≡ Menu

Cooking Schools Need to Stop Lying to Wanna-Be-Cooks

Okay, the last “rant” post was about the state of our industry. There is a severe shortage of cooks and chefs worldwide. Today I place the blame squarely on the biggest culprit – cooking schools.

Don’t get me wrong. We all need to learn somehow, and there is a place for cooking schools. The problem lies with the broken promises. Let me explain.

Crushing debt

How do you expect to pay off a 60K debt on minimum wage?

My experience with culinary school, and apprenticeship

I decided on September 2, 1997 that I wanted to be a chef. I remember it clearly. I was sitting in the doghouse on a hot day, smoking cigarettes with the rig crew. (We were waiting for the water test to finish so we could finish laying another strand of pipes.) I was gabbing about the kitchen again, and one of my colleagues turns to me and says, “Hey, you’re always talking about cooking, why don’t you become a chef?”

Fast forward a few months. I’m back in Calgary, and I have a mission. I’m going to be a chef.

There’s two avenues: Apprentice, or go to culinary school.

I didn’t know any chefs or restaurants that would apprentice me, so I chose culinary school at the awesome Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

I spent around $13 000 (after tuition, tools, rent, food, and books) to attend 3 semesters.

After that I went to work at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge where I then apprenticed for a year to write my Red Seal Exam.

Total cost: $13 500 to get my red seal papers.

My position at the time? Second cook. I was making $9.35/hour. I had a huge student loan debt.

That’s the problem with this industry today.

What does it cost to attend culinary school?

While cooking school tuition varies depending on where you attend, for the purposes of this piece, we will focus on the most popular schools:

The Culinary Institute of America includes tools and uniforms in the tuition, and the other two do not. Average cost is listed in the S.A.I.T. site as $750 for tools and uniforms. I can tell you that back in 1998 I paid $1100 for all of the supplies and books listed, (including the ones that were “optional.”)

The promise:

All three sites tell you that you will find work, but tantalize you with the promise of becoming an executive chef, or even a sous chef. There is a case that it may happen that way, but let me tell you. It’s rare. Sure, the “skills” are taught to you that may serve you in that function. If you had a job as an executive chef out the door.

To be fair, they use words like, “You may find work locally or abroad as:”

The reality of the situation:

First off, there is no fucking way that you are going to get an Executive Chef (or a sous chef) job out of the gate. Why would you?

  • Have you ever led a team to execute your vision?
  • Do you have the experience needed to lead your team through all the good times and the bad times?
  • Do you command the respect of your peers, and your team members? Will they follow you into the fire and back out again?
  • Can you comfortably tell your owner or general manager what you can do to increase revenue, while cutting costs related to labor and food cost?
  • Can you troubleshoot a wonky inventory?
  • Can you teach, coach, and mentor your staff?
  • What about hiring and firing staff?

NONE of these things are taught in school. How could they be? Did they have a class called, “How to Mentor 101?” Doubt it.

Crushing Debt

If we were to be conservative, let’s say that we spent around $20 000 to attend culinary school. I am going to guess that you took out a student loan, because far too many people don’t have the money to attend college these days. With tuition like that, no wonder.

You are given the option to pay your debt off in up to 10 years time. Sure, it’s a great idea to pay off your loan faster, but let’s be realistic here. So, we choose 10 year repayment terms at 3% (I chose fixed because I don’t even want to think about floating – my head hurts too much.)

Okay, so that means a payment of $242.66 per month that you can NEVER get out of paying.

So, let’s pretend that you went to the crème de la crème of cooking schools, and racked up that impressive cost of $66 000 over that four year term.

Using the same payment terms, you are looking at a payment of $800.76 per month.

Let’s be real for a second. How much does an entry level cook get paid?

I’ll hire a culinary student at $10.55/hour. That’s if they have no prior experience, and are literally just fresh out of school. Why? That’s the going rate.

Let’s say they have experience. Maybe it will be $13 or $14 an hour, and we’d look at things later.

That means that on average, if they are working 40 hour weeks, they are making around $633 per pay. To be smart, let’s say that they are paying $121.22 from that pay for their student loan. (Assuming the 20K debt.) That’s a large chunk to be paying over 10 years.

If it were the 66K loan, then they would be paying a full $400 (or 64% of their take home pay!)

