Being All Rounded

Being All Rounded

The love of cooking starts at the beginning of a long journey. It takes a long time before you can create your own signature dishes. It begins by knowing how to work efficiently in the dish pit and becoming disciplined in all aspects of your job by working extremely clean, organized and timely in all aspects without taking short cuts.  Foremost every cook must take pride in every detail of their job.  

First, we have to understand that by present day, all culinary ideas have already been invented one way or another starting from Auguste Escoffier to Ferra Adrian, from old cuisine to novella cuisine and finally to bio-molecular cuisine.  I believe that from A to Z, the knowledge and experience of learning the classical dishes remain as the essential basis for all cooking.

Most young chef s and cooks make the mistake of starting their careers from Z to A rather than the other way around. For instance, they try to learn molecular cuisine or sous vide cooking before learning how to properly braise a piece of meat the old fashioned way from a pot, to the oven, to the table.  To learn the technique of braising instead of cooking everything in a sous vide bag without knowing the basic theory.

It is very important these days to know more than one type of cuisine.  Mastering the techniques and styles of many different types of cuisine will take you far in your cooking career.

One must be able to cook French food, Spanish from Spain and Italian and of course Asian after all they are the “mother” of all cooking techniques, it all started in France, but then you must learn Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Moroccan, English, Irish, Scottish and so on, all of these styles are important to know as well as the “Mother” French.   Where the Europeans use mostly a bruniose of carrot, onion, celery and leek for basic flavour, Asian flavourings are generally chili pepper, garlic and ginger. 

Baking and pastry are as well very important to master, the big difference between the pastry department and baking from cooking savory cooking is savory you don’t necessary need a recipe contrarily of pastry and baking its more like a science of being very precise so you usually need a recipes or ratio to work with.


Creating Menus

The best way to create a menu is to keep it small, focused and specific to the restaurant in order to keep ingredients, simple and to keep food costs down.


It is very easy to get lost in creating menus. Inexperienced chefs or cooks would put as many as 100 items on their menu.  When I see this I wonder how many of those items are actually fresh. I am thinking probably 95 % of those items are frozen instead of made in house, therefore, not fresh. To have a big menu can be very dangerous as well in regards to food contamination.  Improper rotation of produce, and other menu items becomes dangerous both for contamination and food cost, especially if these ingredients or menu items are not used frequently and are left in the fridge or freezer for a long period of time. It is very important to know how to properly store your ingredients to diminish cross contamination with food.  It is very expensive to have a large inventory, hence a food cost that is constantly too high.

As easy as it is to get lost in too many menu items, it is also easy to get lost in having too many different types of food on the same menu. It is important to concentrate on one theme for the menu such as Italian or French or Japanese and so on.  Too many restaurants do not focus on one theme but rather go in too many directions all at once.  Having appetizers for instance, then an Italian section with pastas and so on, as well as a French section, burger section, and the famous miscellaneous section, the “catch all” just in case the guests can’t already make a choice.   They thought is that this will attract more people but it actually has an opposite effect as people will find it difficult to make a choice because of the confusion of the menu.  First, you should make a decision as to the theme of your restaurant, this way there is no confusion when it comes time to write your menu. Secondly, making a small menu will make it easier to control your food cost as well as ensure that your ingredients are fresh and also to ensure the quality of each dish.   There shouldn’t be more than six appetizers, eight main courses and four desserts.  Remember that each creation should not have more than three to four components so that people know what the main ingredient of the dish is

 

Learning your classics means knowing how many ingredients should be put on the plate and understanding why.  Young chefs and cooks who haven’t learned their classics typically think that more ingredients mean more flavor.  It is in fact the opposite that is true. Less is more. When there are too many ingredients it is difficult to know what the main focus of the dish is intended to be. Always keep it simple with a maximum of three components.   Begin with the component you wish to showcase, typically the protein.  Choose one vegetable and starch for contrast but it also must still complement the main ingredient, and finally, the sauce or jus to intensify the dish. 

