Tasting the food you cook.

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by chefwriter, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. chefwriter

    chefwriter

    Messages:
    1,863
    Likes Received:
    412
    Exp:
    Professional Cook
    When did the practice of not tasting the food you cook become some kind of normal behavior for up and coming young chefs? 

    This is a situation I encountered this weekend at a local food and wine festival and in the past more times than I care to remember.  Because this forum seems to have a world wide reach and a diverse audience, I'm putting it out there in the hope of getting it to stop. 

    It is imperative that you taste the food you are cooking. Doing so tells you many things and is an integral part of the cooking process, not to be dismissed or considered unnecessary. 

    I am at a loss as to how to respond when talking to a younger chef who has a responsible position in a restaurant and reveals that he/she doesn't taste the food they cook. This is usually said with a knowing smile or smirk, as if it is some sign of their competence and superiority. I don't want to sour an otherwise pleasant discussion but when I hear this my blood begins to boil so I usually cut the conversation short. 

    If you read this and are one of those chefs who do not taste the food you are cooking as you cook it, please provide a detailed justification for this behavior. I would also like to know where you learned it and which professional chef or instructor told you it was okay.  
     
  2. squirrelrj

    squirrelrj Banned

    Messages:
    208
    Likes Received:
    18
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    That is sad to read. Ask them personally who taught them this practice, or better yet, who didn't teach them.

    If they are never asked/called out about such a bad practice, they'll never change their habits.

    My chef always stresses tasting the food, taste taste taste, I don't care if you've made the dish 100 times, taste it before it goes out, no excuses.
     
  3. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,197
    Likes Received:
    555
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I like to taste as I cook, without a doubt; however it is not always practical such as when working the line of a busy restaurant. If you are working saute, doing 300 dinners, and sauces ala minute, it just isn't going to happen with every plate, not to mention how do you taste fish before sending, etc.

    After years of working saute, I just feel a confidence, an ease, a naturalness at doing tasks that I have done thousands of repetitive times. It is hard to try to explain, but it is similiar to trying to explain taste memory or palate memory. The attribute where you can compose a dish in your head and practically taste it without actually preparing it, but still knowing the flavors work. I have talked with other chefs that know what I am talking about, but lots of people just at me and go huh when I am trying to explain it..

    A few years back, a restaurant I was working at entered me in a mystery basket chef challenge competition. Not my idea, as I avoid the spotlight as much as possible. After the compettion I was talking to some of the judges, doing the schmoozze. Once again not my thing, but part of my job. They all expressed amazement that I never tasted anything during the competition. I am sure that I looked at them with a totally blank stupid stare on my face as I replied that I wasn't aware that I hadn't. They assured that I did not do any tasting and they were flabbergasted, even more so because they felt I did the best job and awarded me first place in the compettion.

    There ia a difference between arrogance and confidence. It can be a very thin line, and I am sure that at times I cross between them, but I am very comfortable with my abilities.
     
    sfgray likes this.
  4. squirrelrj

    squirrelrj Banned

    Messages:
    208
    Likes Received:
    18
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    I agree that you cannot possibly taste every dish, regardless of what station you're on.

    When I used to work a grill station, I certainly couldn't taste a piece of a 9oz filet before I sent it out.

    Same thing goes for a saute'station in which i'm trying to pump out 10 fish dishes that all use a pan sauce.

    I think a lot of it is being consistant with your seasoning(s), make that dish 100 times and make it the same exact way everytime. If you get 1-2 sent back out of 100, i'd say you're doing a damn good job of making sure your seasoning and product is correct, the best you can.
     
  5. chefwriter

    chefwriter

    Messages:
    1,863
    Likes Received:
    412
    Exp:
    Professional Cook
    Thanks for the replies. Before we get too far afield, I'll clarify. I am not talking about during service when doing hundreds of covers or doing the exact same dish over and over and over.

    What I am referring to is not tasting AT ALL.  As in making a salad dressing. making a batch of sauce, making a braise or making a soup. As in "I don't have to taste, I'm just that good". And also asking me for confirmation that the food they prepared was great when they know for a fact that I never tasted it. 
     
  6. squirrelrj

    squirrelrj Banned

    Messages:
    208
    Likes Received:
    18
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    There's no excuse for that, all of those things should be tasted while cooking, multiple times, as well as when the product is done.

    That could possibly be a management problem, if the chef(s) aren't supervising, or aren't tasting the products themselves, then that will roll down hill to the cooks, too.
     
    sfgray likes this.
  7. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,197
    Likes Received:
    555
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I concur, that is totally unacceptable. That attitude would not fly in my kitchen except out the back door as they were on their way to the unemployment office.
     
  8. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

    Messages:
    1,419
    Likes Received:
    216
    Exp:
    Sous Chef, Event Manager
    Now do you mean boil, broil or bake, there IS a difference. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif

    There are several reasons to taste. Even sauces made a thousand times etc.

    For one, mistakes do happen, especially during battle, and especially with more than one

    chef floating about. (I once turned around to my worktable and my cornstarch slurry was...gone.

    My boss thought it was milk. And used it. Taste taste taste!)

    There was another time when I made a couple cups of the same cream sauce I could recite backwards.

    I didn't always taste it, and was short on time, but this time I dipped a spoon in it anyway just to see if it needed

    anything. And it tasted burnt. I have no idea why. If I hadn't tasted it....out the pass and into the mouths of babes.

    But mostly what I find when tasting soups, sauces, fillings  and the like, are what it NEEDS. More garlic.

