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Everything posted by alexw

  1. Currently reading 'Bitter Taste' by David Evans. Cracking read about restaurant life more about it on http://esensesplayingwithourfood.blogspot.com/2010/03/bitter-taste-sideways-step-not-quite.html
  2. alexw

    Green tea solubility

    thanks for the info, will obtain different brands and see where it goes. I can see from both your points different techniques to flavour different products (we are doing a confit of rabbit leg in duck fat), and from this we are hoping to infuse the confit oil with the green tea, I confit over 60 hours at 67C so the boiling not an issue. what I cannot seem to achieve is imparting any tea flavour into the fat prior to cooking from the basice 'green tea' bags or the sencha that we are using currently, as fat is usually the chefs flavour transporter of choice was wondering if the teas flavour itself was soluble in oil or not. thanks again Alex.
  3. Hi, throwing a quick question out there in hope of some help, I am trying to infuse duck fat with green tea with not much success is there a technique known or is it simply that the tea compouns are not soluble in oil. I am trying to confit some rabbit legs for an assiette dish and currently using a green tea jus, buit would love to be able to work the flavour through the legs from the start. thanks for any light anyone can shed. Alex.
  4. All I can do is wish you every success, you seem to have thought the college/ no college thing through, and whilst qualifications do help, I know plenty of chefs who have got by just fine without, my only comment towards the former is that as you reach a more knowlegable position (sous chef for example) college would have given you a classical grounding to deal with head chefs demands and the ability to answer junior chefs questions with much more ease, I only point this out because my sous chef has no college training and from my point of view his lack of basic classical knowledge can be at times bloody frustrating. anyway, having read some way through this post, I offer:- firstly, forget about gaging meat, if you are starting at the bottom then work those knife skills, pick up speed (don't be dangerous though, I don't care about your fingers personally, but it I would rather you take a minute longer, than waste 5 rooting through the always inadequately stocked first aid box). You will be washing lettuce, peeling EVERYTHING, chopping, blanching, making dressings etc. etc. etc. long before any respectable cook will let you near the lamb fillet, or other high priced items. In this I am assuming you wish to cook at a reasonable level and not just a diner job. be prepared to be abused (not in an illegal sort of way), but you will have frustrated chef de parties screaming at you in the early days for not getting it right or just for being to slow, and even at 28 I was too old to take tose kind of rollockings (for the record I worked in pubs and cheap hotels firstly and didn't start in 5* properties until I was 27), these chefs will be much younger than you but far more kitchen wise. main piece of advice, keep your cool, and try to take from each day the improvements (even if it feels some day there were none!). when I started in 5* I had a notepad in my kitchen at home called the s**t list, after a bad day (the kind when you want to run home crying for mommy), I simply would write the date down, and after a few months I looked in the book and found the gaps between dates was getting longer, so proved to me I was getting a little better. You are about to embark into a hell of a career and I hope you can find a good kitchen to work in where the chefs want to teach, the hours can be long and the environment inhospitable, but ultimately nothing is more rewarding that the production of a perfect piece of food, and the heartwarming feedback from your guests (although this can be rare as they expect great things, ah well can't have everything!) I am afraid I have no experience of job-hunting in the US as I work in London, however a willingness to learn and helpful attitude are much more important than any bit of paper saying you can cook will ever be, knock on doors, write letters, make calls. be persistent but don't bug. and the very best of luck to you. Alex.
  5. alexw

