Inside Staff Meal at Fifth Floor: A Savory Bread Pudding Challenge

by Katherine Sacks
Antoinette Bruno
February 2013


Staff Meal Stats

Pastry Chef Francis Ang weighs in.

Staff meal food costs:
[Around] $1 per person

Size of staff meal:
20 to 25 people

Time of staff meal:
The bar eats at 4:30pm during line-up (since our bar opens at 5pm), and the rest of the team eats at 5pm.

Worst staff meal:
Fish porridge with all the fish scraps and bones in it

Favorite staff meal ever:
Carnitas tacos

Pastry Chef Francis Ang likes a challenge. And when certain members of his team questioned savory bread pudding for staff meal, he set out to prove them wrong. “[A cook] said he didn't like savory bread pudding,” says Ang. “So of course, I had to make him realize how good savory bread pudding could be.”

Ham-Arugula Bread Pudding, Mushroom Gravy, and Farro Salad
Ham-Arugula Bread Pudding, Mushroom Gravy, and Farro Salad

Inspired by a freezer full of brioche burger buns, Ang lightened his version with silky custard. Ham, arugula, and cheddar cheese bring the dish from sweet to savory and adds volume(without adding significant cost). A farro course was conveniently coming off the Fifth Floor menu, so Ang put the leftover mise to use, rounding out the team meal with a raisin and farro salad.

And this wasn't a one-time staff meal appearance for the talented cook. Ang, who started his culinary career on the savory side, often helps out with the team meals. On a recent week, he cooked three times, making sweet-and-sour pork, plancha-seared chicken with udon noodle soup, and buttermilk fried chicken and gravy.

Pastry Chef Francis Ang serves savory bread pudding staff meal
Pastry Chef Francis Ang serves savory bread pudding staff meal

When Ang isn't behind the meal, Fifth Floor savory cooks take turns preparing crew grub. Thanks to a huge cultural diversity in the staff, the meals tend to be ethnically inspired. “We have a very eclectic staff, including Italian, Taiwanese, Portuguese, Southeast Asian cooks, and one from Oakland,” says 2005 San Francisco Rising Star David Bazirgan. “Everyone contributes.” Meat is often ordered specifically for staff meal and the cooks make everything from tacos and goulash to a special porchetta meal for New Year's Eve.

Staff meal also is often a team project: “Our meat cook makes delicious biscuits, so he contributed that to our fried chicken dinner,” says Ang. On Saturdays, the front of the house feeds the team. “Our Sommelier Amy Goldberger makes a mean lasagna,” he says. And that kind of teamwork means that no matter who's cooking, the Fifth Floor chefs are guaranteed a great meal.