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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55 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 5 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 are some less-commonly-owned pieces of cookware that you think everyone should have in their kitchens at home?

Asked by Colette over 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!

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 5 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!

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 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. :)

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 5 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.

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

Asked by jeff bx over 5 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.

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 5 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.