Tip/ guidance for the young chef :Tart tatin for beginners 

I have been asked few times for a tart “Tatin” recipe , as  you know i am not a pastry chef ,and I look at things trough the eyes of a cook/ chef de cuisine .

Tart tatin is a method I always liked , so I made many tests and experiment and trust you possibilities are almost endless , when the request to share my ideas regarding tart tatin came I thought it would be great to share with you some guide lines  tips and methods , so here is a link to a PDF doc i wrote for you to which I hope will help you to achive a good result, it’s a long article and not you’re everyday recipe .

Tart tatin by Michael Katz

The main photo at the top is of the one that  i have for this article and the base is a cake base ( see article for method)

The following photo is how I have started the tart .

The following photos are to give you idea of how endless variation out there and the sky is the limit .


please feel free to ask me any question, remarks – good luck and thank you for reading

Michael

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Tip/ guidance to the young chef: there is only one competition…


The culinary competition that is, to me, the best and most important in the culinary world or at least for me is The Bocuse d’Or:
In 2013, I published a short article that tells a little bit about the competition (because in that specific year I followed it very closely), and I think that when people ask me what I think about cooking competitions, my answer is:
For competitions of any kind there is tremendous added value; a cook who prepares for a competition generally prepares himself via studying, training, consultation with other professionals, and on the day of the competition (and this is true of any competition) there are elements like pressure, fear of mistakes, dealing with an unfamiliar arena, and more…an experience that provides a wealth of professional experience.
It is difficult for me to follow everything that happens in the world of competitive cooking, but there is one competition that I think someone who wants to see an unparalleled professional world—full of passion, ego, pressure, rivalry, pride, attention to the smallest details, huge budgets, and years of training—I recommend such a person take interest in and get to know the highest-regarded competition in the world, the Bocuse d’Or, or the Golden Bocuse (named after the famous chef, Paul Bocuse).
Here are a few details that I hope cause you to read more; there is a lot of material about this competition but I will summarize it briefly:
The competition was established in 1983 by the business group of the well-known French chef Paul Bocuse.

The competition is held every two years at the famous “Sirha” culinary fair, which is considered one of the most important culinary fairs in the world—it is in Lyon, France (in parallel with this competition there is also the World Confectionary Cup competition and the Bread-Baking Competition—both of which are considered the highest competitions in the world).

The competition is held over two days.

Teams of 2-3 people take part in the competition and represent a country—they are those who already won qualifying competitions in their home countries; each team has a mentor who does not take part in the competition but who also serves as a judge in the tournament (of course he doesn’t score his own country).

It is important to note that in order to reach the tournament, each country must have an organization/association under which anything related to chefs is organized in the country.

In 1997, something happened that turned the competition into something that the competitive cooking world had never known—fans from Mexico arrived and behaved like in a football (soccer) match. Since then the atmosphere in the tournament area has resembled the Olympics—fans come from all over the world.

Teams come with huge budgets—rumors hold that the US delegation in 2012 invested $1 million for training. The French chef who won in 2007 worked 6 hours a day with 3 mentors who each had the MOF (French artisanal degree)

Rasmus Kofoed—from Denmark, in 2005 he came in 3rd place, in 2007 he was in second place, and in 2011 he won first place, gold—he had invested all of his money and 7 years of training, including sponsorship of the Danish national airline.
One last note:
I heard once a newspaper reporter summarize by saying that whoever wins this competition is the best chef in the world—my answer to him is that the winner is not the best chef in the world, because there is no such thing, but there is no doubt that the winner is the person with the best skills if he is to win the hardest competition in the world.

Thanks for reading,
Michael

Here are a few great links:

Here is a link to the 2015 competition
Here is a link posted by Adar Kaplan-Mor that tells of the American 2nd place finish in the Bocuse d’Or 2015

The posters for the teams that competed in 2013, here you can also vote on the best poster.

Bocuse d’Or -Wikipedia

Home page of the competition

Link to the website for the “Sirha” fair

A short clip on Rasmus Kofoed

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Tips and Guidance for the Young Chef: The Relationship between a Chef and Customer from a Slightly Different Perspective

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Sometimes as cooks we forget that we are, in fact, service personnel; over the years, we gain experience, something which brings us higher-ranking positions. At the same time, customers know us, cherish us, trust our work, connect with our work, and, even more so, trust is established between a cook/chef and customer.

