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sadie4232

Chefs: Dealing with ingredients they dislike

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This may seem like a naïve question, but here goes: A recent series in my hometown newspaper focused on interviews with local chefs and one of the questions had to do with what food(s)/ingredient(s) they didn’t personally like. Answers ranged from calves liver, beets and other veggies, to various spices. How do professional chefs deal with cooking ingredients they really don’t like? Do these items not make the cut for being on the menu or does someone else do the cooking and tasting?


The Wright Table

Becoming a better home cook, one meal at a time.

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If I have to cook something for others that I don't like to eat then I taste it. All I have to do is make sure it's seasoned properly, I don't have to eat a plate of it. I learned that lesson a long time ago when I worked construction. At first I wasn't overly happy about balancing on a 2x4 three or four floors up while carrying large pieces of plywood on windy days and mentioned that fact to my boss. He imparted these words of wisdom that I've never forgotten over all these years: you don't have to like it, you just have to do it.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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This is an interesting question. If I had to make cream of asparagus soup, for instance, I think I could tell if it were properly seasoned, but I don't know if I would be able to tell if it was any good otherwise, because it would taste like asparagus no matter what I did.

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This is an interesting question. If I had to make cream of asparagus soup, for instance, I think I could tell if it were properly seasoned, but I don't know if I would be able to tell if it was any good otherwise, because it would taste like asparagus no matter what I did.

I think the difference there would depend on whether you were making an asparagus soup or creating an asparagus soup.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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This is an interesting question. If I had to make cream of asparagus soup, for instance, I think I could tell if it were properly seasoned, but I don't know if I would be able to tell if it was any good otherwise, because it would taste like asparagus no matter what I did.

I think the difference there would depend on whether you were making an asparagus soup or creating an asparagus soup.

I don't understand.

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This is an interesting question. If I had to make cream of asparagus soup, for instance, I think I could tell if it were properly seasoned, but I don't know if I would be able to tell if it was any good otherwise, because it would taste like asparagus no matter what I did.

I think the difference there would depend on whether you were making an asparagus soup or creating an asparagus soup.

I'm trying to imagine what circumstances under which you would have to create a new dish with an ingredient you didn't like. Does this happen frequently? I would have figured that as a chef, when you decide to create a new dish, you have the flexibility to avoid ingredients that don't taste good to you, at least the vast majority of the time. As a cook, preparing someone else's dish, it's another story, of course. Then, all that matters is the proper seasoning, which I think you could do independent of liking the ingredients (as mentioned above).


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I think the difference there would depend on whether you were making an asparagus soup or creating an asparagus soup.

I don't understand.


Blog.liedel.org

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I think the difference there would depend on whether you were making an asparagus soup or creating an asparagus soup.

I don't understand.

I read that as following a formula, or recipe, vs. coming up with your own recipe and innovating.

I understand the distinction, but now how it would affect my point -- either way, I wouldn't be able to tell whether the soup was good, because I hate asparagus.


Edited by phatj (log)

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I am not a chef (but did work in restaurants for many years) and certainly I have seen chef's put out some amazing food from things they did not like themseles...and I have been known to create some pretty awesome dishes out of foods I don't care for ..especially when I know it will make someone happy to eat it... Cooking is not always about what makes the "first" person happy... a great cook does not create only for themselves

but again I am not a chef

just a pretty damn good cook and it gives me great pleasure to see people enjoy what I make ..so what if I don't like it :smile:


Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I definitely avoid putting items on a menu that I don't care for. I think it would be hard as a chef to stand behind and sell a dish that you didn't like. Luckily, I have come across very few items I don't like. I agree with other comments that as a professional you should still have the knowledge and technique to prepare something you don't like and have it be appropriately prepared and seasoned.

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I understand the distinction, but now how it would affect my point -- either way, I wouldn't be able to tell whether the soup was good, because I hate asparagus.

If the restaurant has a tried and true recipe and you're told "make it this way, don't change it, don't get all creative on us, just make it" and you do that without making mistakes then the soup will taste like it's supposed to +/- final seasoning.

If you decide one day "I really don't like asparagus but my customers are begging for an asparagus soup so I'm going to see what I can come up with" you will be fighting a difficult battle for the reason you stated... it will never taste good to you.

I agree with the comment that I wouldn't put something on my own menu that I don't like but we don't all always have the luxury of making that decision. Sometimes you cook what you're told to cook and it damn well better be good whether you like it or not.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Are there big successful chefs that have an unusual food dislike, like a chef that doesn't like runny eggs, a sushi chef that doesn't like uni, or someone that just doesn't like seafood or shellfish?

Would it affect their cooking? Would they make a dish even if it included one of their disliked ingredients?

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Are there big successful chefs that have an unusual food dislike, like a chef that doesn't like runny eggs, a sushi chef that doesn't like uni, or someone that just doesn't like seafood or shellfish?

Would it affect their cooking? Would they make a dish even if it included one of their disliked ingredients?

A local successful chef/owner despises raisins. And you guessed it: you won't be able to find a single item, on the menu or otherwise (they do catering/take out as well) that contains raisins. Their carrot cake? Nope, none there, either.

I understand it's akin to my disposition towards most every cultured dairy product. "None shall pass."

