Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An explanation of ME, 101

As a new introduction to these next 100 posts, I'd like to talk a bit about myself, my experiences and my rating system.
I'm 32 years old, possess a certificate in Catering, a B.S. in Holistic Nutrition with a concentration in Herbalism and a B.A. in Literature and Language Arts with a minor in Computer Science and Business Administration.  I went to college for 6 & 1/2 years because I was undecided for so much of it.  It also was because for 4 of those years, my adviser changed each year: the first became the Dean of students, the next was promoted elsewhere and the other two left the college.  I feel as though if I had an adviser that stayed long enough to know me, I could have made better choices.  However, had I not stayed as long as I did, I would not have met my wife, so it was all okay.

I've always enjoyed cooking and when I was younger, my brothers and I were often sent, one at a time, to 'help' my grandmother at her house, prepare family meals. I was always amazed at how one person could make so many people happy, just be food.  So many of my fondest memories of passed away loved ones have been related to food and with food prepared in similar manners it does give me a moment in which I feel like I have been transported back in time to those moments.
I used to work for an all-you-can-eat buffet called Old Country Buffet/Home Town Buffet.  It was when I was thrown on the cook's line that I started to enjoy the cooking and the control and freedom that I had while back there, no supervisors and just me following the recipes to create good food. People and fellow employees always make fun of the food and in some cases the cooking habits of some of the cooks, but it most cases, as was the case of at least the Lindbergh location, the food was healthy and clean.  While there cooking, I was also fulfilling my requirement as the Dining Room Supervisor and learning how food was supposed to be prepared and taste.  After 8 & 1/2 years of working in this environment, I think I know how a restaurant should operate.

If you combine my work experience with my catering certificate, that composed of no less than 40 hours of coursework, it brings together a shape and scope of what is needed and how food should be prepared.  I know how food should be prepared and how long it takes to be prepared. I know that if I order a chicken strip and fries basket for my son at a restaurant that it shouldn't take longer than 6 or 7 minutes.  When I order one and it takes 30 minutes to an hour, then something is wrong.

Now, what makes for 5 stars?
 0/5 is the kind of food that is so bad that I spit it out.  This often happens if the food is too salty or even served with an edible garnish that isn't prepared properly. Undercooked chicken or vegetables are placed in this category as well.

1/5 is the food that is edible but still not good.  It is the food that you take a single bite and think to yourself that you would not, unless under gunpoint, take a second bite.
2/5 is the food that is okay.  This is food that is not even good, but just mediocre. This level also applies to food that is very, very normal.  The standard burger and fries, for example, where it is just okay, belongs in this level.
3/5 is the food that is good.  You are willing to have multiple bites to try and may even eat all of it. This is also the level of foods that are not what they say, so if a restaurant calls a dish a stew and it is a good mix of ingredients but isn't really a stew, then it would be here.  This is my basic starting point as I have the expectation that all food is good.
4/5 is if the food is really good.  This is the food that is good enough that you are happy with it and will recommend it to others.  The food is cooked properly, hot and tasty.  It is above what you had expected as well.  If you had ordered a bacon burger and someone had placed the bacon inside of the burger, it would have been a new enough concept to fit into this category and not be considered the normal standard burger.

5/5 applies to the best.  This rating does change as I haven't eaten in every restaurant on the planet so it may fluctuate.  I have eaten great Lebanese food in Beirut, for example. So, if a restaurant in St. Louis claims to have the best Lebanese food and it doesn't, or doesn't even have anything similar or like the real food, then it would not get this level of stars.  If the restaurant had food that was very similar to the real country and tasted just like the food there, then it could be considered a 5/5.  This is also food that integrates something new. If you were eating a bowl of some noodles with a simple broth and vegetables and the noodles were hand made, the broth just got off the stove from 8 hours of cooking and the vegetables were earlier in the ground right outside, then it would likely classify as a 5/5, as long as it still tasted good. 

My biggest pet peeves:

1.  Food takes too long
The longest it has taken for me to get food after ordering was 1 hour.  I have been to a restaurant, ordered food and it took over an hour for the food to come.  If it was the waiter's fault that the order was not put in for 40 minutes, it is not my nor the customer's fault.
2.  Waiter never comes back
My wife and I are always cursed that the waiter may give us great service and as soon as we are given are final plates, they disappear. We sometimes have to either flag the waiter down or ask another employee to gather the bill so we can pay and leave.  That last bit of service, does weigh into the final tip.
3.  No one greets me
It should be a standard that if you enter a restaurant in which an entree' costs more than $20 someone from the cooking or management staff should greet you.  After all, you are spending your money to keep their salaries or their wage intact.  Some of the restaurants that have received 5 stars from me, have had someone greet me from start to finish and talk to me. Instead of the kind that greet you upon entry and then you never hear from them again.

I feel as though I cannot be bought or sold. I take the review of a restaurant very seriously as I want people to have the same experience, if it is good, as I have had. I am just like you in that if someone asks you what is a good place for dinner, you tell them your favorite place or a place where you have had a good time.  You may also tell them the places to avoid.  I do the same thing.  I know that if I have a good time (good food and good service) at a location and I talk about how good it was, someone else may try it out.  I am technically bringing new customers in with free publicity. The same however, goes for if the location is bad or rated poorly as if I think a place is downright awful, it may stop people from going there.  Skills are not inherited. If your family owns a restaurant, it does not mean that you have instant knowledge of how a restaurant should be run and how food should be done.  I have an issue dealing or even talking with people who say 'my father owns so and so and it has been in business for over 20 years, which is why I opened my restaurant'.  I want to say to them, 'your restaurant sucks' and leave it at that.  My father works as a credit manager for some St. Louis owned corporations, does this mean that I could start a finance company and demand instant success and fame, because of his past and his professional resume'? Not everyone is cut out to be a chef or not everyone is cut out to be a restaurant owner.

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