the simple 'art' of cooking

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by durangojo, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. durangojo

    durangojo

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    please indulge me a short rant...lord only knows where it's coming from....i think that with all the talk lately about cake testers instead of fingers and eyes, pressure cooking risotto instead of smelling and stirring and watching, bread machines replacing breadmaking, just got me thinking....in what direction is the 'art' of cooking heading? is there still an 'art' of cooking that exists or is it being replaced with 'stuff' to make it easier to get the food on the plate, but removes you farther from the food?  seems to me the senses; eyes, ears, nose, fingers and the whole sensuality of cooking is being replaced.  are you as chefs part of the problem or part of the solution?  helping, hindering, changing  or taking the easy way out?...it's really overwhelmingly sad for me to believe that it may become a lost art..... a lost challenge

    i certainly am not against change or technological advances...but i am concerned and somewhat afraid of the destruction and lack of respect for this wonderful art form in the name of progress...we as serious chefs need to do more than hope that it will just get better...we need to be proactive, nurture and continue to teach and to do things the artisan way, not always the easy way

    thanks for the indulgence.......any thoughts?

    joey

    yes, i realize that there is a time and a place for everything, but i cannot tell you all the times when cooking a roast or a prime rib or a whole beef tenderloin in the oven when the meat thermometer said one thing, but my all my senses signaled another.....and i was 99.99% right every time
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
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  2. chefross

    chefross

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    I think you have touched on a very timely issue.

     When large corporations started to make their mark in the food service industry it became necessary to go the route of convenience products and equipment for the sake of consistency and lack of talented cooks..  

    Think fast food places where a timer goes off to tell you when to take the fry basket out of the oil, or a microwave (shudder) goes off on a pre-set timer for breakfast sandwiches.

    In some upscale eateries many of the items are made some place else and shipped to the restaurant to be simply re-heated for service. 

    It seems as though only fine dining venues cook more from scratch, although even then things like bases and soup and sauce mixes are also used.

    Business savy has taken a backseat to the art of cooking. 
     
  3. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Tools such as cake testers can be useful but they should not be a substitute for experience. I can accurately temp prime ribs by touch. Does this mean that I don't use a thermometer when cooking prime rib? No.

    I learned the craft by starting at step one, not short cutting to step five. A chef who knows 1-10 can always jump ahead to 5. A chef who knows 5-10 can not always do 1-4 and sometime in a long career, it might come in handy to be able to do that.

    One of my mentors and the best chef i ever worked for taught me that it is possible to thicken soup with tapioca. When questioned about it, because it definitely was not in his style in any shape or fashion, he told me that even though I would probably never specifically use it, I could never know too many techniques and skills and the knowledge and understanding behind those could prove to be helpful at some time if my mind was open. He offered that soup at the restaurant that evening, which by the was was incredible, strictly to expand my knowledge base. No wonder I consider him a mentor and role model!

    A PBO salmon could be considered a tool, but I prefer and also know what to do with a whole salmon with the gills still in it. That knowledge can also be used to break down whole sturgeon, halibut, tuna, etc. I have worked with chefs that can't do that. They have limited them selves.

    Roasted coffee beans, a tool. Coffee roaster, another tool. I actually roast my coffee beans in a pan on the stove top because I can.

    I don't mention these things to show off. My point is that cooking is a hands on art and the further away from that I get, the more soul my finished product loses.
     
  4. chefhow

    chefhow

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    I think there is a time and a place for everything.  In the kitchen in a restaurant where skilled cooks of all levels work isnt necessarily the place to have short cut items, at home when time/money maybe tight and knowledge is limited, maybe. 
     
  5. cookers

    cookers

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    The only thing I don't have a problem with is pre-peeled garlic cloves. Take away pre-peeled garlic and I quit! 
     
  6. shootoo

    shootoo

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    Agreed. Being only 24 and doing things... I guess I could only describe as "old school" now.... where everything is done by hand and very traditional. Everything is coming prepackaged, pre-broken down, prepared bullshit. I've lost some respect for some of the people I work with for simple asking the question "why don't we just buy ground beef?"

