What do restaurant workers eat?

...is it off the menu? If it isn't, should we be worried? Graham investigates.

RestaurantEver wondered what restaurant workers eat before they get to work?  Do they all eat together a la the best functioning families. And if they do, do they eat off the menu or out of the slops?

One journalist in New York City set off to find out. Erin Bremer talked to the waiters, dishwashers, chefs and managers of eight of the top family meal joints in New York City to find out what they eat, when they eat it and if they eat it together. Workplace bonding, it seems, has just as important a role as family bonding at dinner time.

"Formal family meals take place shortly before lunch or dinner service, giving staff members time to both relax and rev up before their long and arduous shifts. It's a simple concept, and as I discovered while hopping from one acclaimed New York restaurant to the next, if you're lucky to work somewhere that serves caramelized, blanched, or poached vegetables, rather than "bloomin' " ones, you're in for a real treat," (source: Kottke).

However, according to Bremer the staff don't linger - this is New York after all - and the 'family meal' at work is all over within twenty minutes and then New York restaurantit's on to the business of the day - serving the paying customers.

You've got to wonder how the staff at the Gramercy Tavern get through eight courses and still manage to stand up and do a night's work... Phew.

"The impressive eight-course spread was easily the largest of the bunch as well as one of the tastiest. The cornerstones of the meal were a traditional coq au vin.” "Just like grand-mere used to make it," professed Chef Tournant Greg Marchand.

The only restaurant I have ever worked in was a Vietnamese place in the south of France. I did it to find out how your average Oriental restaurant in Europe works. After five hours of blazing woks and boiling beef bones at a kitchen coalface steeped in star anise vapours, we all sat down for the apres service dinner. As in Bremer's New York City experience dinner was all off-menu, but the reason for the excursion was a little different. "This is too authentic," the owner told me while ladling from a big soup, filled with pig's heart, bamboo shoots and noodles. "If we served this in the restaurant, no one would buy it."