Thursday, May 7, 2009

Food Cost / Yield Test

Class was again Chef Ted breaking down proteins. This time, he had a two sides of beef, and we did a yield test on them -- weighed before, then the trim was weighed, then calculated the real price of the edible portions. It was pretty straightforward stuff, but had it been intended for a full menu with many moving parts and recipes embedded within recipes, it would be quite a bug bear. I would have been more involved in the discussion, but I was sleepily checking in and out.

The waste on a large tenderloin of beef is amazing. We started with 9 pounds, and after the fat was cut off, the different muscles that didn't belong to the tender portion, the silver skin and connective tissues, we were left with less than 5 pounds. I asked Chef Ted out of an entire cow, how much is usable. There is relatively little prime meat on a cow, but everything is usable. From the skin into leather, the bones into gelatin, the organs and offal to vendors overseas, to stomach bile for cheese making and paint, it's all used. The meat, the steaks and burgers, are really a very very small part of the cow that we use. And the meat that is graded "prime" is only 1% of all meat produced.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fish Fabrication / Training

Today was an odd day. Chef Ted came in and basically fabricated a large variety of fish in front of our eyes -- round and flat fish, a salmon, 2 lobsters, shellfish, bivalves and a squid -- things that we took several weeks to work through in culinary arts, here we were shown in 3 hours. The point was to illustrate how in the end, a whole fish is only 45 to 50% usable, and the rest is garbage. Makes one appreciate how valuable fresh proteins are. Chef also lectured a bit about how expensive some species are today that were considered garbage fish 30 to 40 years ago: skate, yellow fin tuna, cod. Back in the day, it was just salmon and Dove Sole. 99% of all shrimp in the U.S. is both farm raised and imported.

The last hour of the class was the finishing of a topic that I missed on Monday, due to the James Beard Awards. It seemed pretty self evident, but Richard presented a flowchart of sorts for job training. Determine the duties, show the duties, let the employee practice the duties, evaluate and go from there. Have written descriptions of responsibilities, blah blah blah. All very nice in an ideal world, but in the real world, you hope your staff knows what's up, and try not to give them too much rope to hang themselves with. The staff a manager hires is a reflection on how good the manager is -- it will never be better than the manager who assembles and directs them. I understand that; still, it grates on me a bit whenRichard presents this stuff like it's a formula. Real life seems so much more complicated and compromised.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Student Product Presentations / Food Cost

Due to my commuter bicycle breaking down and the F train not running because of the heavy rain, I did not get to class until 8:30, then had to leave at 9:45am to go to Lincoln Center to pick up cheap tickets to the James Beard Awards this evening. So I got to see three late student presentations -- strawberries, chicken, and a rather captivating pizza-oriented presentation about Guytano's family restaurant's home-made mozzarella. He even brought in samples, which were quite good.

So I spent the rest of the class time on line at Lincoln Center, and had some nice conversations with the students around me. One was a pastry student at my school who had a good head on her shoulders, the other was a culinary student who works in the web department of the Food Network, who seemed very young and a little bit too timid to work in a restaurant kitchen.

Later this week, a chef professor is coming in to break down chickens and help us analyze food costs further.