Sunday, August 30, 2009

In It to Win It?

Being a restaurant cook is NOT an easy job. It’s like working in the military except you work with tomatoes and bacon instead of guns and grenades and your life is not at risk every day you’re in the kitchen (or is it?!). The hours are long and you’re on your feet the entire time. Ironically, I’m always terribly hungry at the end of the shift. The earnings aren’t great either, especially in the best restaurants.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mess in Place

As the newest cook in the kitchen and the one with the least experience, I'm on the garde manger station. It's considered to be the sissy's station by the more experienced cooks mostly because GM cooks don't have to deal with one important element during service that the others do. Heat. It is in fact probably the easier station but there's a lot more precision that's demanded out of garde manger and it is undoubtedly the most prep heavy station in any kitchen. Two other cooks and I are responsible for putting out the first few plates like salads, ceviches, and tartares that go out to a table as soon as the order is placed. Of course, this puts us against the clock right from the start.

I come in to work for the dinner shift at about 1 pm every day ( a whole hour earlier than I'm supposed to). I then get to work on my monstrous mise en place list for the 10 dishes the station is responsible for. I have added part of it here to give you an idea of what my first couple of hours are like.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Starting Out

Beginning a new job can be interesting in any profession. But for a cook straight out of culinary school starting out in a three star michelin restaurant in Manhattan, it is both nerve wrecking and ethereal.

First, let's get some things straight. A three star rating from the Michelin guide is the pinnacle of achievements for any chef or restaurant owner--it's like getting a Nobel Prize except you have to work your ass off to keep the three stars every year. There are only 4 three star restaurants in Manhattan! (I cannot reveal the name of this restaurant due to confidentiality issues but hey, at least I narrowed it down for you). This is a restaurant that has cookbooks to its name, just to give you an idea of its fame and stature. It's also quite cool for the cooks who prepare this three star food. Restaurants such as this are considered to not just be great resume builders for these passionate soon-to-be chefs but also learning grounds that eventually influence their cooking styles.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The End of the Beginning

I graduated from culinary school just over two months ago and was chosen to give the graduation speech on behalf of the entire class. Quite fitting for a first post on this blog I think.

Ferdinand Point, the chef who is considered to be the father of modern French cuisine, once said, “In all professions without doubt, but certainly in cooking, one is a student all his life.” Congratulations, my fellow graduates. Today marks the end of the beginning of that lifelong education for each one of us.

I personally feel that we are all gifted. Not only have we have found our passion so early in life but we have been lucky enough to make a career out of it. Irrespective of where we’re from, our gender, religion, race, or most importantly, whether we’re cooks or bakers, we’re all peas from the same pod. We have all spent the last two years here because of our common love for food and our passion for cooking or baking. I have never seen so many students care so much about making the most out of the money spent on their schooling as I’ve seen here at the CIA.