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Chefs Responsibility

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I have been for some weeks again on this forum here after 2 years. It cam to my mind again, that some young professionals are asking some very basic questions, which 30 years ago an old professional would have answered to a young cook right out.

I discovered, the confusion of chefs with there questions and answers on this site and the many books they are refering too.

However what are the true teaching basics in culinary arts. Well that is a question maybe one or the other chef should think about.

What are the true culinary basics, do you still remember where the milk comes from and to understand the natural composition of milk and the effects of milk when using it in the kitchen, pastry or bakery? So have all ingredients there effects and harmony, but how do you combine them?

just think about it, what you really know and understand as a Chef, and not having searched the interenet and talk smart about it. Do you really have the experience?

Regards Chef Kaiser
post #2 of 23
I don't really understand your question, Kaiser.

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #3 of 23

Chefs and apprentices...IMHO...

I think I understand.
30 years ago people didn't have the internet to download a recipe to follow. You actually had to know your ingredients and you would be apprenticed by someone who knew. Often you did have to make it up. You were limited by your imagination, who you knew and the books you had.

In spite of culinary schooling, nowadays it does seem like people are asking questions that should be fundamentally obvious.

But who's fault is that? No telling.

We all have different bents on our own interpretation of food. We all have different ways of expressing ourselves in our dishes and the way we interact. We all have different types of egos, and deal with what we do in different ways. That's what makes horseraces, right?

We are incredibly lucky in this day and age to be able to share with literally thousands of people in the food industry to help stimulate our individual imaginations.

We don't just have to rely on our own Executive Chef solely for his experience, we can tap the information of thousands of years of culinary skills.

Does this make us less chefs than people who learned in the old school? Having to re-invent the wheel every dish you make?

I don't agree that you need to know how the cow makes milk in order to make pastry cream.

Just like you don't have to know how gasoline is made in order to put it in your car.

post #4 of 23
I think chef K makes a very relivent point. You cannot learn how to cook from a book, or to some extent from a teacher. You have to play with the food, you should have the drive and desire to learn how, when and where everything comes from as well as how to handle it, store it, etc.

I remember when I was very young, 8 years old to be exact, I started reading cookbooks and COOKING, I was very curious how things worked, where they came from and how I could get them.

I would catch, clean and cook my own fish, crawfish, crabs, frogs, etc.

It does get old sometimes reading what I consider some young chefs here who I do not think take the profession as a lifestyle, love, passion and carreir. To be a true chef requires more mental and physical intitution than just about any profession (excluding just about any artist).

When I decided to be a chef (again at 8) I was voracious in my quest for knowlege I was working a cold station standing on a milk crate and watching everything that went on in the kitchen. I would take a dishwashing job to watch the chefs/cooks do there thing. When I turned 12 I was able to get a cooks job with a family friend and learned a ton. As I got older I would jump from chef to chef to learn how and whoy they did things. I was fearless and would do anything in a kitchen Pots, pans, dishwashing, CLEANING, scrubbing, I would lay on the floor in muck to clean under equiptment because I hated the smell and filth of a dirty kitchen (and still do). All this time I was buying and reading cookbooks and COOKING AT HOME after work, trying and expirmenting with what the authors said and teaching myself.

I took all the abuse and smackdowns from REAL CHEFS (not some wanna be) and gained there respect for my dedication and voracious appetite for anything kitchen/food related.

Yes you should know how a cow makes milk and what they are fed to make it and how that affects the taste. Just like anything else it is your medium and your basis for everything you do and you should know it well. Why buy organic vegetables? Why buy wild caught fish? Why buy free range Meats? Why ask about freshness? Because they all matter. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sows ear!

I can honestly say that if I was a "chef" or a cook asking some of these basic questions to my mentors after they embarassed me in front of everyone they would go tell me to look it up and learn for yourself!

Sorry about the rant but I have been reading plenty here and Chef K is one smart dude as well as some others here with some verry good knowlege on the basics lacking in some of the folks.
"Laissez Le Bon Temps Roule"
"Laissez Le Bon Temps Roule"
post #5 of 23
Uh, what do you mean by this statement?
post #6 of 23
I'm not a Chef, and am uncomfortable when referred to as one. But I do all the cooking in my fairly successful dinner house restaurant.

