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RECipes in the REStaurant?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Of all the places I've ever worked (both catering and restaurant), there's only been one place that actually had written recipes for the staff, for 'staples' like salad dressing, or salads, etc. - something that was on the menu all the time. I found it an enormous help, since there are so many variations on a theme - i.e., Caesar salad dressing - I've had chefs just say, 'oh make it your way'; but my way may not be their way, or the restaurant standard way.

How do you 'pass the knowledge' to folks working for/with you? Is it verbal, or written down?
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post #2 of 28
I agree with you on staple items.

All of my dressings, stockes and some composed salad are in a binder. We do a great deal of repeat buisness here, so it is very important that the guest find consistency with certian things.

I also encourage creativity with my staff (to a certian degree) so that they always feel that they are contributing to the menu.
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post #3 of 28
Being in corporate food service, we adhere to (or are supposed to) voluminos recipe collections for everything. Master recipes down to garniture for salads. Seasonal items are even spec'd out with proper items to use and how to use them. I like the structure, but not always the content. In other words, it is great to train somebody with a standard set of instuctions to promote consistency, however, often the recipes just are not very good. One of the things we sometimes overlook in corporate services is the food while we focus on the other aspects of our business. But that's another story.

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post #4 of 28
I had a nightmare experience working in a large upscale brewery where the daytime sous chef had developed many of the recipes yet nothing was written down. The barbecue sauce that this guy made was amazing, but you know what? Only he could make it and he didn't want to share it with the rest of us. The Chef never could get the guy to see the benefit, and needless to say the restaurant suffered greatly.

If you are dealing with a high volume restaurant then you need constistency. I also belive it helps out in cutting down the chef and sous chefs overall hours. If the staff is well trained and can duplicate things without the chef then that means they don't have to be in the kitchen every minute of everyday to insure that consistency is there.
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post #5 of 28
I am a sous and I have written everything down and placed it in a binder.(well all the staple stuff I guess you could say).

I train the new hotline cooks and the first thing i tell them is to follow the recipies we have written down,for the simple fact that we get repeat buisness and these people expect a certain consistancy in our products.

I have found that a littlt hands on experience, coupled with my knowledge of the restaurant, and the recipies being written down, does an excelent job with my new recruits.

Billy
post #6 of 28
I've worked in places with written recipes, and those without. I much prefer the ones WITH recipes. How else can you get consistency? I hate it when I come in someplace new, get "trained" by the guy who's leaving, then get yelled at by the Sous, "Why are you making it like that; that's all wrong." When there's a recipe to follow, no question.

And when I've been lucky enough to be told, "Just make it however you want to," once I get it the way the chef likes, I WRITE IT DOWN. I won't be there forever, so if they want it, they still have it. Keeping the recipe to myself is not going to keep me in the job.
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post #7 of 28
I hate recipes. Sometimes they can get downright counterproductive. All the recipes in the world won't help the consistency of the product unless the person who is preparing the recipe is trained and does it the same way each time. Many chefs are horrible when it comes to writing recipes. Most chefs leave out the technique notes which are sometimes more essential to the item than the actual ingredients themselves.

Some recipes are essential. Dressings, premade sauces, soups, and seasoning blends. But this brings up a whole new puzzle when it comes to management. Do you allow the staff to be creative and take ownership of their creations or do you just want a bunch of drones which just "follow the recipe" blindly? I've worked in both types of kitchens and everything in between. I preferred it tilted more toward the ownership and creative side rather than the drone side.

Kuan
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks, guys, you've pretty much echoed my thoughts - standard formulas for the staples, and fostering staff creativity on other items, i.e. maybe specials. I've had the same experiences that all of you have related re confusion when something isn't written down.

In the one place where the recipes were written down, I even had the experience of the chef/owner coming over and saying, 'why are you doing that?" Told him that's what HIS recipe stated, and showed him; he said, "oh, we changed that, we're not doing it that way anymore"!!!

I'm in a 'discussion' right now with the folks I'll be working with at the new restaurant - when it opens (now they're talking March!), and especially because all the staff will be brand new, I think it's important to establish consistency with staple items like dressings, etc., for our new customer base.

Appreciate all your opinions.
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post #9 of 28
One thing I've tried which worked was to actually assign responsibility to different members of the staff for different parts of the kitchen. This was based on the natural abilities and likes/dislikes of the staff. Of course I didn't let them totally pick what they wanted to do or what they didn't, but they pretty much fell into place. For example, this kid liked to work the salads, he felt some kind of zenlike attraction to tearing lettuce. I made him responsible for all the dressings. He was the only one to make the dressings and had to make sure that the restaurant was well stocked with all the dressings at all times, even on his days off. That worked pretty well until he quit, then I had to find another person to do the job. Even with the same system the synergy changed and for some reason someone else started making the caesar dressing.