One of the people I most appreciate in the field and in whose presence I get to be a lot is the chef Boaz Tsairi, known as one of the leading masters in Israel in everything related to Japanese cuisine.

Over the course of all my meetings with Boaz, I have been exposed to a number of stories from the Japanese kitchen, and here is one that I really loved and which I thought would be nice to share—it shows a little about the trust between a customer and chef from a slightly different perspective:

Many of you have heard of the Fugu fish, which to us is known as the Abunafkha (puffer fish),In Japan the fish is called Fugu and is considered a delicacy. A dish can reach a price of $120. What is interestingly apparent is that the fish isn’t the most amazing in terms of texture and taste, so why in any case did the fish become such a highly demanded product? The reason seems to be that it’s an issue of trust—the trust of the partaker in the master chef.

According to tradition, at the end of the meal the diner and the master bow to one another in a sign of gratitude and recognition—the diner bows in recognition of his gratitude that he is still alive, and the master bows in recognition of his gratitude that the diner placed his trust in the chef.

In Japan, standard practice is that the appellation “master” is given to those who have studied the tricks of the trade for 7 years. After seven years he is called “master”—and only after that is the chef allowed to study and specialize in preparing the fugu fish. The expertise is long, and costs a few thousand dollars, mainly because of the fact the trainee has to clean around 100 fish before he is allowed to sell them and serve them to customers.

In the last seven years, no one has died of poisoning from consuming the fish.

Here are a few links that you ought to read and watch:

A link to the Wikipedia page

Two short clips showing the cleaning of the fish:

clip 1

clip 2

 

 

Thanks for reading,

Michael

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Tips and Guidance for the Young Chef: Using another Building Block—”Gazpacho” Soup

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I want to share with you how I feel about “building blocks” in the kitchen: many basic recipes are included in this category, from which an endless variety of recipes can be made. For example: mayonnaise, pastry cream, and many more. Now I want to share with you a few less conventional building blocks that I have gathered over the years, one of which is gazpacho soup, from which you can expand to an endless number of cold soups—why? Tomato is easy to match to different tastes. In the following link there is a nice, short explanation on matching flavors, I recommend reading it. Many of you professionals have already seen that tomato is suitable to a wide rainbow of flavors: sweet, spicy, and countless others. Here is the link

I truly believe that there are very few people who don’t know gazpacho—a soup known for its Spanish roots, or more correctly, Andalusian, but anyone going deeper into history will be surprised to find out that there are a few theories as to how the soup reached Spain.

There are those who claim that it originates more from the Arab influence in the area that came with the Romans—there are an endless number of recipes and variations, but today many recipes, including the basic recipe that I provide here, are not true to the original, a little richer in flavors and not including bread. It is interesting to note that gazpacho is a variation on bread soup—a soup made of a tomato base and dry bread—what made gazpacho special was its rich taste and the use of vinegar to provide its special “kick.”

One of the nice things about this soup is that it does not only have a great variety of flavors, but a great variety of textures as well. You can prepare it smooth and creamy, coarsely textured, smooth but with many pieces of vegetables and bread—it isn’t by chance that this is a soup to which many chefs like to give their own interpretation.

In the attached picture above, I photographed 3 soups that I made, all of which are derived from the same base that you can read below. It is a base that I have used for years; you don’t need to love it or to agree with it, you can use any recipe that serves you for years. For me personally, it is most important that you understand the way of thinking and the use of recipes that I consider “basics.”

I used the base to create watermelon gazpacho and white-apricot gazpacho—now from here you will be able to go in any direction you want. Building blocks like these allow you to create easily a new, refreshing soup every day—I hope this helps.

Basic Recipe, a Little History, and Recipe Variations:

The basic gazpacho recipe that I love to use—again, all of the variations that come later can be suited to your favorite recipe.

Gazpacho Soup

1 kg clean tomatoes (around 8)—ripe, coarsely chopped

500g (around 5) cucumbers, peeled and coarsely chopped

500g clean red pepper (around 4)

1/2 kg red onion, thinly sliced

10 garlic gloves, peeled and sliced

1 can of tomatoes

500g (around 2 cups) of sweet cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

1/2 bundle of parsley

1/2 bundle of dill

1/2 bundle of coriander

1 bouquet of tarragon

1 bundle of basil leaves

1 bundle of mint leaves

2 cups of olive oil (around 500ml)

1 cup (around 250ml) of balsamic vinegar (you can swap it with almost any vinegar)

Salt, pepper, tabasco

Around 1 liter of cold water

Sugar, around 1 tbsp (or according to taste)

2 tbsp coriander seeds

 

Preparation:

I personally really love and recommend soaking all of the ingredients together overnight—before grinding the soup, I find it gives the soup a richer flavor; one time I forgot the soup for four days and it started to sour—its flavor was that of the Garden of Eden, I don’t know why I’ve never done that since but I have to try it again.

 

I recommend you tie all the bundles of herbs together into one bundle—it will make it easier to remove the bundle from the soup before grinding.

 

Put all of the soup ingredients into a container, cover with plastic wrap, and put into the refrigerator for a full night. The next day, remove the herb bundle and blend to the desired texture—here there are a few options: you can use a food processor, or an immersion or table blender. After the soup is blended, you can leave it with a slightly coarse texture or strain it for a more delicate texture. After blending, flavors should be balanced by adding vinegar, sugar, and salt—remember that with cold soups the flavors won’t be felt as much, and therefore it is recommended to make sure to spice relatively strongly.

 

The soup can be decorated with croutons, thinly chopped cucumber, olive oil, a mashed hard-boiled egg, herbs, pieces of avocado, and more…even ice.

 

Tips:

If you are rushing, you can give up on the phase leaving the soup overnight, and instead of putting a whole bundle of herbs you can put only the leaves and then to blend everything together for a smooth texture.

The soup will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

You can swap out the red pepper for yellow, and the red cherry tomatoes can also be swapped with yellow cherry tomatoes.

You will find bread in many recipes—I personally dont use it.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho:

How simple—

Take the gazpacho that you prepared with the basic recipe—put in a blender or a food processor, or put in a bowl to use an immersion blender, gradually add pieces of watermelon. I almost always add the same ratio, but since, in the recipes here, accuracy is very dependent on the raw material and a guiding hand, the watermelon should be added until you are happy with the flavor—chances are you will need to balance flavors using vinegar, sugar, and salt.

 

To finish (optional)—vodka or arak can add a fun “kick” to the dish.

 

I personally love a very smooth texture for this variety, and of course it can be served with small cubes of feta cheese in the soup.

 

Apricot Gazpacho:

This is very similar to the watermelon variety, but here I reverse the order—I bisect and pit around 10 fresh, soft apricots, hopefully white, and cut them into small pieces, place them into a blender or food processor or into a bowl for an immersion blender. Process them into a smooth texture while adding the gazpacho base—here again, this is a recipe whose accuracy is really dependent upon the raw ingredients and a guiding hand. Add the gazpacho base until you are happy with the flavor; most likely, you’ll have to balance again using vinegar, sugar, and salt—this time I recommend white wine vinegar.

 

In conclusion (optional)—you can also add vodka here, or Southern Comfort (apricot liquor), for a fun kick for the dish.

 

You can decorate with cubes of fresh apricot, chives, chopped mint, a tiny bit of blue cheese.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Michael

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Tips and Guidance for the Young Chef: Using Building Blocks—”Vichyssoise” Soup 


I want to share with you my thoughts regarding “building blocks” in the kitchen—many basic recipes make use of these kitchen building blocks, which can be made into endless variations.

For example: mayonnaise, pastry cream, Bechamel sauce, croquette base (which we’ve already talked about in one of the posts here), white wine sauce, butter sauce, and many more…

Now I want to share with you a less conventional building block that I acquired over the years. Today we will get to know a foundational recipe that was invented around 1950 as a “potato and leek soup,” also called vichyssoise after the city, Vichy, in France. The soup’s invention is attributed to the French chef Louis Diat, who in 1950 concocted it while he was the chef of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York—there are those who disagree with this information, but this seems to be the origin, even though there is a recipe from 1869 by the French chef Jules Gouffé.

There are many recipes on the internet for Vichyssoise soup, but I am attaching one to the bottom of this short article.