    Chef abuse

    Hmmm....methinks in the UK at least the industry needs to wean itself off cheap labour as this is just used as a cover for inefficiency... 20 years working in CH in luxury hotels/restaurants and though unpaid overtime was often expected and worked it was never of the 100 hour week variety so commonplace in London..salarys where also better and restaurant prices were lower, standards far higher too...What chefs in the UK need to realise is that you may be superman but others arent and after, say 15 hours hard graft you are not as effective as somone halfway into a 9 hour shift...mistakes occur and it is a false economy to just keep driving people on.. Somewhat blue-eyed this, as though it should be to do with guest satisfaction your average management/accounting team will beg to differ..At my last position in London ( super- luxury 5 star ) it was made quite clear to me that staff and not food costs were the big issue for management and if I could be 'flexible' with the amount of staff I needed then that would be financially beneficial to me...talking to colleagues I can confirm this is most certainly not an isolated case.. as for standards way back then being higher I agree, as there were far less companies providing so called fine dining short-cuts for chefs which are commonplace now in quite high level kitchens which is simply de-skilling the industry, couple that with far too many food outlets and nowhere near enough bodies to staff them (qualified ones anyway) then buying in and serving defrosted crap is the only way for businesses to survive. as for your financial offer for keeping a low payroll, I have personally not had such an offer, nor would I accept one for the sake of personal gain by making me and my staff work harder for no reason, I have heard of these kind of offers being made and think that it is the kind of cut-throat 5* bull**** that still plagues the high end (generally hotels) these days. it is one of the reasons I left the 5* hotel market in the first place, even though the more modern boutique hotels sell themselves as a new breed of management with a high profile dismissal of 'old school ways' the truth of the matter is that they are simply the advil or neurofen to the generic ibuprofen, simply the same just sugar coated.
  6. the home chocolate factory has a wide range of sosa brand chemicals including different pectin grades, just google the name, or even sosa as they are about the main distributor. otherwise if you are in the trade Ritter Courivaud have a rannge of pectins including NH and yellow
  7. alexw

    Chef abuse

    not so sure about slotting it into myths and legends, until the day full employment is gleamed to a correct ratio of staff to work (not guests) then the 16 hour day is here to stay, and before you go on about the work, if most of the key restaurants who still advocate this simplified their menus/mis en place, then the chefs doing those hours would simply go elsewhere. not to mention the clientelle. as for juicy bonuses I have been in this business long enough to know that payroll is always a small percentage of any bonus and will always have more to do with guest satisfaction and food cost. that is if the business is large enough to carry an exec chef (12 I know of were made redundant in March alone, in the south east of england, this was a general trend of positions lost)
  8. Knife skill, knife skill, knife skill. as for the quote above, you could just juice it.
  9. alexw