    A place I worked at a couple years ago would buy in frozen gnocchi. I told the chef that I could make it in under an hour for much cheaper and also better quality. I was raised on it, my grandma brought her recipe for it FROM Northern Italy when she came over. I can make it while in a coma... but he still decided to buy in because it "kept longer" I'll stop there before I go off on a longer, nonsensical rant

    I was talking to my 19 year old line cook Sunday. It's just me and him every Sunday. Just before opening I was sauteing mushrooms for the next couple hour's orders, I asked him... "Can you hear that?" and he said "what?" I said "you can hear the exact moment the mushrooms want the wine so they can absorb it" and as soon as I heard it, hit it with wine and I looked at him... saw a glimmer of hope. He's not the best, but every day I can see him pick something else up from me or chef or one of the other cooks that shows he's getting better

    I hope you guys older than me don't take "old school" as offensive when I used the term. I don't know how to describe it any other way. I just feel like I'm one of the last of the generation of doing everything and not taking shortcuts
     
  7. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I agree with Chefhow, ChefRoss and in in particular with Cheflayne.

      This is problem the culinary schools do not address and should.

    They give you a recipe and that is thats fine, but what if you are lacking a specific ingredient or 2 ? They don't tell you what to do or use instead. I have seen this 100s of times. That knowlege comes only from experience, and doing and testing . Everyone should know scratch cooking just in case that prepared item does not arrive that day on time. If it does'nt your screwed if you can't do it.
     
  8. petalsandcoco

    petalsandcoco

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    "Everyone should know scratch cooking just in case that prepared item does not arrive that day on time"

    All valid points. The other day a cook called me up asking me what to do regarding a dish he was making, it called for baking powder and he didn't have any in left in stock.

    So I told him to use cream of tartar and baking soda .......

    The nightmare is when you can look at the frozen department and see all the ready made breakfast packages that are on the shelves, "you want bacon and egg muffin", no problem, "microwave for 3 minutes". You want a turkey dinner", no problem, "microwave for ten minutes"....... the industry/commercialism is to blame and the person who buys it. Why does he buy it ? Because there is a demand for it.  Fast food nation.

    Time is money and money is time. The average housewife USED to stay home and cook. Now she is out working because it takes two salaries to pay the mortgage etc.. But go back 25 years or more, that same woman was home baking cakes and making meals for her family, she learned the art of cooking. Today, that same woman does not have the time/or won't make the time.

    In a commercial kitchen, all pre packaged fish, ready made sauces, in fact alot of it is : JUST ADD WATER. I have been into bakeries where there are containers of ready made cake batches, the baker tells they just need to add water and it tastes like homemade.......I had to leave.....

    That is what this generation has become. Who is to blame ?

    Petals.
     
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  9. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    Last weekend the grands wanted lasagna.

    MY lasagna.

    I have been cooking and for sure baking less this summer, so had to do a largish grocery shop for ingredients.

    Add a few other things (cokes, fruit) to the basket and my checkout bill was almost $100, no coupons, lol.

    I know for a fact that you can get a "rustic" style (tomatoes, nice meat, good cheese) lasagna produced by a major food company that will feed 4-6 for under $10.

    I have tasted it and to be quite honest it was nice.

    Look around and tell me everyone you know has a hundred bucks to spend on one meal, of course I did have ingredients left over for the next few days but still...

    A good tomato will set you back almost two dollars.

    I don't pretend to know all the answers, but I do have a laundry list of the problems (and causes), just cannot post on this type of forum.

    ** oops didn't adress the OP.

    I guess what it boils down to is this.

    People get sticker shock just buying food for the home.

    Why not eat at Micky D's or even a TGI Fridays or Chili's.

    Unless you live on cereal and sandwiches, it is cheaper.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  10. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    The reason those places are cheaper is because they don't prepare things the same as I do at home. When I make a hamburger at home it sure as hell doesn't resemble a quarter pounder.