What is special about vichyssoise is that you can eat it cold or hot, and it can be dressed in a limitless number of varieties.

 

In the attached picture  (above) you can see a basic version, from which I expanded into two other varieties—but with a little imagination and understanding of flavors, you will be able to develop and go out in many different directions.

 

Vichyssoise soup works nicely with almost any herb, roasted eggplant, smoked meat, sausage, every kind of nut—it’s simply a base that is very easy to work with. I hope that this will help.

Here is a little more information, and a recipe that has accompanied me for years:

Vichyssoise

I admit that in all my years of experience, soups are one of the most surprising categories of food. Although people endlessly say that it is easy, I often find myself needing to fix the taste of soup—many times I discover that longer cooking does not always enrich the flavor of soup. What I have learned from experience is that the beginning of the vegetables’ browning will set the soup’s character. For example, steaming the vegetables for a short time will give the soup a very summery character, and will allow the taster to identify clearly the taste of the vegetables in the soup; longer steaming will develop flavors which will combine with one another, and the soup will have a much wintrier, heavy character—it’s called “developed flavor.” Thus, even with identical recipes and all the same ingredients, little nuances in cooking will bring about soups with different results from kitchen to kitchen.

Vichyssoise Base:
2 fat leeks—cut in cubes of 1cm

1 large onion cut into cubes of 1cm

4 large potatoes peeled and cut into cubes of 2cm

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp of marjoram (spice from the oregano family, optional)

1 bouquet garni (bundle of herbs)—8-10 parsley stalks, no need for the leaves, 1 bay leaf, 1 fresh thyme stalk—everything tied with a string—again, this is optional but it really adds to the soup. Everything is tied together because it will be easier to remove it from the soup before blending.

Chicken stock: around 4 cups, or until the ingredients are completely covered in the pot—for those who keep kosher, vegetable stock or other pareve stock, even water, will do the work—those using chicken stock can also use a chicken soup recipe beloved by you, or any brand which is comfortable to use or that you like to use.

Salt, pepper to taste

Sweet cream, around 1/2 to 1 cup (110-230ml)

Preparation:

The pot’s size is important here—choose a pot in which the leek and the onion are a little crowded, but not too crowded—overly crowding the pot will prevent air from getting in, and the flavors won’t develop. Too much exposure can cause quick scorching of the vegetables, something unwanted in preparing this soup.

The butter should be melted without giving it color—then add the onion and leek. At this stage, it is very important to put in a little salt—the salt will develop the flavors much more than if added only at the end, so it is always recommended to add a little salt at the start of cooking, as well as a little pepper at this stage since touching the bottom of the hot pot will release aromatic oils from it.

 

The steaming process is around 8 minutes, without any browning, until the leek and onion are soft. Add the potato, bouquet garni (optional), and cover with stock. Bring to a boil and reduce the flame occasionally, mix and make sure that the potato has not settled at the bottom and burned—that is very common in soups that include potato.

 

Reduce the flame and cook another thirty minutes—it is important not to cook too much, so that the potatoes will not turn into a pulp but will maintain the soft texture yet remain whole or almost whole. I personally never cook soups with a cover, but that’s not a rule, and everyone can do what he/she is comfortable with.

 

Blending the soup into a homogeneous texture needs to be done while the soup is still warm, because cold potatoes develop very sticky starch during grinding or processing—therefore, good mashed potatoes only come out when they are mashed warm. The blending must be done carefully since hot soup in a blender can jump and splash.

 

Before blending, the bouquet garni should be removed. The tool should be gotten ready—either a food processor, or a table blender, or a hand blender, or a classic masher, which I think is not in most homes these days.

 

I personally use a hand blender (immersion) because it’s the safest and works directly inside the pot—anyone using a table blender should only fill it half-way—cover it gently, leaving a little place for the air to escape, because hot liquid being processed in a blender with a closed lid can burst from the pressure. If you like table blenders and want to buy one, I highly recommend buying one with variable speeds.

 

After the soup is blended into a homogeneous mixture, return it again to the fire—and add the cream—boil it for about a minute and balance the tastes. Balancing is generally done with salt, sweetness, and sourness—if needed.

 

Anyone who doesn’t want to use cream can swap it with milk. Anyone wanting a more delicate texture can filter the soup through a fine strainer.

