Who doesn’t love a beautifully crafted buffet replete with ice carvings and hot and cold delicacies?
Being in food service so long it just goes to figure that I would have some experience with buffets. As an eager Assistant Manager at a fine dinner house in Santa Barbara, we had a buffet that I supervised, which would eventually become the inspiration for the salad bars for Wendy’s and several pizza operations.
I had moved to the front of the house, but drew upon my years as an Executive Chef to oversee the buffet. I was raised by Europeans in the kitchen, and to say they were highly focused on waste reduction would be a very gross understatement.
Throughout the course of a day in a French kitchen, the Chef would circle his charges at their stations and out of nowhere you would hear the Chef shout “Three hunt,” which was as close as he could come to saying, “three hundred.” What he was doing was shouting to the entire kitchen staff the amount of loss (in francs mind you) that the person whose station he was at had wasted in his preparations.
I had decided the salad bar would be kept stocked with different items that were all devised to reduce waste (and increase sales and profits). The problem was that I had trouble getting the untrained staff to do real creative recipes that would be visually stunning and delicious. I just didn’t have the time.
I used the salad bar to run a 32% food cost when the industry average for the type of establishment we operated was much closer to forty. The nicer the restaurant you go to requires higher owner-operator costs in the form of rent, tablecloths, china, silver and the higher priced meats and seafood specialties.
I have no use for someone who complains without knowing if they had a real complaint or not. Do not order veal if you do not know how it is supposed to be prepared, look, or taste.
Don’t complain that the fish you ordered “tastes fishy.”
I understand that this is going to sound a bit haughty, but I was very thankful that we were so high-priced that I never had to worry about such mundane things like having the service staff putting salt and pepper shakers on the tables.
In the days before the influx of “celebrity” chefs and Michelin-starred chefs opening eateries in Las Vegas, prices were so damn low that the little mini-buffets of small salad bars were the norm.
Remember now, this is 1977.
For $2.99 you got a trip to the salad bar, an 8 oz. piece of high-quality prime rib, a baked potato the size of a football (all the fixin’s), and a piece of cheese toast.
I had seven food operations under my purview as Executive Chef of a major Hotel-Casino.
Add five buffets and you can start to get a feel for the scope of the food involved.
My biggest pet peeve about buffets?
Eat everything you take.