High End Tastings

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Joined Aug 21, 2014
Many of us have been in the situation to do high end tastings. By end high I mean on a Michelin level. This usually involves multi courses, 5-10. I have done many tastings in my career at different levels. Sometimes it’s a surprise and you cook whatever they give you. Sometimes they make it like a TV show and give you a few products and say: make something! However, cooking for a position that’s, let’s say, at the six-figure mark is a completely different level of a tasting.

I have never cooked the same thing twice for a tasting. Partly because by the time I need to do another one enough time has gone by and I’m cooking other stuff. I always feel funny about tastings. Not nervous, but unsure. Tastings can be extremely difficult for many reasons: new kitchen, current staff in the way, or unknowledgeable about their own kitchen, ingredients not to your liking, and the big one, time.

So what do you do? Do you stick you what you know and cook your greatest hits? Do you push yourself and create something new? If given the choice do you cook 10 courses? 3? Make your own desserts?

I’d really love to hear the experiences of others and how good or bad things have gone for them during a tasting.

Cheers!
 
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
I'd rather do 3 courses perfectly that I have mastered rather than 10 sub par ones. There's no shame in having a line up of your best work. They only glimpse this one small part of your whole professional ability and if you want the job I see no benefit of going rogue unless that is a specific requirement of the tasting.

I'm not usually nervous for tastings unless they are for family and friends, as I tend to value their opinions more, and the fact that I'll have to see their faces on more than one occasion.
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
I've done a few tastings in my day. Granted, not with the pomp and circumstance of Michelin, but, the quality, nonetheless, was worthy of any pro kitchen or review organization.

I made it a team effort. Each chef in my kitchen that had their own best hits and I left it up to them to coordinate those specialties with one rule: their selections had to form a menu that had discernible continuity and balance from beginning to end. When they were done, I was given the menu for final approval, which I didn't ever need to change, and then I began the wine pairings, which was my specialty.

By making it a team effort, they didn't always stick to their greatest hits or go with a large tasting menu. They would typically push one another to move outside their comfort zones and do something completely new or perhaps try something with their special dish they never would've thought to try. Sometimes, it meant a smaller tasting menu. Other times, the menu had 10 or more offerings. But, with each tasting, many of the results were as extraordinary as they were unique.

Cheers! :)
 
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1,801
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
Many of us have been in the situation to do high end tastings. By end high I mean on a Michelin level. This usually involves multi courses, 5-10. I have done many tastings in my career at different levels. Sometimes it’s a surprise and you cook whatever they give you. Sometimes they make it like a TV show and give you a few products and say: make something! However, cooking for a position that’s, let’s say, at the six-figure mark is a completely different level of a tasting.

I have never cooked the same thing twice for a tasting. Partly because by the time I need to do another one enough time has gone by and I’m cooking other stuff. I always feel funny about tastings. Not nervous, but unsure. Tastings can be extremely difficult for many reasons: new kitchen, current staff in the way, or unknowledgeable about their own kitchen, ingredients not to your liking, and the big one, time.

So what do you do? Do you stick you what you know and cook your greatest hits? Do you push yourself and create something new? If given the choice do you cook 10 courses? 3? Make your own desserts?

I’d really love to hear the experiences of others and how good or bad things have gone for them during a tasting.

Cheers!
I honestly think playing it safe it the best option. Even under the best circumstances cooking can go wrong quickly, and the introduction of numerous variables that you mentioned (time, staff, new kitchen, etc) it just becomes more likely something will go sideways.

Cooking your "hits" lessens these variables and should make the tasting go smother. You're also more likely to be able to adapt if/when something goes wrong because you're familiar with the dishes and flavor profiles.

They want to see that you can cook and season your food properly, that you can keep a kitchen/station organized, and that your time management is on point. They want to see you can put together a coherent menu.

It's unlikely if you get the job you would start off running on all cylinders. You are likely to "dumb down" your first menu (or two) as you evaluate staff, make contacts with farms/purveyors, hire/train new staff, familiarize yourself with equipment (and order stuff you need too)..."pushing yourself to create something new" usually comes a bit later once all the pieces are in place to execute your vision.

Be honest with the interviewers! Let them know, "Hey, this food I cooked today reflects a starting point for this kitchen, if I get the job. Once my team is in place and I have good sources for product, here's a few menus I came up with that reflects where I'd like us to be in 6 months/1 year from now..." Show them some future ideas.

You can't run into a new kitchen like Grant Achatz or something and expect to re-invent the place from the get go. You can "push yourself" and create the most exciting menus and dishes in your city, but if your staff can't execute it consistently then you're screwed.

I'm interested to know more, when is the tasting? What have you decided to cook?
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2014
I honestly think playing it safe it the best option. Even under the best circumstances cooking can go wrong quickly, and the introduction of numerous variables that you mentioned (time, staff, new kitchen, etc) it just becomes more likely something will go sideways.

Cooking your "hits" lessens these variables and should make the tasting go smother. You're also more likely to be able to adapt if/when something goes wrong because you're familiar with the dishes and flavor profiles.

They want to see that you can cook and season your food properly, that you can keep a kitchen/station organized, and that your time management is on point. They want to see you can put together a coherent menu.

It's unlikely if you get the job you would start off running on all cylinders. You are likely to "dumb down" your first menu (or two) as you evaluate staff, make contacts with farms/purveyors, hire/train new staff, familiarize yourself with equipment (and order stuff you need too)..."pushing yourself to create something new" usually comes a bit later once all the pieces are in place to execute your vision.

Be honest with the interviewers! Let them know, "Hey, this food I cooked today reflects a starting point for this kitchen, if I get the job. Once my team is in place and I have good sources for product, here's a few menus I came up with that reflects where I'd like us to be in 6 months/1 year from now..." Show them some future ideas.

You can't run into a new kitchen like Grant Achatz or something and expect to re-invent the place from the get go. You can "push yourself" and create the most exciting menus and dishes in your city, but if your staff can't execute it consistently then you're screwed.

I'm interested to know more, when is the tasting? What have you decided to cook?

i actually already did the tasting. it was terrible. very hit and miss. i beat myself up over it for days and finally i took a step back and analyzed it from another viewpoint. i made a list of what i thought went wrong. product was the one number problem. i traveled for this and i wasn't in a town that has product i need available in the regular grocery store. i was at the mercy of what they had. the duck was the size of a turkey and frozen lol. the halibut was already broken down and i couldnt tell how old it was but it stunk. funny thing that happened: night before i made my gels and the next day they were all broke lol. maybe something to do with the heat. and the heat! there was a heat wave those days and it was brutal! staff in the way, having to move my station over and over. but hey, we're chefs right? adapt and overcome. it was a ten course (items) menu and i make my own desserts. all in all, it was hit and miss. i just have a hard time making things over and over again. it bores me. although i do agree with your approach.

this is one dish that came out pretty good. it's paris brest, but this is savory. the white to mimic that sugar is actually powdered olive oil, the filling is chicken liver mousse, and there's smoked apple gel inside too.
 

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1,801
520
Joined Aug 15, 2003
i actually already did the tasting. it was terrible. very hit and miss. i beat myself up over it for days and finally i took a step back and analyzed it from another viewpoint. i made a list of what i thought went wrong. product was the one number problem. i traveled for this and i wasn't in a town that has product i need available in the regular grocery store. i was at the mercy of what they had. the duck was the size of a turkey and frozen lol. the halibut was already broken down and i couldnt tell how old it was but it stunk. funny thing that happened: night before i made my gels and the next day they were all broke lol. maybe something to do with the heat. and the heat! there was a heat wave those days and it was brutal! staff in the way, having to move my station over and over. but hey, we're chefs right? adapt and overcome. it was a ten course (items) menu and i make my own desserts. all in all, it was hit and miss. i just have a hard time making things over and over again. it bores me. although i do agree with your approach.

this is one dish that came out pretty good. it's paris brest, but this is savory. the white to mimic that sugar is actually powdered olive oil, the filling is chicken liver mousse, and there's smoked apple gel inside too.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Now you have experience, and with more experience comes more confidence. Think of it like a bad first date...wasn’t a good match, and now you’ve gotten insight into things to do/look out for in the future.

Poor product is hard to overcome. I’m curious—did they order it for you or were you shopping at the local stores?

It also sounds like they did little to accommodate you in their space. I’ve been on both sides of a tasting tryout—both as a candidate myself and as a line cook having to work around a potential chef or sous chef—and it can be challenging for both sides. But man, maybe they could have had you do a tasting for them in the morning/early afternoon, or on a day they were closed...something.

