Do you feel like you have lost your skills?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by nicko, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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     It is hard to believe but I have been out of professional kitchens now for over 12 years. I do cook at home regularly but more and more I feel like I have lost my edge, knowledge and my creative spark. Now when I cook I tend to play it safe.

    Wondered if there are other former chefs, cooks that struggle with this. How to keep your skills up?
     
  2. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Nicko, I feel the same way, and I'm still in the business. I don't work the day to day operation, but I over see the business. I think I'm about 50% of what I used to be. When I was catering a lot, my brain never stopped thinking of different,menus,presentations, cooking demos and so on. The day to day operation bores me to death, that's why I let my Son do it. I just started a Kitchen bonus program with my Chefs/Cooks, they all get a chance to come up with a dinner special, cost it, prep it, and promo it. Who ever sells the most specials, on their night, gets the $$$ bonus for the week...............take care.........Chef Bill
     
  3. marmalade

    marmalade

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    Funny, I was thinking about this the other day while slicing some onions, and thinking, gawd woman, you're slow!  I do feel as though I've 'lost my edge' both with physical skills and with coming up with new and different ideas for the dinner table at home.  :(    I guess 'use it or lose it' applies here!
     
  4. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    My speed is greatly diminished, but I'm not walking into a kitchen built for speed and am not doing the vast amount of prep that makes actual cooking so convenient and easy.  

    In addition to being slower, my knife work isn't as exact.  But to be honest, I never really enjoyed doing the fussy, presentation stuff.  So slow, sloppy tournes and tomato roses don't raise a feeling of great loss. 

    Otherwise, I feel my cooking has evolved.  I owe Chef Talk a big thanks for it, too. 

    BDL
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2010
  5. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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     Definitely my speed is down as well but how could it not be? Did you guys see the Top Chef Masters episode where they had to do all the prep tasks you do when your a line/prep cook? They were all super rusty except for Anita Lo. 

    Funny BDL my knife work was always something I was actually very good at (not bragging). Even in Culinary school my professors used to comment on how exact I was. Definitely not what I used to be that is for sure.

    I think the biggest thing I struggle with now days is I just don't have that edge of being able to throw something together or come up with new an interesting combinations. I also feel I struggle with timing so much now and cooking for a large crowd which I do occasionally.
     
  6. chrose

    chrose

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    Interesting. I'm with all of you. It's been for me since July 2000 since I was in a kitchen. I have lost a step in speed but not that much. Part of that is due to my hypoxia in 2000. My biggest issue is like Nicko (et al) said and that's the creative spark and just overall knowledge and growth in the current trends etc.
    However I have noticed that my son is now 18 and eating at home less and when he is there is a little more adventerous than he had been over the last 4 years or so. When he was younger I could experiment more, then the teen years came and time went out the window so it became more rote. But now that I'm doing a lot more cooking for just Sheila and I, I am finding a bit more creativity. So we'll see how that goes. One thing I will say is that my knives are nowhere near as sharp as they used to be! (Kind of goes hand in hand with the chef! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lookaround.gif)
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2010
  7. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    All I meant by losing knife skills was in terms of decorative cuts.  I never liked doing all the garde manger stuff, and was never very good at it to begin with.  And unlike Nicko and a lot of you other guys I never went to cooking school, my training was in a kitchen.   

    Chopping, carving, and the basics?  Still pretty darn good, but I was never super good anyway.  I realized after I first posted, that a lot of the reason I'm not as fast anymore is that I don't cut the same large amounts.  You can't really extrapolate a half gallon of finely cut chives for a restaurant service from a 1/2 cup for a small dinner party -- at least not when you can hold more than a 1/2 cups worth at a time.   

    And my poisonnier knife skills are better than ever, but that's mostly because I've abandoned filleting knives and retrained myself to a quasi-Japanese style fish butchery -- using my chef's as a sort of deba and my slicer as a yanigaba.  But I like to fool around with learning new stuff.     

    I'd like to think that my creativity is as good as ever it was.  Too many ethnic markets and all the possibilities they present, the stimulus from eating such varied ethnic cuisines, and just generic ongoing interest. Also, there's been some teaching, working on a cookbook, and some barbecue comp along the way. 

    Not to be too repetitive and complimentary, participating on Chef Talk has been very helpful.

    I dunno,
    BDL
     
  8. shipscook

    shipscook

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    This has been on my mind a lot lately, have not been to sea in almost 18 months. I feel timing is what worries me most. I surprise myself sometimes at the schedule I have worked out, but find if I get behind, manage to fool everyone , but still feel behind at the end of the day---

    When I hit the galley first thing in the morning, pull anything that is part of breakfast special, chop omelet stuff, homefries etc. These go in refer until the are on ice for service. Mix one or two batches of cookie dough (hope there are some still in jars). Pan and cook bacon, etc. do French Toast stuff, pancake batter, ready to go--

    Breakfast is to order so have any and all the veggies etc. that need to be prepped for soup, lunch, and dinner. Do this while I am serving breakfast and also start sheets of cookies--and on it goes. I actually love it--remember the first time I heard the word "multitasking"? Duh? For several years now have really learned to use my ovens--carmalizing onions for soup, mirapoix, ground beef or cook off stew meat.

    Have had a bunch of medical crap and not sure when I'll get back. Also have to add strength to my worry list, walking lots and doing shrength stuff.

