OUR DAILY BREATH: HOW CHEFS ADAPT TO A SHUT DOWN A touch of levity (or is it) when we need it

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As previously stated – you can take the chef out of the kitchen, but you can’t take the kitchen out of the chef. This time of displacement is tough on everyone. We feel the difficulty financially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually – it is an all-encompassing challenge of a magnitude that we haven’t felt in this country since the World Wars and Great Depression. Each of us deals, or tries to deal, with this situation in our own unique way. Chefs – are likely dealing with it in the same way that they deal with the challenges of their job – they rely on their routines.

This is a tongue and cheek look at what it might be like to live in a “lockdown home” with a chef, a chef who lives by routine and process to survive and thrive.

[]         STARTING EACH DAY WITH A PREP SHEET

Chefs are obsessively organized and as a result begin and end each day with a list of tasks and their completion. Just because a chef may be home and unable to work in his or her kitchen does not mean that a prep list is put aside. Chefs at home must stay organized – they can’t help themselves.

[]         EVERY MEAL PRESENTED ON A BEO

You might find that a stay at home chef takes this organization to a new extreme and build a banquet/event order (BEO) for each meal and break. You can never be too organized or communicate too frequently. You know you are in trouble if the chef orders seven clip boards – one for each day of the week.

[]         MENU PLANNING

Meals at home are no different than meals in the restaurant. Serious planning always precedes preparation. Chefs at home will likely plan menus before developing detailed shopping lists, and transpose that information to BEO’s and daily prep sheets. No reason to change the rhythm of the work.

[]         FACETIME ARGUMENTS WITH SALESMEN

One of a chef’s favorite hobbies is arguing and testing salespersons who knock on their office door. Since we are in a time of required human distancing, the chef will still have a need to feed his or her passion for this hobby. FaceTime might turn out to be a perfect tool for the chef to connect with sales representatives and interact, push, and challenge them. It is all part of the game.

[]         A NO MODIFICATION RULE ON MENUS

Chefs may subscribe to the “customer is always right”, but in their heart of hearts they know that each dish on a menu was developed with collaborative flavors, aroma, and presentation in mind. Chefs do hate to break the symmetry of a dish when a guest chooses to “substitute”. At home – the chef is able to draw that line in the sand: “NO SUBSTITUTIONS”!

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[]         DON’T TOUCH MY KNIVES

Be aware (I can’t emphasize this enough), be aware – a chef’s knives are his or her most treasured tools – they care for them as if they were family heirlooms and will be stressed into a visible level of anger if anyone touches them, moves them, or God forbid – uses them inappropriately. Put down the knife and back away from the table.

[]         YES CHEF RULES THE DAY

The chef ultimately rules in the kitchen when business is in full swing – this is something that cooks understand. They may not agree with the chef or his or her methods, but in the heat of service there is only one answer that works: “YES CHEF”. You may find that the stay at home chef looks for that same respect (even if they don’t deserve it) at home from anyone who enters the kitchen.

[]         HOT FOOD HOT, COLD FOOD COLD

These are the two Cardinal Rules in a restaurant – assume that this will be required in the home. Now that the chef has lost his or her domain (temporarily) the home kitchen will be expected to follow the rules. Heat those entrée plates until they are almost too hot to handle, chill those salad and dessert plates, and serve them when the temperature is right.

[]         PRE-MEAL MEETINGS

The chef always knows that a server cannot represent a dish well unless he or she understands the ingredients, process of cooking, and flavor profile of that dish. This is why the pre-meal review of menus items is so critical in a restaurant. Expect that the annoying chef at home will want to explain each dish in detail before you are allowed to partake.

[]         SQUIRREL AWAY SIDE TOWELS

Clean, dry towels are essential to every cook in a restaurant. These towels quickly become an endangered commodity as cooks’ horde as many as they can. Be prepared as you walk through the kitchen – you will find towels hidden behind ceiling tiles, in drawers where they don’t belong, behind a stack of books, and maybe even in the freezer. Again, chefs can’t help themselves. Twelve dry towels is a good amount – two-dozen would be better.

[]         LABELING AND DATING EVERYTHING

This is an ingrained habit that all cooks live by. Everything must be labeled and dated, rotated and if past their use by date – discarded. After just a few days you will find a shortage of masking tape and markers and a refrigerator filled with rotated, dated and labeled ingredients and leftovers.

[]         HALF CUPS OF COFFEE EVERYWHERE

Chefs always need a cup of coffee by their side and tend to pour cups, set them down, get distracted, and move on – forgetting that the cup was there. Thus, more cups succumb to this fate. Expect to see a number of half empty, cold cups of coffee spread out through the house.

[]         WEEKLY INVENTORIES

Chefs cannot function unless they know what is in house, what needs to be used, and where there are shortfalls. If you walk into the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon and see your stay at home chef walking around with a clipboard and pencil in hand – don’t be concerned – IT’S INVENTORY TIME!

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[]         DOCUMENT AND SEEK CRITIQUE

Without customers to take pictures of a chef’s food and post them on Instagram, the chef will need to take this job on as well. When dinner is served – please wait before you take that first bite until the chef takes pictures of the food from six different angles. By all means – when you see the item posted on Instagram or Facebook – please press “LIKE” or state how extraordinary the dish looks. Feed the chefs ego – someone must.

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[]         SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

Chefs are accustomed to sleepless nights as they wrestle with what needs to be done, what wasn’t done the day before, and where he or she failed to meet his or her own standards. You can assume that the chef will continue in this vein, even during this time of shutdown. There is always something to worry about.

Rest assured – at some point restaurants will reopen and your stay at home chef will practice those annoying habits outside of the home. For now – smile, nod, and keep those four letter responses to yourself. The next time you see someone who works with the chef – offer your condolences and nod in appreciation for their patience.

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

Harvest America Ventures, LLC

We are in this together

www.harvestamericacues.com BLOG

 

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