Man Reveals All About Restaurant Industry

“Restaurants: Why do Asian restaurants in the U.S. frequently serve soda cans rather than fountain drinks?” That’s a question from someone on Quora. WHAT A GREAT OBSERVATION AND ALSO A GREAT QUESTION. Jonas M. Luster is a chef in Dallas, and here’s how he answered it:

Most small Chinese restaurants are supplied by one supplier with a rather tight grip onto the market in every city. Back in the 60s and 70s, when food supplies were controlled by a racket of mobbed up suppliers this was a necessity, most suppliers refused to deliver to Asian (and Mexican) restaurants or, in some cases, took those places for a ride including physical violence and arbitrary price hikes with attached “accidents” if the restaurant decided to change purveyors. In a sense the food supply world until the early 90s was a lot like prison – you joined one criminal organization to make sure the others left you alone.

Those suppliers have mostly gone away for non-ethnic restaurants. Some Italian, most Mexican, almost all small single-unit, casual, Asian (each with their own), and Indian restaurants still have them. Canned soda is a massive profit margin item for those suppliers and if you’re locked into a deal with them, legally or through the threat of bad things happening if you leave, you buy their soda.

ISN’T THAT FASCINATING? I was fascinated. Great answer, Jonas M. Luster. The greatness of the answer inspired me to read a lot of Luster’s other answers on Quora, and spoiler alertttt, they are all capital-G great, offering a really interesting INSIDER’S LOOK at restaurants. (I didn’t read them all because he has over 1500 answers on Quora and THAT IS A LOT. But I read the ones that had to do with restaurants and money, because: That is our theme.)

FOR EXAMPLE. In this one, he offers a short rant about why the food should always get to the table at the same time (“What makes a chef a chef isn’t their ability to cook. It’s their ability to manage high volumes of food”). In this one, he answers a question about why there are more male chefs than female chefs (“I said this before and I’ll say it again. It’s because women are smarter than us when it comes to a choice of profession”). In this one he gives a general idea about the income of a restaurant (“Food cost is on average 1/3 of the price of a meal, another third is labor and location”).

THERE ARE SO MANY MORE. Read all of his answers here.

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13 Comments / Post A Comment

KimO (#2,021)

Unless there is some level of irony I’m not picking up on here, I’m pretty sure your Q doesn’t match your A.

sockhopbop (#764)

@KO I think the question is supposed to be the one at the click-through: “Why do Asian restaurants in the U.S. frequently serve soda cans rather than fountain drinks?”

@KO what you are looking at is another CLASSIC example of cut + pasting gone awry and a failure to properly proofread. fixed! THX

tales (#928)

I call bullshit on the “choice of profession” bullshit. Chef culture is all about extremely lame performative masculinity, and saying “durrr women aren’t chefs because women don’t want to be chefs (for WHATEVER REASON)” is total crap. And it lets you, as a dude and presumably part of the shitty dude culture, get away with changing nothing and continuing to make women feel unwelcome and unhappy in your field.

Jonas M Luster (#2,023)

@tales What a bigoted rant of yours. “All chefs are adherents to lame performative masculinty”. Way to go judging a field that employs over four million people in this country alone, a way above average number of minorities and women compared to other blue collar jobs, without knowing much about it.

Yes, the kitchen does not adhere to your petty little passive aggressive yellow postit note on monitor cubeville world, but it is – all and all – one of the last remaining meritocracies of the old order, that is not a pseudo-meritocracy set up to disadvantage a class within it and justify failure that way. Of the sixteen employees in my current job, seven are women, eleven are minorities, six are recovering addicts, five are openly gay or lesbian, two are disabled veterans, and five have extensive criminal records. And nothing, not one of those things, matters to the kitchen, to the staff, to the diner, or me. All that matters is that you get your prep done in time, your mise is clear, your line is humming, and you don’t throw us into the weeds. Literally all that matters and all that differentiates respect or hate in this field is not screwing up and, if you do, fixing it fast and with a mea culpa following (usually in form of you buying drinks after work).

