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So now I can cook....annoying side effects. - Page 2

post #31 of 35
Yes Chef:D
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
post #32 of 35
I thought the spirit of this site was to be helpful to others.

Pros need not prove themselves here, since they have already.

I, for one, found this site to be a great one because I could connect with people who know a lot more than I do. I do not imagine myself to be more knowledgeable than those who have many years of experience.

I don't see the OP as someone trying to be better than established pros. Please let's keep this civil and respectful, otherwise it's no fun any more.
post #33 of 35
If I might point out, in passing, something that's been said already: nobody denies that a professional kitchen has an enormous number of costs that the home cook does not have to bear. Nobody denies (I hope) that a professional kitchen does things very differently, and has different problems and issues at stake.

That said, I think one has a legitimate gripe with a restaurant that does not do what you (bbally) describe. If the restaurant puts good food on the table, and the price is reasonably appropriate, there's no objection. The problem is when a restaurant charges $35 for mediocrity dressed up. You mention teaching monkeys; let's remember Bourdain correctly noting that he could teach a monkey to make cutesy patterns with sauce in a squirt bottle and stack food in a piece of PVC pipe. These things do not make the food better -- they make it look cute. What I object to, fundamentally, is going to a restaurant that charges $35 or so for an entree that turns out to be poorly made. All too often, the difference between this entree and what's served at a much cheaper restaurant is the cutesy stacking of food.

When I could make the same dish, stacking and all, for $5 a plate, I have to ask: all that work, all those people, all that frantic dealing with the weeds, all that stuff -- what's it in aid of? If you can't produce food worth remotely what you charge, it's all so much waste of effort. Chefs may laugh, but at what? A decent chef ought not to have let that food go out the hatch, however hard he or she may be working.

Effort, labor, organization, management -- all that stuff is meaningless unless the food is worth what you charge. If it's very good, you can charge enough to keep a big brigade going. If it's rotten, no excuses mean very much.
post #34 of 35
Chris I agree with you on this.... just want you to know in my experience a resto that does try this, generally goes under and sells at auction.

I agree.... did you read kitchen confidential? While Bourdain puffed it up a bit, it is the real deal.

I don't stack or deconstruct ... mindless food minipulation IMO. I also don't foam cause it really does nothing....

I totally agree on the out the hatch part.

What I mean with the level of food is:

A four dollar hamburger is a four dollar hamburger... but even among four dollar hamburgers there is a big difference in the quality of the four dollar hamburger. I enjoy stopping at a roadside often to see what they are up to... I know I could layout a better hamburger, cause at four dollars they are using a 6 to 1 for sure. I use 2 to 1 in the catering business. But the reason I stop is to see what that chef is doing to their four dollar hamburger... I have found some really creative people this way.

My point was that the level of service... often in stars, does not mean they are not worth looking at... Fried chicken is another favorite that makes me stop.... I want to know what that chef is doing to make theirs different. The Galloping Goose in Ouray Colorado... makes the best in the under ten dollar range I have ever had.......

Don't know if that explains it?

I agree... but the effort and all for the four dallar hamburger needs to be compared to other four dollar hamburgers not to a t bone at the Ritz.
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
post #35 of 35
If only! Perhaps with this sad economy it will be more true, but I have been gravely disappointed by a lot of expensive places plating food that looks cute but is made no better -- and sometimes worse -- than places a small fraction the price. And all too often, the obsequious idiots who write reviews bow low before the stacked food.
Yes, that's where I got the monkey remark.
I think we're all on the same page, really.

I was thinking about this thread on a very long and tedious train ride today. I put it this way, in my head:

Let's suppose I count $10/hour for my time. I am passably skilled, as home cooks go, but not a hotshot by any means. I have no restaurant skills, by which I mean all the many factors that you mention, having to do with how things are done in a restaurant as opposed to at home. So if I make a dish in 1 hour, and the ingredients cost me $10, we have to count the plate at $20. If it's food for two, each plate is $10. With me?

Now a restaurant has a lot more staff, overhead, and whatnot, but on the other hand is in a position to acquire ingredients less expensively and use them more efficiently. Carrots, to take a humble example, can be blocked and cut in a proper dice, brunoise, julienne, or whatever is appropriate to the dish, and the large amount of trimmed material can be used elsewhere -- in stock, for example, or other sauce bases, or whatever.

The home cook generally must purchase ingredients at a considerable markup, and trim is very often waste; certainly in a comparison thing like this it must be counted so, even if you freeze it and use it in stock later.

If we count $10/hour for the home cook's labor, which I think factors in the convenience cost and such, we have to add quite a number of prices to the actual cost of the home dish. 100% of the time for shopping, planning, prep, cooking, and washing-up. So if you say a dish takes you an hour, that means you went from "hey, I think I'll make..." to a finished dish with all dishes in the washer in one hour flat. That doesn't happen often, in my home experience. I'd say add 1 hour at least to the actual work time of any dish or meal, and with something more elaborate or unfamiliar to the cook, at least 2 hours.

So let's say I decide I'll make some fancy thing I found in The French Laundry. How much time? Count 2 hours for exterior labor, because the planning was done for you (by the cookbook) but you had a lot of pots and time in the store and whatnot. Count 3-4 hours of actual labor making the dish, minimum (see Carol Blymire's brilliant "French Laundry At Home" blog for a demonstration); more likely, add 5-6 hours. Call it 4 for current purposes.

Now ingredient cost will not be slight here: a whole bottle of wine for marinade, high-quality steaks, sweetbreads, who knows what. Call it $50 total, for enough to serve two people.

The tally:

2 hours (buying, washing, getting organized): $20
4 hours (prep, cooking): $40
Ingredients: $50
TOTAL: $110, serving 2 people = $55/plate

Now if I eat the same dish at the same price in a restaurant, I should get equal quality.

If I eat the same dish at The French Laundry, I'll pay something like this, give or take. Will it be of equal quality to my own version? You betcha -- I haven't eaten there yet, but many people I trust assure me that it deserves its rep. In point of fact, it's going to be a heck of a lot better than what I can do. So a $55 entree at that place is a bargain.

In point of fact, if you do the math this way, honestly, a good restaurant should always be a bargain. They ought to be able to produce better food than I can in terms of REAL cost -- i.e. including labor, not just ingredients. Any slob can put together a better meal at a straight-up ingredient cost, given a little functional technique, but that's a totally inaccurate measure.

What's irritating, however, is that there are lots of places in which by my best, fairest estimate, I am not getting what I pay for. I honestly could produce the same dish better for the same real cost.

Getting back to the original post, this is one of the things that happens when you learn how to cook at least passably at home. You begin to realize when you're eating overpriced mediocrity, because you actually do know what the food should be like. For example, if I eat a teeny slice of pate which is honestly a great deal worse than the pate I make, I am paying too much almost no matter what: pate isn't all that expensive to make, and you get a whacking great block for your trouble. A good restaurant should be more or less coining money with pate, and if they can't do it well, there is something amiss with the garde-manger.

On the whole, I will say that the restaurants that most stun me (as I have mentioned in other threads) are high-end kaiseki restaurants. The ingredient cost is extremely high, the number of dishes is huge, and the quality is stunning. Yet they accomplish all this at fair (if hardly cheap!) prices, and do it with the head chef serving and chatting with the customers full-time. What's more, the liquor markup is trivial, so they're not making extra money in the usual way for a lot of high-end Western restaurants. The fact that they not only stay in business but make good money is the purest demonstration of skill and talent I know of in the food trade.
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