Monday, November 14, 2011

Culinary Musings, Sabotage!

The key to being a good cook is an obsessive attention to detail.  I was reminded of this recently by watching an old school chef expedite tickets on a busy night.  Every ticket was folded exactly in half and stacked about 3/4's of the way over the next order, forming a perfect line of soldiers waiting to be shot down.  Any other way and the pass would've been too full of tickets to deal with.  Before I used to crease the ticket a bit, but I was wasting space. I will never expedite a different way now. 

Another chef I worked really close with, James, was the best cook I've ever had the honor of working next to.  If a good cook sees 3 steps ahead, James saw 6.  I could learn more watching him dance the line during the rush than I could a year on my own.  Honestly.  He was a machine.  When he told me he thought I was a faster cook, I nearly shat myself.  To me, he was the better.

James used to tell me about working at Le Vichyssois ( with Chef Bernard Cretier.  Who hands down is the most hardcore, old school, classically trained, certified bad ass French chef in the Chicagoland area, no contest.  He still cooks on the line.  He opened his restaurant in 1976.  Do the math.  If a cook would do something out of order, or add more steps to a process, he would say, "Sabotage!  Why do you sabotage yourself?"  Think about it.  Every time you add a step, you lose time and focus.  In the craziest kitchens, one extra step on a busy evening can be the difference between getting a pat on the back or getting chewed at by the boss.

By the way, visit Bernard.  He and his wife are awesome.  They also sell art from Gerard Puvis (, who specializes in fusing culinary themes with the embossed foil from old wine bottles.  They're incredibly cool to frame and to give to the onophile or chef in the family.  Hint, hint, for anyone doing any Christmas shopping for me or my friends soon.


No comments:

Post a Comment