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Staff Meals – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Is it politically correct to complain about the food when you’re living on a tropical island and having all your meals catered for you?

I’m thinking….. NOT!

It wasn’t until I found myself googling symptoms of scurvy that I started to think about all the amazing places I’ve worked at and realised (with the exception of just one place) that “the staffie” has had many names and terms of endearment; none particularly complimentary and rarely does one actually “enjoy” a staff meal.  One consumes it in the 20 or 30 minutes allocated for ones mealtime before dashing back to work.

So, lets get to the bottom of why usually creative chefs, who are capable of producing mouth watering dishes for the paying customer, turn around and put together staff meals like this in 30c+ heat and 85% humidity?

Spaghetti bolognese

Sweet & Sour Pork or…. chicken, maybe beef or turkey

Pepper Steak Pie with mashed potato and spinach and tinned peach salad

Now, don’t get me wrong folks, I’m not picking on any one establishment here, I speak from almost 20 years in the hospitality industry and from one who has eaten some seriously questionable food in my time.  Take for example Parliament House in Canberra, it was not uncommon to be served a plate of left over salad, (usually unrecognisable) as it was smothered in watery mayonnaise and dished up in the middle of a bitterly cold grey, wet and windy winter for lunch. Good thing most hospitality workers are blessed with an iron stomach!

So why does the paying customer get yummy fresh produce and staff get – well, there is no other way of saying this, but we get “left overs”.  And, hey, I’m not just talking about whatever’s in the fridge or pantry leftovers, because more often than not, those tasty morsels go into the special of the day, I’m talking serious left overs.  In most cases, professional kitchens use the staff meal as an opportunity to get rid of all the meat and produce that’s about to spoil (penne pasta with wilted beet greens, tomato skins and old sausage scraps for example). Now before y’all start gagging imagining scraps left over from the customers plates – Ahhhhh No…,  that would not actually be legal in Australia….! But one wonders my friend, one actually does wonder!!!

It’s time someone lifted the lid and disclosed all on this little talked about subject of just what ‘fully catered meals’ actually means when you’re a hospitality worker.  Yep, it’s a first world problem I know! And, yes…, I know the Chefs are working to a tight bottom line and cannot blow the budget. But the truth is, no self-respecting chef would ever put his hand to creating staff meals.  That job is delegated often to the lowest ranking cook in the kitchen.

So, instead of being just another complaining negative hospitality winger with a potential case of scurvy from a Vitamin C deprived diet; and a growing allergy towards sweet and sour sauce (Daydream Island “in” joke), let me give a shout out to a few the amazing chefs who have been given the impossible task of feeding sometimes hundreds of people staff meals for just a couple of dollars a head.

  • Wayan, a Balinese food genius who’s speciality was seafood and vegetables sautéed in chopped coconut, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilli. BAZINGA!!!

  • Little brother Nizz, a chef who never let the food budget get in the way of a good feed.  Think Wagyu  Kobe beef and a nice glass of red!

  • Scrumptious and slightly sweetened curries prepared by a much loved Fiji Indian woman by the name of  Mrs Chan.  Her claim to fame, in my books was her ability to successfully disguise the taste of lamb with her secret herbs and spices.

  • Daren Tetly, Maria de los Angeles & the entire Press Club gang who on a daily basis would feed me fancy pancy delights…. Marco’s miso trevalla, lobster & bug tortellini, rare roasted alpaca or duck fat roasted potatoes.

Something protein, something seafood, something starch and something blue… WhaaaT?! Sous vide pork belly, Hervey Bay scallops, Gulf of Carpentaria prawns, smoked Fleur de Sel cauliflower purée, pork scratchings, micro coriander, hickory saffron vinaigrette, licorice and red wine essence. #restaurantaustralia #allhalethepig #foodgasm #guruofgrub

A photo posted by Anna | Food & Travel Blogger (@annaj31) on Feb 26, 2015 at 8:54pm PST

Most of you guys, I’m sorry to say, have to go stand in the corner and hide your faces!  But, these guys will forever be memorable as true chefs who never let a plate of food leave their kitchen that wasn’t food for the Gods.  Thank you!  In my humble opinion – you are my heroes!

So tell me Dear Reader, tell me about the best and the worst staff meals you’ve ever eaten? 

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