Ghost Kitchens

With the pandemic, I think ghost kitchens have become popular operating model than before.

What are Ghost kitchens (link 2, link 3, link 4)? They are basically health inspected approved industrial or restaurant kitchens that serve food from a variety of different cuisines. They can operate independently as a “Delivery/Pick Up” model and in some cases, can also operate out of a well known restaurant. In the latter case, the only way a person would know there’s a ghost kitchen is by the address when you go pick up the food. If you’re an existing restauranteur, a possible benefit in operating a ghost kitchen from your restaurant would be to serve a different cuisine than the restaurant…. say the restaurnt focuses on Italian cuisine, the ghost kithcen could be serving up a specific niche comfort food like Mac n Cheese and Grilled Cheese.

This idea has me thinking… For any ghost kitchen to be profitable, the kitchen would need to cater to a wide variety of tastes while obviously minimizing the food cost. So what is the minimum number of “different tastes” a ghost kitchen would need to maintain? If you look at some ghost kitchens (Colony, Kitchen United), the menus are extensive and cover quite a lot of cuisines.

The kitchen would need to cater to Asian, Middle Eastern, American, European, Latin, other tasts. Even within the Asian category, there’s distinction between Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and Japanese foods. Even Latin American cuisines, there’s distinctions between the Mexican, Guatemalan, Peruvian and even Brazilian foods. For European, the variation between the northern and southern countries are pretty astounding. Looking at German food and Italian food, the cuisine from each country is different. And even if we just talk about one cuisine… like American, there’s no such thing as “American food.” Americans eat a wide variety of food ranging from BBQ meats to pizza to fried foods like fried chicken. They are all uniquely different food. This is applicable across Indian cuisine, Chinese cuisine, etc…. there are different foods made from different parts of the country but are still part of the cuisine. Can you see the problem already? A ghost kitchen wouldn’t be able to cover all these distinct cuisines let alone the distintive dishes for each cuisine.

But, assuming it’s possible, a ghost kitchen will have to sacrifice less popular cuisines in favor of more popular ones. The kitchen will need to be able to make pizza, burgers and fried dishes (fried chicken especially). The kitchen will also need to make asian rice and noodle dishes and optionally be able to make popular asian entrees like indian curry, thai curry, broccoli beef or soy ginger chicken. The kitchen should also be able to make burritos, nachos and tacos. For more traditionalist dishes, italian pasta with various sauces Finally, middle eastern dishes like gyros, shawarmas and kebabs to round out the kitchen. If each listed food has at minimum 3-5 variations, the ghost kitchen has to be able to manage at least 20-30 different types of cooking styles.

But… I think these ghost kitchens will start a greater food revolution and food evolution. The close proximity of the various cuisines could lead to Indian Curry Poutine!? Broccoli Beef burrito?! Gyro pizza?!


Sticker Shock @Eataly

There’s currently a deal at my local Eataly for 50% off select American Wagyu cuts (screen shot below). Not being one to pass up the chance on American Wagyu cuts, I ventured out to buy some meat to cook for tomorrow’s dinner. This deal is usually really good as it drops the price to effectively very high quality USDA Prime prices at local grocery stores like Bristol Farms or Gelsons.

I ended buying two of the Bone-In Strips. I didn’t want a tomohawk and they had nothing smaller or boneless.

When I went to the register, they rang up at full price. I literally had sticker shock and went what the fuck. In my head, I was expecting roughly $60 for each steak. Luckily, before I started to complain, the system updated the price with the promotion. For one short moment, I seriously considered complaining to the cashier about what kind of shady bait and switch was going on.

Tomorrow, I will be eating well.

Chicken Salad Sandwich @The Oinkster

The Oinkster is one of those hole in the wall restaurants located in a fairly middle class neighborhood called Eagle Rock. Thanks to Food Network’s Dine-In, Drives and Dives… I had lunch here after watching Fieri’s clip and immediately loved the food. I’ve eaten through their menu multiple times and will recommend people to try the Oinkster pastrami, the Reuben, the Cluckster and the Chicken Salad Sandwich (my favorite). To go with the sandwiches, I also recommend their french fries (either normal or piggy style) with extra order of their garlic aoili sauce. This aoili sauce is amazing and complements any of their sandwiches. I’ve also been told that their Veggie burger is extremely good as well too. I had a bite of it once and their special mix of veggies to make it juicy and textured is amazing.

But I’m here to post about my favorite sandwich: Chicken Salad Sandwich. At the start of the pandemic, Oinkster actually took this sandwich off their menu. I’ve ordered from Oinkster maybe four times over the past 16 months and was always disappointed to not see this sandwich. But… I recently saw on Oinkster’s Instgram that they were bringing back the Chicken Salad Sandwich. I went. I ate. And I loved every bite.

On an unrelated note, I always try to order directly from the link provided by the website. If I can, I will always try to skip the delivery apps like DoorDash, UberEats, Postmates, etc… AND also do pickup in person. These delivery apps tend to take a much higher percentage from the restaurant and with the pandemic hurting restaurant sales, every little bit of savings will help.

OK… back to the sandwich….

There’s something magical about the combination of generous chunks of chicken, creamy mayo, raw onions and sweet crunchy pickles. Everything just works well together. The crunchy pickles and raw onions giving way to the soft creamy mayo chicken feels very satisfying when I take a bite. The pre-pandemic version actually served the sandwich on a focacia bread which got a little soggy as it soaked up some residual mayo creaminess and tomato liquid. But this current version is served on toasted sourdough doesn’t have that problem at all. However, I was a bit apprehensive that it would be too dry. Looking at the sandwich though, there toasted sourdough resistant to the mayo and liquids that I could hear and feel an audible crunch with the first few bits. The toasted sourdough helped enhance the crunchiness of the onion and pickle combination!

This was so delicious that I sat outside in their patio area just enjoying the sandwich. I’m going to have to go back multiple times as this is just a one month only special. =[

Dave Chang on Instant Pot

Celebrity chef Dave Chang has a podcast that I regularly listen to.  This particular podcast had a short segment starting at 39:34 about the ubiquitous InstantPot.  To be honest, I had been looking to see if a pressure cooker or a slow cooker would be beneficial to me during these unusual COVID-19 times and once normalcy returns.  I had looked at an InstantPot but I had been hesitant about these multi-functional devices because… well multi-functional means the devices does nothing well (which I might add was also a sentiment of Dave Chang and his guest).

Since then I’ve done a deep dive into the various pressure cookers, slow cookers and multi-functional cookers in the market.  There’s a lot and such a wide price range too.  For now, I’m going to hold off on any purchase until later.  I’m trying out a 2nd hand slow cooker to see if its useful.

LA Chinese Food Culture

I recently stumbled upon this fascinating article and recorded interview of four Asian-Americans and their thoughts about the evolving LA Chinese food culture.  I think it’s great to read and they even have a “podcast” that you could list too.  The sound quality from the audience questions could be better though.

Chinese food in LA

A fascinating short read of the history of Chinese food over the recent past two decades. The rise of mainland Chinese cuisine (like Sichuan/Hunan cuisine) is not yet over. With China being larger than US and with “slighty” more people, the number of different cuisines yet to be exported to the US will undoubtedly change the LA Chinese food scene in years to come.