No Cheap Food Compromises
Happy New Year—a phrase we say to each other often in December and January. The old year has ended and the new one, with fresh possibilities has begun. We start diets, we slough off bad habits, we try to recycle more, we join gyms, or we vow to eat less sugar. Whatever the resolution or declaration, we always begin with the best of intentions, but very rarely follow through to the end of the year—speaking for myself, of course.
This year, my resolution is not to compromise on the quality of foods I cook for my clients. When I first started my business in 2010, I was willing to take on just about anything to get my name out there and get business, but over time I realized that I was cooking cheap food to keep the price point low for those who hired me. Cheap and processed food is not who I am. If I wouldn’t eat it myself, why cook it for others? So, this past year, I increased my minimum pricing and refused to take work for anything less. Sure, I lost quite a bit of business, but the work I did take, was rewarding because I was able to provide a quality result due to the ability to procure quality ingredients.
Good wholesome food is not cheap. Visit a farmers’ market and you will clearly see that prices are much higher at the farmstand than they are at the grocery store. But, what are you really getting at the grocery store? A product that was picked too soon, is most likely out of season and has no nutritional value. Whereas the product from the farmstand was probably picked that morning, fully ripe, bursting with flavor and nutrition.
Many people I encounter through my business are not interested in quality food for a variety of reasons, and the biggest one being that we have been trained by our society to appreciate price over quality. Yesterday, I overheard someone looking at a grocery ad in the paper and exclaim, ‘look, tomatoes are 89 cents a pound!’ As if it was a great deal to rush down to the store a buy up every one of them. What is missing from the equation is that those tomatoes should not be at the grocery store at this time of year as they are not in season! They cannot possibly taste good or have any nutritional value so what is the point in buying them at any price per pound? I cannot tell you how many people ask for asparagus in August, or strawberries in December, or eggplant in February. I do my best to explain to the client that seasonality brings the best produce at the best price with the best flavor.
Asparagus with Hollandaise is much better in April, and strawberry shortcake will be divine in June and eggplant Parmesan will explode with flavor in July. Even Dungeness crab is better in the winter when the season starts, not in August when it is ending and the crabs are molting and their meat is mushy.
In 2015, I will do a better job of educating my potential client with the beauty of seasonality and help them to understand why my food costs more than the other guy. I am not out gouge anyone, I just want to have the opportunity to cook for others as I cook for myself. It is for this reason I decided to become a chef, and this is the reason why I continue to pursue the vocation. I will not be wildly successful as I live in a place where cheap food is king, but for those few clients I am able to cook for, I will have opened the door a little wider to where I want to be in the end: a chef known for her quality ingredients and delicious food. No more compromising with cheap food!
May your new year be full of health, happiness and deliciousness!