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What Goes on Behind Closed Doors

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
I've got a question, or rather, I'd like to hear some opinions on this:

It's funny, as a very very newbie working in a restaurant kitchen for the first time, I see all sorts of stuff going on that I know might irritate me/bother me etc., if I had been a customer. Is any of it horrible? Nope. Here's a simple example.

We have a dessert that was plated last night, a pumpkin cheese cake.

It gets placed on the plate over a carmel sauce, then a delicate cookie cup holds some cinnnamon whipped cream, with candied oranges on top.

The plating was an error, the order was for a different cake, so the guy who plated it put the whole thing in the freezer where the ice cream was. Eventually, late in the evening someone else ordered the same thing and he took it out, giggling and handed it off. This is a very mild example, but the carmel had settled into wide swathes on the plate, the cream had lost some consistency, etc.

Sometimes tiramisus aren't needed and they go into the fridge to wait, uncovered. They start to change color slightly. The aren't the same as if the customer had ordered it and it had been freshly prepared, taken out of the sheet of it covered in plastic wrap, with the chocolate shavings just sprinkled on top.

I've seen it happen with salads, too, someone makes too much, it sits and if someone else orders the same salad within a half hour it gets used, instead of fresher, cooled ingredients that haven't sat mixed in their dressing in the bowl.
These aren't big deals, but I know if I was sitting out there, I would want something as fresh as everyone else who ordered, especially at a pricey restaurant. I know if you threw everything out that wasn't used immediately, you'd lose a lot of cash over time from all the waste.

Being I don't have years of experience, and I am more like a customer than a chef still, in my thinking, I just wonder about it. I feel like I am cheating them somehow, if I/we in the pantry take a shortcut that delivers a less quality dish, yet I know that really, there's nothing wrong with a finished dessert that is sitting in a fridge for an hour. I just always think about the guy who ordered it and is expecting a fresh, new dessert, but I know this one was put together forty minutes ago, and the powdered sugar has been sitting on the wet sauce, etc. whatever, all that time. I want them to really enjoy what they receive that they have ordered, both in taste and presentation. That is what I would want as a customer.

I think Kitchen Confidential had the example of bread in a bread basket going out twice. Some people would really care about that, others wouldn't.

I'd like to know how others balance it out in their heads, because I always feel bad when we do something like that, as little as it is.
Redeem me? I get the feeling that I'm the one feeling too guilty about it, I shouldn't, and I'd rather not. =)


SlaveGirl

http://www.restaurantslave.com
post #2 of 25
I just hope you are not working in a "high end" restaurant!

:eek:
K

«Money talks. Chocolate sings. Beautifully.»
«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»
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K

«Money talks. Chocolate sings. Beautifully.»
«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»
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post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
I work at a pretty nice place.

It's very unpredictable. I should say that this isn't ALWAYS what happens. Many times salads are made fresh, the old tossed, and, for example, the first square of tiramisu is always thrown out because it never comes out clean and neatly, so it's just chucked. Same with pieces that don't come out good later on. A lot of the practices do tend towards the customer getting what they pay for. It's just every now and then, and I never know what to do, because I've seen the quicker route taken, and I don't know if the guys I am with are being lazy, or it's acceptable.

Usually I err on the side of the customer, if I'm alone and the order comes in and I know there's a piece of something already cut and not used, plated but not taken, I'll just make another, figuring I need the practice anyway.

hm.

SlaveGirl
http://www.restaurantslave.com
post #4 of 25
I run a restaurant my family owns and your story makes me cringe! Food cost and waste are an ongoing battle. My thought? Most of this stuff you are talking about is avoidable. Throwing away or having to reuse food because it was overmade, miscut, too ugly, mis-ordered, and a few other things you mentioned are the real problem. If I were paying the bills there I would be having a cow! Somebody is having to pay for your mistakes! Will it be the owner or the customer?
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #5 of 25
Your dessert example is something that leaves me personally rather frustrated with my co-workers. It's very painful when your the one who made the item to hear back from the waitstaff that the staff served something below par. Worst part is, that the times when those things happen are often when things are slow and there's no excuse (just laziness).

