With most restaurants in the country required to close their dining rooms in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many have turned to other approaches to keeping some employees on the payroll, at least for now, and trying to feed their communities.
That’s what Cathy Pavlos is doing at her restaurant Provenance in Newport Beach, Calif, which until recently was a fine-dining restaurant.
Now it’s a curbside pickup restaurant selling restaurant-quality dishes for her customers to put together at home. That includes meal kits and take-and-bake dishes like lasagna and eggplant Parmesan.
“We’ve done all of the complicated work. Basically you just put it in your oven and put it on the table,” she said.
But to do that right, you have to think about what Americans want to eat at home right now and what’s going to travel well.
“Eating comfort food at home will help with the social shift that’s happening right now,” she said.
That means dishes like lasagna that isn’t cooked but is built in a foil pan in portions large enough to feed 6-9 people. Made with a Bolognese sauce including a blend of American Kobe beef and Certified Angus Beef chuck, plus a little pork sausage, along with béchamel sauce, broad pasta noodles and Parmesan cheese, she charges $72 for the five-pound dish which is ready to be refrigerated and then cooked whenever the customers are ready, with easy-to-follow instructions provided by Pavlos.
“Pasta dishes, seriously, don’t travel well if they’re cooked,” she said, because they’ll be overcooked by the time they get home.
So although she precooks the pasta itself, she doesn’t finish it in the sauce. Instead, she offers a Sunday Sauce Kit, for which she uses her Italian grandmother’s tomato sauce recipe, which she cools and packs in containers. Meatballs, sausage and cheese are also packed separately. Directions are provided for heating the penne pasta in the microwave and also reheating the meatballs and sausage. That kit is $10.50 per person.
Her Burger Kit, also priced at $10.50, comes with patties made from Provenance’s own hand-ground blend of all-natural beef short ribs and rib eye, Certified Angus Beef tri tip and American Kobe beef packed with buns from a local bakery, cheese, caramelized onions and house-made ketchup.
Short ribs are also braised in Provenance’s combi oven for 3.5 hours, osso-buco style, chilled, portioned and packed, and sold with sautéed seasonal vegetables and a choice of mashed potatoes or polenta for $17.50
The turkey meatloaf goes for $8.50 a slice.
Her guests can also buy her Kobe Bolognese meat sauce for $27 per quart, minestrone soup for $9.50 per quart, cooked Certified Angus Beef tri tip for $14.50 per pound, grilled chicken breast for $8 each and turkey meatloaf for $8.50 per slice.
Although Pavlos has figured out how to make food that travels well — something she’s never had to consider before — she doesn’t expect it to be profitable.
“We were all of a sudden stuck with entire walk-ins of perishable goods,” she said, and this seemed like the best way to use it to benefit her community.
“Right now I’m just trying to keep some of my people employed, some of the neighborhood fed, and the amount of money that we’re making is just enough to pay wages and cost of goods.”
All the other expenses might just have to wait.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
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