Scott Green, Delaware North’s executive chef at Fairgrounds Gaming & Raceway, recently wrote about what it takes to be a committed chef. I wanted to share it with all of you. I thought it did a great job of talking about the “organized chaos” that characterizes so many busy kitchens.
In Good Cooking Always,
Chef Roland Henin, CMC
My Moment of Clarity
This is it. It’s my time to shine.
It’s a busy, bustling Friday night and the rush has hit. You hear the sizzling of sauté pans and you can feel the heat of the grill. The micros printer is shooting out a rooster tail of tickets and the rails are already full. We have a saying here: “The tickets are in the pickles.” That means the connected white and yellow dupes have fallen from the machine and dipped into the pickle container on the line. That’s not a good sign.
The kitchen is buzzing like a bees’ nest. Cooks are lost in their actions. They have been down this road before. Each one knows how to work next to each other without bumping, and you hear the constant calls of “behind.” The wait staff and food runners are buzzing in and out of the kitchen in a circular motion. It’s as if the Daytona 500 is being held in our kitchen and dining room. We just hope there’s no big crash that causes food to hit the floor and plates to break. It is at this point that I start seeing the fragile balance that keeps the kitchen and food service operation working together.
This is when it all comes together. This is my moment of clarity. Seconds before the crap hits the fan, everything slows down. I draw a mental picture of how to put the puzzle back together. It’s like The Matrix when Neo realizes his powers of slowing everything down and making his move before he is hit with the bullet. He understands what is happening around him and knows what moves to make. It’s like how Russell Crow puts together all the equations and develops the hypothesis of attracting the beautiful woman from the pack in A Beautiful Mind.
It is my time to react. I am the conductor of the orchestra and must keep our culinary team working in harmony. I am barking out the calls, assigning people to jobs. Moves are being made three, four and five tasks ahead of time like a chess game. I am seeing things being done before they happen. I know what move to make. You have hired and trained this staff to be able to do the job at hand. You have built a team and done your homework. The plan comes together and you have weathered that perfect storm. Food is flying out of the kitchen. It has been prepared properly and efficiently. I have helped my team accomplish its goals for the night.
I am the chef with has his hands in the pot. You give your team the tools necessary to get the job done and only step in when you are truly needed. I have noticed two kinds of chefs in this crazy culinary world. There is the one who steps in when the kitchen is about to fall into the weeds. This chef leads the brigade to victory. Then there is the chef who is in “the corner chopping parsley.” This chef disappears and hides when the team needs help the most. I will never be in the corner….