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The dao of towels


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I get two towels per shift. Throughout my shift, my chef tries to steal them. so does everyone else. I try to steal theirs. Why? because there are never enough towels. Every person i've worked for/with has had a different dao of towels, managing the wet and the dry, the dirty and the clean. You must stay alert... the disaster that ensues when you dab at an errant thyme leaf with the wrong towel keeps you on your toes.

what is your dao of towels?

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Only cooking at home now, but I SOOOOOO hated not having enough towels I turned one of the pot drawers closest to the stove into, A TOWEL DRAWER! Okay, it has a few other things underneath, but it is mostly towels. Heaven, even if my SO thinks I'm crazy....

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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I am a very big towel nut: one on the shoulder, a few strewn around the kitchen for easy access, one under the cutting board, a couple to dry vegetables.... I have a towel drawer and an implicit towel ranking system (ITRS, we call it around the house):

clean dishes (white cotton only)

quality towel (the workhorse William Sonoma kitchen towels only here)

mediocre quality (under the cutting board, cleaning up crap on the floor)

decorative

And you had better know the ITRS if you're cooking or cleaning in my kitchen, bucko.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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well darn.  i thought i'd come up with a winner here.. it seems the towel-fever that grips pro kitchens doesn't transfer to here.  oh well

Don't be discouraged! It's just that towels are so DULL. I have dozens of them and use far, far too many in any kitchen session. Despite my best efforts, sooner or later, all of them end up with stains and look unclean even when newly laundered and bleached. I once saw a TV chef using black towels and have hunted high low for some at a reasonable price. I thought they might at least continue to look reasonable. My obsession with kitchen towels has spun off into an obsession with hand towels for the bathroom - I am ashamed to admit to the number of these I seem to have acquired. I might have to raise this towel thing at my next therapy session. :wacko:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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in one shift i'll go through about 10-15. i use about 3 during prep. 1 for the cutting board so it doesn't slip. 1 to keep dry, and one to get a little moist. during service i'll have a little stack of about 10 folded so the second the cloth i'm holding is too dirty i can toss it ans replace it. i have 2 moist ones. one for wiping plates and one for wiping down my work surface. and then with any left overs they go towards cleaning at the end of the shift. i equate it to having dry socks in the military. it makes a huge difference in moral and also performance. try wiping a plate with a dirty cloth. or try holding a hot pan with a wet one. if it's got food on it and you pick up a super hot pan it'll stick together

bork bork bork

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What might be cool would be to change the name of this thread, and veer the topic toward "Line cooks who hide stuff - What's in your lowboy?"

Years ago, when I first started cooking in prep kitchens and on the line, I was bewildered at how I could never seem to find the equipment to do my job. I'd get 2 towels for the day, then I'd have to hunt down a knife (I started in kitchens where knives are sometimes provided, but you'd better keep an eye on yours), 1/3 pans and other containers I needed, ingredients for my prep and gloves. After being frustrated for what seemed like hours, I'd talk to management and try to see if I could have some of these things brought out of supply, but managers would always explain that they'd put out enough for the day, and I just needed to look harder until I found the stuff.

And then I figured it out.

All the "seasoned" cooks had grabbed an assload of all of these things - stacks of towels, boxes of gloves, extra pans and whatnot - and stashed all of this in any hidden area around their stations. And they did it to the extent that I didn't have even the bare minimum of what I needed to do my job correctly. Day after day I was faced with either being deceitful and stealing as much of everything I could grab, or going without the tools to do my job. Until I started managing kitchens myself, that is. After that point, any time cooks complained about not having enough towels, I'd just hit all the lowboys on the line and chew out whichever cook was hiding them.

I just simply cannot tolerate that kind of thing.

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Ah, towels, could we ever have enough? They are very important to every kitchen, indeed--could you ever picture wiping off fresh-canned foods with apaper towel? However I freely admit to clening up the gross-outs with Paper Towels.

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quality towel (the workhorse William Sonoma kitchen towels only here)

I requested, and received, some Williams-Sonoma towels for Christmas this year, and I find them to be roughly as absorbent as Saran Wrap.

What gives?

They're 100% cotton, made in Turkey. (Just background...)

I don't launder them with fabric softener...

AND THEY DON'T SUCK!!!!

Water, literally.

help?

