Cooking costs time, effort: savor every bite

Cooking for one is no easy task, so if you multiply that by 50, cooking becomes even more difficult. This is what any restaurant chef has to do on a daily basis, except there are usually more than 50 people to serve and a variety of dishes to make at once.

But it’s not simply cooking, the restaurant has to determine what and how much food is needed, purchase it within a limited budget, make sure it arrives on time and designate a price for the individual meals based on the original cost of the food. For example, try calculating how much you spent on the tablespoon of salt that went into a soup when the entire package costs 64 cents—that right there is a tricky math problem.

For anyone that has been a restaurant or catering manager, or has taken Quantity Foods Management at Transylvania, this is nothing new, but often the dirty work of buying the food and calculating individual servings gets lost in the eyes of the customer. When eating at a restaurant, you are not only paying for that food, but you are paying for the gas and electricity to run the kitchen appliances, the food transportation (gas and driver), the water to wash your dirty plates, the chef, the cooks, the dishwashers, and the managers.

But what happens when the managers absentmindedly leave the potatoes at Kroger on the bottom of the shopping cart and head back to the kitchen? 50 people don’t get the potatoes they paid for as a side dish. But this can’t happen. There are no late potatoes accepted, potatoes are not papers and they cannot be pushed back to a later date. There is no rescheduled time for cooking; everything is final. As humans we are going to make mistakes, but one way or another, problems have to be solved in the restaurant, and fast. The missing potatoes will create yet another trip to the grocery as soon as possible and must be pushed into the “unexpected cost” category.

The managers have to know the budget and serving sizes by heart, constantly calculating in their heads how much food should be left. The food and service is a direct reflection of them, which is why anyone working in food service has to love what they do. The amount of work that goes into creating food for people is indescribable, and stressful in a different way than a test—but when you love something you’ll do whatever it takes.

It’s a passion, and when I see people’s faces as they try something I’ve made, those are the moments I remember. It’s pure joy for me, and I’ve even made cakes with no flour (unintentionally, of course). Mistakes and bad recipes are inevitable, but regardless I love cooking and the more time I can spend in the kitchen, the better. I look for these reactions in the faces of restaurant managers surveying the dining area—their job is to make the customer happy. And when they do, their face lights up and you can witness a sigh of relief.

So the message is simply to remind yourself of the effort that went into the food you made, and how much someone cares that you like it. Take the time to enjoy what you spent your scarce dollars on and enjoy food with company. Eat for pleasure and taste, the chance to be with friends, and embrace the experience that was so carefully planned out whether you realize it or not.

Even Goodfellas has an atmosphere. For example, it tastes best around 2 a.m. and is meant to be enjoyed with friends at the nearest place to sit, which is most likely the sidewalk curb. As simple as this production seems, the Goodfellas manager had to make sure all that cheese was in the refrigerator before you arrived at 2 a.m., along with several other components, and they thought about where you might sit.

The nutritionists will tell you to eat slowly for physical health, but because I am not yet a registered dietician, I am telling you to eat slowly for the experience. You will notice so much more in terms of the food’s flavor and your surroundings if you take your face out of the pizza box for a second.


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