What is a Chef

A Brief History

I have travelled a long way both physically and professionally to become who I am.  From dishwasher at 16 years old, to apprentice in many of the best kitchens in Quebec City, to cook, busser, waiter, bartender, chef de partie, sous chef and finally executive chef. 

My passion craved more and so from Canada I travelled to seek out more knowledge and techniques by apprenticing in some of the best kitchens in France.  I believe that learning never stops in my industry.  Every day I try to learn something new whether it is from books or other chefs and cooks.


Passion

My job turned into a career, which turned into my lifelong passion.  What I love the most about cooking is the endless opportunities for creativity, and the rewarding experience of sharing the pleasure of a flavourful bite with others and the happiness it brings people. 

I love having a wide variety of cooking experience, from baking & pastry to savory fare.  Knowledge of international cuisine is very important to me. While I specialize in French cooking I think it is very important that I am able to easily work my way into other international flavors.  To become a chef requires a life time of learning about ingredients and flavours from all countries.


Fact

Being a chef doesn't just involve cooking.  You become the administrator of a restaurant.  You must become as well a great teacher and psychologist who can solve the problems arising between employees. I believe that you also have to know the front of the house as well as the general manager does.  You need to know how to serve, bartend, bus, manage with perfection and to be able to properly train your staff. It is very important to train your front of the house properly. You don’t want the server to look unprofessional by having to go back to the kitchen each time the customer has a question. Without hesitation, the should know every detail about and every ingredient on the menu perfectly in order to be able to answer any questions that the customer might have without hesitation.  For example, if the customer has a food allergy or other dietary restriction, the server will be able answer all questions with ease. They should know what is in every sauce, soup, dressing, and vinaigrette.  They should also know the difference between a dressing and a vinaigrette the difference between a jus and a stock and what the sauce is made of either from a jus or a stock, they should know that the protein on the plate is the first thing the customer sees and cut and it should be placed in front of them as the focal point of the dish and not the starch or any other aspect of the plate. Servers should know the proper technique to open a bottle of wine or champagne. Servers should never wear perfume or other strong scents such as after shave or cologne that could affect the taste of wine and food.  After all, 90 % of the taste of the food comes from the scent and only 10% from the taste buds. If a server or even a customer for that matter is wearing a strong perfume it will block the flavour of the food and all they will taste is perfume. They should always make sure they wash there mouth properly so they don’t have a bad breath what if they have to talk close to the customer. They shouldn’t ask the customer if they need black pepper or ask right away if everything is good they should wait till the customer actually taste the food to check on them, the steak knife or soup and dessert spoon should be on the table before the dish gets there, they should know there basic grape for wine and where they from, there basic drink and alcohol in they house and beer at they end of the day a waiter job its not just going from point A to point B.    


I always continue learning that is what makes me who I am today.



A Journey Through France

*One Star Michelin Restaurant, Auberge La Feuniere with Chef Reine Samut in Lourmarin, Provence


*One Star Michelin Restaurant, Hotel les Pyrenees with Chefs Firmin and Phillipe Arrambide, Saint-Jean-De-Pied Port, Basque area


**Two Star Michelin Restaurant, Bastide de Capelongue with Chef Edouard Loubet, Bonnieux, Cote du Starventoux


***Three Star Michelin Restaurant Le Buerehiesel with Chefs Antoine &Eric Westermann in Strasbourg, Alsace



Working in France

Working in France was the best experience of my life allowing me to refine my cooking skills in all stations of the kitchen. French chefs are not the stereo typical chefs that people think they are, yelling, throwing pots and pans. It is actually more civilized than people imagine or what can be falsely portrayed on reality television shows. The difference between the European French and the Canadian French is the amount of respect given to the cooking profession in general and chefs in particular. The Canadian or North American culture generally has less respect for proper chefs. The chef once considered as a domestic servant is now considered more as an artist and skilled craft person. Unfortunately, many people just see the glamorous side of food service and don’t understand that this is just a tiny part of the picture.  You are more often than not treated as just a cook or a low class worker.  Reality television shows and television channels about kitchens and cooking has made it difficult for cooks and chefs to get the proper respect they deserve because they make it look easy to become a cook/chef and that anyone can do it.  After all, most people can cook dinner for their family so of course they can design menus, control costs, work endless hours in incredibly hot kitchens, be able to fix random equipment “on the fly”, deal with the pressure of a fast paced dinner service where everything must be perfect, always work holidays, never see your family and at the end of the day, when you get your paycheck, remind yourself that you do it because you love it, not because you want to be rich, because that just doesn’t happen. The Food Network and other TV channels that do reality cooking shows however, do not show any of this reality.

What annoys me the most in Toronto is when a new chef or cook keeps saying that good food takes time. In reality, they say this because they don’t understand the concept of mise en place. Yes, good food does take time to prepare but when your mise en place is ready for service, with the exception of your proteins, it really shouldn't take any time to put the food out.


Dont Be a Fool

Since 1987  of experience I can assure you that the engine of the restaurant will always be the kitchen.

The best restaurants on the planet are owned by chefs and not by some person who has spent too much time watching the Food Network and thinks they will become the next restaurant star owner. People who don’t know the industry and do not possess the knowledge or experience to run a restaurant properly which includes the front and back of the house will undoubtedly fail.  It takes a lot of expertise to be able to run a restaurant, just like it takes enormous experience to run a ship. Without an experienced, knowledgeable captain, the ship will sink, just as without an experienced, knowledgeable owner, the restaurant will fail, and in my opinion, the best restaurant owner will always be a chef.    A chef with a great attitude who is well organized and able to highlight the flavors of a dish to please the customer. These are critical skills necessary to be successful as a chef.  While a good chef is able to work any position in the restaurant, the same cannot be said of any of the other staff who are not trained to the level of the chef.  The chef is responsible for the reputation of the food and therefore the restaurant. The most important entity in the restaurant is the food, this is the one and only reason the customers go to the restaurant, for the food and nothing else. 

The best example of a chef becoming a great restaurant owner is when Gordon Ramsay left Aubergine as the chef in 1998 to open his own restaurant and from there he became one of the best chef /restauranteurs of England. Unfortunately, Aubergine sank because of very bad management and an owner that didn’t listen to the chef.


“The energy should always be positive during service. If you have something to say, make sure it is constructive, otherwise wait until service is finished to talk about what went wrong and how it could have gone better. If the chef is smiling, so will everyone else.”