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Everything posted by Mikeb19

  1. Well, I got my first pastry chef job at 22 in a restaurant, and I made 14 dollars/hour, plus tips, and other perks... Ended up taking home close to $3000/month (CDN). (unfortunately the same year I also had some serious health problems which was a huge career setback) Anyhow, this is what I've found with food jobs (I do both savoury cooking and pastries - I started on the line in fact). You never make great money, but if you have passion, can bring something to the team that no one else can, you will make a decent amount of money. Not great, but decent (ie. enough to live somewhat comfortably). I know I make more money than just about anyone my age because I can do anything - hotline, pastry, traditional cuisine, modern cuisine (molecular gastronomy), etc... But, to make good money, you need to own your business, period (which can be a huge risk). Very few chefs make alot of money working for someone else. Also, I never had to deal with paying for school or loans (didn't go to culinary school, just worked my way into top restaurants at a young age). That can set you back alot in cash, and also in monthly loan payments. What else, books? I have probably over 2000 dollars worth of cooking books, maybe more. To set yourself apart in the industry, you need to continually learn. Knowing the classics that they teach you in culinary school isn't enough, because no one uses them in restaurants anymore. Anyhow, good luck to you and your husband.
  2. Mikeb19

    Dry frying

    So, dry frying. Any thoughts? Brilliant innovation? Other applications? ← I've cooked steaks in pans without any added fat. A japanese chef I used to work with seared scallops in a non-stick pan without any added fat. People dry fry nuts all the time. It's pretty common stuff....
  3. I don't think it's so much a trend as just being an easy to prepare, and very tasty dish. I've seen seared scallops in top restaurants here in Calgary (a culinary wasteland, not to mention redneck-infested) since I started my apprenticeship. The way I was taught was to heat up a non-stick pan (very hot, high heat!), put the scallops in the dry pan, then once the crust starts, you throw in a little piece of butter, it goes to noisette very quickly, and you baste the scallops in the butter, then turn them to cook the other side quickly, then you're done. Anyhow, if you get top quality scallops, are a decent cook, you really can't mess it up. Serve with a beurre blanc sauce, some sauteed sea asparagus, and it's a great dish. Boring and easy, perhaps, but incredibly tasty.
  4. I don't know what real etiquette is, but I don't add any condiments to my sushi. I like to taste the fish, vinegared rice, and whatever the chef himself puts into the sushi. Not to mention at most sushi places the wasabi isn't real... Then again, I don't add any condiments to my food at any restaurants, unless it's provided specifically for that dish... Oh yeah, I also eat sushi with my fingers... It's much easier, no chance of making a huge mess as I often see at sushi restaurants (and have done before ).
  5. Personally I'm all about the barbeque'd beef ribs. Coat the ribs with a rub, put in a 220 degree smoker for 8 hours, and enjoy with your favourite BBQ sauce. Another great way is to slice them really thin (1/4-1/8 inch), grill them until crispy, and serve with your favourite dipping sauce.
  6. Meh, I've never been a huge fan of a crust that's so hard and sharp it cuts open the roof of your mouth when you eat it... I've always preferred a softer crust, and nice soft, squishy bread. For me the character of a bread comes from the ferment, and the grains and flours used... I'm not a huge fan of bread made with white wheat flour...
  7. Shellfish and mollusks. Basically, any invertebrate animal. Worst of all, I'm a chef, so I'm supposed to like those kinds of things, but i really don't. Then again, I also love alot of stuff that many people find 'challenging', so I guess I'm not too bad. I love caviar (all eggs really), raw fish and meat, offal (but only if it's prepared well), very strong cheeses (blues are my favourites), etc....