As I said earlier, the soup is wonderfully tasty cold or hot.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

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Tips and Guidance for the Young Cook: An Exercise in Dish Presentation

The subject of presentation is one which occupies many cooks.
Cooks who are just starting out, in many cases, invest and think more about presentation than about understanding the foundations. That’s fine, I was also like that—and it’s clear why, because it is exciting—the results are right before your eyes.
When I taught in culinary school, if there was time left I would, towards end of the  class session , give a number of possible presentations for the dish—in essence a number of variations—in order to demonstrate the subject.

A number of parameters influence plate presentation:
Character of the restaurant

Number of employees in the kitchen staff

Message/style/approach that the chef wants to transmit

Style of presentation
And more…
It is important to understand—dish presentation is a very important process, it’s the moment in which everything you cooked, prepared, and cut undergoes final arrangement before the customer receives it, “your handprint”—proper presentation will look good, will be practical in relation to the kitchen staff at your disposal, and is not supposed to delay the dish leaving the kitchen.
In the pictures before you are four variations, under each picture is a short explanation on the nature of the presentation.


In this picture, the fish is served in the manner dictated by the school—the two fish fillets were fried in a pan, between them are julienned vegetables steamed with olive oil. On the side is an olive tapenade and salad


In this picture, the fish is placed in a metal ring lightly oiled / greased before cooking and takes advantage of a high temperature in the oven—the benefit is that you don’t have to deal with a pan, the presentation is very quick. Pay attention also that the ingredients here are presented in a slightly different manner than in the previous example: the tapenade is mixed in a sauce which adorns the outside of the plate. This method of preparation allows for early preparation and fast removal from the kitchen.


In this picture, the fish is served in a manner similar to that dictated by the school—the two filets underwent frying in a pan, between them are julienned vegetables steamed with olive oil. On the side is olive tapenade and salad. However, a square plate was used—in order to make up for the “dead” spaces on the plate and create interest, I added green oil to the sauce.


In this picture, there are no overlays—all of the filets underwent grilling under the a Salamandra (top grill) and all of the ingredients are served on top. Requires a little work—serving style that reminds you a little of a bistro/brasserie (notice that here there is also no tapenade, just plain olives).

I hope that this helped a little; thanks for reading!

Michael

P.s.
It is important to note that all of the dishes were done by me during live demonstrations in front of my students at the culinary school, and the pictures I received from the students.

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Tips and Guidance for the Young Chef: The Kitchen, Departments and Hierarchy

kitcehn departmenst

Dear young  cooks and chefs these days i am opening a new  restaurant which very excites me, the working with my team lead me to share you with  An Educational Powerpoint on the Structure of a Kitchen, Roles, and Order which i wrote few years ago.

Below is a link to a Powerpoint presentation, one of the presentations I most enjoyed preparing. I prepared it in English for my students in London.

The presentation helps organize everything connected to the structure of the kitchen and its hierarchy.

I really hope that it will help you understand this wonderful world that we call a “kitchen” a little better.

Here is the Link:

Kitchen departments and hierarchy 

Thanks for reading,

Michael

PS- Ahead of time, I apologize for spelling and editing mistakes—I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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Tips and Guidance for the Young Cook: “Beginnings” and the Importance of the First Job

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This article deals with the importance of the first place in which you’ll work/become proficient, whether or not you first attend a culinary school.

 

We have to make many decisions throughout our lives. Every day, from morning until night we need to decide what, who, how, and more…why I (Michael) entered the kitchen, etc. Right now that’s not important, but what I experienced in the first place that I worked—had an impact on me for the rest of my life, and this “lesson” I want to share with you in order to help you understand the importance of your first job in the business.

Here I’m speaking mainly to those who are young in age, spirit, and experience, who have decided that they want to enter the professional culinary world.

Before I continue, internalize again and again the fact that there is no connection between your mother’s kitchen, your father’s, your grandmother’s, or your aunt’s, and that of a professional kitchen. Correct, both have the same raw ingredients, inspiration, and creation, but please, separate the two. Work in a professional kitchen is a way of life, profession, career.

There are many ways to acquire the culinary profession:

  • By working in a restaurant, hotel, catering company, etc.
  • Through a culinary school—in Israel, abroad—there are many types and levels
  • A combination of the two

After all of them, many years of experience.

