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Everything posted by wax311

  1. I would like to preface this by saying that I do not have experience working with purchasing departments, but I am a chef. I would not worry about "bugging" the chefs with a single email or phone call. It sounds like most chefs are enthusiastic about using your product, so of course it would make sense to keep them informed. I imagine these chefs would want to receive the same beginning of the year product/price/availability list email that you would send to their purchasing departments. Those lists are useful menu planning tools. Purchasing departments might drop the ball, and chefs are busy, but sending the list to both is more likely to get the ball rolling. If you aren't getting a reply and you are dealing with an inept purchasing department, I think a call to the chef perfectly acceptable. If you don't want to mess with the purchasing department's systems for ordering, I suggest having the chefs email their first order of the season and have them CC the department so they know what's going on and can plan amongst themselves for future orders.
  2. wax311

    Kitchen Lingo

    "Mister" - medium rare. because in the heat of the moment, "medium rare" can be misheard as "medium" or "rare".
  3. Why don't you just ask your purveyor reps what's available? Surely they can give you product/price lists, and recommend what is good, what is in season (and for how long), and what is reasonably priced.
  4. I also have a big cell phone pet peeve. Cell phones and personal calls should not be part of any work environment. But I hope you at least give them a warning first, like, "Mark, cell phones are not allowed if you're clocked in and working." Because I really think your approach is a bit passive-aggressive, and withholding their cell phone batteries is discipline appropriate for middle-schoolers.
  5. wax311

