Sweet Olive at the Saint Hotel
931 Canal Street
New Orleans, LA 70112
Chef de Cuisine Mason Hereford weighs in.
Staff meal food costs:
It’s pretty much an incorporated cost; maybe $20 a meal, tops. Really we are just spending money on pasta and rice, and those costs are almost negligible
Size of staff meal:
12 to 20 people
Time of staff meal:
Worst staff meal:
One time at Coquette, we had an intern for short period, and we asked him to cook hot dogs for staff meal. He left them in the oven for 45 minutes at 450°F, and we ate them anyway. We didn’t have the heart to tell him he messed up our staff meal, and they’re hotdogs, so we just loaded them up.
Favorite staff meal ever:
Recently, it would have to be Betty’s fish tacos [Sweet Olive’s head dishwasher, who makes crew meal twice a week]. And chicken wings are always a personal favorite, with sriracha and honey.
Hotels aren’t generally known for their staff meals: the behemoths of high-class service often employ genteel armies to rush to their customer's whims and fancies, and the hungry troops are more than likely feed mess hall-style. While the lunchroom may offer a healthy, cost-efficient approach to feeding the team, it can take the family touch out of family meal. But 2012 New Orleans Rising Star Chef Michael Stoltzfus is not your typical hotel chef, and his staff meal is no ordinary hotel affair.
Instead of lunch lines, Stoltzfus and his team prepare a proper staff meal for the staff at Sweet Olive, his newly opened farm-to-table operation inside The Saint Hotel. Using leftovers from their pantry of local produce (thanks to favorite farm Covey Rise), Chef de Cuisine Mason Hereford works with the cooks to create a rotation of Southern favorites, including, gumbo, jambalaya, and fried catfish.
Sweet Olive doesn’t stick to traditional recipes for their lunch, though; they turn staff meal into the ultimate experimental opportunity. “Two days ago, Michael made Sloppy Joes, and then one of my cooks turned it into country gravy. I threw in a bunch of curry, red eye crumble [a crunchy topping for pork], and candied pecans, and then it got really out of control,” says Hereford of their experimental savvy. “But we all still ate it.”
His recent flavor-packed sweet potato hash definitely veers on the side of funk. The dish combines Jacob’s andouille sausage (“famously smoky and very delicious”), house-made Worcestershire, fried sweet potatoes, sriracha, miso paste, and “the French response to Indian curry,” vadouvan. To top it all off, Hereford adds fried Brussels sprouts, scrap cochon de lait, and a splatter of Creole mustard glaze. Earthy, pungent, and addictively rich and delicious, it’s a hash packed with protein and flavor.“I encourage people to get weird with it,” says Hereford of staff meal. “If it comes out inedible, we might have to pull the hot dogs out of the freezer.” But when it works out right, the staff will be chowing down on cochon, andouille, and fried Brussels sprouts. We’d dig right in any day.