When you create a menu it has to flow, for example, the look of the size of the plates beside each other, the aesthetic appeal and the way the courses flow from appetizer to main course and from main course to dessert.

 

 “The new trend in cooking is simply to make excellent food and that is done well, no matter which technique is used.  “Sex on the plate becomes sex in the mouth!"


At the end of the day it is not who you work for but who you are, of course who you work for will definitely show case the skills that you have developed, but having the talent and the palette will decide if you will be good or amazing. 



Staff Meal in France vs. Staff Meal in Canada

In France the staff meal is primordial because of the number of stagiaires working in the Star Michelin restaurants who work for free to learn the best techniques.  Although the restaurants cannot afford to pay them, they do give the stagier a place to stay, delicious food and the best experience ever. They prepare two staff meals each day, one before lunch service and one before dinner service. A typical staff meal usually served in France would include salad, bread, meat, fish, water, wine, cheese and some charcouterie and some dessert. It gives an opportunity for everyone to sit down as a family and converse with the other staff to get to know them better and also so that people are not hungry during service. 

In North America a lot of the time if there is a staff meal, it is a mix and match of leftover food or ingredients that need to be used up that cannot be used on the menu.  People eat standing around and if there is no staff meal at all, the staff tend to pick on the food left on customers’ plates while they are clearing tables, or are constantly eating bread during service which distracts them from concentrating 100 % on their job.


To Stage or Not to Stage

The difference between staging in Canada as opposed to France, the expectation in Canada that cooks stage for free in order to prove their skills to obtain employment rather than staging to learn as is the case in France where cooks are given a place to stay and meals.


In France it is normal for young aspiring cooks to stage in Star Michelin restaurants. The benefits to these cooks are experience, learning new techniques and classical preparations that they wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to and the restaurants pay for your daily meals and give you a place to stay for free. 

In Canada, most of the restaurants want you to stage for a different reason. They want to see if you are the right fit for their restaurant, they will not pay you, and some of them are so cocky that they will make you stage for upwards of eight hours or even more. Some places even have the nerve to ask people to stage for more than one day. Remember, they don’t pay you, which is actually illegal. There is no other industry that would ask a person to go and work for them for free to assess their skills.  In Canada if you ask someone to do a stage for you, you basically have to pay them at least minimum wage. They are abusing cooks in the sense that they don’t teach the stagier anything while they are there and a lot of restaurants use them as an opportunity to have free labour for the day, typically doing all of the undesirable jobs that no one else wants to do.  Not cool.


The level of cooking in Canada in general is not as high as it is in Europe, so don’t be a fool to stage for some one who thinks they are a super star when they have never been a chef in a Star Michelin restaurant. In contrast, most of the French cooks who come to Canada from France, come to Toronto thinking that they know everything because they are from France.  At the end of the day in most cases, they are in Toronto because they couldn’t make it as a cook in France and if you ask them where they worked in France they probably will not be able to give you a good answer as very few cooks ever worked in Star Michelin restaurants or anywhere decent. They are under the impression though that they can come over here with their arrogance and that the Anglo-Saxon world will automatically think they must be good cooks because they are from France. 

 


The Classic Kitchen Brigade

Brigade de cuisine (English: kitchen brigade) is a system of hierarchy found in restaurants and hotels employing extensive staff, commonly referred to as "kitchen staff" in English-speaking countries.

The concept was developed by Georges Auguste Escoffier.This structured team system delegates responsibilities to different individuals who specialize in certain tasks.

List of positions:

Chef de cuisine (kitchen chef; literally "chief of kitchen") - is responsible for overall management of kitchen; supervises staff, creates menus and new recipes with the assistance of the restaurant manager, makes purchases of raw food items, trains apprentices, and maintains a sanitary and hygienic environment for the preparation of food.

 

Legumier (vegetable cook) - in larger kitchens, also reports to the entremetier and prepares the vegetable dishes.