Steve

"Tell your friends all around the world, ain't no companion like a blue - eyed merle" Robert Plant

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They don't suck? That sucks. It's also very surprising and somewhat bizarre....

Steve, I'm telling you that I have about twelve of these that are at least a decade old and they are fantastic. It wouldn't surprise me if Chuck Wms changed them in the last little while.

Damn. How disappointing. I bet now someone's gonna tell me that McDonalds isn't cooking fries in beef tallow anymore...

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I requested, and received, some Williams-Sonoma towels for Christmas this year, and I find them to be roughly as absorbent as Saran Wrap.

I have some of those non-absorbent ones as well that I also got for Christmas one year. I now prefer those cheap microfibre towels that can be found in the automotive section of Walmart-type stores and sometimes at the dollar stores.

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I know that with my embroidered day of the week flour sack dishclothes (I have 5 sets, thanks to older relatives), if they are slightly damp, they seem to do a better job of drying.

But, do not wipe up spills with these towels. My family all knows that they are somewhat sacred. I just get the plain ones for regular every day use.

My family thinks I am the towel police.

BTW. White towels aborb more than those that are dyed. Dye takes up absorbing space.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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At school, we used to have a major towel problem. Since the first quarter students got in later than the rest of the the students, first quarters often had to do without a towel of thier own. The problem is fixed now, and there's even enough towels that people can have two if their towel gets really goopy, though technically, they're only supposed to have one.

Towel problems are one of my biggest annoyances in the bakeshop. If my towel is not clean enough, how can I use it for things I need to use it for?

Misa

Sweet Misa

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Thank God we have plenty of towels at work... one of the perks of corporate. I always have one clean, dry side towel in my apron, and one wet towel for wiping down my station. If I need more, we always have em... it's nice.

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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I had a similar thing happen to me with some towels that I got free in a welcome basket. They were not Williams Sonoma, and I am unsure of the quality/price of them, but I assumed that the manufacturers coated the towels with scotchguard or a similar product as a stain preventer. Maybe that is what is happening to your towels, steverino. Since mine were free and probably cheap to begin with, I didn't care.

quality towel (the workhorse William Sonoma kitchen towels only here)

I requested, and received, some Williams-Sonoma towels for Christmas this year, and I find them to be roughly as absorbent as Saran Wrap.

What gives?

They're 100% cotton, made in Turkey. (Just background...)

I don't launder them with fabric softener...

AND THEY DON'T SUCK!!!!

Water, literally.

help?

Steve

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When I was in the business there was definitely and epidemic of hoarding towels. Cooks, Servers, Bussers, we all had our stash.

It took very special handling to get a cook to give one up for me when all other sources had run dry.

I've seen cooks come to near violence to protect their towel plunder.

The sea was angry that day my friends... like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

George Costanza

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My last job, my Exec would issue everyone a few towels every few days. Basically, it evened out to about 2 or 3 per day, but we were able to "budget" our own towels for whatever each station needed for different tasks. That way, one day we could get by with one, or carryover a clean one to not-so-clean status the next day, etc. Overall, tho, towels were generally considered gold, and we did each have our own stash (readily acknowledged/accepted by the exec). Some days I could get by with one wet and one dry (and I also had one hot mitt, as I am a pc). Other days however, when I had several batches of chocolate things, or ice cream to make, I used more.

My current job is the exact opposite. Towels flow like water! I have seen us go through 3 or 4 bundles in one evening, with guys using them like kleenex (about 10 apiece). The Exec could care less!

What's even more amazing though, is the thing they are most stingy about:

THE DISHWASHER!

They have frowned on us sending through anything but a totally packed load, even if it's something we need cleaned asap, like the vitamix, robot coupe, etc. They have said that after a "certain number of washes", it starts costing us a whopping 9 cents per load! :shock: Has anyone ever heard of this before? -- I haven't. I rebutted and questioned the water consumption and the cost of TIME taken out by us higher paying positions to stand and wash our own dishes!!! The jury's still out on that tho.... :wink:

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

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I'm a mere home cook, not a pro, so I have to take full resposibilty for my towel supply. I am likewise obsessed.

I received three unbelieveably beautiful Hungarian damask tea towels at a bridal shower, in the year before Watergate. They are such works of art that I have one, still virgin, in the linen closet.

I have bought lengths of blue and white striped towelling by the yard at fabric shops and hemmed my own. When I give a cookbook as a gift, I always use a towel rather than wrapping paper. I hit TJ Maxx and scoop up the remainders.

