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What's the relavence of Espagnole and Demi-Glace in the Contemporary Kitchen?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I am a seasoned professional chef and a chef-instructor. I often question why we teach certain techniques in the culinary lab when they have gone out of favor in the real world. Case in point:How many professional kitchens use an Espagnole or classic demi-glace and should culinary schools still teach these techniques? (keeping in mind that we cover the use of roux in preparation of white sauces, cream soups and braises/stews.) Most professional chefs that I know say it's time consuming and labor intensive and favor a jus lie thickened with refined starch (good for gluten-free guests too). What do you say?

post #2 of 15

My cuisine today bears little resemblance to what I learned in culinary school thirty years ago; however it was that foundation learned through preparing the classics that allows me to prepare the style that I do today.

 

Understanding the hows and whys of techniques never goes out of style, it merely gives birth to new fruit.

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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post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef JR View Post
 

I am a seasoned professional chef and a chef-instructor. I often question why we teach certain techniques in the culinary lab when they have gone out of favor in the real world. Case in point:How many professional kitchens use an Espagnole or classic demi-glace and should culinary schools still teach these techniques? (keeping in mind that we cover the use of roux in preparation of white sauces, cream soups and braises/stews.) Most professional chefs that I know say it's time consuming and labor intensive and favor a jus lie thickened with refined starch (good for gluten-free guests too). What do you say?

In every kitchen ive ever worked.... making demi was done every week. Since i was the first person in (3am) I would always check the see if it needed more water. :)  The chefs loved me for that..... It was not my job, but i would watch it anyway.

 

 

It is time consuming.. but there is also nothing else like it. There is not short cut for it. Demi...is also gluten free. Learning how to make a good Demi, in my opinion is like learning how to write in cursive....  it is a lost art among the young.  It does not matter if you ever use it... but it is very worthwhile to know how to make it.

post #4 of 15

I think the more appropriate question is to ask What is the relevance of Espagnole and Demi in the education of a cook? 

What is relevant in contemporary kitchens is not what will be relevant years from now, not even ten years from now. 

    I remember Cuisine Minceur. I think I spelled that correctly. The original nouvelle cuisine.  That seemed kind of radical at the time and is where much of todays' ideas got there start. But no one calls it that anymore or tries to mimic it much. 

     Being able to make demi and espagnole is part of understanding how good cooking comes about.  I have seen too many cooks who didn't understand it or know anything about it who would use the term demi or espagnole to describe overly thick brown gravy made from beef base and roux. 

     The patience and attention to detail that are involved in making a good demi/espagnole are an invaluable lesson for all cooks. 

Personally, one of my most memorable compliments was regarding a demi-glace I made in a hotel kitchen, intended for the cafe. It came out so well the Executive Chef thought it was intended for the hotels' gourmet restaurant.

 (edit- I should add that it was the first time ever making demi after culinary school. I was pretty nervous about it, to the point of stopping by at around 2am to check on it. So it was an especially memorable success.)

   I'll put it up there with puff pastry and a few other select items. It's not whether a restaurant uses it or not. It's whether or not it's worth learning for it's own sake. I think it most certainly is. 


Edited by chefwriter - 6/5/15 at 8:56am
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Canele View Post
 

In every kitchen ive ever worked.... making demi was done every week. Since i was the first person in (3am) I would always check the see if it needed more water. :)  The chefs loved me for that..... It was not my job, but i would watch it anyway.

 

 

It is time consuming.. but there is also nothing else like it. There is not short cut for it. Demi...is also gluten free. Learning how to make a good Demi, in my opinion is like learning how to write in cursive....  it is a lost art among the young.  It does not matter if you ever use it... but it is very worthwhile to know how to make it.


I definitely agree 100% with your sentiments. A small side note of clarification though is that originally demi-glace was made using espagnole and brown stock. Espagnole incorporates a roux, so not gluten free. Now days most restaurants that make "demi", actually make glace de viande which is gluten free.

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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post #6 of 15

With my apprentice I do both.

I think its important for her to learn the basics the old fashioned way, just to know it. In case she one day will need it. My colleagues think Im a pretentious idiot because Im teaching her the difference between a tamis, chinoise and a sieve, with the rest of the french lingo. "Youre the only guy I know whos able to make a sieve sound like a French cake." 

 

You never know when youre going to need it. 

But I also make sure to teach her the quickest, easiest, best ways to do things, and explain why our demi doesnt contain a roux. As mentioned earlier, the hows and whys.