What's interesting to me is telling people that "it's not rocket science, exact quantities are not as important as the technique, or how you treat the food." Develop the skills; saute, braise, coach the flavors along, layer them so there is depth.

You can cook onion in a skillet; or you can glaze it, brown it so it sweetens, adds color, texture and becomes an enhancement to the finished product; or then again you can cook it with some onion.
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
hi April,

so it seems that you are cooking, like Dexter in Cartoon Net Work is testing things in his labratory.

As you wrote:
I don't agree that you need to know how the cow makes milk in order to make pastry cream.

As a chef you should know the nutritional composition of all main ingredients you work with, as we have the so called effects of water, carbohydrate, fat and proteins in cooking. Therefore depending on what you cook and understand these basics, you are not guessing and therefore you even can become more playful in creating dishes.

I believe all pastry chefs on this site will agree with me, as especially in the pastry and bakery kitchen it is from greatest importance to understand this effects or in the US you call it cooking sience.

post #8 of 23
What I was trying to say is that our job is as much art as real physical hard labor. It requires, in my opnion, more "work" by combining the mental and physical effort than most jobs I know of. Usualy, in my observation, a regular job is one or the other, in our profession I feel it is an extrodinary combination of both.
"Laissez Le Bon Temps Roule"
"Laissez Le Bon Temps Roule"
post #9 of 23


you know what someone told me a long time ago??

it takes all your life to learn how to cook and master it

and 15 minutes to become a chef ( a job interview and title)

I try and educate people and share what I can, but hard work and sweat is the only way to really succeed in this buisness
live to eat dont just eat to live
live to eat dont just eat to live
post #10 of 23

Didn't say anything about what milk IS...


I said I don't really think I need to know how a cow makes it (like tons of hay to the 4 stomachs to the udder...) to be relevant in culinary skills. My dad worked his family farm in Iowa for decades and raised...yes...dairy cows...the knowledge he imparted to me about the process didn't really help in my making any kind of flan, custard or...whatever.

I guarantee that not many chefs/cooks in any capacity (not saying all) consciously think about what the chemical composition is every time they add a cup of milk or anything to a dish.

A lot of it is intuitive based on learning to use it, how it behaves and what tastes it adds.

What do you do when you prepare or invent a dish? Do you sit and agonize over the chemistry before you make a dish? Or do you rely on your instincts and your inherent knowledge and wisdom?

And just who is doing the Dexter Lab thing?
I'd have to say I'm more Klingon...I trust my instincts...:bounce:'s all good...<except when it's not...*grin*>

post #11 of 23
In the states, there isn't much of an apprecticeship culture left, as there is overseas.
Culinary schools crank out the grads, and yes they do have a basic skillset. But many of them simply cannot cope with a tough day in the kitchen. Combine labor laws with chef's under pressure to maximize profits, and many young people that might benefit from such an experience either give up, or simply take to many months or years to get up to speed.

We do use culinary students in our kitchen on a part time basis. We only ask that their school chef's send us serious students, They generally do well, according to whatever level of training they are at, and get paid. But some are also shocked by the volume and pace, never to be seen again. This is a pity as most we actually thought did a pretty fair job in their brief time with us. A formal apprenticship might have induced them to stick it out.
post #12 of 23
Thats the best statement I have heard concerning the word "chef"
My life, my choice.....
My life, my choice.....
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 


Hi April,

You know, there are many ways to live life, and there are many ways to be a Chef and many ways to cook food.

However there are very clear bases in culinary arts and these bases one rather manages before Rocking and Rolling.

It sound to me, when you would teach an apprentice to make a basic white sauce, that you would tell him; "just take some butter and flour, combine them in a pan, add liquid and cook it and lets see if we get lucky.

I do believe, that especially when teaching young chefs, it is important, that these very fundamental basics are respected and taught right. Even the smallest details of proportions, like for one liter of white sauce, we prepare a roux made off 40 grams of butter and 50 grams of flour. Or further when adding the liquid to the hot roux, it should be cold, to prevent lumps. Further the basic sauce at this point, which is called a veloute, needs to be simmered for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Well for what ever reason and WHY!

