Though they spend many of their waking hours preparing and serving food to others, restaurant employees have to eat too. And a perk of working in the industry is the dinner that staffers often share before or after service. A few local restaurants share their favorite “family meals.”
Coby Ming, Harvest
We put it up at 3 p.m. every day. This is so both shifts can have a little meal after or before their shift … sometimes in between shifts. We’ve had some delightful staff meals and many staff favorites. The one that I remember our staff loving was a B&G pizza (biscuits and gravy ... our leftover sausage-chorizo gravy as the sauce, and slices of our huge chive biscuits on our house-made pizza dough).
My favorite staff meal that I have made this year would have to be the pork-hominy posole for our Christmas staff party. It took all week to make, but I had lots of help from my staff ... doing all of the meditative tasks like picking all the pork (shoulder, shank and feet) and trimming all of the stem ends of the hominy. Also, prepping all of the extras (shaved napa cabbage and radishes, cilantro and hot sauce). It makes me want to figure out a way to incorporate it into the menu.
Anne Shadle, The Mayan Cafe
Our family meal is actually at the end of the night. (Chef) Bruce (Ucan) said his favorite thing to make the staff is pasta with veggies or seafood and some kind of fun cream sauce. We have such little turnover in staff, so many of our employees have been eating the same food for a couple years now. Bruce likes to make different flavors for our staff meal to keep everyone engaged. Also, he personally enjoys working with a different style of food as well. Think about it — penne pasta with scallops, salmon, Capriole goat cheese and a cilantro cream sauce.
Jim Gerhardt, Limestone
We have a family meal every day after lunch for our day crew and dinner before dinner service. About 15 minutes into dinner, we have a Q-time meeting (quality meeting) to review reservations, parties, guest requests and the like.
Some of the favorite items are by request from our crew. Fried chicken, meatloaf, chili fries or chili spaghetti, seafood crepes. We always have a salad and usually a dessert. Through the year we do look at current holiday or themes to be current with the meals. This follows the same foods we are bringing in to our menu.
We also are a training restaurant for culinary programs with local colleges, so we assign a meal for those apprentices to prepare during their program. That gets interesting at times. We do get some pleasant surprises from this as well. One of our associates brought in hot chili brittle made from Serrano peppers. Hot but good. We incorporated this into our next dessert menu.
Nothing is out of bounds. Another favorite is chicken casserole topped with buttermilk biscuits and baked. Delicious! Another was curried beef with dried fruit. The whole crew was sweating bullets.
Dallas McGarity, Theater Square Marketplace
Most of the time we actually make some kind of pasta dish to serve a lot of people. It always has some kind of twist based on what cook I have make it. I also let them just do whatever they want to it really. It’s a good time to be a little creative but also make a dish that everyone tastes.
Lately we have had black bean and beef chili that I made from beef tenderloin “extras.” That was a huge hit. Also I have a Mexican couple named Armando and Lupe that have worked with me for a long time, and they end up making some sort of tacos sometimes. Most of the time with beef, sometimes with chicken, sometimes with other various meats (we used elk once). The tacos are a regular one for our kitchen staff. Everyone gets involved and always does something new or fun.
My sous chef, Brad, marinated some beef in a ton of sriracha and garlic and wow! Not spicy but a lot of flavor that really made the beef pop. I like to make sure that our employee meal has some thought in it because a lot of the time it is the only meal of the day for our staff. It builds morale and lets the staff know that we are one big family.
Ryan Rogers, Feast BBQ
Our family meal here is tacos, five days a week. For some reason, no one ever gets tired of turning whatever is on hand into a taco. Besides our normal brisket and pulled pork American-style tacos that are a fallback for most of the staff, some of the other highlights have included brisket chili tacos, the pickled smoked tofu bahn mi tacos, srirancha (sriracha plus ranch) chicken tacos and potato salad/collard green tacos.
They seem to be a natural go-to for our staff because they can be assembled and eaten quickly (tacos make almost anything hand-held) when our staff can actually step away from their jobs for three minutes ... and they’re delicious.