from the kitchen: food costing.

today, today is a special day — why? — goodness, i’m so thrilled you asked.

today marks the first ever post in a new series ‘from the kitchen‘  my lovely little pal larissa will be bringing you in the weeks (and months!) ahead.  she lives in the big apple, she recently embarked on the adventures of culinary school, and she’s just an all-around stellar individual. (our g-chat convos are THE best!)

and if you’re anything like me, you could use a little more knowledge of things when it comes to the kitchen…enter larissa to save the day! take it away, chef!

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For starters it should be said that i am petrified because i am 500% the girl who cringed when she had to hand over her essays to countless strangers/students who were assigned as editing partners (or worse: “editing buddies”). It doesn’t matter if it’s an essay or a speech, or whether it will be read by an individual or passed around a classroom, I have never been comfortable with others reading my writing, and this is something I desperately want to work on. More importantly, I have promised my sweet Madison a blog post for many months now and I simply cannot disappoint her.

For starters, a little background: I graduated from college hoping to go into nonprofits and development, moved to New York, and the only job I was offered was in finance (trust me, I appreciate the irony as much as you do). After a year-ish of feeling stuck and unhappy at my job I decided, in what can only be described as a quarter life crisis decision, that I needed to go to culinary school. Long story short: it has been in the back of my mind for a long time and I couldn’t think of a better time to do it.

All this aside, why are you reading this post? Well, upon hearing the news, Madison asked if I would guest blog about recipes, school, food, what I’ve learned, etc. She gets a guest blogger, I get to write, and (hopefully!) you pick up a tip or two that might be helpful in the future. Hooray! Win-win-win!

Disclaimer: it should be noted that I am far from an authority or expert in anything and everything I talk about, and therefore it should all be taken with a grain of salt (or many as you’ll come to find).

Now that all of that is out of the way, first up…(drumroll please)…FOOD COSTING! (it sounds horrible and boring but i promise it’s worth your time!)

Food costing basically refers to the relationship between food industry budgets and how you end up with the prices you see on menus. I’ve always been curious as to why one has to pay significantly more for a seafood dish than say, a chicken dish. Let’s be honest: salmon cannot be that hard to come by.

Part of the answer lies behind three words: usable yield percentage.

Usable yield percentage is the term used for the percentage of a certain food that can actually be put on a plate, aka the EP (edible portion). If I remove the bones and organs from a five pound chicken and end up with four pounds of meat, my EP is 4 pounds, and since the chicken originally weighed 5 pounds, my usable yield is 80%. The usable yield of chickens is generally between 70 and 80 percent, whereas most fish yields less than 50% (given the weight of its shells, lobster averages around 25%!). Given these numbers, it should come as no surprise that lobster and chicken differ so much in price. Although they purchase the whole thing, restaurants basically throw away over half of the fish that they pay for. Since there is so much more meat on chicken compared to fish, it is clearly going to take more fish (and money) to come up with an equal edible portions of both items. Therefore, in order to make a profit, restaurants have to charge double or triple for seafood than they do for poultry.

So there you have it! Now you know part of the reason why you have to sell your arm for two pinches of lobster, but can afford a plateful of chicken. Bon Appetite!

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larissa has promised me future photos of her in her “uniform” to share with you in a later post…goofy chef’s hat included…but for now she passed along this photo of bruniose –a special cutting technique that turns food items into precise little cubes — and isn’t it quite lovely?

maybe if we ask her nicely larissa will make a little video demonstration of her practicing her brunoise technique…wink.

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2 responses to “from the kitchen: food costing.

  1. I look forward to Larissa’s posts. This first post was very interesting and whet my appetite for more. LOL… And yes, I’d love to see the technique used in the photo, even if I never practice it in real life. Its somewhat like Food Network.. the hours I watch do not necessarily translate in “trying the techniques” but I enjoy them just the same and admire those who are gifted enough to accomplish such things. Welcome Larissa!

  2. Thank you Marisa for sharing your culinary knoweldge with others. I enjoyed becoming more informed about usable yield percentage! I loved the “food art” and considering I am a little ocd when it comes to cutting peppers, potatoes, etc. I would love to view the bruniose technique!

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