Cooking for any professional is not a matter of taking chances and get lucky with it. Cooking is one of the greatest arts of accurancy as consistency and taste at all times matters to the customers and the chef especially, hence that is the reason why, we record all details, mise en place and methods on recipe cards.

post #14 of 23
bravo ChefK - I do beleive that inculcation is the best method to learn how to be a good chef. Make something enough times (properly) and you never forget it.

and chefa1a - The jacket don't make the chef!
"Laissez Le Bon Temps Roule"
"Laissez Le Bon Temps Roule"
post #15 of 23


Ahem...Inculcate...sounds kind of impress on someone's mind with frequent and forceful repetition?

Wow...sounds like brainwashing in WWII.
Silly me, and I thought cooking was fun...:bounce:

However, what Blueschef said is what I've been saying all along.

You don't need to know how the hay becomes milk, only that after preparing a variety of dishes using the same items, your instincts just know how milk will behave. I'm virtually certain that most decent chefs don't consult their chemistry manuals to determine the fat content of milk every time they make flan.

Look at Iron Chef, or Iron Chef America. Great Chefs from all over the planet. Talk about 'on the fly' cooking. I didn't see a manual in sight. Why? <I wonder quietly to myself> It was all instinct as to how to prepare these items or what combination you could potentially use to create great dishes. AT this point Chefs aren't re-inventing the wheel, they're into rocket science.
Granted some didn't work, but most did.

History is nice, but eet doesn't mattah now...eet ees een dah pahst! (Ok, so tell me I'm the only one with kids that watched Lion King 8 zillion times) If we were stuck with the methods of hundreds of years ago, we wouldn't be cooking with gas or electricity, microwaves, anything perishable past
a day or so, a huge number of exotic ingredients, nonstick pans, stainless steel, not to mention the resources of being able to talk to hundreds of talented chefs throughout the world via ... well... HERE! Heck, there wouldn't even BE foodTV.

It's called pushing the envelope. American's tend to be good at that. (The West wasn't won eating snails)

I actually was making a point that agreed with some of his presumptions, but I'm sorry...I'm beginning to believe that 'Chef' K is arguing just for argument sake. My Swiss step father in law was really good at it.
I never said don't measure anything. I did find a tad bit of condescending tone in his pontifications. Perhaps there's a language barrier?
In any event...apparently CK doesn't quite get the jist of my posts.

Hey, so how does hay become milk? ;)

post #16 of 23
I guess I have to be included in this generalization. It refers to answering posts here especially baking.
. Do I really know my Art?
Um, yes, enough to answer questions on baking and things I know of. I do not have the time to go research something for someone. I will usually only answer something I I'm familiar with it.
I have a true understanding of ingredients and reactions. I understand the chemistry of baking although I do not carry it all in RAM. I do have to look things up.
Boy, I hope I qualify. If I don't then let it be in the hands of the Europeans which whom I apprenticed under. I must say that I have sat with some well recognized European Master Pastry and bakers. I can't recall spending much time on food history. We spent hours on food theory.
My mentors are European, funny thing though, most yearned to come to the states. While on that subject, some of the bigger properties in Europe have Americans at the helm. I wonder why a lot of Europeans come to the States to work?
The art is alive and well and I hope all this negetivity does not trickle down to those young people thinking to enter the business. A well rounded Chef who is one who can communicate on all levels. He need to be the one with the sanitation people teaching them how to clean. A chef is someone who would never look down at someone because of their education or experience.
I created a term when I was in the corperate structure. I think the chef who hold titles like this are better put out to pasture. There should never be a need for a chef to oversee executive chefs. They really never have any insight to what is going on in their properties. They will schedule visits. I'm not guessing here, I was one. The term I use is PIDGEONING. The corperate suits would fly in. poop all over everything, and fly away. I lasted 8 months, I had to go back where I could justify my existance.
I love the United States of America.
post #17 of 23
i consider myself very lucky. since the chef i work for is from italy, he understands what an apprenticeship is, and let me have the job. (keep in mind, that, at this time, i had no formal training) for the first six months i was there, he wouldn't let me plate or completely cook any dish (by completely cook, i mean, cooking all components). after six months, he started letting me plate dishes 1-2 nights a week, and cook more of the components. now, after 9 months working there, i run (and am completely responsible for) my own station. i would say that at 19, i am very lucky to be able to prepare dishes and sauces at a 3 star restaurant. If/when i get my own kitchen, i would definately let younger, less experienced people apprenctice under me. It has helped me tremendously.
Life's too short to eat bad food and drink bad wine.
Life's too short to eat bad food and drink bad wine.
post #18 of 23
I do too. Wth my apprenticeship at a fine dining kitchen; its taught me so much. Working pantry for 6 months was the best time of my life. When saute or roast would call in sick I would silde over and work my little arse off till 2am.
I've learned more there then at any other job in my life. I feel these should be the future chef postions! Pitty theres only a few out there though
professionalism .
professionalism .
post #19 of 23
Backup for a second. How does sun energy becomes hay in the first place?
And that energy(in the shape of photons), that took eight minutes to travel through space. After slugging it's way for the outer solar corona plasma for a few thousand years?
The man behind the curtain maybe?
post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 

