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Rant about technique

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
For the last 4 months or so I've been searching for a new job (my own restaurant project is still several years away), in that time period I've worked in over half a dozen restaurants (most being highly rated fine dining establishments), and some of the things I've seen have been disappointing to downright unbelievable.

How is it, that with all our modern knowledge, so many cooks are still using incredibly outdated or just plain wrong techniques?

- mayonnaise, a sous-chef wanted to show me step by step how to make it -he put egg yolks, mustard in a robot, then added oil, then added vinegar to finish (apparently this is the technique they teach in school?). Emulsion = oil suspended in water, key here - there needs to be water present initially or else no emulsion (yolks and mustard have some, but not much). Mixing the vinegar with the egg yolks first, then adding the oil = much stronger emulsion.

- emulsions in general, water first, then fat - and yes, chocolate is an emulsion, too many people think chocolate is just a solid mass you can do anything to

- foams - cooks who only know how to make a foam from a recipe stolen from some famous chef, but don't actually know what stabilizes a foam.

- adding oil to butter to raise smoke point - milk solids burn at the same temperature whether theres 100% butter or 10%, it's just easier to hide when mixed with oil

- sauces - over-reduced, tons of cream to thicken - ok, we modernize cuisine, take away starches, so instead we get this 'glop' on a plate? I like my sauce tasting like sauce, not syrup

- Risotto - adding cold stock to rice - in a 'fine' Italian restaurant no less

- Sous vide - just general ignorance, I'm sick of explaining to people what sous-vide cooking is, how it works, the benefits - the technique has been around for 30 years!!! (maybe more?) You'd think more people would know more about it...

- Root vegetables - people 'blanching' root veg in boiling water, leaving them mushy on the outside and raw on the inside - cook them at a lower temperature, for more even cooking

- pastries - you'd think with today's education programs more cooks would know something about doing pastry work, you'd think wrong.

- stocks and broths - we're still making and using stocks like Escoffier did, so much more can be done....

Ok, I think I'm done, just had to get that off my chest.
post #2 of 36
I think that says it all about attitude.:D

Yea, alot of cooks do the wrong thing, but it is up to the chef to make sure the wrongs are righted.

First of all...although techniques vary, do they work? I mean, if a dish sells, who cares about technique? Owners don't, if the customers loves the dish, then they pay, owner gets the money, and all is well with the world.

There are a couple of things that stabalize foams, depending if they are hot or cold. This has yet to be perfected and sure isn't a common thing to be found on menus. Can't b*tch about something that is still a new technique, that is up to the chef to perfect. I mean, does the chef let the plate go out looknig like crap??

That is a health issue. Stock kept at room temp creates nasty bacteria, but I'm sure you knew that....:p

No they don't, and the general population has no idea what that is.

Obviously, you need to grow up a bit and realize that there are compromises with the food industry. Did you know that only about 35% of the population eats at fine dining establishments? And if only count the people that eat at these places regularly and are foodies, the percentage decreases.

:look: ...kids these days......:D
post #3 of 36
There are classic methods.
I like them and have great deal of respect for them.

Then there are shortcuts and utility methods. Not as good, but the circumstances often determine what is appropriate. These can extend to crimes aginst food that somehow produce an acceptable result when under the gun.

There are even a few things I do for myself that i do for nobody else, like rissoto with the tinyest bit of crunch in the center, using....cold stock.

I would love to work in the ideal kitchen, where I had all the time and ingredient to obtain classic results using classic methods.
But that's not always my call, and I have to give in to practical necessity
post #4 of 36
Well said Rivit.....:)
post #5 of 36
Thread Starter 
About risotto - after sautéing your shallots and garlic, deglaze with cold stock, bring to a boil, and then add the par-cooked rice. Much nicer, doesn't take any extra work, doesn't involve any risk of food poisoning. Not rocket science.

About the rest of your post - if I'm going to work in a restaurant that labels itself as fine dining, I expect a certain level of quality. I have absolutely no problem finding a job, it is however, quite tough to find a restaurant I actually want to work at.

Many chefs have told me my attitude sucks - doesn't bother me one bit. I've made more than enough friends in high places, and people who know me, know I can cook and back up everything I say.
post #6 of 36
Thread Starter 
And yes, every single professional cook should know how to make a foam, how to use cuisson sous-vide - these are techniques that have been around for decades... They're not new techniques.
post #7 of 36
The technique of the sous-chef is correct, when using a robot.
post #8 of 36
Mike- I am sure you know your stuff and cook well....just remember the attitude. First off, you said...

Then you said....

That in itself says volumes. A succesful chef will know what is wrong and what is right thru experience. If you say....
...then they are most likely right. If you want to have your own resto, then listen to your chefs! These are building blocks. There is a reason why they are head chefs and you are not.
Good luck, bro!
post #9 of 36
No job is perfect...

