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A system for preparing for kitchen classes...

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
After finally getting well stuck into a cooking class that attempts to push us volume-wise as much as it does quality-wise, I developed a simple system I now use in all my cooking classes with great success.

Our school requires us to hand-write all recipies for a given day of cooking on 3x5 index cards. We also use evaluation forms at the end of the day to self-evaluate the work on each table (usually 3-4 students per table, with up to 6 tables per class). The idea is that you are forced to at very least look at the recipie once all the way through before you attempt it in class, and to at least consider the results once.

I quickly realized it's very easy not to spend enough time familiarizing yourself with a given recipie, as well as factor in the proper production considerations. So I came up with a system in MS Word that forces me to think through recipies more than throughly before class, as well as produce a very useful production schedule & requisition sheet for each class (which if they aren't required by your Chef, are extremely valuable in any cooking class, and really get you thinking holisticly about the menu in the context of a working kitchen).

The system:

1. Break the recipie into tasks by "ingredient groupings", which is to say organize ingredients according to your mise en place procedure: eg for a baking recipie, one ingredient group can be your dry ingredients, another group is the wet ingredients. This focuses your work flow according to each task, rather than having you mise everything at once, or mise things now that you do not need until much later. (Example will follow).

2. Identify any "pre-awareness" needed throughout, eg pre-heating an oven or setting up a frying station. This is about equipment awareness more than ingredients. Need to make tomato concassee? Then you need a blanche/shock station. Put these kinds of needs first on your list. Include the things you always forget, like the time it takes to properly wash rice.

3. Include timings in all your tasks so that you are thinking through how long a task is going to take, but also so you can produce a quick and easy production schedule after you're done. My format is:

"(task): (estimated minutes):"

... followed by the ingredient listing for that task.

4. Create a "master sheet" that lists all recipies broken down by task and associated ingredients. (If you use the columns feature in Word, you can fit up to 5 or 6 recipies on a page)

5. Save the document as a new/different Word document; go back and delete all ingredients and print/save your new production schedule.

6. Go back to the master sheet; save the document as a new/different Word document, delete all your tasks & timings and print/save your new requisition sheet.

7. Fold the tops of your new documents and hang them on your speed racks as necessary.

8. I write out my index cards to follow this pattern, but having a standard format recipie on hand is probably a good idea too.

Examples:

Master Sheet entry:

Beet and Apple Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette
 
preheat 400(F)
chill plate
 
emulsion: 10 mins
1 Tbl. brown mustard
2 Tbl. prep. horseradish
¼ C. raspberry vinegar
& drizzle ¾ C. olive oil.
season tt.
 
prep: 5 mins
1# beets
 
bake: 25 to 40 mins
(fork tender)
 
cool/prep: 10 mins
 peel/julienne beets
 
dress beets: 5 mins
2 Tbl. vinaigrette
1/8th C. green onion whites, minced
 
mix slaw: 5 mins
½ C. celery hearts, ¼ inch slice
1 Tbl. chives, minces
2 Tbl. parsley, chopped
2 apples, peeled & julienne
(lemon juice preserve for apple)
1/8th C. green onion whites, minced
 
dress escarole:
remaining vinaigrette

Same entry in the Production Schedule:

Beet and Apple Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette
 
preheat 400(F)
chill plate
emulsion: 10 mins
prep: 5 mins
bake: 25 to 40 mins
cool/prep: 10 mins
dress beets: 5 mins
mix slaw: 5 mins

Same entry in the Requisition Sheet:

Beet and Apple Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette

1 Tbl. brown mustard
2 Tbl. prep. horseradish
¼ C. raspberry vinegar
& drizzle ¾ C. olive oil.
1# beets

2 Tbl. vinaigrette
1/8th C. green onion whites, minced
 
½ C. celery hearts, ¼ inch slice
1 Tbl. chives, minces
2 Tbl. parsley, chopped
2 apples, peeled & julienne
(lemon juice preserve for apple)
1/8th C. green onion whites, minced
 

 
Hope the idea might help someone out there. The task oriented thing is useful for me, but if you don't like that, consider still doing a req sheet and production schedule for your classes. It makes a huge difference in terms of what you learn in class. When you know the recipies that well, you can focus on what Chef is teaching instead of trying to keep up with the recipie you should already know fairly well.