You might have to take comments about the food with a grain of salt though, especially when they tell you something tastes different or "something's wrong" with the dressing. It's difficult to judge things when there's a large time interval involved. Sometimes our memories about a certain product are clouded by the events which surrounded the evaluation.

Kuan
post #10 of 28
some of the reasons i use some standard recipes are to keep track of food cost, portion control and consistency. these would be for staple items that are on the menu at all times. some customers get very upset when they come in one time and like something and the next time they come back the item is quite different. i utilize them in purchasing, if X recipe takes 10 lbs. of ingredient Y every week then i(or who ever else is ordering that week) knows to automatically order the ingredient.
post #11 of 28
I have worked in both atmospheres, and I find both to have their pros and cons. In the higher end places I have worked we never had a "recipe book". Each line cook carried a pocket notebook, into which he wrote down all the recipes the senior line cooks or chefs gave him. That notebook was your responsibility, and a required part of your uniform. You then made it your responsibility to learn the recipes for the other stations. It was only then, when chef that you were prepared to move on, would you get a chance to train in other stations. Those who didn't have the self-motivation to do this extra work found themselves stuck on pantry, and soon being forced out as we brought on other new cooks hungry for knowledge.

Training became a team effort, as the chef allowed us to cross-train each other. Sharing recipes, watching out for each other, and giving a hand or advice as needed. To this day, that restaurant and that crew is my benchmark by which I judge all other kitchens.
post #12 of 28
Huumm, no recipes. Letting the cooks have creativity. Having a chef say ok make it your way. one cook knowing the barbque sauce recipe. Would you buy this restaurant?
Pete, you say that the higher end places don't have recipe books, but each person was responsible for archiving the chefs recipe when being trained. I could live with that, I'm assuming the chef has all this info in one place anyway.
Then again WTHDIK:D
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post #13 of 28
We had them. The chef was required to cost out each item for the corporate offices, so we had them somewhere, but we never refered to them.
post #14 of 28

All this, AND the Internet, too?

PUT THEM ON YOUR COMPUTER! The other thing this box does besides let me hang out with you guys.......
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 
Peachcreek - I don't know whether I'd trust some of the folks I've worked to check recipes on the computer!!!!

I was thinking more of a 5 x 8 recipe file in a box, sitting somewhere strategic - with the cards covered in plastic, of course!!
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post #16 of 28

Thats not what I mean.

OK. You keep your recipes on the computer. You print off copies of your recipes and either put them together in a binder or, you can have the people who use the recipes have their own station binder, or whatever. If anything happens to the recipe in the binder you can run off another copy. No, you don't look something up everytime you need a recipe! Could you imagine that? Gooey mouse! Unknown stuff gumming up the keys.......
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #17 of 28

Why recipes?

Restaurants have notoriously high staff turnover. In order to keep dishes consistent, many restaurants use recipes. As a matter of fact, I've never worked in one that didn't use recipes. Specials are a different thing - people mostly "wing it" with specials. However, the staple dishes generally have recipes.
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post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Peachcreek, we're on the same page! My image of employees on the computer (hadn't even thought of 'gummy mice'), was info being inadvertently deleted!
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post #19 of 28
I gotta tellya, I've never ever had two people make the same recipe the same way ever. Let's make a simple, very basic genoise. I guarantee you yours will be different from mine. Along with recipes, you need to train them how to saute, set benchmarks for what constitutes brown, not brown enough, too brown, consistency of beurre blanc, taste of Hollandaise, the meaning of al dente, chiffon stage, soft peaks, etc. Some people don't even know when they've burned something! Bah!

Kuan
post #20 of 28
Recipes coupled with appropriate training will streamline "creativity" when it comes to staple dishes. These two things together make up the training regimen of pretty much anyplace I've ever worked.

My husband and I worked for the local Bakery at the same time. I mentioned to a patron that my husband makes great Chinese food (there was a Chinese-style entree as a lunch special). The owner overheard me and said, "We all make great Chinese food." Then I got what she meant: You don't want to imply one person at the stove makes something better than another person because it might deter someone from ordering it if the one with the "better" reputation is not cooking that day. (Still another slant on the "recipe" theme...personalization by the individual cook.)
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post #21 of 28

What I learned

When I worked in a restaurant and was responsible for all the dressings, desserts, sauces, etc, I started out using the notebook of recipes. I would bring the bowl of whatever to the chef and say, "Now what?" I gradually learned how things should taste, and from then on could be my own judge. Some things I had to look up the recipe every time, others I learned and did from memory.

But neither the chef or the sous chef would have had the time to show me the multiple times it would have taken to put it to memory, so the recipe book was a help for all of us, not just me.

It also gave me the chance to see where a lot of the recipes came from. Interesting!

