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

ALL HAIL COOK’S APPRENTICESHIP

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

Culinary Apprenticeship John was 16 and a junior in high school. He came from a family of modest means; dad was a carpenter, a pretty good one too; mom had her hands full taking care of John’s three sisters, his younger brother and him and decorating wedding cakes as a side business from their home. The family always had enough to eat, sufficient clothes, a warm house in winter and the necessary supplies for school, but it was apparent that college was probably not in the cards for John and his siblings.
 
One summer John was hired as a dishwasher in a local Italian restaurant; he immediately fell in love with the environment. He enjoyed the banter among the cooks, was invigorated by the pace of business, felt complete after a hard day in the dish pit, appreciated the opportunity to flirt with the waitresses, and most importantly, loved the aroma and flavor of the kitchen. The restaurant gave him purpose and hope.
 
When school started again in the fall, John kept a part-time job at the restaurant, working weekends and an occasional mid-week evening. His family was fine with this since he was able to have some of his own money, open a savings account and contribute a bit to the family fund.
 
As the summer of his 17th year drew near, the restaurant chef called John into his office. “John, I like your work ethic and can sense your interest in what is happening in the kitchen. What are your plans after your senior year in high school?” Jake sheepishly said that his family couldn’t afford college, so he really hadn’t given it too much thought. “I have an idea that you might be interested in. I learned how to cook through the old school of hard knocks and an opportunity given to me when I was your age. The restaurant I washed dishes at was part of a national apprenticeship program for cooks. It lasted three years, but at the end, I was an accomplished cook who could work in any kitchen.” John was intrigued. “I am starting a similar program at this restaurant and feel that it might be a perfect opportunity for you. I see myself in your work and your level of passion. If you are willing, I can start teaching you a few things as a breakfast assistant cook this summer and sign you up for the apprenticeship once you graduate.” John listened with great interest. “Talk it over with your parents and let me know.”
 

THE REAL KEY TO RESTAURANT SUCCESS IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MANAGEMENT AND STAFF

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

WhiteGlov HAVEveryone seems to be free with advice on how to find and push the magic button creating a successful restaurant. There are certainly standard answers (ho hum) like location, product, atmosphere and service. These are certainly critical pieces of the puzzle, but very few experts get to the heart of the matter, the real keys to success.

You have all heard the statement that your employees are your most valuable assets, yet very few operators (not exclusive to restaurants) take this to heart and build a strategy around these assets. Every operator I work with complains about the inability to find, attract, hire and retain great employees, yet very few actually sit down and determine what it would take to reach these goals. A recent article in the Vermont newspaper, Seven Days, asked the question: “Where are all the line cooks.” This was a piece of investigative journalism defining the effects, but not clearly defining the problem. Allow me to provide my own opinion on the topic.
What do employees and employers truly want? What must be in place for great teams to form, work effectively together, and stay together? Here are my thoughts for a successful restaurant staffing strategy:

LIFE IN A BOTTLE – DON THE BANQUET CHEF

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

WineBottles HAVIt is a story, too often in the making. A person, too young dies from self-abuse. It happens frequently in kitchens, the question is why? Now Don, the banquet chef at a hotel where I worked in the early 70’s, was not as young as some, but too young to die, catching everyone for some reason, by surprise.

Don was a real person, someone I worked with early in my career. He was unusual, but not so much by kitchen standards. We tend to attract a different type individual, sometimes introverted, sometimes not; sometimes self-confident, oftentimes not; sometimes full of creativity, sometimes lacking the desire to show what is there, underneath the crust and sandpaper personality. Don was unusual in different ways: he was a very large man (enjoyed eating) with ten kids at home. That’s right – 10! He managed to work, almost non-stop, sometimes arriving as early as 6 a.m. and in the kitchen until after 9 at night. If there was a banquet on the schedule, Don was there.

What Don lacked in finesse with food, he made up for in his ability to handle any number of guests or parties, without much fuss, ensure that hot food was hot and cold food cold, and consistently produce flavorful, attractive food. What was unusual about Don (aside from the 10 kids) was his ability to consume considerable amounts of alcohol without showing any signs of intoxication. In fact, Don drank constantly while at work (back in those days, the chef would turn a blind eye to this).

CHEF ESCOFFIER STILL INSPIRES AFTER 160 YEARS

By Chef Paul Sorgule   culinarycuesblog

EscoffierThis framed picture has been hanging on the wall of my office through much of my career. It is a beacon of inspiration that requires me to self-assess and always ask, “Is what I’m doing right now, good enough for Escoffier?” The answer is usually, “No.” Back to the drawing board, work harder, research and learn more; Escoffier is the standard bearer for cooks and chefs. He has held this position for generations. Most chefs I know would consider Escoffier an influence and will likely have a copy of Le Guide Culinaire tucked away somewhere in their office.
Escoffier was born in Villeneuve-Loubet, France in 1846. This small town in the south of France was eventually recognized as the home to the most distinguished and influential chefs of all time. In fact, Escoffier is referred to as the King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings.
During his 62 year career (must be close to a record) in the kitchen, he was most noted for developing service a ‘la russe (service in courses – a ‘la carte), the implementation of the kitchen brigade (organizational chart with assigned responsibilities) that is still used today, and writing various professional cookbooks – most noteworthy is Le Guide Culinaire with more than 5,000 classic recipes. His repertoire was more extensive than the Grateful Dead’s concert sets.
There are some interesting tidbits in the chef’s history that many people are unfamiliar with. He was a member of the French army during the French/Prussian War where he served as a cook for the upper crust rank of officers. In 1911, Ho Chi Minh trained under Escoffier as a pastry chef in London. And, he learned to control his somewhat rabid temper by taking deep breaths and walking outside around his hotels. Escoffier insisted that his cooks act and look like gentlemen in the kitchen and outside as representatives of his operations. He had to set and example, thus learning to keep his own temper in check.
Escoffier teamed up with the famous hotelier, Cesar Ritz to open and operate world renown hotels: The Savoy in London, Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo, Grand Hotel in Rome, Carlton Hotel in London and the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Rumor has it that he was part of the opening team to prepare the original Ritz Carlton in Boston for operation. He was the consummate hotel chef, defining what a professional kitchen should look and feel like, and elevating hotel cuisine to new heights.