Saturday, February 9, 2013

Can I Meet The Chef Please

Can I Meet The Chef Please

Chef (Photo credit: Vanessa Pike-Russell)
I originally had an op/ed piece planned for today but then I woke up this morning and was in a chipper mood so I changed my mind. My wife and I spent last night reminiscing about old times. We talked about old friends, places we had lived or visited and relived a lot of the good times. Not surprising, to the people who know us, food played a large role in almost every memory.

We remembered restaurants we had eaten in, what was nice at each place and what wasn’t so nice. Both, my wife and I are cutting critics when it comes to food. Serve us a dried out duck or a mushy over cooked pasta dish and we will show no mercy but if the chefs gets it right, we will ask for the manager, tell them how wonderful the food was and ask to meet and personally compliment the chef (the one who actually prepared the dish not just the Head Chef). We have met some wonderful people this way and formed some friendships that have lasted.

English: White House Executive Chef, Cristeta ...
English: White House Executive Chef, Cristeta " Cris" Comerford, background-left in chef's hat, helps prepare trays of food, in the White House kitchen, in preparations for the official dinner for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is amazing how few compliments most of us give to the little guy who is sweating over the pots or grill, but trust me; they will be the most appreciative of receiving a good word. Most of the time when we ask the manager to see the chef who actually prepared this dish or cooked that cut of meat, the first question is always, “Is there a problem, Sir.” and when the poor Saucier  or Grill Sous Chef are told a customer wants to see them, they cringe. You can see their fear as they approach the table. This tells me they get way to few compliments.

I remember when I was young and first starting to work professionally as a cook (I was no chef then) I craved approval for my work. I’ll, admit I still do and believe most of us feel the same. We cook as a way of expressing ourselves. We are artist and food is our medium. Whether cooking for family and friends or in a restaurant, we watch people’s faces as they try our latest recipes. There is always that moment apprehension, will it be liked. We should keep this feeling in mind when we are dinning out.

English: White House chefs, directed by Execut...
English: White House chefs, directed by Executive Chef Henry Haller, prepare for a state dinner honoring Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. The chefs are working in the White House kitchen; the dinner occured in 1981, during the administration of Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is an old saying “Generals get praised while soldiers bleed”. It is the same in most professional kitchens. The praise goes to the Head Chef or Executive Chef and they do deserve praise. The have worked to develop their skills and knowledge. They have built their recipe list and honed their technics to earn their titles, but let’s not forget the little guy. The person, who watches the stove, measures the ingredients, chops the produce, grills that perfect cut of meat and puts together that perfect vinaigrette. They deserve to be complimented also. They are the soldiers in the field. The finest marinade or rub in the world is wasted if my steak is over cooked.

Next time you dine out. Try to remember how you felt when you started out. Keep in mind that a job well done is a job well done and deserves to be praised. Ask who prepared this salad; that mixed or cooked this sauce; that fried this Tempura.  Ask to meet them and thank them personally; make sure their boss is there to hear you compliment them. I guarantee you will always be welcomed back and get the best service. You may spark a fire for cooking in someone young. You may save someone from a bad day but be careful you may make a friend.

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