    Restaurants have to buy ingredients just like home cooks do. An item bought at a grocery store will not be any cheaper from a purveyor (to restaurants) because basically you are paying to have someone bring product to you. Also restaurants have to pay cooks to produce the meals, another cost. So if eating at a restaurant is cheaper than eating at home, the math is easy. It is cheaper due to inferior product.
     
  11. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    You hit the nail on the head.

    I am just pointing out that for the oh let's just say 3-4 years prices have increased....on everything.

    To set up a home kitchen to cook great (even mediocre) food is going to cost a chunk of change that could be applied to rent, gas to get to work....maybe Cobra ins 'cuz you've been laid off.

    Whatever.

    So you eat cereal at home, go to work (if you have a job) maybe drag a sandwich from home for break (lucky us, we get to enjoy the "family meal") and pick up something cheap to eat for dinner 'cuz you only have a few bucks left till payday this Friday...and you will need to save that for gas.

    Because you have to do the repeat tomorrow.

    Totally not trying to poke the bear, lol.

    Just hopin' and prayin' that things start looking up "late this fall".
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  12. chefedb

    chefedb

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    If all the places  bought that lasagna,  what would make you choose one place over another to go to , when they all taste the same. Same goes for all other already made entrees. Maybe it would be the color of tha paint on their wall or how close to the house.

    This to me is not dining, this is  glorified fast food with a white tablecloth. like Red Lobster. or Olive Garden
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
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  13. durangojo

    durangojo

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    people can eat well and healthy if kept simply enough. it just takes some planning and doing...all the money saved by eating at mickey d's or the like or primarily eating processed foods will be spent at the doctor's office down the road...that's a fact.

    joey
     
  14. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    There is fueling and then there is eating.
     
     
  15. durangojo

    durangojo

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    to worsen it, all the current indicators point to even higher food price increases, pretty much across the board.... mostly due to this very prolonged blasted drought and heat and some due to supply and demand, such as beef(which is also very drought affected). produce at the farmer's market is higher i've noticed this summer...i'm guessing because it takes more water to irrigate. i expect some kind of price increase, but not to the extent i've seen...soooo, what to do? how does one go about feeding their family healthy, nutritious meals and still make it interesting and fun? no one wants to eat pork and beans every night.  actually what i understand least of all is how anyone can afford to shop and feed their families buying at WF's or the like. i am fairly conscientious about what i eat, but come on....organic asparagus for $11.99 a lb. or from your local groceria for $3.99......not a hard choice....for $3.99 a lb i'll wash it 3 times if i have to!  all of these price increases will get passed along to every food store, hot dog stand, mobile truck, caterer and restaurant. who knows how it will will affect them, but it will. sadly some will be forced to close, the lucky ones will have to reinvent themselves and downsize again for the upteenth time or risk going out of business. geez, not to sound pessimistic, but sure sounds like we're all dust bowl children....of course if you really want to get depressed we can always talk about the disparity between the rich and the poor's eating habits! ...... oh,the horror

    joey
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012
  16. succotash

    succotash

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    Do you cost out your recipes?  If I buy a case of tomatoes directly from a farmer, it is going to be significantly less per tomato than when you buy 2-3 from your local grocery store.  How is the tomato you get at a grocery store,  that traveled half way across the country and wasn't even ripened properly (gassed to turn the color red), better quality than the one I buy bulk directly from the farmer.  The tomato is just one example.  Also, if I order 1,000 worth of product from purveyor they don't charge me for delivery.  Restaurants buy wholesale, we get our product for less than you do in the store. Regarding labor, one cook takes 45 minutes - 1 hour to prep 100 portions of Lasagna at $12 an hour.  That is 9-12 cents per portion. 

