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Chef wants me to learn menu planning

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hello all. I've been a lurker here for awhile. I love this site!

 

This is my first post and I hope it is in the proper place. I'm working at a European Bistro style restaurant in Northern Michigan. I love the food and it's why I came to work there. I've been talking to the Chef and he wants me to start learning a few more things in order to become his Sous around October. Mostly now I'm learning the menu and getting up to speed at the different stations, both hot and cold line, and prep.

 

The Chef told me that I needed to start learning menu planning. I said "Ok," like a dumbass without asking him what me meant. Now I don't feel like going back to him asking him to clarify. Can anyone enlighten me on what/where I should look online for information on how to go about menu planning. Also, a general description of menu planning would be great. In my mind, menu planning is making dishes that are in season with the local ingredients; work with the style of the restaurant; are streamlined enough that we won't have thirty minute tickets times off the first table, and keep all of this inline with food costs. That to me sounds like menu planning. I would love to know more.

 

Thank you all in advance for any comments.

post #2 of 6

Sounds like you have a good idea of where to start. A quick amazon search would yield many books on the subject. 


In addition to what you said, menu balance is key. A proper ratio of meat/poultry dishes, fish, shellfish, pasta, vegetarian etc is ideal. Your menu should also be somewhat balanced with price as well. You need some cheaper items (when I say cheaper, I mean food cost wise, not necessarily guest wise) to balance out the more expensive stuff on your menu. 

 

For example, if you run a steak at a 35% food cost, you may need to balance that with, say, a chicken that you run a 20% food cost on. Can you utilize trim effectively? (steak/beef trimming for tartare, or burger grind?) This is a great way to cut down cost and utilize your items. 

 

prep needs to be taken into account too. Do you have sufficient staff to properly prepare all the foods? If you have a lot of labor intensive items on the list (filled pastas, dumplings, pate, sausages, charcuterie, etc) do you have proper staff to do all the work? Are your workers skilled with butchering? 

 

What kind of guests are you serving? College kids? Affluent vacationers? 

 

Time of year--this effects not only seasonality of food, but seasonality of preparations as well. You might not want to do heavy, braised dishes (short ribs, lamb shanks) during the summer, but during the winter, that stuff is great. Summer is great for lighter, grilled foods. 

 

Good luck.

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Someday...thank you for your response. I like what you have to say about food costs and seasonal preparation. I did a search as well and found books on the subject, but I was hoping for links to information possibly. I'm having a tough time in my search online for quality information...without having to purchase books on the subject. Any thoughts on where to look?

 

Anyone else care to weigh in?

post #4 of 6

Well, this is a good place to start. I don't necessarily have any links that you couldn't find yourself through google. I think some books would help you out a lot. There are lots of cheap stuff on amazon, especially in the used books. Take a look there. 

 

Other chefs may have some ideas as well, so maybe they will chime in. 

post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meatball Matt View Post

. I said "Ok," like a dumbass without asking him what me meant. Now I don't feel like going back to him asking him to clarify. Can anyone enlighten me on what/where I should look online for...

Thank you all in advance for any comments.

Drop your feelings at the door and ask your chef what they meant and talk it out. If you cant carry on a conversation about planning you'll be working backwards with your chef.
Menu planning is what we do, it is everything. Continuous learning is critical.

Plan tomorrows special today? Or on the fly once someone asks? You decide how you will plan with your actions and decisions.

Seems like you have had a good start, maybe delve a little deeper into your own thoughts i.e find local ingredients, cost them, learn the yields, make recipes in line with your restaurant. Learn to pull them off quickly with little waste....

Understand costing first, cash is king. Memorize the equations backwards. Good luck.
post #6 of 6

You also need to have a menu spread out over the different stations and keeping in mind the equipment you are dealing with. If you have 20 items on the menu and 16 come from saute with a 4 burner, there are obviously going to be logistic problems.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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