kitchen crew got a cut of the tips. i'm lucky; i truly love what i do, and it's really not about the money for me. but watching a server breeze in at 4, polish a couple of glasses, yak to a few tables, and then walk out with three or four hundred dollars while i've been there since noon or earlier, sweating, hustling, cutting myself, etc. and then walking out with not a penny more in my pocket other than my wage (which was closer to four hundred for the week, if i was working overtime)--well, that's just frustrating. i've worked at every level of foodservice, as well, from quick casuals and bar and grills up to fine dining; and i've never seen this addressed. the cooks usually get a beer or two after their shift (at smaller, independant, non fine dining joints) but thats it. now, i've been given the opportunity to experience the front of the house, working as a server on rotation from the kitchen, and it's different than i expected. harder, yes. i have a little more respect for servers (at this restaurant anyway ). and still not making all those tips cuz we recently revamped the wage system bottom line: cooks work hard and are rarely compensated appropriately. at the upper end of the dining scale, things are occasionally a little more even, with tip pools, tip share, etc. at the lower end, however, the kitchen staff is usually made up of hispanic immigrants (at least in chicago it is) and unfortunately it's possible to pay them less. once as a cook i was tipped by a private party; they bought out the restaurant, we served a hell of a meal, and the host--drunk, yes--wandered into the kitchen after the party was over and handed out twenties to everyone, even the dishwasher. that was cool. thats it though. as a diner i've bought beers for crews in the past, but can never be sure they arrived. i know that i've only ever been told once that someone wanted to buy the kitchen a round, and those were servers from another restaurant for whom we opened the kitchen after hours.
  4. mike_r

    Salt (merged topics)

    i just use kosher, for the simple reason that i've been using kosher salt for my entire cooking career now; and can more or less accurately season by touch. larger and smaller grains throw me off. i've used smoked sea salt before and it's pretty cool stuff; also we have this chinese sea salt that has HUGE crystals; we use this for seasoning beef that gets seared.
  5. we have been using okinawan purple sweet potatoes recently; while on vacation in boston i found them at Idlewilde farmers market (which rules) in littleton. have found them here in chicago only at a farmers market last summer downtown. they are not as sweet at regular yams, and take a LOT of cooking; they are quite starchy. good, though.
  6. last time i visited my parents they still had my little brother's pet turtle in the big basement freezer; i remember the thing dying in the middle of winter about seven years ago, little bro demanding a proper burial, and since the ground was frozen my folks did the humane thing which was freeze the little sucker until spring. (the turtle, not my brother). by the time spring rolled around, everyone had forgotten about it; it surfaces every now and then when someone needswaffles or pizza, but no one ever throws it away. not really sure why... all i have in my freezer is a couple of quail i bought three months ago intending to cook that night but didn't, then went on vacation two days later. the problem with freezing is it's never ready to cook NOW, i gotta like, plan ahead and stuff
  7. there's something i've also always found captivating about raw meat; half of it is no doubt the sense of illicit thrill-seeking; when i was in school it was pretty well drilled into me that undercooked meat was DANGEROUS and a SIN of some kind. and for a long time i went along with that; until the first time i had steak tartar--flank, i think it was. a little worcestershire, some chives, dash of soy...ooohh....i do save a couple small scraps even now when i butcher meat...sometimes...i do remember the first time i broke down some dry-aged meat; the outside had this dark, almost jerky-like color and texture, had that sweetish-bitter smell of rot (good rot)...i had to try it! and i wish i hadn't, it was quite foul. the interior was amazing when cooked but not quite as nice in the raw form...lesson learned. wonder if shawn mcclain's Custom House would do a raw beef tasting menu...?
  8. just read the Chicago Reader article about schwa; wanted to congratulate the crew; we had our christmas staff party there and the food was really really good. hope to have the opportunity to go again soon. anyhoo, good job dudes.
  9. i've seen those coagulants of which you speak; they're hydrocolloids and can usually be found at a well-stocked asian market like mitsuwa.
  10. this is kinda reachin but in XXX (the vin diesel flick) there's a scene where he's in a restaurant with a girl, having some kind of mindless talk, and in the background you see a fleet of waiters carry 8 or 10 dome-covered plates to a table of 8 or 10 ppl, set them down as one, then remove the lids with a flourish, also as one. i thought that was pretty cool. the rest of the movie is awful though.
  11. mike_r

