Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Take a Crack at it

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper is the age-old mantra for a healthy diet. As a chef, this is as far away from being a possibility for me as is a social life that is worthy of mention.
My waking hours are 12 noon to 4 am.

When I'm just out of bed with my stomach rumbling to break its ten-hour ordeal of a fast, I can seldom find a restaurant or cafe that still serves breakfast. Mumbai, to my dismay, still doesn't have a decent diner-style establishment that serves breakfast 24X7.  So I skip eating altogether. It's an unhealthy habit but I'd rather not eat anything than be forcefully subjected to eating a random mid-day sandwich or a heavy thali as my first bite.

Nevertheless, I love breakfast.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

As Easy As Gambas Pil Pil

The common notion is that preparing a good plate of food usually demands several intricate steps, a glut of ingredients and flawless execution from the cook. This coupled with the fear of failure are probably the biggest reasons why a lot of people do not try learning to cook in the first place. It is however far from the truth.

Cooking as a craft, hobby, or means of feeding oneself only relies on the individual understanding its basics and applying a certain level of judgment and practicality. I guess what I’m trying to say is that more often than not, cooking is downright simple if you just ‘get’ it. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Customer Ain't Always Right

As I walk back into the kitchen after a catastrophic argument with a guest, I wonder once again if chefs are paid enough for the shit they have to deal with on a daily basis. Has 'handling idiotic requests and dealing with crazies' always been a part of our collective job descriptions?

The crazies in question this time were a trio of 40-something year old men standing at the bar. They had ordered the Pork Souvlaki but after a few bites were convinced that it was chicken. They brought up their issue with the bartender who was stumped trying to explain that it was in fact pork and not poultry.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Chef's Modest Proposal

The existing system of table manners has remained largely unchanged ever since the beginning of the Early Modern Era when Caterina de Medici brought the fork over to Paris in 1533. 

Having studied the subject of fine dining for almost three decades, this seemed to me to be a rather dreary thought.

So I spent the past twelve years over-analyzing the views of other authorities on the subject and carefully weighing in on the pros and cons of an alternate modus operandi. The result of all that hard work has been spectacular, as you will soon come to see.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Birds of a Feather : Cooks vs Pastry Cooks

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't.

I would normally put myself into the latter category, but for the sake of this literary piece, I have succumbed into creating a segregation. Allow me to rephrase.

There are two kinds of people in the culinary world: cooks and pastry cooks. We are, in fact, poles apart, and if you really think about what we do, it makes perfect sense.

Cooks are creatures of habit and instinct. When a dish needs more seasoning or a sauce needs to be reduced some more, we just 'know'. We thrive in organized chaos and need the adrenalin rush of a busy dinner service to keep us going through the night.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fishy Debate: Fresh vs Frozen

With an increasing awareness about the dangers that lurk within the meaty abyss, more people are now leaning towards the leaner, supposedly, healthier choice. But the perceived 'freshness' of fish raises many more eyebrows than its red fleshed counterpart does. In that regard, the debate over which is a better choice for fish-- fresh or frozen-- is a long drawn out one.

Let us first put some definitions on the plate. Fresh fish is that which has never EVER been frozen, right from the time it is caught to the time it reaches the table for eating. Frozen fish falls in the opposite category and has braved the cold in the freezer at some point.

The most important factor that affects the quality of fish is time. The fish our purveyors call 'fresh' has usually spent several lonely days (and nights) on ice before we get to buy it at the supermarket or fish supplier. Though this fish may technically be fresh, in all honesty, it may not pass the 'freshness' test.

To tell if a whole fish is fresh (a.k.a, has not spent a lot of time outside water and will taste good), you will have to get down and dirty with the fellow. Here are a few tips to help you decide.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kitchen Jargon Demystified

The professional kitchen is an entirely different world with its own set of rules. It also has its own language-- one with strange references and hard-to-understand phrases. Here, I'm uncovering just a few of those many terms used almost daily in the kitchen.

Short for the french term 'mise-en-place' which means 'everything in place' a.k.a perfectly organized. It doesn't just refer to the actual prep but also having your utensils, plates, sauces and such on hand and in the right place positioned according to the perfect laws of ergonomics. The better the mise en place, the better the night will be. Every professional cook in the world will agree to that.

French word for "Yes" often used in response to Chef's instructions. The opposite, No, is seldom used.

Sometimes confused with the dirtbag, this is someone who takes the shortcut route to preparing something, that usually ends up being a lower quality product.

Someone who's personal hygiene is questionable or maintains a messy work environment around him.

What the kitchen team needs to do to ensure a smooth service when the restaurant is really busy and orders are pouring in. A busy restaurant has several small pushes but also one big push during the busiest time of the night. Focus, organization, speed, and mad skills are critical in ensuring a particular station or the entire kitchen avoids being in the shits.

In the shits/going down
When a particular station or the entire kitchen (a nightmare!) fails to be able to cope with the orders coming in from the dining room. This could be due to several factors like poor leadership, bad organization, lack of focus etc.