I don't think anybody will ever find an establishment that satisfies 100% of their needs, as human beings its our nature to want and then want more.

Even if you are the Exec. Chef/Owner, you still won't be able to have things your way 100% of the time as each of your chefs/cooks will have their own way of doing things.

Find a job that covers most of your needs and deal with the things you don't like.
post #10 of 36
Mike, what's wrong with Escoffier style stock? Is there anything really that different in modern methods? I know how I like to do it, how do you do a veal stock or a chicken stock?
post #11 of 36
Thread Starter 
I've been offered 2 restaurants in the last 3 months (I didn't apply for those jobs however, other cooks I've worked with referred me to those owners). Declined to take them however, I'd rather not be the EC unless I'm a business partner or sole owner. Anyhow, I was hoping this thread would be more about technique, and not about my job, lack of a job, etc... Honestly, if I was hard up for cash, I could walk into a dozen restaurants today and be working full time - I've got more than enough contacts, and people know me and my reputation.

Most of the chefs that questioned my attitude were chefs I did a 'stage' for and refused the job. The chefs I stayed with and actually helped build up the kitchen are still very good friends of mine. The reason for my unemployment was actually to take a long vacation, and I was considering travel. I worked 'stages' to fight off boredom after a few months of not working, and to check places out. Due to personal issues, travel is no longer in the cards for now, and I'm working again full-time next week.
post #12 of 36
Thread Starter 
Have you ever made beurre monté or a beurre blanc sauce? Tell me, why do you heat up your water/reduction first, and then emulsify the butter into that? Or a hollandaise, why do you start with your reduction and eggs, then add the butter? How about an emulsified vinaigrette for a salad? I'd love to see someone try to make that by adding oil first and then try adding vinegar...

You *can* make a mayonnaise with only yolks and mustard, but it requires quite a few egg yolks (to get the water content up there), and once you add your vinegar it loosens up the emulsion quite a bit. For demonstration purposes only, using proper technique, 1 egg yolk is enough to make 17 litres of mayonnaise. For taste though, more egg yolks is nice.
post #13 of 36
Your reputation, not only as a cook, but a simply being useful to have around, is everything. Stack the deck against yourself in the local community of chefs, and you may need to get on the bus to another city.

You have frinds in high places but apparantly don't work for any of them, ao you need not consider anyone any higher than the next chef you interview with.
post #14 of 36
Ego, hubris and arrogance can get you pretty far in the restaurant world, but only so far. When it comes down to the brass tacks, a successful operation is a team effort and only as strong as the weakest member of that team. If one member is a jerk, it brings down the morale of the whole crew and puts everyone on edge, raises the stress level unnecessarily, and ultimately, the whole organization suffers.
Why the whole place?
Because of lower productivity, higher turnover (both front and back of the house), which leads to higher training and recruiting costs.

Mike, you'll be a lot more successful in the long run if you refrain criticizing everyone and thinking your way is the only way. Focus on the best way to contribute to the team you work with, and your value to your employer will grow by leaps and bounds.

The best chefs aren't necessarily the best cooks, but the ones who know how to bring out the best in the people they work with and for.

I suggest you read Danny Meyer's new book.


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 #15 of 36
Well said, foodnfoto!

Ok, let's talk technique, Mike. What would you do to create a stock without using Escoffier based techniques? Let's start with veal. One can roast the bones, or not. Some rinse the product before braising, some do not. What would be done that Escoffier may not have known about at the time?

Foams- do you use a starch to stabalize? Geletin? Egg whites? I've used all of these for different applications. Some work better than others for different food stuffs.

Reductions- what is a "proper" reduction? Sometimes syrup is good, sometimes not, depending on what the flavor profile is and what plating technique is used. Let's saaaayyyy...........red wine reduction. Some would add butter to caramelized sugar, then wine with a citrus then reduce by 1/2 then add stock, while others would not add stock and reduce by 1/4. This creates a nice red wine reductio.

What would you do differently?
post #16 of 36
Thread Starter 
Honestly, I think I'm done here. Seems this is no place for a serious cook. You know, maybe in type I do come across as a little arrogant, it's tough to express oneself in print. I'm not a writer.

I don't look for a job where some chef who's intimidated by me is going to try to break me down everyday just for the **** of it. I look for a job where I can contribute to the cause, that is making great food. I'll leave if I think I'm not contributing as much as I could.

This profession as a whole is so far behind the times it's not even funny. Great example - foams and sous-vide cooking are just becoming popular. Foams were around in the 1980's, sous-vide cooking in the 1970's, yet in North America people have just started using them in the 2000's.... If the auto industry were as conservative as the cooking business, then we'd still be driving model T's... Obviously this forum is not a place to talk about the modern professional kitchen.
post #17 of 36
Everything is cyclical mike. Something that was popular a while ago will come back around to become popular again and seem "new" to some people.

