In a famously low-margin industry, optimizing operations has always been top of mind. Finding new ways to delight guests while saving time and money can be critical to the success of your restaurant.

The California Milk Advisory Board recently asked three chefs who specialize in California dairy products to discuss how they’re delivering the quality that keeps patrons coming back while decreasing the time, money, and labor it takes to do it.

Extending Flavor

Chef Lars Smith was eager to share a technique he says has been a major benefit to the two restaurants he co-owns, State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria and State of Mind Slice House. “We blend premium and unique cheeses, such as California Toma with less expensive California whole milk mozzarella for our pizzas,” he said, “And we do the same thing with mild cheddar in our fried jalapeño balls and beer-cheese sauce to get the flavor of these very special California cheeses while managing our food costs.”

A similar tack has been taken by Chef Glenn Cybulski, who said he always uses the premium, flavorful cheeses as what he calls toppers, “so the customer gets the full flavor effect in their first bites.” And he added, “Because of their high quality, you can actually use less of the California dairy products to make a much better tasting end product—you use less and get better flavor!”

Merchandising Quality

Chef Cybulski also leverages his use of high-quality ingredients in another way. “Marketing the high-quality ingredients you use is a great way to draw attention to high-profit menu items.” he said, “Customers recognize names like ‘Real California Cheese’ when they see them on our menu or website, and it increases the appeal of certain dishes and signals to them that we use quality ingredients in our food.”

Chef Smith offered another idea for using California dairy products to add value. “When I write our seasonal menu, I include the name of unique California cheeses we’re using but don’t give a description. Then we train the staff on the taste, texture, and application of each cheese and it becomes a conversation starter and an educational opportunity for our guests—we’re giving them a memorable experience.”

Reducing Waste

Chef Ben Diaz recommended three different ways he reduces food waste at Tacos El Chapin. “I love using the leftover cheese rind in stocks and sauces,” he said. “It gives them a boost of flavor and body.”

He also blends a variety of California Hispanic-style cheeses with mozzarella “to add a unique flavor across the menu while saving time and energy.” For instance, he said that adding California Oaxaca to mozzarella “creates a unique and creamy cheese blend that’s fantastic on pizza, pastas, or sprinkled over a salad.” Chef Diaz also helps his fresh cheeses last longer by storing them in airtight glass containers, which “ensures quality and optimum freshness.”

**Content provided by the California Milk Advisory Board

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