Chef Monica Pope writes about eating & cooking where your food lives

The Sum of the Parts… January 2, 2010

Green Plum Cooking School, January 2nd Class

NOTE: The recipes used in my Green Plum Cooking School classes can be found in my online cookbook, “Eat Where Your Food Lives,” available for purchase at

Two days into the new year and I am depressed already.  I’m doing my own recipes for Green Plum and I have to admit that it is not as much fun as making fun of Alice like I did last year (and I also know how my own recipes turn out, sort of).  And, on top of it all, even though it’s the start of a new year, I am worried about the economy.  In 2009, we weathered a 13% drop in business, but any more and we’re talking ouch.

If you’ve ever seen my kitchen, you’ll see that my desk is a dumping ground.  Anything that doesn’t have a home, it gets put on my desk.  On Friday night, it’s the mail and who-knows-what-else.  While I’m planning for today’s class, I find a newsletter from an organization that I belonged to called Chefs Collaborative.  The title of the newsletter is “Five Tips for Managing Food Costs When Running a Sustainable Kitchen.”  Only I would find this interesting, but I bring it to class to read anyway.  It’s timely and interesting to me in many ways but even more so since t’afia will be closed for a few extra days after New Year’s so I am challenged by the great undoing of prep work and products; I am getting creative with the menu so I don’t lose anything and so I also don’t have to order anything until after we come back.

The article makes these points: 1) Strive for 100% utilization (check) 2) Look at the menu as a whole rather than at any individual item (check) 3) Start with what’s easiest (check) 4) Start with what’s local and in season and move out (duh, check) 5) Using the whole animal can make money, as well as using underutilized cuts of meat (check, check).  It may all seem very obvious but you’d be surprised at how many chefs and restaurateurs never give these concepts a second thought.  My main goal has been to run a sustainable kitchen and sustainable business for the last 20 years; we may not always thrive but we’ve always been viable.  To define sustainable, viable, thriving – I think a lot of chefs and restaurateurs will be working on these (and cleaning out our walk-ins) in 2010.

In this context, it made perfect sense to me to do something for the class that would utilize the leftover mushroom stems from the shiitakes we smoked for the New Year’s Eve menu (we don’t throw anything away!) and the crimini stems that we always have around from making the endive salad and Real Ale battered crimini appetizer from the menu.   (more…)


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