Chef Dante de Magistris weighs in.
Staff meal food costs:
Because our food costs stay at a good percentage, we do order food specifically for family meal. [We will] call up our distributors to ask what they have on special to serve for family meal for the next day. Our seafood distributor does a lot of fish portioning, so they keep the trimmings for us to use, at a great price.
Size of staff meal:
20 to 30 servings
Time of staff meal:
4:30pm daily. We also do one at 10:30am when we offer lunch in the summer months.
Worst staff meal:
One day, two cooks brought in about 20 instant ramen noodle packages with that spice packet stuff. They wanted to see if anyone would enjoy it without knowing what it was. When I saw family meal up, I got excited to see a big beautiful bowl of strange looking noodles with lots of beautifully cut vegetables (they added that touch). I couldn't get past the strange nauseating odor, but everyone was eating it so I thought I'd give it a try. I had to spit it out. If I had gone to college then maybe I could have developed a taste for it, but instead I have been spoiled with great restaurant family meals as part of my schooling.
Favorite staff meal ever:
I will never forget my fist day working at Ristorante Don Alfono. The chef made a very simple family meal: paccheri pasta with tomato sauce. I have had amazing tomatoes before, but these stood out as the best I have ever eaten. They were so fresh and sweet and had intense, vibrant tomato flavor. At the time I was a paccheri virgin, and to this day it is still my favorite pasta.
Meatballs Benedict for staff meal at Cambridge's Restaurant Dante
It should come as no surprise that most staff meals at Cambridge’s quintessential Italian Restaurant Dante are, well, Italian. After spending their mornings getting the dishes for Chef Dante de Magistris’ rustic menu ready (think: guanciale-dotted Spaghetti alla Carbonara and creamy Apulia mozzarella), his crew of young chefs regularly chows down on a meal of pasta. “Staff meal isn’t always Italian, but when it is Italian [the cooks] must follow our strict Italian rules of cooking,” says de Magistris. “The pasta water must be properly seasoned, and the pasta must be perfectly cooked.” And making the most of that pantry full of Italian prep—as well as an egg over-order—Sous Chef Matthew Jackson recently put up this meatball update on the classic Benedict.
|» Click images to enlarge|
Jackson’s rich egg dish combines the universal use-it-up mentality of staff meals with a touch of comfort cuisine. “We try and take pride in utilizing all trimmings that are still great quality,” explains de Magistris. The hollandaise sauce gets an Italian kick with Parmesan clarified butter (made with the restaurant’s Parm rinds), and the meatballs and tomato sugo sauce are straight off the Dante menu (using up the last of a party’s leftovers). Toasted day-old bread, along with a panna cotta from the pastry station, top off this staff meal—a true study in glamming up leftovers. And while the hearty meatball dinner (decked in sauce and finished with poached eggs and hollandaise) is an instant filler-upper for the hungry staff, it’s also a meal destined for anyone in need of a hangover cure post-holiday parties.