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Swearing in the Kitchen: Poll Result

Last week I put up a poll about cursing in the kitchen. I also put the same poll over at cheftalk.com, and reddit. What a response. Lets get into the results.

I admit that when it comes to the use of “colorful language,” I take my cue from the great Gordon Ramsay. I find that it gets worse when I am in the heat of things, and the swear words fly out of my mouth.

Of course, things can get out of hand. People have misunderstood what I was swearing about, and took it as I was swearing against them.

Swearing

So, what were some of the responses?

I think it really comes down to the intention behind the swearing. If you’re telling someone to fuck off in a joking manner and they understand this, I don’t see an issue. Same with just general swearing at things/situations, assuming that none of the customers hear.
However: if you’re swearing at someone in anger or doing it to try to offend them/piss them off, then you should probably fuck right off. – EbriusOften

I never call any of the staff insulting things but I jokingly swear all the time at/in conversation with them. My boss however seems to think that we should all call each other sweetie or some shit and always says something. But fuck! Im aussie, be more insulted when I call you mate or sweetie than when I call you a cunt. – taniastar

I’m going to try this approach. It can be so hard to hold back when you want to tell someone exactly how much of an incompetent f-ing idiot they are at times. Swearing at the situation releases the frustration without sending anyone home to cry into their pillow. I struggle to find the balance between being the authority and being kind to people. – ontothebeach

I lead by example and do not swear myself. Rarely can you catch me use swear words. As a result, most of my summer staff withhold swear words around me. Yes, I hear ‘F’ bombs on occasion, but as a rule we run a clean kitchen (double meaning!).– Seabeecook

The best tidbit I came away with is this answer:

Swearing a’la Ramsay is sooo crude, so predictable, and so boring, F-this, Sh*t that, etc.
People, we are artists, creators of new and exciting things, we don’t need old boring stuff to get our message across.
Say, for instance a cook is moving too slow. The standard expletitive would be something like “Move your (deleted) arse”. Bore-ing! there’s no real initiative there for creativity, about as bland as fried ham steak with a pineapple ring.
Instead, say something like ” You know, I’ve seen heroin addicts on the nod move faster than you, are you going to get any work done today?” or
“You call that clean? The raccoons leave my garbage cans cleaner than that when they go diving for the moldy Kraft single slices at the bottom of the can”
That’s not to say we can’t use bodily function or fluid comparisons to get our message across, but there is a protocol, and proper terminology.
For example: “What did you do to that lemon curd? It’s so sour it’ll pull my foreskin right through my rectum” or “What do you mean you want a side of risotto, but with no extra charge? I wouldn’t give you the little wisps of steam from my morning dump without charging” or “You’ve been texting for 10 minutes now, and you’ve already had your break and you still want to get paid for this? You have your head so far up your rear, your sphincter muscle thinks it’s your tongue”
But to swear like Ramsay? Nah, no creativity, no class. – foodpump

The takeaway

When it comes to the kitchen, it’s all about relationships with your coworkers. You can’t afford to breed misunderstanding by using foul language. For me, it pays to keep the language clean.

Your turn

Knowing what some of the people have said in the poll, how will you handle swearing in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below!

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Consistency Your Problem? Buy A Scale

Here’s the situation: Your go-to brunch cook has gone on maternity leave. You’ve filled the position, only to discover that your quality on the brunch has gone way down.

For instance, let’s say the brownies have taken a nosedive in flavor. Pretend someone actually took to TripAdvisor to complain about them.

"Diabetic Cooking" Brownies

So, what gives? Let’s say you do some digging, after the owners hand you the comments and express concern over what’s going on, and you ask to see the recipe for the brownies that the cooks have used since well before you became the chef at the place. You are greeted with something like this:

Brownies

5 cups vegetable oil
10 cups sugar
10 teaspoons vanilla
20 eggs
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 1/3 cups cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp salt
5 cups flour

Wow. This recipe was obviously scaled from a recipe from a magazine or online, or worse – it could even be a “family” recipe. You need 120 portions? Just scale it by 10, right?

The only problem is you know that there are no measuring cups in the kitchen. There are no measuring spoons. The closest you have is a 4L measuring cup.

Your staff have to make decisions daily with the tools you give to them.

– Jason Sandeman

So, by this estimate, your staff are just winging the recipe. How can you control your costs if you can’t even control what your staff is putting into the brownie batter?

If the brownies are not consistent then they will drive down guest satisfaction, which will then impact your revenues. Once that starts happening, your food costs will start to get out of control. That batch of brownies that goes into the trash because they didn’t work, or scraped off the plate before loading the dishes.

