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Home cook with random questions

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I'm a home cook who just started cooking a few years ago. Since then I've become pretty interested in the food industry. I'd like to see how a professional kitchen is run although I don't know that I'd like to pursue that as a career. Just something I'm curious about. I have some questions and thought maybe I'd get some good insight from the people here given there are several current and former professional chefs on here. Sorry if these are dumb questions as I don't have any experience in this field. I am just hoping for some experienced folks to humor me a bit I guess.

 

  1. What sets chefs apart? From what I understand it's their passion, knowledge, management skills, teaching ability, etc. But can they really cook better than everyone else? I don't know all the best chefs so I'm going to use one from TV. Can Gordon Ramsay really “cook” better than the executive chef at the finest restaurant in my town? Or even some of you on this board? Forget about the fact that he probably doesn't cook much anymore and spends most of his time on the business side.

  2. How do you all remember recipes? I admit I look at recipes to get a general idea of what I'm going to do then try and do my own thing. But a lot of times I can't even remember recipes I've come up with or cooked several times. I don't know how or if you guys can remember every single ingredient that goes in everything you've made without referring back to notes or recipes. My problem is I tend to never write them down. :)

  3. Speaking of question #2. When it comes to creating new recipes how many are actual original recipes? Or is tasting something you like then creating your own way to make it considered creative?

  4. I would fail miserably on a show like Chopped where they put random ingredients in front of you and see what you can do. Is that really a good quality of a chef or more of a gimmick?

post #2 of 6

1 depends on lots of things. Chefs that started or cooks that work for a quality chain like Ruth's Chris Steakhouses have learned seasoning and techniques from the original and strive for consistency in putting out the product. Differentiation there is a negative. In many americanized ethnic cuisines like Chinese or Italian, there's a strange and surprising consistency between restaurants that shouldn't be so similar.  In many ways, this can be ascribed to what I'll say in answer 2,3 and 4.

 

2 If you saw a professional chef's recipe, you'd not understand it. For a cake, it might say, "Cream method, and a few flavoring additions. They know the amounts and technique, temps and times for that technique of cake making.  Technique is the key, the recipe is just reminder notes about the differences. Plus, making something as many times, night after night for a pro, you quickly learn the repetoire of the place you work. If you can't learn it, you won't be there long.

 

3 trends come and go. There is nothing new under the sun of traditional cuisines. Some of the new options with liquid nitrogen, chemical engineering, sous vide and such have created some new dishes and techniques. But they mostly play with presenting traditional flavors still just in a new format. All the same, there are more dishes in the world than I'll likely ever have the chance to try so there's still plenty to be discovered to an adventurous eater that someone else already knows. It's new to me.

 

4 Technique rears its head again. Knowing the basics of sauteing, steaming, poaching; breaking down fruits, meats, vegies; how they cook, a memory of what flavors combine well together;  and so on. It does indicate how much skill and knowledge a person has developed. I remember coming home from school as a teenager and looking in the fridge for a snack. I'd see nothing exciting to eat or make. Yet every night, my mom put something delicious on the table from what I'd seen in the fridge and didn't know to do myself.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 6

Go to hulu.com and watch the TV series "Kitchen Confidential" - it will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about professional chefs - honest, trust me!

 

It is a pretty entertaining series, just watched most episodes again last week, but I'll 'fess up and say that is all it is, entertainment.

 

My frivolity aside, this is a great place for useful answers to your questions.  There is an incredible range of talent, experience and willingness to help here.

 

mjb.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #4 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamfat View Post

Go to hulu.com and watch the TV series "Kitchen Confidential" - it will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about professional chefs - honest, trust me!

 

It is a pretty entertaining series, just watched most episodes again last week, but I'll 'fess up and say that is all it is, entertainment.

 

My frivolity aside, this is a great place for useful answers to your questions.  There is an incredible range of talent, experience and willingness to help here.

 

mjb.

 

Gordon Ramsay's original series "Boiling Point" was a little less dramatic... : 

 

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

I stumbled across Gordon Ramsay's Boiling Point and Beyond Boiling Point last week.   Been pretty good so far, I'm thru Boiling Point and almost done with Beyond BP.  Don't really agree with his management style and really thought it was more for show in shows like Hell's Kitchen.  But it appears that is just how he is in the kitchen. 

post #6 of 6

In my opinion, two of the biggest factors in separating good chefs from great chefs, as far as cooking goes, is breadth of knowledge and open mindedness. Knowledge is power and open mindedness is liberating.

 

Hollandaise sauce has been around in classical Fench cuisine for years and will still quickly spark heated arguments about how it is to be exactly made. If in doubt check out the search feature of these forums!!!

 

A good chef will know how to make hollandaise. A great chef will acknowledge that there is more than one way to make hollandaise and will have tried the different prevailing methods in order to choose for himself. Is it whole butter or clarified? Is it balloon whisk or blender? Etc. etc. etc.

 

A good chef will know how to fix a broken hollandaise. A great chef will understand the hows and whys of a broken and the subsequent fixing of a hollandiase and be able to apply that knowledge to other processes as well.

 

It is not so much about remembering recipes as it is about understanding the hows and whys of doing what one is doing in the kitchen that separates different chefs from their fellow chefs. Building a taste, flavor profile,and pairing memory in your mind that be accessed with reasonable success without ever actually having to set foot in the kitchen.

 

Mystery baskets are not a gimmick, but rather a measure of knowledge and open mindness.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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