    per "se"

    yes, and you'll get "great service" and "good value" as a result. this thread has made me wince every time i see quotation marks now, even in perfectly ordinary context.
  12. man thats a weird cuke... ever used crosnes before? we got some in a few weeks before, totally new to me. They're also called chinese artichokes, and have a flavore profile similar to jicama or sunchoke. We cooked them sousvide with bacon and thyme and they were absolutely delicious!
  13. nah if you notice in the earlier episodes he definately pays close attention to her, every time they win a challenge he's hanging out right next to her. wasn't too sure about all that "every chef's dream" stuff about cooking on live tv...and did anyone ever see that? maybe i missed it... surprised that elsie's gone, but you could tell right from the beginning. i think the key here is to not win challenges, then you won't get kicked off. still clinging to the belief that michael will get it.
  14. i have to say this show's having a deleterious effect on our chef at work; every two seconds he's quoting ramsay, yelling at our intern, playing it up...all in good fun though. at least it gives us something to talk about on the line. i think its gonna come down to michael and ralph, with michael maybe winning...dude's always hiding on the pastry section though! anyone else notice that? the past three eps he's been bruleein' away while rome burns. oh yeah, and the mysterious meat incident, although i think he just went and looked in the meat locker, where jessica should have looked in the first place. whatever; it's entertaining...i'd like to see him at an inner-city community college cooking school. or even at chic. people making wendy "i thought cold water boiled faster" seem like fernand point.
  15. i'm willing to bet that after the next episode or two they will merge the teams; then we'll really see the fur fly. I hate tv, but bleep, this is entertainment! I'm wondering how they'll handle the final episode; if they'll do a follow-up, have gordon come into the winner's kitchen after like a month or something so they can have a good laff over the idiots in the show. If I won, I would like to think I'd sell the restaurant and ask Gordon for a (sous-chef) job at his restaurant. Also: i've seen boiling point, and I have to wonder, are his cooks watching the show and laughing their bleeps off at the silly americans?
  16. yeah michael's a sly one no doubt about that! it was pretty obvious he was pulling a power play; he had trouble keeping his face straight. andrew surprised me; he's still mr cocky but he seemed a little less whiny this episode. im betting he's gone next one though. anyone know about the sous-chefs? where they come from, etc. i will say from a cook's standpoint i wish they showed longer shots of the actual cooking.
  17. this show is great; we kick it around all week on the line. plenty of good quotes from the show too, which the chef delights in using on the servers and foodrunner. sure its bs; but its entertaining and addictive. personally i think he's keeping andrew around just so he can kick his ass some more. i think michael's the ringer, either he or ralph will take it home. i still think dewberry was my favorite character, just for the entertainment value.
  18. I don't recall seeing that many food-related flicks; big night and the cook, the thief etc. are both cool movies, but i've never seen a movie that conveyed what a busy saturday night on the broiler is like. something by michel gondry, or whats-his-name, trainspotting man. I've heard about a movie called god of cookery, by the same guy that did shaolin soccer; apparently it's an inter-kitchen war, with a climactic battle over one restaurant's recipes...that sounds cool ...either way the answer to question #1 is yes....though not always. i found "tortilla soup" to be a deadly bore.
  19. not having spent much time on the floor it's hard for me to bring up specifics; all i get is the second-hand tale. however i do get peeved when someone orders the chicken dish, but doesn't want the veg, or the sauce, or the garnish. but they do want the veg from the lamb dish, and the sauce from the fish dish. this isn't create-your-own-entree night, right. i guess what it comes down to is the social contract of which we are all a part. when i go out to eat there are certain conventions that we as diners and servers and cooks agree to; these conventions are codified somewhat for the staff, but as a cook i would no more spit in your plate as it goes out the door than i would spit in my waiter's face if he or she dropped the ball; i.e. rang in the wrong order, failed to take drink orders, etc. talking on a cell phone in a restaurant is rude because it conveys the impression that your environs are so uninteresting that you have to converse with someone who isn't even there. the difference between that and a live face-to-face discussion is that your dining companion can also monitor the noise level the two of you are emitting, as well as appropriate pauses for taking orders, eating, etc. i would no more take a book to a nice restaurant than i would a cellphone. or a laptop. servers are people too; i have experienced high-level fine-dining service and while the server does not tell off-color jokes neither does he or she condescend to me (in the better places i've been to). a lot of the game is identifying the kind of customer; our servers at the restaurant come in every night talking about the high-maintenance cases on table ten or the really easygoing folks on table sixteen. if they know that table ten is going to be more trouble, they will go out of their way to ensure that they have the best possible experience, even if they are unwilling to enjoy themselves. the simple fact is that servers work just as hard for their dollar as anyone else; harder than many others, in fact. issues like autograts on larger tables is understandable; in the first place, it cuts down on the number of tables in a server's section; generally a five-top results in the loss of at least one seat, as a four-top table and a deuce are pushed together. in the second place it reduces the amount of time a server can devote to his other tables, as a seven top requires an exponentially larger amount of attention than a deuce does. and in the third place, after dealing with a large party, bringing wine, ringing in last-minute sides, etc. etc. to receive a five percent tip is unconscionable. so that's my two cents. it's the same problem as with children; you don't need a license to have them; nor do you need to have prior restaurant experience to eat out. which results in many customers behaving like complete boors and embarassing themselves and their hosts. nuff said.
  20. wow. sascanuck you are a hero for not stuffing MIL into her own oven...but seriously, my girlfriend's aunt is at least a step up...she KNOWS she can't cook, and gets xmas dinner, etc. at the cash-n-carry; i offered to cook but was told frostily "no, the grocery store will be JUST fine." huh? i mean, thomas keller i'm not, but i can put two and two together to equal roast bird...what can ya do?
  21. usually in my house growing up if something was really relly good we'd all say " " as we were too busy snaffling grub to waste time by pointing out what at that point was rather redundant...
  22. mike_r