There is a reason we work here. We work here because no one ever starts blathering pseudo-intellectual bullshit using “socio-progressive dynamics” as a construct. You work your share you’re respected. And, hate to break it to you, there is no gender difference in the ability to work hard and not screw up.

tales (#928)

@Jonas M Luster So, not only have you pretty efficiently twisted my statement away from being one about an overarching mentality and presentation into one that specifically says “everyone in this profession is a jerk” you additionally assume that I have no knowledge of it. I’m not sure what makes you think you are in any way equipped to judge my background or qualifications to speak on the subject, but you’re not.

I am well aware of plenty of examples of kitchens with not just good hiring practices but a non-oppressive culture on top of that. Which is why I never made any comment about “every kitchen” this or “every chef” that. What’s more your little rant only reinforces the ideas that I was trying to point out. If a woman in your kitchen mentioned that she’d found the culture at places she’d worked in the past to be problematic, I assume you’d give her this same gaslighting bullshit. What could discourage women about that?

Robin (#1,320)

@tales tales, chill out. You`re the one who came in swinging and accusing Jonas of being `presumably part of the shitty dude culture, get away with changing nothing and continuing to make women feel unwelcome and unhappy in your field.` What`s that all about?

Jonas M Luster (#2,023)

And just in case you puked your blanked condemnation of the hard working men and women in this field onto this page without reading the linked article (which is mislinked), here it is: http://www.quora.com/Cooking/Why-does-there-seem-to-be-more-male-professional-chefs-than-female/answer/Jonas-M-Luster

Note my addressing of pay inequality and other issues in the field, while you’re at it. Not that I have hope that you’re anything but uninterested in reality.

tales (#928)

@Jonas M Luster What a fucking bully. It’s a lovely habit to insult and make personal attacks on anyone who has a problem with something you say on the internet.

Jonas M Luster (#2,023)

Actually, you insulted MY profession. But who cares. If you think that is bullying (sigh) then I understand why you think kitchens are cesspools of male macho idiocy. Unlike you I am not a coward, so here’s my name. Google me. You’ll find that I kind of know what I am talking about.

If a woman (or a man, or anyone in between or outside, considering the rather high amount of indeterminate genderqueer employees in the field) comes to me or any of the chefs I know, have worked for, with, under, along, and elsewhere, they have an open ear. That’s what being a chef means. To run a brigade. Again, seeing how you feel bullied by me already I can see how a chef might tell you to go fuck off.

There are problematic kitchens. There are problematic chefs. There are problematic employees. That does not a “Chef culture is all about extremely lame performative masculinity” make.

Again, I know you didn’t read the linked article and I know you just kneejerked your blanket “chef culture is all” into it. I don’t know if it’s because you’re one of the rare cases that had a bad experience or one of the many who simply could not hack it, demanded special treatment (rather than fair treatment, which should be a right and not need to be demanded), and then went whining how the kitchen hated them for not treating them like the special little snowflakes they believe they are.

If you truly had a shitty experience then I am sorry. Bad apples are everywhere. I don’t judge a class, a group, a social strata, or anyone over individual experiences. The plural of anecdote is NOT “data”. “Chef culture is all about…” is just as fucked up bigoted as “Black culture is…”, “Women are…”, or “All coders are…”. Again, I am sorry if you had one, but nothing you could have possibly experienced gives you the right to judge “chef culture”.

Robin (#1,320)

Well, that got all fiesty, real quick. Nice.

I`ve never worked in the industry, so I wouldn`t be so bold as to offer an unsupported opinion. Gabrielle Hamilton, however, has, and she has some pretty interesting things to say about the topic in `Blood, Bones & Butter`: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Bones-Butter-Inadvertent-Education/dp/0812980883/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345844447&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+bones+and+butter

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