- Food costs are 20%-35% of the price a dish. 20% for a food stand, and 35% for a higher end restaurant. While high-end restaurants charge more, they tend to use more expensive ingredients (reduced sauces, alcohol, shaped items, etc…)
- When making sausages – generally use 75% meat, 25% fat.
- Stuffings are a great way to maximize food cost saving – you can use all the trimming from meats and vegetables, and end up with something delicious
There’s a line on quora.com’s top 10 rules of a kitchen that has always resonated with me: #5 “You may be a 45yo ex-investment banker, but right now that 19yo sous-chef is your boss!” It certainly re-resonated today. I was teamed up with young Gerardo (who still get’s id’d at movies!), but he was definitely the boss today. We started the day by quartering a chicken, which I really hadn’t got the hang of yet. Gerardo knew this particular class well, and patiently taught me how to do it properly. I now finally feel more confident about the quartering (which is on our practical exam), so thank you Gerardo. The rest of the day I followed his orders and we got through our dishes.
The first was a strange stuffed chicken leg. First we were to remove the bones from the chicken legs, create a stuffing from mushrooms, shallots, herbs and sausage meat, stuff the chicken and then wrap in caul fat, which is the lining of the abdominal cavity that looks much like fish-net stockings (see main pic above). A quick sauté, a braise and baste in red wine-onion-carrot-veal demi-glace. The accompaniment was a second dish – stuffed vegetables. We stuffed a zucchini, tomato and mushroom cap with a wonderfully smelling ‘farce’ (French word for stuffing) made up of sautéed bacon, shallots, mushroom stems, zucchini pieces and garlic), topped with grated parmesan. We were to cook the chicken to internal temp of 155F. “Did you calibrate your thermometer?” my ‘boss’ asked. I hadn’t, so I plunked the thermometer in some ice water and waited for it to hit 0 degrees. I thought “Oh god, my thermometer isn’t working, because it was stuck between 30 and 40 degrees, and then I remembered we’re talking Fahrenheit….aaah…. ok we’re good to go. We never appeared to get the chicken up to 155F, but Chef Jeff shouted “5 more minutes and we’re not looking at anymore plates”…. so we decided to plate anyway. Turns out the chicken was cooked perfectly, and the sauce was almost perfect (could be smoother)….. a nice tasting lunch to boot.
Next was Farce a Gratin (‘browned stuffing’) – in this case we sautéed bacon, chicken livers (from the morning), shallots, mushrooms, 4-spice (basically pumpkin latte smelling spice), veal stock and a brandy flambé. This was then pureed in a Robo-Coupe (a mixer introduced from France by Warren LeRuth from New Orleans). We then piped the puree out into tin ramekins and covered with butter to store. These we did as a team of four so we also got to work with Rachel (Virginia) and Noona (Nepal) which was fun.
After a “starting-to-get-efficient” cleanup of the kitchen today, we learnt more about kitchen finance. While still simple math, the concepts are starting to get a bit more complicated. “Q” costs are all those additional items on the plate but that aren’t part of the “food costs”. The “q” stands for “questionable”, but really aren’t questionable: wasabi and soy with sushi, or bread and butter on the table.
Oh I forgot, we also had an exam this morning. We didn’t have the “Chef V” crutch, and the difficulty level was up …well…one level, but by the sounds of it, we all did pretty well. To be honest, I was glad today was Friday, I am exhausted and looking forward to a few days of rest. My hat increasingly goes off to the guys that are also working full time while doing this program. This weekend, I have to buy my food scale and knife stone, but that’s about it! Maybe a pickleback or two.