Chef Mil

Berkeley, CA

Female, 49

I have been working in restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years (two of the restaurants had been in the SF Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurants). I have cooked mostly Mediterranean food, but have some experience with Asian food. I went to cooking school, and worked my way up from being a prep cook (think--prepping 3 cases of artichokes, de-boning 100 quail, and juicing a case of lemons!) to being a chef at a well known restaurant in my area. And no, I am not the yelling type! :)

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93 Questions


Last Answer on March 14, 2013

Best Rated

I loved Ratatouille as well, maybe even more than my kids -- thanks for asking! How much truth is there to what "Colette" said in that movie about there being so few women in high-end kitchens? If it's true, why do you think that is?

Asked by baronvonawesome almost 12 years ago

How are you, baron? Hope all is well. I think in Europe there are more barriers to women in high-end kitchens. From what I've read, even the males when they start out in high end kitchens, are treated brutally. I read "The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine"; the young cook in the book would go home crying several times. For the women, the added sexism makes it doubly hard. Here in the US, there are a lot more women chefs, but cooking is a physically hard job. You're on your feet the whole time, you have to lift heavy things, and the speed of the line during the rush can be intimidating. I don't think most people have the personality, male or female, to work in a restaurant kitchen. Hmmm, I have to think about this more. Although I was the chef, I worked with all men in the last restaurant I worked (they were awesome, I loved working with them)! The women just didn't seem to work out.

My question is, what kind of restaurants do CHEFS like to eat at? Do you go to the hottest big-name places, more low-key upstarts, or maybe something in between?

Asked by Swanny almost 12 years ago

Hi Swanny, Very interesting question. I usually wanted to eat something very different than what I made, which was Spanish. So I'd want some Japanese or Indian food, for example. A lot of chefs I know like really simple food too like sandwiches, but of course, it has to be the best even if it is cheap and easy. We'll eat at the hot places just to be in the know and experience a colleague's food, however. After cooking in high-end restaurants, I wasn't always eager to eat at such places all the time.

Why is salad served BEFORE the entree? If the entree is the focus of the meal, isn't it more important that the customer eat that when his appetite is greatest? It's a shame when someone finishes the salad but is too full to finish the entree.

Asked by 7fifty7 almost 12 years ago

Hi 7, Not sure if that is an American custom because I've seen in Europe where they serve the salad after. They do eat smaller portions there, so it works for them. I suspect here in America it's because people HAVE to eat their vegetables before the main event or else they won't eat them. It's hard to get people to eat their veggies sometimes. Can you split the salad with someone, so you'll have more room for the entree?

What's something that happens in most restaurant kitchens that customers would be grossed out if they knew about it?

Asked by boris not natasha almost 12 years ago

Hello BNN, I like your name, btw. To me, probably pests. You know, creepy crawlies and rodents. I once worked at this restaurant where the owner was fanatically clean. This was the cleanest restaurant that I ever worked at, period. Yet, the restaurant was located in an old building that would had periodic leaks running down the walls which as you know, is a perfect recipe for grossness. One time one of the waiters told me she was talking to some customers at their table, and she spotted a cockroach on the wall next to them. She pretended to grab something while using some type of sleight of hand to knock it onto the floor. I mean, if I had seen that, I would've questioned the sanitary practices of that eating establishment!

Just how unsanitary does your restaurant have to be to get a 'B' (or, god forbid, 'C') rating? I live in SoCal and have seen plenty of gross places with 'A' ratings, I can't imagine what would earn a place a B or C.

Asked by Dr. Nick almost 12 years ago

Hi Dr. Nick, Good question. I am not familiar with that rating system as I'm used to the health inspector just coming in, making comments on a sheet, and leaving us a yellow copy. Can you tell me more about the A rated restaurant and why it was gross? I would imagine that B rated restaurant would have to be doing something very unhealthy with the food such as cutting vegetables on a cutting board that had raw meat or perhaps cooks weren't washing their hands. I once walked by a restaurant that had been closed down by the health department and it just reeked of grossness; there was a cockroach in the window and looked pretty shabby.

Do you buy your produce and meats at the same place us normal people do, or do you have access to better quality foods through some sort of professional industry network?

Asked by est15 almost 12 years ago

Hello est15, When I worked in the restaurant, I had access to better quality foods at a better price, but only because the restaurant chose and set up accounts with purveyors who had the good stuff. Otherwise, I shop at higher quality markets and at the local organic farmers' market close to me. Personally, I always pick the good stuff. :)

Are the 'gold flakes' that you see in some dessert dishes ACTUALLY real gold? How is it treated / prepared to make it edible?

Asked by jorge123 almost 12 years ago

Hi jorge, I have seen people actually use real gold. Whether or not it's all real gold, as they claim, remains to be seen, but yes, I've seen pastry chefs use gold. Small amounts are supposedly edible. I'm not sure how they prepare it; I just thought they just made it very, very thin so that it could be worked.