How did you discover your strengths as a professional chef??

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Joined Aug 24, 2018
Here's a question to some of the pros - or even the highly experienced home cooks here...

I'm far too novice at cooking to even know what I'm good at. A short while ago I had the unique experience of watch four extremely competent master chefs maneuver around a small kitchen with no barrier between the restaurant floor and the dining room. I'm told the executive chef worked under Thomas Keller for years. The dining room was allowed to watch them but not speak to them.

It really made me start wondering how things work in a professional kitchen. When you get to that level, what ARE the skill specializations some chefs grow to become exceptional at? Like...do some chefs become extraordinary at making sauces then only make sauces for the rest of their career? Are certain specializations in the kitchen like being a drummer or guitarist where once you've learned how to play a certain instrument you don't simply move to another station and play the piano instead?

So my question is does everyone do everything in a kitchen like on TV shows? Or are chefs hired onto teams based on certain culinary strengths?

What are some of the things you do (or did) a tad more proficiently than others over the course of your careers?
 
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Joined Sep 21, 2001
Practice.
Last Sunday morning we were prepping for brunch. I asked one of my high-school aged dishwasher helpers to help me crack eggs for the scrambles. They began as most people do~ picking up one egg at a time, cracking it against the rim of the bowl and carefully putting the egg in with the other ones. I watched for a moment as they slowly took out the first few eggs.
Then I said "I bet I can teach you how to crack an egg with one hand! Just think! Then you can show off to your parents!!! In fact? I'll even bet by the end you can crack an egg in either hand!!!" And then I gave a quick demo and showed exactly what I was doing... coached then through the first few, and then wandered of to do my tasks.
By the time they got through 90 dozen eggs? Their technique was flawless. With either hand :)
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
Cooking is one of those professions where the test usually comes first and the lesson afterwards.

That being said, I have seen some cooks confuse being good at something with something they enjoy doing. In that way, its a lot like golf. :) You don't necessarily have to be good at it to enjoy it. I didn't figure out that I was good or bad at something until I tried to do it. There were some things that I was not very good at that I improved upon with practice. Conversely, there were things that I was naturally good at from the start. Everyone is different.

So, to answer your question, typically when you are looking to fill slots in the kitchen, you want to fill them with people who are experienced and knowledgeable in those positions. For instance, if I need a cook to operate the grill, ideally I want someone who knows the ins and outs of grilling. Yes, a pastry chef can in theory operate a grill but, that is not their specialty. If your business model is built around grilled steaks and chops, you want the rock star in that slot. The same is true for other positions.

We figure out what we are good at by trying things.
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
I remember when I began playing golf. The Pro asked me what was the first club I took out at the driving range. I told him the 7 iron. He told me the reason why I did that is because it's the easiest club to hit the ball and it also makes me look good. He told me in order to be a good golfer I need to spend twice as much time on the clubs I can't hit well. I remembered this during my time moving through the ranks in the restaurant business. It's not only a good golf tip, it's also a good career and life tip....ChefBillyB
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
I worked as a Banquet Chef for a large Dinner theater/ banquet facility. We were a food factory everyday. Thursday matinee came with lunch. 580 people in 10 different rooms all eating at the same.
My "oven man" was an expert. Think about 20 double stacked convection ovens all filled with meats, potatoes, and other items. This guy was able to watch over it all without over cooking or burning anything.
Then I had a great butcher who could clean 7-up PSMO's with great speed.
My line guys for the dining room could handle 300 covers a night without even flinching.
Yes....it all has to do with the right person in the right position
 

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