Here's a few suggestions from my point of view:

1) Just take a breath and chilax man. This is a place for people to exchange ideas, experiences, etc...

2) What works for one person, doesn't work for another. Find what works for you, and stick with it, but never forget that what you like, isn't going to be the same for everybody out there.

3) The other folks addressing your concerns were trying to figure out what exactly you find wrong with some of the techniques you were discussing. So don't get mad when they are just going through the problem solving process.

4) Never forget one key point: It's food, plain and simple. If we wanted to deal with something more complicated we'd have taken careers in calculus, or something else equally mind-numbing (for me at least). So sit back, have a beer, maybe a smoke, and remember: "It's just food".

p.s. I forgot to say "Just have fun with it"
post #18 of 36
Thread Starter 
Stocks are a bad example - technique wise Escoffier was pretty good, it's impractical to be doing sous-vide stocks for large quantities. But a little more variation in flavour would be nice (spices, different herbs, etc...), and changing the applications for them.

Foams - to stabilize I usually like a strong, gelatinous broth, although agar-agar, pectin, lecithin, egg whites, sheet gelatin, starches all work, also commercial blends of the above. If possible I like to use a product's natural structure to stabilize a foam, however additional stabilisers have their place.

Red wine sauce - sear your meat trim in a pan with beurre noisette, then sear your mirepoix. Degrease. Add some honey (optional), caramelize. Deglaze with red wine, reduce to a syrup. Then deglaze again with stock. Put your meat trim and vegetables back into the pan (or into a pot), covered with stock, and let it infuse/reduce on the stove for several hours. Just an example. I've also made great sauces using sous-vide cooking.
post #19 of 36
Really? Can you give an example? I'd not tried that.
post #20 of 36
I try to keep that perspective as well. Unfortunately food doesn't want to 'behave' sometimes, so stabalizers work. Like...saaaayyy....cucumbers make a great cold foam without the use of a stablizer, Also pears ( I usually like to smoke them, then make a foam).

What products do you use for foams? Techniques??
post #21 of 36
Thread Starter 
For instance, an oxtail sauce. You roast your mirepoix and oxtail in a pan, then let cool. Degrease your pan, deglaze with wine/stock, and cool the liquid. Put the oxtail, mirepoix, and liquids into a bag, with some aromatics as well if you like, seal it, and cook at 170 degrees for 12 hours or so. Gives you a nice, incredibly flavourful sauce, and theres no need to reduce afterwards. Strain it, and use as you would a normal jus.
post #22 of 36
Thread Starter 
I personally like really savoury foams, complex flavours, so I usually use a strong bouillon as a base (usually chicken, or vegetable stock with some agar - although lately I've been thinking about using tea as a base). I also prefer foams with a little more body than some people do them, my personal preference.

I'll infuse whatever flavours I'm looking for into the bouillon (spices, herbs, vegetables), usually add something to up the viscosity a little (vegetable purée, emulsify some fat into it, foie gras for example). To make the foam itself, I've used hand held blenders and ISI canisters, both work pretty well.

I'm not a huge fan of juice-only foams (just my preference), but have made them before at work. For example, a carrot foam - quite simply just juiced a bunch of carrots, emulsified a bunch of butter into the mix, and used a hand-held blender to make the foam to order.

Dessert foams - haven't made as many of these, but have made a few. Have made ones with cream/liquor as the base (as per chef's request), however I prefer making more of a dessert 'soup' kind of base (again, try to make slightly more interesting flavours), and turning that into a foam. Herbs and spices infused into a syrup (can also boil the syrup with some fruit peels to extract some more pectin), a light fruit purée base, depending on the pectin content of the fruit purée I'll then add some gelatin. Can also make a light emulsion with chocolate, if you get the proportions right it will foam up (in that case the stabiliser/emulsifier is the lecithin in the chocolate).

In my experience, the most important thing about foams is balance. Balance the viscosity, fat content, stabilizers, according to the temperature you want to serve the foam at, and how light you want the foam to feel in your mouth.

This kind of discussion, I must say, brings a smile to my face. I love the technical aspects of cooking, so naturally I'm drawn to pastries, making sauces, slow cooking meats, etc...

I'm also in a somewhat better mood now, found a restaurant and chef to work for where I can produce and contribute to the level I would like to, not to mention ownership that is very serious about haute cuisine.
post #23 of 36
I don't know..:confused: ..it must just be me...:o ..but all this foaming is kind of grossing me out.
Yeah, I know, it's kind of the trendy thing right now, and yes, I've eaten a lovely salmon cappuccino with cucumber foam.

maybe my imagination is just a little overactive:suprise: , but everytime I'm presented with a foam or even hear of one, I keep thinking of say, fermented hummus, or fizzy tomato juice, or shaving cream, or hair mousse.
I just can't get my mind around putting all that foamy stuff in my mouth.
It seems unnatural and contrived.