I guarantee you if you walk into class with a production schedule and req sheet on top of your recipie cards you will be well prepared for class, and make an excellent impression on your Chef - and possibly motivate your fellow students to meet your effort and thus raise the standards of your classroom.

Take the time to fill out a plate diagram or two (maybe even bring some blanks with you to class) and you'll really be on the ball. Also, consider doing an equipement requisition sheet as well, or incorporating equipment thoroughly into your ingredient req sheet. 

Edited by Culinuthiast - 5/4/10 at 10:40am
post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Culinuthiast View Post

Our school requires us to hand-write all recipies for a given day of cooking on 3x5 index cards. We also use evaluation forms at the end of the day to self-evaluate the work on each table (usually 3-4 students per table, with up to 6 tables per class). The idea is that you are forced to at very least look at the recipie once all the way through before you attempt it in class, and to at least consider the results once.

Is that really a requirement? My writing is terrible and cards are much harder to edit. I'd have more luck with a recipe from memory than from little cards. My actual preference is to keep them on my computer.

As for getting you to look at it, can't they just say "Everybody has to read the recipe before cooking . . . "?

Terry
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

My writing is horrible too.

The instructors can say whatever they want... the trick is do the students do it? In my shool, sadly the answer is "not usually". If I was on the Napa campus of CIA I'd expect different. But I'm not.

Yes, it is a requirement to write out all our recipies, and legibility is not a concern really. Do I use the recipie cards after class? Not really. It's an excercise more than a development of recipies.

I used to think that surely everyone at culinary school will be as passionate and concerned about learning as I am. Then I went to culinary school and realized a lot of people there have just as much passion, but don't use that passion to prepare, for whatever reason. I now completely understand why our school requires us to write our recipies and support the policy.

Because despite those requirements and a seemingly obvious need by fellow students to at least look at recipies before class I cannot tell you how many times people will come to me or Chef or whoever and ask what's in this or that (do I put the salt in the wet or dry? what method does this use? do I puree this or these too?), or want to know why I am boiling water, or whatever that makes it clear they failed to understand the recipie when they casually looked at it, or didn't look at it at all.

I don't know if it's by design but a lot of our recipies will indicate that another recipie is necessarry and the only way to know that is to read through the recipie: So students might show up with the recipie for a protein and not realize the recipe calls for a sauce and other components to plate with, ths you need that recipe also... "pico de gallo? pico de gallo wasn't on the menu?!" No, it was called for in the protein recipie though.

Also, the processes we're talking about are for school, not for the workplace. Personally I arrange recipies in my mind according to the books they came from, so I prefer they stay in the books when that's their source. I'm computer oriented too so when I need more than a book I prefer the computer (notice my master system is entirely Word-based). But I get the index card thing and I think it works better than not. It certainly cuts back on constantly having to answer questions of others who aren't prepared in any way...

"What does the recipe say?", "What do your cards say to do?", etc makes easy work of those folks.

I have a friend in the business almost two decades and he always relates to me that being in the kitchen is a performance. If you've ever been involved in any performing art you understand that the performance is 99% preparation (see: rehearsal, practice, preparation). But a lot of us don't like preparation because it's boring and doesn't necessarily use our knife skills. It's human nature.
 

But I digress...


Edited by Culinuthiast - 5/4/10 at 11:58am
post #4 of 17
There is a "minor problem" with computer based recipes and notes when it comes to the average commercial food production facility....no computers , now, in school it may be different.

A "key" to success...RTFR = Read The Full Recipe (there are some that use a different "F word")

Another "key"...TNOEWE = Take Notes On EVERYTHING, Without Exception!

