It appears my chef has a problem with addiction. He cannot seem to get past the "special order" section of the produce list the vendor drops off each week. I wouldn´t mind him ordering the hundreds of dollars of truffles, Heirloom Tomatoes, Galia Melons and other fruitful fantasies but many of these go to waste in the back of the cooler. I have mentioned this to him before but he just shrugs it off and tells me that my job is to run the restaurant his is to run the kitchen. Any ideas on how to conquer this problem?
Shuttering in ChicagoDear Shuttering;
The addiction which afflicts your chef is one of the easier chef addictions to overcome. And, if the process works it may even save, or more astounding, make money for the house"?¦
All of us should realize that those "special order" sections on the produce list are as good, or bad, as impulse items at Costco. I have never met a chef that doesn´t almost reach orgasmic heights when a beautiful case of Heirloom Tomatoes arrive at the back door. Running up to see the first case of the season of perfectly packed Squash Flowers is a treat that some speak of with respect for days, weeks, or month.
The key her is that anyone can order from the special section. The true test of culinary competence is what can they do with it? Is your chef ordering because his/her ego says I can turn those Squash Flowers into a masterpiece on the plate or do they just order them without any vision? If you have an abundance of special order waste I will guarantee that the chef is ordering with the idea of creating an item after the produce is delivered. This will seldom happen. The case will be carted to the cooler after everyone has had their fill of the product, testing it of course, to see if it was worth the extra cost. Once that exercise is done the case will find its way to the top shelf so as to not get damaged and five or six days later someone will remember to create a menu special using the once beautiful produce product that for a short time graced the special order section.
There are three ways to solve the problem:
1) Cold Turkey. No more special section orders. This will upset the chef to the point of a possible kitchen cold war for a while but it may save you some money.
2) Budget Allocation. Give the chef a set amount he can spend on special orders and have him food cost his presentations. Check the amount of items sold and find out if the kitchen is bringing bucks to the bottom line by filling the to shelf of the cooler.
3). Find a new chef. Drastic measure? of course. But, you may need to inform your chef that overseeing the kitchen is part of running the restaurant. If he can’t understand that it may be time for him to open his own place. Possibly called the “Special Order Cafe”.
There isn´t a chef in his world that hasn´t ordered a case of something and not used it for its original purpose. However, successful restaurants are filled with people who know how to artistically improvise and create substantial selections from almost nothing.
The other problem that I see is that he is not rotating his produce and other items in the cooler. Great chefs know how to create specials, or soups, stews and other items from what is in the cooler so that nothing goes to waste.
Special orders are a very important for any chef´s repertoire, but before he goes to that section, he should have his act together, know where the special item will go, how much will be used and what the profit margin in the dish will be.
Until that happens your chef may not be as special as he thinks.