    Chef abuse

    Firstly can I comment on the opening post, the Tom Aiken thing, the story is much less abusive when you know the whole thing, I do not condone the way Tom used to run his kitchens, but that incident in particular is not as one sided as the press made out at the time, but so much water has passed under the bridge since then I'll leave it there. anyway having spent 20 years at the rockface, I have seen and been with some shocking attitude in my time, and in a nutshell if you feel anxious about going to work or its costing you sleep, MOVE ON. I would like to point out that there is a chasm of difference between a chef under pressure doling out a genuine bollocking (they are necessary, just deal with them), and abuse. Also a large number of chefs dish out very constructive criticism quite coldly, again I say here just deal with it and learn. Unfortunately there is still quite a huge amount of chefs who were bullied themselves see it as the only way forward, they will use the excuse "it happened to me and look where I got to", and the old classic "food of this quality requires such a level of pressuse that I cannot tolerate mistakes and deal with it this way", absolute bull, the old days are just that, and to those chefs I say "live in the now!" I run my kitchen through training, passion for product, careful recipes and good communication. I have not had to raise my voice in anger in a good many years, as I have improved as well as my brigade (this is not to say that I can't if the situation requires it). I do not suffer fools however I live by an adage my father my father gave to me "he who never made a mistake, never made anything", the important thing to remeber is to make sure your mistakes do not leave the kitchen, and herein lies the callenge of a great cook. Back to the original question, in my 20 years I have seen pans of boiling water thrown across kitchens, knives raised (thankfully not used) in anger, fisticuffs, downright verbal abuse, and VERY personal attacks. this is not only from the head chefs I have worked with, but from within the brigades, silliest I every got in the middle of to break up the fight was one over 5 shallots which ended up with one chef brandishing a red-hot pan, and the other a 12" cooks knife. Not one chef has lost their job that I have worked with as whilst the tempers flare up quickly, they die down just as fast. Another thing people have to remember before they berate the industry I live to serve, is chefs are often working 16 hour days, in temperatures exceeding anything humane, when all their friends are socialising, and being shouted at to do better. So give us a break if we lose it from time to time. You will often find the largest proprtion of the kind of kitchen staff who voice their opinion about kitchen bullying or tempers, often work in contract catering, or daytime jobs with a good work-time balance, I am not dissing you who do, good luck to you, just stating a fact on the type of kitchen you are commenting on. On the back of this I re-itterate that there is a huge gap between cold crticism and bullying and chefs who bully should be ashamed of their lack of humanity.
  10. If every chef had been able to take his or her recipes with them and have them struck off menus, then we would all know very little. take pride in the fact you created them, take them with you and re-visit each one when you start your new job and make them shine more, that way everybody wins, including you as you will have an opportunity to develop yourself along the way. to quote a previous post, let it go
  11. One other thing, re-reading your post, you say they view you as 'their apprentice' last time I checked apprentice is not defined as 'skivvy needed when we are busy', apprentices are with you to learn, and really not much else, and should you have the conversation and it take a turn for the worse then perhaps you should remind them of this. Alex.
  12. Personally I would talk to the chef and if the truth is that the work could be done in an hour, he (or she) could get you in (maybe for a short unpaid period) to assist with the prep taking 2 hours to explain what is being done. I have been in kitchens 20 years and have seen numerous styles of businesses and had chefs come (and go) for a multitude of reasons, but one key factor is that chefs move on when they have nothing left to learn from me, which is why I push myself as hard as I push my staff so I (hopefully) always have something new to teach, let alone the amount I learn from my own findings, both successes and failures. do not worry about how your CV will look, you could always tailor a 3 month period down to 'learning' or 'starging' and shorty it will simply dissapear off your CV anyway, however I would look before you leap, try and secure something before you announce to them you will be leaving so it is already a done deal when you have the conversation (I am guessing you are on a short notice period). This in itself will give you more confidence to have the conversation in the first place. another option if you want to give these guys a chance is to agree a certain amount of days (leaving you 1 or 2 free each week), and set up stage shifts at other restaurants near or far, if you live anywhere near london would be happy to assist with arranging some if I can, PM me. whatever you decide, I hope you make a success of it, don't give up it can be a very up & down business, they are probably thinking they are helping you by giving you free time, just try and explain what it is you need from the job and, without quitting there and then, push accross the point that you NEED to learn. Good luck Alex.
  13. Most I have ever paid was £430.25 (for 2)at sketch just after it opened, saddest thing was we walked out sober as judges. a year later, tasting menu with wines at the fat duck came to £398 (2 again), but at least this time when I went to see Ashley to thank him for the meal, I could barely walk. best value I have had at a fine dining level was WD-50, which came to $145 a head (£70-80 then) which was with the matching wines and again could barely make it to the door at the end. I tend to find that most high end food is worth the money (as a chef, knowing the cost of the food and production helps absorb the shock) but the cost of matching wines in this country is appaling. ie. Fat duck £90, WD-50 $45. both great pairings but the end result was identical, basically embarrasment in front of my fellow diners. but much fun was had by all. Alex
  14. Hey alex how you been? sorry to hear about the bike accident hope you are all recovered. Yeah wasn't really that bothered with it as I was just having a laugh anyway ← Good, all things considered. still can't walk any better than an extra on Shaun of the dead and still not in the kitchen yet (8 months off!!!!!!) anyway btw, fun is the only reason, too many cooks are far too serious about these things and forget why they started them in the first place. Good to hear from you. take it easy
  15. hi, try making a dry caramel, dry some strong cured bacon very dry so it will crumble in your hand(serrano better than parma otherwise just too salty, set the caramel, then blend to a powder with the dried bacon. melt into shaped strips on a silicone mat in a gentle to moderate oven. hope this helps
