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

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 6 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!

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 almost 6 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.

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 6 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 an experimental dish you attempted that just failed miserably?

Asked by brooketown almost 6 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!!! :)

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 6 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. :)

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

Asked by jeff bx almost 6 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.

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 almost 6 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!