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 see you're from Berkeley (Go Bears!) My question is, is your restaurant notified ahead of time before the health inspector shows up? Or is it a total surprise?

Asked by Jolie O! over 11 years ago

Hi Jolie, Did you go to UCB? If so, how did you like it here? Anyway, it is a complete surprise when the health inspector comes. My former sous chef knew the guy would show up about every 6 months. This sous chef also knew his car, and would keep an eye out for him! There wasn't much to write up at the restaurant I worked at, but I remember once that he and one of the owners went around and around which way to face the eating side of the spoons and forks in the container!

If a customer sends back something that's overcooked, will you just throw it out and make them a new one? Are expenses like that just baked into the business model of any restaurant?

Asked by 2124ever over 11 years ago

Hello 2124, Personally, I would make a new dish. I would even get a new plate! Of course, I would examine it and probably try a part they hadn't eaten. You are correct in that it's just a given expense. I've heard that a normal food cost hovers around 30% of expenses in a restaurant. At the restaurant I worked at, we would aim to price our dishes at about 4x the food cost.

How do you feel about how chefs are portrayed on reality shows? Are you pleased that they're finally getting the spotlight, or is the angry / yelling stereotype getting too much focus?

Asked by Myra over 11 years ago

Hi Myra, I am pleased with any show that gets folks curious about food and gets them cooking in the kitchen! The angry chef portrayal, I know, makes for good watching, and it's fun to watch if you're not on the receiving end of it. I can't imagine watching a show about a typical day in the kitchen. It would be pretty boring actually. Watching a chef order ingredients, talking with customers and the cooks, receiving deliveries, would make for dull TV, really. One of the chefs I used to work with was a tyrant!!! She (yes, she) would scream obscenities, throw pots and pans, kick over the garbage can...etc. All the cooks were afraid of her, and it the end, it did her in. So for TV I think it is fine, but in real life, in the kitchen, it is not effective method of management.

How many levels are there before someone reaches "chef" status? And at what level does a kitchen employee start to get some creative input as to the cuisine?

Asked by micah m over 11 years ago

Hi Micah, This is a question that I have to answer with "it depends". From what I've seen, there aren't really any formal steps. Yes, you have to have certain skills, experience, and you have to make awesome food. But sometimes, I've seen cooks promoted to chef level because they were the senior cook in the kitchen, and the owners needed someone. Other times, like in my case, I became the chef de cuisine because I had been the sous chef, and had run the kitchen several times in the chef's absence. The owners were opening another restaurant, my boss went to oversee that restaurant, and I was left to run the flagship. Personally, it took me a long time before I would call myself chef. As for the creative input, to me, a good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from. Once, one of the cooks made a killer staff meal dish that we put on the menu! I remember early in my career my mentor/chef saying he didn't want me to just be a worker bee. He wanted me to come up with ideas. It's nice to have a flow of ideas for dishes especially if you're changing the menu every two weeks!

Do you think a customer has the right to send something back (and not pay for it) and order something else if he simply didn't like it, even if it had been cooked and served properly?

Asked by M.M. over 11 years ago

Hi M.M. Hmm...I would have to say no. If the customer ordered it, and didn't like it, well, I would have to say the responsibility of choosing that dish is on the customer. But honestly, I might reconsider if it was a customer that was a regular to the restaurant!

Do customers ever find something gross in their food? Even the most reputable restaurants seem to have the occasional problems with hair, bugs, the occasional rodent...

Asked by Sue chef ;) over 11 years ago

Hi Sue, Yes! Usually, it's hair. (Although I must say, even though it sounds gross, that if I got a dish that had hair in it, I would probably eat it if I knew the person!) Other times, it has been a piece of glass or bugs. I always comp something depending on the severity of the offending matter. At the first restaurant I worked at, someone found a small FROG in their salad. I can't remember if it was still alive or not, but this wasn't during my shift. I still cannot understand how the pantry person did not see or feel a frog.

When a restaurant gets a negative review in a high-profile publication like the NYT, is there an immediate and noticeable drop in business? Can a single high-profile bad review of a restaurant be the kiss of death?

Asked by KenBartam over 11 years ago

Hi Ken, I've seen that happen here in the San Francisco bay area. There was a restaurant that got such bad reviews that it got no stars, just a square. It had been a money maker too. I knew one of the waiters that used to work there. She told me she and another waiter from that same restaurant got audited by the IRS because something in their tax returns roused suspicion, that their numbers looked suddenly too low. They went in for an interview, and she pulled out the bad review of the once thriving restaurant. The IRS let them go.