Remember, most of us have two eyes, two ears, and ONE mouth, that means look (read) and listen TWICE as much as you talk. When you cannot "see" or "hear" the answer, then ASK!

There is nothing wrong with not knowing, BUT THERE IS EVERYTHING WRONG WITH NOT KNOWING WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW!
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

There is a "minor problem" with computer based recipes and notes when it comes to the average commercial food production facility....no computers , now, in school it may be different.

 

I wasn't suggesting setting the laptop down on the grill; printing the recipes is generally more kitchen-friendly. 8-)

Terry
post #6 of 17

Thanks for the explanation of your system. I start culinary classes in August and I am going to use your system, or something very similiar, to be prepared.

 

Apparently not all culinary students are not as passionate as others. I took two online culinary classes(sanitation/safety and nutrition) earlier this year, and some of the other students made 20's and 30's on some of the tests. These were open book or whatever tests. I was upset with myself for missing one question, but I guess some of the younger students just don't care.

 

Will

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

great news, but please remember the purpose and do what works for you =D I realize in hindsight that I could have worded that better, and my system is designed for the way i use a computer - not everyone else.

 

the point of the exercise is to come to class with things like a req sheet and a production plan (and yes, few students will go to this level of preparation until it's required of them), but the more important thing is to run through it all in your head as many times as necessary to feel confident come the time to actually "perform".

 

yes, many students do not yet see the value in this kind of approach or understand that in the long run it's the kind of method and procedural thinking chef's need to be great at and accomplish with relative ease (and thus, is great habit-building).

 

don't worry about other student's inability to recognize the importance of such things, it's irrelevant other than to demonstrate so clearly why a lack of preparation in the kitchen really makes for bad outcomes all around.

 

remember that each time someone asks you how this goes or that is done, it just belabors the point each time it happens.

post #8 of 17

Whatever works for you is good, others may have good memories as to procedure and don't want to do all of this.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #9 of 17

I am not nor have I ever been a culinary student, but I am a college professor. Let me just note, for those who might find this process peculiar or daunting, what you're doing. In essence, you are forcing yourself to take multiple angles on the same information and then restructure it according to a system that happens to make sense to you. This is effectively equivalent to outlining a complex text line by line (not just the "hot bits version" but everything in it), then re-outline and summarize entirely from memory. Students traditionally hate doing this, but it is one of the most effective means of making the information yours rather than something simply memorized. We all remember cramming for an exam, then forgetting everything a few days later, right? Well, this system avoids it.

 

My point, apart from a general hearty congratulations to you for being an excellent student, is that any student can do this in his or her own way. What you have to figure out is how to take the information apart and put it back together again in a fashion that suits your own way of thinking and working. If you do this, that information will be absorbed very effectively. This is called "active learning," and for the vast majority of students it works like a charm... if one can convince them to do it.

 

I would also warn anyone to be a little careful with methods like this. Watch out for the process itself becoming overly mechanical. When that happens, it becomes wildly inefficient.

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

ed makes a great point, there is also a degree of skill involved in terms of multi-tasking and reacting to a given workload (rather than preparing for it), and like any skill the more it's practiced the better we get at it - not a skill set to be ignored for sure.

 

however ed, i can't help but notice how many people in my kitchen classes think they're really doing great by (getting away with) not preparing only to then spend 50%+ of their time wasting everyone elses time around them.

 

in the classroom, we don't have time for practicing that skillset (although we do utilize it). practicing that skillset comes on the job or whatever kitchen you are working in.

 

oh and chris, thank you for putting into much better words what i should have. you articulated exactly what the purpose of this is.

post #11 of 17

You will change .Your way is good and effective  now.(In school) I know that in the last 20 years I can truly say I never used a recipe. Give me the name of the dish and I make it or just give me the ingredients and I will make it. I bet there are a few guys on this site who can do this. It comes in my case from 40 years of cooking in various types of places and a great memory. Almost all traditional cooking is the same,

assemble and method . Example soups, almost all start mirepoix and saute, add stock etc. You will also get like this in a number of years.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

ed i've done far more stupid things than disagree with you, you have forgotten more than i will ever know in this world - of this i am confident. i love your posts for this reason.

