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Profit or else!!

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
To all the student out there, how important is it to make profit in the kitchen?
Do you think that you could loose your job as a chef if your kitchen don't make profits at the end of the year?

I am asking, because reccently I had a cook who told me that the most important thing in a professional kitchen was that the food taste good even if we did not make profit at the end of the year...

:roll: :roll: :roll:
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
post #2 of 19
well, I am not a student, but , yeah making a profit is extremely important. its the reason for a business.
My life, my choice.....
My life, my choice.....
post #3 of 19
Not as long as you work in a "Soup kitchen" or "Prison".
Prisons I don't recommend. The lockdowns are a real bummer
when you need to get home.
post #4 of 19
You can tell him that he is entitled to his own opinion when he has $120,000 invested in the restaurant, a bunch of investors breathing down his neck, a delivery that's been put on hold, and a case of rotting tomatoes sitting in storage.
post #5 of 19
there must be some fermented beverage you can make out
of rotten tomatoes. We used to make something called
tapachi out of rotten pineapples and pineapple skins. After
about six months you take the lid off and skim the yellow raft
of mold, strain it, and pour it over ice. It is, however an aquired
post #6 of 19
Yeah, it's called bankrupt tea. :D

That pineapple drink sounds, uh, GROSS!

Actually not, that's kinda like how eiswein is made isn't it? :)
post #7 of 19
sure yer right
post #8 of 19
Edit - not speaking as a student but as a cook (aka. Chef de Partie).

A kitchen won't stay open very long if it can't make money... As for making good food, that's about the chef's skill and work ethic more than money. You start with an edible product, treat it properly, and the food WILL taste good. Alot of people compensate for a lack of skill by throwing expensive products at the dish in an attempt to make it taste 'good', thus throwing away the profits and using that line to justify it all.... An example of good cheap food is a Lebanese-run Donair place near my house - super simple food (made in-house), very inexpensive (same price range as fast food), but very tasty... Some of the best dishes I've ever had were simple, cheap, and without luxury ingredients.

Making money is the most important thing for a business. It shouldn't be the ONLY focus of course, but it's too important to ignore. Making good food (in taste as well as nutritional value) is our moral obligation (IMO), and should be our main focus while in the kitchen, but at the end of the day you're going nowhere if you're not making money.
post #9 of 19
Edible food? Is that like cheese food?
post #10 of 19

Edible vs inedible...

Haven't you ever had lobster so overdone you couldn't even chew it if it were run through a food processor?

(actually, I did recently at a Red Lobster of all things)

I've also had catfish that ... well, lets just say it was "special". Definitely in the "inedible" class...

post #11 of 19
Laprise, your student is on the right track, just a little misguided in his logic. Yes, food must taste good. That is extremely important because if it doesn't you will not make a profit, but ultimately the most important thing a restauant, and chef, can do is make a profit. If not, the restaurant will close and you and your staff will be out of a job. Restaurants are businesses and they need to be run like businesses. Chefs are not artists, in the pure sense of the word (let's please not get into this argument again). An artist can create a sculpture or a painting and doesn't have to sell it (unless he relies on this for his income) but a chef doesn't create food just for the sake of art. He creates it to sell it. A chef must be able to produce food and then SELL it. It is as simple as that. No profit, no job. Oh to be young and idealistic again instead of the jaded sell-out that I am!:smoking:
post #12 of 19
Gawd I had terrible wild rice soup at IKEA yesterday. Nothing like the tase of boullioun cube.
post #13 of 19
My uncle is a gourmet chef, has been for 20+ years, studied all over the place... In terms of "good quality" vs. "profit"... This is where most restaurants fail, and quite frankly was the reason my uncle's last partnership in a restaurant failed...

Basically an investor said to him "Chris, I have a beautiful location, and I want good food, and I want you to run the restaurant." Of course the location was in a beautiful part of Napa, california, and the restaurant was extremely busy.

My uncle worked hard making an excellent menu, and had repeat business from folks up to 3-4 times a week. Then one day the investor came to my uncle and said "We can no longer afford our pastry chef, you will have to let him go." (the pastry chef in this case was #2 in the restaurant and really helped my uncle out.).

Well as it turns out, my uncle did a great job with the food part of it, but he was terrible at considering the business side of it. Even though the restaurant was booming, and had excellent food, they were still operating at a loss. The restaurant closed... no more good food.

I find that many people in this business focus too much on one side or the other. (e.g. too much focus on the profit margin (e.g. mediocre-poor quality food), to focusing too much on the cooking/menu part of it. (e.g. excellent food, but no money being made). My uncle was the latter.

In my opinion, to run a successful establishment, you MUST consider both the business and food side of it equally. You must understand the impact of raising the price of a dish as well as understand the impact of using lesser quality ingredients. There is a balance to maintain. If you want to serve top grade products from your kitchen, then be prepared to charge the appropriate price for those top grade products. There is no magic here, just numbers.
post #14 of 19
You also need to balance out those top grade products with less expensive items. I am not talking about lower quality items, but less expensive. If you want to run Foie (not in Chicago anymore), filet, and lobster, then you need to offset those dishes by running chicken, pastas or dishes using lesser cuts of meat. I don't mean meat of lesser quality, but less expensive cuts that require braising or slow-roasting.
post #15 of 19
you know, ive had this argument with a great many self-righteous chef/ apprentice/ business owner.

A good chef can balance artistic output with the common market forces.

The common market forces that i talk of falls under the concept, that i call "commercial reality".

What i mean by "commercial reality" is that you can throw all of the creative products that you think of at the consumer, but if they dont want it, then you're figuratively ******* into the wind.

If they dont want it, economically/commercially, your creativity is worth ****.
"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
post #16 of 19

so honest

Well said Nick. I came out of school and I was such an idealist. I've spent the last 3 + years learning that lesson.
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
nicely said!

Balance is a must, as long as profit comes:bounce: :bounce:
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
Martin Laprise
Author of "My daughter wants to Be a Chef!"

“A cook who invest a few bucks every week is a smart cook"
post #18 of 19
In answer to the original question, YES. In fact part of my employment contract specifies what food cost percentage I must maintain in order to keep my job. Too high a food cost (ie too low a profit) and I am unemployed.
post #19 of 19
I have recently finished reading The Soul of a Chef.

In this book, a young Thomas Kellar was faced with such a decision in NY. The market was unstable, and he was told that he would have to downscale his food to make it more appealing to the now price-conscious market.

Kellar refused to compromise his food, left, suffered 2 decades of minimum to no income, then things totally changed in 1994.

Just something interesting to add to this, if money is so important, how did Kellar succeed when his primary focus was the quality/taste of his food, and he refused to compromise these standards, even when faced with financial hardships.
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