Finally, a chef! Tell me, if a customer sends a dish back because they don't like it and explains why, do you get offended, or do you appreciate constructive criticism?

Asked by sara over 11 years ago

Hi Sara, I appreciate constructive criticism. If they can tell me why they didn't like it, that is more helpful than "I don't like it" said in a nasty tone. For example, if a customer says that they think a dish is too sweet, and maybe something acid would offset that, I will listen. I usually enjoy conversations like this. The chefs I have worked with that mentored me were always looking to improve their dishes, so that's how I have always worked and have run my kitchen. Do you have a story that goes with this question?

How do you feel about services like Yelp? It can be tough to tell which reviews are legitimate when there are so many "best ever!" and "worst ever!" reviews for the same restaurant!

Asked by 1 man 1 bike over 11 years ago

Hi 1 man, From what I've seen with Yelp, I think the reviews pretty much jibe with the goodness of the food. Of course, there will always be one or two naysayers, but if the reviews are gushinginly positive overall, I will go. I haven't had a bad experience yet with any restaurant that has gotten at least 4 1/2 stars yet. I don't mess with any restaurants that have less than that!

Assuming the chef is not the owner, how much say does the chef get in creating the menu?

Asked by jeff bx over 11 years ago

Hi Jeff, That was my situation. I think it depends on how much the owner knows and trusts you, first. I would always discuss my ideas and/or let my boss taste something I'm testing. Since I had worked for them for several years and they trusted my palate, they pretty much let me do what I wanted within the parameters of the cuisine.

Is it true that you should never order the specials, because that's the stuff that's been sitting around awhile and the restaurant is trying to get rid of it?

Asked by D. Mouse over 11 years ago

I would have to say there is some truth to that. We once had some leftover smoked duck breast and membrillo allioli. Someone got the bright idea to put it together in a sandwich with arugula. It was yummy! So I suppose there are varying degrees of how gross this could get. :)

Do you train your waiters how to describe dishes to customers? Are all your waiters required to have tried everything on the menu?

Asked by anthony over 11 years ago

Hi Anthony, I always wanted the waitstaff to taste the food so they can describe for themselves the dishes rather than using some rote words I provided. I can always tell when I go into a restaurant when the description comes from experience or from memorization. The waitstaff I worked with were usually pretty knowledgeable, so I left it up to them to describe the dishes. I like hearing enthusiasm about a dish rather than some words the chef told them to say. But of course, I always let them know the ingredients in the dish. :)

Re criticism, I have a couple of times politely offered suggestions (e.g. "too sweet", "too salty", "too many unnecessary garnishes" etc), and every time I seem to get a terse "thanks" with an implied "F U" behind it. Now I just keep my mouth shut :(

Asked by sara over 11 years ago

Sara, I'm sorry to hear that. I wish that hadn't happened to you as I know it could be intimidating. Has this happened at restaurants where you are a regular? I think if you are a regular and have a relationship with the kitchen, this is less likely to happen. If not, try this next time--compliment the cooks or the chef and talk about what you did like about the meal (or a former meal). You know, soften them up. The cooks and chefs, believe me, usually don't get tired of hearing compliments. And then, drop in a "what if" question. For example, "what do you think the dish would taste like if you pulled back on the sweet?" And then quickly follow up with another compliment. It's like making a sandwich. Compliment/criticism/compliment. If you do ever implement this plan, I'd love to hear how it goes.

Have you ever worked in a restaurant where they saved uneaten food from one customer and served it to the next one?

Asked by boris not natasha over 11 years ago

Eww, yuck no. I wouldn't ever work in a place like that. The cooks and I might have a piece of meat that was sent back as overdone and not touched, but no. My dad told me story, when I was younger, about getting a toothpick in his food once, and how disgusting that was. It made quite an impression on me!

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 over 11 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 over 11 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 over 11 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?

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 over 11 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.

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 over 11 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. :)

What did you think of the movie Ratatouille?

Asked by baronvonawesome over 11 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 something that happens in most restaurant kitchens that customers would be grossed out if they knew about it?

Asked by boris not natasha over 11 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 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!!! :)

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

Asked by myra over 11 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 over 11 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.