Personally, today, after 25 years in the profession, I understand how important a culinary school is—from the simple reason that it makes everything clear and orderly.

Order in the basic methods, order in the basic approach, basic order in most of the relevant things—and that makes it very easy to start in a professional kitchen. But it is possible to do very well even without a culinary school, and there is no shortage of examples of cooks and chefs of the first order who succeeded nicely without schooling.

Again, please internalize—no school teaches you to be a chef—I personally know of no school in the world that claims that it gives a “chef certificate.” Schools teach how to cook—and mainly to give a good base and approaches to understanding how to cook.

 

“The First Job

The first place you work is of utmost importance: in many cases, it sets the level of your enthusiasm to continue onwards. The bottom line is that the level of self-confidence it gives you has an almost direct affect upon whether or not you remain in the profession, and, for better or for worse, in many cases it gives you the strongest seal.

Try to relate to your first years as your period of education—just like every student who enters university and dreams of getting accepted at the best university, so too I recommend you try to get accepted from the start at the best restaurant you can, because, of course, generally those are the places that strive the most for excellence—and excellence begins with the leaders.

Just as a student at university knows that he won’t sleep much because of exams, work to turn in, and the day never ends—I recommend you come with the same approach: the approach that the first years are for acquiring experience—taking this method will generally bring about a few things:

You won’t be depressed with the wage—the opposite! A student at a university pays tuition, and you are receiving an allowance!

The perspective will push you to learn more, to ask more questions, and to prepare for the next stage. This approach generally leads the head chef to want to invest in you.

How can you know what’s a good place to start:

First of all, always be interested in leaders in the field, second of all, try to arrange a meeting with the chef, try to receive information from other cooks who have worked in the kitchen, get advice from teachers at the culinary school, and it is no less importance to go to the restaurant to see, taste, and feel the generally atmosphere of the place, because that has great influence on your gut feeling, which is no less important.

Lastly, you don’t necessarily need to seek out fun—it isn’t always fun, sometimes more so and other times less so, but you are coming to learn, to become a professional. Like any student in any framework, this isn’t always accompanied by fun. Therefore, it is always important to look far, beyond the horizon, and to understand that no journey begins easily.

I hope that I helped you here a little bit to understand why your first job is so important.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

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Tips and Guidance for the Young Cook: Student Profiles at the Le Cordon Bleu School

 

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There is no one way to learn cooking—there are more than a few routes that a young cook can take to reach amazing achievements (in any case, there are no shortcuts—certainly not reality shows). Some ways are more conventional, others less so; there are those that include schooling and those that include only work—but today the trend is to go somewhere to learn in an organized fashion.

 

The dream to study at a prestigious culinary school abroad is a dream felt by many cooks, around the world. I often sit with young cooks with the goal of trying to help them, to direct them in finding the educational path that will most suit them, this facts gives me more and more understanding of whats are the needs of the young generation.

 

More than once, I’ve been asked by cooks that are faced with studying abroad: “Who goes to study at schools in countries such england, france, spain and even united states and other?” So here is a short article that I wrote on the subject, but it references specifically one school, since I happen to know it well from the inside, as a teacher.

 

Everything that I write in this post is based upon what I saw and experienced between 2003-2006, as a full-time teacher at “Le Cordon Bleu” in London, and is based upon my understanding and my judgment.

 

I’ll begin with a small anecdote.

 

The school opened in 1895 as a means and a platform for preserving French culinary culture. The origin of the school’s name, who opened it, and other elements of its history, I’m happy to write about further in the future. For now, it’s irrelevant. What is important for me to note is that the goal of the school when it was just starting out was to show the people of the world what French cooking really was.

 

Not by accident, until the late 1970s the “profile” of a student at Le Cordon Bleu was a “jet setter.” This was a static population, mainly women who enrolled to pass the time while their robust husband worked hard as a state employee, banker, industrialist, etc. In the 1980s things began to change, and the school succeeded in absorbing students who saw it as an institution that would provide them a profession with which they could enter the labor force.

 

The degree: until a few years ago, the school’s diplomas weren’t recognized by any organization or state. The school’s reputation simply preceded it.

