Inside Staff Meal at Chef Mavro: Creativity and Pride in Honolulu
Staff Meal Details:
Chef George Mavrothalassitis and Line Cook Adam Ross weigh in:
Staff meal food costs:
"We have no real budget, but we have to respect our cost since we include family meal in our general food cost. We check our food costs daily but we trust our chefs to stay [within budget]," says Chef Mavro.
Size of Staff Meal:
23 to 30 people
Time of Staff Meal:
Between 5pm and 5:30pm
Favorite Staff Meal:
Barbecue pork and kimchi rice made by Stage Alyssa Tokumura
Worst staff meal Ever:
"Definitely steamed beef. One [cook at a previous restaurant] took some meat, sliced it on a slicer, threw it in a perf pan, and walked away saying, ‘Later, guys!’ It was awful," says Line Cook Adam Ross.
Restaurant truth: In the hectic rush before service, even in tranquil, tropical Hawaii there’s little time for cooks to breathe, let alone plan a well-executed staff meal. At Chef George Mavrothalassitis’ Chef Mavro, the team still takes a moment to smell the flowers (or, in this case, the menu) when it comes to feeding time.
They don’t shy away from the staples—the typical pastas, chicken, and rice do turn up on the plate—but the cooks often use more interesting proteins in their staff meal preparations. “We served [guinea fowl] breast on the menu and saved the legs for family meal,” says Mavro. Many of the dishes are influenced by the cooks’ varying backgrounds, as well. “I have a lot of local boys in my kitchen so we make many Asian dishes. I have a Japanese cook, a cook from the Philippines and they bring their recipes from home,” including a vegetarian tofu curry that’s “to die for” says Mavro.
The key for Mavro is flavor, and he stresses the importance of variety and, above all, creativity in the daily crew dishes. He fuels this outlook by remembering his days training and cooking in his native France, where food for the team was generally an afterthought. “It was never good because we just put things in the oven and that’s all. You couldn’t spend too much time or the chef would kill you!” A change of location brought a more laid-back mentality. “I want people to express themselves, and [staff meal] is a good opportunity to shine,” he says.
One of these opportunities came for former stage, Alyssa Tokumura (a Healthcare Foodservice Management scholarship winner and current student at the Culinary Institute of America), who would sometimes step up to staff meal. A Chef Mavro favorite was her sliced barbecued pork, marinated overnight in shoyu, sugar, ginger, and green onions. The dish was finished with some sautéed bean sprouts and spicy kimchi rice, and it’s an item the team still talks about. “It’s probably the best family meal I've ever had,” says former Sommelier Jordan Nova.
Mavro takes great pride in the integrity of his staff meals, but he admits that keeping things interesting and satisfying can be a challenge. Without the benefit of high-end products, cooks have to “show [they] can really cook with just chicken and broccoli rather than lobster and things like that. There is no excuse for bad food,” says Mavro.
Bad food doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Chef Mavro crew. Family meal makes such an impression that the chef and his staff find stragglers in their midst. “We have valet service at the front of our restaurant. They don’t have to be at work until six but they come early to eat,” he says. “They are always here. That is a sign that the food must be good!” With effort and dedication to the craft, the crew at Chef Mavro keeps ‘em coming back.