Test Kitchen Basics

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QUESTION From: Darby in SoCal

“When preparing to open your restaurant, how much recipe testing did you do?

We have been in the bar/restaurant business for decades, however, we are in a touristy beach town that also has a big college presence so we made most of our sales from alcohol in the past. We are in the midst of a major remodel/rebrand and we want our restaurant to have more presence and hope for a great menu to build the dining crowd.

I am working with a chef and we are having fun testing recipes. We are still monnths away from opening and my husband feels that I am wasting time testing recipes that are not necessarily going to make it on the menu. 

Chef and I are bouncing ideas off each other, making food and then decisions. Hubby feels that we should have our menu fully written and testing recipes based on our written menu. I am not a chef, just a good home cook, and my process is getting an idea, trying a few recipes and moving forward or abandoning the idea based on outcome.

Just curious: what is/was your process? Either way I have learned a lot from the person I have chosen to help me create the menu, and feel my time has been well spent. I just feel like I could test recipes every day until I am satisfied and my husband (who does not cook, except basics like scrambled eggs) thinks there is a different approach I should be taking.  Thoughts?”



HH ANSWER:

Develop a general menu with a few staples based on your concept / demographic then keep testing menu recipes until you LOVE them...then taste regularly to ensure the recipes are being followed by everyone.

Don’t hesitate to get a consensus / feedback from those whom you feel also have a firm grasp of what is great / what sells but ultimately trust yourselves.

DON’T stop testing recipes / allowing your chef to experiment. You should allow them (during down time and after all other work is done) to test new recipes regularly and encourage trying new things / twists for: specials, seasonal features and eventually a brand new menu item every now and then.

There’s a reason why they call it the “Culinary Arts”. A chef is an artist (among many other things) and to hire one only to stifle them into a set menu forever - without the opportunity to experiment and try new things is like hiring a concert pianist to only play your three favorite songs over and over.

Eventually, their creativity will atrophy like the wings of a caged bird...or they’ll escape when they realize their window of opportunity to leave is gradually closing.

If your chef is “exploding with creativity” it could be the opposite problem. In those instances, you’ll want to regularly rein them in to make sure they understand your and your husband’s expectations - frequently reiterate the weekly / monthly game plan to keep them focused as well as the: processes, protocols, financial constraints and respective timeframes to which you expect adherence. You don’t want to have to try to reel him in later.

Sometimes when the leash is too long, you find your arm being pulled from it’s socket because they’ve build up a lot of speed by the time they’ve arrived at your limit.

Enjoy!

Josh Sapienza