By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist
“Old Mother Hubbard/Went to the cupboard/To get her poor dog a bone/But when she came there/The cupboard was bare/And so the poor dog had none.”
The opening verse of the iconic 1805 nursery rhyme got me thinking the other day: Was Old Mother Hubbard a chef?
There is a misnomer that anyone associated with a chef eats amazing food every time they are in his or her presence. The general public also tends to believe that a chef’s cupboards and refrigerator are an endless cache of fresh produce; rich proteins; spices from all over the world; and all the best equipment to take you to your favorite restaurant right there in your chef friend’s personal kitchen.
There’s a saying that a mechanic’s car never runs, a carpenter’s house is never complete, and chefs never have any food in their house.
The reality is that chefs eat a large portion (no pun intended) of their meals either in the restaurant they work in or own, out where they know they can get a good meal, or at a new restaurant that piques their interest. We do cook at home, but mostly because we just want to unplug, shut down and decompress.
Kitchens are constantly filled with noise: hood fans running, people yelling in close proximity to each other, and many team members in your personal space all day long.
And by and large we bring ingredients home from our professional kitchens or purchase ingredients the day of preparation.
So you may be wondering what exactly is in a chef’s personal kitchen on a daily basis. While we’re all different—some are single and others have families—for the typical chef who is nearly always at work, let me describe what they most likely have in their refrigerator and cupboards right now.
They probably have a bottle of Sriracha, that classic American—yes, made in America—hot sauce. Sriracha was created in 1987 and the general public latched on to it about 10 years ago, but chefs have been using it much longer.
I had my first Sriracha experience in 1989 and never looked back. And while the general public is content to give the bottle a squeeze over nearly anything, chefs love it on eggs, in their favorite pork marinade, made into a fresh mayonnaise, or in their bloody mary.
There is also likely a growler of their favorite beer from a local brewery at all times.
Their freezer undoubtedly has some variety of bizarre or byproduct cuts of an elk they shot, or that a friend gave them—because who else would eat those, let alone know how to prepare them?
I promise you almost every chef has a bottle of truffle oil in his or her home right now. I would also wager a guess that most chefs I know have either a bit of saffron right now, or real Madagascar vanilla beans in their cupboard.
There is undoubtedly a bottle of their favorite spirit, probably whiskey—chefs love whiskey—in their kitchen.
For years, the favorite late night snack of almost every cook or chef I knew was, ready? Cold cereal. They typically had three or four kinds, all opened, and Cap’n Crunch, Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms were generally the favorites.
There is probably a “ripe” avocado in most chefs’ refrigerators right now that could play a larger stand-in during an old California Raisins commercial.
Sure they may have many other items—some interesting, and some mundane—but knowing our industry and chef lifestyle, my money’s on most items on this list.
Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the Executive Chef at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky