CENTRAL JP—Every day at 3:45 p.m., the staff at the Grass Fed burger restaurant stops working and sits down for their staff meal, a requirement and tradition in food service.
Most staff meals—a legal benefit for most food service employees who work enough hours—are last night’s leftovers. Some staff meal menus can be unorthodox, combining unexpected leftover ingredients. The food truck Staff Meal capitalizes on that very idea, serving things like Chinese sausage tacos and foie gras baklava.
But at JP’s Grass Fed and Ten Tables, at 603 and 597 Centre St., and other restaurants owned by Krista Kranyak, staff meals are more like family dinners.
“The cooks take it very seriously, just as seriously as cooking for the customers,” Ten Tables and Grass Fed General Manager Stan Hilbert told the Gazette.
The cooks use the same produce for the staff as for the customers, Hilbert said. And at Grass Fed, they order many other things besides, as the cooks don’t want to feed the staff burgers exclusively every day.
“It was Indian food yesterday, with curried cauliflower and potatoes, chickpeas, rice and a mesclun salad with cucumbers and radishes,” Hilbert told the Gazette earlier this week. “The day before that, we had gazpacho. We also get the burger of the week.”
And instead of quickly eating and getting back to work, the staff has a chance to socialize, another important difference from most other restaurants.
“Working in the [food] industry, it’s the only time we get to sit down,” Hilbert told the Gazette. “It gives us time to talk about the menu and it gives us time to hang out and relax a little between [lunch and dinner] shifts.”
“It’s become known as a family meal instead of a staff meal,” Hilbert said. “I like the fact that we all get together and talk about something that isn’t work. It creates a better atmosphere in the restaurant in general.”
Because the cooks are allowed to cook whatever they like, Hilbert said, they take the opportunity to get creative—though that does come with the occasional hazard.
“The cooks are always experimenting. It’s another way for them to express their creativity,” Hilbert said. “There have been a couple of misfires. They tried something with oysters that didn’t work out,” but the staff didn’t have to eat that, he added.
“This is the best staff meal I’ve ever had,” Hilbert said, explaining that he’s worked in much fancier restaurants.
“It’s exciting for the cooks and for us, too. It’s a treat for them to do it and we all look forward to our family meal.”