Sunday, 2 July 2017

Interview with the Chef

If your kitchen was on fire, what would you save and why?
My knives and, in the season, I would grab the truffles. It is better to cry in front of a risotto with Alba truffle than a sandwich with turkey ham.

If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
A sniper or a gladiator.

What’s your foodie guilty pleasure?
Nutella from the fridge and my way to I eat it from the jar.

If you had to cook for your hero, whom would you cook for and what would you cook?
It would be great to cook for Thomas Keller something simple and definitely Italian.

Who would be your fantasy dinner guests?
A round table for five with Ennio Morricone, Roberto Baggio, Vladimir Putin, Clint Eastwood and Oliver Stone, it would be a must.

Sweet or savoury?
Definitely both, depending by the mood and the wine.

What is your favourite food shop or market?
Porta Palazzo market in Turin.

And for a blow-out dinner?
I cannot list, there are too many, but also “chez moi” is quiet intriguing…

What would your death row meal be?
Tomahawk of Chianina, salsa of datterino tomato, rocket salad, olive oil from my mum and one Super Tuscan.

What is your favourite cookbook?
“Az Óceán Kincsei”, a very nice seafood cookbook. Ah yes,I did it!

What’s your top cooking tip?
No passion, no cook.

What is your favourite foodie destination in the Italy?
All the regions of Italy are monuments to the food, but Tuscany and Campania… they are diamonds.

And abroad?
Thailand, Vietnam, Mauritius.

What ingredients are really worth forking out for?
Burrata, Alba Truffle, Formaggio di Fossa, Culatello.

What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?
When it’s time to introduce something in my stomach, I’m very conservative and I don’t go over certain points. I go wild in other things, but a crested porcupine stew it’s a must eat before to die.

In your opinion, what is the most underrated ingredient/cut of meat/fish?
What we call “poor fish”, rabbit, milk fed lamb.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Operations Team VS Support Team

After many years on the field, I see that some basic things are still not clear for many so called hoteliers.
A very basic question in many discussions is:
“Who is responsible for serving a steak to a guest or changing the bathrobe in the room?”
A beginner will answer:
“Easy! The server and the house keeper”.

We all know that it is not true; the responsible is the entire team.
A server delivering a dish to a well-dressed table, a cook preparing the dish on a well washed plate by the steward with a well maintained dishwasher machine by the engineering team, which is using parts purchased by the finance.
A bathrobe delivered to a room by the house keeper, well washed and ironed by the launderer and again we can call in all the staff and
departmentsinvolved in the good running of a laundry.

Everything is crystal clear, right? One Hotel = One Team, no discussion.
Is the satisfaction of the guest high? It’s because of the team.
Is it down? It’s because of the team.

Although, there is the "de facto" separation in "operations team" and "support team".
The operations team is the one delivering the final product to the guest, all those “ladies and gentlemen” playing with their faces, and, I would say, the business card of the hotel as well (Kitchen/Stewarding, F&B, Room Division, Front Office and Security).

The support team is the one, of course, supporting, in order that the operation team can deliver at its best all the times
(HR, Engineering, IT, Finance & Purchasing, Sales & Marketing).

And here we start with the issues: HR that does not hire, Engineering that does not fix, IT not responding..., Finance that does not purchase, Sales & Marketing that sells whatever they want... I can spend hours to list samples, but, even
if they have different duties and completely different jobs, I have to recognize they have two "fils rouges" connecting them perfectly:
- they are professional liars, I mean, Pinocchio is a debutant compared with them;
- when things go wrong, they immediately drop the shit on the operations,
I mean, they are so fast that a Lamborghini is a snail compared to them.

Fortunately I met few exceptions, they are professionals and I can just bow to them,
but I would like one day to finish addressing the majority of the support team as
"those off in the weekend” or “state workers”.
Nothing personal, just realistic, if the hotel is a 24/7 business, the operation team is present 24/7
and the support team has to be flexible and do what they should, just supporting at least 12/7,
unless they are so smart and proficient to dothe expected and more in their 8 miserable hours shift.

