Separate Checks – When it’s OK. When it’s Not.

Originally posted June 3, 2008.

Just to touch on this topic since there seems to be a lot of confusion about it.

Separate Checks – When it’s OK. When it’s Not.Most restaurants are equipped to easily calculate and print separate checks. Much of the time separate checks are a breeze and pose no problems. However, there are a few situations when it is better or proper for one or two people to pick up the whole check.

Parties constitute a situation where separate checks are improper. There are many reasons for this like etiquette – the person who invites is the host and the host should foot the bill, however the changing climate of the modern dinner scene has watched a lot of 20th Century etiquette fall by the wayside so today this is more of a guideline than a hard fast rule. But even today the chief reason for one or two people picking up the bill is to make sure the people who have just provided your party with food and drink get paid. Otherwise, more times than not someone in a large party will not only leave without tipping but without paying at all.  That’s right, I said more often than not.

Think of all the times you have been part of a large group at a restaurant. This should shock you – half the time a member of your party has skipped out without paying anything. They are not just stealing from the restaurant but also from the server who often has to pay for the meal out of their tips and they steal from the other people in their party as well. If I intend for this $10 of my hard earned money to go to the person who gave me service but you use it to cover your bill then you have stolen my $10. Skip outs are the main reason restaurants have to put gratuities on large parties – to assure that there is enough money to cover the total bill once the dust settles. One check solves this.

The other reason large parties should never ask for separate checks is because it becomes inconvenient for everyone. One person cannot check out 30 people at the same time, that is why WalMart has more than one cash register. And it never fails, someone will always be in a hurry which starts a snowball effect, suddenly everyone is in a hurry.

Which brings us to the other situation where it is not a good idea to ask for separate checks – whenever you, the customer are in a hurry. If you are truly crunched for time then you will pick up the check. Cashing out a check is a one to five minute process – when you go separate checks for three people you have tripled the cash out time up to 15 minutes. If you are running late it is not the restaurant’s fault nor is it the server’s because when push comes to shove you getting somewhere on time is not as important as them getting their money.  So decide what is more important to you, the money or the time. As much as the server wants to provide you with both it simply is not possible all the time.  The choice is totally yours, as should be the consequences.

HERE is another great article on this subject by Leon Scott.

Cooking the Unthinkable: Pork Belly

Cooking the Unthinkable is a series that examines some of the more eccentric ingredients.  Whether you are a fan of the bizarre or are preparing for the eminent collapse of Western society this series will help you better stomach weird food.

The name itself does not exactly sound like fine dining but pork belly is a hot culinary trend right now.  But you don’t have to tell the Chinese or the Koreans that.  They’ve been enjoying pork belly for centuries.  And chances are, so have you.

Pork belly is the cut that is used to make bacon.  Bacon is wildly popular in this country and has been for decades that is why it is one of the most popular commodities traded on the stock market.  But pork belly as a cut that is cooked for individual consumption is relatively new in the US market.

Bacon’s popularity has lead to the pork belly revolution but so has the economy.  Pork Belly is cheap.  A recent call to my local meat market got me a quote of $1.99 a pound, retail.  $4 will provide a luxurious, trendy dinner for four.

The lone draw back is that it is not particularly healthy.  Pork belly is not something you’ll want to eat all the time.  In fact I tried an 8 ounce portion which was plenty.  In fact, it was so rich I think I would have been better with 7 ounces.  That last bite left me with a cholesterol hangover for about an hour.  I can see why restaurants go with a 4 ounce portion – so you can actually eat dessert.  It is certainly one of the best ways to commit suicide.

For my first excursion with pork belly I did a simple preparation by making thick slices of onion and Granny Smith apple.  I tossed them with a little olive oil then seasoned with salt and pepper.  I placed the slices into the bottom of a small sauté pan.  On top of that I placed an 8 ounce cut of pork belly also seasoned with salt and pepper and a little brown sugar (maybe a teaspoon).  I added a 1/4 cup of white wine and a few tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

I slow roasted the belly in a 250 oven for about 45 minutes then I basted the belly with some of the liquid in the bottom of the pan.  After another 45 minutes I kicked the temp in the oven up to 425 for about 15 minutes but in retrospect 10 would have been better, some of the onion and apple scorched a bit.  I liked it but many may not.  Many recipes call for scoring the fat like in the picture above.  I may try that next time.

How to describe it.  Imagine a ribeye steak that tastes like bacon.  That’s close, the texture was more like a steak – a steak with a crispy topping.  After having tried it, I get it.  Pork belly is phenomenal!  It is definitely yummy in your tummy.

Like I said, there is a lot of fat so don’t make this part of your weekly rotation but it is a great low-cost “go to” cut for special occasions.  Figure on 5 to 7 ounces per guest and adjust the cooking accordingly, say 30 minutes per pound above my cooking time for 8 ounces.  Oh, and here is the finished product:

yummy tummy

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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