CulinaryCuesBlog 

A selection of the excellent Culinary and Chef related Blogs located at Harvest America Ventures reprinted with permission of Chef Paul Sourgle.  

I strongly suggest that you visit his site and spend some time enjoying his incredible work.

George

LOSING OUR GRAND HOTELS – THE END TO AN ERA

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

The Waldorf Astoria HotelThere was a bittersweet moment last week when I learned that the Waldorf Astoria would be closing as it transitioned into condo units in New York City. The Waldorf was always that grand old lady that everyone held as a pinnacle to the glamor of the hotel industry. This was the place where kings and queens, business icons and ambassadors, world renown speakers and rock stars held court as they spent time in New York City – the center of the universe. For people in the hospitality industry, it was the Waldorf that defined the best of the best – the grandeur of magnificent ballrooms, the grand lobby that defined class, the restaurants that brought grace to the hotel experience, and the behind-the-scenes enormity of magnificent kitchens, boiler rooms, florists, maintenance departments, and housekeeping laundries. The Waldorf was as important as a hotel could possibly be and as such was the place that defined a persons’ importance either as a guest or a member of the immense staff.

The Waldorf is more than just another casualty of a changing industry and a business environment that is morphing with the times – the Waldorf is the center of the center of the universe. When people think hotels and New York, it is the Waldorf that almost always comes to mind. To lose this grand statement of hospitality would be equivalent to major league baseball losing the Yankees or the Red Sox (always dangerous to list these two teams in the same sentence), similar to losing Kodak as the definition of photography, or Ford and Chevrolet as manufacturers of American automobiles. In other words – this is big.

   

 

“MAKE MY DAY” – WHAT PUSHES A CHEF OVER THE EDGE

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG  published Feb 27, 2017 

PHOTO:  From the line of Cochon in New Orleans - A terrific restaurant.It was one of those famous lines in a movie that survives for decades, that is used, and reused by many to make a point – sometimes unrelated to its original intent – a statement for the ages. Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry challenged a criminal to question his moxie and lack of control by encouraging him to push “Harry” over the edge and allow justification of radical action – “Make my Day”.

Now, Harry was the classic good guy/bad guy – one who we can support and reject all in the same breath; a hero and villain all wrapped into one. To some in the restaurant business, especially from days gone by, Harry and the chef are pretty close brothers from different mothers. Some might make the comparison stating that from experience a chef might be the savior of the kitchen and a restaurants reputation in one moment and an out-of-control “Make my Day” kind of lunatic the next.

Today’s restaurants can ill afford this type of “fly off the handle” type of chef, yet we all know that some still do exist. I can tell you that even those who do not visibly demonstrate those traits of the temperamental chef are likely still holding those Clint Eastwood style ranting’s inside. So, if this is the nature of the beast, why is it so? Is there a course in culinary school or a segment of the apprenticeship model that teaches how to be Dr. Jekyll AND Mr. Hyde?

I certainly do not condone the ranting and “on fire” temper of chefs who think that Hell’s Kitchen is the way it ought to be, but I do acknowledge that the environment can easily trigger the craziness of the rough and tough, screaming, pot throwing, and cursing person in the tall hat. So, for the purpose of understanding, but not condoning this behavior I thought it might be interesting to look at the triggers that can set the chef off on a tirade.

THINGS THAT BRING OUT A CHEF’S INTERNAL WEREWOLF:

[]         UNDEPENDABLE VENDORS:

Chefs take pride in their ability to produce consistently great food, in a timely fashion, that exceeds the expectations of the guest. This is, after all, the core of their job description. This is difficult to accomplish if vendors fail to produce the right food, at the expected quality level, at the time requested. When vendors fall down in this regard the chef’s system falls apart. Now, chefs are not likely to fall on the sword like Gerard Depardieu in Vatel, but they will likely lose their temper.

[]         SALESPEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW THEIR PRODUCTS:

Although I do hate to generalize – far too many salespeople today do not understand the chef, the kitchen, or the product that they are trying to sell. “Where is it from- what farm – what part of the country? How was the animal raised? What is the flavor profile of that pork? What is the typical yield from a case of…? What is the shelf life of that cryovac meat? When was the fish caught and how was it handled?” These are not unusual questions, nor are they unrealistic expectations of a person whose job it is to sell a product. When a salesperson is unable to answer these questions accurately – the chef will lose his or her patience, every time.

WHAT IS A GOOD LINE COOK WORTH?

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

Chef Paul SorguleThe ongoing success of a restaurant depends on two factors: great food and great service. It really is that simple. Of course, the chef, manager, and owner play an important role in selecting the right location and concept, building the menu, designing an inviting atmosphere, hiring and training the staff and orchestrating service, but as the restaurant continues to exist it will always be about an excellent meal and comforting, efficient service. How important is the line cook in this formula?
In previous articles I have built a case for the value of the line cook and the team he or she works with. Most restaurants and chefs in particular would agree that the line cook makes it happen, time and again. Yet, how are restaurants recognizing this? How are line cooks rewarded for their role and for that matter, what rewards would make them happy?
Let’s look at wages first. There is no question that many cooks choose the profession out of love for the craft, the ability to create, and the pace of the environment that cooks work in. However, people need to be able to support themselves in the process. Recent data focused on “a living wage” in New York City demonstrate that survival for an independent single is $12.75/hour (40 hour week). If that individual has one child, that rate jumps to $24.69 per hour. Keep in mind that these minimum figures do not include housing that would be considered acceptable in Manhattan, requiring individuals to live a distance from work, adding a commute and associated costs, nor does it include the cost of college debt if the individual had attended school at some point. The average line cook wages in NYC are $27,330-33,000 per year – right at the baseline for a livable wage for a single person and far below what would be needed to support one child.

WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN CHEFS?

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

Women ChefsWhile I was a part of culinary education at two prominent U.S. colleges, I was proud of how many women were entering and graduating from culinary schools. By the late 1990’s, nearly a third of all enrolled students were women and that number appeared to be growing. This population stalled over the next decade or so, except in baking and pastry programs where the percentage of women was much greater.
Still, in comparison to the early days of pre-1990 culinary education, these numbers were encouraging.
From a chef’s perspective, gender was no longer a real concern. As the restaurant industry grew, what mattered most was work ethic and skill. As a result, I would always tell students and parents that the glass ceiling in the restaurant business was non-existent. If you were passionate about food, competent, had some business savvy and were willing to make the commitment – success could be yours.
Here it is, 2014 and although there have been thousands of female graduates from culinary programs; there is a surprisingly small number who hold positions of executive chef. Now, there are certainly examples to the contrary; a cadre of women chefs who are making their mark, yet no where near the 33% that graduate from culinary schools across the country.
So where is the gap? Does it matter what gender a chef happens to be? Do we even need to have a conversation on the topic? I can only speak from my own experience and do not profess to have any substantial quantitative or qualitative data to support my observations; nevertheless, her is my take.