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let's talk about the professional chef's palate...

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
what are your opinions about a chef's palate? or a sommellier? or anyone you know with a really defined and sharp palate?

i am really curious how it develops, and i know some of you lucky people are just born with it. how can you train yourself to be better at tasting flavours and aromas?

i have a tongue ring and i'm sure it puts me at a disadvantage to some extent, but i feel its not that bad, but could be better. so does anyone think that it is possible for someone with an "off" palate to become a chef? i just want to hear anything and everything you guys have to say. i think it's a fascinating topic
post #2 of 16
Hi, you may ask why I'm answering on a professional chef's forum when I'm an at home cook. It's because although I would never consider myself a "chef" because of the lack of apprenticeship/training I worked in the trade for many many years.

From my perspective and remember this is just my opinion, you are doing yourself a disservice by having a device that may be impairing your ability to fully taste and experience what your customers will ultimately experience. Unless your market is specifically targeting people with tongue rings. I think you are handicapping your performance.

I believe you can train to improve your palette but that the amount of experience and improvement will be limited by your own personal threshhold for taste and that's influenced by so many neurological and physiological things...like your sinuses, neural ganglions in your nose/soft palette, taste buds, etc. Like with any great talent - some have it more than others. I believe the really great palettes are born not made. That is the innate physiological factors that make someones palette ultra sharp and sensitive is a born with it thing. Then of course, trainging and experience help develop it and also help to refine how to communicate and translate what the sense of smell and taste along with sight, touch and sound are telling that person.

Just like it would be difficult for a color blind person to ever be a great painter or visual artist...I think someone with a burned out palette would be hard pressed to be a great chef. I am always shocked really at the sheer number of people in the trade who smoke and may be potentially ruining their palettes with it (and btw, I used to smoke and know how hard it is to quit and how wonderful it was while I was smoking)!!!
post #3 of 16
Just taste a lot of different food and compare
post #4 of 16
Smoking may not be as bad as you think. I know top blind wine tasters
that go out and intentionally smoke and drink a lot of liquor the night before
a big blind tasting competition. Some don't shower the day of the event, and
most will not use deoderant or brush thier teeth. Damaging the tongue with a piercing will definitely effect the ability to taste, but, also, not as much as your think. Remember exactly how and where the different sensor cells are
located. I think the ability to taste is something you are born with or born with out. I think it definitely grows everytime you taste something new. I
personally can smell and taste things and link them to a certain time and place
years after actually tasting them. I know one or two chefs that can for example have a cup of coffee and then tell you there is some sort of cheese in the waiter station refrigerator with the open cream for coffee. One who has been able to tell me exactly what cheese(pecorino by the way). Pretty
impressive. Knowing what tastes good to you and knowing what tastes good
to the masses is a totally different thing though.
post #5 of 16
I smoke, but not in my apartment. I smoke salmon outside in my smoker.
post #6 of 16
Even Stephen is correct in implying that the first step is to 'know your tongue"
Salt at the tip, sweet at the back, sour and bitter on the sides.

Play around with some different flavors, learn your tongue and how different flavors react differently.

Then start to play with this knowledge.

Cat Man
post #7 of 16
I personally believe that this is an important issue for parents as developing one's child's palate from a young age is crucial. This does not mean taking them out to the most heralded restaurant in town necessarily, but simply exposing them to a wide variety of flavours, and thereby teaching them to be open to new things. Yes, children are picky, but once they get into a habit, they don't tend to break it. The same goes with tasting.

Especially in America, people tend to eat very, very quickly and rob the,selves of the full experience of the food. Sometimes a bite doesn't taste the same on the fourth chew as the first. As flavours are released through the mouth, each section contributes to the actual taste of the dish. So slow your eating way, way down. Taste anything you can find and be active as you do. Note it in your mind as opposed to just inhaling it like the rest.

And don't smoke.
post #8 of 16
I smoke, but not the usual. When I smoke pork chops I always forget which end to light and which end to put in my mouth.
post #9 of 16
a well trained palate is both a gift and something that is learned. look at it this way you can be born with "a golden palate" but if you don't exercise it will go to waste.

