Friday, April 4, 2008

Territorial marking among guest chefs.

Here's a thing I wasn't aware of until I became industry entrenched - there's a status thing among chefs. Not within an individual workplace, that is a hierarchy of which I was aware. I mean between the kind of work you do: caterers vs. hotel vs restaurant and that kind of nonsense. Each can have its own kind of disdain for the other among a certain caliber of chef. For some, your numbers mean everything - if you can't do a party for 1000 in one night without breaking a sweat, what good are you? Others will scoff, and say 1000 is right dandy a number but what does that say about your food? And a blessed few ignore both sides and just do the work. I like those kinds.

I don't know if it is guest chef season right now or what. I do know that we've had our menus prepared for us by someone who has never ventured near our kitchens numerous times in the last week. It's kind of fascinating. The way it works for the events we do is fairly straightforward. Our Executive gets the menu from the guest chef. That statement makes it seem simple, but it's kind of like that string tied to a doorknob method of tooth extraction, from what I've seen. We order the products, sometimes with perplexity, we do the prep. The guest chef may or may not appear with direction and tweaking. We put the thing together, go to the event. Once again, possibly we get direction on plating, last minute changes and the like from the guest chef now that we are on site. We cook the food, we plate the food, we serve the food, and then the guest chef takes a bow. Success!

Now this is not true for every event or every guest chef. I've seen both ends of the spectrum - chefs who were so grateful and sincere in their work that they were a joy to have in the space. We made room for those chefs, gave up the line, shared secrets. The ones that only came in to criticize our work, scoff at our prep team as "mere" caterers and basically gum up the works? Well, of course they saw us at our worst - it was all they expected to see.

If I ever have the opportunity to be a guest chef somewhere I hope I can remember this time and be the good kind of guest chef. I hope I will have a recipe that works as well for 800 as it does for 4; even better if I have the math done for 800 already. I hope I will communicate early and often with my needs and then stop making changes unless I have to well before the event takes place. I hope I consider the season when my menu is being served. And mostly, I hope I remember to thank everyone who helps me.

And if I don't remember those things, then I will not have become the chef I hope to be.

1 comment:

Madeline said...

Hey, about the fruit...yeah he does. Not so much during brunch because they each get their own bowl...but for pate de fruit! Instead of allowing me to make a bunch of different mixed fruit, I have to do light and dark. Let me tell you there are a ton of red/dark fruit but only a hand full of "light" (pear, banana, pineapple,apple, that may be it, maybe peach) sucks!