Keep in mind that we are talking about what the pay is here in Quebec, Canada. In New York the minimum wage is $8.75/hour

Even at $15/hour the take home pay is around $900.

Are there any more questions on why culinary school graduates are not staying in this industry?

So, what’s the solution?

I’m not 100% sure there is one, except schools need to be up front about what these graduates can expect. I don’t think anyone graduates and gets a job as an Executive Chef making 65K a year.

There is another way into the cooking field, but it’s not as lucrative for the universities and schools. That is, become an apprentice. Join the dark side! I’ll detail that in another post sometime in the future.

{ 0 comments }

Ask the Chef Episode 4

The broadcast has already passed, but today we talk about Searing verses Saute, why our meat sticks to the pan, measuring yogurt, making our own Italian sausage mix so it’s gluten free, and how to combat “chef’s arse.”

If you haven’t had a chance to yet, vote for me at the Cono Sur blogging competition. Click here, find the recipe “RISOTTO WITH MILD ITALIAN SAUSAGES, FRESH PEAS, CONO SUR BIC…” and click on the “Vote for this Recipe” button. Thank you!

Your Turn:

Don’t forget to hit the Subscribe button over there if you are interested in seeing my cray cray antics. As always, if you have a question for me, hit me up on the sidebar and shoot me over a question. That’s what I love to do!

Social Media links:

http://jasonsandeman.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook…/jason.sandeman

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jason_Sandeman

Instagram: https://instagram.com/jason.sandeman/

Pinterest: https://www.pinteres…m/welldonechef/

Youtube: https://www.youtube….er/welldonechef

{ 0 comments }

Rigatoni with Italian Sausage, Butternut Squash and Basil

You know that fall is just around the corner by two things:

Your child going back to school,

picture of my son's first day of gr 3

and that dreaded herb sage.

Yeah, I’m looking at you, sage! Worse than pumpkin spice lattes, apple picking, or anything remotely related to the end of summer. Forget that you are totally awesome with the stuff that you pair well with- pumpkin, soups, stuffings, dressings, and yes, butternut squash. That’s not the point!

To me, adding sage to any dish automatically makes it fall. Yeah, it’s magic thinking, so what?

The longer I can hold off on fall, the longer the green leaves stay on the trees, I won’t have to shovel snow, and I can enjoy the pool for that much longer.

Then again, not having a bountiful harvest and plenty of choices for produce wouldn’t be good either. What kind of paradoxal mess have I gotten myself into?

Today’s dish was inspired by the coming of fall. Squash was on sale a week back. I mentioned it to my wife, and she looked at me and said, “what are we supposed to do with it?”

Normally we would make a soup out of it using Italian sausage, and that dreaded sage. I didn’t want to make soup, so I thought about creating a pasta. I remember seeing a pasta dish with butternut squash back in the February 2013 issue of Bon Appetit, and that was where I got the inspiration for this dish.

Just hold the sage Goddamnit. It’s not fall yet!

Rigatoni with Italian Sausage, Butternut Squash, Basil

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 5 portions

Look below to see helpful equipment
Ingredients
  • 454 grams 1 lb rigatoni
  • 4 L water
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • small handful of semolina (got this tip from Flour+Water - a great pasta book BTW, link is below)
  • 5 links Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ medium butternut squash, peeled, grated with the box grater
  • 1 plum tomato, peeled, seeded, small dice
  • to taste kosher salt
  • to taste cracked black pepper
  • 30 grams grated parmesan
  • small handful chopped oregano
  • 6 basil leaves, chiffonade
Method
  1. Bring water to a roiling boil in a large pasta pot; add salt and semolina to the water.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions on the package. (I like to reduce the cooking time by a couple of minutes because I finish cooking it in the pan. The package I used said 13 minutes for the pasta.)
  3. Meanwhile, fry sausage in cephalon pan until golden and starting to get crispy.
  4. Remove sausage and place into a bowl for safe-keeping. (Try not to eat too much of the sausage, because then your family will be pissed that they don't get any meat. I mean, they aren't cooking it, are they?)
  5. Add the butter to the pan, wait until it starts to foam.
  6. Add the grated butternut squash and tomato to the pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the squash begins to soften and turn brown in places.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Once the pasta is around 80% cooked, scoop out the pasta with the spider, put it into the pan with the squash.
  9. Ladle in 4 oz of the pasta water, stir to cook and combine.
  10. Thin out with additional pasta water until the mixture has a nice sheen.
  11. Add Parmesan, oregano, and basil. Stir. (leave the SAGE at home folks!)
  12. Serve

Helpful equipment:

Books mentioned in this post:

Your turn:

Okay, you’re not ready for summer to be over yet. What food says “fall” to you? Let me know in the comments!

{ 0 comments }

Ask the Chef Episode 3

The broadcast has already passed, but here are the main points:

If you haven’t had a chance to yet, vote for me at the Cono Sur blogging competition. Click here, find the recipe “RISOTTO WITH MILD ITALIAN SAUSAGES, FRESH PEAS, CONO SUR BIC…” and click on the “Vote for this Recipe” button. Thank you!

Show notes:

Stainless Steel Soap Odor Smell Eliminating Remover Bar, US version here.

KitchenAid RVSA Rotor Slicer/Shredder Attachment for Stand Mixers, US amazon link

Your Turn:

Don’t forget to hit the Subscribe button over there if you are interested in seeing my cray cray antics. As always, if you have a question for me, hit me up on the sidebar and shoot me over a question. That’s what I love to do!

Social Media links:

http://jasonsandeman.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook…/jason.sandeman

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jason_Sandeman

Instagram: https://instagram.com/jason.sandeman/

Pinterest: https://www.pinteres…m/welldonechef/

Youtube: https://www.youtube….er/welldonechef

{ 0 comments }

How to Select the Best Onions and Where to Store Them

Question of the Day: Where do you store your onions? Let me know in the comments!

– Jason Sandeman

Off the success of the How to Buy Garlic post was pretty successful, so I figured I would go onto a buying guide for other produce.

Today I will talk about how to pick the best onions, and where to store them.

How to select the best onions:

Oh, onions. They are the trinity of the modern, classical kitchen. Without them, our food would taste like… it’s missing something. Julia Child once said:

It’s hard to imagine a civilization without onions

Here’s how I select my onions:

Look:

A picture of looking at the onions

  • The outer skins should be dry, and the flesh underneath should be firm.
  • No dark spots. That bruising signals rot.
  • The stem (neck) end should be dry, but the skin should be firmly attached. If the skin is papery and lose on it, the onions are old.
  • It’s okay if there is a little bit of green on the top (this is known as “sunburn”) but it’s not okay if there are dark green patches on the onion.
  • Look at the root end of the onion. If there are any holes, put it back. You don’t want it because the worms have gotten to it.

Feel:

picture of touching onions

  • Pick up an onion. It should feel heavy in your hand.
  • If it feels feels soft, or squishy, put it back.
  • Rub the skin. It should feel like paper on your fingers, but still tightly attached to the flesh of the onions.
  • Squeeze the neck. It can be moist and pliable, but no juice should come out of it.

Smell:

picture of me smelling onions

  • There should be a slight odor, reminding you that these are onions, but it should NOT be a pungent, strong odor.

 

Storing onions:

A professional kitchen goes through so many onions in a weekly period, it will make your head spin. I’ve always kept the onions in the fridge (due to health code concerns) and I’ve never had the same problems that I’ve had at home.

I thought it was because in a professional kitchen, we went through so many onions we didn’t have a chance to let them go bad. (Unless the porter didn’t rotate them correctly.)

An onion’s shelf life depends on the conditions that they are stored in, their quality, and what they are stored next to. You are supposed to store your onions in a dry, cool place – I always took that to mean that the pantry cupboard was the place. What they really meant was a basement, or a root cellar. (Who has those anymore?)

According to several sources onions do best when stored at between 4-5°C, in a dry place with around 50% humidity.

Onions give off a small amount of ethylene gas. It will cause other vegetables to sprout if they are sensitive. I’m more worried about the transfer of odors.

For this reason, I choose the crisper for home, and a rolling basket for a professional kitchen (away from all other fruits and vegetables if possible.)

Your turn:

Question of the day: Where do you store your onions? Let me know in the comments!