To be able to determine what herbs and seasons are in foods you need to be first told what they are. An example is everyone knows what pepper tastes like right? well how do you know that, because when you were young your parents put pepper on your food and told you it was pepper.

So having a great palate is also a memory skill as well as a taste skill. The difference between a person with a well trained palate and a person with a palate like a cows backside is just a matter of being able to break down the components of a meal. The trained palate will be able to catch all the subtle seasonings and discern one from the other, whereas the untrained palate will most likely be only able to tell that there is only salt and pepper for example. With time and exposure to different seasonings, herbs and methods of cooking the untrained palate will be able to evolve into a trained palate through memory and association.

I can tell my 3 year old son that oregano is saffron and he will associate the taste of oregano as saffron untill someone proves him wrong or until he tastes actual saffron.

As for tounge rings they are put in an area on your tongue that has no bearing on taste unless you have a botched piercing.
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
its true that kids are picky and wont eat certain things, i was like that too.. i hated cheese and mousses (texture thing i suppose), but now i absolutely adore cheese and for mousse? love it.

but i feel that the average family doesnt expose their kids to enough of a variety of foods, then they grow up eating the "same old same old".

as for now, im trying to train my palate to let's say taste a sauce and be able to break down the components in it.. i think in my opinion that sauces and wines are the hardest to taste..
post #11 of 16
herbs, spices, flavorings......sniff, taste, toast/grind/taste......Greek oregano is different than Mexican oregano. If you have a Penzey's near you go sniff your way through the store, buy small amounts and sample them.

side by side tastings always emphasize varietal differences....be it fruit, veg, spices, herbs, wines, oils, viniagers, meats.....
Some wine shops have tastings, take part in that. ACF has meetings that emphasize tastings (or should, if your chapter doesn't suggest it)
taste as your cooking.
your label says your a professional pastry chef.....so knowing the qualities as well as taste variences in nuts would be important to your job, or chocolates, or fruits, sugars, etc. Most kitchens want to train their staff, express an interest in a slow time and see if someone will take you under their wing.
If not be in charge of your own education.

Those are blanket statements about families not nurturing children, my children did not grow up in a food vacuum from the earliest ages they were cooking and tasting. By the time they were 18 months they were stirring, adding and working with food....
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #12 of 16
I have always encouraged my daughter to participate in the kitchen.
By the age of 2, she had her own apron, peeler, kid knife and cutting board (and stool).

I made it fun and interesting for her, because I wanted her to WANT to be in the kitchen with me, not see it as a chore. Heck, I actually enjoy washing the dishes after dinner, but she's not quite there yet.

She has an amazing palate for a 12 year old now and will not eat anything of low quality, yet she doesn't even know why. It's just natural to her.

She had a friend over for dinner recently and the kid couldn't even peel a cuke! It was a proud moment for me when my daughter taught her how.

Cat Man
post #13 of 16
CatMan that is pretty cool! WTG!
post #14 of 16
Growing up in India, we didn't have a refrigerator. My mom was really creative in using whatever we had, since it wouldn't stay good for long, and improvising really tasty stuff. I learned a lot from her.
post #15 of 16
BlueZebra (are you a mussel by chance?)

My favorite saying from the kid in the kitchen is

"I want to put the spices in the rices, that's my job"

Spices in the Rices


Cat Man
post #16 of 16

What you said about your growing up is fascinating!
No refrigeration, seriously?

I would love to hear more about this. Any chance you'd care to get more specific?

Do you eat beef now?
Were you allowed to eat beef as a kid?
What meats did you eat as a kid?
What cuts off the animal did you eat?
What about dairy products?
Did you ever eat meat you knew was funky but your mother told you to eat it anyway?
I'm also curious how old you are, since I've been reading about Ghandi and the civil salt tax protests against the British Empire.

I could talk to someone like you all day

Cat Man
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