 

I wont forget the day my teacher told me to make a thousand island dressing. I got the book, found the recipe. "Step one, make a tomatoconcassé." He ripped the book out of my hands and told me to come with him and as he said: "Enough of this nonsense. I will show you how its made out in the real world." Made the mayo, added some ketchup, worchestershire etc....

post #7 of 15

Goodatcha @ljokjel. I remember one of my mentors teaching me a soup that was thickened with tapioca. It wasn't really in the style of our normal cuisine and seemed very dated so I asked him why we were doing such an old school recipe that would probably never see the light of day again in my career. He said that while it wasn't in our normal style, it was important to my education as a chef and so that was why we were offering it on the menu. He went on to say that you can never know too much nor when it might come in handy but even more importantly than the actual recipe was the how and why behind the concept. That has stuck with me all these years.

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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post #8 of 15

My "gotcha" moment came with making Hollandaise with a young cook that never went to culinary school.

This bigshot thought he could make the sauce without heating the eggs first, using very hot, almost boiling clarified butter.

The sauce broke, and I ended up showing him how to make a gallon of sauce in a stainless bowl over simmering water.

His arm ached when he was through, but he learned an invaluable lesson that day.

I realize that Hollandaise is not Demi-Glaze but the techniques are what we are really speaking of here.

One may never utilize these sauces but the knowledge of how they are made and used never goes out of style.

post #9 of 15

I recently worked as a pair of hired hands at an elegant fund raising Gatsby themed dinner party. The entree had bearnaise as an accompainment. As we started to plate I noticed that the bearnaise was starting to break but I also knew the chef and sous of the event weren't really open to input from these hired hands, so I just watched as they did everything text book wrong in attempts to save it. Finally when it was almost at the point of no return, the sous in frustration hollered out "Layne, you know how to put this back together, right." I answered in the affirmative to which she said "Do it."

 

Techniques, foundation, hows and whys, are all definitely paramount in my eyes to being a chef.

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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post #10 of 15

Borrowing from Robert Frost, a lot of "efficient" cooking is kind of like playing tennis without a net.  It is certainly possible, but it helps if you're really good at playing with a net first.  

 

It is fine and proper to stay current and cook with what technologies are available.  But it is really difficult to embellish something without being familiar with what you are embellishing in the first place.

 

I remember classmates in school bitching and moaning about the historical class work, like using arrowroot, tapioca and rice as thickeners and panades.  Complaints of "why are they wasting our time on things we will never use?" were pretty common.  I wonder how many of these guys have found themselves suddenly looking for a gluten free mod, or even in a "molecular" place where these "archaic" ingredients are pretty standard pantry items.

 

In other words, you never know you need something until you need it.

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

Here's a followup to my question with a clarification: Many chefs today make what they call a demi but is actually a Fond lie or Jus lie, a brown sauce made by reduction and thickened with a refined starch (arrowroot, potato starch). Are the days of making a roux-based Espagnole and then refining that to a dem-glace over? I don't know of any modern kitchens that do that today.

post #12 of 15

I suspect that is more than a fair statement.  And, honestly, that is what I would show staff in my kitchen to do. However, in a school environment, I would certainly teach the historical ways and means to give students that sense of "from there to here" and they way food standards change.

post #13 of 15


Cheflayne..

      I have found myself in the same scenario. Working free lance for many caterers oer the years I was also asked to ""fix their errors" My classical culinary background came in quite handy on many occasions. How many people today even know what a Consomme Cellestine or Royal , Crabmeat Dewey,  Chicken Jennettes Chaud Froid, or a  Gallantine  are??? . Knowing how to make Espanole or Demi or Glace D" Viand , will to students only add to their culinaryknowledge even though possibly made once or twice in their careers, at least they know.

CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef JR View Post
 

 Are the days of making a roux-based Espagnole and then refining that to a dem-glace over?

 

 

Yes, although my experience with restaurants is glace de viande rather than fond lie or jus lie.

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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post #15 of 15

That is a very fair question to ask and quite relevant in today's kitchen applications. However, I agree with most chef's on here as I was classically trained with the mother sauces which has always given me a huge advantage over most chefs in today's kitchen. When I was starting out after culinary school, making the sauces was my job in the kitchen at a local 5-star hotel........of course this was a while ago. 

Before changing careers to a pastry chef, I taught my kitchen staff the difference in flavour, consistency and technique between the more modern version of a demi and the espagnole to demi version so that they can know for themselves personally and not be told the difference. I believe it is crucial to learn the basics like these foundational mother sauces even if you think it will never be used again. One never knows in this industry when the "old" way will suddenly be the "new" way.

 

So my answer to your question of: Are the days of making a roux-based Espagnole and then refining that to a dem-glace over? POSSIBLY

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