What you DIDN'T Learn in School

Joined Nov 17, 2002
This was a cool question...

I was asked if there was one course/subject matter that needed to be added to a culinary curriculum what do I think it should be....

Didn't take me any time to dwell on my reply, but since then I have thought of a few others...

I said a maintenance class...learn how to fix broken dishwashers, alto shams, stoves, ovens, the kind of crap that we are being charged an arm and a leg for...it would be kinda nice to have the knowledge to break out a tool belt and fix a convection oven that the thermostat went out on instead of having to deal with the BS of waiting on Maintenance or worse yet having to make a service call...

My second choice was spelling...LOL

How many chefs do you know that are good spellers???????LOL

Whaddya think? What would be your choice of added curriculum...?

Inquiring minds want to know...

Joined Aug 21, 2004
I didn't attend a culinary school, I've only aquired my knowledge through 20+ years of "hands-on" experience. I'll agree with Chefmikesworld about learning maintenance, a cook/chef will get themselfs out of more than less stressfull situations if the're capable of repairs. Anthony Bordain shares some of these in his book "Kitchen Confidential", plumbing, refrigeration, electrical are but a few of the key topics.

I have angered many a maintenence-person by taking charge. Lighting pilots, rewiring tilt skillets, or by simply taking the time to walk around the kitchen with some tools and tightening screws on doors (walk-ins, reach-ins, equipment.)

A good background in english is essential, also knowing how to pass-on information with-out your personal commentaries; that is what meetings (closed door) are for.

A good basic foundation in mathmatics and being able to calculate food and labor cost quickly and accurately. Converting recipies on-the-fly is a plus+.

Listening to you fellow-workers, employees, and team-members is being able to not only hearing what they are saying, you must learn how to hear the messages behind them. For example I have never had the courage to ask my chef's what they really ment by "Do I have to spell it out for you ?" Looking back I wish I would have said "Yes, Chef ! Please, Spell it out for me."

Learning how to set-up a line for speed! I have worked on very fast lines and a big key component is being able to drive a nail through one foot! :eek: As a line-cook I should be able to drive a nail through one foot, pivot 360 degrees and reach every thing I need !

Mise en Place, Mise en Place, Mise en Place, Mise en Place....enough about that.


Joined Aug 6, 2004
I'm going to have to go with the kitchen spanish, that would have helped tremendously.
Joined Feb 22, 2002
"The differences between cooking school and the real world" :D
Speed and accuracy--none of this "You have 6 hours to make braised green beans" or whatever
Joined Nov 17, 2002
These were fun....

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work under a chef in Mexico in the early 90's...I had a basic understanding of spanish when I went, but having my PhD in kitchen spanish and rockin' on a seven man line where no one had their PhD in KitchenGringo was a definite rush...Not only am I more humble, I also have an understanding of what it is like to be in a different country and not being able to speak the language...was really a fun and humbling time in my life as a culinarian...

Anger Management would be a good one...although I must add that kitchens are a lot more mellow now as they were when I was learning...there are still tantrums, it is the nature of our business, but some tempers are no comparison to some of the chefs I worked under 20 plus years ago. And going with that thought, nor am I the psychopath I was 20 years ago as far as dealing with my own staff...some say it is changing with the times, I say it is a maturity thing....learning how to deal with your staff through compassion for who and what we are, is a lot more effective than making them run in the opposite direction when they see you coming...just too bad I learned that lesson way too late in the game...

As far as school versus reality, all I can do is quote Chef Roy (instructor, mentor and lifelong friend) "Well, now you know enough to go out there and get your a** kicked..." And yes, he is still the one I call when I am getting my butt kicked, although these days it is with numbers and paperwork not by flinging and juggling saute pans...

Fun stuff...

Joined Aug 11, 2000
A couple of years ago I was on the decom board for the Community College with culinary/hospitality in town...the administration asked a group of 15 of us what skills we'd like the students to have that would benefit them in 5 years/10 years.
The list included working with equipment that is currently in restaurants....wood fired ovens being something the college did not have.
Being able to think seasonally and know what it takes to buy from local farmers.
Being able to process/store alot of raw product that may show up...ie, there was a phenominal price on bananas how to you utilize them initially then store the bounty for later.
The hot new combo is RD/CC.....dieticians that can cook!!!!!! finally.
Recipe writing is HUGELY remiss amoungst my comrades.....to get a decent recipe out of them is unreal, most of the time I end up having to write it myself.
Joined Nov 17, 2002
Hey Shroom,

We must have been writing at the same time...

