Ever wonder whether the people who work at fine dining restaurants actually get to eat any of that food they’re serving? Well, if they’re lucky enough to work at an establishment offering a staff meal, the answer is yes.
Staff meals, a little-known ritual in the restaurant world, are prepared and served to the entire staff (from hosts and servers to line cooks and dishwashers) as a way to nourish and regroup before service.
At Barcelona, daily employee meals are dubbed the E-Meal. Served seven days a week at lunch and dinner, they’re a way for the restaurant’s management, owner Scott Heimlich and executive chef Paul Yow, to build a sense of comaraderie among those who work in the front- and back-of-house.
“It’s just making sure the entire staff is taken care of,” said Barcelona’s general manager Tim Hawkins. “We want to feed them, we want them well-nourished so they can think clearly for the shift.”
Members of Barcelona’s kitchen staff take turns preparing the meals, conjuring up menus based on ingredients available in the kitchen that day. One cook has been using his E-Meal audience as a sounding board to perfect his fried chicken recipe.
Once a month, the front-of-house staff takes a turn bringing a potluck-style meal to feed the kitchen staff. On a recent Friday, employees noshed on chicken and dumplings and a pasta dish with vegetables, plus a special dessert treat—Pistacia Vera macarons brought in by Heimlich.
“We try and make it more of a community thing,” said server Colin Gregory. “It’s kind of a way for us to blow off some steam and hang out and chat and get ready for the night.”
Photos by Jodi Miller