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Michaeltheonion

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  1. Michaeltheonion

    Decades Dinner

    The Restaurant at which I currently serve as chef is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Which in human years would make it 120 I think. We are planning a series of dinners to commemorate this. The first theme of the dinners is decades. I want to serve dishes based on the decades in which the restaurant was around. We will be doing the 80's, 90's 00's and a "future 'course. I want each plate to reflect the styles and trends. For example the 80's will feature some post noveau cusine. The 90's is going to be hardcore fusion. The 00's is either going to be farm to table or perhaps some molecular dishes. And the future? What do you see as the trends for the coming decade? Any input, from complete dishes to styles, techniques or fads would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  2. Michaeltheonion

    Cooking Brisket quickly.

    I was recently invited to do a black box in a rather public forum. I recently received the secret ingredient. Brisket. I am familiar with this cut of meat, having smoked it before. However what concern me is the time. I have 5 hours to cook the protein nicely, create garnishes and serve it to 50 people. I usually like to brine or cure the meat for hours if not days before cooking. However I feel with the time constraints this may present a challenge. The Particular cut I will be preparing is going to weigh in at just over 4 kilos. I want to avoid taking it apart as much as possible because the fat may leach out. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Cheers.
  3. Michaeltheonion

    You know you're a cook when........?

    I have quite a few outside of work habits, but I have a friend who takes it to a next level. When he goes around a corner, he loudly announces " Coming through Corner." When he opens an oven at home he will say " Oven!" even if there is no one in the vacinity. He is used to cooking on an eye which is quite hot. Once he was trying to sear mushrooms in a pan on an electric stove and they just couldn't get as seared as he needed them to be, so he didn't eat them. But he works to much...
  4. Michaeltheonion

    What do you use to clean the floors?

    Bleach and degreaser on the floor, with 16 liters of steaming hot water. Two Cooks deck brush the floor for 10 minutes, One follows behind with a mop. Finally it is mopped a second time to make sure it is nice and dry. Cleaning the floor in my kitchen is a 3 person job and can take 25 minutes to do it properly. But the floor is clean. Also sweep the floor every 30 minutes if possible during the day and give it a quick mop after lunch service. Like anything its easier to keep clean if it is done little by little.
  5. Michaeltheonion

    " No Fingers No Food.'

    I also have tasting spoons everywhere. This was a situation where I ran out mid service and didn't realize until it was to late. Most of my sauces are vegetables purees , which means the seasoning changes almost every 30 minutes. I keep spoons on all stations but this one time, there were none. I remember screaming " Spoons! I need Spoons!' And I got them. Anyways I'm going to post the video that made me bring this topic up, To stress the point once again, I think it is really very funny. talk about double dunking.
  6. Michaeltheonion

    " No Fingers No Food.'

    I was watching some Old Marco Pierre White videos on you tube the day, (and I recommend everyone else does as well,) and I noticed he was constantly tasting with his fingers. In Fact at one point after continuously tasting a sauce with all of his 8 fingers he Remarked " no fingers no food.." Which is quite hilarious. I have been raised in Kitchens where you must always taste with a spoon. Or you use two spoons and continuously taste until the seasoning is perfect. There was one hotel where I worked, which had a few senior members who I recall would stick there fingers in everything. I know this is unsanitary, but does anyone else do this? I was in the middle of a very busy service the other night and I ran out of tasting spoons for 5 minutes and every time I sauced a plate I was worried the seasoning might have changed. Has anyone worked in a kitchen where this was common practice? Just to Clarify, I am not doing a poll to see if people think this is an Ok practice, Im just wondering if this goes on. There...
  7. Michaeltheonion

    Paying market wages for labour

    Ok this is a little bit of a rant. ... You see I am a chef, I operate a fine dining/ catering restaurant that makes millions of dollars a year. In the summer we seat 230 people and we flip tables. We are generally always full. In fact this winter ( during a recession) we had our best months ever. More profit! My food cost is exceedingly low ( although we don't skimp on ingredients, Foie gras, fresh ocean fish, CSA vegetables ect.) as well as my labour cost. In short my masters are very happy with me. I work generally 65 hours a week on salary which is fine, but it goes without saying now that I will be at every service ( 6 lunches, 1 brunch and 6 dinners) except sunday dinner. I recently had to replace a sous chef as he left for greener pastures ( he is now making more money working on a very fine line at 40 hours a week). I've been canvasing the market looking for someone to replace him, or perhaps hire internally. The fact is none of the cooks want to work for the pay being offered. If you break it down hourly its around $6 and hour. I require quite a high standard in my kitchen, good cleanliness, very fine knife skills that sort of thing. The people who have come in for the job who were up to my standard were really quite good, but as soon as I told them what the pay was they all shy away. Now Im having to look at the bottom of the barrel. Some of the sous chefs that I have interviewed recently dont know what a brunoise is. I am also running the lowest paying restaurant that I know of. Most of the chefs around pay entry level around $13, good cooks or "line studs," make around 16-17. My first cook, who is in charge of butchering thousands of dollars of meat is making $12.50 and hour. Many restaurants are hiring for their summer push and some of the cooks are being lured away for a higher pay check. Now to be clear most of the cooks in my kitchen have spent $30 000+ on catering school so its not surprising that they want more money, because I am simply not allowed to pay any more. I don't know what to do. I really don't have a problem working like a donkey for very little pay, thats my own deal but I never wanted to be in the position where I would be doing that to someone else. Honestly if I were a cook at my restaurant with the skill lever demanded I would stay for a year and then leave. So I don't blame them. We all know cooking is a very low paying profession but to be payed the lowest wage in the town is terrible. IM trying to tell my boss's that what they are offering is not enough and if I have to hire inexperienced people than the standards will slip. But they just tell me there isn't money to go around. Which I know to be fraudulent. Any suggestions?
  8. Michaeltheonion

    How do you organize lids?

    I have cambros which are used to store all soups stocks and anything that takes up allot of volume. For general storage I have clean see through plastic containers that are cylindrical and hold 1literch. All sauces and mise is stored in these. Everything is labeled on the sides of the containers. If something is not labeled it goes in the bin. you can stack the containers so everything that is older is placed on the top of the new prep. I make sure the fridges are organized at the beginning and end of the day. Oh yes everything must have a lid on it or it is tossed as well. It seems wasteful but it makes the cooks more aware of the organization I require. We originally kept all the sauces in various sized hotel pans with cling film covering them, but it was terribly inefficient. You could never see what was in a given sauce and the fridge was just piled deep with random containers. We also store all the meats and fish in cryovac bags. They are all labeled and kept on ice. There is nothing sexier than a well organized fridge.
  9. Michaeltheonion

    Music in your kitchen?

    No music during service ever. It just distracts everyone. I like to listen to CBC radio in the mornings from 8-11, just before the lunch rush comes in. I find listening to news programs isn't as distracting as music. Conversely if we are listening to music during prep it is always baroque or opera. Then there is the 30 minutes before dinner service when we blast Twisted Sister and Queen as as set up our stations and finish the final seasonings. Its good fun, but as soon as the clock strikes 5:30, everything goes silent. I suppose having a radio going Isn't terrible as long as there is it is being moderated. I have worked in a kitchen a long while ago where there was rock radio going all throughout service, the chef would call out orders and people would be singing, no one could hear anything, it was not very effective.
  10. Michaeltheonion

    Low food cost menu items

    I do a butter poached chicken breast which is quite cheap. Although I garnish the dish with shaved truffles. The Chicken costs me 93 cents but the truffles cost $4. In the week I sell a very good amount of salmon. The trim from the salmon is cured and smoked, which goes into a very popular brunch item, the smoked salmon scrambled eggs. We charge $18 for the dish which has a food cost of maybe $3, my Masters are pleased with that one. We also had a burger in the summer that was made entirely out of Angus and Elk Trim. The burger cost us nothing and was a hot seller on the patio. Although the Elk runs $87 the Kilo. So its all about balance.
  11. Michaeltheonion

    Working hours

    I work as a chef and I have not put in less than 50 hours weekly since I have been at it. That doesn't take in to account the waking moments when I plan specials and organize prep lists in my head, as well as reading researching etc. In the busy season I will work 80 hours a week ( this lasts for about 4 months) no questions asked. I do this not because I lack a team that can work without me, but because I am addicted to the rush. I am payed salary and have never once worked less than the 44 hour week agreed, but that is fine with me. The work does effect your social life. I generally have one full day off a week where i do laundry and life admin, possibly a second day where i see friend s and eat out. the rest of the week its work from 8-9. I can tell you its difficult to keep a significant other with these hours because people in the industry really do not understand, but ce la vie you know?
  12. Michaeltheonion

    Prep Standard Sheet Question

    All of my stations are organized around prep sheets. Everything is done on excel so it it organized and clear. This includes the dishwashers station ( bathroom checks, restocking the c-folds ext.) As well there are weekly cleaning checklists and daily check lists. I find especially for new cooks it make the entrance transition easier for them, so they have a very clear view of what is expected of them. Its also good for specials. I can write a special late when all the cooks have gone home, give them plating, portion and recipe guidelines on their clipboard, and even If I am not there I know the special is going to turn out how I wanted it. I have also noticed that having a clipboard makes people feel important for whatever reason, so thats an added bonus.
  13. Michaeltheonion

    Recipes for restaurant cooks

    I"m not sure how this topic will go over. I am a chef and generally I was taught to work without recipes all through my training. Not to say that there was no guidance, if something needed more apple or brown butter or parsley you just added it. Or conversely if it didn't need the added touch you would show restraint with your seasoning. An example of a recipe I will give to a cook is: 1 Eggplant, skinned. 1 Large onions minced, concase of 1 tomato, 2 garlic cloves minced. Olive oil in the pan. Sweat the Eggplant and begin to caramelize it. Add the onion and garlic. More olive oil as needed. Reduce heat to simmer. Add the Tomato Concase, simmer. season. That was how I was taught to cook. Recently a few of my cooks have asked me to write everything down for them. IN GRAMS! I was shocked, because as far as I was aware all recipes ( Excluding pastry and baking ) were passed on verbally. I have worked in restaurants with recipe books, sure but it was seldom that anyone used them. I understand perfectly the need for cost and quantity control, but I feel that a recipe is static and food is always changing. I feel as though recipes are more guidelines and should be followed to a T very seldom. Anyone have differing/agreeing opinions?
  14. Michaeltheonion

    Starting from scratch

    This I suppose is the norm. I think its terrible, but its just the economics of the business. I understand the practice of exploitation though. I am a chef and I have stageries coming in every month. Some of them are completely useless and I'm just happy if they don't mess things up too much. They get their first time kitchen experience and I send them on their way after 30 days and say "good luck." The second kind of apprentices are those diamonds who can come in and make sauces, prepare vegetables and even help hold down a station in my brigade. In this case even is they are there on an unpaid externship I always make sure they revcieve a fair salary. I believe if someone is contributing to the restaurant they deserve financial compensation for their work. I have worked for free for months of my life and I have reaped the benefits of working beside very fine chefs under these circumstances, but I will never ask anyone to work for free for me. My first cook often shows up two hours before his shift and never writes the proper hours down on his sign out sheet. I've told him the restaurant doesn't owe him 12 hours of free labour a week, so I always make sure pay roll has this right hours. I was talking to one of the finer chefs in my city awhile ago and I asked him how he was able so be so cavalier with Shaved truffles. He told me its because most of his staff is unpaid. That made me pretty angry. So in regards to your question. Yes you are being exploited, and I don't know that there is any way around it. Just chalk it down to a character building experience.
  15. Michaeltheonion

    Restaurants without tipping in the U.S.

    I worked at a restaurant that had this policy. When I first started there the management told me about the tip sharing system, he said everyone made the same wage and everyone made a fair wage. I was a server there, the gratuity was something around 20% so quite high. The average cheque was $500. We each had an average of 7-9 tables over a 6 hour shift. All the tips went to the house and they were "distributed" on pay day. I think I ended up making an extra $100 on top of my small salary every two weeks. Where the rest of the money went I can only guess. I wasnt mad that the money wans't going into my pocket at all. What did make me mad was knowing that the whole "equal distribution" model this place claimed to have was all a sham. Once a table commented that the money there must be really good because of the gratuity, I explained to them that we actually don't make much of it, and they left me a $50 tip.
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