The Lesson Learned by the Chef about His Secret Recipes.
By Bill Cherry
The latest issue of Texas Highways talks about a small town café that has a tartar sauce that’s so good, everyone wants to know the secret recipe. The café owner won’t tell. Some connoisseurs seem certain it has anchovy paste in it along with both mayonnaise and Miracle Whip, the article says.
Meanwhile, I’m here to tell you that there has never, ever been written a piece about a barbeque joint that, when asked, says it just uses Cattleman’s Barbeque Sauce it buys from Krogers.
Instead, they say that the sauce they use is so secret that it takes the combined effort of four of the family members to make it. Each of them only knows a forth of the ingredients that go in it. As for me, I have bad news for them. I hate most of their secret sauces anyway.
This started me thinking about Bernard Demoratsky. He and his wife, Tillie, used to live in Cedar Lawn, an upscale neighborhood in Galveston. Mr. Bernie was a professional food chemist. He spent his time figuring out recipes. Miss Tillie was often busy at my office talking me into donating to the latest Hadassah cause.
She and I had a standing joke. I’d let her ask for the donation and then I’d say, “But Miss Tillie, I’m not Jewish.” And she’d say, “Doesn’t matter, you look Jewish to me.” I’d write a check.
The funny thing was that unbeknownst to Miss Tillie, Sister Mary Elizabeth Webster often followed behind her wanting to sell me raffle tickets. And I’d say, “Sister Elizabeth, I’m not Catholic.” And she’d say, “But you ought to be. Buying these raffle tickets will help you to see your need for conversion.” I’d write the check.
One time a friend of mine, along with some business partners, heard that a famous Houston Italian restaurant was for sale. They wanted to buy it.
One of the things that they discovered when they were doing their due diligence was that no one knew the restaurant’s recipes except the chef. The owner didn’t know them, and they weren’t written down anywhere other than in the chef’s mind.
As they came within inches of the closing of the purchase, the chef announced that if they didn’t double his salary to $150,000 a year, he was leaving and taking his mental recipe filing cabinet with him.
My friend called, exasperated. He knew they couldn’t buy the restaurant without the recipes coming with it.
I said, “I think I may have the answer. My friend, Mr. Bernie, is a food chemist. What if he can secretly get actual portions of everything on the menu, and test to see how they are made, then give you the recipes?”
My friend couldn’t wait to talk with and retain Mr. Bernie.
Well, you know the outcome. Mr. Bernie delivered the recipes, the sale took place, they threw the chef out on his ear, and the famous restaurant continued to pack them in without so much as a glitch.
So I’ve got news for the place with the secret tartar sauce, the zillions of barbecue joints with their secret sauce, even Coca Cola for that matter. Your recipes are only a secret because Mr. Bernie never tested them.
Be on the lookout. Even though Mr. Bernie is now in heaven, there are other food chemists taking up the slack, like my friend, David Groll, for an example.
Copyright 2013 – William S. Cherry
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