    And you guys do keep me inspired, thanks!

    Nan
     
  9. leeniek

    leeniek

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    I'm always on the line so moving up hasn't had that effect on me yet, but one thing I do notice is that I only do eggs on the weekends now and while that isn't a problem I find that for the first maybe hour or so I feel a little scattered like I'm not in the groove yet. Does that make sense to you guys?  I have the station ready to go for the day and I always make sure I have our big three omelettes premixed so all I have do to is add eggs and drop them but still that first bit I feel kind of out of my element.  I did a crappy close today because I had a mega sinus headache so tomorrow I'm going to start early and do what I didn't feel up to doing today.  I only do that if I know I am the person on that station though.. if I was on fruits or another station tomorrow I would have sucked it up and made sure the station was up to par for the morning.  
     
  10. coulis-o

    coulis-o

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    the only reason i tend to slow down is because of safety plus i find i make more mistakes when i'm trying to rush the work i'm doing, maybe my speed has slowed somewhat, not greatly, i still work good under pressure without a problem, but where speed is concerned in the kitchen i always put safety before the job at hand.
     
  11. lloydbraun

    lloydbraun

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    I cook on the line just one day a week. its tough to keep up with the speed of a busy kitchen when youre only there one day a week. people dont understand what it takes to work behind the line. its fun, but it takes a lot of skills that most people dont have - speed, agility, multitasking, balance, etc.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 14, 2010
  12. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Me too.  I forget things.
     
  13. chefedb

    chefedb

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     I am at an age now where I get paid to think and advise not actually do it. Don't think I could survive a line anymore., but prep and garde manger yes .Am still fast as heck with a knife.,But tend too drop and misplace things Looking back I am glad I did it all in the days I did it, cause it was all scratch and I learned from the best at the time"".Ah the GOLDEN YEARS""
     
  14. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I think you have to separate actual skills from passion.

    Speed and precision come from repetition. The more you do of something the better at it you are. So once you leave a professional kitchen, or change responsibilities, it's only natural that you lose some of that skill.

    I doubt that I could manage even a half-loaded flattop nowadays, for instance. I'd certainly find it intimidating. But as an active short-order cook, managing a full grill  and a half dozen skillets going simultaneously was no big deal. 

    The passion is something else. So far, at least, in my home kitchen I haven't lost it. I may not be as fast as I used to be, but the creative spark is still there. Oddly enough, my knife skills actually are better nowadays. But that, I believe, is precisely because I do more kinds of cutting today then I ever did as a professional cook.
     
  15. nick.shu

    nick.shu

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    Im kinda slowing down at the moment, but that has a lot to do with moving from Agency work to an RSL Club, then from there to a 5 star hotel.

    So, in a nutshell, more waiting for myself to come up to speed in a whole new ballgame rather than getting frustrated with other people for a change.
     
  16. duckfat

    duckfat

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    While it doesn't apply to me it's clear that many do loose their skills. I saw an episode of Kitchen Confidential the other day with Anthony Bourdain in the kitchen and I was honestly a bit embarassed for the guy. He couldn't even dice an onion. Then again the knives they were using looked like they were about the dullest cheapest knives money could buy.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2010
  17. bughut

    bughut

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    I certainly havnt slowed down. But all the same my life in a high pressure kitchens is well behind me. And good riddance.

    I have lost my mojo a couple of times and that was awful. Couldnt cook to save myself. good job my crew could do for themselves for a week or so.

    I've really enjoyed learning new skills. I guess I push the older ones onto the back burner while I master them. But theyre still very much there.

    Adding /// and /  to the list of skills we have is a wonderful way to go through life. Surely we dont slow down. Rather, we prioritise. ie. I still need my knife skills, so I hone them. But i dont need to run a team of 12 now. Neither do I have to bust my pan to have 120 lunches out by 2pm. But i do like to think i could still do it... Sure I could!

    I have different deadlines now and the only pressure I'm under is the pressure I put on myself. Doesn't mean i've slowed down...Just that I've seen the light.

    Nicko, I'll bet 5 minutes in your old kitchen you'd be up to par. Nay bother!
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2010
  18. gypsy2727

    gypsy2727

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    Yup I hear ya on that one Josh...I never understood my friends in those little cubicles doing all that office work under florescent lighting
    I loved my hustle and bustle life style...now it's word processing ,marketing payroll,managing,bookkeeping,spreadsheets,presentations...the daily grind seems longer.... but I can still pick-up a knife and chop circles around most!....And the battle scars on my arms prove I am worthy of "The Line"
     
  19. nick.shu

    nick.shu

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    On that note (My previous post that is),  Albert Roux is coming to where I work as a Guest Chef, and I have put my hand up as an assistant. Gotta relight the fire some how and I think this is a good start.
     
  20. fuil moinn

    fuil moinn

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     It's been 5 1/2 years out of the kitchen for me, and my skills have degraded painfully.  I can still cook a roast, steak, fillet to the doneness requested, but my knife skills and creativity have plummeted sharply.   I seem to have spurts of it now, typically sparked by a new book or recipe I've seen followed by furious writing in a journal.  Dicing an onion takes me 3x as long as it used too though =/  Maybe it's the semi-sharp knives in the home kitchen too blame hehe