{ 12 comments }

Ask the Chef Episode 2 – Live Periscope 12 Noon EST

IconforAskTheChefE2

The broadcast has already passed, but here are the main points:

      1. Should i move to the UK and become a KP and work up the ladder traditionally? I finished a culinary course at the local community college here a few years ago and i’ve been working in small restaurants for the past 3 years, i have a few offers, mainly hotels in canada but i want high dining stuff

        Anthony Davidson
      2. I usually will cook a steak to well done if a customer asks for it. However, we serve a 16 oz Chateaubriand and we had someone come in and ask for it to be creamated. I said “no way” because you should never order it less than medium.

        Unknown, because the Thread was deleted from Facebook
      3. Can I make yogurt with coconut milk? I can have milk powder but not the liquid.

        Jennifer Robison
      4. I leave a pizza stone in my oven until it gets to temperature (last time I did 375 convection bake). I waited 5 minutes after that to make sure the stone was at 375, then I took it out, made my pizza on it, and put it back in.
        As usual, the whole pizza was good except the bottom was still doughey. Furthermore, it stuck to the stone (maybe I didn’t have enough flour on the surface?).

        Hubda

        Old Stone Oven 14-Inch by 16-Inch Baking Stone (US Amazon link here), and Norpro 5681 Pizza Peel and Paddle (US Amazon link here)

      5. Can I reuse the rendered fat from confit? Can I chill it and have it congeal and continue using it? If so, how long would it keep in the fridge?

        TBonecoco
      6. I picked up one of those big 10 lb bags of chicken breasts a few days ago, and set it to thaw in my fridge. My fridge was way too cold (just moved in), so I reduced the temperature. and now the chicken breasts are semi-thawed, with a pool of water at the bottom of the ziplock bag. This seems unsafe to me

        Greenelfs

Your Turn:

Don’t forget to hit the Subscribe button over there if you are interested in seeing my cray cray antics. As always, if you have a question for me, hit me up on the sidebar and shoot me over a question. That’s what I love to do!

{ 0 comments }

One Reason Behind the Chef Shortage Crisis

Vote for me in the Cono Sur Wineries Blogging Contest. Find my name, and click on the “Vote for this Recipe!” button.

Sometime long ago… in a far off place…

Angry chief in uniform threaten by pan isolated on grey

Have you ever wanted to break your boss’s face for something he or she did to you? Let me know (and the gory details) in the comments!

It was a Saturday and we had closed up shop in the downstairs kitchen. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I had already gone 40ish weeks without any holidays, stat holidays, and only 1 day off a week. My sous chef had, understandably, told me to go home. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and I figured okay. I trusted in my staff enough (and my sous chef could run the show alone) to make it through a moderately busy service.

I sent a text to the owner to let him know I was booking. Next thing I knew, he was in my office. He was visibly angry, moreso than I had ever seen.

“What’s this I hear you are leaving early tonight?”

I sat back in my chair, looked at him up and down and saw right away that he wasn’t having any of it. Great. “Don’t worry, it’s all good. I’ll stay.”

The owner didn’t even acknowledge he understood, but he sure heard me. “No, it’s not ‘all good.'”

I could feel my anger start to come as he started pacing in my office. I barely remember what was said in that impromptu meeting, but the words that stuck out in my head were the words, “MY CHEF”, “Save me money”, “Cut staff”, and “Busy Saturday night.”

picture of office spaces meme

Have you ever wanted to rage quit? Like, grab your shit, flip the asshole the bird, and storm out? Perhaps the guy would grab you as you brush past him, and you’d be somewhat justified in breaking his fucking face?

I felt all of those things. It’s like the Emporer taunting Luke. “Give into your Anger!”

Instead, I remembered that I am a professional, and I had allowed myself to get into a position where this owner could abuse me. (Ironically, in a later meeting, the shit hit the fan between us, one of the owners commented that it was my fault that I worked straight through (without taking holidays) and put myself into burnout mode.)

The problem is, the owner wasn’t wrong. The system of the restaurant was broken. The owner was protecting his investment, and wanted to make sure his profits were in line.

Of course, as soon as he left, I turned to my computer and went straight to the hospitality job search boards. I’d be damned if I let someone treat me like a slave. There had to be something out there that was better than this!

What does this have to do with the industry and the shortage of chefs?

The restaurant business is one where you are there making money. Period.

