On the Line: How Chefs Snack

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Chefs have it hard. They spend hours on their feet cooking beautiful food for other people, yet they themselves rarely have time sit down and have a proper meal. In those moments when hunger strikes during the dinner rush, most of them are snacking on seriously creative bites from their mise en place. We asked chefs to share their favorite snack on the line.

Jenn Louis, chef and co-owner of Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern, Portland, Ore. (pictured above)

“My favorite snacks to make in the restaurant kitchen are improvised quick salads from the salad station,” says Louis, executive chef and co-owner of two Portland restaurants and the author of the cookbook Pasta By Hand (Chronicle Books). “I’ll take a quart container and fill it with lots of fruits, nuts and vegetables, and shake it up with a quick dressing or a sauce from the fridge. Also, back when I was a line cook, fig season was my favorite, because I used to hollow them out, then stuff toasted nuts and blue cheese into the cavity of the fig for a quick and delicious snack. As a similar snack, we currently serve roasted almond-stuffed dates at Lincoln, and I love to steal a couple off the line every now and then!”

Liz Foster

Jon Davis, Cabin 82 and The Coop at The Graduate Oxford Hotel, Oxford, Miss.

Snacking on the line isn’t exactly permitted, explains Davis. But, when hunger strikes, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. “We don’t eat on the line, but cooks will always find a way to sneak in a quick snack when no one’s looking,” he confesses. “Personally, I like to make myself a simple BLT. All of the ingredients are components of my mise en place, and it can be made and consumed in a matter of minutes. Sometimes I’ll replace the raw slice of tomato with a fried green tomato to keep it interesting.”

Jimmy Bradley, chef-owner of The Red Cat, New York City

Bradley, chef of the iconic Chelsea neighborhood restaurant The Red Cat, cooks straightforward, modern and market-driven fare for NYC locals and visitors alike. His favorite snack to keep him fueled during long nights in the kitchen is a simple sandwich. “I love making quick little sandwiches with dinner rolls or fresh-baked bread,” he says. “I’ll take bits and pieces from the mise en place and make creative combinations with the ingredients we use in our dishes — like sliced steak and cheese, roasted chicken with polenta cake and jus, and even a quick bacon, egg and cheese at brunch.”

Sarah Gavigan, Otaku Ramen and Little Octopus, Nashville

Gavigan, the chef and owner of several Nashville-area restaurants, is known for her ramen, and for a menu that includes Southern takes on classic Asian eats, like Tennessee Tonkatsu and her famous Hot Chicken Buns. She also happens to be the organizer of the second-largest ramen festival in the nation, Xtra Large. When she gets a hankering while cooking on the line, it’s not surprising that she reaches for a simple salty snack that’s filling and flavorful — rice and pickles — and washes it down with lots of water.

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