What Does “From Scratch” Mean?

Salamanders cooks “from scratch”. We have been told that our kitchen is the “toughest to work in” because all our dishes are prepared “from scratch”. To create a dish from scratch is defined as making it without any ingredients or materials prepared ahead of time; but what does this mean, practically speaking?
Some restaurants cook “in a bag”, meaning that they get their materials prepared elsewhere and they either drop it in the deep fryer or stick it in the microwave. There are literally thousands of restaurants across Canada serving the same dishes that were prepared elsewhere. Restaurants go out of their way to give these pre-cooked meals sexy names, to make them seem that they were cooked “from scratch”.
Making a dish without any ingredients prepared ahead of time involves one heck of a lot of work such as:
1. Coming up with an original menu and changing it in tune with the community’s tastes and the ideas of the kitchen staff;
2. Sourcing the needed produce and ingredients from respected suppliers, most of them local;
3. Processing the produce for use in the dishes being prepared;
4. Marinating, processing and cooking meats, fish and seafood products;
5. Meanwhile, keeping close track of ingredient costs to provide the best possible pricing to the restaurant guests;
6. Coming up with a daily special that makes best use of available ingredients;
7. Shifting the menu emphasis on a seasonal basis.
So, some of this work is management, such as sourcing and financial researching and planning management; but most of it is the creative process of putting it all together so that the dish coming out at the other end is tasty and eye appealing.
Why bother, anyway, if someone else can do all of the preparation? Cooking “from scratch” means the difference between enjoying fulsome flavours and textures and bland, mushy food that is only edible because for a lot of folks, that’s all there is.
There is an equation we use in cooking:
Quality Inputs + Quality Preparation = Quality Offerings to our Guests
If Quality is missing in the first two parts of the equation, then it can’t appear in the last.
Simple; yet also complicated by a lot of hard work, performed because we want to do it and not cut corners. Oh, and by the way: sometimes you have to wait a bit longer as a guest, so that you can get the best.

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