    Ethereal Sauces

    I've always found that adding a little bit of acidity to a sauce just before serving helps make it "sing". A few drops of sherry or red wine vinegar or just a few drops of lemon juice, depending on the sauce and what it is being served with, goes a long way.
  6. I am finishing out my two week's notice at a place where the exec chef and chef de cuisine are both horrible at putting things back where they found them/where they belong. When one of them comes to "help" me on saute, I end up spending almost as much time cleaning up after them as they spend cooking the food! Sometimes it makes you wonder...how do these people fail to learn a very basic line cooking skill, and still become chefs?
  7. Hey that's a pretty good motto. Chains aren't all bad after all!
  8. For too brief a time, I worked at a restaurant in San Francisco where the chef had certain pet peeves - some odd, some not. The one that I am reminded of every day regards hangars. Yes, hangars. In the linen room, our chef coats hung on hangars. Under the rack, there is a metal hangar "tree" where the used hangars are supposed to be stacked - ubiquitous among restaurants. This is how it is supposed to work: A cook takes a chef coat and puts the hangar on the tree. When the tree is full, the linen delivery person brings it back to the company so they can reuse them. Unfortunately, many of the cooks at this particular restaurant were a bit lazy and/or inconsiderate. Upon taking their chef coats, most of the cooks failed to put the hangar on the tree where it belongs. Some people would just drop them on the floor! One day during a kitchen meeting, the chef led a discussion of pet peeves. I voiced a couple of mine, a couple other people mumbled some of their thoughts, and then the chef finished with his hanger peeve. There were a few chuckles, and someone asked why it bothered him. His rationale involved accountability. He asked something along the lines of, "does your mother still clean your room for you?" He explained that even subtle, little things like leaving a few hangars on the ground makes us look bad to the linen company. When the linen delivery person has to pick a bunch of hangars up from off the floor, it makes us look unprofessional. From that day on, every day I would put all the loose hangars in the linen room on the hangar tree. Every morning I unlocked the door and walked in to an empty restaurant, there were still some straggling hangars on the rack or floor of the linen room, despite the chef voicing his displeasure. It wasn't my pet peeve, but I understood his rationale. More importantly, I wanted to make him a little less pissed off and a little more at ease when he got to work every day. Now, I work at a larger restaurant with a larger chef coat inventory, lazier people, and thus many more straggling hangars. Strangely, I still find myself putting every loose hangar I can find on to the tree. Maybe it's a force of habit, maybe because I know it's the right thing to do. It's really starting to bug me!
  9. I am pretty sure they get plenty of other volunteers who have limited experience like yourself. Just ask questions and request demos for anything you don't know how to do - and have fun!
  10. I've been in the business for 8 years, and have recently had the opportunity to stage at "many" restaurants across the country. I would consider my personal sample size of restaurants enough to throw out some "mosts" and "manys". I do not feel the need to preface everything I say with "in my experience" - mainly because I love writing with such fervor (it's so much more fun)! A "cost-mindful chef" wouldn't simply settle for a 75% yield on beets - a "cost-mindful chef" would use the whole beet! But the beet thing is only an example. I have seen chefs throw away byproducts of some very expensive ingredients that can and should be used in some capacity. The truth is, $50 an hour (who makes that kind of dough?) to plan out proper utilization of $50 a week in waste really, really is worth it! I mean we're talking about $2600 of waste in a year that can be turned into pure profit. And "many" restaurants throw away much more than $50 a week of usable scraps. I am fed up with chefs being so mindful and concerned about the carbon footprint of their olive oil when they're throwing away a quarter of their beets.
  11. Due to the vast disparity and inconsistencies in the restaurant review world, it is best not to judge a restaurant unless I have either 1) eaten there myself or 2) heard or read about it from a source I trust. So someone claiming to have "worked at a five star restaurant" is absolutely meaningless to me!
  12. Is this is a restaurant kitchen setting? If so, you could burn the grates to white-hot over your stove burners, and then a good wire grill brush should remove a lot, if not all of the carbon buildup.
  13. I don't know if I could tell you the difference between a man's cooking and a woman's cooking. However, I believe a good kitchen should have a mix of men and women. If there isn't at least one woman in the kitchen on the savory side, I - a man - will feel awkward and unsettled. I just staged at a big restaurant where all 7 line cooks were men and the three cooks in the pastry department were women - I didn't take the job.
  14. Caviar being replaced on the menu with chicken wings Vendors putting restaurants on COD Servers complaining about 10% tips and threatening to finally find "real" jobs High-end trendy joints closing by the dozen
  15. If a chef doesn't like vegetables or herb stems in their meat stocks, fine - find another way to use them. Throw together a small stock specially meant to be used for staff meal. As for brunoise beets, it's pretty wasteful to throw away 1/3 of the beet - the scraps can be used in staff salad, or perhaps incorporated into a different menu item (in a way that makes sense). If the chef decides to use only 2/3 of the beet as perfect brunoise instead of just wedges or slices where the whole beet is used, he/she should find another use for the scraps. When a chef plans a menu, he/she should be thinking about all of the little scraps and byproducts and incorporate those in different ways on the menu, in the same dish or in other dishes. Old leftovers only happen when the chef doesn't plan ahead.
  16. This is commonplace at most restaurants in my experience, especially when it gets very busy. If I were eating at a good restaurant, I would rather a cook use his or her clean fingers to taste and re-season if there's no time for a spoon than to not taste at all. Not to mention some things are damn near impossible to taste with a spoon - like a strand of linguini.
  17. Well then where are his LED flicker lights made? Charlestown, Mass? Okay, then where was the plastic for the LED lights made, Quincy? The recharger - Cambridge? And all the other tiny little parts inside? How can anyone calculate which light source has the better "carbon footprint" without a p.H.D. in something I can't pronounce? Also, something I found trivial from the post: "[Taranta's wine list] even boasts of a wine from Chile that is so eco-friendly that it is certified to be carbon-neutral in its delivery." How can this be? Was the plane that flew it here certified to not have fuel in it? Or did someone walk the wine here from Chile?
  18. I staged at a restaurant up in Maine where they raise their own pigs, and the food that was uneaten by customers was fed to the pigs. There actually wasn't much left on customers' plates because the food was excellent, and the pigs mostly ate stuff like potato peels and the byproducts of all of the stocks after they were strained. If the food at a restaurant is good, and the portion sizes are correct, customers will not leave much uneaten on their plates. I bet most of the restaurants that throw away lots of half-eaten food have sub-par food and huge portion sizes (which is somehow a recipe for success in this country).
  19. That's the point - "normally discarded parsley stems". Any kitchen that makes their own chicken stock should NEVER discard parsley stems, but most restaurant do! (thyme stems, tarragon stems, fennel fronds, celery leaves, and roasted meat trimmings are among many of the other things that would make better stock are normally thrown away at most restaurants). The whole green restaurant trend is an extension of people being green in their own every day lives I.E. hybrid cars, solar energy, reducing carbon footprint, etc. It is my opinion that many restaurants go the green route to capitalize on this market of people who feel strongly about being environmentally friendly. It's not quite manipulating as the carbon credit fad, a scam in which people pay bogus environmental organizations so their carbon footprint is reduced and they can feel better for themselves, but it's similar. In the restaurant realm, for example, I have no idea why switching from candles to LED lights is considered green. Yes, LED lights use little electricity, but candles use no electricity whatsoever! Somehow this has been lumped into "being green" as opposed to the real reason - the reason why most restaurants have turned away from candles - they're a fire hazard. But real candlelight can be so much more romantic! (damn you fire marshals) Environmental responsibility is a relatively new realization, and a great one. But parsley stems have existed for much longer! It should not be news among chefs that you can actually use them instead of throwing them away. We've been picking parsley for hundreds, thousands of years - why haven't we realized that it's unfair to the parsley plant to not use all of it!?!?!?
  20. Many restaurants use the whole "green" thing to gain publicity, and I am kind of sick of it. Go ahead and be green - compost, use low-flow toilets, be organic, whatever - GREAT! - just stop bragging about it already. I want to hear more about creative ways to use food scraps that are normally thrown away (or composted - many kitchens use the compost bin as an excuse to throw more food away than before).
  21. It seems like a lot of people do struggle to list the pros of becoming a chef as a career choice. Here are some of mine: -I love food and I love pleasing people, whether it's satisfying a craving they have, feeding them something great that renders memories, or introducing them to a food they've never eaten before -With a great meal, I can easily turn someone's bad day into a good day or a make a good day a great day, usually without having to interact with that person (a power that few other careers can provide, but the opposites are true as well) -One day I will be my own boss when I open my own place - I will be able to do things my own way, the way I think it should be done -I will get to surround myself with people who share my passion -I will get to teach staff about food and cooking and give them tools to grow as cooks and as people -Lastly, there are many things wrong the restaurant business, but I view them as opportunities to be innovative, gain a competitive edge, and perhaps one day I will have a minor impact industry-wide
  22. Loyalty is a two way street. You should share everything you explained in the post to your owners. Good owners appreciate when you are honest and upfront with them - tell them the situation and why it is good business to shell out a bit more for labor cost. If they are in turn loyal to you, they will at least grant you enough to hire a good sous. If they are reluctant, threaten to leave, "I need a good staff to put out good food - my reputation is on the line, I may have to look around for employment elsewhere." If they still say no, then they aren't good owners. A year or two after you leave, when the food there really sucks, people will reminisce on when it was good and make the connection that it went downhill after you left. Also, if you quietly and subtly let it be known that you left because you were sticking up for your cooks, the good ones will follow you wherever you go.
  23. I have worked in a few kitchens that rely too heavily on recipes. Sometimes recipes can be a bit off the mark, or downright bad, for whatever reason, and the recipe itself may need to be adjusted. Consistency is not the goal - consistently GOOD is the goal. In my experience, when chefs put too much emphasis on "following the recipe", cooks respond by neglecting to use their instincts and they don't taste their food enough. Recipes and ratios are good as tools and guidelines, but every time you must taste, feel, and be critical of what you are making. Each component should be tasted/smelled at every step from raw until just before its plated.
  24. Hi I didn't know exactly where to put this. I'm moving to the Oakland area in a few days. Is there another source besides craigslist (a website, newspaper, ect.) where quality restaurants post their job openings? In Boston, in addition to craigslist, there's a site called Bostonchefs.com, which has a job board that many good restaurants use. I was wondering if there is an equivalent in the San Francisco/Oakland area. Thanks!
  25. I'm currently traveling across the country, staging at some good restaurants along the way. Financially, I'm getting to the point of needing to earn more gas money to continue my trip. I'll be in Vegas soon for a week or two. Does anyone know how/where to find some temp work or events to work at while I'm there? Is there a staffing/temp agency in Vegas for culinary pros? Is there a website I should be browsing besides craigslist? Any help would be much appreciated.
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