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 #24 of 36
Thread Starter 
What about a crème chantilly? That's probably the first 'foam' people discovered. It consists of water, milk fat, and milk solids (including proteins which stabilize it), and air. Or meringue - again, it's just water, sugar, and proteins to stabilize, with air whipped into it. These 2 very classic 'foams' follow the exact same rules as a modern 'foam'.

I don't see it as something 'trendy', rather a natural evolution of cooking technique and know-how... Soon we'll forget about the 5 mother sauces (béchamel, tomato, hollandaise, espagnole, velouté), and we'll classify sauces not by their contents, but by the technique.
post #25 of 36
Sorry, dude, but not all of us share your passion for some of these "newer", "trendier" techniques. My style of cuisine just doesn't incorporate these things or many of the newer, more modern styles. If that makes me less of a chef so be it. Sure, I agree with some of the points you made in your very first post. There are things that I see, in other kitchens, that drive me nuts, but once you start insinuating that those of us who do not embrace foams, sous vide, etc. are living in the dark ages then I take offense.
post #26 of 36
MikeB- I've got to admit, I have not been a fan of sous vide cooking as far as creating a dish. I have always used this method for zero waste as far as food products go. I like the idea of slow "poaching" a sauce in a controlled heat environment. I can see "why" it would work, but I still think sous vide is a technique that tooo many people have swallowed the hype. I just don;t think that this technique is that valid. I'm not knocking your belief in it, and maybe trying what you suggested may change that. For me this technique is invaluable for many applications, but for creating a dish, it is just a step to many steps to create a sublime flavor.

Foams- I do savory foams as well.....but I look at foams as an additive. I don't like to make them complex. I let a sauce do that. The foam is a tasty "garnish". Thats just my style. Like saaayyy....smoked pear foam with seared tenderloin, shiraz reduction and "burnt" gouda cheese. Each flavor is simple but combined the total flavor spectrum is awesome. Althoug I do complex foams for seafood....did a nice one with a fumet with a squid tuile and barramundi.

What do you think of using CO2 or dry ice? I had my staff make ice cream table-side with dry ice.

And.....anything you would like to discuss? This is a good discussion!
post #27 of 36
Thread Starter 
I don't look at techniques as being the focus of a dish. I just always try to make a tasty dish - one with great flavour, texture and aroma. I've always been weary of 'avant-garde' cuisine, since some of the stuff I've seen is more flash and show than substance.

I still remember the first time I had a foam. I was thinking, WTF is that? No body, the taste disappears after a second in the mouth, kinda cool but gimmicky. And then I had a great foie gras foam - it was complex, great flavours, and the texture was less foamy and more like a warm crème chantilly... Since then I've kind of fallen for the idea :look:

CO2 and dry ice. One of the few new techniques I haven't got around to trying yet (plus I'm not sure I'd trust servers doing anything tableside).
post #28 of 36
I am in total agreement. Taste is everything, as well as presentation. One HAS to have these 2 things working, or the dish won't work. You can foam/froth/spittle all one wants, if it doesn't taste good, whats the use??

Hmmmm...that makes me want to go back to experiment again with foams. I've used protien based stocks before, but to make them complex....Maybe I'll try monkfish liver for one, now that I think about it.

:lol: Yea, as a chef, ya gotta trust your servers at some point. Training is necessary, and overseeing the production. It works, though! It is kinda cool to have a customer choose the flavors and have them watch the ice cream made in front of them. I'd like to work with CO2 more.
post #29 of 36
Chantilly and meringue are perfectly acceptable as part of a dessert, garnish, or to lighten up a mousse or souffle. So is whipped cream.

But, for me, fishy foams, smokey foams and others on their own with little body or structure are just kind of weird textural/taste experiences. Surprising, yes, interesting, yes, but not really that pleasurable when taken as a whole. And that bubbly glob on top of my food, just looks like someone, well.......

I'd better not go there.

Like I said, maybe I have an overactive imagination, but I guess this latest trend is just not my bag.

It doesn't mean I'm ignorant, it's just not my thing.

Mike-I wonder if it's possible for someone to be more patronizing and arrogant than you have been here. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but chill, dude, and realize there are plenty of people here with considerably more experience than you. If you stop running people down all the time, you open yourself up to experiencing and appreciating the breadth of perspectives offered here.


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 #30 of 36
Thread Starter 
Sounds like fun :D Seriously, one of these days I'm going to raid a science supply store, and get some liquid nitrogen. Lol, that jab at the servers was only half serious, I'm sure they wouldn't have too much trouble making iced cream tableside.

BTW, I haven't asked yet, but what kind of restaurant is yours, and how would you describe your cuisine?
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