02 November, 2014


So the kitchen is an organism.  Not always an organisation. It can be organized. We speak of flow and complain when it doesn't happen. Achieving that balance is a strange thing. Micromanage and the balance shifts. Don't supervise or assist and you risk loosing control. I manage the flow and the preparation of raw ingredients to the line cooks. This is where i identified the system most often breaks down.
    Recipes need to followed but can be modified if a technique can increase the speed of service. Procedures are flexible if the result is a better product. I like to think of like ice skating. Balancing on a thin blade and knowing the technique but being creative in the process.
  •     I'll let you know how this evolves. The organism that is the crew and ultimately the restaurant.

18 October, 2014

Intellectual Property

I write recipes as part of my job.  It's not all about pulling something directly out my head. It's a combination of reading three or four recipes and relying on my experience with technique and knowledge of ingredients. So it's not creating it's 'arranging' and experimentation. The question is then who 'owns' the recipe.

I do take care to note where i received the original material. I do make them available on social media. I have never sold a recipe, unless you count the time spent perfecting the technique in my employer's kitchen. As i formulate a cookbook i need to consider intellectual property law.

I'll keep you posted. Every recipe has a story, that story is definately my intellectual property.

06 October, 2014

re-writing the menu

i am currently employed at  a restaurant. i guess you could say i was re-hired, i had worked there twenty years ago. when i began again the owner told me they were 'in transition'; the menu is being re-written, a few recipes will be tightened up and change will happen. this is in my skill set, along with 'working with difficult people' and 'taking abuse with a smile'.

the restaurant is a place that has been open since 1933 and represents a beer brand that has been around since 1857. i haven't seen all the menus, but a beer and sandwich has been the theme. the owners have decided that standard 'bar food'  should not be the focus. so we are sticking with a German- American theme(which it always had) and bringing in a few healthier options and more in-house recipes.

so the testing phase and the inclusion of necessary team members has begun. the menu changes are running towards cost and efficiency of preparation,  gonna loose a few clunkers and gain a few new best sellers and full dessert menu. we'll try to dodge the sports bar theme, it was never evident on the menu. I like to think 'sports bars' and 'brew pubs' copied this place. here's how i'm attacking it...

  •  look at the menu and take off the undersold/unpopular items.
  •  look at the kitchen on a typical busy service night. which station is over stressed?
  •  which items are kinda a pain in the ass to prepare? 
  • which recipes can be tweaked to add value and flavor?
  • what are customers asking for that you don't have? 
 so that's what i'll be doing for the next couple of weeks, a little remodeling.

04 August, 2014

water under the bridge and rising

      line cooking is an art and profession. aspiring for a career in the field always begins with 'i want to be a chef like ____'. fill in the blank with any celebrity chef or local hero. people forget the basics when undertaking a career in cooking. line cooking is like a sport, not everyone who plays basketball is gonna be like Micheal Jordan. not that i advocate mediocrity at any level. i just never aspired to be a hero or perhaps along the way deferred that dream in the face of reality.

       i have worked in the industry since i was 17. i'm a good cook, a dishwasher, a basic maintenance man, a kitchen cleaner, an opener, a closer, and  a gracious host when called out the kitchen. i can bring home the bacon, tell you where to get at a decent price and at the best quality, then fry it up in a pan. being a cook means that i am 'the food guy' at cocktail parties. people ask me for recipes and then tell me that they love food too much to choose it as a profession. my job sometimes entails the tedium of paperwork.  i make an inventory list and hand count every item in the kitchen. i write training manuals and recipes with food costs and weights and measurements. i prepare specs for every item on the menu and even photograph the items before i send them on to other cooks. i order food for parties and estimate how many people can be served with a banquet or platter of appetizers. it's a job and it's work.
     i have been known to work until midnight and then be back in the kitchen at seven the next morning. i can spend a week prepping for a event and then work the event for 3 days straight. I have portioned, prepped and cooked 700 lbs of lutefisk over a weekend event at a college. I see the procedures and the flow of the kitchen in my head when the room is bare and equipment hasn't even been purchased to fill the space. it's a mindset and i can function in the middle of room of sweaty angry people and still find peace in my craft. I have worked in 120 degrees and worn moist towels out the freezer for  cooling.

What i haven't done is appear on TV or get my name mentioned in a review.  i am humble when i need to get the work done and make my boss look good. a local chef after i congratulated him for winning an award told me 'they must have been drunk when they gave that to me'. this is cooking and eating and dancing, i couldn't wish for a more vital profession. i hardly ever sit down and when i do i get nervous like a caged animal. i keep moving and thinking and looking for a better way to serve food. i read and look at pictures and hang out with my peers when i can, but they understand when i can't make it because i have a job to do.  Sure, aspire to greatness but let the celebrities do their thing on TV, that's not line cooking.