Crew Chow (or Family Meal depending on your level of Stockholm Syndrome) is one of the fascinating traditions of the restaurant industry. Each day a full spread is put out for the staff to enjoy while unwinding from a busy night (or at some places, it’s a late lunch to gear the staff up for a busy night.) In theory it’s comprised of family style plates, all served at the same time. For me, however, crew chow memories are more about that month they served chunks of salmon over rice for Every. Single. Shift.
These meals are designed to feed large amounts of people at minimal cost and they are all made possible by one humble ingredient: hot sauce.
Ok, ok, not a hot sauce, but not to be ignored either. Ketchup holds a central place on any kitchen table. It’s a sauce, it’s an ingredient, it’s a way of life. Need to smother some flavor over a starch (which can comprise up to 70% of crew chow)? Ketchup. Need to make a thick sauce for meatloaf (or any other kind of loaf)? Ketchup. And not all ketchup is created equal. There is only one true, platonic form of which the others are just shadows on a dimly lit cave wall. And it contains 57 varieties of… some… things? No one knows for sure, but it probably involves the Masons.
According to my ability to Google things, Tapatio was started in a 750 sq ft warehouse in Vernon, CA. I’m not entirely sure how the concepts “750 sq ft” and “warehouse” work together, but it’s an inspiring story. I’d like to think that someday my bio will tell of my humble beginnings blogging in a “350 sq ft” “luxury apartment.” Tapatío is slightly sweet, with hints of garlic rounding out the pepper and vinegar flavors and is best with any sort of mislabeled “cod.”
Frank’s® RedHot® Hot Sauce
There’s nothing quite like Frank’s®. Well, ok, maybe there’s a whole shelf of things just like Frank’s®, but they are not Frank’s® RedHot® Hot Sauce – mainly because that would be trademark infringement. But what Frank’s® has (other than lawyers) that other hot sauces don’t, is the trust of a generation of hot wing lovers. There is tautologically no other way to make “Kickin’ BBQ Chicken Wings” without Frank’s®. Don’t believe me? Check out the recipe: 2 ½ lbs chicken wing pieces and 3/4 cup Frank’s® RedHot® Kickin’ BBQ® Sauce.
History Time! A former banker, Edmund McIlhenny, invented Tabasco sauce in the mid to late 1860’s. The company is still family owned and operated, and the bottles still bear his name. Evidently, he found the fare of his day to be bland, so he set out to make a sauce to liven things up. His mix of hot pepper and aged vinegar set the standard for at least 100 years. If you’ve ever sat down to a steaming plate of tuna casserole (which is made in true Can to Table fashion) you’ve used Tabasco. Well, enough history.
Huy Fong Sriracha
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the quintessential hot sauce that makes all crew chow possible. It’s also a striking symbol of the American dream, as Huy Fong is arguably the most American of all hot sauces: it was created by an ethnic Chinese farmer from Vietnam; is inspired by a traditional Thai sauce; is made in Los Angeles; and is available at every taco truck in the Northern Hemisphere. And while it went from being a foodie secret to more mainstream than U2, it never sold out. There may be other more “authentic” Srirachas in the world, but none has saved more restaurant workers from tepid broth and noodles than Huy Fong’s.