Slowing down

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Hi all, I've been in this business for over 30 years now with the past 20 years at Head chef level, my experience, gained in many different kitchens has been varied and all encompassing but there is a gap! I have decided it's time for a change and have been offered a position in a small hotel, the kitchen serves a Tdh dinner menu, 3/3/3 changing daily on a 2 week run. At present everything is cooked prior to service and held in a Bain marie, there's no great reviews for the food. My background is in fresh, cooked to order menus and I want to raise the standard but, as always, there are things to consider, the hotel has 26 rooms and is 2 star rated, the clientele the hotel attracts are in their later years, sometimes arriving in a group on an organised tour, there is only 1 other chef, inexperienced and willing but already learnt bad habits and attitude, management/owners want to keep the Tdh menu. Does anyone have any menu advice? I can see the benefit of holding food in the Bain Marie but I dont use them as a rule, however the management do not want to offer an a la carte menu. I am taking this position mainly to slow down a bit, I'm 55 and to be honest I've had enough of high octane service! Has anyone any advice?
Thanks
 
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My advice is to not reinvent the wheel here. From your own information this is not a place that is the peak of the industry. Not saying it's a bad place, but I see no benefit to trying to change what has been working for them, especially if there is no demand from it from any other source but yourself. You said you went here for a change, so try the change and relax a bit.
 
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No reason a TDH can't designed with "be done to order" in mind. At my restaurant in addition to the regular menu, I also offered a five course food and wine pairing pre-fixe menu which was high standard and dollar. TDH doesn't automatically relegate it to holding in a bain marie, although if designed and thought out well, a bain marie menu doesn't automatically equate with lower quality either.

As to the other chef, you said he was willing but had learned bad habits and attitude. If he is truly willing, he can unlearn the bad habits and attitude. Or he can learn to look for another job. You don't have to be a hard ass, just matter of fact. The choice, ultimately, will be his.
 
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My advice is to not reinvent the wheel here. From your own information this is not a place that is the peak of the industry. Not saying it's a bad place, but I see no benefit to trying to change what has been working for them, especially if there is no demand from it from any other source but yourself. You said you went here for a change, so try the change and relax a bit.
Thanks, given me some thought there...
 
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Good Chefs have a way of making good things happen no matter where they are. Making something out of nothing could just be where you're at right now. You have a Head Chef mentality you're just using it in a less demanding way. I ran into the same kind of situation you're at now. I thought I was lowering my standards. I realized it didn't matter where I was at, as long as I could still be who I am. Give it some time and you'll see what I'm talking about.......Good luck........ChefBillyB
 
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Joined May 2, 2017
Good Chefs have a way of making good things happen no matter where they are. Making something out of nothing could just be where you're at right now. You have a Head Chef mentality you're just using it in a less demanding way. I ran into the same kind of situation you're at now. I thought I was lowering my standards. I realized it didn't matter where I was at, as long as I could still be who I am. Give it some time and you'll see what I'm talking about.......Good luck........ChefBillyB
Thanks chef, I appreciate the words I think you know where I'm at..
 
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Agreed, its not the bain marie, its the ingredients used,
entrees made and HOW theyre made. A bain marie keeps good food good and bad food bad.
I did something similar, hotel breakfast 17 rooms, 30 to
40 covers, cooked fresh then held. Some of it wasnt
so great, like boxed rehydrated hash browns.
But they always got eated, and thats what the clientelle
was accustomed to. Hotels patrons are a different
breed than restaurant clientele I reckon.
 
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I worked in many operations that required cooking ahead and holding. The thing to realize is, not all entrees and foods are the same. I had to learn how to hold Pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs and everything else breakfast. I wanted these to be as close to fresh made as possible. The only real easy item to hold was Country gravy. The reason for this is obvious. Anything that has liquid holds well in a dbl boiler or steam table as long as the temp is set right. The hard things were pancakes and French toast. These had to be kept off of the hot bottom and also not have two much steam accumulate in the pan so as to make them soggy. Bacon and sausage aren't a problem. Scrambled eggs hold well in a plastic container with a lid held in a dry warmer. The eggs kind of keep hot in there own steam that accumulates in the container. With the plastic container it also doesn't have a reaction because there's no metal. Just remember that some items need dry heat to keep hot and some need wet.moist heat.......The Best.........ChefBillyB
 
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Funny you should mention french toast and pancakes.
That was part of it, cooked for a group, generally held for about an hour or 2. French toast I figured out....cut em diagonally and stack em in the pan vertically like dominoes. Close together, they kept each other hot while not absorbing much moisture. Same with waffles, but when youre gonna chafer hold, they need to be pretty well done.

Pancakes were a pain in the duff. They just dried out quickly.
Add a little steam they were sog city. And they had to be made fluffy or fuhget about it.

I also made cereal, oatmeal, grits or creme of wheat.
Only trick there was to make em thin, otherwise they
get so thick in 15 mins you can lay bricks with em.

