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

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 over 11 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.

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 over 11 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.

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 over 11 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.

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 over 11 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?

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? over 11 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.

What are some less-commonly-owned pieces of cookware that you think everyone should have in their kitchens at home?

Asked by Colette over 11 years ago

Hi Colette, A good, sharp knife!!! That actually is a less commonly owned piece of kitchenware in homes. Otherwise, a microplane, a benriner, mortar and pestle, a knife steel, and a Vita-mix blender. I had to look in my kitchen. Plus, a sense of humor!

What's an experimental dish you attempted that just failed miserably?

Asked by brooketown over 11 years ago

Hi Brooketown, I was just talking about this to someone! I tried to make this Spanish tripe dish with all this Spanish charcuterie, pig trotters, and pimenton. The tripe was slowly cooked for two hours which made it quite tender, and I thought all the add ons gave it such great flavor. Unfortunately, we have such a bias against tripe in this country that only 9 sold in the two weeks I had it on the menu. Even Alice Waters' ex-husband couldn't bring himself to eat tripe. He said he just couldn't stomach eating a stomach!!! :)