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Everything posted by Mikeb19

  1. Making cheese doesn't make sense for a restaurant (except fresh cheeses, which some restaurants do make). Many cheeses are aged for extended periods of time, their flavour depends on the élevage of the animals, etc... It would be like a restaurant making their own wine - possible, but a waste. On the other hand, bread is easy to make very well, and any restaurant that doesn't make it in-house is just lazy... In fine dining, everything is made in house except dairy products (although we did make our own crème fraîche) and some charcuterie (we also did some though). Booze is obviously bought, as were most beverages (lazy bar staff... ).
  2. In every kitchen I've worked in, everyone had to prove themselves. Culinary school grad, or kid off the street. (I was the kid off the street, living in the housing projects, coming to the most expensive, luxurious fine dining restaurant in this part of the country) The problem with culinary school grads is, they think they know how to cook. They learn to cook classic French food at school, that's all. You try to teach them, they talk back, you fire them... That's how it goes. In restaurants, in the REAL world, we use modern cooking techniques, not to mention, each chef is trying to push their own style, so they need 100% cooperation from their cooks. Not some wannabe TV chef strait out of culinary school (yes I've seen it). I've worked with plenty of great cooks that would be stumped if you asked them to make a béchamel or a true demi-glace (and even if they did know how to make it, they'd tell you it's a waste of time because no one uses those sauces anymore), but can make a very nice cream sauce and meat 'jus'... Or how about foams, do they even teach that in school? Anyhow, I could go on for hours about the industry, my own personal experience training culinary school grads at the restaurant, but I'll cut it short for now.
  3. So true. Oftentimes the kitchen isn't kept in the loop, and has no control over the FOH. The best restaurants I've worked in, were all chef owned and controlled...
  4. Every fine dining restaurant I know around here offers a cheese plate. But yeah, I can understand why some restaurants wouldn't. Not many people like good cheese, and it's a money loser. Even if you are making money on it, it's not even close to your other desserts... One thing I would like to see however is more composed cheese courses... As nice as it is to enjoy a good cheese on its own, it's also nice to have them with different accompaniments... I can buy a piece of cheese and take it home, at a restaurant you should get a little more...
  5. Don't know, it hasn't happened since I worked in a shitty chain restaurant many years ago... For most of my career I've worked in fine dining, and it was usually that the kitchen was underwhelmed, and the servers overwhelmed... With true professional cooks, I don't think I've seen the quality slip like that.
  6. Very nice to see chefs looking to their own countries and heritage for inspiration. Seems like for most people fine dining has to mean French or Italian (and lately Spanish). I just ordered the Noma cookbook, should be interesting.
  7. I'd say most restaurant food is like that - looks good but tastes bad. Maybe if chefs and cooks stopped trying to make food look 'fancy', they'd have more time to make it taste good. Reminds me of one restaurant that I worked at as the pastry chef - the exec chef wanted me to do a bunch of sugar garnishes and shit that no one actually ate (nor would they want to ). I ended up spending 80 percent of my day making dumb ass garnishes, and as a result I wasn't able to progress the menu the way I wanted (I was taking over after the other pastry chef left). Needless to say, I didn't last long (my choice to leave BTW)...
  8. Because nowadays people have become elitest when it comes to food products. They equate round with mass produced frozen pizza shells, when the reality is any decent pizza cook can produce a round pie just fine... Anyhow, don't get me started on the topic of foodie elitism.
  9. Bump. Anyone? Or am I going to have to make my own? (I'd rather buy from a good source though, their product is probably more consistent than what I can do) I'll describe the products if that helps: - Smetana - basically sour cream, but with a much higher fat content than the sour cream you find in the grocery store, and without the thickening agents - Kefir - fermented milk product, similar to yogurt, but thinner - usually is drank - Kvas - fermented bread drink
  10. I've had plenty of restaurant related nightmares (any sort of dream about work is a nightmare in my books...), stemming from my days working as a cook. The most recent one, I dreamed that I was back at work in a fine dining restaurant (I've left the industry for the last 6 months). Pretty boring actually, but it sucks dreaming about work and then waking up, and going to work.
  11. I'm for one glad to see cooks holding out for better wages. The entire point of working is to make money. Talk about passion all you want, it doesn't matter when you can't pay your bills. Might as well get as much money as you can in your industry. If a restaurant is losing lots of employees, it means they aren't paying enough. That's the bottom line. If the industry as a whole is losing employees, it means they aren't paying enough. Without cooks, you don't have a restaurant. Might as well go to a bar. Yet cooks are the lowest paid staff. I worked at one restaurant where all of us cooks got treated badly and paid shit, and the owner expected us to be grateful because the restaurant had a good name. Now that same restaurant doesn't have any kitchen staff at all (not even a head chef), and I for one won't shed a tear. Two years ago I was cooking for 11 dollars an hour. Now if anyone offered me less than 18 I'd tell them to go @#$% themselves... The way the housing situation has gone in Calgary, $15/hour is the new minimum wage.
  12. Mikeb19

    Fat-Free Roux

    I'm honestly surprised that people still use roux... In the dozen or so restaurants I've worked in (mostly in fine dining), I've only seen roux used in a single restaurant. Usually to thicken we'd use rice flour, potato starch, corn starch, arrowroot, etc... You can also make a vegetable purée to thicken sauces and bind stews, it's not only healthier but also adds more flavour. And if you really want to impart that toasted wheat flavour, just toast up some bread, grind it up, and use that as a thickener.
  13. I like descriptions that describe the food as best as possible. Obviously, with more complex dishes the descriptions get longer, but I don't like long-winded descriptions. And my biggest pet peeve - French descriptions done by people who don't speak French (could be for any language, but I speak French so it bugs me in particular). Usually they are inaccurate (and often just plain wrong). Writing your menu with lots of French words might sound fancy to some, but it sounds rediculous when you get the words wrong.
  14. First, get some custom insoles for your shoes. Helps alot when you're standing on your feet that long. Second, if you have time, try some weight training. To reduce joint pain, strengthening the surrounding muscles is key. Strength training also leads to better overall body posture. Third - working 80 hour weeks isn't healthy. I've done it, most other cooks who have worked in top restaurants have done it. It's just not worth it.
  15. Just curious, why not make a pâte à bombe with egg yolks and whites together?
  16. I'm in Calgary AB, and I'm wondering if anyone has a commercial source for the following: - Smetana - Kefir - Kvas
  17. Do you get paid for that shift or two? ← Usually I wouldn't get paid cash for the trial shift. Instead, I'd ask the chef to make me his 'signature' dish for my meal, just to see what his cuisine is really about (although you can usually get a good idea from working in the kitchen, it's also nice to see from a diner's perspective...). Also, during a trial shift (or 'stage' as we'd call it), there's not usually too much heavy work involved - prepare a few items, observe the kitchen work, then work alongside the chef during service, and they wouldn't make me clean either (since it's unpaid) - although they do observe how clean you actually work. At one restaurant, during this trial shift, I observed from the server side of the pass for a lunch service, and during the dinner service I worked the pass with the Chef, plating items, making sauces, etc... Another trial shift at another restaurant involved working the GM station with the Chef/Owner, although it mostly involved drinking lots of good wine, eating lots of good cheese (and anything else we could find on the GM station) and just shooting the shit... As far as I'm concerned it's a good deal working that 1 unpaid shift - it's plenty of fun, easy work, both parties get to see what the other is about.
  18. It's pretty common around here to do a full shift as part of the interview process. In fact, when I look for a job, I don't accept the job until I'm able to work a shift or two, to feel out the restaurant. I definitely feel it's worthwhile, for both parties.
  19. Pronunciation would be more like suuk-say or sook-s'eh...
  20. As a young Canadian of Ukrainian heritage, I definitely second the statement that pretty much the only direct bond to Ukrainian culture is through food (I don't speak the language, although most of my extended family does, and have never actually been to the Ukraine but again, many of the older relatives were born there). For me, Ukrainian food isn't just about cabbage rolls and vareneky, it's about certain flavour profiles, the ingredients used (for instance, northern Alberta, where my Ukrainian relatives live, has a climate quite similar to the Ukraine, and they grow the same vegetables, raise the same livestock, etc...), and the concept/intentions of the cuisine. As a professional cook, I've definitely tried to create some Ukrainian flavours and dishes at every restaurant I've worked at, whether I'm making borshch, vareneky, or a simple roast dish with Ukrainian flavours, etc... Bread was also important at meals to us, so I definitely take pride in my breadmaking. Because I grew up eating Ukrainian food every single day of my childhood, this cuisine is very special to me, brings back some very fond memories. Anyhow, it's nice to see a successful restaurant and dinner based on this cuisine. Too much Ukrainian food you see nowadays out here isn't what it should be.
  21. Most culinary school are like that. The best thing that happened in my cooking career: I got rejected from culinary school. Why? Because I was in a low income bracket, living in the ghetto, and already had cooking experience. Anyhow, the same month I was supposed to be in school had I been accepted, I got a job at the best restaurant in town. I got ahead pretty quick, learning both savoury and pastry cookery. My most recent cooking job was actually as a pastry chef, and I've also been the 1st cook in an award-winning fine dining resto. You work like a fiend, listen and learn as much as possible on the job, and you'll learn more (and make a lot more money) than you will by going to cooking school. One guy I used to work with, did get accepted to culinary school (we applied around the same time). Last time I saw him a few months ago, he was schucking oysters at a bistro. When kids would come to our back door with a resume, and they're fresh out of culinary school, their resume would be thrown in the trash. If they had some other cooking experience, then we'd hire them to peel vegetables and pick through salad greens. Heck, I had one kid, with culinary school experience as well as some restaurant experience (shouldn't say kid, he was 5 years older than I...), who couldn't even make a proper emulsion - I had to teach him how to make a fucking ganache, and walk him through how to make a foam... Another one I let make a mayonnaise by herself (don't they teach that in culinary school?), after 4 attempts she asked me to show her how to do it... Anyhow, that's enough culinary grad stories, I'm going to get stressed out just thinking about it again. (it was that bad...) As a side note, why does everyone think fine dining is the epitome of cooking anyway? I've had some amazing 'low-brow' food, plus you can make a hell of a lot more money cooking it... (I get just as excited about good barbeque as I do about good fine dining)
  22. It doesn't have to cost a thing. Heck, you can get paid to learn. Culinary school isn't worth it. Learn on the job - you'll learn more, and have more money in the end. Besides, half of the techniques they learn in school no one uses anymore, and they don't teach techniques that restaurants actually do use now... (frustrating those of us who have to deal with the culinary school grads...) When you have to show a culinary school grad how to make a mayonnaise or a ganache because they don't know what an emulsion is, theres a fucking problem...(true story) Anyhow, I really don't know why so much food sucks. I've worked in bars where we did make everything from scratch, made some damn good food for a decent price. Bars make so much from liquor sales they can invest a little in the food. While it's true that liquor makes more money than food, people decide where they want to eat first, then drink there too.
  23. I don't know about that... In the last few years I've seen more great beers than ever (even some of the large-ish breweries are making good products), and the micro-breweries seem to keep on multiplying and getting bigger... Brewpubs also seem to be doing very well. Up here in Canada, the beverage of choice is without any doubt beer. We drink a ton of it. And I see more and more people my age (22) drinking better and better brews... Good beer is much cheaper to enjoy than good wine (all the best wines I've had in my lifetime I couldn't come close to affording - I had them at restaurants I worked at...). And honestly, I enjoy beer much more than wine (although I do like wine quite a bit). Just this last weekend I stopped by a brewpub and had a tasting of 6 different, house-made brews. The difference in flavours, and complexity of each was quite amazing, and most were very enjoyable. I think the future of beer (the world's first alcoholic beverage dating back to the 7th millenium BC, and thought by some archaeologists as being the catalyst for all of civilisation to develop...) is quite bright indeed...
  24. I really know nothing of US cheeses, but up here in Canada, I've had some Canadian cheeses (both hard and soft) that compare very favourably to imported cheeses (there were a couple soft, ripened goat cheeses in particular that stand out, unfortunately I forgot which farm they came from - but they were incredible - I think the Chef and I ate up half the restaurant's supply ourselves). Obviously the variety isn't quite there yet, but the scene is getting better by the day. I also don't think we (or the US) need to use the French or anyone else as a model - those cheeses are great, but I think local producers can produce excellent, unique cheeses without needing to copy anyone.
  25. Strait up, theres a reason they're illegal. With cheese that's been ripened, the good bacteria develop, and kill off the bad bacteria, making it safe. This is why unpasteurized cheese is required by law to be aged for a certain time. With soft unaged and unpasteurized cheese, theres not enough time for all the bad stuff to die off. Even in the last decade, theres been plenty of reported (and no doubt more unreported) deaths due to unpasteurized dairy products. It's simply not safe. I know down in the US, drugs such as marijuana and cocaine are highly illegal. If you don't allow people to use those products, why should it be a problem that unaged unpasteurized cheese is outlawed? Both are dangerous, so it only makes sense that both are illegal, no?
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