Cost Control – Cooking up wastages

18Aug08

Thinking of ways on how to reduce food cost in your restaurant can be a tiring task. While some kitchen staff may curse (behind the scenes) the Head Chef for always sitting in the Chef’s office reading newspapers, drinking wine and chatting on the phone; they do not really understand what goes behind the minds of Head Chefs in a restaurant – A stress apprentice chefs would fail to handle.

Being the Head Chef is like being a businessman; with integrated technical/practical skills and a sharp eye and tongue. Cost control is one of the main issues a restaurant face everyday, and the fact is, there are many factors to why food cost always seem to skyrocket rather than plummer into a pit. Restaurant directors may not necessarily FULLY understand very well the stench of cost control; or how to improvise, evaluate and configure change controls in a kitchen operation.

How to make the best out of Food Wastages

Start up restaurants always make a simple mistake when they’re running their kitchen operations – Food wastage are made wastages. It could be from a simple trimming of an Australian sirloin to a potato’s peel. Here are some food items whose wastage could actually make use of:

  1. Potato Peel/Skin
    Potato peel/skin can be used to absorb grease – Almost any heated grease. In particular, grease from the pan, wok or even oil from your curry (although we don’t encourage that). Its effectiveness is not as a sponge or an effective absorbent – It’s just something you could put to good use and its practical in a kitchen when you do not need to actually waste space, time, kitchen towels or water.
  2. Carrot Skin
    Carrot skin can be used in MANY different ways. Among some of the famous ones is placing them in your chicken stock – When you’re boiling it, cold water. Other uses include grinding them and placing it into beef patties, squeezing its colour out and passing it through a cheesecloth (like how parsley is done), chopping them into small bits and placing them in your tomato concasse, etc. As always, clean them thoroughly first.
  3. Squid Trimmings
    When you need a squid to look perfectly clean, (in kitchen terms we call them ‘perfectly dressed’), wastages are maximal. Squid trimmings can range from the opening of the squid (which will yield you a ring) and also its flaps – Which will yield you pieces of nice squid cuts. These can be used to create new pasta dishes like Seafood Carbonara with Squid Ink Pasta or soups like Tomyam Seafood Soup with Cilantro Spice.
  4. Beef Trimmings
    When you’re trimming beef chunks (regardless of what variety), there’s always a usage to that, even for the connective tissues. Beef’s connective tissues (The shiny, rainbow-colour basing white layer on top of the meat) can yield a certain amount of beef juice that can spice your vegetables – Tie your vegetables in a bundle with some meat (thinly) and roast them. Usually in a 10kg block of sirloin, meat wastages can sum up to 2kg, if done badly. These connective tissues can also be roasted individually to make brown stock.
  5. Meat Fats
    Everyone loves throwing beef fats away especially when they’re excessive in certain contexts – Meat fats are simply irritating. A Chef can produce many savoury products with meat fats alone – Which includes brown stock alternative (than bones or mixed), deep-fried lard (for pork), canapé (for chicken skin), batter-mixed-deep-fried lamb fats placed on top of stews and an oily alternative for your vegetable stuffing (for turkey stuffing). Be creative, and you’re halfway through.
  6. Coriander/Cilantro & Chinese Celery Stems
    Common ingredient – Used for meat and vegetable stuffing, burger patties, simmering stocks, steamed fish, Green Curry, herb mix for curry based items, marinade for lamb, brush to brush marinades on meat items, base for steamed chicken, an ingredient to mix with (soy sauce, garlic and mini chilly), etc.
  7. Fresh Mushroom Stems
    They are almost similar to the head. Use them at your own peril. Mushroom stems of most types can be used for cooking – Except ones that are of the spore family. Alternatively, they can be used to boil rich stocks, cook pasta (slice them sideways, thinly for button mushrooms)
  8. Garlic Peel/Skin
    Practical usage mainly in stocks – They provide the undying flavour of a garlic, another side of the garlic you don’t seem to be able to taste.
  9. Broccoli & Asparagus Stem
    Used mainly to for stocks, but can also be used in stews, stir fry ingredients like vegetable mix or wrapping for prawns.
  10. Water used to boil pasta
    Can be used to power your pasta sauces, brown/chicken/white stocks – A great substitute for water and/or chicken stock.
  11. Prawn Skin, Head and Tail
    Can make extremely great prawn sauces for condiments and sauces. Bake them dry, fry them in a little oil and chilly paste, give it a twang of fermented shrimp paste and boil them to create a wonderful stock – Integrated with cream, butter and pork lard.
  12. Apple Skin
    Extremely useful when making desserts – If you don’t have ideas to make sauces, this is your bet. Apple sauce with cinnamon sugar or apple skin puree to make ice cream, with a little lemon zest.
  13. Orange Peel
    Can be boiled and made base sauce for all your hot, sweet products – Even ice products go well. Sorbet/Ice cream toppings, Crepe Suzette’s sauce, etc. Simmer some sugar syrup, add in a stick of cinnamon, two cloves and one star anise, end it with some condensed milk, orange syrup, nutmeg powder and small amount of unsalted butter.
  14. Chicken Skin
    Famous for canapés. Also can be used to make brown stock, wrap sausages & potatoes, toppings for thick soups, base ingredient as to grilling vegetables or barbecue wraps.

The typical food cost for a medium sized restaurant is usually 20-35% (on the higher scale), but it depends also on the cuisine, Head Chef’s management skills, market, turnover rates and menu change. Economical factors are not emphasized here.

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One Response to “Cost Control – Cooking up wastages”

  1. 1 evelyn

    hey thank you 🙂 i have added your site to my “favourites. A very wonderful and useful site you have.


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