Chef Whitney Otawka weighs in.
Staff meal food costs:
We do have a certain amount allotted into food costs for staff meal, $500 a month. But it all kind of rolls into food cost overall.
Size of staff meal:
Time of staff meal:
4pm everyday; on Sundays we also have staff meal after brunch at 2pm.
Worst staff meal:
I don’t know about the worst but when I staged at Per Se and Le Bernardin back to back, I landed on pizza days at both places. It was kind of a bummer; I wanted something a little different.
Favorite staff meal ever:
I’m not sure; I want to say something I made when I worked for Hugh [Acheson].
At Athen's Farm 255, staff meal is all about boosting your skill set on the job. Unlike most kitchens, where one or two cooks prep the meal, each of the four-member line team is responsible for an element of crew meal, every day. 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Whitney Otawka pushes her cooks to not only make time in their prep schedule, but to put up something truly worth noshing on.
"When I was a cook, staff meal was the place where I got to execute my own dish. I'd try and make it the best dish so I would get compliments on it," Otawka says. "If I see they've executed this dish on their own, it shows they can season well. You can analyze the cooks behind it."
It doesn't hurt that her cooks have a treasure chest of produce and goods to work with; Farm 255 purchases most of its produce from local farms and sources their meat from partner Moonshine Farms. The scraps, trim, and leftovers are at the cook's disposal when it comes to making family meal. And that's how dishes like their Habañero-Orange Glazed Chicken Nuggets and Cheddar Bratwurst Nachos come about.
Otawka regularly brings in whole chickens from local Darby Farms for her Tuesday Fried Chicken Nights. The wings—drenched in an addictive Habañero-Orange Glaze—go toward pleasing the local bar-loving clientele, while the breast meat is turned into weekly specials. But the thigh and leg meat become the staff's treat, cut up, fried into nuggets, and topped with the last of the sauce batch. As for those nachos? The cooks spruce up trim from Otawka's house-made sausages. "I think most of the wait staff goes into a coma after staff meal," says Otawka, laughing at their rich spread.
But cooking what you love is the most important goal here. "It's a great way for them to be creative, to show what they like to cook, and what they can do on their own," says Otawka. And here as everywhere, good food keeps the staff happy. "It's all about providing for each other and taking care of each other," she says. "I think it's a nice atmosphere to create; we sit down, have staff meal, and talk about food. It's less formal, but it allows everyone to relax and it's a good space to talk about food."