While it might seem like I am making a big deal of nothing, make no mistake. Your staff have to make decisions daily with the tools you give to them. If they don’t have the proper tools, they will come up with their own creative ways to get the job done. The problem is that you rarely have control over the end result.

I had this problem until I implemented a scale for preparation use. I won’t lie, it’s a bit more work for the set up. In the case of the brownie recipe above, you would need to find out what actually works as the recipe, measure out the ingredients, then convert the recipe to a scaled version of the recipe.

After this case, the brownie recipe could look like this:

Scaled Brownie Recipe

40 fl oz vegetable oil
2 kg sugar
1.5 fl oz vanila extract
20 large eggs
11.5 g baking powder
285 g cocoa powder
15 g table salt
625 g AP flour

That’s a lot clearer to an employee. The standard is set, and it can scale a lot easier too. All that needs to happen is to train the employee how to tare a scale.

Once I implemented the scaling technique for recipes, my food cost improved by 5 points over a period of one month. Better yet, it was easier to ensure that the product was that same no matter who was doing it.

There are a multitude of scales out there. In the end, you can buy a $150 scale for the kitchen, or you can buy a whole bunch of scales for your staff and put them to work in the kitchen for you.

I reviewed this scale here, and I still use it in my kitchens. It’s lightweight, durable, and cheap enough to replace when it gets broken. Buy a couple from the link below, and get your staff into scaling their ingredients. Your food cost and standards will thank you for it.



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Follow Up to Poll: Swearing In The Kitchen

It seems that the question of swearing has touched off quite a conversation over at the previous post. I also asked the question on various chef forums, and the results are mixed.

Vintage Ceramic Swear Jar or Cuss Box Coin Bank with Appalachian Hillbilly Motif - Made in Japan

Here are a few examples of what people had to say: Names are changed to protect the innocent

I personally feel that if you can’t take a little bit of foul language now and then, a restaurant may not be the best industry for you. I don’t need graphic details of sexual encounters, but an occasional f-bomb or three isn’t out of order.

– Hibagon

In my kitchen, it depends on whether the bosses are in earshot. (Especially the big boss!) The kitchen boss knows we curse, but we try to keep it down around her, because she’s a fundie Christian. The big boss is also a Christian, but she’s a bitch and our boss isn’t.

If the bosses aren’t around….FUCK YEAH I’M CUSSING. And probably telling dirty jokes, to make the virgin guy’s ears red.

In all honesty, though…I really don’t curse all that much, and I don’t say goddamn at work ever. It’s an unspoken rule when you work in the South, you just don’t say that word.

– Gullwinggirl

Definitely don’t curse out anybody on your team. That’s just bad for morale. Swearing in general has always been a general part of the kitchen experience for me and pretty much everybody I know though. Shit’s intense, you’re stressed and I think it adds to the sense of camaraderie.

– flyover_states

For emphasis. I mean, when it’s the third time and you really mean it what else can you say? I’ll write you up for moving too slow.

– Kuan

One could be crude and cruel without swearing, or one could be kind and motivating using the most foul language. To me it’s part of the esoteric parlance used among a well formed crew. Honest talk helps teams meld and it has been used for centuries in military training. It’s fire and knives in a kitchen not cubicles and HR guidelines.

– James

You Tell Me:

So, what’s your take on cursing in the kitchen? Let’s keep the discussion going, there are great points here. Let me know in the comments.

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POLL: Swearing in the Kitchen? Yes or No?

If you have been in any professional kitchen, chances are you have heard a few f-bombs dropped here and there. Today I throw the question at you: Do you allow swearing in your kitchen?

Swear jar

I admit it, I have a mouth like a trucker.

I get wrapped up in what I am doing, and sometimes I just let my emotions go, and the swearing follows. It wasn’t until I gained the position of Executive Chef that the swearing got in the way.

Truthfully, the reality shows like Hell’s Kitchen highlight what the language in the kitchen is really like. Gordon Ramsey may be a foul-mouthed chef, but despite that he is still popular.

It was nothing for me to swear at someone. Of course, when you are neck-deep in the emotion of the situation, it is easy to forget that you are actually wounding someone with your words, even if they are careless on your side.

From now on, I will not allow swearing in my kitchen.

I recently read that several of my idols did not allow swearing in theirs. Auguste Escoffier, Marie Antoine Carême, and other prominent chefs did not allow swearing in their establishment.

Apparently there are benefits to this, which I will explore in a later post. For now, join me in an impromptu poll:

Swearing in the Kitchen? Yes or No?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

I’ll post the answers next week!

