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Cooking Try-out/ "Mystery Basket"

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I am in line to be accepted for a position at a nearby hotel as a banquet cook. The chef is requiring me to cook for him. I realize this is good practice on his part and agree with it completely (just good business). I will be give a mystery protein and use of the entire cooler and pantry. My question is: What is the best way to prepare for this task. While the job offer is pretty much set (so long as I don't burn down the guy's kitchen), my wage will be dependent on how I perform. So obviously I want to do my best and impress as much as possible. I have kitchen experience, and recently graduated culinary school (I know, another one of them). Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

post #2 of 10
Thread Starter 

Oh, by the way...I am required to make 1 entree (with the protein), including veg, starch, and sauce. Also my choice of either 1 App, soup, salad, or dessert.

post #3 of 10

About the only way to prepare is to break proteins down into gross categories. Then plan possibilities based on those categories.

 

For instance, if he lays fish on you, have a gameplan for preparing both an oily and a dry fish. Same with other proteins. Presumably, the fridge and pantry will provide all you need.

 

What works best is if you can plan multi-purpose recipes. That is, something that works equally well with various proteins. But don't plan anything too offbeat or unusual. True, you want to push the envelope to show off your skills. But what if the ingredients aren't available? So you want to do your planning based on the realistic liklihood that what you need will be there.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 10

Do yourself a favor and stick to what you are comfortable with as well. It's never good to try something way out there at an interview. If you have a favorite style of cuisine, then you should pick a sauce that will work with a few things, like KY said, and be prepared with a couple things. Although you don't know the protein, you can pretty much have the dishes done in advance. Example being something like scampi sauce... works with chicken, shrimp, and various shellfish. Another word of advice... don't do a dish that is the chef's favorite or on his menu! He'll compare it to his and you will always fall short. Try picking things that are out of the area of the rest. you are applying. Best of luck! Let us know what you get.

post #5 of 10

What kind of restaurant is it generally?  What's the price level? What style cuisine? I have some ideas, but they might not fit your audition at all.

 

The advice about not poaching directly from the menu, is probably on the money -- but it's not a bad idea to stay in the general stylistic ballpark. 

 

Do you have to cook all your courses out of the mystery basket?  Or is it just the protein?

 

Aric, what's "scampi sauce?"  Butter, wine and garlic?  If that's what it is, I wouldn't do it.  Not a good idea to do anything too garlicky, or which might be thought of as greasy.  You don't want to go overboard on heat (as from chilis) either.

 

It's easy to forget the basics when you're under pressure.  Don't forget to season in layers, don't forget to preheat your pans, don't fool around trying to turn food that isn't ready, don't forget to touch the proteins to test for doneness, and don't forget to taste and adjust.

 

BDL 

post #6 of 10

Don't go crazy and be prepared to explain what you are doing or did. Keep quality uppermost then cost. Fast? yes, yet correctly done. Don't run around kitchen saying where is this or that, find it yourself. Chef is looking for someone he does not have to do everything for. Finished presentation and eye appeal is important, people eat first with their eyes.  GOOD LUCK

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...

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post #7 of 10

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

It's easy to forget the basics when you're under pressure.


Totally.  What he said, and try not to do too many things at once.  Don't make it more complicated.  One protein, veg/starch garnish, one sauce.  Just that can show off plenty of technique.  Make sure the stuff is cooked perfect.  Make sure you work clean and don't pick your nose.

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

 

Aric, what's "scampi sauce?"  Butter, wine and garlic?  If that's what it is, I wouldn't do it.  Not a good idea to do anything too garlicky, or which might be thought of as greasy.  You don't want to go overboard on heat (as from chilis) either.

 

 


Good point, I wouldn't do that just based on simplicity alone, however it's was a pretty good example (i hope) of how you can plan one sauce for various proteins.. 

post #9 of 10

A lot of great advice from those above.  I whole heartedly agree with coming up with some ideas based on categories:  have a game plan for beef, chicken, pork, oily fish, non oily fish, and shellfish, and maybe even lamb or game, if it is something you guys serve.  While 1 type of vegetable would probably suffice for all those categories, I would have, at least, 3-4 different starch concepts ready to go.  A baked potato might pair well with steak but not so much with most fish dishes (I know...crude example but you get my point...by the way don't serve a baked potato no matter what.).  As for your other choice; app, soup, salad, I would stay away from salad, unless you have something that is sure to Wow the chef.  Most chef's won't be impressed by a salad.  Stay away from dessert unless you are sure you can pull it off.  This is probably the easiest course to screw up if you don't have strong pastry skills.  Soups can take awhile, on the stove, so unless you have plenty of time for a soup's flavors to meld and mature you might want to skip that one also.  That leaves an app.  If you choose app, make sure to have 2-3 ideas ready to go and then pair it with the entree protein.  At the very least have 1 lighter style app and heartier style app ready.

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the advice folks, I do appreciate it. This was my first post on this site, though I have been reading them for about a month now. I love it. Seems like a great group of people who want nothing more than to help others with like interests.

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