I really hope to be wrong, or maybe I’m just a human magnet attracting jerks in my neighborhood.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Kitchen Code

I know, someone will say it is not politically correct.
Well, in effect it is not and I don't give a fuck!
Also it is not written in any school text or any management manual,
but I grew up with this rules in most of the kitchens I worked 
and I expect the same in my kitchens, so let's have a bit of fun....

1. You show up early and you are at your station early, ready to work

2. You arrive in a presentable fashion: showered, shaved, brushed, combed, and in a clean uniform, last night’s entertainment is not discernable

3. You have a genuine enthusiasm for good food, good technique, and culinary advancement, regardless of how much you already think you know

4. You maintain a good attitude, finding satisfaction in doing good work

5. You are coachable and don’t get defensive when criticized

6. You are not a know-it-all (the opposite of being coachable)

7. You don’t take yourself too seriously and are able to laugh at yourself if you fucked up…but you also learn from it

8. You do not dwell upon or allow the feelings associated with a fuck-up to distract you. Instead, you keep your mental focus in the game and move on. If you need to discuss it with Chef then do so after service has ended

9. You season everything with the “correct” amount of seasoning as per the Chef’s preference (not your own)

10. You taste everything in your station, making sure it is correctly made and of proper quality

11. Dull knives are disrespectful to ingredients – you have a sharp knife at all times

12. You NEVER use someone else’s knives without their permission. As Anthony Bourdain says: “Don’t touch my dick, don’t touch my knife”

13. You do not complain – especially about those things which cannot be controlled, such as customer requests/returns, the restaurant hours of operation, having to work weekends, holidays, how busy or slow it is, etc.

14. You show respect for the food, for the Chef, and for how we want things done at THIS restaurant (not the way some other chef did it at some other restaurant you worked at…we don’t care)

15. You show respect for fellow co-workers (team members); this includes cooks, dishwashers, bussers, prep cooks, food runners, expeditors, and servers (yes, the servers too!)

16. You do not expect or demand respect from others. You understand that respect is earned: a) by being equal or better than everyone else in the kitchen, and b) by treating everyone else like they are equal or better than you

17. You understand the importance of a fully staffed crew and you do not call in sick so you can go to that concert, or party

18. You consistently show up for work…if you are sick then be prepared to provide a doctor’s note to prove it (too many have violated the other members of the Saturday night crew by calling in sick to go to a party)

19. If you have a mild cold, or a headache, or a hangover, you are not sick…show up for work

20. You don’t get sick often

21. You have the ability to stay focused under pressure – expect to be in the weeds often… and work your way out of it alone

22. You’re not afraid to ask for help if your station gets slammed…but you understand that help may not be available

23. If your station gets utterly hammered and you sink, you don’t give up and walk off the Line…you break out a shovel and dig your way out

24. You are aware of the kitchen flow and take initiative…if your fellow cook is buried, you help them out

25. You always rotate product properly, practicing FIFO (First In, First Out)

26. You always have enough mise en place for your shift

27. You never throw product out due to over-prepping

28. You NEVER steal someone else’s mise en place

29. You always prepare fresh products daily…do not make tomorrow’s chiffonade today

30. When running low on a product for your station’s prep you always let the chef know before the last of it is gone

31. Never 86 anything unless there is no more product to prep. When running low on a menu item you always give the chef at least a one hour warning before having to 86 it. This allows a count-down for the servers so no customer orders it when it is gone; and it allows time to try to prep more or find a replacement

32. You are fast, but not sloppy…your station is clean and organized even in the middle of the push

33. You always have an extra gear available when needed

34. You follow established safe holding temperatures and verify that your products in the hot bain-marie and refrigerated holding inserts are at temp. You sanitize everything that comes in contact with food, ie. thermometers, utensils etc.