  8. Tone here a bit strident. "S.F.'s future as a great restaurant town is imperiled as kitchen workers don't make enough money to live in the Bay Area." Is this really accurate? ← The article seems to be rather confused, and there isn't really any point to it. On one end they're blaming cooking schools, on the other end they're blaming the government. Anyhow, my thoughts... Cooking school is a complete and utter waste of time and money - you basically are paying top dollar so someone can train you to be a restaurant's line cook AKA bitch. You train a student, they work a few years for miminum wage in a restaurant (they're already invested in it, so they put up with it), then decide they can't afford it anymore, and leave. Rinse and repeat - always new low-paid staff. The worst part is, cooking school doesn't even give much of an education. I don't want to get started, but my experiences with fresh culinary school graduates have been a nightmare....(and I don't want to think about it again) Governments - need to make the laws easier for restaurant owners. The way servers get paid is absolutely rediculous. Median wage $30/hour? Maybe in a shitty restaurant, or they just wanted to give a very conservative estimate. I've worked in a top restaurant where every server was making more than the executive chef. And it's very true - paying servers minimum wage means that theres less money to pay kitchen staff, and nowadays cooks just can't work for the amount restaurants can afford (not for more than a short time anyway). But, restaurants also are to blame. I see the food some chefs are doing, and they're wasting money. I worked (very briefly) at one restaurant doing pastry, and 80 percent of my time was wasted doing absolutely useless, inedible garnishes because the chef thought they looked 'cool'. It was the same on the hotline - the food was nicely presented, but half the shit on the plate didn't need to be there. People were spending more time garnishing things than making them taste good. In the past, a good quality bistro/restaurant could get away with only having a few cooks, and maybe some part time assistants. Nowadays, you see kitchens that have half as many cooks as customers. In the end though, if a restaurant wants to survive, it's up to it's owners. I've learned that government cannot be trusted whatsoever, and you can't get well trained cooks strait out of culinary school, so restaurants have to figure out a way to simplify operations, reduce costs, and increase wages so they can get the right people in there.
  9. Just curious, but did you expect that French people only use proper language? And yes, some French words might seem straitforward enough, but alot of times the use of a word depends entirely on context. Goes for English words as well. For instance, the F word can be used to add emphasis, as a verb, or also as an insult. I dunno, I guess since I've been speaking French pretty much my whole life it's not really any surprise to me. I must say though, there have been some funny moments working in kitchens. I've worked with alot of French chefs, and at times have been the only other French speaker in the kitchen, so I got to hear alot of stuff none of the other staff ever would.
  10. Honestly, after working in the restaurants I have and seeing how much money the servers make up here, I find it incredibly hard to be concerned about servers getting 'screwed'. I work as a cook/chef. In jobs past I have had employers attempt to screw me out of money. My response - they right the wrong, pay up or I walk. Anyhow, up here servers get minimum wage (8 dollars per hour) PLUS tips. An average server in a fine dining restaurant can expext to get between 150-300 dollars in tips per night (300 is for busy weekends), on top of their wage. For a 5 hour shift, that's between 195-345 dollars, or between 39 and 69 dollars per hour. Cooks in the same restaurant can expect to get between 10-15 dollars per hour. The real losers are front of house managers - they get the same shitty wages the kitchen gets (sometimes less), they don't work kitchen hours, and they can't claim any tips either. In one restaurant I worked at (high end, we won a ton of awards from magazines and newspapers), the executive chef was making less money than ALL of the servers... With the way the current system goes, a server's idea of getting 'screwed' is getting paid a fair compensation - because right now, they're the ones laughing on their way to the bank...
  11. As I understand it, it is in a minority of states where servers are paid such low rates. In most states, servers are paid at least minimum wage. While this may not be a "competitive hourly wage" to some, it is most definitely competitive with other service industry jobs. And in Canada, I believe all provinces require servers be paid at least minimum wage. Prices in restaurants there have certainly not soared "into rediculousness." ← I don't know about elsewhere, but here in Calgary, the price of everything is getting rediculous... Half a million dollars for an average sized home, all of our consumer goods are more expensive than down south (despite our dollar being stronger in recent times), 30 dollars per day for parking downtown - that is, if you can find a spot. You can pay 20 bucks or more for a shitty entree at a chain restaurant, not to mention 5 dollars for a pint of cheap domestic beer (7-8 dollars for import). Add a standard tip and tax to that, and you've just paid over 30 dollars for a shitty meal. And yes, paying servers minimum wage does indeed factor in prices. And now prices are going even higher because you can't even get a body in the kitchen for less than 15 bucks an hour...