I recently had a row on Facebook with a couple of chefs that took exception to being called “cooks.” It’s as if they forgot what they were in the business for. I think that while it’s great to aspire to the mega levels that Bobby Flay or Morimoto have reached, at the end of the day – It’s a business… one where you are supposed to make money.

The guy at table 12 ordered his Chateaubriand well done? Get on it son! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard bickering and bitching about this. I usually direct all inquiries to this sticker on my toolbox:

Quitcherbitchen sticker at Amazon store

You too can buy this sticker for your kitchen. Link goes to my Amazon store in the US

It isn’t about your “art,” or whether you are a “chef!” or just Joe the Average Cook. It’s all about making money. Unfortunately, the reality of my next point clashes with why cooks come to the trade in the first place:

The margin for profit is razor thin.

The more money a cook makes, the less the owner makes. The expectation is that you will deliver more value for the wage you make, or you face being cut to the times where you can have less impact on the profit of operations.

In plain English it means that the better you get, the better your wage, but you only work during busy times because the operation can’t afford to pay your wage during the “down times.”

Enter the “Sous Chef.” He/she “cuts” all non-essential staff to cover the cost of running the operations. The advantage to this is that it’s with a fixed (salaried) labor cost. It’s either that, or suffer a loss to the profit of the restaurant (and face closing the doors down the line.)

Some brutal, quick math for you

When you think of it, if you have 2 dishwashers making $10/HR, 3 cooks (1 prep cook, 2 line cooks) making $12/HR, PLUS your Sous Chef who is averaging $15/HR, AND the chef who is averaging $20/HR, you are looking at $91 per labor hour. (I am keeping wages low here to demonstrate a point. Wages in most upscale establishments will be way higher.)

Cut all of that staff in a downtime, keep a dishwasher, and now you are looking at $45/HR, which is half the cost. You have at least 4.5 to 6 hours of downtime during both service shifts (not including preparation time), so 5 hours will save you $225 in labor per day.

That’s an average of $1575 per week, or on a budget of $25K in food – 6%. See, that’s a big deal, especially when you have to answer for labor.

Beginner cooks want to be chefs like they see on the TV

What these cooks don’t see is the level of sacrifice required to get there. Ask Emeril Legasse or Bobby Flay how many times they have been married, or how many hours that they have worked in order to get their empire to the level of today.

Guys, this isn’t a Monday to Friday, 9-5 job. You sometimes are forced to stay until the end of service due to circumstances out of your control. That means that you will have no more weekends, birthdays, girlfriend/boyfriend’s birthdays, or a social life to speak of. In fact, ALL of your friends will be partying and sleeping it off while you get up and slog it out at Sunday brunch.

Worse, you won’t be working during the slow times, and face getting cut during off peak hours. It’s hard to pay rent when you are only working 15 hours a week in January. Better still, you may get your 40 hours a week, but it will be in a split shift – during the peak times of service.

The hours stabilize as you get higher, but then there is “Salaried” work.

There are times where you will be making less per hour than most of your cooks, if only because the chef or kitchen manager of the restaurant spends (on average) at least 50-60 hours per week.

That is considered fair. In a lot of establishments it gets to the point where the chef (or kitchen manager) is one of the first to get there, and the last to leave.

So what’s happening with all the cooks? Why can’t we hire them?

It’s getting harder to find any cooks at any level. It’s because while the cost of living is rising, the wage is not. Kids are coming out of culinary school with mountains of debt, only to find that they are working split shifts, or not at all what they thought they were going to make.

Chefs and Sous chefs are realizing that while they love their craft, they just can’t afford to spend all their time in the kitchens anymore. This is because as you get older, the demands of family and responsibility increase. The catch-22 is that the more money you make in the kitchen, the expectation is you will spend more time impacting the labor.

The simple truth is that restaurant chefs are leaving to go work in hotels and institutional cooking establishments where the wage is higher, and the hours are less. In many cases, it’s the only way a student can pay off their loans!

Next Time

Stay tuned for the next rant post where I describe what I think needs to happen to fix this. (The answer will surprise you.)

Your Turn:

Have you ever wanted to break your boss’s face for something he or she did to you? Let me know (and the gory details) in the comments!

Oh, don’t forget to vote for me in the Cono Sur Wineries Blogging Contest. Find my name, and click on the “Vote for this Recipe!” button.

