The INSIDER Summary:
- Restaurant kitchens never close — prep continues around the clock.
- Menus contain low-cost "margin builders" to balance the cost of luxury items.
- When catering a movie or television premiere, chefs get a sneak peek of plotlines.
Working in the restaurant business requires a lot more than a passion for good food, but professional chefs, caterers, and restaurant owners make their jobs look easy. They can wield a knife with expert precision, feed hundreds of hungry guests at parties, and keep customers coming back for that signature dish.
INSIDER asked four culinary masters how they do it, and they shared some fascinating industry secrets.
Here are five little-known insights into the restaurant business according to the people who know it best.
The kitchen never closes.
Chefs work around the clock to keep up with demand.
“The kitchen is 24 hours, people don’t realize how much preparation goes into cooking en masse," said Ashley Davis, awarded chef and owner of Copper Pot Seddon in Melbourne, Australia. "We often cook food through the night to keep up, and chefs work 14 hour days.”
The staff is bigger than you think — and managing them is the tricky bit.
Davis described the restaurant experience as "a snapshot in time" comprised of "a series of interactions" between people and food, and that there are a lot more people working behind the scenes than restaurant guests realize, from suppliers to delivery drivers.
"The restaurant is all about people, the customers, the staff, the suppliers, the farmers, the delivery drivers etc.," said Davis. "So it comes down to managing this dynamic between all the players, that's the tricky bit."
Menus aren't as luxurious as they seem.
Kathleen Schaffer, a former executive chef and now founder of Schaffer, explained that some items on fancy restaurant menus are "margin builders" — dishes that cost less to make in order to create space for more luxury items and balance out their total costs.
"Restaurants and caterers alike are providing a kind of perceived luxury to their menu, but they have other items in place that are going to maintain their overall food costs," she said.
If one ingredient is missing, it's a no-go.
Substitutes don't cut it in a restaurant kitchen. If Clemente runs out of one ingredient, the dish doesn't go out until the stock is replenished.
"When you're in a restaurant you can't compromise a dish by just sending something out that doesn't have every element, so sometimes when you run out of a particular element you have to prepare it a la minute and sometimes that item could be a little longer on the preparation time," said Clemente.
Even chefs get impatient at restaurants.
Delays can happen for any number of reasons. Even chefs, who know how hectic food service can be, find it challenging to practice patience.
"Even myself, when I go into a restaurant and I'm waiting too long, I'm like 'Where's my food?'" said Clemente. "And then I remember my own job and I'm like 'Oh yeah, maybe they ran out of this particular ingredient.'”
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