Head Chef wants Me to do 5 courses for $11!

Joined Feb 13, 2013
Is it me or is this just crazy:

Head chef decides to do a wine dinner for Spanish wines. 5 courses, 1 being a passed appetizer and final being dessert. Kicker is I have $11 per guest to keep the food cost slightly under 33%.

I express my reservations about this so suggest an informal tapas theme, shared plates that are cost effective but still satisfying like patas bravas, and other traditional tapas. Chef says no, must be sit down in courses so the wine purveyor can describe each wine in detail. Also, cannot work with ingredients I think of when I think Spanish (almonds, saffron, EVOO, salt cod, smoked paprika, cured hams, boquerones etc.) because the head chef says these are too expensive. Cost effective items like patas bravas and tortilla espanola are a no go either as the chef is not impressed with simplicity, "people won't like them". No fresh seafood, even frozen shrimp.

I don't know what to do, any suggestions?
Joined Aug 20, 2013
Seared pork belly, polenta cake, and pickled peppers. Could be a nice play on chicharron. 
Joined Apr 11, 2013
Umm yeh you got me <_<

I think someone (possiblly ordo) had a recipe for paella 

Seriously 5 course meal for less then 11 dollars per person ... no seafood , nuts , saffron , paprika , cured ham , etc.... <_<

I think you need to have a firm chat with whoever is in charge. 

Well in your shoes i would most likely do this....

Dish #1: Pico de Gallo with Tortillas and a selection of cheese - Wine and cheese go great and this spanish salsa is easy , inexpensive and goes great with tortillas ( its vegetarian so its good too ) i rather have it with pork or lamb , but since u need to cut costs some torilla chips and cheese may go great with it.

Dish #2: Gazpacho - Chilled , uses tomatoes , S&P , Cilantro , and you can incorporate your own spices , its easy , fast and cheap.

If you want a different taste use green apples too XD. 

Dish #3: Stuffed Bell Peppers with Picadillo style rice - cheap , can be inexpensive , and is actually filling. Each pepper depending on size easily makes 2 plates. Accompany maybe with a sauce and topped with cheese. 

Dish #4: Roasted Chicken with chorizo , potatoes and herbs - We need either chicken or fish and for fish i would suggest cod ( which is pricey , well at least in Brazil ) so i suggest chicken with herbs , potatoes and chorizo which is a favorite of mine. 

Dish #5: Crema Catalana - Basically a creme brulee 


             Churros - Do it if you know how , i have exploded churros before without knowing how to make them , they are dangerous lil bstrds


             Flan - You can make them and cut them in separate portions and sauce with caramel , its easy to make basically you need caramel to pour over the tray , you need 1 can of condensed milk , around 2 cans of milk ( use the can of condensed milk to measure ) and 4 -5 eggs depending on size. Beat well and pour over tray with caramel . Cook in Bain Marie for 1 hour at 150 degrees C . 

Well i think if i was to serve this with such a low budget i would be proud. Again im sure i you would probably waste 15 dollars per person with these dishes , but then again maybe not. Seriously though talk to who ever is in charge to give you a higher budget. 

Hope i was of some help....

We just did a wine dinner 3 weeks ago competing with some restaurants in town. Except we had south africa while other restaurants had other countries. Our dishes needed to be cheap , easy , tasty and still look fancy. We won 3 out of 5 categories , being best dessert , main course , and best team and head chef. So yeh i have dealt with this before. 

Also dont give me all the credit , i have seen some of these recipes in CT , on google , and in some old cooks books , as well as done some on my own. 
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Joined Aug 21, 2004
chorizo and potatoes braised in hard cider

piquillo peppers stuffed with black beans, manchego, and lentils with a salsa verde

pulled pork croquette with a smoked tomato allioli and ibarra green peppers

la serena cheese with artichoke hearts and membrillo
Joined Sep 18, 2008
Seeing as how the dinner will feature five Spanish wines, it might be nice to know which wines and the order they will be presented. After all, you DO want to pair the food with the wines, correct?


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Why not?  Think of it as $11 a plate split into five.  Your protein portion is still going to be 8oz right?  Split that into three, the other two can be vegetarian.  Two huge shrimp is still only 2oz of protein and that ican be visually stunning in a tapas plate.
Joined Apr 3, 2011
Kaique, sounds like you got a good idea going here.  Regardless, $11 a person is ridiculous.  Keeping food cost as your chef wants, thats really 3.66 a person or .73 cents a course.  My only suggestion to Kaiques menu is to make the first course a true egg spanish tortilla.  After you invert the tortilla, punch out portions with a ring cutter, drop the cheese and add a salsa verde or vibrant sauce.
Joined May 7, 2012
$11 per guest Isn't horrible, and with some creativity can be done. This is how I would do it if I were you.

Passed app: Roasted shishito peppers with a nice finishing salt

Course 1: Tomato and watermelon salad with manchego or a ceviche with escabeche using a fish you already buy

Course 2:piquillo peppers stuffed with chorizo-blackbean rice or a shrimp sitting on top of saffron rice with a few peas for color 

Course 3:Calf's liver and shallot skewers or Seared beef on a lightly toasted bread round with sheep's milk cheese and a savory jam 

Dessert: Saint josephs cream or churros 
Joined May 7, 2012
Kaique, sounds like you got a good idea going here.  Regardless, $11 a person is ridiculous.  Keeping food cost as your chef wants, thats really 3.66 a person or .73 cents a course.  My only suggestion to Kaiques menu is to make the first course a true egg spanish tortilla.  After you invert the tortilla, punch out portions with a ring cutter, drop the cheese and add a salsa verde or vibrant sauce.
He said that he had $11 a person to keep with the food cost. so he's got $11 to spend per person.
Joined Apr 11, 2013
If it was 3.66 a person i would call it quits XD

Top Chef competitors are already having problems making a dish with 5 dollars ( while buying ingredients from a gas station ). XD 
Joined Sep 18, 2008
As I read it, the ticket price is $33/person, the food cost must be held to $11/person or an average of $2.20/course.

If wines are the feature, pairing is ESSENTIAL!

Allocate the food cost:
  • Starter = $1.00
  • Plate 1 = $1.50
  • Plate 2 = $1.50
  • Plate 3 = $2.00
  • Main = $4.00
  • Dessert = $1.00
and you still total $11.00/person
Joined Jun 27, 2012
I would go as far as to have a face to face with the wine purveyor.

Ask what wines (as Pete suggested) are to be showcased and have a mini tasting/pairing for Chef and whoever else will have a hand in creating the dishes.

Assemble a table full of ingredients and dishes to sample and see what happens.

Chef may love something so much and toss a few more bucks into the budget.

Joined Nov 11, 2012
$11 is definitely doable.  You just have to pick and choose where those dollars are going to go.

A dessert course can be made for $.50/person or less, easy.  Thats one course out of five and barely dips into your budget.  Your app can be done cheap as well, so if you plan it right you could have $1 total in the first and last course giving $10 to the remaining three.  That shouldn't be hard at all to deal with.

For proteins look at low cost, high yield items.  Pork is probably a good place to start, or  whole chickens (so you can get stock out of the bones as well).  Or get creative with some less expensive beef cuts.

Seasonings, spices, and herbs is where you can lose your money fast;  be there.

Cheese can also be a big money cost, unfortunately.  You'll have to be judicious if you use some good cheeses.

Use your starches to fill their bellies and keep your costs down...rice, potatoes, and pasta go a long way on the dollar.

Vegetables can give a lot of flavor pretty inexpensively.  Seasonal fruit as well, although this can get pricey too.
Joined Aug 30, 2013
Hi linecook 854 ,

White Gazpacho , made from left over bread and grapes mainly . 

Hand made Pasta with parmesan,fresh chives and butter sauce.

Braised cheapest cut of meat you can find , sauce reduction from cooking liquor, potato puree ,glazed carrots.

Local Cheese , chutney ,handmade lavash cracker.

Creme Caramel .
Joined Feb 13, 2013
Have not set the menu yet. I do not even have a list of wines that are set in stone yet aside from the sherry.

No I realize it is not impossible to do at $11 a head but when you have a head chef/owner who will not be reasonable I would say it is extremely difficult. I recommend gazpacho and the owner doesn't like the sound of it, creme caramel for dessert is "too basic", tortilla espanola "is gross". At $11 a head without willing to do some low cost high profit items I don't know what to do. I keep hearing no when I recommend simple, well executed, authentic Spanish dishes.
Joined Jun 27, 2012
Does your Chef often want to do specials like pairings and never get around to the actual planning and execution of said project?
If so just don't mention it and it will most likely fade away.


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