 

i agree with you more than you'll know: i hate paperwork, i rarely look anything up in the kitchen, i hate recipes in general and i actually think the standard recipe method is a very poorly designed "standard" to get crazy on the issue. 

 

i just think you're confusing the above for something completely different and not understanding this is not a method for approaching a professional kitchen.  

post #13 of 17

But I assumed that as a culinary student you were training towards moving into pro. kitchens.? And as I said over the coming years, like me and the rest of the old timers  you will learn more and more, and in fact pick a catagory of the culinary arts that you favor the best ans excell at it.  When I was younger I never believed I would get smarter as I got older,. But you know what ,I did and learned more to. Good Luck  in all your endeavors.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #14 of 17

Pick up a copy of Le repertoire de la cuisine, in the English edition with Jacques Pepin's intro. That's when you know you can really cook hard-core --- when you know half those dishes and the rest you can make wonderfully from the little one-line descriptions. Recipes? Recipes are for sissies.

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

so the point is that we shouldn't utilize req sheets or production schedules because the pros don't use any of that nonesense? we shouldn't prepare and instead should plan on just winging it like the pros do? pros only work with people that can read their mind and don't need to be concerned about disseminating information clearly to a larger team, to people on other shifts, etc?

 

pros only manage kitchens by magically absorbing information from the winds of the experience gods?

 

eh, sorry guys, i'm gonna need a lot more convincing before i buy into that, i don't care if your Jaques Pepin himself.

post #16 of 17

I believe it was said if it works for you thats great. I do use banquet function sheets and production sheets But many things in our kitchen as far as procedures are repetative and does not have to be done all the time. Why production sheets? because most of the cooks know how to do it, If a dish is specified, most of them  can do it blindfolded , but as far as amounts they may not, so I figure the quantities.that should be produced and when to prep it. After a while they will know that to.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #17 of 17

Hello, this is a interesting thread an enjoy all the post. I too went to culinary schools Mr. Pepin now works for it. I personally see one item missing from your recipe card discussion, did anyone like it? As far as writing down recipes I would start now and make it a priority in my career.

Do you think McD' just adds well 2 cups of onion today and 4 cups tomorrow. IMO that's the issue with the crap show Top chef, those dude's could'nt reproduce those dishes if a million bucks was riding on it. Someone above was using acronyms here's an old one KISS no definition needed. When I was in the big apple you could cook crap and people came in as long as you had an open table, you may not see them back again but table turn over is table turn over right...NOT. If you are in a smaller location you may need repeat business I like my menu in the KISS theory. Use your special as a testbed and as always whats in season. Always test your ingredients for favor this is where your pallet comes in and don't buy 2 pounds of nutmeg if you only use it at Christmas. My rant is if you want to be in the restaurant business and want to own your own place learn to love paperwork and remove yourself from those that say AHH don't worry about it. Ever wonder why some places just continue to make it, always having the money for a make over, decorations for the season etc, its because they know what it is to own a business and cook. Write those recipes down, nice and neat both on your cards and in your computer continue to tweak your system (sell it if it works well in our cookbook). And don't forget to rate the taste and how the dining room folks liked it. Use a star or whatever to rate it. You will thank yourself when your are writing menus - years from now. But hey, just throw a couple of this with a couple of that and who cares if its humid or colder they'll love it \\\ And for those that don't like paperwork I'am assuming you don't keep track of how many of what menu items you sold for the day. Must be hard ordering food next year, forecasting is very accurate and when you think it is'nt did your area add residence or lose them it works.

 

I wish you college folks all the best of luck and hang out if people that ave a good attitude toward cooking. If the kitchen staff is doom and gloom move on. Some want to cook others haven't found the door yet

 

GOOD LUCK

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