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Any Cook Worth Their Salt Has Made ...?


johnsmith45678
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Know how to turn out a good roast. Chicken is a common one but roasts are done in nearly all cultures.

Know how to braise or poach or stew protein. It's another one that's done in all cultures.

Know how to do basic stock. Veal, chicken, beef, duck, doesn't matter. Know how the technique works for at least one, preferably more. To go along with this, know how to produce at least one flour thickened stock based sauce.

Know how to do basic chopping. Yes, onions are a common tricky one, but knife skills are knife skills. Drill long enough and it comes naturally.

Know how to produce a basic egg dish. Omlets are common, but poached eggs, shirred eggs, fritattas and hard boiled eggs all have their fine points too. Also, know how to produce at least one egg yolk thickened sauce.

Know how to turn out a "dessert" ingredient. If you can do pie crust, crepes, a good cake batter or some other primal dessert building material, making desserts becomes doable. Even if all your desserts are variations on gateaux des crepes and crepes suzette, you're still ahead of the game.

The recipes and techniques alone are not enough. Once you've got them down, you need to *practice*. So eating a proper meal, with at least one vegetable dish, at least one protein dish and at least one dessert every day becomes the other part. You need the daily drill of getting the parts of the meal onto the table in the right order. The kind of practice appropriate for a home kitchen is much less stressful than for a restaurant kitchen where you're feeding 200 covers a night, but you still need the pieces to go together in the right order.

Emily

I have to agree...as a professional chef, I think a roast, braise, saute, and a great fish dish that is not overcooked is essential. Know how to make a demi glace, correctly. Know how to turn a carrot, just because you can. Know how to flute a mushroom. Have great knife skills. Don't need recipes. Your scrambled eggs should have a glean to them. Your veggies should have no crunch but perfect color. Your hollandaise does not break and you can hold it!

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Know how to turn a carrot, just because you can. Know how to flute a mushroom.

Heh, I was thinking about posting fluting mushrooms. And tomato roses. Sure they're just garnishes, but it shows that somebody is interested enough to have spent hours learning how to do it, just for that extra bit of flair. We used to kill slow time by working our way through a garnishi book. BTW, what exactly is turning a carrot? I'm not familiar with that.

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Very Escoffier. Turning a carrot or a potato is like a football. Its used for looks in classic french cuisine. Not an easy task, there is a special curved knife for it.

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quote=johnsmith45678,Jul 9 2006, 06:18 PM]

Know how to turn a carrot, just because you can. Know how to flute a mushroom.

Heh, I was thinking about posting fluting mushrooms. And tomato roses. Sure they're just garnishes, but it shows that somebody is interested enough to have spent hours learning how to do it, just for that extra bit of flair. We used to kill slow time by working our way through a garnishi book. BTW, what exactly is turning a carrot? I'm not familiar with that.

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I have just recently been able to eat raw carrots again. I was in culinary school in the late eighties, in San Francisco. They would throw a 50-pound bag of carrots on a table for us to practice with. Then and instructor would come around and comment on our efforts. If you messed one up you ate it. I ate my weight in carrots in a couple of months. My nose would twitch like a rabbits whenever a carrot was around. I felt like my skin was turning orange, and I had vision that would rival the six million dollar man’s. They sure are pretty on a plate.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Any cook worth their salt has made...

A ton of mistakes, miscalulations, poor choices, and just plain screw-ups. And gained something from every one. Don't just dump the pot out, try to find where you went wrong, then remember it for next time.

That's why the carrot thing mentioned upthread worked so well. Get so sick of messing up that you want to get it right the first time and every time. Just some negative reinforcement.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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I always found potatoes tougher to turn than carrots. And, it is a great little attention to detail. I think that to cook, indeed, it is that you need to get it perfect, everytime. It doesn't matter if it is a tuna sandwich or tuna tartare. Egg salad or bernaise sauce. Each time you do it it is the best it can be. Hence, the need to flute mushrooms and turn veggies!

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I was talking to a couple of cooks last night over cocktails, and we were laughing at the insanity of the job. So I’d like to just quickly say some things about professional cooks. Many of these will not apply to home cooks, but many will apply to all.

Cooks want the hot line, they want to get off that damn salad station as fast as possible.

They get a rush from the dance, the heat, the burns and cuts, the sweat, the teamwork, the pressure, the sense of accomplishment of rocking through the crunch, the chattering of the printer, and the intensity of making each plate perfect.

They work insane hours doing Herculean tasks for not nearly enough money.

They live with all senses on 11.

They have an eye for composition that is equal to Van Gough.

With calloused, battle scared hands they can gently pull a flakey fish off a grill on fire with out breaking it.

Their taste buds are bionic.

They can tell the difference in sound between a fork and a knife hitting the floor.

They can smell thing that would escape the notice of a bloodhound.

They love the feeling they poke their heads up from the weeds, like a groundhog, and see the end of the night approaching.

They love hat first pull on a cold beer after sweating for eight hours.

They love the feel of a well-balanced knife and the way tongs spin on your finger.

They love the beauty of two eggs, over easy, flipping in a pan. And not breaking.

They love the way vinaigrette comes together.

