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Posts posted by Qwerty

  1. It's probably a LOT cheaper to buy and replace. A lot of people might not know this (or maybe a lot do) but nice, hell, even decent, restaurant plates, bowls and cups are EXPENSIVE. Some of them run like, 20-30 dollars per plate.

    I'm not saying your local Chili's uses this, but a run of the mill "fine dining" plate probably runs at least 30 bucks. Bowls, different shapes, sizes, etc all cost a lot of money.

    What does a slab of slate cost? 5 bucks? Break one, it's not that big of a deal. Just run down to the Home Depot, lol.

    I worked at a place that served a salumi plate of slate...it looked nice and actually held the cold temp longer than I think a plate would. I think we did some sort of tartar on it too. Maybe it wasn't slate though, it may have been some sort of other faux something or other. But it looked cool.

  2. As one of the younger participants in the eGullet forum, I experience restaurants somewhat differently than the majority of individuals present. My choice of venue is limited by my wallet, and I often order towards the more frugal end of the menu. However, above all else, I'm not served in quite the same fashion.

    I can understand, to an extent, the lack of service. I don't order appetizers, I dine alone, and by demographic I'm not likely to tip well. The waiter - not unreasonably - chooses to fawn over tables with the potential for more robust compensation.

    However, I've recently encountered a steadily growing list of reasons why I've not left a tip at all. These include:

    1. Inattentiveness. Requiring a few minutes' wait is fine; however, it should not be necessary to flag you down with orange cones airport-style to place an order. My metric for acceptability is the wait at an over-capacity bar during World Cup finals. If you can't equal their quality of service, then you're just not trying.

    2. Short-changing. A few dollars is fine. Accidentally tripling my bill, not so much. Either you're dishonest, inattentive, or flat-out stupid; regardless, no tip for you.

    3. Serving the wrong food. This is of particular significance as a good friend of mine is vegetarian and several others have mild food allergies. Accidentally serving me a medium-well steak instead of a medium-rare is excusable; giving a devout Buddhist a plate of carpaccio, not so much.

    4. Unwillingness to move my table due to inclement conditions. This has yet to actually happen, though I suspect it will soon enough. While a crying infant or boisterous drinkers aren't a big deal, if I'm paying $17 for a steak I expect to enjoy it without water dripping on my head. (This, sadly, has happened. In the last week.)

    5. Not serving me at all. A few days ago, I was informed that may waiter forgot to dispatch my requests to the kitchen in the forty minutes between when I made them and when it closed, leading to significant embarrassment in front of some rather nice people I had hoped to impress. This falls into the category of "I want telepathically strangle you in the manner of Darth Vader" level unacceptability. (Thankfully, I occasionally am privileged to write a newspaper review for a student paper, so I suspect the loss of reputation will be soon repaid in turn.)

    I don't think I'm an unreasonable customer. I've had excellent service on the few occasions I can afford the more elegant restaurants in town, and left a gratuity accordingly. But if I'm dropping (what is for me, anyway) a significant amount of my income so that I might have a nice evening, I'm not rewarding anyone for making a hash of it.

    God, I hate topics like this. This kind of stuff really grates on me. Why is just about every topic in the restaurant forum about negative shit that people experience in restaurants. This isn't the restaurant life forum, it's the restaurant complaints forum. Seriously, eGullet needs to create another forum just for people to whine about all the life ruining experiences they have out to eat.

    Does it make you feel good to write bad reviews about a place because a waiter made a mistake and forgot to put in the order? Yeah, it's boneheaded, but should the entire business of the restaurant be flamed in a negative review so that you can "repay" them. By all means, acknowledge the mistake, but don't use your phony-balony high horse to get some sort of mediocre revenge because some college kid forgot to put in your order at 11 at night.

    You want to get back at them? Don't ever go back there. There is a reason that something like 90% of restaurants fail--most of them aren't any good. Chances are it'll work itself out, and you won't ever spend your 17 dollars there again. Vote with you wallet. And hey, if the place is still there in 5 years, chances are they are doing something right and you caught them on an off night. Even chef's restaurants like Daniel Bolud have off nights.