  12. All of what you're saying is correct. BTW, the reference to Hervé This was just about resting meats and re-injecting liqiuds into it, which he is a strong supporter of. And yes, the larger the roast and temperature difference between the roast and the oven, the more uneven the cooking will be. I'm not going to argue that. But what I am saying in a nutshell, is this: For a 1 to 2 inch thick steak, you can get beautiful, even cooking using traditional techniques (broiler, oven). The difference in temperature between the outside of the steak and the centre is equalized quickly enough (not to mention the redistribution of water in the meat while resting) that you can get a perfectly cooked steak without resorting to using sous-vide cooking. Obviously, for a bigger cut like a roast you need to apply a different technique than a 1-2 inch steak. For roasts I usually like to start them out in a very hot oven or in a pan to get a nice crust, then roast them in a slow oven (250-300 degrees). Anyhow, if thermal dynamics and temperature were the ONLY factors in cooking a piece of meat, sous-vide would win every time. But theres more going on, I'm just saying that between the thermal reactions and the bio-chemical reactions, by taking advantage of knowledge of both you can get a perfectly cooked steak using a traditional cooking apparatus. PS: Air has a much lower thermal conductivity rating than water, meaning that the steak is going to be conducting heat throughout itself better than the oven will be conducting heat to the air immediately surrounding the steak, making it a gentler cooking method than would appear just by adding up the temperature numbers. (adding to my argument)
  13. My microwave does this today. I love kitchen gadgets but I also think there are too many on the market today. Who needs a separate Magarita making machine? ← Very true. I've already seen/eaten plenty of sous-vide packaged foods (mostly mass produced asian meals and side dishes) you can simply reheat in the bag in the microwave (heck, I had one for dinner last night - most of them are pretty tasty too) - or in a water bath if you wanted I guess. They're also very nice for camping/backpacking (my favourite hobby) - they pack away very compact, are easy to reheat (boil whole bag in water, or spill out contents and heat up in a pot), and taste a hell of a lot better than dehydrated foods, plus they're more convenient and take up less space than canned items. Miltary IMPs (Individual Meal Packs) are also vacuum packed, and heated in the bag using a chemical heating device (basically a sleeve you put the IMP into, then activate with a small amount of water).
  14. I believe the part I highlighted above is the point of contention. You are obviously saying that you are cooking with temperatures much higher than the desired final temperature. For example, if you have a 2 inch thick steak and throw it into a 130F sous vide bath for a while you'll get a 130F steak. If you take that steak and instead throw it into a 500F oven, how do you get the center to 130F without the layers outside of the center being at a much higher temperature? If you have a non-sous vide technique for doing such a thing with a steak I would surely like to hear how you do it. Because I don't know any way to do it. ← Because of a steak's high heat capacity (since it's mostly water, not to mention organic compounds naturally have high heat capacities), it's slow to warm up relative to the environment. Think about it like this - you can put your hand in a 250 degree oven without much discomfort. Even a 350 degree oven. You can't put your hand in boiling water, you'll get burnt. Why? Because 212 degree water contains ALOT more thermal energy than the same amount of air at 3, 4 hundred degrees. Air is a gentler medium to cook with. Or how about this - I live in a dry climate. Temperatures here can vary between 40 degrees below zero ©, and 35 degrees above zero, and for most of that range it's tolerable. However in humid climates, you FEEL the temperature much more intensely, because the vapour in the air holds alot more thermal energy. Anyhow, you put your steak in the oven. Does the outside of the steak reach 500 degrees immediately? No, it slowly gains temperature. It also transfers heat to the interior of the steak, raising it's temperature and at the same time cooling (or in this case, slowing the rising of temperature relative to that of the air in the oven) the outside of the steak (to reach thermal equilibrium). Now, there WILL be a slight difference in outer and inner temperatures initially (the higher the oven temperature, the higher the difference), that's one of the reasons we rest the meat. 10-20 minutes and the whole steak will be the same temperature. Also, theres plenty of biochemical reactions going on inside the steak both while it's cooking and resting. As it rests, water from the centre of the steak moves outward (in an attempt to restore equilibrium). All explained wonderfully by Hervé This in his english book (and I'm sure theres plenty of other sources explaining this). Of course, this requires timing, taking the steak out at the right time, and doing stuff like first raising the temperature of the steak at room temperature. Cooks are lazy though, with sous-vide, we can throw a dozen steaks in a 60 degree water bath for awhile, then take them out and sear them to the final temperature to order. We can also hold sauces all service long without evaporation, instead of making them to order. Or making soups and vegetable purees, put your stuff in a bag, throw it in water, forget about it all afternoon, pop it in the blender before service. Anyhow, there is nothing mystical about cooking, the application of heat is nothing but physics, the reaction of the food to the heat is chemistry, biology and physics. I'm really not too interested in explaining anything more about basic thermodynamics. Also, I'm surprised that in 2007 we're having discussions about sous-vide and whether it's 'real cooking'. It's been around for decades, fine dining restaurants in France have been using the technique since the 1970's and 1980's. I've been using the technique since I was a green apprentice (I had the luck of working with French and Japanese chefs who were very experienced with sous-vide cooking, they'd been using it since before most North Americans even knew what the words meant). The fact that sous-vide cooking is just beginning to be widely accepted is proof of how far behind North American cooks are from Europeans and Japanese. (not to mention spherification techniques are several decades old, the use of agar-agar, lecithin, etc...)
