Pride is both an essential part of self-motivation and an obstacle for those who distance themselves from input and the occasional need to admit mistakes and seek the opportunity to improve. Pride is that driving force that allows cooks to present a plate of food with their unique signature and proclaim: “I made this.” When a cook believes in the substance behind this proud statement, then that extra second or two of time invested in adjusting the seasoning of a dish, perfectly caramelizing that piece of fish in a sauteuse, marking that steak or chop on a grill, or adjusting a plate presentation until it perfectly displays the beauty of each ingredient, is a necessary investment – time well spent.
“There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.”
The final plate that is presented in the “pass” to an expeditor is a culmination of the work of many proud practitioners of various crafts associated with food. It is the result of exceptional dedication and work on the part of the farmer, the fisherman, the rancher, and the cheese maker; the care taken by quality vendors to protect and deliver ingredients in exceptional condition; the chef or purchaser who spent the time to search for the right vendors and to plan a menu and design a dish to represent the passion of cooks and the reputation of the restaurant; the skill of the prep cook who chopped and diced, followed the exacting process defined through foundational cooking methods, made the stocks that would become signature sauces, portioned steaks and chops, and filleted fresh fish in preparation of finishing by line cooks. The line cook represents all of these stakeholders through delicate finish cooking, sauce reduction, adjustments to flavor profiles, and plating and garnishing. That finished dish that stands tall in “the pass” is not only signed by that line cook and approved by the expeditor – it is signed by every person who played a role in bringing that dish to this point. Pride!
Pride runs through the organization of every professional kitchen. “Never allow mediocrity to creep into what we do.” For the cook, it begins when supplies arrive at the back door. All truly competent cooks know that quality, for the restaurant, begins here. Checking in supplies for freshness, maturity, grade, size and shape, and sometimes – even taste, is as essential a task as any phase of the cooking process. Storing those ingredients in the proper container, under the right temperature, and rotating new ingredients with those previously received is critical. The chef walks through coolers and storage every day as he or she determines what specials will be designed, which ingredients need attention, and which ones need to be replaced. This step is not only critical in maintaining freshness – it is also an essential step in ensuring that the restaurant controls its costs. Tight profit margins are managed through inventory eyes.
The prep cook is an accomplished cook who takes pride in his or her role as the “zero waste” manager, foundational cooking expert, portioner and cost controller, and baseline flavorist. It is this cook who creates the stocks, fillets fish, portions meat, trims and cuts vegetables, builds the inventory of dressings and relishes, and handles the majority of foundational cooking that allows the line cook to finish and adjust when orders arrive off the POS.
The line cook is the finesse person. A ‘la minute preparations at sauté or grill, mise en place that builds an inventory of delicate ingredients for the pan and the plate, clarifying butter, finishing sauces and reductions, building layers of flavor through their well-developed palate, and building meticulously designed plate presentations that bring to mind how an architect builds from the foundation up – this is the job of this last contact person who packages the work of others and sets the stage for guest satisfaction.
The expeditor inspects the plate, wipes the rim, adjusts the garnish, and summons the runner or server for immediate pick-up. The dish must not wait in the pass – when it is ready, it is ready.
Finally, the server, in a fine-tuned restaurant, retrieves each plate, scans the presentation and smiles with pride. This is something that is easy to deliver – when a dish is well prepared it is a privilege to present it to a guest. Placing the plate in front of a guest as the chef has instructed, taking a moment to address the name of the dish and its ingredients, and leaving the guest with a simple “enjoy”, is the task of the service staff – the last step in recognizing the signature of all who were involved from the farmer to the guest.
In restaurants – PRIDE is a team sport.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC