News & Politics

What do Restaurant Cooks Have for Dinner?

Think the meals chefs themselves eat are elegant and glamorous? Think again.

Restaurant cooks spend lots of time around food, chopping crates of onions, tending to vats of stock, and shaping delicate quenelles. But what’s on their plates for dinner?

Around 4 o’clock in kitchens all over the area, well before dinner service begins, you’ll find brigades of cooks huddled over what they call “family meal”—humble, one-pot feasts thrown together from leftover meats and vegetables. They’re usually prepared by a low-level cook for the rest of the staff, and they’re often eaten standing up.

We checked in with four restaurants every day for a week to see what they put on their own tables. No surprise—there’s not a quenelle in sight.


Day 1: House-made chorizo sauteed with Path Valley Farms eggs and served with flour tortillas and pico de gallo

Day 2: Soba noodles with shaved scallions, beef tempura, and dashi

Day 3: Singapore-style rice noodles

Day 4: Chiles rellenos with “super-spicy” tomato sauce

Day 5: Grilled Caesar salad with chicken


Day 1: Flank steak and short-rib tacos

Day 2: Braised pork with carrots, onion, cabbage, and mashed potatoes

Day 3: Italian sausage served cassoulet-style with white beans

Day 4: Cod with black beans, rice, and jalapeño salsa

Day 5: Flank steak with bistro fries

100 KING

Day 1: Chicken stewed with onions, peppers, and tomato sauce, with rice, green beans, broccoli, and salad

Day 2: Pasta with marinara sauce and salad

Day 3: Frozen fish sticks with salad

Day 4: Baked catfish with rice, French fries, and salad

Day 5: Beef stew—made from leftover filet mignon—with peppers, onions, and tomato sauce, rice, and salad


Day 1: Grilled chicken with mesclun salad

Day 2: Hot dogs with French fries and chopped salad

Day 3: Cheese pizza with Caesar salad

Day 4: Penne pasta with cream sauce, garlic bread, and salad

Day 5: Barbecue pork with home fries and salad

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.