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Back to school (1)__David Wong

Cooking series – Back to school 

Chapter 1 

The last time I worked in a commercial kitchen was 2000. I worked with different chefs through my career and I thought they were a different breed. They can be temperamental, quick tempered, aggressive, pushy, egotistic, perfectionists. There is more. All chefs are geniuses. You do not question a genius and you cannot hurry an artist. Kitchen staff fled upon their shadows. They are kings of their domain, dictators of their turf and they all bear the likeness of God. I know one chef who makes announcement in the kitchen through the loud speaker with, “this is God speaking.”

Despite of all the hardship and work, I feel my skill is not up to par. I miss a very important component; the flair for making fancy sauces.

Sauce is the final dress-up of the dish and it plays the role of putting the polish and shine to the dish. A lot of emphasis has been put on finding a talented saucier when you have a proper restaurant or hotel. The saucier is usually thin, wirily, and holds a whip in his/her hand. 

  <the long and short of whips>

  Not to be confused with the bull whip, yet it could be lethal when applied correctly. 

A whip is the fancy name for a wired balloon stirrer in French lingo. (French people invented a lot of terminology for a whole sleuth of techniques and food. They do not mind complicating things since they are already complicated and unpredictable.) The saucier would usually stand put close to the stove and watch. He is waiting for the chips to appear so he knows what kind of sauce to make. He cannot be hurried, talk loud to, or questioned. You can only whisper to him ever so lightly and request his graceful attention; then bow out quietly.

Such is the soul maker of a dish.

My standard needs an upgrade. I go to my friend and ask for a chance to work with the saucier. Going back to the kitchen is like revisiting your old school. There are so many things you are familiar with. 

  <a distant view of the kitchen line>

  Quite different from all its glamour. 

Modern set-up for commercial kitchens is very different from the old days. There is the invention of the “kitchen Line”. This is no news. In bigger establishments, because of the volume, the kitchen is divided into different sections. When the chip comes up, different sections will get their appropriate part of the meal and they will be prepared according to the sequence. We assume beverage has been delivered, and then salad / appetizers would follow. The main course will be prepared during this time.

The entrée usually has a meat, a starch, and some vegetables. Different food components are cooked according to their time requirement and the sauce is presented at the same time. The chef would go for plating of the food and top with garnishes.

It is a unique kind of operation since a plate of food is dismantled and goes to different departments to have the components prepared and then they are re-assembled when it is finished. It is the Henry Ford theory of a factory production line. Apparently, this method of dividing the work load increases the productivity. The quality is better since the product would pass through so many inspecting eyes. 

 

 

 

<Seared tuna with cucumber radish shaving, on rice flour blini>

I wanted to do this.  BUT,

 She won’t let me !!

Chapter 2 coming, promise to be interesting.

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