  15. It is assumed that without gratuities, the waitstaff will be making a salary that's actually half decent. The only reason gratuities ever existed in the first place, is so that restaurant owners wouldn't have to pay the servers a wage.... The IDEA behind the French Laundry's system is to pay everyone in the restaurant a decent wage, so gratuities aren't required for anyone to pay their bills. Anyhow, the disparity between what a cook earns and what a server earns (in a high-end restaurant) can be absolutely staggering. I once worked at a restaurant (a very high end one), where I was making 400 dollars a week, working 60-70 hours per week. I was having a beer with one of the servers, and inquired into how much he made. He told me he worked several restaurants, added up to around 50 hours a week, and he made $100,000+...(BTW, that was more than the executive chef) Alot of servers are content making a mere 60,000/year income working only 25-30 hour weeks. For comparison, that's more than double what your average fine-dining cook earns, in about half the hours worked... It's also why there are plenty of restaurants suffering from a lack of cooks (some being forced to close altogether), and theres never any shortage of serving staff. Serving is probably one of the easiest ways to make money, and if you're actually good at it, make ALOT of money... Set service charges are designed to fix the system, so cooks can make a livable wage, and servers can make a consistent (albeit slightly lower) amount of money.
  16. Well, apparently I'm the only person in the world nowadays without a camera, or a camera phone (or an Ipod, or any of those other mostly-useless gadgets...). I'll try to get around to it though, maybe snagging a camera from some family or friends...
  17. Just last night I enjoyed a striploin steak. It had a nice uniform texture and colour throughout the entire piece of meat (minus the seared crust) - just like that picture of the sous-vide cooked lamb. I cooked it under a broiler. It's not impossible - it's just that it takes care to PROPERLY cook a piece of meat using conventional cooking. Conventional cooking will never be able to replicate the EXACT product that sous-vide can (and vice versa), but you can certainly get a piece of meat that has the same colour (which most people use as the benchmark for 'doneness') throughout, which was the original point I refuted. If you can't get that result, you're not cooking properly. Also, keep in mind that different cooking mediums (air and water), have different specific heat capacities. If you don't know what specific heat capacity means, in a nutshell, it's referring to the amount of thermal energy a specific amount of a certain material contains. Water's specific heat capacity is approximately 4 times that of air. When you cook a product containing mostly water (meat), in a water bath, the water is able to transfer alot of energy to the meat, and heat it up to a specific temperature rather quickly. However when you cook meat in an air environment, the differences in specific heat capacity means that the air temperature has to be much higher to provide the same amount of thermal energy to the meat. Well, a scientist with much more experience in this matter than either of us (or anyone else alive for that matter) - Hervé This, disagrees with you. As do many chefs, barbeque enthusiasts, etc..., people who have observed that there is indeed a redistribution of water in the cooked product (myself included). Try this - take a roast out of the oven and slice it right away. Take a second identical roast, let it rest an hour wrapped in foil and a towel - there will be a difference, and I'm not just talking about the temperature difference...
  18. It's actually the difference between a material with a high specific heat capacity (which is also affected by the phase of matter, but water shows a high heat capacity in all phases, highest in liquid), and a material with a low specific heat capacity (steel). But that's a whole other story, I could go on for hours (days?) about physics (before I became a chef I was going to pursue a career as a physicist). Anyhow, the short point - meat contains lots of water, and organic materials also have a high specific heat capacity. That's why meat is so slow to heat up in an oven, relative to the temperature of the oven itself (liquid water has a specific heat capacity approximately 4 times that of air). Anyhow, the temperature variation is there, but resting the meat allows it to reach equilibrium, and for much of the protein to re-absorb liquid that had previously been expelled. But now we're talking about a cell's ability to hold water, and bio-chemistry isn't my strong suit, but guys like Hervé This are able to explain it much better. Sous-vide is a slightly more straitforward way of getting the result of a 'perfectly' (a subjective term anyway) cooked piece of meat, and I do like the technique (have used it MANY times in restaurants and at home), but it's not as big a leap as alot of people claim. Edit - anyhow I find sous-vide really doesn't make a huge difference when you're talking about prime pieces of meat (for instance a rib eye or filet, sous-vide really isn't much of an improvement, I'd argue no improvement to my subjective criteria over traditional cooking), but is put to much better use with tougher pieces of meat, ones that require an extended exposure to heat, which would traditionally be braised (after all, sous-vide is just a form of very low-temperature braising).
