My grandfather grew up on a West Texas ranch, SouthWest of Lubbock, in the early 20th century. He learned enough about ranching to know that cowboying was not his idea of a rational way to make a living.
So he became a cook.
Om the kitchen he was kind of a cowboy hothead, so he changed jobs a lot. He ran a lot of restaurants -- Mexican food in tourist hotels, a french restaurant, a chicken and chicken fried steak place, a steak house, a bbq place, a doughnut shop.
My first job that required me to have a social security card and pay taxes was when I was 12, passing out hot breads at a white table cloth chicken fried steak place in Austin. During my teenage years I worked for him at a couple of places, sometimes in the kitchen as a dishwasher, a prep cook, a salad cook, sometimes in the dining room as a bread boy, a bus boy and as a waiter. I learned enough about the restaurant business to know it's not a rational way to make a living.
The main thing I learned bout cooking from him was that the ingredients is the main thing. When he ran a place known for it's fried chicken he'd buy his chicken at a grocery store, paying retail, and if he couldn't find top quality chicken he didn't have chicken on the menu that day. At that restaurant he'd just buy steaks in bulk from Armour. But when he was running a steak house he'd go to a butcher shop and hand pick his steaks.
He didn't hand pick all his foods, there was too much of it for that. But whatever the specialty item for that place was would be hand picked and if he couldn't find top quality he just wouldn't have the house specialty on the menu that night.
According to him, and he think he was right, that's the secret to running a top flight eating establishment.
Labels: food, grandfather, War Story