Lazy Chefs #1

This is a true story from my first day as a commis in a pro kitchen, there’ll be more of these…

I have my interview with the Head Chef (referred to as XXX later on)  and the hotel manager. I’m asked about what my previous jobs have been doing (one of which is KP’ing in a quite prestigious place doing more advanced tasks – mentored by an amazing Head Chef who had just moved to a much bigger role), the chef asked a couple of technical questions about classic sauces, cuts of meat and then I had to prepare a meal with a handful of ingredients in 15 minutes. The brief is an easy starter or light meal that can easily be scaled up for volume as they deal with a lot of touring parties. I’m impressed at the level of detail in the interview. I get the job.

So there I am all bright eyed and bushy tailed, neckerchief and skull cap as white and pure as the arctic snow. Its 10am and the first proper day working in a professional hotel kitchen as a commis chef, after being a KP in several places since the age of 13. I’m 17 and still at college full time and although the job is part time it feels like a great opportunity to improve my knowledge and skills and I was keen to learn.

The Sous Chef and CDP introduce themselves and give me a tour of the kitchen, the breakfast chef is tidying down and speaking with the restaurant manager both introduce themselves, with the restaurant manager stating she takes no shit but sometimes serves it. ‘Only when XXX is on’ replies the Sous Chef. Everyone laughs like its an inside joke.

I’m given some tasks to do which are relatively easy. I help making the staff lunch I help with garnish during a fairly busy lunch. It’s going pretty well. Since i’ll be doing a straight shift to 6pm (I know an easy shift for a commis) I’m given a list of tasks to complete onc lunch finishes and the 2nd & CDP are on split shift. Its all fairly easy including preparing ‘pommes parmentier’ clipping grape bunches into 10 grapes x 50, marinade some chicken thighs, keep an eye on the ‘osso buco’ etc. XXX arrives whist the other Chefs are instructing me and says we’ll share the tasks an he’ll talk me through some additional things. We’ll go into those in another post as I don’t want this post to go on and on.

Classically, ‘Pommes Parmentier’ are listed in the Repetoire de la Cuisine as a 1/2 inch dice (potato) cooked in clarified butter. I ask if XXX wants me to do this 1st as its a fair bit of prep to get everything neat, I ask if he wants the potato offcuts to be used for mash or in a soup (waste not want not) but he offered to do the potatoes. How he did this, was one of the laziest things I’ve ever saw and instilled in me the long held opinion that ‘if you are going to do it do it right.’

Imagine a 2 bags of (bought-in) blanched and coated chips – ready in 2 minutes, poured into a container. 2 fryer baskets.  A chopping board with rows of chips lined up. The chips are cut into dice. placed in the fryer baskets and browned in batches until there’s 2 trays, not drained properly, no seasoning or herbs introduced. He does this fast, Asks if i’m impressed, i’m bemused.

Some of you might think there’s nothing wrong with this. I disagree obviously. For the next 2 hours though he did nothing. Unless chainsmoking and taking trips to the bookies counts. And making bold claims as to where he worked and his self-believed ranking amongst the local chefs was.

I’m sure people who have worked in kitchens have seen worse than this – whats the laziest thing you’ve seen?

I’d love to hear your comments

There’s more tales to come…

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