Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cost Control / Cheese tasting (Cheese, Tasty and Nutritious)

Sorry for the skipped day, I did go to class on Monday but pretty much had to put toothpicks in my eyeballs just to stay vertical. Didn't take notes and in retrospect, should have stayed home and slept -- the restaurant is kicking my ass, in a good way. Opening week, I put in 83 hours. Today, however, I took off to attend a Passover Seder.

Since we're off tomorrow for the holiday, we started off with an abbreviated In the News, oddly all pizza-related. The Bruni reviewed Co. and gave it a single star, which is quite good for the low expectations that pizza brings to the table. Another article, from the past Sunday, was about how Cobble Hill's South Brooklyn Pizza is hosting a gay disco on the night they are closed. Insert perverted pizza!

The next part of class was a continuation of the discussion of food cost control. It starts with a standardized 'recipe' -- what you need, how much you need it, and how much it costs per serving. Computer programs like "Chef Tech" will tie in to a point-of-sale system that the servers use to register sales and calculate how much is spent to generate exactly how many sales. No fuss no muss.

After a talk about weights and measures (which was also covered in Culinary Arts), we discussed inventory control. Capacity of your storage (refrigerated or not), perishability, vendor delivery schedules, savings on quantity, the potential harm of a stock outage -- all are part of puzzle that comes together to keep a restaurant running profitably. Par level, or the build-to level, is the amount of stock you want to achieve your minimum -- when you go below, you order more. Some is easy; dry goods like flour and sugar are "stores" (that can be stored indefinitely), and you can seek the absolute lowest price via quantity. Something like fish, however, has to be of the moment; no matter how good the price, ordering too much will probably be wasted.

"Spec" was discussed -- what exactly should be ordered. You can call a purveyor and order a loaf of bread, but unless you specify exactly what your looking for, what you get could be almost anything -- how large, what kind of style, how thick the slices, etc.? Providing specs (everything for quantity and style to grade and use) means less waste and less wasted time in inventory.

The second part of the class was dedicated to the series of silly videos above, and a taste of a variety of cheeses, from plain cream cheese to stinky Maytag blue. This was all stuff we hit up in culinary, only in culinary, Chef M did the ordering and got us some fantastic things (I'm still a fan of tallegio due to that day.) The aged goat cheese was surprisingly tasty, the cheddar too ordinary, and the blue way too strong, though pairing it with a fortified, sweet port proved the power of a good matching.