I have decided that a fucntional point of view, the waffle-weaves are the best value, and I have regretfully given up white in favor of colors -- it just breaks my heart to see a towel scarred for life because of an encounter with a sizzling pot handle or some red wine. Whatever your preference, Ikea is the Mecca for towel freaks: Beauty, utility and dirt cheap prices. I stock up and hoard -- ten bucks will get you scads of high quality tea towels.

( I'm Canadian. We call 'em Tea Towels.)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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( I'm Canadian. We call 'em Tea Towels.)

I call 'em tea towels too, at home, and I'm US.

In school they are called side towels,

but at every job I've ever had, they're called rags.

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

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Home cook here. Towel drawer? Yup.

But I've added a few non-kitchen additions. I always have a few terry handtowels and washcloths (especially useful when my grandkids lived here). The trick is to find the cheap thin ones you might not buy for the bathroom as they seem to be easiest to handle and most absorbent. I've had some luck finding them at Value city.

Also, I recently bought one of those bags of "rags" for painters at Home Depot that turned out to be thin white terry 18" squares. Perfect for kitchen duty. I'll just tear up some old T's for painting.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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I always have a few terry handtowels and washcloths (especially useful when my grandkids lived here).  The trick is to find the cheap thin ones you might not buy for the bathroom as they seem to be easiest to handle and most absorbent.

That's a really great idea, MM. I can probably find some of those in my linen closet. :wacko:

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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What's even more amazing though, is the thing they are most stingy about:

THE DISHWASHER!

They have frowned on us sending through anything but a totally packed load, even if it's something we need cleaned asap, like the vitamix, robot coupe, etc. They have said that after a "certain number of washes", it starts costing us a whopping 9 cents per load!  Has anyone ever heard of this before? -- I haven't. I rebutted and questioned the water consumption and the cost of TIME taken out by us higher paying positions to stand and wash our own dishes!!! The jury's still out on that tho.... 

I used to work in a place like that......couldn't just wash one thing....had to make a full load to run the dishwasher. Never was much of a problem though, because the sink was always full of stuff, so it was hard NOT to make a full load! Now it's a habit with me.....I never just run one thing through!

I feel so......guilty if I do.....

Sigh.....towels.....the PRECIOUS towels! I feel like Smeagol in the kitchen. Do not take MY PRECIOUS!!!!!!!! Over the years, I've learned to use just one towel per day. That is, if no one steals it. Generally I prevent that by keeping it submerged in my bleach bucket under my table. I used to wear a towel in my apron, but Mr. Health Dept. Guy told me that was a no-no. No shoulder towels either. Poo!

One place I worked NEVER had any clean towels....so I just bought my own. I found 45 for $13 at Costco....pretty good deal.

Of course, if I have a particularly chocolatey day, it's two towels at the minimum!

:laugh:

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Let's see, we did the usual numbers tonite and I probaley went through about 10 - 15 towels. There are only two of us on line and we both like different towels. The other sous like's his towels rectangular and I like mine square. we have an inhouse washer/dryer, so our towels are cleaned every day and we can use as many as we want. Our boss buys the towels at the local supermarket.

I usually have one that is wet all the time to clean the cutting board with, I have one stuffed on the back of my apron to clean my hands with. A couple laying on the counter for grabbing hot pans the like with.

Dan Walker

Chef/Owner

Weczeria Restaurant

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I am a very big towel nut: one on the shoulder, a few strewn around the kitchen for easy access, one under the cutting board, a couple to dry vegetables.... I have a towel drawer and an implicit towel ranking system (ITRS, we call it around the house):

clean dishes (white cotton only)

quality towel (the workhorse William Sonoma kitchen towels only here)

mediocre quality (under the cutting board, cleaning up crap on the floor)

decorative

And you had better know the ITRS if you're cooking or cleaning in my kitchen, bucko.

I have a similar system but it's just really color-coding:

White = clean dishes

Green = wiping dirty surfaces

Blue = cleaning chopping board/knife when in use

Yellow & red = back up towels when I run out of the rest

bigger, thicker dark colored ones = food preparation like drying salad greens or deskinning nuts

Also carry a face towel these days since the weather's been so freakin' hot and my kitchen doesnt have a window or good ventilation :sad: .

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