If you were plating dessert for me and you had plated something that was a mistake this is how I wanted it handled.....you keep the cake (or what ever the main item was provided it's quality isn't compromised) either wrap it with plastic on a seperate plate and put it back in my cooler. Then when that item sells again replate it as you would a fresh item.
You don't put any item in the freeze thats' not meant to be served frozen! NEVER serve a frozen piece of cake (that's stupidity), if you made the mistake of putting it in the freezer stick it in the cooer wrapped well and give me a note why it's singled out.

As a newbie bring quesions like this up to your chef. If he's unavailable when it happens -don't serve what you question, then ask him first thing. Don't follow the kid who doesn't care and don't keep your mouth shut either, learn how your chef wants those issues handled in their kitchen (which could be different from the advice I've given you). Each chef you work under might have a different policy so you should become familar with how each kitchen handles this. Its' a GOOD question, ask them.
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
I agree with you. Fundamentally, the mistakes wrong amounts are just that, mistakes that should happen as little as possible.

The overmade issue often is the result of people at a party event deciding they don't want whatever it is. If there's a party of 50 people, and they all get tiramisu, for example, it all gets plated ahead of time, right before going out so that it all goes out at once. Usually some of the guests don't want it, so we end up with say, four or five left over. These usually go back into the fridge.

Then what?

I have no idea what other restaurants do, since this is the first one I've been in the back of. If the decision at my place has been made as to who pays the price, the customer or the owner, I don't know who won. The customer appears to win more often than not.

SlaveGirl
http://www.restaurantslave.com
post #7 of 25
That kinda stuff is one of my nightmares. I used to have the same problem w/ the tiramisu though and what I did was start making it on a 1/2 sheet pan w/ an extender on it. That way I got the height I was looking for yet still was able to get the first piece out in one piece 90% of the time. A buddy of mine uses a spring form pan and has about the same success rate. On the salad though no excuse greens on a whole are cheap to risk your rep for 0.50 is beyond me.
Enjoy Life ~ Eat out more often
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Enjoy Life ~ Eat out more often
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post #8 of 25
personally, i opt for eating the dessert !!! can't possibly tell you how many times i've seen hungry chefs needing a good sugar fix halfway thru the night. :rolleyes:
post #9 of 25
I'm not sure if I understand you....did you ask who's paying for this?...the example you last gave (the banquet left-overs) that's a whole different issue than mis-plated ala carte items. With a banquet if the customer booked for 50 people he going to pay for 50 people regardless if only 40 ate (if 60 show un-expected he pays for 60). So then the food is paid for, and it's up to the chef what he wants to do with the left overs. I like to roll them over into the employee meal (some chefs don't and pitch left-overs for various reasons). With cold entrees and salads they do have to pre-plate on banquets (so when a special order comes in they can handle it, depending on the situation), but they shouldn't dress all the salads (in my opinion that's a last second addition as they go out). But if I'm (pastry chef) present during a banquet I know for a fact everyone will NOT take dessert. I always prep for a few over the count (just incase), (I check the numbers coming in from the salad then plate their count less about 4 per 50 guests). I roll over left-over desserts if their still salvagable into ala carte, so you can't eat with-out double checking.

(Back room realities) The kitchen staff usually snarfs up the extra desserts once I see we've covered our banquet. BUT I'm in the position to make that call on my product chef makes the call on his or whom ever is the chef on duty. The guys usually love getting a sugar treat (but I offer first to the head chef) if he takes it that's a o.k. to his staff, we all follow the chefs lead (we might not have time to eat). If I'm making souffle's I actually bake extra because I know the manager always wants one (and she signs the pay check)....there's sort of a higherarchy as to who gets what.....the top people sample what they want and down the chain. If your a prep cook don't eat the 1 item left before being certain the chef or manager didn't want it....and don't eat anything infront of wait staff or management unless it's totally approved by the chef.

Some chefs don't want anyone eating any left overs, so you must know your chefs policies.
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #10 of 25
Speaking as a customer, I've sometimes noticed this. However, I am a waitperson's nightmare (and, in this respect, very non-Canadian). If anything I'm served in a restaurant seems even slightly icky, wilted, or past its prime, I never say, "Fine" when the waiter comes by with the ritual question; I send it back.

Also, speaking as a customer: the heck with hierarchy, I say. Give the waitstaff first crack at the leftovers. I know, from friends who have waited tables, that waitstaff are frequently CHARGED for whatever they eat. That's dumb, from a customer service perspective. I hate dealing with a waiter who has NO idea what might be in a dish, or what it tastes like. Once again, here I am a pain in the butt. I have lots of special requirements as a diner, and I need to know as much as I can about the dish in question before I start to reassemble it for my needs.:lips:
post #11 of 25
Unforunately the back of the house doesn't work that way Compassrose. The kitchen staff is completely different than the waitstaff. The kitchen staff also should know what the items taste like (and sometimes/even often, they've never tasted anything but what they make too). There's the added problem that there's not ever enough to go around to everyone. The waitstaff is also too busy during a banquet function to be sampling, also good chance they'll be in big trouble if management walks in on them sampling.

In a banquet situation the staff doesn't need to know the taste (just what the menu is). BUT in ala carte service you right, they should taste what their not familar with to be better servers. Each kitchen handles this differently and it does show in the front of the house....that's a whole seperate subject...
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 
Both situations exist, the overmade for parties and the wrongly plated, extra made salads and desserts. I don't know why I didn't think about the prepaid banquet type thing, duh. The stuff is already paid for. So in that case, the customer has already paid, no matter what. Ok.

Eating extras seems to be very lax, where I am. Anything extra that is deemed "sharable" gets brought back in the pantry and put on a certain counter, and it's up for grabs for anyone. Things seem to be split amongst everybody, kitchen and waitstaff, though kitchen is usually more aware of what is back there and gets first crack due to proximity. It's actually really neat that way. One night a party had a huge crown roast, and afterwards, if you wanted any of it you just asked the sous chef, he'd give it to you. Last night there were stuffed quail and several left over, and it just went on "the counter" for anyone to take who wanted some. Once it's cooked, it seems that the owner would rather it get eaten than thrown away. Maybe that cuts down on stealing, etc. At any rate, there isn't much of a hierarchy, as soon as there's there's enough extras that more than one person could have it.

As to eating desserts, any extras are always available to be eaten after all the ones for a party are served; any that come back/never go out are up for grabs, if it is a specialty item just for that party. Usually, though, they don't get eaten much, most of them are really rich and no one wants that night after night.



SlaveGirl
http://www.restaurantslave.com
post #13 of 25

Customer's thoughts

I find funny that some restaurants think that they can fool their clients about some details as those you described.In 99% of the cases, we, clients know what happened "behind doors".

I do not object to play the idiot some times but I DO object to be served with an attitude. This attitude in restaurants-in places you pay to have food- when it doesn't make me laught it makes me a bit agressive.
"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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post #14 of 25

Give it to the wait staff?!!!

Give it to the wait staff?!!
Wow, that never crossed my mind, but then why would it when they rake in 2-3 times more than the kitchen staff every night....Let them buy their own!!!

The very first fine dining restaurant I worked at had a simple theory...If you wouldn't want to see it come to your table, don't send it out. I still abide by this rule today and that was 15 years ago.
Food loss and overage is an unavoidable part of restaurant business and a sad reality to owners and managers.
Less food loss translates many times into better wages for the chefs, and cooks which translates into more incentive to do a better job and maintain higher standards.

As a note: If you haven't tasted the food you prepare, shame on you...How are you suppose to know what it should taste like if you haven't tried it?

Happy Holidays
If you are what you eat, I must be an oreo cookie!
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If you are what you eat, I must be an oreo cookie!
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post #15 of 25
Everytime I do a party I make sure everyone knows each dish adn what it tastes like, we have a sampling before the servers ever get to the guests....just my policy. Some of the bigger companies don't let any of their staff taste (guess their stuff is pretty much by the book anyway).
I've also been in the back of Cardwell's when they've done line-up and if there is something new on the menu Dave gives the front of the house tastes...eons ago that was done when I worked in French restaurant that changed menus weekly....you had to make sure the front of the house knew what they were selling.....there were only 2 of us in the Kitchen so we knew the dishes.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #16 of 25

Restaurant faux pas...