    Regarding the OP, everything has a time and place in the Culinary world.  Yes, I learned how to make puff pastry by hand.  I also don't see any reason why you shouldn't use a sheeter.  For educational purposes I will always teach someone how to make it by hand first.  You get a better feeling, and the organic understanding.  I will also explain what is occurring when you bake it.  How the water content in the butter evaporates, leavening the alternating layers of dough as it bakes, causing the "puff".  You can't be too hardened against change and innovation.  Technological advancement will continue to affect every aspect of our lives.  If our most skilled and talented craftsman are refusing to use every resource available how will we continue to grow and define our own food and place in time?  Yes, have an understanding of food from Joe Caveman to Escoffier. NO, do not become closed minded, especially at a young age.

    A little off topic, but here is an equation that may help.  Effort < Effect, Cost < Profitability, Creativity = Popularity.  (effort+cost) / creativity (= or <) (effect + popularity) / profitability.  I know it doesn't translate into actual numbers but they are all things that I take into account when analyzing a menu item.
     
  17. chefedb

    chefedb

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    One day Sysco came with an order about $4000.00. On the  bottom of last invoice they added on for delivery, yet at that particular time gas was going down around July 4th. No one ,salesman, computer or anything else mentioned that prior. I told driver take back the whole order I refuse it and refuse to pay delivery charge, The price of product has all of that already built in. Can I charge my customer a delivery charge ? No I can't and I would not. They called  me up and started to tell me about their cost I told them I should deduct becuse gas was going down and that was also built into their price     . Delivery price waived

    Price of corn goes up, next day Ice cream goes up or paper will go up as will the price of a toilet seat. They have enough corn in storage where they dont have to up everything the next day. Its just plain GREED. Screw the consumer seems to be the name of the game.
     
  18. shootoo

    shootoo

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    From what our beef supplier is saying, most farms are taking their stock in early so the prices are only going to get worse come November or December

    Bad for us steakhouses
     
  19. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    I have costed out a couple of recipes over the course of my career.

    I can also purchase tomatoes for home use from farmers so I am not relegated to a tomato  that traveled half way across the country and wasn't even ripened properly (gassed to turn the color red).

    Even with your free delivery for a $1,000 order, your buying wholesale, and your labor cost 9-12 cents for a portion of lasgana; I find it hard to believe (if I bought the exact same ingredients that you do for lasagna), that it would cost me more to prepare it at home; than it would to come into your restaurant and purchase it for dinner.
     
  20. durangojo

    durangojo

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    chefed,

    i could feel your blood pressure rising with your last post. you are exactly right about a 'fuel' surcharge being added onto invoices...mine is there week in and week out no matter what the price of fuel is. i'm not buying this particular brand of snakeoil (higher gas prices) form the food purveyors, as i think it's just another way for them to 'stick it' to us all. they know we will pass the cost along to the consumer....we are really just their henchmen....the price of doing business or getting the business??? as you pointed out, there is already a charge rolled into the product price to begin with. as we all realize, there is a sliding price scale depending on volume. volume buyers get bigger discounts...that's the norm....that's fine....if i were buying in volume i would expect the same...it is the nickel and diming that drives me crazy.....a $5 surcharge here, a $5 surcharge there....god, sometimes it's a wonder anybody makes it in this business! we have to be ever vigilent about checking and double checking invoices.....

    @succotash,

    i am in no way poo-pooing advances in technology. i welcome them....applaud many.  some have made my life ALOT easier for sure. to name a few; peeled garlic, shallots and pearl onions, iqf boneless skinless chicken breast, iqf veal cutlets, shoot, iqf anything.  returning to my original post, my concern is that the simple 'art' of cooking and food may be getting lost or at the very least compromised. knowledge, techniques, skills and understanding and love of food are being traded in for the sake of progress....what progress?  getting the food on the plate faster?  so the diner can eat faster, pay up faster and leave sooner...then the next one takes his place. seems this is also part social issue....that we are in such a hurry these days. that everything we do is hurried. we eat, not dine...no lingering over friends, conversation and good food for hours.....restaurants may want you to linger, but not too long...we gotta turn the table! it's all about the numbers and the bottom line and the numbers!

    alrighty then,

    joey