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The “Don’t Waste Anything” Guide to keeping kitchen costs down

A critical question that chefs come across every day is, “how can I get my food cost down?” In the restaurant industry, there are tactics we use on a day to day basis to keep our margins in line. The three essential tips I give to all new chefs and business owners are buying seasonal ingredients, buying in bulk, and avoiding wasting anything!

Buying seasonal is a chef’s best friend.

Seasonal ingredients are always the freshest and pack the most flavor for your food. Letting your ingredients drive your menu is also a great way to spark creativity when planning your dishes. Along with providing more flavor, seasonal ingredients tend to be less expensive to purchase as well. Growing seasons provide an abundance of vegetables, which makes them less expensive. For example, asparagus in May is cheaper than Asparagus in July because it is available across the country.

Buying in bulk is a no brainer to a chef.

Purveyors’ prices always decrease when you’re buying a higher volume of a specific ingredient. This applies across the board from meats and seafood to vegetables and even dry ingredients like flour and spices. It’s going to be important to cross-utilize ingredients throughout a menu and vary their preparations to help buy in bulk but not make your menu stale. A good example would be buying a 50lb case of cauliflower because it drives the price down and using it across three different menu items. You can do a garlic and cauliflower mash for a steak dish, a crispy fried cauliflower to go with a buffalo sauce, and then make a bowl of cauliflower rice for tabbouleh. Three utterly different cauliflower preparations are going to look, taste, and feel different for a client.

If I had to come up with a motto, it would be “Don’t Waste Anything.”

The last trick in what makes a chef truly amazing—being able to find a use for something that is usually thrown away, that’s right – the goal is to be creative to make delicious meals out of something most people think is trash. This may seem daunting at first, but it is both effortless and rewarding at the same time. For example, take a head of broccoli, you usually would take off the florets and throw the stem away. But why? Broccoli stems are delicious, and there must be some use for them, right? And the answer always is yes! Take those broccoli stems and add some onions, garlic, celery, cheddar cheese and turn it into delicious broccoli and cheddar soup.

What about all those leftover chicken bones from your shredded chicken. Turn that into a heartwarming chicken broth for soup.

Those corn cobs that are left after you take all the kernels off? It sounds like a start to a delicious corn soup to me.

Get creative, get imaginative, but most of all, have fun, and make great food!

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