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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69 Questions


Last Answer on March 14, 2013

Best Rated

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 8 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. :)

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 8 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?

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 8 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.

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 8 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.

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 8 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!

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

Asked by brooketown almost 8 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!!! :)

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

Asked by jeff bx almost 8 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.