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Mikeb19

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  1. Different pastry chefs have their own recipes based on the intended qualities of the finished product. Not to mention, for different applications you can modify ratios - I'm not going to use the same ratio for a Brioche dough as a Savarin dough, even though they use the same ingredients and technique. And I'm not going to make ganache for dipping the same as I would for filling macarons or glazing a cake. As for rigidity, pastry work needs to be rigid if you want consistency (since there's usually few ingredients, and all are key for providing not only flavours but especially structure), but if you're experimenting, you can try many different ratios of ingredients to produce different results and if you do it right, all will taste good. Also, bakers improvise just as much as cooks. But rather than just throw things together, we come up with our own ratios and construct from there... (which is a necessity since pastries/breads requires to build structure whereas in savoury cooking the structure of the food is already there)
  2. Not sure I'd give total credit to Albert Adria for 'inventing' a microwave cake... People have been microwaving cake batter ever since those shitty cook-everything-in-a-microwave books came out in the 60s/70s... Heck, I 'discovered' the merits of microwaving cakes a few years back, when myself and my bored chef, one slow service started nuking all sorts of random things just for laughs lol... Aerating cake batter in a siphon might be a lil unique, but it's a fairly basic concept, and again, not sure you could call it Adria's personal invention. Fact is, many of the techniques of progressive chefs are actually industrial cooking techniques invented many years before they ever appeared in high end restaurants (sous vide cooking is a good example)...
  3. Baron, I have to disagree with your post. I work for a restaurant group that does casual dining (ie. main courses are 15-23 dollars CAD), and I'm bringing alot of 'progressive' techniques into my pastry menus... In fact, I personally think concepts that come from molecular gastronomy are just as applicable in lower end dining, for instance take a look at what Marc Veyrat is currently doing in France (fast food). As for not every kitchen having the resources or time to do this: strait up, all it takes is good planning and owners who are willing to invest in doing things properly. With the new economic situation, restaurants will have to become more efficient, and modern technology/techniques can achieve this, at any price point.
  4. It's not about hand crafted vs sterile factory production... It's about equipping yourself with the best tools possible. Right now my main gig is as a pastry chef, and I'm sure as hell not going to be hand-churning iced cream simply for the sake of nostaligia. But anyhow, on the topic of sous-vide cookery - vacuum cooking a steak is a misuse of the technique, sure you get consistency, but is consistent doneness necessarily going to make it taste better? (in my experience, sometimes imperfection tastes better than supposed perfection). At the same time though, sous-vide is a great technique for making infusions and sauces, where you really CAN notice the difference vs. traditional technique... And for the environmentally inclined, you can do a lot of water bath cooking in sealed reusable jars (not a true vacuum, but you can still achieve some great results). And no matter how much technology we use, there will always be the human element and art... Modern technique doesn't guarantee anything, a good cook will produce a good meal if you tell him to cook over a stone, (interestingly enough, Marc Veyrat - a chef known for using ultramodern techniques, does just that occasionally, I'm sure he's not alone), and I've also seen plenty of chefs misuse modern technology. And who's to say a whipped up emulsion is any less hand-crafted than a traditional sauce? And since you brought up manual transmission cars and hand-made watches, keep in mind those were once cutting edge, and the artisans who make them today use modern tools... As for where my preferences lie, I love the taste of food grilled over a wood fire, but I'm also going to use every bit of knowledge I can to get the most of my ingredients...
  5. It's not just about harvesting wild animals... Even the raising of domestic animals has severe environmental impacts which our world cannot sustain... For instance, fish farms as a whole industry are much more harmful to the environment than the extinction of a few species would be. Raising cattle is the single most wasteful activity humans partake in, and raising any animal for meat is much more wasteful than raising them to produce milk/eggs... Sustainability cannot be measured by whether or not individual species survive, but by whether or not our world as a whole can survive, including our own species. Creating fish farms or not harvesting wild animals won't solve a thing in the long term, only changing our eating habits will.
  6. This is a very interesting discussion, and something that as a Chef is close to my heart... I think there's alot of misconceptions about what molecular gastronomy is and isn't... Molecular gastronomy has nothing to do with the form a meal takes, the use of chemicals, etc... It's merely the science of what happens to food at the molecular level - understanding this is something every cook should strive for, even if their kitchen consists of stones over a wood fire. Personally, I dislike meals with 10+ courses, or gimmickery. I could care less if a steak is cooked sous vide or on a wood fire, as long as it tastes good. But I use concepts of the molecular gastronomy movement every day - creating mousses of every texture by varying protein, fat, sugar and water content, creating different textures in meats through various means, altering taste by altering texture, etc... I dislike the idea that traditional cooking and 'progressive' cooking are unique styles... Why can't I use ancient cooking techniques in conjunction with modern knowledge, and flavours that aren't traditional to any culture? Why can't I open a hotdog stand where I use modern techniques? Furthermore, even many 'progressive' chefs are limited by certain preconceptions, such as that there needs to be 'meat' in a dish... The vegetable world is so much more varied and holds so many more possibilities than simply constructing every dish around an animal protein. Even something as seemingly mundane as bread holds infinite possibilities that few explore, there's all sorts of grains, pseudo-grains, rising techniques, etc..., not to mention vegetable and fruit matter than can be added, and animal products as well... Personally, I think true progress will be made when we stop thinking that progressive cuisine is a 'style', and simply open up to all ideas, both ancient and modern... Anyhow, my post is more a rambling than anything, but hopefully can add to this discussion.
