Inside Staff Meal at Morimoto: Sticking to Tradition

by Katherine Sacks
Shannon Sturgis
June 2012

Biography

Restaurant

Sous Chef Richard Horiike weighs in.

Staff meal food costs:
We utilize all scraps and any samples we get in. If I had to break it down, it’s probably $150 a week.

Size of staff meal:
On Mondays and Wednesdays we have 30 to 60 people come, because it’s tip day. On Tuesday and Thursday it’s usually between 30 and 60. And on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s 15 to 20, because the front of the house comes in later.

Time of staff meal:
3:30pm

Worst staff meal:
Chicken back stew; it was green thai curry made with the carcasses and no meat. I pretty much never eat curry now.

Best staff meal ever:
Usually for the holidays, we always try to do something nice. For the past few Thanksgivings, I've been making porchetta, and that seems to be a pleaser.

With a primarily Asian staff and a pantry packed with Japanese ingredients, staff meals at New York City’s Morimoto tend to be the kind of comfort food meals that would make any Oka-san happy. Whether it’s Japanese curries with beef trim or smoked brisket (made in the kitchen’s duck smoker), this kitchen definitely skews traditional when it comes to feeding its staff.

Morimoto makes staff meal a little more lux, and cuts costs, by using shrimp samples in a cold ramen seafood salad.

Morimoto makes staff meal a little more lux, and cuts costs, by using shrimp samples in a cold ramen seafood salad.

Of course, some days the staff branches out beyond those flavors: pasta or the occasional hot dog Friday, “is the greatest,” says Sous Chef Richard Horiike, who eats his dogs Chicago-style, because the flavors are novel for many of the cooks. Another staff favorite is what he calls “the world’s most expensive meatloaf,” made with Australian Wagyu scraps. But on a steaming hot summer day, Hiyashi Chuka, a classic cold ramen dish, is a more ideal meal.

The Morimoto kitchen is also stocked with product samples from Japanese companies—often shrimp or ramen noodles—and Horiike, who cooks the meal several times a week, uses these items to spruce up crew meal offerings and help cut costs. “I try to make it as good as possible,” says Horiike. “I always say, the entire morale of service is based on family meal.” Combining the fresh flavors of ponzu, cucumber, and the chilled shrimp samples, the seafood ramen makes for a refreshing, inspiring meal.

Taking a break at Morimoto for family meal

Taking a break at Morimoto for family meal

For a sweet ending, Pastry Chef Manabu Inoue recently shared a green tea mochi and fruit salad. “This time of year, I have so many fruits that change so fast,” he says, “I need to use the leftovers in staff meal.” And although the Morimoto team eats a bit earlier than most restaurants, at 3:30pm, their timing allows for both the morning prep crew and the evening cooks to eat together. “It’s great because everyone goes, sits down, and relaxes,” says Horiike.