Gathering for the Family Meal

For restaurant staff, a chance to dine in.

Come 4:30 p.m. on any given afternoon — before the crowds start drifting in — you’ll find the black-shirt-clad staff of Nyack’s Communal Kitchen gathered around the bar, sharing a meal. It’s relatively informal, something chef and owner Jed Gidaly has whipped up from scratch. One day, it’s a Filet-O-Fish-style, hand-breaded sole filet, fried, topped with a mustard dill sauce and served on a whole-wheat bun and plated next to a frisée salad. Another night, it’s a riff on the restaurant’s orecchiette carbonara.

Such gatherings are known in the restaurant industry as ‘the family meal.’ Not every venue offers them, but for many, such as Communal Kitchen, it’s a regular practice, a chance to push pause and cull together cooks, wait staff, and dishwashers alike to sit elbow-to-elbow over short ribs, or tacos, or steaming bowls of pasta. This is usually an opportunity to hold the entire staff’s attention for 15 minutes or half an hour while the chef spells out the night’s specials, or the sommelier talks about what wine is being poured by-the-glass. For Gidaly though, the family meal goes even deeper.

“There are not a lot of fantastic perks in this industry,” he says, and when you’re working around food all day, getting a decent meal ought to be one. “It’s important because there are people in a restaurant for whom this will be the best meal of the day.”

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