Your liver dish looks great, very creative. I’ve done chicken liver “faux gras” before in a savory cocoa macaron (raspberry jam natch) but never in a pate a choux. I bet it’d be good piped in a gougere...maybe I just found my amuse for tomorrow night lol.
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2014
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Now you have experience, and with more experience comes more confidence. Think of it like a bad first date...wasn’t a good match, and now you’ve gotten insight into things to do/look out for in the future.

Poor product is hard to overcome. I’m curious—did they order it for you or were you shopping at the local stores?

It also sounds like they did little to accommodate you in their space. I’ve been on both sides of a tasting tryout—both as a candidate myself and as a line cook having to work around a potential chef or sous chef—and it can be challenging for both sides. But man, maybe they could have had you do a tasting for them in the morning/early afternoon, or on a day they were closed...something.

Your liver dish looks great, very creative. I’ve done chicken liver “faux gras” before in a savory cocoa macaron (raspberry jam natch) but never in a pate a choux. I bet it’d be good piped in a gougere...maybe I just found my amuse for tomorrow night lol.

I sent them a complete ingredient list and it was the proteins that were the items i need help with most. Duck, Beef Tenderloin, and Halibut. The halibut was just disgusting and I feel ashamed I even served it. I was in the middle of the tasting and rushing, I should've just skipped the dish. But yes, it was a learning point. And bare in mind I've been cooking in Michelin rated kitchen for many years now. Lesson learned!
 
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Joined Feb 18, 2007
I'm curious as to the feedback you got from them. And what did YOU think of how this went from the perspective of, would you want to work there?

I am probably very naive about this but if you're staging a potential employee and you're a Michelin rated kitchen, you don't deliberately put speed bumps in their way in the form of making them move multiple times, giving them sub-par product to work with and not pointing out where the hot spots are in the oven or that your gels might weep because of the humidity .....
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2014
perhaps i mis-wrote. the place is not michelin rated. i stated that because i have that back ground thus there's a expectation that the tasting will be of a high caliber. however, the place is one of the top places in all the state.

i personally think it went terrible, but i'm generally pretty tough on myself. on the other hand there's nothing currently on their menu that great anyway. it was tough, it was strange that was employees were like zombies walking around with empty hands and generally not doing anything.

to clarify, the post is about other peoples experiences. i'm interested because regardless of my culinary back ground i always feel strange following a tasting. this post is not about me!
 
1,801
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
perhaps i mis-wrote. the place is not michelin rated. i stated that because i have that back ground thus there's a expectation that the tasting will be of a high caliber. however, the place is one of the top places in all the state.

i personally think it went terrible, but i'm generally pretty tough on myself. on the other hand there's nothing currently on their menu that great anyway. it was tough, it was strange that was employees were like zombies walking around with empty hands and generally not doing anything.

to clarify, the post is about other peoples experiences. i'm interested because regardless of my culinary back ground i always feel strange following a tasting. this post is not about me!
Did you want to do a 10 course tasting or was that their idea? Do they do a tasting format for their menu as well?

Ten courses seems like a lot for something like this. That's ambitious. I probably wouldn't do that many courses if I had the choice, I'd pick 3-4 courses that would make a lovely menu and do that.

Once you keep piling things on, there is a lot of room for something to go wrong.

Keep in mind the food quality, while probably being the "most" important aspect of a tryout, isn't everything. They want to see how you work, how clean/organized you are, how you get along with everyone. If you can manage yourself effectively, and put the food out on time. You can have the best menu (on paper) in the world, but if you
a) can't cook it and
b) can't execute it on time
then you've lost.

Knowing what you know now--the poor quality products, zombie-like staff, etc--would you want the job if they offered it?
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2014
absolutely. beautiful little town, the property can definitely acquire a relais and chateaux approval if they work at it. Kitchen is beautiful, and I found the cooks to be friendly and eager. i should state that a good 4 items on the menu were snacks and came out fast. there was fried chickpeas with tandoori spice and lime. foie gras stuffed fried olives. deviled eggs with bacon jam.

i'm not holding my breath. in fact, i'm already on to the next thing. if they call, ok, i'm open to discuss. but it wont happen. i will not work there!
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
Damn, tell me where that is and I'll apply, lol. (totally joking, I love my current job)

Like I said earlier, I wouldn't beat yourself up too much. At best, these things lead to new opportunities, and at worst, they offer valuable experience and practice for future gains. It sounds cliche (cause it is) but it also happens to be true.
 
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