Saw someone else mentioned Yelp. Do food critics even matter anymore, given the amount of online ratings restaurants get?

Asked by jason over 11 years ago

Jason, I'm beginning to think that food critics matter less, especially since newspapers are getting less play. The food section in my area has gotten small; it used to have its own section every week. In a way, I think Yelp is more democratic and pretty accurate, although I know it does solicit money to give restaurants more coverage and to remove any bad ratings.

Single best dining experience you've ever had?

Asked by manamana over 11 years ago

Hi manamana, That is a very hard question to answer! :) I've had so many great restaurant meals. One that stands out is some very simple, but delicious steamed vegetables (yes, you read that right) at Michel Guerard's small place, not his three star, in France. I once had a meal at Chez Panisse where everything was just so out of this world. With some cook friends though, at a get together, everyone brought food. The food was excellent, yes. But something about that evening...we were eating outside someone's beautiful home, on their patio. It was a summer evening, and just everyone laughed so much, shared great stories; there was a camaraderie born of all the stars just lining up that night that made it so magical.

Do you know beforehand when a food critic will be visiting your restaurant? If yes, do you prepare the best version of what you always serve, or do you whip up something out-of-the-ordinary?

Asked by jason over 11 years ago

Hi jason, Well, the main food critic here, not many people know what he looks like. They know that he hangs out with one certain cookbook writer, and sometimes her presence tips the restaurant off. We know when a high-end restaurant opens that he will be coming around, but otherwise, no I don't know. If I knew he was there, I would just make sure to serve up an awesome version of any dishes going to the table. He doesn't really like it when something off the menu is made for him.

Thanks for answering my earlier question. Do you have an opinion on who the best chefs are out there today?

Asked by Wannabe over 11 years ago

Hi Wannabe, I had to think about this...Of course all the ones we know Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller are great just for their innovation. But when it comes to chefs whose food I have eaten consistently, it would have to be David Tanis and Chris Lee who both used to work at Chez Panisse. They both make AMAZING food. I wonder how they do it. Who are your favorites?

Why are there signs in EVERY bathroom saying that employees must wash hands? I figure it must be the law, but is the sign actually to remind employees, or to give customers some sort of peace of mind?

Asked by singh_r over 11 years ago

Hi singh_r, Sorry for the delay. I was in Europe. The sign is to remind employees. Here, the restaurants must have by law, a special hand-washing sink complete with soap and available hand wiping facilities. This sounds sort of gross, but many people are not in the habit of washing their hands even at home. I always wash my hands first thing when I get to work. Sometimes when I tell folks how stringent I am at home with the family, they think I'm mean. I also counter their protests with, "Oh, so you don't want a restaurant chef to think like this?" That usually quiets them!

Hi, awesome thread, thanks. If I want to become a professional chef and have no experience, what path do you recommend I take and how do I get started?

Asked by Wannabe over 11 years ago

Hi Wannabe, You are welcome! I recommend that you first get some kind of job in a kitchen, even if it is washing dishes so you can get the feel of a restaurant. If you still like it and want to pursue becoming a chef, you can either go to cooking school or find a good restaurant that's willing to train you. Stay there for a year or two, and then find another good restaurant and learn from them too. If you decide to go the cooking school route, I recommend a junior college cooking school. Don't spend a lot of money going to an expensive school where you'll owe $70K once you get out. You most likely won't be making a lot of money starting out. I must admit, it isn't easy becoming a chef. You won't get paid much starting out and you'll probably be made to do all kinds of lowly jobs such as de-boning 100 quail which I did several times in my early years. I don't like saying this, but I've seen so many people go to chef school, owe a lot of money, find out they hate cooking in restaurants, and leave the profession shortly after. There's also a book I recommend you read that'll give you the lowdown. It called Becoming a Chef. They have lots of good advice in there too. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I'm happy to help.

Is it true that we should avoid restaurants on Sundays, because they don't receive deliveries that day and so the food isn't as fresh?

Asked by R. Jay over 11 years ago

Yes! I would have to agree with that, especially with seafood items. I myself avoid fish on Sundays and Mondays. Sort of gross, huh? :)

Time and time again I hear that "restaurants are a tough business." But I mean, most are businesses tough. What is it about the restaurant biz specifically that makes it so especially tough?

