Family Meal of the Week: Spur
There are meals in almost every restaurant serving off-menu items that you would never be lucky enough to eat unless you worked in the restaurant. They’re called family meals and they're served before or after service to feed those who work tirelessly to bring good food to your table — staff members who rarely get a chance to eat during their busy shift.
Last night, during one of Seattle’s more balmy nights, Jeff Vance, chef de cuisine at Spur in Belltown, whipped up a dish that was fitting for a sweaty evening: pork belly and salmon curry with rice.
“I took a little bit of the pancetta that I make,” says Vance. “I had the ends of it, so I cooked it down with a little bit of onions and garlic and then added in the fish, some coconut milk and a spice rub."
Vance also makes the spice rub, and it's a good one: turmeric, bay leaf, coriander, a little bit of cumin and fennel, white pepper and cayenne.
Not ones to let things go to waste, Vance and his crew often use leftovers for their staff meals. This night, they used the scraps from the popular salmon crostini that has been on the restaurant’s menu since day one.
“Basically, what we do with family meal is try to have the newer cooks, younger guys who have just come on, make it most of the time. It kind of gives them a chance to have a creative outlet and impress everyone with their skills.”
Here, the family meal is usually consumed at the end of the night, around 10 p.m.
“We usually don’t sit down (because there’s usually still guests in the dining room), so we’ll just hang out (in the kitchen) together and talk about how the night went—servers and cooks.”
“I think there’s a multitude of reasons why [family meal] is important. One, obviously, is nourishment. Everyone’s been working really hard and is usually hungry by the end of the night. Two, it’s great for everybody to come together and talk about how service went and how things are going, things we can work on, things we can change, things that went well that we should continue to do. Family meal really means just that: everyone gets together and talks about everything.”
The staff (which ranges anywhere from 6 to 12 depending on the night) usually spends about 10-15 minutes enjoying their meal before they close up for the night.
“It depends, though,” says Vance. “If it’s a really good family meal, people will hang out and chat for a while.”
The power of a good meal.