A Restaurant’s ‘Family’ Meal Is About More Than Just Feeding the Staff

restaurant family meal

The workplace comedy-drama, The Bear has been the topic of discussion at many dinner tables over the last year. The critically acclaimed TV show was commended for its painstakingly pinpoint accurate depiction of the kitchen environment, moreso, the heart-crushing reality of toxic restaurant culture. Episode after episode, we (the audience), mere flies on the wall, observed the souls of these culinary artists bear the weight of their aspirations, entangled in a web of camaraderie and competition — a delicate balance that threatened to tip at any moment. Then, just like that, after opening a hundred San Marzano tomato cans, the season ended, and we were left to digest the trauma, torment, and day-to-day restaurant life from eight episodes.

It’s been a while since I’ve thought of The Bear, but one thing I couldn’t shake was the family meal. I thought about it for days, even screenshotting the recipe.

Family Meal Spaghetti
-10 garlic cloves
– Basil steeped in oil
-San Marzano tomatoes (2 cans, the smaller cans taste better)

I’ve seen the ‘family meal’ in other movies before, but it’s never been a focus until now. So, out of curiosity, I asked Sydney restaurants to tell me about their ‘family meals’ and discovered that a restaurant’s family meal is more than just a legal obligation to feed staff; it’s a rite of passage for some, a chance to step up and stand out for many. A family meal is the sauce that binds the team before a service.

restaurant family meal


The family meal is served every day at 4.30 pm. While the chefs prepare the food for us, we FOH prepare non-alcoholic drinks. We encourage the team to mostly use leftover ingredients to create a meal that’s essential for everybody. We focus on serving something healthy and filling. It’s a meal that we have as a team together before service starts; not only does it give us all energy for the rest of our shift, but also gives us time to catch up with each other about our lives.

restaurant family meal

Rosie Campbell’s

It gets super busy in our venue, and we love looking after our guests, but it’s just as important to make sure staff are well fed each day in such a demanding job. All staff get a meal every shift, and everyone loves sitting down and enjoying jerk chicken, rice and peas with steamed greens after hours under the pump. For the vegan staff, we do a delicious curry with rice.

Late-night staff get a selection of what we didn’t sell—goat, chicken, cauliflower curry and plantains. Nothing goes to waste! For the lucky ones, they get to taste-test new recipes we work on.

restaurant family meal

The Blue Door

The Blue Door is all about zero waste, and this approach is honoured by our staff as well. We aim to sit down as a team every day at 3.30 pm before we begin setting up for service.
It’s really important for our staff development that chefs take turns creating a really tasty and healthy staff meal using ingredients in the cool room that aren’t destined for the menu. It helps to foster an inventive and thoughtful mindset as you always want to make sure you’re giving your fellow employees something that they enjoy.

restaurant family meal

Shell House

The staff meal is one of the most important tasks of a chef’s day. This is where a young chef has a chance to show what cooking for their fellow colleagues really means. We spend so many hours together in the kitchen, that we become a family. Sitting down together to eat is not much different to sitting at the family dinner table.
Our staff meal is served at the same time every day, ready at 4 pm. The drinks are prepared by FOH, and dessert by pastry on Saturdays.
This brings the team together, including FOH, kitchen staff, bar staff and the cellar team. Our preparation stops, and we take a moment of downtime to refuel and get ready for a busy night ahead.

Related: Yes Chef! ‘The Bear’ Season 2 Has An Official Release Date and Trailer

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