Is it called PhotoS


i like your answer of the stupid statement of how hay becomes milk. Well many have forgotten about the basics of the sun, and leaves absorbing it and well i am sure i dont have to go on with details with you as you understand glucose and starch and the transformation back in the human or animal body.

post #21 of 23
If you really look at IronChef competitions, you'll see that intimate knowledge of ingredients is necesarry. When Vancouver's Star Chef Rob Feenie competed (and won) he made a big booboo, he added raw pineapple to a mousse that contained gelatine. As a result, it never set. The same thing happens with fresh figs, kiwi, and papaya too. Not a life-or-death mistake, but it cost him valuable time and a certain amount of frustration. It is necessary to have an intimate knowledge of the ingredients you are working with.

Fat content of milk? I had a supercook once, knew everything. One catering party we had, I told him not to add 10% coffee cream to a hot cream of tomato, or it would split. He knew it all, and I caught him just as he was about to dump the split soup down the sink. Told him the fat content makes all the difference, you can add 35% cream to lemon juice and it won't split, you can add 10% cream to COLD cream of tomato and slowly heat and it won't split. But know it's only a half an hour to serving time and you were about to dump the split soup away, what are you trying to do to me and my business?
Same thing goes with baking. Had a request for sugar free cinnamon buns, baker, oops, 'scuse me, the Pastry Chef (one year out of a one year cooking school) proceeds to make a double batch using Splenda in the dough. 'Course it won't rise, no sugar to feed the yeast. 6kgs of finished buns dumped out and over an hour of labour lost. Wish I had been there to catch that mistake....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #22 of 23
Thread Starter 

i gave up watching this shows, just reading your first few lines about pineapple and gelatine. Well we know it would not hold for one day unless you blanch them quickly. As you pointed out other fruits well as a chef product knowledge is a key, but do schools teach that still with the enzymes, breaking down the protein as many fruits are actually used in unripe stage as tenderizers of meat? well all open questions isn't it and at the end the world tells us we are wrong. Well let them experience making a bavarian cream with kiwi, pineapple, sour mango and etc. let them see the real world of product knowledge and eventually understand cooking.


post #23 of 23
Again with your original question(What's the necessary basics) you showed your own culturally chauvinistic views.
Yes, thirty years ago some professional knew more about milk than today's youngsters. But did they know that most of the world's population can't digest milk(which is one of the reasons for yogurt's popularity. Or is it the other way around?! In human genetic evolution it's tough to tell causes from reactions). And how much did they know about the production of tofu. Tofu skins and their uses. Tibetan freeze dried tofu?
And about humus?
I worked in those kind of kitchens. Thousand dollars worth of truffle sitting in the walkin, and two year old "curry powder" on the shelf. Hundred dollar EVO and the most basic cheapest soy sauce(I have ten varieties at home for different dishes).

"Ethnic cuisines" aren't just accents do be added à la pékinoise style onto french food.

I don't know how to make bavarian cream. I don't need to know in my cooking or kitchen. I do know what temperature to bring the same spice to get different flavors for different dishes. I spent two years learning how to make humus. These are my basics.

We live in world of a thousand cuisines. Some basics are universal I agree. What they are I'm not sure, but that would have a been a real and interesting question and not a segue for your rantings.

BTW - The hay remark wasn't a stupid remark. It was a real followup question put out for you. Underneath your arrogance there seems to be real vast knowledge. So please more Dr. Jekyl and less Mr. Hyde...
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