I finished reading Kitchen Confidential yesterday, (but this is my fave about food book). It was quite entertaining; it took me back to the not so good old days, which just makes me feel even happier to be where I am know. Even though I don't cook for a living anymore I've always been fascinated by kitchen goings on and I love cooking for friends and family. In fact I'd sooner cook at home or at friend's houses because I know that eating out can be a veritable minefield... Here's few reasons why (list compiled with the help of Mr Bourdain, and my own observations):
- It's pricey - most restaurants charge at least 3 times the cost of creating the meal. For example in the UK, it's not unusual for a chicken costing approx £2.00 ($4) (to the restaurant) to be worth £24 - £48 on the menu!! So after the chef has cut the chicken up into portions that's £6 for a plate of cut up chicken pieces in a wine and cream sauce, or £12/15 for a plate of chicken breast in Restaurant a la Pretentiousss. Blimey!
- Is it Special? - Special of the Day is often made up of a surplus of ingredients that need using up before they go off. Any past-their-best veggies, or meat that didn't get used up over the weekend; pop them in a pie, or a stew, or some other rich tasting sauce, or make a terrine, or mousse thing, or anything that disguises the fact that the ingredients aren't spankingly fresh, give it a fancy name, and get rid of it! Of course Specials are sometimes made from lovely ingredients that the kitchen has been able to obtain at a good price, but do you know which Special you are going to get, the old, or the new?
- It's all about timing - Typically the best time to eat out in a restaurant is on Tuesday or Thursday. That's when ingredients are likely to be freshest. Because even though restaurants receive regular deliveries, the big stock- up is usually on a Tuesday (after all of the weekend's ingredients have been used up) and Thursdays (to gear up for the their busiest time; the weekend). If you want to make a science of timing, eat in the restaurant mid to late evening because if you eat early in the evening you may be eating ingredients from the day before as the kitchen will use those ingredients before they use the new stuff.
- No Meat Thanks - Now, I haven't cooked in many kitchens myself, but I do know that many chefs aren't as scrupulous as a vegetarian would like them to be about not mixing utensils which have touched meat with those that haven't, or using veggie stock when they should...
- Get up off of that floor!- If your lamb chop lands on the kitchen floor, I'm sorry but it will miraculously spring back onto your plate. Kitchens are often cramped and very hectic spaces, and food will do somersaults. When it's busy and your lamb chop meal is part of 3 other meals(which have all been painstakingly prepared to be ready at the same time), from a table of four and your lamb hits the decks at the last minute, rather than start all over again (and delay the other 3 meals) it will more likely then not be giving a dusting off...I've seen it...eurghhh!
- Which Meat/fish & 2 veg? - It's not unknown for restaurants to serve pork and pass it off for veal (at a higher price), and pass off fish fillet of whatever for fillet of whatever (at a higher price).
- Done well? - If you are partial to well done steak be on the look out. You are more likely to be served a whangy tough boot of a steak that the chef will be glad to get rid of... He/she can cook the heck out of it. You can't serve a tough steak for rare to medium steaks because they won't wont' be tender to eat.