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Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America's Top Restaurantsby Marissa Guggiana
Synopses & Reviews
For every dinner service, there is a staff meal. Family-style celebrations prepared by chefs for their crew, the meals are never on the menu, but are designed to show appreciation, provide energy for the evening, and more importantly, please even the pickiest palate. Marissa Guggiana, author of Primal Cuts, the definitive guide to America's best butchers, turns her attention to the best-kept secret of the restaurant world: what the staff eats for dinner!
Marissa has once again traveled the country, this time to bring you behind-the-scenes profiles of the country's top restaurants, and explore the tradition of the staff meal. Each night, sous chefs, line cooks, waiters, busboys, dishwashers, and managers all gather to eat, socialize, and plan before opening for business. Ranging from small plates to multi-course extravaganzas, from an inspired use of leftovers or entirely new offerings, the concept is simple: a well-fed staff is a happy one. The best chefs in the best restaurants take their limitations — affordability, ingredients, and time — and transcend them to create meals worthy of their compatriots. Marissa has taken the most remarkable, soulful, and mouthwatering of these dishes — from Paul Liebrandt's Lamb Shepherd's Pie and John Besh's Jumbalaya to Zingerman's Beer and Cheese Soup and Aquavit's Swedish Veal Stew — and translated them for the home cook.
Inside Off the Menu you will find 100 recipes from 50 of the nation's top restaurants. Each entry includes profiles of the restaurants, Q&As with the chefs, behind-the-scenes trips to the kitchens, and dining out tips, restaurant tricks, and cooking techniques from the cream of the culinary crop. Pull back the curtain on the staff meal, and find new, exciting ways to feed your family from the best in the business.
"A perk of restaurant work, staff meals give workers an opportunity to go over new menu items, discuss upcoming events, and prepare for the evening's service as well as use up leftovers from the night before. Guggiana (Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers) visited over 50 of America's top restaurants to talk with the chefs and check out what their staff was eating. What she found was an amalgam of approaches to the tradition: Herbsaint in New Orleans was serving their staff the traditional Monday meal of red beans and rice, Austin's La Condesa offered up fish and chips, and the staff at Distrito in Philadelphia dug into rich chicken enchiladas and charros frijoles. Each restaurant receives a short profile, the story of their meal, and a Q&A with the head chefs. Because many of the meals were created to use up leftovers, home cooks may run into time and sourcing issues if they decide to attempt dishes such as Chicago's Butcher & Larder's homemade 'hot dogs' served with a Jackson Coney sauce made from ground beef heart, but they'll also find plenty of accessible recipes for Brown Sugar Bacon Cookies, Chicken-Fried Duck Legs, and even the humble meatloaf. Though this isn't the first book to cover the tradition of staff meals, Guggiana's photos, Q&As, and text make it one of the best, sure to inspire a trip to the kitchen, or even the restaurants themselves. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Marissa Guggiana takes the question, 'What's for dinner?' to America's best restaurants. In a fresh, entertaining twist, she doesn't offer the restaurant's specialties. This is a treasure trove of creative recipes for staff meals, complete with mouthwatering food photos, casual snapshots of the back-of-the-house and interviews with the chefs. For all of us who'd love to peek into restaurant kitchens and make off with their tricks and best recipes, Off the Menu is perfection." Beith Goehring, Editor-in-Chief, The Good Cook Book Club
"As a third generation butcher, author of Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers, and president of Sonoma Direct, a purveyor of sustainably raised meat, Guggiana knows great food. She likens eating in a great restaurant to a museum-going experience, saying it '...seeds inspiration and shifts in perspective.' Her enthusiasm spills onto each page with prose as evocative as freshly picked basil." Geraldine Richards, ForeWord Magazine
Marissa Guggiana spent months on the road, interviewing, travelling, photographing, and sharing staff (or family) meals at more than fifty of America’s top sustainable restaurants from coast to coast.
For every lunch or dinner service, there is a staff meal. The best chefs in the best restaurants take their limitations—affordability, ingredients, and time—and create meals worthy of their compatriots. Ranging from small plates to multi course extravaganzas, the concept is simple: A well-fed staff is a happy one.
Guggiana looked for chefs that sourced locally, thoughtfully, with a big eco-picture in mind and a well-fed staff at their heart. The result is simply unprecedented: a no-holds-barred trip behind the kitchen door, introducing you to every chef, sous-chef, line cook, server, bus boy, bartender, hostess, sommelier, dishwasher, and manager—all of whom you will come to adore. Off the Menu, an homage to cooking with love and leftovers, makes accessibility a delight. Lush, colorful, homegrown, and delicious, it is packed with lessons, tips, substitutes, anecdotes, and American wine and beer suggestions.
At Vetri in Philadelphia, we get a family recipe from Chef Marc Vetri’s father and at Anne Quatrano’s Bacchanalia, we are whisked into the adjoining Star Provisions, described as a “culinary dream shop,” for bahn mi sandwiches. We go from gumbo to hot dogs, chicken and biscuits to duck and lettuce wraps, Tuscan kale salad to Chile Verde. It’s all here.
The icing on the cake is the chef’s profile: Guggiana’s own Escoffier Questionnaire, is a playful epicurean take on the Proust questionnaire. Who better to recommend the best coffee shop or the perfect restaurant for a splurge, than the top chefs in the country? Find out where Paul Liebrandt of Corton goes for an after-work meal and the go-to-guilty-pleasure treat of Chef Michael White of Marea. The restaurants included vary from vegetarian to rustic, old-world Italian cuisine, from Asian-fusion to contemporary Mexican, from Scandinavian to Oyster bar. These are the meals that make a staff a family and family part of the staff.
Inside Off the Menu you will find 100 recipes from more than 50 of the nation's top restaurants. Each entry includes profiles of the restaurants, Q&As with the chefs, behind-the-scenes trips to the kitchens, and dining out tips, restaurant tricks, and cooking techniques from the cream of the culinary crop. Pull back the curtain on the staff meal, and find new, exciting ways to feed your family from the best in the business.
• More than 50 Profiles of America’s Top Restaurants.
• "Escoffier Questionnaires": Interviews with America’s Best Chefs.
• Behind-the-scenes at America's best restaurants, featuring tips and tricks from the nation's best chefs.
• More than 150 delicious, affordable, family-style recipes refined for the home cook.
• More than 150 photos.
A selection of the Good Cook Book Club.
About the Author
Marissa Guggiana is the author of Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers, which profiled 50 of the most innovative whole animal butchers and chefs in America, and shared their most impressive recipes. In 2011, Marissa co-founded The Butcher's Guild, a national organization to promote and support artisanal butchery. A regular contributor to Saveur.com, since 2008 Marissa has been an editor and contributor to Meatpaper magazine. A leader in Slow Food, Marissa is a fellow with Roots of Change, an organization to create a sustainable food system as the new mainstream, and the president of Sonoma Direct, a family business providing sustainably-raised meats. She lives in Santa Rosa, California.
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