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Restaurant Recipes

I have a number of new resources for recipes from restaurants, inns, and hotel restaurants that were in their heyday in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, many of which are long closed. If you're looking for a restaurant recipe from those years, write me.

Restaurant chains, use pre-mixed ingredients whenever possible to make their dishes. Why? Two reasons: First, to reduce costs, and second, to insure consistency. If Giovanni's Italian Cafe has twenty franchises around the country, then the Giovanni Company wants to keep costs low (the profit margin of a restaurant is very small), and Giovanni's wants to be sure that if you go into a Giovanni's in New Jersey, then the house salad dressing tastes the same as it does in a Giovanni's in San Diego.

How to do this?

Well, you don't do it by starting from scratch and using fresh, local ingredients to make the dressing up in small batches. That's expensive, time-consuming, and inconsistent, because local ingredients in New Jersey aren't always the same as those in San Diego, and buying things locally in small quantities is more expensive than buying in large, bulk quantities. Besides, your kitchen employee in San Diego may not make it exactly the same as the one in New Jersey.

One thing that you could do is make all of the salad dressing for the whole company in one place (or sub-contract it to a salad-dressing company). If you do that, then all of the ingredients will be the same and will be bought in large quantities, and the production process will be the same, so you will cut costs and insure consistency. You won't have to rely on the skill of your kitchen employee in San Diego in following a complex recipe. At most, all he'll be doing is transferring it from one container to another.

But what if making the finished dressing in one place and shipping it around the country isn't practical? What if it loses freshness that way?

Well, then you have the chefs in your company test kitchen come up with a formula for the dressing that uses pre-mixed ingredients. You still buy them in bulk, and you sell them to the individual franchises with a few simple mixing instructions. You sell them ingredients like "Giovanni's Salad Vinegar" and "Giovanni's Olive Oil", and "Giovanni's House Dressing Mix". The "recipe" for a day's worth of dressing may say something like: "Mix one gallon of Giovanni's Olive Oil with 1/2 Gallon of Giovanni's Salad Vinegar. Add one bag of Giovanni's House Dressing Mix and blend thoroughly". Even the kitchen employees at the local Giovanni's don't know exactly what's in that "Giovanni's House Dressing Mix", and couldn't make the dressing from scratch even if they wanted to.

Along comes Mr. Customer, who thinks the Giovanni's House Dressing is the best he's ever tasted, and he wants to be able to make it at home. He asks the waiter for the recipe, but the waiter says "I'm sorry, we don't give out recipes. It's company policy." But, even if the waiter did give him the recipe, it wouldn't help Mr. Customer , because where is Mr. Customer going to get "Giovanni's House Dressing Mix"?

Suppose Mr. Customer was able to convince an employee at the place where "Giovanni's House Dressing Mix" is made to give him a copy of that recipe. Would that solve his problem? - It would be something like: Combine 50 lbs of sugar, 20 lbs of salt, 15 lbs oregano, 10 lbs dried chili pepper powder, and 15 lbs garlic powder. Add flavor enhancers, stabilizers, artificial flavors,and preservatives. - That wouldn't help most people, either, would it?

What Mr. Customer really wants is a "Copycat Recipe". A copycat recipe is a knock-off that tastes like the restaurant product or dish, but that can be made in Mr. Customer's kitchen with ingredients that Mr. Customer has on hand or can buy at his local grocery store.

Restaurants, even the local ones that really do use local ingredients, usually don't give out their recipes. Why would they? Their recipes are their livelihood ! It's difficult enough for a restaurant to make money anyway. Why would they give out their recipes so that people could make their dishes at home? They need your business! They want you to come back to get their dishes, not to stay home and make them yourself! There are exceptions, of course. Red Lobster and a few other chains have some copycats for their dishes on their websites, and occasionally chefs give out home recipe versions of the dishes that they serve. You'll see these sometimes in newspaper columns and on TV cooking shows.

Links to some sites for restaurant and copycat recipes are here:
Copycat Links

If you want me to try and locate a recipe or a copycat recipe for a dish that you had in a restaurant, don't forget to give me the name of the restaurant and the location. If you are looking for a recipe from a restaurant or bakery that is no longer in business, it's very helpful if you tell me anything that you know about the owners, their family, or the chef.

See also:
Copycat Recipes

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