An army marches on its stomach, sure, but in restaurants staff meals are about more than mere fuel. We visit top Sydney and Melbourne restaurants before service to find out what’s for dinner.
We visit restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne before service to see what’s on the menu for staff dinner.
“All the staff from the Grossi sites at the top of the city (Ombra, Grossi Florentino, Grossi Grill and Arlechin) get together at 4.30pm every day. Most days it’s an Italian meal such as chicken on the spit, pasta or risotto, but on Saturdays we’ve devised a roster for the chefs to each have a turn creating a dish from their own culture. We’ve had Korean, Malay and Vietnamese, and a couple of Italian meals, and it’s becoming a bit competitive. Staff can’t work properly if they’re not nourished, but staff meal is also about mental and cultural nourishment. A good team eats together and plays together.” Guy Grossi, executive chef (front right). Grossi Florentino, 80 Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9662 1811, grossiflorentino.com
CUTLER & CO
“Cutler & Co and our wine bar Marion sit side by side, but often they can feel really separated, so it’s nice to have the routine where we sit down together each day for a meal. The kitchen teams in both venues work together to put up something delicious, balanced, healthy and light. Often the brigade get together and decide on a theme such as an Indian curry banquet, while other nights it might be grilled meats or a seafood braise with cracked wheat salad. Some nights there can be 10 to 15 of us, other nights there might be 30. It’s important that there’s effort and thought put into it. A big, long table is set and the food is always to share. It helps with staff morale.” Andrew McConnell, executive chef. Cutler & Co, 55-57 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9419 4888, cutlerandco.com.au
“I always say that you’re only as good as your last staff meal. It’s a reflection of you as a chef: your philosophy, your skills (and how proud you are of them), and, most importantly, how much you care about your team. I like my chefs to cook the food of their heritage for staff meal, so we can learn about different cuisines and get to know another side of each other. Some of the best staff meals come out of what’s left over, too – like octopus trimmings being turned into a spicy Korean stew with rice, say, or beautiful bo ssäm with slow-cooked pork-belly trimmings and homemade kimchi (a lot of our chefs are Korean). We always sit downstairs at the round table together and make a proper meal of it.” Dan Hong, executive chef (top right). Ms G’s, 155 Victoria St, Potts Point, NSW, merivale.com
“We’ve banned phones at the table during staff meal – a chef gets a break at 4pm and the first thing they do is look at Instagram. We also had to ban fried food. There was a time when everything went in the deep-fryer, but now we’re trying to be more health conscious (unless it’s fried chicken). We’ve made a list of countries and we go through one country a week. We’ve done Samoa, when we just ended up eating taro, and everything from New Zealand and Zimbabwe to Brunei. We learnt pretty quickly that you can’t eat and listen to electronic music at the same time, so we tend to play everything from electro-funk to jazz, or occasionally the staff will play the Frozen soundtrack, but that’s usually just to torment me.” Thi Le, chef (centre). Anchovy, 338 Bridge Rd, Richmond, Vic, (03) 9428 3526, anchovy.net.au
“We have a rough roster that we try to stick to, but how each chef goes about cooking staff meal is completely up to them. It can be something they’ve learnt from a previous restaurant or a new cuisine that’s recently piqued their interest. We have plenty of books in the kitchen for ideas – Thai Food by David Thompson and The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers, for example, often get a workout. Joseph, our apprentice, recently made a broth from leftover duck carcasses and infused it with the mushroom scraps from the night before. Then Brad Guest, our sous-chef, showed him how to make udon noodles, which he learnt from his time at Eleven Bridge. Staff meal is the only time we sit down together as a family, so it’s always a bit of a collaboration. And the same amount of effort has to be put into the meal as a chef’s regular mise-en-place.” Daniel Puskas, chef (second from right). Sixpenny, 83 Percival Rd, Stanmore, NSW, (02) 9572 6666, sixpenny.com.au