- INSIDER spoke to chefs from three high-end restaurants about what they eat in a day.
- All of the chefs said they eat simple breakfasts, such as granola or yogurt.
- The chefs said the only official meal they eat at work is a family meal, a communal meal for their restaurant’s staff members.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
When you imagine the daily habits of chefs from high-end restaurants, you might erroneously believe they eat fancy fare at all times.
In reality, many chefs eat a simple breakfast, sample what they’re cooking throughout the day, and join the staff for a communal meal in the late afternoon. In their off hours, it’s not unusual for them to cook simple meals, like breakfast tacos or grilled chicken, or for them to dine out and order pho or dumplings.
To learn more about the daily food habits of high-end chefs, INSIDER spoke to Kelly McCown, executive chef at The Kitchen, a seven-time AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurant in Sacramento, California; Chelsey Conrad, co-chef de cuisine at Zahav, a James Beard Foundation Award-winning Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Emma Bengtsson, executive chef at New York City’s Aquavit, a Nordic restaurant with two Michelin stars.
Here’s what chefs at three different high-end restaurants eat in a day.
For breakfast, each chef keeps their meals pretty simple
For McCown, eating well is one facet of his healthy lifestyle that also includes cycling and mountain biking.
“The old line cook ways of partying all night and eating crappy food and just going into work, I think those are going away,” he told INSIDER. He said on a typical day he’ll start his morning with a bowl of granola, dried fruit, and a banana.
Conrad also said she keeps her first meal of the day quite simple. “I generally just choose to caffeinate and go,” she explained. Once she’s at work, she said she sometimes eats a quick breakfast of yogurt, fruit, or nuts.
For Bengtsson, her breakfast is broken up into two parts. “Typically, in the morning, I have this shake that I do with all my vitamins and minerals and acidophilus,” she told INSIDER. She said although it doesn’t taste the best, it gives her the energy she needs for the day.
When she arrives at work at 9 a.m., Bengtsson said she’ll have the second part of her morning meal. “When I get to work, I try and eat yogurt with fresh berries over Swedish flatbread with either tomatoes or boiled eggs on it,” she said.
Each chef snacks a bit differently throughout the day
“I eat a lot of fruit. I’m also a sucker for salty, crunchy things,” McCown said, saying his restaurant’s house-made potato chips are one of his go-to snacks. He said some of his other favourite crunchy snacks include Cheez-Its and Cool Ranch Doritos.
“Usually during the work day I’m focused on what I can eat most quickly,” Conrad said. She’s a chef at Zahav, which is known for its hummus, so she said she tends to eat the chickpea spread throughout the day. Additionally, she said she snacks on items she brings from home, like Clif Bars.
Bengtsson said she snacks as she cooks, sampling the end pieces of meats, sauces, grains, and vegetables throughout the day. She called this her “very spread out lunch.”
Each chef said they eat a ‘family meal’ at their restaurant on most days
Family meal, or the communal meal that a restaurant’s staff shares in the afternoon before dinner service starts, is the only official meal that McCown said he eats at work.
“It’s basically sort of the trim and the leftovers of what you’re prepping for your main menu, which is funny because we’ll have duck on the menu or something like that and then you get duck tacos, duck fried rice,” he explained.
Conrad said her restaurant’s family meal takes place at 4 p.m. The menu ranges from a large batch of shakshuka (poached eggs in tomato sauce) to Mexican food. And, if Conrad is in charge, she said the meal might consist of Southern cuisine because she’s a native of Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Sometimes I’m actually able to enjoy [family meal], but sometimes I’m eating a plate of food in three minutes,” said Conrad, explaining that the meal oftentimes occurs during a hectic time for the kitchen.
Bengtsson said her family meal usually consists of a lot of meat. “We do utilise a lot of leftover trims and pieces [for family meal] but I always tend to tell everyone that they’re pretty lucky in what they get because we’re using pieces from salmon or cod or beef,” she told INSIDER.
When dining out, these chefs said they typically don’t go to high-end eateries
McCown said that when he’s not working, he and his girlfriend will go out for Korean food, Thai food, or tacos, noting that they avoid any sort of “highfalutin” (pretentious) eatery.
On average, Conrad said she eats out two or three times a week. When she does, she said she goes to Chinatown for dumplings or a late-night order of pho.
Bengtsson said she eats every kind of cuisine and type of food outside of work, but she particularly enjoys Mexican food and sushi.
When the chefs actually cook food at home, they said they keep their meals pretty simple
McCown said that although some people think chefs cook all sorts of gourmet meals at home, most chefs are too busy to make elaborate food when they’re off the clock.
“I’m probably only home enough to cook two days a week essentially so, on the weekend, we’ll probably do one night out where we’ll go out and one night where I cook at home,” he explained. “When I cook at home, it’s über simple.”
He said a recent meal he made at home consisted of grilled chicken and California asparagus. McCown said he sometimes also makes one-pot or slow-cooker meals. In terms of ingredients, he said he gets them from farmers’ markets and Asian food markets.
If Conrad is preparing a late-night dinner, she said she’ll usually make traditional French omelets or breakfast tacos.
“It’s pretty much a safe bet that I have eggs, tortillas, and hot sauce,” said Conrad, who said she sometimes switches up her routine by making a roast chicken or a pot of beans, items that she could eat over the course of a few days.
Bengtsson said she tends to cook at home often when she has days off. “I like to keep it easy and I don’t want to stand at the stove for a couple hours when I’m home,” she told INSIDER.
She said a typical dinner she might make is steamed vegetables with fish or beef paired with a salad.
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