Chef

Chef

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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Last Answer on March 14, 2013

Best Rated

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 almost 5 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. :)

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 almost 5 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!

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 almost 5 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.

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 5 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?

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

Asked by Colette almost 5 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 something that happens in most restaurant kitchens that customers would be grossed out if they knew about it?

Asked by boris not natasha almost 5 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!

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 almost 5 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. :)