35. You organize your time efficiently, always planning ahead…you make fewer trips to the walk-in, always carrying something both ways

36. You take your breaks when it’s slow, and only with the chef’s permission

37. You restock your station before taking your breaks

38. You manage your food well – if it needs to be in the window in 2 minutes you can make it happen, or if you’re told to slow a dish for 4 minutes you know how to do that as well

39. You have an appetite to learn more, regardless of how much or little you already know

40. You prepare and present the food exactly as the Chef has taught you…every time

41. When you’re having a great day you focus, prepare, & present the food properly throughout your entire shift

42. When you’re having a shitty day you focus, prepare, & present the food properly throughout your entire shift

43. You do it right, without taking shortcuts, even if it’s a tedious pain in the ass. This is called Professional Discipline

44. You do not bring your personal drama to work with you. You take control of, and are responsible for, your “Emotional Wake”

45. You are not afraid to ask appropriate questions about proper procedure…do not hack up an entire tenderloin because you are too arrogant, or too scared, to ask for a demo

46. You work neatly and clean as you go

47. You properly label and date EVERYTHING

48. You admit when you are wrong, but don’t point it out when others are wrong – especially if it’s the chef

49. The kitchen is not a democracy…always do it the Chef’s way, even if you think your way is better, if you must suggest something, do so in private…hopefully the Chef will give you kudos if he accepts the revision…but don’t expect it

50. “Yes Chef!” or “Oui Chef!” is the only proper response to any directive from the Chef. If the Chef says, “Please do it this way” understand that he/she is not offering you a choice; you are politely being instructed how to do it and your compliance is expected

51. You always give call-backs when orders are called

52. You work in a safe manner, thereby protecting yourself and others from harm

53. You always use appropriate kitchen warnings such as, “Behind”, “Corner”, “Hot”, “Knife”, “Oven Open”, etc.

54. You are willing and able to work long hours under high stress, sometimes for many days straight, w/o becoming a moody detriment to the kitchen or the food

55. You work for the good of the team and the restaurant

56. You plan ahead and ask for days off well in advance

57. You always know exactly what is in your oven, or on your stove or grill, even if it’s not yours

58. You are aware and observant in the kitchen: you smell when food doesn’t smell or feel right, you notice if the temp in a cooler is too high, you smell if something is burning

59. You have a “sense of urgency”

60. You work efficiently as regards time and organization, meaning that items which take a long time to prepare are started before items which take less time. During service, if you have a dish which takes 10 minutes to prepare, one which takes 5 minutes, and one which takes 2 minutes, you are able to time and prepare all three within 10 minutes and hit the window at the same time; and it does not take you 17 minutes because you prepared them one at a time

61. You always tell the chef when you leave the Line, including why you are leaving

62. When it’s slow, you always find something useful to do, including cleaning your station or organizing the walk-in. “If you have time to lean you have time to clean”

63. Always treat equipment with respect, as if you paid for it yourself

64. Always work in a manner which meets the health code, ensuring that you’re not going to get someone sick

65. You understand the proper use of foodservice gloves. They are a pain in the ass, but they protect our guests, “No glove, no love”

66. Know the difference between a cut and a scratch; a cut requires stitches, a scratch does not. If it’s a scratch put a Band-Aid on it and get back to work. If it requires only 2 or 3 stitches, please return to finish your shift after the doctor is done. The crew and the chef will both respect and appreciate you more for it

67. If you do return to work with injuries, be wise enough to work within your restrictions and not cause yourself additional injury

68. You daily rotate all your mise en place on the Line into clean containers at closing

69. You stay until all the day’s work is done properly w/o asking to leave early. You ask if there’s anything else that needs to be done before leaving

70. You mentor new co-workers as you would have liked to have been mentored/taught, not necessarily how you were taught

71. You manage your “recreational activities” wisely… too many of us become addicted to alcohol or drugs

72. To be recognized as a leader in the kitchen…you know the kitchen code, practice the kitchen code, and mentor the kitchen code. I know… sappy and proselytizing!
But how else could you possibly end “The Code… of Anything"?

73. And, last but not least, you have three optional answers when questioned: “Yes CHEF, Sorry CHEF, It will never happen again, CHEF"

Potato confit, porcini mushrooms, hidden egg, fontina cheese fondue and zoodles butter and sage