So youre right, you have to take into account WHAT youre holding as well as the equipment on hand. Takes trial and error.
 
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Funny you should mention french toast and pancakes.
That was part of it, cooked for a group, generally held for about an hour or 2. French toast I figured out....cut em diagonally and stack em in the pan vertically like dominoes. Close together, they kept each other hot while not absorbing much moisture. Same with waffles, but when youre gonna chafer hold, they need to be pretty well done.

Pancakes were a pain in the duff. They just dried out quickly.
Add a little steam they were sog city. And they had to be made fluffy or fuhget about it.

I also made cereal, oatmeal, grits or creme of wheat.
Only trick there was to make em thin, otherwise they
get so thick in 15 mins you can lay bricks with em.

So youre right, you have to take into account WHAT youre holding as well as the equipment on hand. Takes trial and error.
meezenplaz, great to see you and hope you're doing well. Those two were the hardest to hold. The pancakes were layered in a 2" pan on top of a rack, a piece of covered cardboard and parchment paper then covered with parchment paper and covered with plastic wrap. The heat that hit the bottom of the pan was enough to keep them warm and in good condition. Your right two much moisture wasn't good. We also held three different kinds of omelets that were in a 2" steamer pan set in a double boiler 4" pan set in a steam table. We had to be fast and ready for the Employee breaks. They didn't want to wait in their 20 minute break in the morning. I learned fast while starting my career in Catering how important it is to properly hold food to insure a good quality and catering outcome. ChefBillyB
 
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First, can someone state what Tdh menu means in this thread. I'm assuming table d'hote (limited menu for a fixed price) but we all know what assuming does and there may be others reading who could use a little detail.
Second, I agree with the others that the food handling is an all important consideration in this situation.
On the other hand, I would like to know a bit more about the menu. Changes daily on a two week rotation: So a two week menu, followed by a second two week menu. Then back to the first two week menu followed by two weeks of the second menu, Ad nauseam.
If that's the case, I would like to know when I can change the menu. I'd see if management would allow for a bit of generality in the menu. As in something like Monday-beef, Tuesday-chicken, Wed-pork, etc. etc.
So it's not exactly Mon pot roast, Tues-roast chicken, etc.
That would allow some creativity on your part, a little freshness on the customers' experience. You could then add in some seasonality and adapt for special price purchases when a supplier has one available. And of course, how you prepare each menu item, the techniques you use and the standards you expect can make any dish stand out.
And of course, I would like to be able to adjust the recipes to suit my standards as time and talents allow. If you have the equipment, are there any objections to making stock from scratch, not from a base? Can you get fresh veggies from a local farm and buy meats from a local source? Any fresh herbs nearby or a plot of land accessible for an herb garden?
Can you offer simple upgrades like fresh blueberry pancakes when in season? Can you do Duchess potatoes, fingerling, purple potatoes, au gratin, scalloped, etc. or does it have to be mashed every time?
Can you make Bordelaise or does it have to be simple gravy?
In short, you have the knowledge and experience to tweak the menu in a thousand different ways. How hamstrung by management are you in bringing it out?
Are you limited to just the one cook or could you hire a prep cook to help with basic needs and allow you to focus on more advanced tasks?
Lastly, I'll throw some sympathy to the other cook. It may be that he just needs some inspiration from leadership to know that it's worth going to work in the morning. If given the chance and some inspiration, he might blossom into a fine cook.
Find time to have a casual talk with him about what he was hoping for when he got the job, what he has experienced before you arrived and where he hopes to go in his career. Let him in on your hopes and aspirations for the hotel and then you'll both know if he's in the right place.
 
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
Since a few of you mentioned pancakes I want to just go off on a tangent and talk about this thing here that I saw while I was at a hotel breakfast a while back. I know it's not super fancy but I had honestly never seen one before and boy was it fun to watch.
 
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Ive not seen one either. Seems to be far faster even than a commercial waffle iron, or even many toasters, both of which guests just stand there, waiting, in the way, till their stuff is done.

I figger its only a matter of time before the entire mass breakfast buffet is automated: load the hopper with farm fresh eggs, customer pushes a button to select over easy, basted, poached, scrambled....hell i can see us standing there watching our ham n chesse omelette being folded right behind that little viewing window.
 
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Ive not seen one either. Seems to be far faster even than a commercial waffle iron, or even many toasters, both of which guests just stand there, waiting, in the way, till their stuff is done.

I figger its only a matter of time before the entire mass breakfast buffet is automated: load the hopper with farm fresh eggs, customer pushes a button to select over easy, basted, poached, scrambled....hell i can see us standing there watching our ham n chesse omelette being folded right behind that little viewing window.
And the Machine shows up for the breakfast shift every morning. I'll take two and put me on the waiting list for the Kitchen prep machine.

This wouldn't bother me at all. I was wondering why the gal in red was eating alone. Then I saw how much she was eating. I wouldn't want to pay for her groceries.

 
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