Inside Staff Meal at Wafu: Sprucing Up Surplus
3113 Southeast Division Street
Portland, OR 97202
Staff Meal Details
Chef Trent Pierce weighs in.
Staff meal food costs:
We use a lot of our trim and product that didn’t get sold. We don’t order anything special; we just use product we have. All that stuff has already been costed for dishes.
Size of staff meal:
8 to 12 people
Time of staff meal:
There’s a noon lunch for the kitchen and then a 10pm meal for the whole restaurant.
Worst staff meal:
I don’t know. I guess nothing’s been bad, but the worst is when there just isn’t any.
Favorite staff meal ever:
The evening that my last restaurant [Fin] closed. We basically had a feast of leftovers: ahi tuna, escolare, and foie gras.
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For some restaurants, staff meal is a carefully calculated affair, involving overnight marinades and 12-hour brines. For others it’s a challenge in re-using, repurposing, and repackaging trim and prep into creative meals. At Portland’s Wafu, Sous Chef Jane Hashimawari makes it her mission to take rice (a staple at the modern ramen house), potatoes, and pork belly and turn them into something spectacular. “We get creative with the ingredients,” says Wafu Chef and Co-owner Trent Pierce. “There is always rice, always potatoes. We used to have noodles, but they are kind of a hot commodity now.”
His hungry crew chows down on everything from fried rice and “omurice,” a Japanese rice omelet, to baked rice custard casseroles. Capitalizing on the menu’s mise en place, staff meals may have ingredients from other cultures thrown in, but their Japanese origins are never far away. “A common theme is pork, rice, and mayo,” says Pierce. With a liberal squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise, a handful of pickled carrots, some diced scallions, plenty of pork belly, and a chiffonade of nori, Hashimawari’s Japanese Fried Rice is a paradigm for making the most of what you’ve got. And at 10pm, it’s just in time to feed a hungry team after the rush. “Just having it at the same time every day is important,” says Pierce. “The restaurant is so busy and hectic, it’s one of the things people kind of count on.”