You Tell Me:

In the comments below, tell me the reason why you do or do not allow swearing in your kitchen.

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How To Calibrate An Instant Read Thermometer


Taylor Compact Waterproof Digital Thermometer


New From: $10.49 USD In Stock

What good is a thermometer that doesn’t give you the correct reading?

01_NotCalibrated

This thermometer is off. No way is it almost freezing in my kitchen!

You need to calibrate, son!

When I worked on the grill of a busy restaurant, I had to stop (at least twice a shift) to recalibrate my thermometer. When a thermometer is in constant use, it starts to read off by one or two degrees Celsius (or five to ten Fahrenheit.)

Plus, it was an excuse to down a glass of iced water. Working on a grill is hot work.

Why calibrate?

Failing to re-calibrate is like not using a thermometer. I learned this one time when cooking a pork tenderloin roast. I’d learned my lesson. The temperature on the thermometer says it’s 125°F and the carryover cooking took it to 140°F, a perfect medium for the pork roast.

When I cut into the roast to serve it, it was raw. I felt like a donkey. (A little Gordon Ramsey for you there.)

Sure, the temperature read 125°F, but my thermometer was off by ten degrees. I should have calibrated it first.

How do I calibrate my thermometer?

Today I am going to show you how you can quickly calibrate your thermometer. All you need is a good thermometer, a glass, ice, and water. It will take less than a minute.

Yesterday I wrote about the top 6 thermometers I used in my career. I chose the most common thermometer out there for demonstration:


Taylor Classic Instant Read Pocket Thermometer (Kitchen)


List Price: $9.99 USD
New From: $2.73 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Here are the steps to take when you are calibrating a thermometer:

02_FindNut

Find the wrench that conveniently comes with this thermometer. It is on the side. If you are using a digital thermometer, disregard this step.

03_PutIn

Slide the stem through the hole…

04_UseWrenchMakeSureNutSecure

Place the hex nut in the wrench of the holder. Make sure it is secure.

05_HalfGlassIce

Fill a glass half-full with ice.

06_FillWater

Fill it with cold water.

07_RestThermFor6Seconds

Stick your stem into the glass. Your holder makes a convenient handle for you to hold over the water. Wait for six seconds so the needle stops. It should be at 0°C (or 32°F). If not, go on to the next step.

08_TurnKnobInDirectionYouNeed

Grab the top and move it like a dial while holding the wrench. You want to move it to 0°C (or 32°F).

09_TurnBelowPointYouWant

I like to move it slightly past where I need to, so I can correct it to be sure it is right where it needs to be.

10_TurnTo0C-Or32F

Here is the finished calibration. 0°C (32°F).

That’s how you calibrate your thermometer. A quick note: Some thermometers out there do not allow you to calibrate them. Throw them away and buy a nice one from this list:


Taylor Compact Waterproof Digital Thermometer (Kitchen)


List Price: $14.99 USD
New From: $10.49 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Taylor Classic Instant Read Pocket Thermometer (Kitchen)


List Price: $9.99 USD
New From: $2.73 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

CDN DT450X ProAccurate Quick-Read Waterproof Pocket Thermometer (Kitchen)


List Price: $16.00 USD
New From: $8.54 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Taylor 17002 Springfield Instant Read Digital Thermometer (Kitchen)


New From: $6.49 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Norpro 5979 Instant Read Thermometer (Kitchen)


New From: $5.67 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Zyliss Classic Meat Thermometer (Kitchen)


New From: $9.95 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Your turn

When was the last time you calibrated your thermometer? Let me know in the comments.

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Cell Phones In The Kitchen? Why Not? Why Yes!

I know, I know! Chefs hate it when their staff is on the line with their phones. “If only we could get them to pay as much attention to the food as the phone.” Today we are going to look at some reasons why it’s a good idea to let your staff use their phones.

chef, who is this?

“They Use Their Phones So Much!”

I completely get the frustration the older guard have with the cooks today. I grew up without the constant barrage of social media and texting, but I was there for the dawn of that age.

It wasn’t until I found myself in my office giving a corrective action form to a younger employee that I realized that the old system of motivation did not work. The kid could not peel his eyes off of his iPhone for the entire time I was writing him up.

I did what any chef would do. I asked him if he actually had any respect. He rolled his eyes, and sighed. He didn’t get it.

Or was I missing out on something?

I had a problem getting through to the new generation because I tried to fit them into the same mold that I was taught in. The fear that the chef might be angry, or that he wouldn’t teach me. The fear that I would lose my job.

