Piccolo is hiring a dishwasher. And here’s why you want that job: Every day at 4pm the entire staff sits down together — yes, sits, not stands and gobbles — to an amazing meal cooked by chef Doug Flicker (below, left) himself.
This is the restaurant tradition known as the staff meal, or the family meal, or just “family.”
The meal serves many purposes, from fueling a night of physically grueling work, to building camaraderie in the kitchen, to using up scraps and bits of this and that leftover in the walk-in.
Piccolo is among 25 restaurants around the world featured in the new book Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants (hardcover $30, 320 pages, Running Press Book Publishers), by Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy (below, right), with a foreword by Ferran Adrià.
Not all staff meals are as good as Flicker’s, Eddy emphasizes. She remembers cooking at a restaurant where the staff meal was pasta every night. And the staff had to pay for it. But other chefs — from Heston Blumenthal at London’s The Fat Duck to Wylie Dufresne at New York City’s wd~50 — are understandably proud of the quality of the food they eat together with their staffs. “They still send me pictures. ‘Look at this staff meal!’ And I have to say, ‘But the book is done!’” Eddy says.
She quotes Flicker in the book about the importance of the staff meal at Piccolo: “I take it personally. I never cut corners. I try not to repeat it.”
For the book, Eddy and her co-author Carroll sat down to staff meals at every restaurant featured. “We made sure it was the real deal, something they would normally serve,” she says. And they followed the chefs around the kitchens, gathering the recipes. Her own culinary background — she’s cooked at Jean-Georges, Tabla, and The Fat Duck — was essential for this step.
At Piccolo last night, Flicker made slow-cooked red beans with ham hocks, cast-iron cornbread with maple-bacon butter, Mr. Pickles’s pulled pork, Johnny Two Socks’s barbecue sauce, a celery root and almond slaw, collard greens with salt pork, and a vat of soft, sweet, cinnamony apple crisp. He made these for a group of local food writers and blew their collective socks off. Flicker may be from Rochester and he may plate his dishes at Piccolo with the tiniest tweezers ever manufactured, but he does a mean impression of a true Southern pitmaster.
And this is the way he feeds his staff every day. As he told Eddy in Come In, We’re Closed: “It’s ridiculous that we would dedicate our lives to feeding people and the community but not spend the time to feed ourselves.”