Tactics like those you mention give restaurant-dining a bad name. Unfortunately, some proprietors see them as "cost saving" measures.

In the case of the pumpkin cheesecake wrongly plated - I say give it to one of the kitchen staff. As far as the Tiramisu, let an employee take it home.

Eventually, restaurants that practice this kind of behaviour will suffer because you can't serve a pumpkin cheesecake that tastes like yesterday's halibut and not lose customers. The cost of the dessert (cheesecake or tiramisu) is a small price to pay for not serving second- or third-quality food to a patron. Perhaps the patron who receives this less-than-perfect food will tell some friends and the owner will be looking for another profession.
Food is sex for the stomach.
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Food is sex for the stomach.
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post #17 of 25
Taking home items from work creates HUGE problems. Spoils them, so everytime there's something left over they think it's their right to have it. Creates a hording tendency in some people. I used to really believe in rewarding employees by letting them have 'extras' but in pratice over many years I've only seen greed, feelings of en-titlement and other poor behavior develop. It's sad too, because there is so much left over in this biz but people in general don't all handle this well.

Honestly I've seen generosity teach greed. Maybe this concept would work better in a less afluent society.?

I think only a fool would dissagree with letting the front of the house taste things, but like in the case of the big caterer.... If each employee would only taste the h.d. (or what ever) once that would be fine but they have to 'taste' everything at each party (unless you keep a written record of who tasted what). At the next party the waiter works he doesn't say "no thanks I've already tasted that", no he insists he never tasted it before.

You wind up providing an expensive tasting/dinner to people who were too lazy (or they say 'too busy') to eat before work. Then time after time they come to work hungry and expect to be fed like quests. I've seen wait staff walk away from their tables in the middle of service begging to eat themselfs or stealing food and hiding somewhere to eat it. They come unprepared to work thru dinner and able to wait until afterwards to dine. Then they complain about eating left-overs!

Unforunately people always take advantage of things.
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection", Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #18 of 25
Maybe I made myself unclear. I didn't say the waitstaff shouldn't taste the food, otherwise it would be hard to make recommendations when a customer was having a hard time selecting a meal. I said that overage should not be given to them, but given to the kitchen staff instead. Feed your dishwasher well, for tomorrow he may not be there.
If you are what you eat, I must be an oreo cookie!
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If you are what you eat, I must be an oreo cookie!
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post #19 of 25

Hoarding and greed...

W.DeBord, I understand completely what you're saying - and that used to happen in Cooking School!! I went to Kump where the food was made by the students and consumed by the students at the end of class; unlike at French Culinary where they had a restaurant to serve their food to patrons.

There were always leftovers, as every class contained many lessons which created many dishes. Also, I went to school at night and tried not to overeat, lest I go to bed on a full stomach (terrible dreams!). In our case, when there were leftovers, we felt we paid for them in the price of our course, so we'd send them home with the students who were interested in having them (plus those who assisted in class).

Yes, a habitual doling out of excess food can create major problems, but it can also avoid some. Someone mentioned they didn't know a chef who couldn't use a sugar boost late at night - and as for the dishwasher, treating him or her well couldn't hurt.

Waitstaff generally make truckloads of money and, unfortunately, restaurant owners don't enforce tip sharing. Waitstaff are a delivery system which delivers food to a table - food that the chef and cooks created. Waitresses only make a difference at Hooters...but that's another subject ;) In the grand scheme of things, people will not return to a restaurant that had lousy food and wonderful service, but they might if the food was divine and the service was lacking.

Making it clear that excess food given to employees is out of the goodness of the owner's heart because she/he can't stand to see food wasted will advise staff that it's not an every day occurrence and is not something to which they should feel "entitled."
Food is sex for the stomach.
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Food is sex for the stomach.
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post #20 of 25
Slavegirl,
Once in a while you get what is known as a "Moron" in the kitchen.If the dish as crappy as it sounds was served then you have another problem with your expo or wait staff serving it to begin with.People and Morons will try to get away with most anything when you turn your back and oppertunity <sp presents
itself.A bain of the pros yet an everyday thing that stresses us all out.I think a lot of places have the problem of sub-standard plates sneaking past the eyes of the Chef;When you see this happen say something and don't lower your standards to a nod+wink deal.Stand firm and save the mistake for the help.It's
worth it.
Bill
post #21 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot guys! =)
I talked to the Chef last night. It took him awhile to figure out I wasn't asking if I could eat something that was plated wrong, but that I was wondering what the "rules" were for misordered items.

As far as desserts go, he agreed that they should go in the fridge, and if they need replating, they should be replated. That is the one thing I don't see happening, and I will make sure that I always do it if needed and I'm there when the next order comes in for the dessert that I know we've got extra of sitting in the fridge. He said if someone forgot to put it back, chuck it or eat it. Meaning I could eat it. Since I am there to learn, he's given me free rein to eat what I want, he wants me to eat MORE actually, I'm there to learn about what tastes good with what, etc. Salads and things should always be fresh, of course. A batch too much was made last night (salad for 41, but by the time they got around to wanting it, only 30 were left, so after it was fresh made there was extra.) It just sat in a bowl on "the table" for anyone to grab some of if they wanted. It wasn't reused for customers, and that was great, after it had been sitting around for awhile.

It was good to talk to him and hear what he had to say as the way things should go. So now I know.

In my restaurant, the customer is indeed who wins, which I think is how it should be, if you want them to come back. =)

Thanks so much for all your input.

SlaveGirl
http://www.restaurantslave.com
post #22 of 25
This thread is done I guess, but I just wanted to share what is done where I work.

If food is salvageable, then refrigerate and reuse. If it sauced up, can't stay warm, etc, then we give it FIRST to our dishwasher. He's numero uno. He's been there for a long time, and works like a horse. Last place I worked, we had new dishwashers every 2 weeks. You can really see the difference in the treatment they get. If our dishwasher doesn't get nice leftovers, then sous-chef makes him a nice meal that goes for $34 in the dining room. (No staff meal for him!)

As for people taking advantage, all I have to say is this. If you treat employees with respect and give them a sense of ownership in their jobs, they will return the respect and will not take advantage. Where I work, that sense of respect does exist. No one ever tries to sneak anything as staffmeals are usually pretty decent. We all ask Chef first before eating/offering any leftovers.

...Wendy, you'd really love it here.... ;)
post #23 of 25
i can understand the debate going on here. Unfortunately, sometimes floorstaff do tend to go overboard.

A whole can of worms can be openned by saying "yeah take it home" i.e., the possibility of something spoiled being eaten. Imagine the ramifications, giving one of the staff food poisoning due to their lack of knowledge and respect for procedure.

Another scary thing is that sometimes ppl with a communicable disease may inadvertantly touch the food. Wow, "now you have Hep A/B/C/D etc", how would that go down.

Sometimes the refusal to pass stuff on is in the interest of the punter (diner, floor staff et al) rather than against it or a case of stinginess.

Priority wise however, i would rather give it to the dishy, given that its is generally 1 person washing for the entire staff, as opposed to one person taking orders and delivering to perhaps 30 ppl max. On that note, i generally use my own initiative regarding the staff member and their actual effectiveness in regards to the big picture
"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
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"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
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post #24 of 25

NEVER!

Mistakes never are re-plated or served to customers in my kitchen, and they should not be in yours. If you want good training , you should not work for a chef who tolerates this. It is a disgraceful practice, particularly with regard to the salads. In New York we call chefs who prepare food like this shoemakers!
post #25 of 25
Taking food home should be an absolute no in any establishment. It's difficult enough to guard against theft, taking food home is just another headache. If food is not sold for whatever reason, you should have a sheet where it can be recorded.

I'd rather not see employees pay a discounted price for their food because payment counts as revenue. If food cost is 30% and they pay half price, then your food cost for that transaction is actually 60%, although I think this is rung up and coded to a separate account no? Seems like the reasonable thing to do.

If it were up to me, the only person, or people, to get anything for free are the DMO's and sometimes maintenance. Good DMO's can make your life in the kitchen a total breeze, or living **** :)

Kuan
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