  19. Very true. There is quite a bit involved in the process, and resting is almost as important as the cooking itself. First you want to bring the meat up in temperature before cooking, then cook it gently in a pan, on a grill, etc..., then rest for at least 10 minutes (for any sizeable cut of meat - large roasts benefit from 20-30 minutes or more - some BBQ competitors rest their brisket for over an hour). Also, I meant to add in my other post addressed to BryanZ, that the temperature of your oven/water bath isn't the only determining factor in 'doneness' or how well it's cooked or whatever. I mean, if you cook two pieces of meat at 60 degrees C, one sous-vide and the other in an oven without any covering, they're going to turn out different. Just thought of another example - you put a pot of water on the stove, and bring it to a boil. The water will be a relatively uniform temperature, yet the heat source is only in contact through the bottom of your pot, at a much higher temperature...
  20. I'm afraid that's not true. Please explain how this is possible if the heat that works its way through the protein being cooked is at a higher temperature than the desired core temperature. Of course, there is merit to a traditionally cooked piece of protein, but the results are fundamentally different. ← Maybe if I ever get a camera I can show that a traditionally cooked piece of meat can achieve the same uniform colour throughout. Obviously there is some extra moisture loss compared to sous-vide cooking, but you can still get that nice uniform colour and texture in the meat. Anyhow, Hervé This explains resting meat, cooking proteins, etc..., much better than I (or anyone else for that matter), I'd suggest reading some of his material. Once you understand what actually goes on inside the meat, you understand why sous-vide works, but also how to improve traditional methods.
  21. With the use of a large syringe, you can literally inject the juices or marinade into the protein... It works great on roasts (but also any meat), after you take the meat out of the oven, inject some juice (cooking juice, or a flavoured finishing sauce) into your meat just before you rest it, the protein will absorb the juice as it rests (same concept as the juices being re-dispersed throughout the meat as a result of resting).
  22. If you cook your meat properly in a pan/oven or even on the grill, and give it a proper rest, you can achieve the same result (the same degree of doneness throughout the entire piece of meat).
  23. ........... Foie Gras is the fattened liver of a goose or duck...
  24. Maybe we should also give up our Robo-Coupes, blenders, electric and gas ranges, dough mixers, etc... Just do everything by hand with manual tools, and cook on a coal range or wood fired oven... You are right about one thing though - these fancy methods won't make you a chef, but for a chef who knows what they're doing, they allow you to precisely cook quite a few things at once with minimum hassle. Edit - was just thinking about it, and while sous-vide is convenient for us chefs, food cooked in a wood-fired oven (or on a wood-fired grill) is pretty damn tasty.
  25. I never really use a 'real' recipe, although I've got tons. Heres a recipe for you out of one of my Ukrainian cookbooks - this one is specifically for Sviata Vechera: -2 cups buckwheat (or rice, or even millet) cooked according to directions, then cooled - 1 head of cabbage (can be fresh or sour cabbage, or even beet leaves/swiss chard) - 2-3 medium onions - 1/4 pound butter (or a vegetable oil, amount can be reduced if you want) - 1 cup mushrooms (can use just about any kind, or many kinds) - salt and pepper to taste - 16 ounces canned tomatoes - tomato juice/stock/water as needed Cook your grain, then cool. Core your cabbage, put the head in a pot with boiling water, and cook, peeling off each outer layer as they cook (as was demonstrated upthread). Sauté your onions and mushrooms in butter (or oil), then add to your grain, and gently mix. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff the grain/mushroom filling into the cabbage leaves (not too tight), and arrange neatly in your dish. Crush your tomatoes, add some tomato juice as needed, cover everything with a few large leaves of cabbage, then cover your casserole dish, and bake at 325 for 2 hours. A few variations - I like to add a little hot sauce to my tomatoes, personal taste, but I like a spicier sauce. My grandmother would also cook the cabbage rolls overnight in a 225-250 degree F oven (I do the same, but most recipes call for higher temps/less time). You can serve them strait out of the casserole with the tomato sauce, or you can also serve them with mushroom gravy (which is also traditional). And just to note - in my family (and most Ukrainian recipes I've seen) cabbage rolls were always about the grain filling, if meat was added it was only a bit to add flavour to the grains. Buckwheat, millet, and rice are all traditional fillings, my personal favourites are buckwheat or millet (rice is a bit boring IMO). Also, once the cabbage rolls are done, the grains are quite soft - softer than the way Italians or French cook them (I've personally never understood their affinity for cooking pasta and rice al dente anyway...). Edit - forgot to add, Buckwheat is one of the best sources of non-animal protein known to man, and has tons of great vitamins and whatnot - it's a great, incredibly healthy grain.
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