HIDDEN EVERYDAY COSTS: THE #FIGHTFOR15 AND TIPPING
Last week we addressed the hidden cost of food in the form of its staggering toll on people—specifically with regard to both compensation and treatment of farmworkers. But hidden costs of food affect workers well beyond our farms, such as those working minimum wage jobs in restaurants who don’t make enough money to support themselves or feed their families. This is a pivotal time—our country is making progress surrounding a minimum wage increase in the #Fightfor15, and there is a nation-wide debate on tipping, a cost not reflected on the menu, yet one that is incredibly significant to workers.
A study by Purdue University showed that doubling the wages of workers in the fast food industry would increase fast food prices by 4.3 percent. But let’s think about that—the person handing you two cheeseburgers at McDonalds has twice the income, yet you’re only spending 8 cents more on your $2.00 cheeseburger deal. It’s hard to find fault. Luckily we are making progress on that front, particularly in California and New York where minimum wage increase laws have already been signed by their governors.
As for tipping, this is a hidden cost with a variety of repercussions. Currently there is a disparity between the wages of front-of-the-house tipped workers, like servers and bartenders, and back-of-the-house untipped workers such as line cooks. Kitchen wages aren’t attracting cooks to jobs, and diners effectively control the wages of the waitstaff. A price listed on the menu accounts for everything in the cost of say—an organic, grass-fed steak—that is, everything except for paying the person who is serving it to you. And thus paying the waitstaff a living wage is effectively optional because tipping isn’t a mandatory cost—it’s a hidden expense at the cost of the workers, that is put upon the diners. In addition, it excludes those people working hard behind the scenes, and has the potential to be discriminatory, as one can choose to pay the server whatever he or she so chooses.
Restauranteur Danny Meyer first proposed doing away with tipping and increasing upfront food costs over twenty years ago, but only now is his idea coming into play. Eliminating tipping and replacing it with a “hospitality included” model, as Meyer has implemented at a number of his New York restaurants, allows the restaurant to redistribute income and pay all of its employees fairly, something previously unattainable with the standard tipping model.
To quote Food Chains Director Sanjay Rawal in his Behind The Plate interview last week, “There’s so much interest and consciousness around food these days, but it’s really focused around environmental issues and issues of animal welfare. Even when informed, very few people care about the hands that pick or serve our food.” It’s time to change that, and we’re on our way.
EAT & DRINK
THAI CHICKEN BURGERS WITH MANGO SALSA by Cravingsinamsterdam
Ingredients for the burgers:
500 grams of minced chicken
1 stalk of lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
¼ cup of breadcrumbs
Zest of one lime
1 teaspoon of fish sauce
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
1/2 a bunch of coriander, chopped
1 small white onion, grated
½ teaspoon of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to cook the burgers
Ingredients for the mango salsa:
1 ripe mango, chopped into small pieces
4 tablespoons of chopped coriander
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 small chili, finely chopped
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the burgers with your hands. Then cover and let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
While the mixture is in the fridge, start making the salsa. Mix the chopped mango, coriander, onion, chili, lime, salt and pepper in a bowl. Cover and let it sit in the fridge till it’s serving time.
After the burger mixture has been resting for 30 minutes, shape the burgers into 5 patties.
Pour the vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, put the patties in. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked through.
Serve with the mango salsa.
ARTISANAL MEYER LEMON AND POTATO PIZZA
1/2 recipe Artisanal Pizza Dough
3 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes
2 medium size Meyer Lemons
One 3-inch sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Salt and pepper for seasoning
2 cloves garlic
Cornmeal, for dusting pizza peel
Make the pizza dough and set it aside to rise, following Steps I and II of the Artisanal Pizza Dough recipe (make 1/2 recipe).
While it’s rising, place two pizza stones in the oven, one on each shelf, and heat to 425 degrees F. Make sure to place them so there is adequate room between the oven racks, so the heat can circulate around both pizzas. NOTE: If you only have one pizza stone, make and cook the first pizza, then make the second.
Prepare the pizza toppings:
Slice the lemons very thinly. NOTE: The lemons need to be very thin, 1/8-inch or less, or the bitterness from the peel will be off-putting for some people. A mandoline is the best tool for the job, but if you do not have one, slice them as thinly as you can, with a very sharp knife. I used the #2 setting on my mandoline. Push any seeds out of the lemons, then put the lemons to soak in a bowl of cool water. This will remove some of the bitterness from the peel.
Slice the potatoes thinly as well. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with nonstick spray. Put the potatoes in the pan and drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt and grind a bit of pepper over the slices. Toss the slices with your hands to distribute the oil and spread the slices out evenly on the pan. Place the pan in the oven, right on one of the pizza stones and bake the potato slices for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the potatoes have softened, and the slices on the edge of the pan have started to brown a little. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set the potato slices aside to cool.
Once you remove the potatoes from the oven, raise the oven temperature to 550 degrees, or as hot as your oven will go.
Put the garlic through a garlic press. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stem and chop the leaves very finely.
Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto your floured work surface. This dough is fairly sticky, so make sure to flour the surface well, so it doesn’t stick.
Begin Step III of the Artisanal Pizza Dough recipe, but instead, cut the dough in half, with a knife, or a bench scraper. Form each piece into a smooth ball. Cover the two balls of dough with plastic wrap, until you are ready to work with them.
Take one ball of dough (recover the second ball with the plastic wrap) and press it into a round shape. Roll it out to a 12-inch circle, using a rolling pin. If you are feeling extra adventurous, try your hand at tossing the dough instead.
Take about a tablespoon of cornmeal and spread it out on your pizza peel. This will keep the dough from sticking. Transfer the dough to the peel, and redefine the shape, if it gets distorted in the process. Give the dough a little shake, to make sure that it is loose, and not sticking to the peel. If it is sticking in any spots, lift the dough up and toss a little cornmeal under that area. Repeat with the second pizza dough ball. Take a second pizza peel or place a baking sheet upside-down. Sprinkle it with cornmeal, and place the second shaped pizza crust on that peel.
Distribute half of the mozzarella cheese over the surface of the first shaped pizza crust dough, leaving a 1/2- to 1-inch border around the edge of the dough. Sprinkle on half of the parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on half of the chopped rosemary. NOTE: it is important to add the rosemary now, under the toppings so the high heat of the oven doesn’t burn it. Sprinkle on half of the garlic. Arrange half of the potato slices evenly over the surface.
Remove the lemon slices from the water and blot them dry with paper towels. Arrange half of them over the surface. Drizzle the top of the pizza with about 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. Before you transfer the pizza from the peel to the pizza stone, you must make sure that the dough is not stuck to the peel. Give the pizza a good shake, to make sure that the dough is still free from the peel, if there are areas where it is sticking, lift up the dough and throw some cornmeal on that area. Check again, and if it is loose, here comes the really HOT part. Please be careful.
Open the oven, and pull out one of the racks with the preheated pizza stone in place. Position the pizza peel so it is ALMOST at the back of the stone, then shake the peel forward, and pull it out in one swift movement. Close the oven, and while the first pizza is baking, repeat the steps above to make the second pizza. When it is ready, deposit it on the other preheated stone.
The pizzas should take about 15-20 minutes to cook, depending on your oven. Remove the pizza from the oven, with the pizza peel. Just quickly put it under the front edge of the pizza, and push the peel under the pie. Once the pizza if firmly on the peel, pull it out of the oven.
Season the finished pizza with a pinch of coarse salt, and some crushed red pepper, if you like things spicy. Let the pizza sit for a few minutes, then cut it in wedges with a pizza cutter. Check the other pizza, and remove it when done.