There is something in the blood of a cook, because food becomes such an obsession. You can see it in the way they approach a loin of pork, a beautiful bottle of balsamic, or a simple head of lettuce.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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It's a sensous thing, cooking. I think that is what the good chefs/cooks get. It may not be perfect every time, but they can tell when it is not. The great ones get some of it perfect, eventually. Food does use all 5 senses, and when they are all pleased, it can only be because the food was done right.

Experiments have proven this. I did it myself for a psychology class, I think. Half a batch of cinnamon rolls were dyed blue. Another "normal" pan of the exact same batch of the same recipe was placed next to it with comment cards. The blue pan was nearly untouched, and not one of the blue ones were actually finished.

All of this to say that any cook worth his salt has tried a lot of things, and had the spark of inspiration hit when it was right. The crucial moment is the decision to make the next thing right, instead of just OK. It makes no difference what it is, from a cream sauce to sourdough bread.

I also think that is the line between pastry/bread/cuisine chefs. Which one did they get right first? How many famous and brilliant chefs have admitted that they suck at breads or pastries? How many pastry chefs have we seen fall short in non-pastry cooking competitions? It's why those specialties exist to begin with.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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Heh, great post Alchemist. The few shifts I had to work the salad station I was climbing the walls from boredom. A couple more:

They love sauteing over flame and making the items in the pan "dance." (Yeah, even though it's probably not the best method.) Then hitting it with that shot of alcohol...

They have lightning fast reflexes and can catch food and other items falling toward the floor, and without damaging the food/item with their grab or injuring themselves (well, usually - myself and other cooks I knew have risked serious burns rather than drop a hot plate).

And in general:

They love playing with knives. And fire. And chainsaws and ice picks (for those that do ice carving).

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Anybody got a picture of a turned carrot?

gallery_10108_3240_34950.jpg

it's a potato, but the shape is the same. you cut out little blocks of carrot or potato, keep the ends flat and cut around the sides to creat seven sides. it is narrower on towards the ends.

edited to add: borrowed this photo from another web-site, and these are not perfectly turned.

Edited by alanamoana (log)
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There is all of that, what's mentioned in the previous couple of posts, the profiling which goes along with the din and heat of a line going flat out. But what keeps me coming back for more, and I may be one of those rare cases who can work the hot line, the pastry station and finesse the breads but only because I've been at it for a long time, what makes it worthwhile for me is when someone likes what I've made. Keeping the customers satisfied..whether it was in the restaurants, the convent, the retreat house, the college dining hall, the bakery, the country club, or at the earthy crunchy groceria.

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There is all of that, what's mentioned in the previous couple of posts, the profiling which goes along with the din and heat of a line going flat out. But what keeps me coming back for more, and I may be one of those rare cases who can work the hot line, the pastry station and finesse the breads but only because I've been at it for a long time, what makes it worthwhile for me is when someone likes what I've made. Keeping the customers satisfied..whether it was in the restaurants, the convent, the retreat house, the college dining hall, the bakery, the country club, or at the earthy crunchy groceria.

Yep, that's a kick too. But the average cook in the typical shift rarely gets that feedback - at most it's clean plates coming back, or lack of complaints.

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Anybody got a picture of a turned carrot?

gallery_10108_3240_34950.jpg

it's a potato, but the shape is the same. you cut out little blocks of carrot or potato, keep the ends flat and cut around the sides to creat seven sides. it is narrower on towards the ends.

edited to add: borrowed this photo from another web-site, and these are not perfectly turned.

potatoes are softer. And you are right, these are not perfect. Carrots are the measure of the turn...but who really cares. Just those of us not on the line anymore...

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has made...

a traditional french omlet. smooth, creamy, just a sprinkle of cheese and nothing more.

pure bliss

Grand Cru Productions

Private High End Dinners and Personal Chef Service

in Chicago, Illinois

For more information email me at:

grandcruproductions@hotmail.com

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Any cook worth their salt has made something so perfect, so ethereal, that it will forever be the benchmark they measure everything else against and will be haunted by their inability to recapture it again. Doesn't matter if it's a soup or a sauce or an entree or a baguette. They will have glimpsed perfection, they will have manifested perfection; and like a traveller in Faerie who makes the mistake of eating or drinking there, nothing will ever be "good enough" ever again.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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  • 4 weeks later...

surprised, although its not a dish....that temperature and cooking meets to the right temp hasnt come up. Im not a great chef, but its always amazed me how my dad can press ona steak, piece of fish, chicken, lamb, etc etc and know that it needs 20 seconds on this side, then 2 minutes on the other. My dads restaurant has a broiler that is terribly uneven with heat distribution, but the chef who works it can pump out 100's of steaks, racks, and chops each week and rarely ever have one come back. that, and the ability to make great sauces...

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Any cook worth their salt knows how to cook a damn steak! Medium Rare does not mean charred with the texture of jerky! (This goes out to the fines folks at Del Frisco's in Ft. Worth, TX)

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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I think we have got a bit of a mix between being a professional cook here, and being able to cook. Professional cook is consistency, consistency,consistency - a home cook tends to be a little different - it's more about confidence and touch.

Someone mentioned making a caesar salad dressing without a recipe - I don't think that is much of a test - that is following a recipe (I'll stay clear of arguments about the best or most authentic one). A real cook is one that can make a dressing, taste it and correct it to make it suit whatever salad it is to be tossed with - it depends on the salad ingredients being used, and also on the ingredients in the dressing - some vinegars (And lemons) are sharper than others, some oils are stronger etc.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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