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post #22 of 28

Cards versus printouts

Marmalady: Hey, I've been there! When I started as the Kitchen Manager for a food manufacturer, all the recipes were on hand-written 5x8s. Even though they were in plastic slips, over the years a lot of them had gotten pretty grungy. Plus, there had to be multiple cards for different size versions of the same recipe. And, finally, not all the writing was that clear/readable to begin with. UGH.

What I did was to enter all the recipes into the computer in a standard format, and then print them out on regular 8 1/2X11 sheets, which were put in sheet protectors. The main advantages of this system were:[list=1][*]bigger copies, that were harder to lose[*]immediate replacement if it DID get lost or too messed-up[*]ease of scaling up or down as necessary (the machine could do it!)[*]clear, readable printing -- no guessing what the person had written 4 years earlier, and no need to hand-copy it all over again[*]updatable recipes, easy to print changed versions as they got tweaked[/list=1]

If you do it in this way, just be sure to keep a consistent naming/numbering system for the recipes, and store them on the computer in a way that ANYBODY can find, but only YOU can change (password protect!) Not that you'll have many people looking, but in case you're not around ...

Hope this helps!
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post #23 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks again, everyone, for all your input!
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post #24 of 28

Re: RECipes in the REStaurant?

I used to make a recipe packet of every new menu we'ed run on Master Cook II program. Every thing had a standard recipe that if you stuck close to would turn out a consistent product. Very important for same items to be made the same way by everybody.

People go to McDonalds not because the food is that good, but it is that consistent. If you have great food and consistency you have part of the recipe for success.:chef:
post #25 of 28
A piece of advice for those who do or will use Peachcreek's very good idea of using the computer: back up your files on removable storage (i.e. floppies, cd's, tape). Computers have a nasty habit of crashing at the most inopportune times.
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post #26 of 28
It's interesting to see which chefs in St. Louis use recipes.....I can't tell you how many times I ask the demonstrating chef of the week what they are making and the techniques so that I can write a recipe for the audience. One of our popular chefs in town refuses to give out recipes and will only teach techniques....his kitchen staff does have recipes for standard desserts<I've seen um>....
Warren LeRuth used to show up at his famous restaurant in Gretna (New Orleans) with a brown paper bag filled with his spice mix.
Paul Prudhomme used to make everything different everyday....he didn't have a freezer in his restaurant....
I just did an interview on private cooking classes, it was at a student's home I've taught at for 3 years.....we rarely use recipes and if he wants a written recipe on what we're cooking I'll have to recreate it in my head within a day or so or else it's gone.....
the reporter asked how I can write a recipe when there are 8-10 dishes going in various stages at one time...when you cook alot you know what a tsp looks like....you know about what a 1/2 cup of veg is ....etc..
I can see having set recipes for dressings and desserts and "house specialties".
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post #27 of 28
There really aren't any secrets. Once again, I'd like to reiterate. You can't control the texture of your mousse if you're not familiar with the texture of whipped cream. Consider the following made up example of a dessert which may cause a stir when served.

Chocolate delight

Trio of chocolate desserts: Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Tart, Terrine of Foxpoint Vanilla Genoise Cake and Gianduja Ganache, and Chocolate Sorbet in a Florentine Tuile, served with Raspberry Coulis and White Chocolate Creme Anglais.

You know what this is? Leftovers. Yeah, I kid you not. Okay, to a point, but they're really good leftovers. Someone has some extra ganache and cake laying around, they cut it up and make a terrine. Whip some cream and make it into a mousse and pipe it into those tart shells you made for crab salad but didn't use. (wrong kind of shells but it'll work) Chocolate Sorbet maybe you were going to make anyway, some simple syrup and cocoa powder. Go steal a bunch of florentine tuiles from banquets and scoop it after it's done.
Buzz up some raspberries with sugar, strain, and add some white chocolate to yesterday's creme anglais. Mint and fresh berry garnish optional.

Even if you made it from scratch, that is, without leftovers. There's a basic recipe for the cake, basic recipe for the ganache, basic recipe for the mousse, basic recipe for the sorbet, basic recipe for the florentines. So, my notes for this might be something like:

Make sponge and ganache today, save half ganache for mousse, make tart shells.

Tomorrow before service make mousse, make sorbet, make florentines, (use less almonds this time)

My point is, these are all very very basic things which should be right there in your head. Maybe not the proportions, but all you have to do is yell and hopefully someone will say something like 1-1-1 and you'll be on your way. It takes no time at all to do things like that. It's the way it's put together and the process which is tough to learn.

Kuan
post #28 of 28
Some chefs are notorius for not being able to write a recipe. I'm having real bad memories right now about good chefs and bad recipes. They either don't understand the needs of people who want to cook at home, or they just don't care. Either way, there really isn't any reason for "secrets." Maybe sometimes it just gets too busy and they just don't want to deal with it.

Kuan
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