Garde manger (pantry supervisor; literally "food keeper") - is responsible for preparation of cold hors d'oeuvres, pâtés, terrines and aspics; prepares salads; organizes large buffet displays; and prepares charcuterie items.

Tournant (spare hand/roundsman) - moves throughout the kitchen, assisting other positions in kitchenPâtissier (pastry cook) - prepares desserts and other meal-end sweets, and for locations without a boulanger, also prepares breads and other baked items; may also prepare pasta for the restaurant.

Confiseur - in larger restaurants, prepares candies and petits fours instead of the pâtissier.

Glacier - in larger restaurants, prepares frozen and cold desserts instead of the pâtissier.

Décorateur - in larger restaurants, prepares show pieces and specialty cakes instead of the pâtissie

 

Saucier (saucemaker/sauté cook) - prepares sauces and warm hors d'oeuvres, completes meat dishes, and in smaller restaurants, may work on fish dishes and prepare sautéed items. This is one of the most respected positions in the kitchen brigade, usually ranking just below the chef and sous-chef.

Chef de partie (senior chef; literally "chief of party"; party used here as a group, in the sense of a military detail) - is responsible for managing a given station in the kitchen, specializing in preparing particular dishes there. Those who work in a lesser station are commonly referred to as a demi-chef.

Cuisinier (cook) - is an independent position, usually preparing specific dishes in a station; may also be referred to as a cuisinier de partie.]

Commis (junior cook) - also works in a specific station, but reports directly to the chef de partie and takes care of the tools for the station.

Apprenti(e) (apprentice) - are often students gaining theoretical and practical training in school and work experience in the kitchen. They perform preparatory work and/or cleaning work.

Plongeur (dishwasher or kitchen porter) - cleans dishes and utensils, and may be entrusted with basic preparatory jobs.

 

Marmiton (pot and pan washer, also known as kitchen porter) - in larger restaurants, takes care of all the pots and pans instead of the plongeur.

Rôtisseur (roast cook) - manages a team of cooks that roasts, broils, and deep fries dishes.

Grillardin (grill cook) - in larger kitchens, prepares grilled foods instead of the rôtisseur.

Friturier (fry cook) - in larger kitchens, prepares fried foods instead of the rôtisseur.

Poissonnier (fish cook) - prepares fish and seafood dishes.

Entremetier (entrée preparer) - prepares soups and other dishes not involving meat or fish, including vegetable dishes and egg dishes.

Potager (soup cook) - in larger kitchens, reports to the entremetier and prepares the soups.

 

Boulanger (baker) - in larger restaurants, prepares bread, cakes, and breakfast pastries instead of the pâtissier.

Boucher (butcher) - butchers meats, poultry, and sometimes fish; may also be in charge of breading meat and fish items.

Aboyeur (announcer/expediter) - takes orders from the dining room and distributes them to the various stations; may also be performed by the sous-chef de partie.

Communard - prepares the meal served to the restaurant staff.

Garçon de cuisine (literally "kitchen boy") - in larger restaurants, performs preparatory and auxiliary work for supporting other cooks and chefs 

Until you master all of these stations, in my opinion you cannot be a proper chef or the chef de cuisine of a restaurant without  having rounded experience.



In North America as compared to Europe, the size of restaurant kitchens are smaller, so you will have the chef/owner then the chef de cuisine followed by  saucier, poisonnier, entremetier, garde mager, baker pastry chef, garcon de cuisine and commis, plongeur. In the case where the chef is not the owner,  the brigade goes as follows; chef, sous chef, saucier poisonnier, entremetier, garde mager baker pastry chef, garcon de cuisine and commis, plongeur. In even smaller kithchens that only have a chef, they will do all of the sauces, butchery of meat and fish, then a cuisinier that will assist him. The pastry chef  will do pastry and garde mager at the same time, followed by a plongeur that will only work service and will at the same time peel potatoes, onions, shallots and do the dishes. 



Respect

We kill to live and live to die, but when we kill for food we do it with respect for the creatures and the love of cooking