Great points....

Utilitization of product...boy that is a big one...how many times has the answer been to make another cambro of soup to put in the freezer???? Jeez...gimme a break...

Knowing your area and seasons is another great one, and having the knowledge to utilize them is even a bigger bonus. I first moved to my current home in Knoxville a couple months ago and one of the first things that I did was find the farmers markets, the dairy farmers, the wineries and just going out and meeting with Chef's/culinarians/restauranteurs in the neighborhood...the ability to network and knowing what is available in your area is one of the most valuable tools, especially when you transfer that knowledge into branding your menues...

Good stuff...it sounds like that committee would have been a lot of fun to be on...

Joined Dec 8, 1999
Management skills. Knowing how to relate to and motivate different personality types. Knowing when you should blast someone for a mistake and when you should let them stew in their own juices over it. With training costs being what they are, you'd think this would be a priority.
Joined Nov 17, 2002
Greg this too is an interesting train of thought...

Can we actually learn from a book how to deal with the diverse staff that our career dictates? Some yes and some no...

Through trial and error we learn how to deal with the whiners, the non-hackers, the drunks and druggies, the non-English speaking, the Houdini's etc.

I think that we can learn different approaches, different skills in psychology and sociology that may in the long run serve in our best interest, but learning how to deal with any of the above in the midst of the insanity in our profession sometimes is easier said than done. I don't think we can learn that in a book or from any classroom scenario. Is a live and learn situation.

I just wrote an article called "The Cultivation of Kitchen Spirit" that is pretty good and explains some of my kitchen philosophy on this subject...is kinda fun. If anyone is interested in it I can send it to you...

Great thought process Greg...

Joined Aug 16, 2004
work relationship and management would be skills to acquire.

Being effective it's not something you learn in school, you learn more in that bussiness by working by yourself, high curiosity pays off, reading, looking, listening to your experienced collegues, make sure you have the passion because it can be a nightmare!!!

As a chef you learn to respect the product you work with...as the people you work with too!! But sometimes when someone who has not much experience try to act bigger then the chef, it's a little bit difficult to keep it cool!!! Dealing with food is easier then dealing with people

To be able to count fast with your brain is kind of a plus, :rolleyes:
Experience is still the thing who count the most!!! :D ;)
Joined Sep 27, 2004
I'm with Suzanne on this one. After 28 years as Exec chef and the like it took the last ten to mellow and aquire patience. I read a lot of the forums on losing ones cool in the kitchen, (I'm just as bad as the rest, i have had my moments and i'm sure there are still people out there that hate me) people skills are learned and you have to mature to develope patience. Lets face it there are some really slow learners out there. Then there are the ones that just don't have it at all (GO HOME Before I say or do somehting I will regret!). Its Friday night 200+ covers and they just can't get it together, and all you need from them is lettuce washed or prawns peeled and with every single job you need to check them (or reshow them for the 4th time) otherwise it will get screwed up.
The realization I had was maybe It was my fault, I didn't take the time to train or was to busy to follow up? The Sous Chef or department head didn't bring it to your attention untill it's to late, or you did not give them proper direction on the peson in question. Now you have an individual who either walks out on you causing more issues and stress, or you fire them and feel you would rather do it yourself and do it right the first time plus the bonus of added work load on the rest of your team.
Lets face it we have all been there at one point or other. One of the larger Companies I worked with provided courses like Strategic Account Management, they trained you in how to profile people and their skills. I would totally recomend similars courses they can be a huge asset to you. Once you get people who are valuble assets to your team you really want to hang on to them. If your a Dictator you will never win them over. Making someone cry or turfing their butt in the middle of the rush might feel like satisfaction right then; but when you go home do you ever think that you are not the only one with a family. What a long winded fool, time to go thats my thought for the day.

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