{ 0 comments }

I’ve entered into a contest with a winery from Chile called Cono Sur. Create a dish that either uses the wine, or that could be paired with the wine. If you only do one thing from this post, do me a favor – go vote for my recipe! Scroll down to my name, and click “Vote for this Recipe!” button beside my name.

Last month, we took a trip to Ottawa. While we were there, we decided check out a few bottles of Cono Sur’s wine to see what they tasted like. (All in the name of research, right?) The wine is exceptional, especially for the low price. It cost us less than $12 per bottle, so we picked up three bottles. After tasting them (OKAY, we drank them!) we decided a nice risotto was just what this contest needed.

It’s funny, when I was in my teens (and in my real early 20’s) risotto would have been “gourmet” food. That’s right, back then I had no idea how to cook, and rice came out of a box labeled “Minute Mush.” Honestly, I had never even heard of risotto – it wouldn’t have even been on the radar because of the “complexity” of it. There are so many steps to making a good risotto it seems like you’d be better off with the 2 minute microwave stuff, right?

There is a lot of fuss about this humble dish. Hell, Gordon Ramsey used to toss plates into his contestants on the hit show “Hell’s Kitchen.” (No wonder our profession suffers a loss in the talent pool!) The truth is, there doesn’t need to be. All you need to know is that you need to follow a certain technique, a set of instructions, and you will be fine.

I continue to impress my friends from back home with this dish. Honestly, if you have all the items on hand, it can be put together in less than 30 minutes. Don’t worry if you don’t have the Cono Sur wine, you can substitue a nice dry white for it. Let’s get our stuff together, and make some risotto.

picture of a plate of Risotto with Mild Italian Sausages, Fresh Peas, Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio

Risotto with Mild Italian Sausages, Fresh Peas, Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio

Ingredients:

  • 4 links Italian sausages, casings removed, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, peeled, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  • 1 package (450 grams) arborio rice
  • 1/2 wine glass Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio
  • 6 cups (1.5 liters) low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups (10 oz) shelled fresh peas
  • to taste kosher salt (Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is what I use, get it on Amazon US)
  • to taste freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp (25 grams) butter
  • 2 tbsp (45 grams) Grana Pedano (and more for garnish)

Equipment I used:

Instructions:

  1. Heat extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat until oil begins to shimmer. Place the stock into a separate pot over high heat and put a ladle inside, preferably an 8 fl oz ladle. (Once the stock has come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.)
  2. Add Italian sausage innards, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is completely cooked. (Break the sausage up with your spoon so that it is well crumbled. Do not overcook the sausage, remove it when it is no longer pink.)
  3. Remove sausage and place into a separate container lined with paper towels.
  4. Replace pan over the heat; add onions and sweat, stirring occasionally until the onion becomes translucent.
  5. Add garlic and rice to the pan. Stir together and cook until the rice begins to toast and you can just see a sliver inside the rice kernel.
  6. Add wine; reduce the heat to medium. Stir until the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid. Take care to scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the pan with your spoon, because these golden nuggets add flavor for your final dish!
  7. Make sure that you have nothing to do for the next 15 minutes… as this will require your patience and care. Many a risotto goes by the wayside because of carelessness.
  8. Add a ladle of hot stock to your pan, and stir it into the rice.
  9. Stir gently until the liquid is almost incorporated, taking care that you don’t break the grains of rice up.
  10. Ladle more broth as the liquid absorbs into the rice. You are looking to slowly incorporate the liquid while gently stirring. Do not add too much or the temperature of the rice will drop and you will have mushy rice with an under-cooked center.
  11. As you are nearing the end of the liquid, add it into the rice in half ladles so you don’t end up overcooking your rice.
  12. Add peas and reserved sausages (and juices from resting) to the pan when you are down to the last couple of ladles.
  13. You should be tasting your rice at the 14-15 minute mark to see if it is cooked. You want to have a little resistance to it when you bite into it. It shouldn’t be mushy or hard (or both) when you bite into it.
  14. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stirring the mixture gently.
  15. Stir in butter and Grana Padano, cover the pan, and remove from the heat. Let sit for 2 minutes to let everything rest.
  16. For service, ladle into a serving bowl and garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and a few Grana Padano shavings.