    Serving carpaccio to buddhists? What planet are you on? Most people don't get served stuff they don't order...the only scenario I can think of is if someone else besides the waiter brings out the wrong food to the table. Hey guess what...mistakes happen. If someone orders a vegetarian pasta and gets a load of bacon in it, sure, that is a mistake. How do you know who's mistake it was? Maybe someone grabbed the wrong pasta for another person and took it to the wrong table. It happens. To summarily decide that a server doesn't deserve any tip based on a mistake like that says more about you. I chalk it up to some sort of elitist attitude.

    You ever work in a restaurant? I really wish diners had a bit more perspective when the go out to eat. I don't understand the plague of impatience and entitlement that seems to permeate dining nowadays. People somehow act like there is no room for error if they are somehow paying for a meal. Jesus--it really irks me. I can't think of one other job where no one ever makes a mistake. Cops arrest the wrong guys sometimes, cashier's miscount change sometimes, lawyers lose cases, business people accidentally delete the slide show, students misplace homework...etc etc.

    I would love to put you on the floor of a restaurant and see how long you can go without making a mistake. I swear to god people want servers to be mind readers. The water dripping on your head? I'm 100% sure the workers had NO idea that the ceiling was leaking. Nobody in their right mind would seat a person under a drip. How could they have known that would happen? Seriously? You get dripped on in an unforseen event and then wouldn't leave a tip to the waiter? I can understand if they flat out refused to move you or something...but come on. Any good restaurant would apologize profusely and attempt to make amends. It's not like they were all..."well, table 6 is leaking, but I'm sure this jerkoff won't care."

    Get over yourself, dude. Short of any type of flat out rudeness, or a tragically bad experience, there is absolutely NO excuse for not tipping. It needs to be factored in to your budget for dining out. I'm sorry...that is a fact. I understand that, if you have a truly horrible experience, not leaving a tip (I've done it once in my life) but for honest mistakes? Come on. Imagine if someone docked your salary every time you missed a deadline or made a typo at work.

    Seriously, folks, how about a thread about the best dining experiences you've ever had? Something positive for this forum instead of all the whining/negativity? I can't take anymore of the "restaurant made me sick, what annoys me the most about eating out, worst short cuts, chefs can't cook, restaurant is too loud, giant peppermill smacked me in the face, the air is too cold, the air is too hot, the table is too big, the table is too small, my server doesn't write down the order (idiot), sucky websites, server made me feel wrong, blah blah blah"


  3. Well, here's the thing.

    It's probably OK to eat. As long as it was unopened, and commercial, it's designed to sit on a shelf for months without going bad. So it's probably OK. I mean, it wasn't refrigerated when you bought it, right?

    But I have a pretty hard and fast rule of: When in doubt, throw it out.

    I've had food poisoning a couple of times before (like, real, true food poisoning, not the "touch of diarrhea" kind) and I guarantee you I would have payed $4 to stop sitting on a toilet, holding a bucket all night wishing I was dead. Dehydrated hallucinations may be interesting, but I don't want to repeat those experiences in any way, shape or form.

    I mean, again, your probably fine. But for $4, why take the chance?

  4. Personally, I'm an advocate of school. It's not absolutely necessary, but I think it helps. And IF you decide to forgo school, try your best to find a good chef who can teach you and be a mentor. And work in several top of the field restaurants you can get into, so you get exposed to different styles, ideas, recipes, methods, etc.

    The potential problem with going the mentor only route would be if you have poor mentors. There are a lot of lazy chefs out there who cut corners and have bad habits. If you go to school, you will at least have a base of knowledge so that you, at least on paper, "know" better and can weed out the poor chef mentors. He or she may even tell you that the things they do are "normal" and that all pros do it, though it's not true. Probably just how they learned.

    Again, no one way is "better" than the other, I just think school gives you some confidence and a vocabulary, as well as a base of knowledge you can apply to real world situations. It would also, most likely, open up doors for you and get your food into some restaurants.

  5. Your 2 best bets are to probably go get a job in the best restaurant you can get into in your area. If you want to cook fine dining, then get a job in the best fine dining restaurant in your area. If you want to cook barbecue, then get a job at the best barbecue joint you can. Whatever style of food you would like to cook, find the best place (with a real chef) and learn everything you can.

    The other best option would be to go to culinary school--a local, community college program is great, and a school like Johnson and Wales, NECI, CIA or any of the other "big name" schools would work as well. Use the schools intern/externship programs to get some kitchen experience, then repeat step 1.

    Expect to not make any money, ever, unless you eventually work your way up to exec. chef of a larger property or get famous.

    Its a tough life, so I encourage you to not jump right in without knowing what you are getting into. It sounds like you do, so I won't lecture you. If you search the forum there must be dozens of topic on getting started, culinary school, internships, etc.

    Good luck, I'm happy to go into more detail if you'd like.

  6. One frustrating aspect is how inconsistent they are from store to store with the amount of toppings they'll put on the sub. I want a good-sized salad on there. Everything but the pickled sweet peppers. Some places load it up while others give you scant, tiny morsels of veg.

    That is a wonderful way to put it! I am the same. I know a lot of people like lots of meat, but I like a little bit of turkey or tuna and a lot of lettuce and veggies for crunch!

    Why not just ask the person to put more on...or say "I like a lot of lettuce." Of course its going to vary from person to person...did you want them to use a measuring cup for lettuce and onions?

  7. Curious about a few things...

    What sets this restaurant apart from the hundreds/thousands of other upscale/casual/bistro type places that exist? There are thousands of places that use fine dining techniques in a casual setting. What is different about your place? What makes it special? You are going to sous vide strip steaks instead of filet?

    Are you strictly talking about a technique/ingredient driven restaurant at a lower price point? Is the uniqueness of your idea its location, in that you will be the only restaurant doing what you are doing in your area?

    Who is your target market? Since your price point is lower, are all your customers going to want to commit to a 5 course tasting menu? Will this limit your business on a weeknight? You may hit target for price point, but are people going to be willing to sit at your restaurant for 2 hours on a Tuesday when they have work/school the next day and a babysitter at home?

    Your idea sounds interesting...I'm really playing devil's advocate. Good luck.

  8. Is there anything that doesn't annoy you guys?

    I find these type of threads upsetting. I swear to god it seems like people go out to eat just so they can complain about it. For just about every complaint in this thread there is someone who would complain about the opposite. People complain cause a server fills up the iced tea, while other people complain when server's don't fill it up. Some people want to pour their own wine, while others are offended if they have to touch the bottle themselves.

    Want to know who is responsible for bad service? The public.

    It also greatly depends on the type of establishment. If I'm at a diner, or a casual chain, or something, and the server/runner auctions off the food...so what? Like, are your conversations so important that you can't stop for 10 seconds to get your entree? The higher you progress along the dining scale, the more you should expect from the service.

    Your restaurants upsell you so that they make more money. News flash: restaurants try and make money. In these tough times, every cent counts so yeah, maybe you can put up with some upselling. It might be the difference between your favorite Trattoria being in business one week and out the next. Those truffles aren't going to disappear just from the occasional person who asks for them...the servers need to push them because truffles are a) ungodly expensive and b) very perishable.

    You know why you don't get a new ice tea glass every time? Cause I like my dishwasher. And he's buried right now. Plus, now it means I have to walk to the dishpit when there might be other things to do. You know why servers top off your glasses? Cause they have time. They might not have time in 5 minutes. You are half empty and I've got the pitcher in my hand? I'm going to top you off. Because, like I said, in 5 minutes I might not have time to fill your glass. Would you rather have to put an extra sweet n low in your tea now, or have an empty glass sit in front of you until I have time to come back around? Cause I know you'd complain if your glass sat empty for longer than 2 minutes.

    I'm sorry, this is so frustrating to me. I HATE these massive bitch fest threads about the restaurant business. I guess it just ties into people's love for complaining about everything and feeling entitled to do so. It's a wonder any of you enjoy the experience at all...

  9. Could you use shrimp shells? The techniques are nearly identical but you'd have a much easier time getting shrimp shells. Once you add the stock to whatever you are cooking (soup, bouillabase, curry, etc) the difference between lobster and shrimp won't be astronomical. You can also stretch it out, like buy 2 or 3 lobsters, use the bodies for stock, and stretch with shrimp shells.

  10. I just have to say...a lot of times frozen fries are WAY better than fresh. I'm usually not any kind of advocate for frozen food, but honestly fries is the exception. I'll take a well prepared, well seasoned frozen fry over a limp, soggy, dull fresh fry anyday.

  11. isn't that the stuff you add to pickles to keep them crisp? I'm pretty sure it is but I'm too lazy to look it up. But yeah, if you were making fermented pickles its what you add to help them stay crisper.

  12. Lol I know, I was shocked when I saw the portion size. It's not great lamb or anything, standard stuff, but it's still the priciest protein they buy. And they give, like, twice as much as I would do.

    Katie, I appreciate the support. I'm not at a loss for knowing how to do the calculations, and I have a costing spreadsheet all made up and ready to go, I was just wondering if I was crazy thinking that I should make my own recipes and determine cost/yield before I was able to do plate costs. My new boss seems to think I should do it the other way around, which is quite possible.

    This brings up an interesting question though...how do most of the chefs here determine food cost? Do you guys/gals base it on protein, add a couple bucks for garnish, and then divide by desired FC%? Or something a little more involved? I've heard some places that just basically multiply the portion cost by 4 to cover all expenses.

    Now I'm just curious...thanks again to everyone for the help.

  13. Yeah no, it's a small, independant place. It seems weird to me too, but I think it's just a knee jerk reaction to the last chef. I just think the owner somehow thinks this is how places calculate food cost for some reason--who knows if he read a book or an article or something. Part of the reason it's happening so fast is because I want to change the menu ASAP. The old menu isn't complete crap or anything, I just want it to reflect my style and start implementing changes, etc.

    Just one thing, for example. Their portion size for the lamb dish is one entire rack. I thought that was quite...generous. They buy cryovac'd frenched lamb racks (no problem there, just saying) and serve the entire thing to one guest. Anyone else think things like that contribute to high food costs lol.

  14. Thanks guys.

    Thats kind of what I'm trying to tell him, is that I can't know the yields and the portion costs without making the recipe's and actually seeing how much it makes and working from there. I don't know if he thinks or expects me to just have a bunch of standardized recipes in my arsenal or what...but it's just frustrating.

    Like I said, I have no problem doing the recipe/plate costing, it just seems to me I need to do the menu, roll it out, tweak and measure the recipes, then fine tune the costs once the recipes and portions are in place. I can do a reasonable "best guess" initially and then fine tune a week or two later. We have the ability to print the menu in house, so it seems like a perfect scenario to me.

    He just doesn't seem to be going for it. Thanks again, I guess I just needed confirmation that I wasn't crazy or stupid or something.

  15. I just started a new job recently...things are going well. I only have one minor issue. The food cost with the last chef was pretty out of whack, and to top it all off, the "systems" that the place uses, especially regarding inventory, recipes, cost control, etc are all pretty shabby.

    Its a small place, not very busy right now because of the winter season, so I have some time to implement my own systems and all that.

    The main issue is, since the food cost under the last guy was pretty bad, he now wants me to do a "plate cost" style of food cost and recipe development. I've never professionally done that system before, and I haven't even practiced it since school. I've never used that method for costing dishes as a sous chef or chef, and it's my understanding that the typical types of places that implement a plate cost and strict recipe/portion control are the "chain" type of places, where there is a centralized management structure that independently develops recipes and hands them down to the outlets. As a corporate structure, this makes sense to me as an overall business plan. but for an independent operator, not so much.

    My main method for food costing has been to base the cost of the dish on the protein's EP, account for the garnishes, Q factor, etc, and also what we think we "could" charge. We also have, in previous jobs, taken monthly inventory and all that to determine the actual usage and food cost, etc. This method seems to work quite well. This has all been at smaller restaurants, not at big corporate places.

    Now, I've agreed to do the plate cost...I tried to convince the owner that it wasn't really needed and that I was pretty sure I could get a hold of the food cost not doing the plated cost. I don't know if why or how he has it in his head that this is a good idea, but he seems convinced and I'm not inclined to push TOO hard since he is, after all, the boss. It's not a huge deal to me, I have a decent grasp on what I need to do, but the problem is this:

    How do I accurately forecast the plate cost when I don't have existing, costed recipes to rely on? I'm planning on changing the menu next week, and while I have "recipes" and methods in my head about everything on the menu, I don't have technical, written recipes with yield and such. So...how do I do a plate cost without this knowledge? Let me give an example...

