A good steak can set the tone for your whole menu, suggests Paul Rifkin.
For the last three weeks I’ve been travelling through South Africa and Singapore, never cooking myself and always eating out… I know, poor little ole’ me for such an imposition!
I have had the good, the bad and the ugly when ordering a steak.
South Africans are famous for their Braai, the South African version of our barbecue, but nearly always over wood or coals. South Africans love that smoky and charred flavour with their meat. It’s something Australia has adopted with gusto in the last 10 years, putting more effort into the barbecuing process. Slowly but surely more and more Australian restaurants have added a live-fire cooking method to their kitchens.
With that comes the additional costs for a water exhaust hood to control the embers, although many don’t do this, occasionally resulting in kitchen fires! If this is you, perhaps you should check your insurance cover – or lack of it!
Back to my travels, I had steaks in good restaurants that were cooked perfectly, but alas, the meat quality was very poor resulting in grisly and chewy steak. I also experienced tender steaks that were cooked poorly ie. being overdone. Price often had little to do with either outcome. When speaking to chefs, I would find out that they were purchasing cheap meat from Brazil instead of using locally grown meat.
Onto Singapore and the experience was flipped on its head. They have no local produce, and everything is imported. Hence only the best quality produce is sourced from around the world, with the majority coming from Australian cattle. The steaks were consistently amazing.
So my point is simple really: we are totally spoilt for choice when it comes to steaks in Australia, yet many venues use the cheapest meat as their standard. In my opinion this is poor judgement; often customers will determine if they return to your venue based on their last experience, and the steak was poor, and that is your standard, quite frankly that puts you way behind.
Remember a serious steak eater will always return and often bring others with them; then the whole menu gets to perform. Word of mouth encourages others to try your venue and the whole business grows from increased patronage.
Besides the quality of the steak itself, is your cooking method the best it can be? Are you using a char, a flat plate, or a pan?
Do you rest your meat at room temperature before cooking and before serving? Do you season correctly?
These are the simple things that will determine if your venue serves the best steaks in town. Trust me, most venues are not paying attention to these details. I consult at many clubs around the country and can confirm that there are many poor practices out there.
The good thing is that it doesn’t take much to make a change, train your staff and be the best. Now is the perfect time to review your steak offering and really step it up.
Paul Rifkin: Head Chef Mentoring and
Fine-Tuning Specialist for Club Catering