Asked by Bang Bang Chang about 11 years ago

Hi Bang Bang, Mind you, I haven't worked at lots of other jobs...But what I noticed about cooking professionally that's harder than other jobs: working times that most people have off, starting at a very low wage and working your way up, standing for hours on end, and the pace in a professional kitchen. Thanks for the question.

What is the difference of a cook and chef?

Asked by FridayLover about 11 years ago

Hi Friday, Thanks for the question. To me, a chef is in charge of the menu (writing, testing, plating, and teaching the dish to the rest of the staff), the kitchen staff, ordering ingredients etc. When I became a chef, I didn't cook much "on the line" anymore which I missed. A cook is the person that executes the dish in real time, usually under the direction of the chef. They also do a lot of the prep for the dish. When I was a cook, I didn't have to take work home, when I was done for the night, that was it. I wouldn't call myself a chef for a long time, not until I had an official title. It seemed presumptuous to do so. I feel one had to pay their dues in order to become a "chef".

How much do chefs at top restaurants in major cities like NYC or LA make in a year?

Asked by cragsly over 11 years ago

Hi Cragsly, If you're talking about the well known chefs with tv shows and endorsements, I can imagine their salaries can easily run into 6 figures. I imagine a chef of a big restaurant, nothing else, clearing $90K to 100K . The chef I worked for was making $90K. I only knew because a waiter friend pulled a paper with all the figures out of the trash and gave it to me. Sneaky, huh?

Have you ever owned or co-owned your own restaurant? If not, what's kept you from doing so?

Asked by McKnight about 11 years ago

Hi McKnight, Nope, I have never owned a restaurant and never want to. After watching the owners I have worked for, I have noticed it's a 24/7 business. For example, one busy Saturday night, the owner had to come in because the toilet was clogged and the restaurant was flooded with water. Headache!! Another time, he had to come in at 3:00 am because the alarm went off. Most people who start restaurants who haven't worked in the biz think it's just about food. It isn't. You have to deal with linen, insurance, employee issues, the health inspector, the dishwashing machine, customers, etc. It's a lot and this business makes you wear more hats than you think. I just wanted to concentrate on food, have a life outside of the restaurant, and I'd rather someone else take care of all that stuff... Great question!

What's your opinion on minimalist dish presentations vs. busier, more heavily "decorated" presentations?

Asked by Elliot R. (NYC) over 11 years ago

Hi Elliot, That is a good question. My top priority is taste, and taste alone. But having said that, I usually don't like a dish that I feel had a lot of hands on it, i.e. the "decorated" presentations. Also, I feel each and every thing on the plate has to make sense; it's not just thrown on there "just because". I've seen a lot of plates like that and it's not enjoyable to eat something that looks and tastes like a Christmas present. :)

How many sous chefs do you have, and what do you look for when you hire them? Do you want them to be independent and creative, or to just be really good at following orders?

Asked by 84Bears almost 11 years ago

Hi 84Bears, Thanks for the interesting question! I had one sous chef. When I think about what I look for in a sous chef, I think about him. Can you tell that I admire him a lot? Anyway, he has the best knife skills I'd ever seen as he started out in a Japanese restaurant making sushi. He is very creative, and put many items on the menu. He worked in an Italian restaurant for many years, and so he had that Mediterranean knowledge too. I would like the sous to be well rounded, hence the Asian and Mediterranean is valuable to me. He also has to be a teacher to the rest of the kitchen staff, have an impeccable palate, plate food beautifully, keep high standards, be dependable, keep me informed of any problems, and so very trustworthy. An easy question to answer as I've been lucky to work with such a sous chef!

Do you get to interact directly with customers much? Do you think chefs *should* interact more with customers than they typically do, to get first-hand feedback?

Asked by FunMunkey1 about 11 years ago

Hello FunMunkey1, Oh yes! I liked to walk around the dining room when it wasn't so busy (the restaurant was really noisy when the room was full), look at the customer's plates, say hello to them and ask how everything was, and if possible, converse with them. I got to know a lot of regulars that way. There was one couple in their 80's that would come in at noon on Mondays. It was wonderful to be around them as they were still very much in love. They had met during WW II when he was an injured pilot and she was his nurse. I shared many meals with them at different restaurants in the area. There was another couple that would come in regularly. He was always trying to get me to drink his martini with him! Another woman who came in almost every day told me that coming to the restaurant helped her get over her divorce. Anyway, I guess you can tell that I think chefs should interact with customers for feedback and even more! Thanks for the question. :)

Do you watch any of the TV cooking shows and what's your favorite? Would you ever try out for a show like Chopped?

