Sunday, March 13, 2011

Standards Set One Chef a Part From Another

After each day on the line, behind the counter or in the back, when ever any dish is made clientele trusts that each plate is done to the business's standards.  Who ever trains in the new guy shows them what is up to par, and then what would be below.  The yardstick I'm talking about extends beyond one business's ideal, and touches on the standards of the individual and the importance of following that internal measure, even though its a pain.

My thought is: that if 2 cooks have the same recipe, the 'true' Chef's food is going to taste better.  How can this be, you say? I believe, its because the Chef has high standards. 

Small insight and discernment occurs at every step along the path from concept to execution.  Start with picking out produce for a salsa.  Most would grab what's available and start chopping, I think the chef would sort through all the available produce to find the best.  If there wasn't anything that looked good enough...then the chef would send it back.  These are not hypotheticals that I'm imagining, I've seen the kitchen waiting on a delivery from Bix Produce, and as they check in the case, they send it back because it doesn't look that good.  Same grade applies to plating your food.  You might have 10 plates set out in front of you, but each one has to look good, and they cant be sloppy, and they speak of your criteria as well as the place you're cooking for.  Each plate has to make it over the benchmark. Way over.

I would think that it is hard to execute such high marks.  I find myself running into problems that its wasteful to get rid of food that is still good, yet sub-par.  There's a goal to meet and these standards are slowing things down. This steak needed to be ready yesterday! Another example: there's a knife shortage and in the rush of things your coat catches the handle and the knife hits the floor.  Its a groaner, and many would pick it up, run the knife under water, and continue chopping.  I believe the Chef would NEVER drop the knife in the first place, or take the time to run it though the Hobart...and then chop like a tornado.

One way around feeling wasteful with food, is to deal with the symptom.  Find somewhere the food will not go to waste.  At a deli I work for, there's a local food shelf that stops in early in the morning and picks up the food we cant sell.  Its easier to act on such tall ethics when the food isn't going into the trash.  Customers see great quality food, and the food shelf takes home a haul.

The public trusts the opinion of a chef and a huge part is the unstated High Standards that go along with the job.  All steps need to be carried through with such concern to detail.  Embodying that will allow ones food to stand out, have integrity, and the food will taste the best. If a chef is going to rise to the top, their perception, refinement and judgment are part of trusting them.  So my point is, that Standards, high ones at that, are something an aspiring chef has to acquire.

Question: What about when a customer's measure is higher that the chef's? What should happen in that situation?  Is the customer just being picky, or is the management being lax? What is the professional way to handle that?

Again, comments always welcome.  I hope to start a discussion here, pool some great ideas. From the front of the house and the back. Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing from you.



  1. If all the food I saw looked this good, I'd be even fatter. I love the pictures, Miss Sarah. You should deal with presentation, sometime. Your grandmother was a master at not only the food, but also at the presentation of it. It is a fact that food is first tatsted with the eyes.

  2. Miss Sarah! Congrats on the blog, first of all! What fun! Yes, presentation is everything! However, pretty food can often be lackluster in the taste department. We call it "French Pastry Syndrome"-and if you've ever eaten something that looked awesome but had no real flavor, you know what I mean. Sometimes ugly things taste great-but you'd have to know the dish or know the cook, right, before you'd dig in?!
    As far as when the customer's measure is higher than the chef's: I'd say the customer will move on to the next restaurant...