What if we tried to use those phones constructively in the kitchen and engage our staff in the chef’s vision? Isn’t that what the chef is responsible for?

Ways to Encourage Your Staff to Use Their Cell phones to Further Your Vision:

Calling – This one is so basic, but in larger operations a total necessity. For example, I once had a live barbecue station set up on a deck where the guests could order specialty items off of a special menu while the rest of the table could order off the regular menu on the outside. Instead of setting up a temporary MICROS machine just for a pickup item, the cook at the barbecue could call to the chef de partie at the main kitchen to say their item was on pickup and to start the other, faster plating.

Cameras – So many applications for this. Have a problem with the close a cook did the night before? Snap a picture before it is fixed. How about a new plating for a dish? Snap. How about a quick problem to relate to maintenance about the freezer banding? All taken care of by a quick snap. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Facebook – Businesses just don’t know where to go with Facebook. They are scared that any post will impact their business in a bad light. In most cases, their cautiousness really hurts their kitchen. The problem really is that without engaging in the game, how will you know how to fix the damage? In any case, if your cooks are snapping pictures and sharing them with their friends on Facebook, that’s free advertising for you. Plus, it let’s the cooks feel like they are contributing to the energy of the restaurant they are working in.

Twitter – A cook can ask a question on twitter and get feedback in real time. They can also post pictures of the daily specials, or of items on the regular menu. All of this comes at no cost to you. Make sure you are inspiring these up and coming chefs, and the social media will take care of the rest.

Instagram – Chefs, take heed! Your good cooks are already on Instagram, and they are proudly posting their plates. Why? It’s all about being proud of what you are doing. The feedback they get is live, and it’s an ego boost. You will get instant feedback from their followers on how well things are doing, and create a culture where your cooks are proud to be working where they are.

Texting – This is basic. Need something checked? How about a list of prep? How about directing someone how to do something when you are in a situation away from them? Most people are heads down on their phones, so this is one of the best ways to get their attention.

Dropbox and Evernote – These two are my favorite. Need to share the schedule? Invite your staff to a Dropbox folder where they have access to the current schedule. Share recipes from Evernote folders, and they can be search-able through keywords. Plating pictures can be there, everything a cook would need to execute your vision.

Alarms – This last one is my favorite. The ability to set multiple alarms is awesome. Need the stock to come off at a certain time? How about the cookies in the oven, or the sponge cake? Does the pork belly have multiple, time-sensitive steps? Alarms to the rescue.

90% of your kitchen staff use smart phones that are capable of delivering your information to them.

A chef’s job is to clearly indicate their vision and guide the staff to executing that vision. With all the tools at your cooks disposal with their smart phones, why not let them use them to your advantage?

Now It’s Your Turn

So, what do you think of letting your staff use their cell phones in the kitchen? Let me know in the comments!

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printers in heap

Reader Survey So Far

It’s been a week since I have put up the reader’s survey, and so far I have gotten over 40 responses. I’m blown away by the feedback. It’s now clear what professional chefs are looking for when they search the Internet.

The First Impression From The Survey

I will be straight with you; I hate printers. That’s right. Printers. Stay with me, I swear the point is coming.

Demonic machines that spit out reams of paper at your demand. CTRL+P! How many copies? Four? TEN?

What do you mean you lost the last one?  How long again until I have to reprint them?

Printers have an evil side to them. They know that in the current set up of most kitchens if the chef hands out printed recipes, it will make the pages self-destruct so you will be forced to use it again.

No matter how many times I printed off a recipe for a cook, it would magically disappear before the next time that cook had to do the task. That nasty printer always wins.

The Traditional Culinary Kitchen Workflow

The highest scoring result from the survey is the desire to have technology in the kitchen to make our lives easier as a chef. Let’s face it – at this level there isn’t much cooking left, it’s almost always:

  1. Creating dishes
  2. Creating recipes for those dishes
  3. Costing those recipes
  4. Creating prep manual and matrix
  5. Creating station lists
  6. Making a plating manual
  7. The worst part of all – PRINTING ALL OF THE ABOVE
  8. Demonstrating the dishes to the team
  9. Follow up of set standards
  10. REPLACING LOST RECIPES

What if it doesn’t have to be that way?

Sure, you could institute a rule that “no one is allowed to remove the recipe from the binder.” You could cajole, threaten, and even lose what’s left of your hair running around with the recipes. Or, delegate the task to a subordinate – but could their skills could be used in a better way?

What if we put the onus onto the cook? The Number Two concern with the survey was the use of phones in the kitchen. Interesting though, that over 50% of respondents said they used an iPhone, and 40% used an Android. Think on this for a second;

90% of your kitchen staff use smart phones that are capable of delivering your information to them.

