Popular with nearly all guests, french fries are too often overlooked by operators, says Atlanta-based Chef Ford Fry.
“A lot of the time you can tell how good a restaurant is based solely on the french fries,” Fry says. “That’s because restaurants that focus on delivering great french fries are detail-oriented, which is such a huge part of the equation.”
Being detail-oriented is harder than ever when you consider that operators are dealing with less skilled labor in their kitchens, and meanwhile, diner expectations are only going up. Restaurants not being consistent can fall victim to bad online reviews.
Fry has some secrets for how to add effective french fry dishes to a menu with minimal labor.
Everybody likes french fries, Fry says, but diners still want to be adventurous, too. That means you want a consistent french fry product as a base to play around with.
“We like to experiment with different fats that we use for deep frying,” Fry says. “Like in a restaurant we have in Houston, we use excess barbecue brisket trimmings that add a smokey, beefy flavor. That’s something you can’t do with a homemade fry because there are too many variables.”
One of Fry’s restaurants offers Chowder Fries, which are topped with smoked fish chowder. A separate late night menu that he designed features Frites Canard: fries topped with duck confit, chicken gravy, and fried egg.
“In our casual, Tex-Mex restaurants we do things like take crinkle cut fries and pour queso over the top with smoked bacon,” Fry says. “And we use Lamb Weston’s fries for that because the crispness holds up even with a big ladle of cheese doused over it.”
As playful as chefs might try to be, it’s still important to be able to reproduce consistent signature offerings in the era of high turnover. That means the simpler, the better, says Fry.
“We just don’t have talent in the kitchen the way we used to,” Fry says. “So anything you can add to your menu that is simple, and focuses on few ingredients, is going to be a more consistent product.”
Another huge plus for operators is the space saved by ready-to-cook fries from a food partner.
“Lamb Weston fries are also great because they take up less room,” Fry says. “When you make your own fries, you have to soak them overnight. So you have a tub of today’s fries and tomorrow’s fries in there, and that’s a lot of space you could be using for something else.”
“At this point, I don’t even look for other french fry vendors,” Fry says. “Lamb Weston is the gold standard—not only do they have a great product, but they are such a helpful food partner. They partner with farmers that have spent their lives doing this, and they create such a consistent product that chefs will love.”