One simple strategy can help restaurants manage their kitchens more effectively.
Running a restaurant has always been a balancing act, but never before has managing all the myriad priorities been so difficult for culinary leaders as it is now amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Restaurants are trying to survive in the best of times,” says Vincent Barcelona, director of sales for national accounts and culinary at Stratas Foods. “Now, not only do they have to stay current, take care of core customers, and manage labor in the kitchen and front of house, with COVID all of these are even harder. Some restaurants are just reopening for inside dining, and taking care of staff and payroll while managing new precautions is a real challenge.”
Despite the increased operational complexity of running a restaurant during a pandemic, brands still face stiff competition for customers, meaning culinary innovation is just as important—if not more so—than it was prior to the health crisis. With so many challenges, it’s fair to wonder how a restaurant can manage all the competing priorities necessary for today’s operations. Barcelona—a former New York restaurateur with more than 35 years of experience—says one creative strategy in particular can help restaurants buy back efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and flavor without increasing inventory: mother sauces.
The concept of mother sauces is simple. Mother sauces serve as a base from which kitchen staff members can create a wide variety of new sauces by simply adding a few ingredients. This not only helps restaurants limit the number of ingredients needed to create multiple unique dishes, it also reduces operational complexity in the kitchen, since cooks don’t have to make each sauce from scratch. While all mother sauces have many potential menu applications, Barcelona suggests that mayonnaise-based sauces featuring quality pre-made mayonnaise are particularly versatile and can be used to create strong offerings across the menu.
“Every type of restaurant, from a small independent brand all the way up to a Michelin Star restaurant, can easily find several uses for a mayonnaise-based mother sauce,” Barcelona says. “Even when I was at the three Michelin star restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City, we used a mayonnaise base for almost every dish that would be ‘dippable’ or ‘sauceable’ in the restaurant.”
In fact, mayonnaise-based sauces are so versatile, it only took Barcelona a few minutes to think up a list of close to 40 different sauces that could be created from one mayonnaise mother sauce.
“It’s really fun to mess around with mother sauces, because each idea gives birth to other ideas,” Barcelona says. “For example, I came up with ancho chile lime sauce, bourbon barbecue sauce, brown butter mayo, sweet and savory strawberry rhubarb sauce, pimento mayo, tangy paprika and cayenne sauce, black pepper and truffle sauce, chile aioli, and many more.”
Because the flavor and texture of mayonnaise mixes so well with so many ingredients, cooks need only look at what’s available in their pantries to come up with new innovative sauces that can help set a brand’s menu apart from the competition.
“In the kitchen, I would just make sure my spice rack was always current and then work from whatever ingredients inspired me,” he says. “If I have a thick, briny, tangy mayonnaise to start with and I see that I have extra Aleppo peppers, I could make a spicy sauce. Or, I could see that some honey and smoked paprika just came in, so I could create a smoked honey and mustard mayonnaise for a sandwich. All you need is an idea, and you can work with what you have in-house, so you don’t need to order new products or spices to come up with new dipping sauces or LTOs (Limited Time Offers).”
While many restaurants create their own mayonnaise in-house, Barcelona suggests buying a high-quality pre-made mayonnaise because it not only ensures a consistent product, but it also helps reduce back-of-house labor and reduce expenses. The more sauces a brand serves, the more cost-effective it becomes to work with a sauce based on pre-made mayonnaise.
For example, Barcelona says that if a brand serves a tartar sauce or remoulade with calamari, six different chicken wing sauces, and a sandwich featuring a garlic-chipotle spread, making each of those sauces from scratch would be incredibly cumbersome, as kitchen staff could be making anywhere from one to 50 gallons of sauce per day. Additionally, while many brands are still recovering from COVID-19 closures and restrictions and working with smaller crews, the workload for creating each sauce individually would eat up a significant amount of payroll. However, by starting with a mayonnaise mother sauce, the workload is significantly reduced. Cooks need only separate the mother sauce into smaller portions, which can each be flavored differently with just a few easy steps.
“Typically, if you worked with scratch-made sauces, you would have to start by making mayonnaise from lemon juice, mustard, tempered oil, and eggs, so there is a labor component to making mayonnaise in-house,” Barcelona says. “Additionally, whether you have five or six push carts in New York or you have 4,000 restaurants across the country, it’s crucial for dishes to be consistent, but that’s difficult to manage when sauces are all made from scratch. If you start with a high-quality pre-made mayonnaise, such as Stratas Foods’ Admiration brand, you can simply add a few more ingredients to turn that into several sauces that still have great mouth feel and stand up to bold flavors, and you know the product is consistent whether someone is ordering a dish in New Jersey, San Francisco, or the Tampa Bay area.”
Part of what makes Admiration mayonnaise so effective as a base for mother sauces, Barcelona explains, is the fact that it’s so thick.
“It’s extra heavy-duty,” Barcelona says. “It’s also extra stable, so you could even puree vegetables in it to create a dip.”
For example, Halal Guys, the growing fast-casual Mediterranean chain, uses Admiration mayonnaise as a base for its vegetable dip, featuring eggplant puree and pureed artichokes. Barcelona says he has seen restaurants create everything from a blueberry ancho barbecue sauce to harissa aioli with Admiration mayonnaise.
“Admiration mayonnaise has a great flavor and a great consistency so that brands can use it all across the menu to make their kitchens more efficient and use it as a canvas for nearly any type of dish,” Barcelona says. “By using a mother sauce made from Stratas Foods’ Admiration mayonnaise, restaurants can save a tremendous amount of labor and ultimately money.”
To learn more about how to boost kitchen efficiency with mayonnaise-based mother sauces, visit the Stratas Foods website.