Reflection 25

            Things don’t always go the way we plan them to be in life.  It is up to us to make the most of the situation and turn it around somehow to make it work for us.  A few weeks ago, I was thrown a “curve ball” in life (as Chef called it) and I had to evaluate what options I have going forward for the next step in my culinary journey.   Chef Alan was generous enough to provide me the opportunity to learn the business side of running a restaurant since I needed to limit the amount of kitchen work I do. 

            For the past two weeks, I’ve been at the Pineapple Room helping with the menu costing there.  Menu costing is a key component to running a successful restaurant.  Like any other business, you must have a good understanding of how much it costs to operate in order to see whether your business is making money or not.  From a restaurant’s perspective, menu costing simply means to find out how much it costs to make a specific dish or product. Once you determine your costs, you can then determine how much to sell the dish for and see how much potential profit you could make off of it.  I’ve learned that when you cost things out, everything needs to be done in exact measurements so that the calculations for Accounting can be done accurately.  Aside from doing precise measurements for each recipe, I’ve had to notate how the products come in per order (e.g. 6 bags of buns in a flat, 1 dozen buns per bag) and how much yield we can get out of a product.  The yield of a product is a percentage of what can be used after the unusable parts have been trimmed off.  For instance, a fish that comes in whole needs to be scaled, cleaned, deboned, and filleted before portioning it out for a dish.  Granted that the bones can be used for a stock, but a typical fish yields only 35-40% of actual meat that can be used for dishes.  We also need to keep in mind that different fish have different yields as some have bigger bones while others may have very few bones.

            Since I’ve taken on this new project, I’ve learned to adjust to a different mindset compared to just cooking in the kitchen.   I’m happy to be able to use both my culinary and business background in this project.  Having an understanding of why management needs all of the pertinent information helps to see the importance of doing a precise job when calculating the recipe yields and what not.  I also like the fact that I’ve gotten the chance to meet and work with a lot of new people both from the management staff of Alan Wong’s restaurants and at the Pineapple Room.  I enjoy learning about what they do, where they are from, their backgrounds, and what their future aspirations are.  Don’t get me wrong, I do miss my coworkers at the King Street location but life has taken me on a different path, at least for the time being, and I’m enjoying the new experiences it has given me. 

~ Miki Iwai, Extern, Alan Wong's Restaurants