    Too many clementines!

    i love clementines! every winter i get two or three boxes as often as i can until they start getting too expensive. i usually walk around with seven or eight in my pockets to snack on, hand out as calling cards, or leave at the scene of a crime but they are so good and good for you; last winter i ate one almost every day (usually two or more) and didn't get sick once...love it. and it's surprising how many people haven't ever had a clementine before; i used to et a lot of strange looks when i pulled handfuls of the magical fruit from my trench pockets...
  23. i thought about that actually because when i ate at trio one of the dishes was lobster with peanut butter, bread and iced tea poured over the whole shebang...there were a couple other things going on, but i canna remember them...it was REALLY GOOD though... i love that scene from the simpsons where honer makes bart wrap the bacon around his stick of butter before eating it...or was it sausage... yum!
  24. mike_r

    Bygone Thanksgivings

    i'm with you on this one jason and phifly; turkey is muy groovy gravy, baby... fortunately my mother is an amazing cook, so i was never subjected to the ravages described above... two years ago, however, i had thanksgiving dinner with my girlfriend's chicago aunt, and was severely disappointed, to say the least...30 lbs of browns chicked thighs, drums and bone-in breasts (fried, and chicken, not turkey) along with storebought coleslaw, macaroni salad, instant mashed, etc. (see the I was FLOORED... string for more discourse on this matter) i cried, almost, on the metra train back to the city the next day... however, her family redeemed itself in my eyes last year; i ate thanksgiving dinner in cashmere, WA (outside seattle) with about 35 of her relatives...we had 5 turkeys; 1 smoked (yum yum!!!), 1 deep-fried whole, 1 rotisseried, and 2 oven-roasted. 12 pies for dessert. all the aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws outdid each other bringing sides. in a similarly culinary vein, i felt like a piece of meat as i was introduced to almost all of them for the first time edited for repetition
  25. oddly enough this is something i was thinking about for thanksgiving as well ...exactly because no one ever mentions it. i would assume that you could cook it long enough to reach 140, but would the amount of time that would take damage the bones? or impart a strange flavor to the meat? ... (sorry to bust in on your question, melkor! )
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