  16. Hi, sorry to be late on the bandwagon, have been off the scenen for some time due to a bike accident in april, but earlier (much) you asked for some advice plating as I thought the berry fruit thing was a bit much. perhaps consider fine dicing the strawberry, halving 1 and a half raspberry and tossing in your marinade a la minute, as for the mint leaf that is a big no-no, if you really need mint then dust with sugar, lay between 2 sheets of cling film and microwave till crisp, that way the flavour is great and the colour fixes well, just don't overdo it. anyway sorry to hear it didn't quite go your way but anyway after seeing Burton-races face on many a dish that was put in front of him, it's probably for the best and better luck next time. Alex.
  17. As I recall reading some time ago, Nico managed 19 years with only tweaking his menus, also Grant Achatz says somewhere amongst the Alinea thread that Thomas Keller strives for the perfect dish, and when he gets it right it stays on the menu for good. I understand where all the comments about lack of change come from (it has been brought up many times througout this thread), but a lot of the changes are more subtle throughout either presentation or methods of producing different items on the dish. and some of the ingredients they are working with can take a couple of years to research before even making it into a sauce, that to be honest, unless you are a die-hard regular you may not notice that the sauce has a more intense flavour or a slightly smoother feel than last visit. personally I would love to eat there more, but my gripe is I simply cannot justify £115 per head on a return visit to a restaurant. Due to the nature of what i do, I try and diversify where i eat, and my wife nor kids would understand a £500 bill for 2 (with the wine selection & service charge). quite simply too expensive. the main point of this is, if a majority of people felt the same as kai-m, booking a table would be a simple affair and not a 2 months in advance 1/2 hour "bun-fight" on the phones
  18. Have heard that it will be screened in october, but not sure where i got that info now have also read the same Amazon blurb, we are currently using the same farm that Heston chose for his beef "perfection", Hunstham farm and by the quality of the half cow that arrived for the start of our promo last week, I can understand why they got chosen. Alex.
  19. Fantastic 2 piece, and thoughts and encouragement for my 3 young ones, who thankfully are willing to at least try everything that daddy cooks. main point here is (I feel) "everything in moderation", now if i can only make myself beleive that as i walk past my pastry section. Alex.
  20. The dish takes care of the accreditation in itself
  21. I've sat musing over this for quite some time, and some fascinating debate has ensued. Amazed it hasn't veered off track too much but now we have got a little too deep into copyright territory. I thought I would return to the first page and see what started it again. whilst the train here seems to be about "ownership" of both techniques and recipes and how the boundaries should be drawn, I notice personally the one thing that raised my heckles when I compared the pictures, mirror image. My personal opinion based on these 5 dishes alone is that it is completely wrong in the day and age of internet to merely copy the dish in it's entirety. But then i ask the question, is my salad dish different to anyone else's. has my simple pre-theatre chicken chasseur been cooked and served like this before? this shit can keep me awake at night (not really) the dishes in question here are not traditional classics, Achatz and Dufresne are trying their level best to be ahead of the game in their technique and presentation development. this doesn't mean that as soon as something has been invented it isn't fair game, because I'm sorry I beleive it is, my laboured point here (and there is one and I'm getting closer to it) is that as soon as something hits the open market and is enjoyed and understood, then we as chefs should be inspired and take a new flavour combination or a different technique and use it to the fullness of our skill, this way the journey can continue and food can then genuinely evolve. we have all copied recipes exactly from books (ok maybe Chef Cantu hasn't) just to understand the process, I will try it for the family and then get opinions back. Heston did his training from eating and practising from exact recipes. The difference here is that chef Robin has got to the stage where he can execute the exact dish, and then stopped and gone to make some money from it. WRONG!!!!!! I know nothing of his past before this debate, so will not venture opinion on anything except what I have seen visually here. When I sat down to write this note, I said "do not bash him about this", sorry I appear to have failed, a quick note to chef Robin, remember you attained your awards before this debarkle ensued and I'm sure by non-direct copying, you have skill and flair, basically you have done it before and sure you can do it again. Alex.
  22. The Square and Gavroche are great and possible to save up to go to. I had to wait till my remortgage came through to do a sketch dinner though Fabulous meal though, even if the bill still haunts my dreams
  23. I just thought it was invented by a clever girl named Victoria, still wouldn't cook it though, just eat the mix and the jam on their own.
  24. Shouldn't this be in the baking forum? although now i'm here, personally ever since I was a little child I thought the worst thing you could do with a cake was bake it, the mix of any cake is SOOOOO much nicer before it gets a cooked and ruined.
  25. Have watched most of Gordons show with some interest and much amusement. As for the above comment about "the average" chef, sadly the average is probably heavily in the clueless favour as if you walk down any small (or large) town, out of every few doors you will pass one will be a food outlet of sorts. My old cooking ground of Broadstairs pretty much every other bloody door sells food, but as I am sure that Circe will back me up, there aren't too many talented bods behind those doors. Not that I know too many in the kitchen nightmares leagues, but there are a few so be warned. The industry across the scale can not afford to employ full on talent, if it could there would be no need for brake brothers or delice de france cos we would be so bloody good we would make everything ourselves. I for one live in Thanet, near Broadstairs and cannot even think of returning there financially (London wages and all), and until the public realise that the £3.99 steak & chips is actually a S*** piece of meat and demand quality for reasonable money, the business will continue to buy frozen par bake crap heated up by talentless low paid individuals who are there for the job alone and couldn't care less about the food, and charge the amount your average joe will stump up. Been a long week, needed that rant. 5 major tastings in 6 days just takes it out of you. please move along now nothing to see here. Alex.
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