Asked by InternetNeverSleeps over 11 years ago

Hi INS, I used to watch Jamie Oliver's shows. I like him and his recipes work. I've seen Anthony Bordain's. I don't watch TV, but I keep telling myself to watch Top Chef. One of the waiters I used to work with worked with one of the contestants from San Francisco. I don't think I would like to be on TV. I was once on a "your backyard is so ugly we're going to do a tv show about it" show and I thought my "acting" was quite wooden! :)

As a chef do you prefer to cook for yourself or to be cooked for?

Asked by Kelly over 11 years ago

Hi Kelly, Both, actually! When I used to work at the restaurant full-time, we went out to eat a lot because I just couldn't bear to cook another thing. I love when people cook for me, but sadly, many people don't want to cook for me because they get intimidated. I just love showing up somewhere and having a plate a food pushed in my face! :)

Have you or anyone in your kitchen ever sustained any particularly gruesome injuries while on the job?

Asked by Notorious B.E.N. about 11 years ago

Hi Notorious, You should see my arms! When I tell folks I'm a chef, I like to use the scars on my arms as an illustration. I knew of someone that broke their arm in a Hobart mixer. I also knew of another chef that cut her hand badly while trying to cut butternut squash. I heard of a cook who had climbed up on the shelves in the walk-in that ended up putting his foot in some boiling hot stock. They had to cut the shoe off. It was bad. Pretty gruesome, eh? Update 3/10/13 I just cut off the tip of my thumb about a week ago. I had to go to the emergency room, and wasn't able to work for a week. I had gone over 20+ years of cooking without any serious injuries until now.

What's a fast food chain that you think creates great food (quality ingredients, healthy menu, etc)?

Asked by bingham about 11 years ago

Hi bingham, I don't know if this fast food chain is healthy, but I like In and Out Burger. They cut their own potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce. They don't use the bestest cuts of beef, but I like the taste of their burgers and fries! Have you ever been? Personally, I love hamburgers and fries.

Why do chefs wear tall hats?

Asked by Maddy1 about 11 years ago

Hi Maddy, Thanks for the question. I had to think about this as I've only worn the tall chef hat when I was in cooking school. I think it's partly a French custom and mostly practicality. It prevents hair from getting in the food, and I think the hat band catches sweat. I know the sweat part sounds gross but when you're working with a grill to your left, a broiler, a stove top, and an oven blasting away at 500 degrees, it gets pretty hot in the kitchen!

I would love to open cooking classes for local enthusiasts in a beautiful waterfront location. I would like to hire chef's to teach the classes. How much do you think I should expect to pay a chef for 4 hours of their time?

Asked by Brigitte almost 11 years ago

Hi Brigitte, Thanks for the question. I use to work for a culinary team building company based out of San Francisco. It was similar in that we would coach clients. The rate would rise or fall according to the number of clients, the type of event, how far the chef had to travel, and how hard it was to load the venue for the event, etc. This company had charts to figure out this kind of stuff, but looking at my pay stubs, it seems to average around $30 an hour. Good luck with your school!

Hi Chef Mil! This is a great read, thanks! Can you recommend a good all-purpose kitchen knife for under $100? And what do you recommend to keep it sharp as long as possible?

Asked by Tori about 11 years ago

Hi Tori, Thank you very much! You are welcome. Not sure how to answer this question because I don't know how much cooking you do. In general, I would recommend the 10 inch white handled Dexter knives. I know everyone likes Wusthof knives, but I bought a 10 inch Wusthof in 1992 and it cost almost $100 then. The Dexters seem to last in a restaurant kitchen which sees very heavy use. So, when you get your knife, get it professionally sharpened. Make sure to buy a steel along with your knife which does not sharpen a knife but straightens the microscopic teeth on a knife edge which keeps it sharp. Steel the knife every 15 minutes. I think that one action really helps keep a knife's edge. Let me know if there are any other questions I might answer for you. Mil :)

Hello, I’m looking at making a pumpkin moose pie. Can I had fireball whiskey for flavor?

Asked by Niccimouse over 4 years ago


Why does my graham cracker crust always stick to my metal pan.... I follow directions butter graham cracker an butter it alway stuck to bottom of pan please help

Asked by Gwen almost 4 years ago


I am concerned about something I ate. I purchased mushrooms from a store. They look and smell fine. Once cooked they smelled funky. I ate two slices and found the taste to be funky too. Is this normal? Will I be sick? Kindly, Chancey.

Asked by Chancey over 2 years ago


I am just a household cook. I can recognize, GENERALLY, by smell Italian oregano+garlic, Mexican chili+cilantro, American BBQ smoky sweet, Indian curry, Chinese soya mixed veggies meats, Hungarian paprika. Pls,list a few other famous combinations

Asked by John Jason almost 4 years ago


I've yet to find a good answer for this: how do I heat up leftovers WITHOUT COOKING THEM MORE!? Like if I put a medium-rare steak in the fridge, how do I warm it up the next day while keeping it medium-rare? Won't any method overcook it to medium?

Asked by QQQ almost 11 years ago


have you ever thought about starting your own restaurant? why or why not?

I am thinking of going into patisserie making. Potentially start my own patisserie after some years of experience. orz.

Asked by sophiesuperduper over 10 years ago


Could I make an appetizing chili that drew its influence from eastern cooking, using a curry powder in place of chili powder, and sauteing the beef with onions and fennel before adding it to a beef stock, beans, tomatoes, rice wine, and the powder?

Asked by Sergio almost 4 years ago


How much steak butter do steakhouses use on a typical steak? (And is steak butter the same thing as regular butter?)

Asked by Jess almost 11 years ago


Oven roasted chicken with bones I've been saving remove chicken when done add water to bones and make broth. Sautee onions and garlic. Add bell peppers and scallions and spices mix with chicken broth, add flourthenchickenservewithflatbread thoughts?

Asked by Cody over 3 years ago


I'm trying to solidify honey so I can grate or microplane it for a honey shavings garnish. What would be the best/fastest way to accomplish this?

Asked by Rook over 3 years ago


Hi, I marinated tofu with apple cider vinegar lemon and oregano. I was trying to get it to taste like “feta” cheese and then parrot with roasted beets. However I’m missing something because all I can taste is the vinegar. What other ingredients would you recommend to balance the dish out?

Asked by Tonya over 3 years ago


I made a pudding/flan mixture but when I was putting it in my oven my oven kind of turned off and now it snot working. how long can my uncooked pudding last.

Asked by iman over 2 years ago


I made a pudding/flan mixture but when I was putting it in my oven my oven kind of turned off and now it snot working. how long can my uncooked pudding last.

Asked by iman over 2 years ago


I had these pies a couple of times, they were like a meat pie with the bread baked around it but the center was a mixture of beef and lamb onion other spices and little round white white or light brownish grain does anyone have any idea what they are called?

Asked by Dan over 3 years ago


I had these pies a couple of times, they were like a meat pie with the bread baked around it but the center was a mixture of beef and lamb onion other spices and little round white white or light brownish grain does anyone have any idea what they are called?

Asked by Dan over 3 years ago


I work with a recipe for vegetarian burgers (kebabs) that I try to cook on a charcoal stick. However, they do not come out very tight so that they roll on the stick and their texture is very soft.
As a stabilizer I use gum arabic and tapioca starch and to eliminate a lot of moisture I use phrygana (I have tried flour or oats but they become very sticky).
What else as a material or technique can I do to remove moisture and especially to get them tighter ??

Asked by Maria over 3 years ago


Dear Chef
I am into Keto Diet, and I want all people to follow it also, it helps me, and I want the other to benefit from it also.

I want to establish a Pasta factory, but pasta without Wheat flour, instead, using Lupin, Chickpea, or Almond flour.
Whatever will be the best to make this dough.

I did a lot of research, but I couldn't find recipes suitable for industrial products, all was like homemade recipes.

Can you advise me please.
Best regards

Asked by Karam Hanna over 3 years ago


I would like to know if you can open your own small business but also be the lead chef or cook of your own business? If so, do you have to obtain a certification or just be up to par for inspection?

Asked by Jasmine over 4 years ago


How much corn beef carrots cabbage and potatoes do I need for 40 people ? What is the best way to prepare this

Asked by Diane almost 3 years ago


From a culinary standpoint If you can afford to buy ribeye or porterhouse why would You ever bother cooking with lesser cuts of steak like flank, hanger or tips.

