Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Restautant Kitchens 101

"Sous Chef - 24 Hours on the Line" by Michael Gibney   Ballantine Books   214 pages   $25

Having always wondered exactly how a professional kitchen is run; who does what and what tools are used, "Sous Chef" answered a lot of questions.

Before you even read any words (other than the dedication and a relevant quote) you are faced with a labeled floor plan of a typical kitchen which faces a Kitchen Chain of Command.  Even I knew that "Chef" leads the pack and the last straggler is labeled "chef plongeur" (French for "diver;" here it means "dishwasher."  La, the French are droll, are they not?)

Gibney takes through a typical day which starts around 9 a.m. with the opening chef prowling around, making sure everything got cleaned up the night before.  The  suppliers start streaming in which are minutely examined and stored.  He's joined by an a.m. prep cook who gets the ball rolling for the things that have a long cooking time. 

The day winds along - no spoiler alert here - until the kitchen closes, usually around 10:30 p.m.  The customers are gone.  The staff meets and discusses service flaws, errors that can be avoided in future and other weighty matters.

But the night is not over for staff because many of them like to wind down in a bar.  The opening chef can't play too long as he/she has to be back in the restaurant by 9 a.m.  Getting in at 3 or 4 a.m. is not a good idea, especially going to bed hammered out of the mind.

In the back of the book is a helpful glossary of terms used in the kitchen.  Faced with the list of high wire acts and colorful personalities of the personnel - it's too much for me.  Not that I'm a delicate flower - far from it.  But these people all have knives and/or hot pans to give you a reminder that revenge exists in the kitchen.

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