Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants
By Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy
Published by Running Press
I am aware of the career of Jody Eddy like Food writer two years ago, and since I follow assiduously the high quality work of this passionate about food and the people behind the stove.
It is therefore with pleasure that I read this book I would have loved to write! :) It is always surprising and revealing what eating the chefs and their team backstage. I think it says a lot about what we will eat in this restaurant …
With this book, we go as well as great tables like Mugaritz, Arzak, Fat Duck at a more experimental as WD-50 or rustic as Au Pied de Cochon or St John. This is a magnificent book, well written and great format where we take pleasure in discovering the small recipes behind 25 beautiful places.
I leave the last word to the chef Willy Dufresne (WD-50): “If you can’t make good food for your friends, how can you make good food for strangers?”.
Q & A:
1-(Scoffier) Your background is fascinating, how the “food/gastronomy” is arrived in your life?
JEddy– I grew up in Minnesota where I spent my childhood years fishing, hunting and foraging with my grandfather, an adventurous culinarian who never said no to tasting something new and was perpetually seeking out flavors he had never experienced before. My grandparents both grew up on farms and from my grandmother I learned skills like canning, charcuterie making, and cooking the staples that define our German and Scandinavian roots. Every summer we tended to the enormous vegetable garden from which my grandparents coaxed forth a bounty of fruits and vegetables that were transformed into delicacies like blueberry pie, sauerkraut, blackberry brandy, and pickled green tomatoes. My grandparents never wasted anything that they grew, hunted, or fished for and my grandfather always told me that this was a result of both growing up during the Depression as well as scrambling for food during his time as a WWII soldier in Japan. The lessons I learned from my grandparents instilled in me an abiding love for the culinary world in its myriad forms and I finally realized years into my previous career that if I was to find genuine happiness in my work, it would have to be built around the virtues, pleasures, and rewards that only gastronomy can afford.
2-(Scoffier) You have a particular interest for the gastronomy of the Scandinavian countries and Iceland in particular, how do you explain this interest?
JEddy– My love of Scandinavian cuisine was instilled at an early age in Minnesota. Although the traditions were close to my heart, before my first trip to Iceland just a few months following its economic collapse, the Scandinavian recipes and ingredients of my childhood felt like those of a bygone era. Iceland was a revelation in so many ways. The dynamic way the nation’s chefs transformed their pristine ingredients into contemporary dishes opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about Scandinavian cuisine. It also transformed the dishes of my past that used to feel dated and tired to me, into classics that I learned to appreciate all over again by tweaking them here and there with new techniques and ingredients I learned about during several trips to Iceland. I am now writing a cookbook with the chef Gunnar Karl Gislason of Dill in Reykjavik profiling the traditional food producers of Iceland through Gunnar’s contemporary recipes that will be published by Ten Speed Press in the fall of 2014. Exploring a nation that has become like a second home to me with the chef who introduced New Nordic cooking to his country is an exhilarating experience that I feel so honored to be a part of.
3-(Scoffier) How did you selected restaurants for the staff meals and how did you worked with your co-writer Christine Carroll (always together for the dinner or…)?
JEddy– Christine and I had both been restaurant cooks and after we made the decision to write a cookbook about staff meals, the most natural thing to do to find the best ones around the world was to reach out to our extensive network of friends working in restaurants. Every time we reached out we were deluged by a flood of tantalizing staff meal stories. From these suggestions, we cultivated a list of 25 restaurants based upon geographic diversity and the approachability of their menus for the home cook. We collaborated on every step of the cookbook writing process.
4-(Scoffier) Do you have cookbooks (or chefs) that inspire you to realize your book?
JEddy– There are so many that it’s difficult to select just a few but a book that stands out for me would certainly be David Waltuk’s classic Staff Meals from Chanterelle. An early article in Gourmet magazine featuring the staff meals of elBulli also left an indelible impression. The most profound real world experience that inspired me to write Come In, We’re Closed were the wonderful staff meals I enjoyed twice a day while staging at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in England.
5-(Scoffier) What the staff meals teach us about a restaurant?
JEddy– A chef or restaurant owner who invests the time, staff power, and resources into producing a satisfying staff meal for their employees each day is telling them that they are cared for and appreciated. An investment in staff meal ignites in its employees a deeper level of commitment and devotion to the establishment and engenders an enduring spirit of hospitality that is reflected in the quality of the restaurant guest’s experience.
6-(Scoffier) After reading the book, the first observation is that the staff meals is very important, but often overlooked in general. You found an explanation?
JEddy– There are several reasons for this relayed to us by the cooks we interviewed for the book who worked at places in the past that did not serve a staff meal to write home about. Chefs not allocating resources or budgeting time into the day for staff meal prep or the meal itself were the most frequent reasons cited. Yet it was obvious as I visited restaurants with stellar staff meals that the dividends from serving a high quality staff meal far outweighed the time and resource commitments required to pull it together. Happy cooks equate to happy customers and at the restaurants featured in our book, this equation has been solved.
7-(Scoffier) Is that the “Pieds de Cochon” is the one who makes his staff meals after the evening (the service)?
JEddy– Yes, Au Pied de Cochon sits down in the wee hours of the night after their frenzied dinner service winds down for a pork laden staff meal. Judging from the relaxed atmosphere at the table and the kinetic energy the late night meal generated, it seemed a good fit for this boisterous staff.
8-(Scoffier) For Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz), the staff meals is a position in the hierarchy (on the line) of the kitchen. You saw a difference (a gain)?
JEddy– Each restaurant had its own unique approach to staff meal so it’s difficult to say if the staff meal at Mugaritz was different as a result of staff meal being an actual station in the kitchen. The restaurant even hires a nutritionist to plan the meals in order to ensure the staff is getting all of the nutrients they need to fuel a busy night of service. Their dedication to the ritual of staff meal was certainly admirable and I left feeling even more respect for this incredible restaurant than I had before sitting down to its extraordinary staff meal.
9-(Scoffier) I know this is difficult but do you have a meal more memorable than others?
JEddy– I can honestly say that I don’t have a favorite since each restaurant visit left such an indelible impression. All of these restaurants are dear to me and their commitment to the staff meal tradition made them all my favorites. Diplomatic certainly, but completely honest too.
10-(Scoffier) It is possible to learn more about your future projects (your next book…)?
JEddy– Besides my Icelandic cookbook with Gunnar Karl Gislason that I mentioned, I am also writing a cookbook with the chef Chris Pandel of the Bristol and Balena in Chicago and the chef Maneet Chauhan in New York. Both Chris and Gunnar are featured in Come In, We’re Closed and it is such a pleasure and an honor to be writing cookbooks with chefs I first gained respect for while covering their staff meals. I am also organizing culinary tours of Iceland slated to begin next August and working on several freelance writing projects for various publications.
1. (To buy) Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants.
2. Jody Eddy
3. Heritage Radio, The Food Seen #116, Sept. 18, 2012
4. The Guardian, Sept. 28, 2012
5. The Daily Meal (Video), Sept. 28, 2012
6. Running Press
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