STAFF MEAL | On Digging Into A Big Indian Pre-Shift Feast At Mount Pleasant’s “Acorn”
by Ken Tsui | In the dog days of summer, chef/co-owner Brian Skinner and the kitchen team at Main Street vegetarian mainstay The Acorn are sweating it out as they prepare for another busy night. But before it all goes down, the staff are banding together and keeping to the spirit of making great vegetarian food by tapping into Indian traditions, the O.G. of vegetarian cuisines.
This afternoon’s meal is an elaborate one. It’s a long list scrawled on paper and simply labelled “Indian Staff Meal”. It’s an involved feast with plenty of components that tasks each staffer with making some of the classics, among them raita, papadums, khadi, palak paneer, grilled apricot chutney, mango lassis, pickled eggplant salad and pakoras of zucchini and cauliflower.
Brian leads the charge, guiding the crew based on lessons learned during his time in London. Today, the palak paneer (pureed spinach with crisped Indian cheese) is his responsibility. As the team puts the finishing touches on their respective contributions, the mixture of heat and movement looks and feels like controlled chaos, making it hard to keep track of all the fragrant and colourful plates coming out of the kitchen.
Meanwhile, co-owner Shira Blustein is holding court in the dining area. As the food comes out, the team gathers around her table to feast. Before long, Brian himself gets to lean into the spread. “I have a feeling I’m going to overeat…”