Asked by Ethan over 3 years ago


I(m offered to make a corned beef lunch for an adult day care. I am Corning my own beef now but worried how to cook it! I have 14 lbs of brisket. Assume I will have use the oven what temp? How much time? In large foil pans? Well sealed? Ideas?

Asked by Mimi almost 3 years ago


I have some bone in pork chops I want to cook with McCormick's one sheet pan seasoning .... they are suppose to be cooked in the oven with the season pack instructions but I want to make them in my slow cooker.... what kind of liquid would I add ?

Asked by JoAnn about 4 years ago


I am catering my own wedding in August. I plan on making lasagna. I have to bake and freeze two days prior. I am concerned about the noodles. How soggy will the noodles be? Or will they be soggy? Thank you!

Asked by karen almost 3 years ago


watching all the cooking shows i see all the different ingredients that go into a receipe, are you telling me that they come up with all these different ingredients by themselves?

Asked by ronald davidson almost 3 years ago


My red beans have been cooking for at least 5hrs and they are still hard. What is wrong? What can I do?

Asked by Tish over 3 years ago


Hi I am a culinary student at SAIT in Alberta Canada. I wanted advice/taste on a project idea. I am making a dessert terrine consisting of a maple syrup poached foei gras, layered with earl grey brandy compressed pear and star anise red wine apple

Asked by Thomas almost 4 years ago


I made a brisket last night in a dutch oven, I may have cooked it too long, as the onions and carrots have gotten very dark, it smells perfect but it is dark, how to save the gravy?

Asked by Pam over 3 years ago


So I'm cooking instant grits in four 6 inch Hotel pans. I'm looking to feed approximately 300 people. How much grits do I need

Asked by TIMOTHY over 3 years ago


How should I cook sea bass without skin?

Normally, I cook it with butter and oil in a stainless steel skillet; however, it is always difficult to flip(it doesn't release like other fish with skin)...

Asked by castikel almost 4 years ago


Im making a turkey tendeloin and want to wrap stuffing in i cook the stuffing first

Asked by Meg over 3 years ago


Question. I've heard to salt the water you are cooking pasta in. It raises the boiling point, but I am also told it's the only chance you have to infuse flavor into the pasta. If that's true why don't you add spices and herbs to the water?

Asked by Brian W Warstler over 3 years ago


I want to upgrade to high quality cookware. I keep going back to the Al Clad d3 but worried about cleanup. I cook mostly plant based on electric range. What type of cookware would you recommend? Im also worried about nonstick not lasting like SS

Asked by Mikejl02 about 4 years ago


How do you work out percentage of ingredients used (eg banana x%, blueberry x%, flour x%) when you are using both wet and dry ingredients EG 1 cup pureed banana, 1 punnet blueberries, 1 cup water, 3 cups flour?

Asked by annette over 3 years ago


I need to make lasagna, but my mozzarella is bad. Will I ruin the lasagna by substituting Monterey Jack cheese in place of the mozzarella?

Asked by Skjellerson about 4 years ago


I make chicken pies at home making gravy from scratch. The gravy after being frozen is broken. Wasn’t broken when I made it ?

Asked by Chris over 4 years ago


after thawing sea scallops, do i need to brine them before using them in a recipe?

Asked by Thomas almost 4 years ago


I need to cook two beef tenderloins at once. One is 4.3 lbs. and one is 4 lbs. How long do I need to cook them them for medium rare? At what temp? and do they need to be put on a rack?

Asked by Mary L Conley about 3 years ago


So many restaurants now where the kitchen is open and the cooking in full view. Is this just a trendy thing, or is there a real utility / purpose behind it?

Asked by jolene almost 11 years ago


Hello, when making soft pretzels, you boil the pretzel in a baking soda bath. Can that baking soda water be used the next day or is it a one time use?

Asked by Anthony almost 4 years ago


Im making porkchops and rice. Could i add the raw seasoned pork chop bones to my rice water to give the rice extra flavor

Asked by Danny seals over 3 years ago


I have a Resturant and cooking a steak at room temperature is imposiable due to time restriction. I heard that there is a some kind of doping prepared liquid to inhance the fat taste after cooking.

Asked by Moman over 3 years ago


we can sometimes get
Self-raising flour
Plain Flour
Have you any bread recipies please for either type of flour
without needing
baking powder
or baking soda
as we cant get those either.

its not reawarm enough to make our own yeast yet

Asked by phil almost 4 years ago