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.

Bakers and pastry cooks on the other hand rely almost completely on the precision of their recipes and technique. They are highly territorial and are easily irked by the mildest of intrusions.
While cooks are spontaneous and often anarchic, pastry cooks prefer repetition and are usually very disciplined workers.

A good cook will try and taste the food he is cooking at every stage of the process not just to ensure a great final product but because he enjoys being a first hand witness to the miraculous transformation that is cooking.  Consequentially, he will adjust the recipe and make changes to accommodate variances in the ingredients (meats, vegetables etc that can be different in composition and taste at different times). He is cautious and guarded regarding most aspects of his work and usually never blindly trusts anyone around, including his ingredients, mise-en-place or equipment.

Pastry cooks are more trusting of their surroundings. They work under the assumption that a 180 degree oven will remain at that temperature and a tried and tested recipe will always yield the same result, if followed to a T (pastry cooks have their holy trinity of flour, butter and sugar that seldom change in their constitution). Once a recipe has been executed, there is no turning back. He will and must wait for the end result to measure his success.

Even though cooks and pastry cooks do not have much in common, it is their combined efforts that facilitate an outstanding dining experience for the customer. After all, one hardly ever eats dessert on an empty stomach, and any meal would feel incomplete without a sweet ending.

No comments:

Post a Comment