  7. I'll be disagreeable and say that nowadays you can buy a good version of just about anything, and most home cooks I know would do well to simply buy, and not waste their time butchering a recipe. The only exception - homemade burgers, no matter how badly formed and sloppy looking, always taste better. That being said, most people don't know how to make proper, soft squishy burger buns, so they'd do well to just buy those...
  8. PH10 by Pierre Hermé. I would never use another chef's recipe top to bottom, but he has some amazing base recipes, and gives a good starting point for later modification. Not to mention the technique descriptions are very good. And lets be honest, very few pastry chefs use 100% their own recipes, we all use someone else's recipe or a modification of it for stuff like puff pastry, pastry cream, etc...
  9. The school doesn't matter as much as the individual. Most of the top Chefs in the world are either self-taught, or learned via apprenticeship (formal or informal). That's not to say cooking school doesn't matter - it can jumpstart a talented cook's career, or it can merely be the prelude to years of peeling vegetables... As for the best, I've worked with terrible cooks from SAIT and CIC (one of my old chefs refused to hire anyone from SAIT, no matter their experience afterwards...). Haven't worked with anyone from NAIT, and the few I've worked with from Dubrulle were pretty good. And LCB seems to be where all the career changing housewives go. Not that it matters, just what I've seen.
  10. Well, with the economy the way it is, obviously dining and restaurant trends are going to change alot. So, I figured a topic where everyone makes predictions about the future of dining would be interesting. Anyhow, my background - Pastry Chef, although I did my apprenticeship in savoury foods in many top restaurants as well. Currently work as a 'corporate' pastry chef, opening several new restaurants. So here are my predictions for new trends: Haute 'fast food': IMO, the world's dining scene changed when Marc Veyrat closed down both his fine dining restaurants, and opened a fast food restaurant. Fact - during rough times, consumers don't stop going out, they simply go to cheaper places. Fact - the fast food we've been stuck with for years sucks, and most top chefs can (or should anyhow) be able to do better. Bored, unemployed and crafty chefs are going to apply their techniques to low end dining to make money, and we'll all have much tastier food to eat on the run. Simpler menus, less staff: Many restaurants are going to need to cut staff drastically to be able to stay in business, seeing as how for most restaurants, it's the biggest cost. To cope with less staff, the menus will have to be simpler, and less garnished. Also, to increase efficiency, more technology and modern techniques will be employed (ie. Molecular gastronomy, but in a way that's actually practical). This goes for restaurants and pastry shops alike - no more overgarnished everything, more simple, tasty food... Happier chefs too (the ones of us who are still employed that is), since making garnishes sucks, and is a colossal waste of time. More vegetarian/vegan food: Fact is, vegetable protein, coming from pulses and grains, is much cheaper than meat. Better for the environment as well, which people will start thinking about, seeing as how the world's resources are getting stretched to the limit. Not to mention, vegetarian cuisine can be every bit as tasty as meat, it just needs more thought. Example - Indian and Ethiopian restaurants - both are very popular these days, both have veggie options that make you forget about meat. Pastries: As consumers will no longer be able to afford top-end meat to indulge in, they'll turn to starch and sugar. Very tasty, insanely addictive, and with the veggie heavy diet they'll be eating, they'll be able to cope with eating more sweets. The fact that you can get high-end pastries for 3-7 dollars is a great way to indulge without spending much money. Breads: Now that the Atkins-induced hangover is over, people are realizing that indeed, traditional diets are better, and bread is filling, cheap, and can be very tasty. Decent source of protein as well. Also look for breads made from alternative grains, seeing as how everyone and their mother has a gluten 'allergy' these days... And what's more comforting (when you're poor you need to be comforted) than the smell of fresh bread, especially when a high-end loaf of bread that can feed your family is only 3-5 dollars? Anyhow, maybe I'm wrong, hopefully I'm right, especially since I predicted my own specialty in the industry (Pastries and Baking) will become bigger. Either way, this is the direction I personally see things going, based on what I see in the economy and in restaurants. Anyhow, feel free to either critique/bash my predictions, and come up with your own...
  11. I must say, even as a young chef myself (pastry chef now), I'd have to agree with most of the list. My thoughts: 10 - Fried onion blossom: never seen it, but looks bad 9 - Molecular Gastronomy: Molecular gastronomy, as coined by Hervé This, is a great thing. It's always good to understand exactly why we cook the way we do, and techniques to improve the product. That being said, the silly fad cuisine that most of the world calls molecular gastronomy is rediculous. Yes, some of that food tastes amazing, but most cooks can't pull it off, and eventually the novelty factor wears out. You shouldn't have to think too hard about food, I'd rather be able to simply enjoy it and not have to think. 8 - 40 dollar entrée: This is a result of cooks who think they're more talented than they are, or that because top chefs charge alot, they can too. Obviously with the economy, such ego is intolerable. 7 - Communal table - I agree, bad idea. Family style seating and dining is a wonderful thing, with people you know. Sure you might meet some great people at a communal table, or you might be stuck with assholes all dinner long... 6 - Obnoxious fast food - I'll disagree here, sometimes you really just want something really greasy and horribly unhealthy, for instance, after the consumption of too much alcohol and/or drugs... 5 - Online reviews - I'm personally of the opinion that anyone should have a voice, not only experts. As a chef myself, I've come to realize that what the dining elite thinks really doesn't mean anything. Sure, you want to impress critics and the rich, but if you really want to make money, you neet to impress the average person (and all their friends). Online reviews are great because they give exposure to lesser establishments, although if your establishment sucks you'll get bad reviews. Still though, bad press is better than no press... 4 - Foam - Agreed, the foam that looks like soap suds is silly. Like most other modern techniques, it requires some knowhow to make a good tasting foam. Texture-wise, cooks would do well to go for more of a chantilly-type consistency, and less sudsy.. 3 - Menu as book - Never seen it, looks silly. 2 - Media whore chefs - I dunno, at least they can be sometimes entertaining... Although if they suck, eventually the media will drop them anyway. The way I look at it, they're still better than most TV. 1 - Deconstruction - This is something that most cooks suck at. If you're going to deconstruct something, then at least reconstruct it in a way that tastes good. Don't simply deconstruct it into it's elements, and then expect the diner to construct it themselves...
  12. Make inverted puff pastry. Butter bleeding out is usually a result of the fat separating from the liquids and milk solids in the butter. Usually it gets absorbed by the flour in the recipe, but excess will bleed out. This is one of the advantages (among many) of inverted puff pastry. Since both doughs contain varying amounts of butter and flour, you don't get any butter bleeding out and it's easier to roll and work with. It's also easier to compensate for varying amounts of water/fat in your butter.
  13. I work as a pastry chef nowadays, and generally get alot of complements, although it's always nice if it's from a pretty girl around my age... . Anyhow, the best complement I received was from a Ukrainian couple several years ago, who said I made the best borshch they've had in North America... Another best was a little girl who was overjoyed I made a special (mini) dessert for her - complements from children are always touching since kids are usually pretty picky, and generally don't complement simply for the sake of politeness, as adults often do...
  14. Is culinary school worth it? For the prices most are charging nowadays, I'd say no. Fact is, doing a year or two apprenticeship in a good restaurant will put you light years ahead of a culinary school grad. Of course, culinary school does open doors, but you'll still be slaving away for the same shitty pay, except you'll also have debts to pay. And one thing I've found with culinary school grads that have worked under me, is that they're taught classic recipes and techniques that no one uses anymore, and generally I need to retrain them to do things the modern way anyway - I might as well just train someone from scratch - they talk back less too... And finally, one last thing. The way the economy is, any restaurants that want to survive need to change the way they do business. Simpler menus, less staff, modern technology and techniques, etc... Most of what culinary schools are teaching is obselete now. As for myself, I never went to school, I was mentored by several French chefs (who themselves were products of Michelin 2 and 3 star restaurants), was a chef de partie by 19, a first cook at 21, and was offered an exec chef job for a bistro at 22. Instead though I switched to pastry, was a pastry chef by 23, and now at 25 am a pastry chef for a large restaurant group (although I do plan on opening up my own pastry shop within the year). Anyhow, my experience in the industry is that work ethic, willingness to learn and take responsibility, and ambition mean much more than any formal learning. Not to mention knowledge of the industry itself, some business smarts, and lots of creative thinking. Once you're a chef - actually cooking is the least of your worries...
  15. I don't know if it's simply because I've worked with too many bad cooks, or if I'm a product of too many high-end restaurants, and apprenticed under French chefs (who themselves were products of 2 and 3 Michelin star restaurants), but I've got alot of pet peeves... Mostly related to disorganization, uncleanliness, poor technique, and lack of respect. I've been a pastry chef for awhile, but was a cook for years before (doing very high end food), so it used to drive me nuts when I saw the bad habits of the savoury cooks... Especially when they'd start cluttering up my workspace and I'd have to chase them out. And while I'd mostly take care of my own ordering, it always pained me to see execs/sous who couldn't keep up with inventory... And of course, servers stealing pastries would also drive me nuts, so I'd always have to be hiding pastries and chocolates in mislabeled boxes...
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