 

In 2003, I was accepted as a faculty member at the school at its London branch. I taught there until 2006, and I was one of four teachers in the cooking course. In the pastry course, there were another three teachers. According to the contract at Le Cordon Bleu, teachers may only work at the school—they are not allowed to teach, cook, or host events outside the school. The work as a teacher is around 10 hours a day. There is no hierarchy, every teacher teaches every area of the course in which they teach. The cooking instructors taught only cooking, and the pastry instructors taught only pastry-related subjects. Two separate worlds.

 

Student Cross Section:

Jet setters—I refer in this group to men and women who came more to pass their time, or for their spouse, or for a love of food. In general, these students fought tooth and nail and wanted to succeed. They had means, and thus could afford to train all the time at home. These students represented around 15% of the students during my time, and came from all around the world.

 

Restaurateurs—people who owned a restaurant and felt that they also wanted to see things from the other side and to know truly how to manage a kitchen. Most were English, Irish, and Scottish. They were less interested in excelling in their studies. They were, however, highly interested and motivated to know as much as possible about the processes and to understand everything in order to connect with their chefs. An additional agenda of theirs was to free themselves from the fact that the chef always got the last word regarding what happened in the kitchen. They composed 10% of the students.

 

The Lost Student—These were students who hadn’t found themselves in any other framework and had means to come and study. They mainly came from Australia, England, and the United States. Most were not highly motivated and came to pass their time. But, there were some who proved surprising, who tried hard, who internalized the field fully and really succeeded. They composed 10% of the students.

 

The Runaway—In this group, I mainly refer to Japanese girls, mainly the family’s only child or the youngest of the family. Their motive was their lack of desire to remain in Japan and take care of their parents. It was a group characterized by incomparable diligence, who would do anything in order to succeed—the key for them was to succeed and not return to Japan. They were around 5% of the students.

 

The student who wanted to be a chef—This was the largest group, and represented around 60% of the students. Their goal was, of course, to be chefs. As a teacher, I explained to them that you did not leave the school as a chef or even always as a cook. The school’s role was to provide tools to deal with the real world. These students came from all over the world: Japanese, Koreans, Americans, Israelis, Saudis, Mexicans, and more. Those who could afford to study and live in London chose the London branch of the school. Most were competitive, mainly amongst themselves, and most worked during the week, mainly at good, well-regarded restaurants. Most spoke of opening their own restaurants with time. As far as I know, around 25% of them remained in the profession in some capacity.

 

A little about the method of study: at every stage—basic, middle, and advanced—the student passes thirty demonstrations. In each, the teacher explains the dishes for three hours in an auditorium, and for another two and a half hours, the students work individually to reconstruct some of the dishes in the actual kitchen.

 

There is a lot more to tell that cannot be included here, but again, this was the student cross-section in a nutshell, and a little about the study at Le Cordon Bleu.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Michael

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Tips and Guidance for the Young Cook: “How Things Really Look” in Real Time, Under Pressure, and other reasons…


Many of us (including myself) often make use of the huge amount of information found in books and the internet for enrichment, to learn, and to be inspired. These tools are wonderful—if you know how to use them, their potential contribution to your careers can be enormous.

Many of us really love to observe and analyze pictures of dishes created by various chefs from different restaurants that we admire or interested in throughout the world.

Most of us do so through cooking books, and it should be noted that mass media is important because reality doesn’t allow most of us to see a lot of chef-inspired creations “live.”

Most of those pictures are photographs taken by professional photographers, dishes that underwent meticulous care for picture-taking purposes. They are important—they give us tools to know a chef’s work style and manner of thinking.

But for me, a professional chef, it is often more interesting to understand what happens in reality; to receive visual information that allows me to understand the ‘facts on the ground,’ such as the audience experience, how the dish leaves the kitchen in real time—with all that this implies—and to help me I have followed blogs by restaurant critics.

Food and restaurant critic bloggers tend, while studying the meal, to photograph the dish as it reaches their table; the product appears in its natural manifestation, in real time and under the pressure of kitchen challenges and the restaurant’s daily reality.

I attach here a number of pictures that I took from restaurant critic bloggers; in them you’ll be able to see dishes by well-known chefs that were photographed in real-time at restaurants.

More food for thought…

Thanks for reading,

Michael

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