    If I want to do Seared Duck with Braised Cabbage, I know that (for example) duck costs me $4.00 a portion. I know that cabbage costs $1.00 a pound.

    What I need in this example is a PORTION cost for the cabbage, right? I don't know how many portions a lb of braised cabbage yields...so I make a recipe that looks like this:

    1 lb cabbage

    1/4 c. dark brown sugar

    1/4 c. light brown sugar

    1/2 c. red wine vinegar

    1 Green apple, grated

    2 TBSP. Carraway Seeds, toasted

    salt to taste

    OK...that is an example recipe, BTW. So, I just pulled that out of my ass...I have no idea if the proportions are right, etc. I won't know until I make the recipe, write everything down, and adjust accordingly...right? I won't know until I make it how many portions I get out of one batch...right? Could be 4 could be 10 portions.

    So, how can I accurately forecast plate costs without standardized recipes? My plan as part of the new menu rollout was to develop these recipes, fine tune them, THEN determine yield and batch/portion cost. The owner didn't like it because, as he said, I'm working backwards. Technically he is right, but I don't see any other way. My idea was to just do the "dirty" food cost at first, and after the first week or so, once all the recipes are standardized and in place, go back and fine tune the plate costs and figure it all out.

    Do you guys get what I am saying? I hope I am being clear....is there another way because I don't see it. You need standardized recipes first, then you can determine plate costs...right?

    I'm really trying to figure out if I'm just doing it wrong or if he wants me to do something that I really can't do. Please help.

    Thanks, sorry for the long post.

  16. Yeah, again, I didn't check, but I'm pretty sure the standard was one pound of roux. That's debatable, of course, and up to the individual person making it. And I think that it gives you a pretty thick sauce, but IIRC it's standard.

    It's also half of what the OP was using per gallon of milk.

  17. Starches CAN break down after prolonged cooking, though this is less a problem with flour than with other types of pure starch (arrowroot, corn, etc). Your ratio, if anything, seems high to me, but since it's not enough I don't know what to tell you.

    I haven't made bechemel much since culinary school--IIRC, a "proper" ration was 1 lb of roux per gallon. So you should be fine. It's most likely either too high heat or too long cooking, or a fundamental problem with the flour itself, as Lisa stated.

    I don't really know what to tell you, unfortunately. Just curious, what on earth are you using 27 gallons of bechemel for?

  18. Oh no!

    Did you REALLY dust those in breadcrumbs and italian seasoning? *facepalm

    Anyways...a nice corn sauce or veloute goes beautifully with scallops, though it's not the right time of year.

    A light citrus vinaigrette would work well...maybe a reduction of fresh orange juice, mounted with a tiny bit of butter and perfumed with a touch of vanilla?

  19. It can really be done either way....the OP was talking about when he/she bastes it removes some of the crust. The way to prevent that from happening is to use hot foaming butter. I don't know the scientific/technical reason why but I think it has something to do with the water content of the butter, etc.

    You can use butter earlier in the cooking time and still get great results. Also, I might say that basting with butter is a little different than cooking with butter and using butter to develop the crust.

  20. Well, I'm saying that your pan should be hot enough so that the butter will sizzle almost immediately after putting it in. Obviously, scorching the meat or butter is not what you want, but you definitely want an aggressive "foaming" action to take place. It should continuously foam as you baste it over the meat as well....I guess I really don't know how to describe it beyond that. You want to use a good amount of butter, probably at least 2 or 3 tablespoons. Remember, you are doing this as a finishing technique and won't ingest most of the butter.

    Also, take a look at this thread. It is a similar method though the butter is incorporated much earlier but this might work for you as well.

  21. It's important to use at least moderately high heat to butter baste. I would use it as a finishing technique--like when your protein comes out of the oven and is almost done. You want to get rid of your old fat from the pan, pour it out, and add your butter, herbs, garlic, whatever, and wait until it melts and gets FOAMY. The foamy part is important as this will help keep your crust. I would also use more than 1 tbsp of butter. Really, all that is going to do is just melt over the meat. If you want a true BASTE you need to melt a good amount of butter, get it hot and foamy, and continuously spoon the butter over the meat. It should sizzle quite visibly.

    You can also, when the protein is resting, blot gently with a paper towel to remove excess fat if you wish. But a light, even coat of butter once it's out of the pan is ideal.

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