Now it’s Your Turn

This dish is one of my favorites. Do me a favor – go vote for my recipe! Scroll down to my name, and click “Vote for this Recipe!” button beside my name, and then perhaps I’ll win a trip to Paris and Chile. Thank you guys!

{ 0 comments }

Ask the Chef – Periscope Live 12 Noon EST

There is a new app out there for Live Streaming. Welcome everyone, to Periscope.

This is one of those apps that is promising to change the way that we all do business. I love the idea, so I figured we would reboot the “Ask the Chef!” series with Periscope in mind.

ask the chef ep1 @Jason_Sandeman

Episode 1

Today at 12 Noon, EST – Ask the chef.

You can connect with me on Periscope with the handle @Jason_Sandeman

{ 0 comments }

How to Not Suck When Making a Recipe for The First Time

My blogger friend Nick over at Macheesmo wrote a fabulous piece about 5 things to not follow when reading a recipe. All points are good, and it’s worth the read. I’ll wait for you.

Good, that was pretty cool. In the discussion of the recipe, one of the commentators writes:

I agree completely with the exception of mise en place. The only time I follow this practice is when I do Chinese which comes together extremely quickly and preparation of all ingredients prior to starting to cook is a necessity. While doing other types of cooking, mise en place is mostly a waste of time and just dirties extra vessels.

She goes on to say that she will do the chopping and preparation of a dish while she waits (in between tasks) so she doesn’t make a mess of her kitchen. She gets what a recipe is all about.

Recipes and the professional cook

meme for thinking about recipes

Chef Bishop (my Hot Foods I instructor) always reminded us of this when faced with a new task

Another way of looking at it – in the Wayne Gisslen’s Professional Cooking has one of the best quotes regarding recipe and preparedness:

No written recipe can be 100 percent accurate. No matter how carefully a recipe is written, the judgment of the cook is still the most important factor in a preparation turning out well. A cook’s judgment is based on experience, on an understanding of the raw materials available, and on knowledge of basic cooking principles and food science.

This is at the heart of mise en place. (Us cooks shorten the name to just “Mise.”)

Mise isn’t just gathering your ingredients or chopping your vegetables. It’s a mindset. Let’s get down to what Mise means before you do any prep:

Steps to really understand a recipe

  1. Read your recipe through.

    • Then read it once again.
    • Finally, go back a third time and really scrutinize it. Ask yourself the following questions:
  2. What are you trying to do here?

    • Do you have the right recipe?
      • Don’t laugh, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this happen.
    • How many portions does this recipe yield?
    • What is the cooking method?
      • Better yet, do you know how to cook it this way?
    • Do I have the right equipment to make this recipe?
      • How do I  adapt it if I don’t?
  3. What are the functions of the ingredients?

    • How am I going to build flavor into this dish?
      • Why are you adding orange juice to the carrot soup there? What will adding the onions to the browned part of the pan do before I add the wine?
    • Do I understand what I am supposed to do?
      • What order do the ingredients go in? Why? I can’t tell you how many times I have seen something go awry because the cook didn’t pay attention to the procedure. Take this coleslaw for instance. You must soak the garlic in the pickle juice or you won’t get the garlic flavor.
  4. What are the characterstics of the ingredients?

      • Do I understand what each ingredient does to the recipe?
      • How are the ingredients prepared?

    I had this cook once, and I asked her to make me six liters of duxelle mushrooms (minced mushrooms sauteed with butter, shallots and wine, reduced to a paste.) I needed 150 portions, and she spent over 6 hours finely dicing mushrooms for the recipe.

    When questioned the cook expressed surprise. The recipe was for 4 portions and stated that the mushrooms were “finely diced.” She didn’t understand why I would be upset at the length of time it took her to prep the recipe for the scaled recipe.

    If she had read the recipe, she could have correctly guessed that since you sweat the mushrooms, it would be acceptable to use a Robo-Coupe (a large commercial food processor) to finely chop them. She would have saved 7 hours of labour from that task. (Time is money in the kitchen!)

  5. Are there any points I need to look out for?

    • What is the cooking time like?
    • Are there any potential spots where something could go wrong, and that I need to pay particular attention to?

All of these points are what you need to look at before you even lift your knife and start prepping. As Chef Bishop said,

Think three times before you commit to your task. You’ll save a lot of money that way.

-Chef Bishop
{ 4 comments }
%d bloggers like this: