The September issue of Bon Appetit has a whole section dedicated to the restaurant pre-shift meal, the family meal or staff lunch as it is sometimes called. All the dishes sound pretty yummy—a far cry from my remembered chicken-and-rice meals or the special corn dog day. But hey, I never sat with Batali's people, so who am I?
I do think they missed the boat on the two most important elements of in-kitchen eating, the two watchers of nearly every family meal from which I've ever sneaked a chicken leg: Ms. Cholula and The Rooster.
Ms. Cholula is the hot sauce of choice for many of the line cooks who are, most often, the creators of the family meal (You didn't really think Batali throws together shepherd's pie, did you?). The fact that the majority of line cooks in this city are Latino shouldn't surprise you, so the love for Ms. Cholula shouldn't either. She's powerful yet sweet, dances with your dish without overtaking it, punches you in the mouth and then kisses you to make it feel good.
The Rooster is in the hip pocket of sous chefs. They want it on everything. Everything. I have never walked into a family breakfast without seeing piles of scrambled eggs doused with The Rooster. The sandwich that my husband made me in a kitchen in San Francisco, the one that made me fall in love with him, was dripping with The Rooster. Remember when Casey of Top Chef 3 used it in her ice cream? The results were disastrous, but that should point to the love of this smoky, tart, sharp sriracha sauce that has become one of the kitchen gods.
Before Auriga closed, my husband and I popped in for a late night dinner. I know I had a flatbread, and my husband ordered some kind of pasta. What was placed in front of him was a pasta but not the one he ordered. The dish in front of him looked even better, and smells of The Rooster wafted up with the steam. He looked at me and smiled as he dove into the dish; it was rich and hot and made his eyes water. A few bites in, the server came over and apologized; she had served us the chef's dinner, the one he had concocted for himself after a long night on the line. The server held the correctly ordered dish in her hand.
"Tell Flicker to go cook something else; he's not getting this one back."