Inside Staff Meal at Yerba Buena: South American Kaleidoscope
23 Avenue A, #A
New York, NY 10009
Staff Meal Details
Chef Julian Medina weighs in.
Staff meal food costs:
We order some proteins, but most of it is [re-using prep] already in house.
Size of staff meal:
Time of staff meal:
Worst staff meal:
Steamed chicken with no flavor—that’s when you can really tell that it’s just whatever, that no one cares.
Favorite staff meal ever:
One day someone made paella, with leftover mussels and clams. It was different from the ordinary staff meal, and it was great.
It’s understandable for a restaurant that specializes in Latin cuisine to grub on variations of rice and beans for staff meal. But Chef Julian Medina bypasses very repetitive staff meals by getting creative with his crew and insisting on a weekly themed lunch, starring everything from Cuban sandwiches to this Peruvian favorite, Arroz con Pollo, an herb-packed rice and chicken staple.
The West Village restaurant breaks down whole chickens, so the staff menu usually features some element of poultry, along with other kitchen by-products and leftover prep. But the meals are also dictated by temperature: “The weather should tell you what to eat,” says Medina. “When it’s cold we do a Latin soup; when it’s warm, we cook a more refreshing tuna salad or tostada.” The Ensalada Rusa is just that: a cool bite of crisp potatoes, doused in tangy, spicy mayo, fitting for the particularly warm days of winter 2012.
Although Yerba Buena’s staff primarily hails from Mexico, Medina says the meals—in the true on-the-fly-spirit of staff meal—often veer on the experimental side, drawing inspiration from all over South America. And although his Chef de Cuisine Alfredo Arenas creates a weekly schedule based on what’s in house, the preparation responsibilities rotate between the cooks. “It says a lot about a restaurant, what they serve for family meal,” Medina says. “When a cook has to make it themselves, they approach it better.”