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    Eat & Swig

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    By Jenny Kiefer
    Photos by Chris Witkze

    A family that eats together stays together, as they say — and it’s no different in a restaurant.

    On a recent weekday at Rye on East Market Street — about an hour before opening for dinner at 5 p.m. — metal trays and a pitcher of lemonade are on the service bar separating the open-view kitchen from the dining tables. Line cook Devan Hall has prepared the “family meal”: an udon noodle dish with bok choy and a spicy broth that clears the sinuses. Kitchen workers fix themselves a bowl, taking a few minutes to slurp up the noodles before continuing prep work. Servers congregate at the front bar, warm bowls in hand, as beverage director Doug Petry reviews procedures and specials for the night. They take a moment away from their noodles when a cook brings out a new special of roasted carrots for a taste test.

    Image: Udon noodle ragu at Rye

    Family meal has been a pre-shift staple at Rye since it opened five years ago. Kitchen workers rotate cooking the meal, ranging from flatbread pizzas (staff-tested before being added to the always-changing menu) to rainbow trout roasted with Peruvian potatoes. “From the day we opened our doors, we never wanted to have this be just a job,” Petry says. “I think what we provide is more of a creative outlet and more of a passionate staff.” 

    Sometimes family meal is a way for cooks to prove their prowess in the kitchen or introduce themselves to the rest of the crew. “Everyone’s trying to one-up each other on who can make the best family meal,” Hall says. If the kitchen orders too much of an ingredient, or if only a couple orders of a menu item remain, family meal can reduce waste. It also gives staff the chance to try everything on the menu, so they can better describe rotating specials, like the five-spiced broccoli risotto or the short-rib eggrolls at LouVino on Bardstown Road. The 10-, 20-minute break provides vital energy for the bustling night ahead. “Hangry is not good,” says Jackson Skelton, executive chef at LouVino, where family meal typically takes place on Tuesdays and Sundays. “When you’re running on empty, you’re going to make some mistakes here and there no matter how good you are.” Reggie Robertson, a LouVino bartender and server, has brought in dry-rubbed ribs and still-warm banana bread for coworkers.

    Image: Loaded potato casserole at Louvino

    Like Rye, Corbett’s in the East End has family meal every night. “Everybody has all this food in front of them all day, but rarely do they get a chance to eat,” says Jeffery Daily, executive chef at Corbett’s. Typically, Daily personally prepares family meal. He rolls sushi, makes tacos or whips up salmon pasta with a white wine sauce. “The day before Thanksgiving, we always have some sort of riff on Thanksgiving,” he says. On Dec 23, he buys steaks for everybody. “Cooking for them is kind of our way of thanking them for their hard work,” Daily says.

    Image: Pork burrito at Corbett's

    This originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

    Cover Image: Kitchen staff prepare a "family meal" at Rye

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