    More salt. More kick. And it's common to have to taste 3 or 4 times. Ohhh it's ALLLL edible. Not the point.

    If we don't like it, how can we blame someone else for not liking it? And if we don't taste it, we're just

    gambling with all our sweat, time and sore feet. IMO, if Im gonna work my derrier off, it may as well taste rockin'!
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
    sfgray likes this.
  9. petemccracken

    petemccracken

    Messages:
    3,401
    Likes Received:
    161
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Tasting is a wasted effort, I mean, come on, we all know that all the ingredients we use are always the same, right?

    A tomato is a tomato, a steak is a steak, a potato is a potato, the list goes on and they never vary, right?

    We all measure with absolute precision, whether by weight to the nearest 1/10 gram, carefully leveled teaspoon, or exact pinch, right?

    The Chef has written the recipes are written with precision and one never varies from the recipe, right?

    And we NEVER make mistakes, after all we're all professionals, right!

    If one believes the above, they are in the wrong vocation and need to be shown the door!
     
    sfgray likes this.
  10. squirrelrj

    squirrelrj Banned

    Messages:
    208
    Likes Received:
    18
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    I thought someone hacked your account for a minute, /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
     
  11. coup-de-feu

    coup-de-feu

    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    14
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Actually Pete, I think you have described the corporate mentality that has led to a lot of cooks not tasting their food - they are not allowed to.  Corporate can see food tasting as filthy double-dipping and a waste of time and product.  I know of at least one corporate chain where food tasting is not permitted.  I am sure there are many.  They are not going to spend an extra $15 a month on plastic tasting spoons, they are not going to waste time to make sure only clean spoons are used, and how can they tell if workers are just eating all their food and profits or tasting for quality?  
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  12. recky

    recky

    Messages:
    265
    Likes Received:
    28
    Exp:
    Owner/Operator
    How can you actually produce anything of quality without tasting??? When making sous and such like, I find myself tasting at least 15 times, trying to figure out what it needs, i.e. acidity, heat, salt, sweetness, whatever. Then I add what's needed carefully and in increments so as not to ruin it. Then I wait for it to cool off a bit and taste again. 15 times? More like 20 times, thinking about it. It's an integral part of the job description!
     
     
  13. smork

    smork

    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    13
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    this is an obvious situation.   its unacceptable and thats all there is to it.   how much deeper can you dig here?
     
  14. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

    Messages:
    3,355
    Likes Received:
    44
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    even though you stick to a given recipe or formula, I think finished product should be spot tasted for consistancy. Tomatoes are not the same all the time and neither are  a lot of other key ingredients.
     
    sfgray likes this.
  15. chefross

    chefross

    Messages:
    2,784
    Likes Received:
    420
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    As far as tasting is concerned, I would think that before service begins Chef goes through the line and tastes all sauces, tests vegetables, and check the proteins.

    In restaurants where sauces are made "a la minute," the Chef can still check on things.

    As in all things in the kitchen I would think that since the Chef is the one in charge, he/she should have the last say on everything the cooks make.
     
  16. arugula

    arugula

    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Owner/Operator
    Tasting is the most inportant part of making anything in a kitchen. If you do not taste how do you know that what you are making is up the your standards or the guests that will be eating the food. I once had a guy I worked for that used to yell at me when I would taste a demi glaze while cooking it or a tomato sauce because he said people were complaining they could see me "eating food" threw the pass. What upset me the most was the owner didn't defend me infact defended the costumer. Saying that it was an unpleasant sight. Then next thing you know he's at the pass asking. "What's going on with the minestone. People say it has no flavor." Well duh! You told your chefs to stop tasting in plan sight of the kitchen. Well there's only one kitchen in the place that was an open kitchen at that.

    In the kitchen if you are working in a place that does say 300 people a night and run threw your first 4L insert. Upon switching the insert taste the first few dishes to make sure the perticular element that is fresh to the line is in fact that what you think it is and exceptable.
     
  17. chefwriter

    chefwriter

    Messages:
    1,863
    Likes Received:
    412
    Exp:
    Professional Cook
    Thanks for the replies. I'm glad you all confirmed what I thought was obvious. @Smork. There isn't any deeper you can dig. As you say, it is unacceptable. Unfortunately, I have encountered several young cooks, sous chef of a popular high end restaurant and the chef/owner of a local cafe who all told me they do not taste the food they serve, all with the same silly, knowing smile on their face. I was beginning to think I was not understanding something. I will not let it go by any more. 

    And thank you for your support. 
     
  18. unintended boy

    unintended boy

    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    I've noticed that as well. I'm fairly young for my position, but have plenty of experience. My dad was also a chef. I got in the habit of tasting food at a young age when I was cooking at home and just getting my start in restaurants. My father used to pop me upside the head if I didn't taste my food before calling it "done." That broke me of that bad habit at a young age. All of the cooks working for me now NEVER taste their food before serving. I have to come up behind them and check/micromanage. These are all guys 5-10 years my senior, who have more experience. I'm completely baffled. Maybe it's an ego thing on their part?..or maybe previous employers are to blame.
     
  19. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,197
    Likes Received:
    555
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    If it is present behavior, than the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of present management. Whatever people did or didn't do at past places of employment, who cares?

    What you do or don't do in my kitchen, that is an entirely different matter.

    I am not at fault for people's bad habits when they start employment with me, it is however up to me to correct or rectify any that surface and if I don't, then I am not doing my job.
     
  20. sergeantpepper

    sergeantpepper

    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Can't boil water
    There is no justification. The explanation is either laziness or lack of learning.