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

What did you think of the movie Ratatouille?

Asked by baronvonawesome almost 12 years ago

Hi baron, I liked that movie. They did a good job; I heard that Thomas Keller, the famous chef from French Laundry helped with the movie. Since I live close to Pixar, I've worked in the space where they helped to make the "cooking" sections of that movie. Did you like it?

What's the approximate markup on food vs. beverages in your restaurant? And what proportion of a restaurant's overall revenues come from each?

Asked by TaylorK almost 12 years ago

Hi Taylor, In the restaurant I worked, we did food cost times 4. I'm not sure what they did on the bar side; industry standard seems to be about 5 times the cost. The owners of the restaurant/bar I worked at must've done something wrong because we made more money on the food side than on the bar side, which is not normal. It was almost a 50-50 split with the food edging the alcohol out by a percentage or two. I've heard that many places want to make about 70% of profit off the alcohol.

What foods are disproportionately AMAZING when they're "in season" compared to the rest of the year when they're just so-so? And do you make extra efforts to incorporate them into your menu?

Asked by amy_p almost 12 years ago

Hi Amy, Tomatoes!!! Stone fruit, such as apricots. Oh yes, when tomatoes are in season I would make salmorejo, which is a type of gazpacho and tomato salads. As for stone fruit, I totally incorporate them into desserts or pair them with roasted duck. I know tomatoes are available the whole year, but those unseasonal tomatoes, I don't consider tomatoes. Yuck! :) Can you tell I love summer produce?

I agree, this is an amazing Q&A, thank you! What do you do if a customer calls to say they got food poisoning after eating at your restaurant?

Asked by jen almost 12 years ago

Hi Jen, Thank you so much. It is fun to answer all these questions. :) If a customer says they got food poisoning, I take it very seriously. I always ask them what they ate and when they got sick. At one restaurant I worked at, the owner would always ask them if they had been drinking and how much. He always contended it takes at least 24 hours for food poisoning to happen. Anyway, I would also talk to the staff and find out what was going on that day and what was the state of the food. I would try to make sure we took ultra-precautions to make sure we are very, very careful.

Waiters are always blaming "the kitchen" when service is slow and food is taking too long. Is that just a BS excuse, or is it often the case?

Asked by Some more ... please? almost 12 years ago

Hi Some, No, it's usually the case. I sometimes feel sorry for waiters as they have to get the brunt of the customer's ire. Hopefully, they give them something a little extra to smooth out any ruffled feathers.

Do you think the best chefs come from culinary schools, or is it more of an innate talent?

Asked by myra almost 12 years ago

Hi Myra, Definitely not. I've cooked with so many cooks that didn't, and they were damn good. It's all about the attitude and heart, I think. I worked with a lot of people who were products of cooking schools that sucked! They thought cooking would be glamorous and it ain't! A lot of these cooks learned on the job. Great question!

Do you feel any responsibility to cook healthy dishes, or is your only concern making something that tastes as good as possible? Do you think ALL restaurants should post the nutritional info of their dishes?

Asked by mikepaschek almost 12 years ago

Hi Mike, My first concern, always, is to make something taste superb. That said, one of my priorities is to use the best ingredients possible within the parameters of the cuisine I work with. I wonder what your definition of healthy is. Do you mean no frying? Or vegetarian? If so, the last restaurant I worked for would not qualify. But I have heard stories of folks who had come to the restaurant because it was a special place they came with their mom and sister or else they felt nurtured by the food after their divorce. If that promotes their health is some way, then I am happy. As for the nutritional info, I think that would be very cost prohibitive to do so, especially if the chef liked to change up the menu often. I would find it constricting to have to do it for every dish I felt inspired to put on the menu.