A common complaint is that the staff is too busy using their phones in the kitchen. Chefs, it’s time to embrace this technology. Let them use their phones, and deliver the information to them there:

  • Prep lists
  • Prep matrix
  • Recipes
  • Plating manuals
  • Task lists
  • Timers
  • Instructions on how to do something

Where We Go From Here

Let’s look at the different systems that we can use for distributing our information to our team. Over the next while we will look at:

  • Creating a standard template for our information
  • Software to use for standards implementation
  • Setting up a system for sharing
  • Distributing the content to your team
  • Follow up

Now It’s Your Turn

I am liking how this survey is turning out. I think that I am on the right track. If you haven’t already, give me some feedback. Take the survey. I’ll keep you posted.

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Last Wednesday I talked about the petition that Jamie Oliver is pushing to get the G20 governments to commit to teaching our children about food. I believe that it will affect our trade, so go and sign the petition.

As of this writing, we are sitting at 1.25 million signatures. That’s amazing, so let’s do what we can to give it that final push to 1.5 million!

In the meantime, here is a cool video and song Jamie Oliver made about this campaign. Love him or hate him, stand behind him, because I believe what he is fighting for.

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Teaching Our Kids to Cook Will Help Them Appreciate Food

Jamie Oliver is presenting a petition to create a movement for all G20 countries to make it compulsory for schools to teach practical food education in the classrooms.

I believe that we need to get behind this as chefs, or our career down the line will be relegated to cater to convenience products. Let me explain.

Where Did I Get My Inspiration to Cook?

I used to watch the Urban Peasant, Yan Can Cook, Julia Child, and others from the age of 6 on. We didn’t have cable in those days, so the choices were limited on what to watch.

In seventh grade I had a home economics class that taught us how to cook at home. I won’t say that I remember a lot from the class, (except I almost failed because I stole some cheese from another student because I thought the recipe didn’t have near enough to be a real pizza.)

Later there was the Food Network Channel that helped inspire me to open my eyes to new cuisines while I was going to cooking school.

The point is that someone had to introduce me to the culinary world. All that information and learning drove me to my love of cooking.

Today There Are Few Cooking Classes, and the Food Network is More About Entertainment

Kids are not enrolling in culinary schools for the right reason. Instead of going to learn about how to make sushi or cook a Thai dish, the perception is that a training to be a chef will turn you into a superstar sensation.

I have watched apprentices and stagiaires quit when the reality of the kitchen hits them hard in the face. The long hours, missed holidays, working weekends, barely eating and the sacrifice in relationships are just too much to endure.

To get past all that the culinary trade demands of you requires you to be in touch with one thing. The Love of Food and the Trade.

Why Signing the Petition Will Help You Keep Your Chef Job in the Future

I’m all for combating childhood obesity, but go sign the petition for our culinary profession. Here’s 7 reasons why:

  1. Eager culinary students want to cook dishes and techniques are cool to do.
  2. On those long 15 hour days with next to no break, the passionate ones forget about the time and do what it takes to get it done. Those there for something to do will be begging to go home after a hard 4 hour shift.
  3. Having a legion of culinary students eager to learn guarantee that there will be a need for YOU to guide them.
  4. Teaching those students or apprentices will keep you fresh; the best way to learn is by teaching.
  5. Children who grow up experiencing food will be more likely to appreciate what you are offering when they are adults.
  6. People who appreciate food will pay more for your restaurant’s dish, knowing the care that went into the food.
  7. The more food education the more revenue as people turn from processed food to better food choices. Yours!

Please go and sign the petition. Then share the petition with your social networks.

On the petition page you will see the sharing tags. Let’s get the word out there and share the crap out of this petition.

 

Question of the Day

What inspired you to choose the culinary career? Was it a class in school, a television program? Let me know in the comments.

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Please Take My 2015 Reader Survey

Help Me Create Content That Serves What You Need

Now that I am back in the driver seat, I wanted to make sure that I was doing the best that I possibly can to meet your needs. To do that, I need to know more about you. So, I created this quick, ten question survey.

_Reader_Survey

Would you please take a few minutes and complete this survey? By doing so, you will be helping yourself. Why? Because you will help me write and develop things that are interesting and relevant to you and the business that we are in.

Your input is super important to me. The results are totally anonymous, and I can’t tell who said what. Best part? You can be done in about 5 minutes, because I know you need to be out there in that kitchen rallying the troops.

Take Me To The Survey!

Thank you for helping me out!

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