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If there is a food that a chef doesnt like or is even disgusted by, I dont think that food would even be considered when creating a dish. Great chefs are great because of what they love...from food and ingredients to the creative process- and even the type of dining they choose behind their craft. You can't be 100% behind a dish and disgusted by it at the same time. Especially in this all-or-go-home profession.

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Well I don't qualify as big or successful, but there are things I don't like that I cook with anyway. For example, I'm not a big banana fan, but I know that banana desserts are usually good sellers, so occasionally I'll put one on the menu. I can still recognize what might be good to someone else, even if it is not what I would order.

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Truly ecumenical eaters are rare, even among chefs. They have likes and dislikes. A restaurant menu will typically be a combination of the chef's preferences and commercial reality. You need to have a chicken dish, you need to have a distribution of dishes that works with the way you have the stations in the kitchen set up and staffed, etc.

In addition, there is a collaborative element. Any fine-dining restaurant above a certain size has an executive chef, a chef de cuisine and several sous chefs, any of which might be contributing ideas or designing a dish (especially the daily specials). And those people all have different preferences.

I know an excellent Indian-restaurant chef who's a vegetarian, but is better at preparing meat dishes than most any carnivore.

Perhaps most famously, Thomas Keller has told several interviewers over the years that he has never tasted his "oysters and pearls" dish, which is perhaps his best-known and -loved signature dish. He invented it in his mind.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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One of my chefs hates water chestnuts, and when another chef suggested a sushi roll with them, he said "no i dont like them" I personally dont enjoy them but since he gave attitude about it, its on the menu.

I personally HATE ketchup and wont cook with it but thats about it, at least the only food item other than american cheese that i hate.

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One of my chefs hates water chestnuts, and when another chef suggested a sushi roll with them, he said "no i dont like them" I personally dont enjoy them but since he gave attitude about it, its on the menu.

I personally HATE ketchup and wont cook with it but thats about it, at least the only food item other than american cheese that i hate.

he's gonna love next months menu, when i whip out the coney island roll with a boiled hot dog, heinz ketchup and mustard, that radioactive green relish and sport peppers

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I think I have the worst one of them all. I can't stand eggs. Boiled, scrambled, poached, fried, whatever, it's nasty to me. I DO like them if they are in little pieces in something, such as in fried rice, or in any other form other than pure egg (creme brulee, mousses, etc...). But I am so worried this is going to cost me a job in the future, because since I really just don't like them, I haven't spent my entire life cooking them like a lot of people. I can imagine having one of those "make me an omelet" interviews one day down the road. The ironic part is that an egg is probably one of my favorite ingredients. They can do damn near anything! I just can't eat them by themselves.

My old boss hated the taste of garlic, basil, and one other thing that was crucial to Italian cuisine that I can't really remember. That made work quite interesting...

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I think I have the worst one of them all. I can't stand eggs. Boiled, scrambled, poached, fried, whatever, it's nasty to me. I DO like them if they are in little pieces in something, such as in fried rice, or in any other form other than pure egg (creme brulee, mousses, etc...). But I am so worried this is going to cost me a job in the future, because since I really just don't like them, I haven't spent my entire life cooking them like a lot of people. I can imagine having one of those "make me an omelet" interviews one day down the road. The ironic part is that an egg is probably one of my favorite ingredients. They can do damn near anything! I just can't eat them by themselves.

:laugh:

I was just going to post the same thing. I've never liked eggs. I like them in fried rice or occasionally a soft-boiled one on a salad but that is it.

Part of me really wants to like eggs because they are cheap, quick and one of my favorite things to cook. I am more than happy to cook a half dozen omelets for friends after a night at the bar.

Every year or so I try to eat an omelet or a fried egg but I have never acquired a taste.


Edited by Smitty (log)

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Frank Bruni interviewed a series of chefs on his NYTimes blog. He would ask likes, dislikes, etc.

The one ingredient that was listed as a dislike by several different chefs was green bell pepper.

"Bell Pepper, I'd say! What nonsense is that? Eliminate the green bell pepper and you're left with maybe 1 of every 10 Cajun dishes, all desserts!"


Edited by fooey (log)

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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Ina Garten( aka Barefoot Contessa) despises Cilantro. You wont find it in any of recipes.  She's talked about her dislike for it on her tv show numerous times.

Some people have an odd reaction to cilantro. To them, it tastes like soapy water. Personally, I love it. What I don't love is chocolate. At all. But there will always be a chocolate dessert on my menu because I know others love chocolate (and yes it is my best selling dessert).

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Ina Garten( aka Barefoot Contessa) despises Cilantro. You wont find it in any of recipes.  She's talked about her dislike for it on her tv show numerous times.

That's funny, I watch her all the time and never heard her say this. Oh well, it's just another reason for me to adore her! :biggrin: I think Julia Child felt the same way about the stuff as well.

Speaking of which, it's one thing to be able to avoid having to taste straight up eggs as a chef, but what about an ingredient like cilantro which 99.9% of the planet seems to love (and expect even) and has seemingly found it's way into EVERYTHING. I've even seen it listed as an ingredient in desserts and cocktails................... BLECCCCH. :angry:


Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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