A day in the life of a chef may well have started long before he or she enters the kitchen. Like many occupations, a day is never technically a day. A day is an amalgamation of many days leading up to one, all-important, memorable meal. 

Preparation.

For centuries, chefs have prepared meals in a very similar fashion. The sanitation and the cooking conditions have changed, but the love for food and cooking remains the same.

 If you enjoy hectic days filled with manic preparation, overseeing and delegating a team of staff whilst cooking in a high-paced environment, you’re ready to start your day as a chef.

The majority of preparation and planning will take place well in advance of the cooking.  A special character is required to line up commitments like the beads on a rosary and still find room for creativity to take hold. 

 

 

We often perceive chefs in their most stereotypical role – sorting, cleaning, chopping, mixing, cooking and serving – but there will have been days, possibly weeks of preparation leading up to that moment.

The Kitchen: A Culinary Arena

From the moment a Chef walks into a kitchen, you know a battle is about to commence. There is going to be emotional pain and bad language, and you know there will be challenges, adversity and casualties afoot.

The kitchen is the arena and the combatants are known locally as ‘Creative Culinary Designers’ versus ‘The Best Produce’ and, if the outcome goes to plan, you are in for a delicious treat on a plate.

A Day in the Life of the Chef Begins with the Ingredients.

The better the ingredients, the better the finished product. Every good chef knows this, and that’s ‘philosophical catering rule 101’ in its simplest form. 

It’s not as simple as finding the freshest, quality ingredients, it’s a matter of logistics, pricing, consistency and punctuality. Professional cooks need consistency; reputable vendors who deliver top quality food, on time, and in the preferred quantities – all of the time. 

From the first day in the life of the chef, he’s not only looking for quality, he’s also negotiating prices – is there a discount in bulk?  – he’s putting a strategy in place, and the chef needs reassurance that the company can deliver the finest produce at the drop of a premium quality kitchen knife. 

Furthermore, is the produce/delivery compromised at certain times of the year? This is vital information that should be ascertained well in advance and the chef needs to be able to trust the people he is working with – ultimately, only the chef’s reputation is on the line.

The best chefs don’t have the luxury of franchise applications whereby the produce is provided in bulk by one particular vendor, later skimming a wage from the profits from throwing stuff in a microwave. Most chefs are left searching for a trustworthy supplier of meat, seafood, bread, salad, veg and alcohol.

It’s extremely rare to find a vendor that supplies everything. Especially in terms of wines, salads, fruit, pastries and veg, there is a requirement to liaise, meet, sample and collect reputable references long before the all-important reliability factor of delivery can be determined.

The inventory

Upon ordering the food, its storage and the movement of stock, good inventory management is a crucial part of a day in the life of a chef – from the very first day. It ensures that everything is consistently tracked whether the inventory is digital or an old-school list. Items should be listed, and weights, prices and all-important costs should be in order.   

A chef needs to handle unexpected inventory fluctuations, tallying individual ingredients that may arise as a result of demand increases and restaurant food waste. 

A par inventory sheet sets minimum figures and, whether using the latest digitalised version or old school tools, customer demand and minimum quantities have to be accounted for daily – https://www.chefs-resources.com/kitchen-management-tools/restaurant-inventory-control/maximize-inventory-management-software/

The Art of Menus

Many people assume that the method for writing a menu is, in many ways, the same used by some marketing companies when writing content: loosely grasp an idea everyone else is using and then just throw some words and pictures up in the air and leave the rest to serendipity. 

A menu should be written in such a way that it is easy to read but appealing to the senses. Words must be used to ensure that the customer is led on an imaginary journey where words are edible, biteable and olfactory.

If you consider that faded pictures of fried breakfasts accommodating very few words are the antithesis of a first-class menu, you have some idea of where to start. If the menu is good enough, there is no requirement for photographs because the appetite of the mind provides a good enough picture of what to expect.

Although a menu may not be used on a daily basis, a day in the life of a chef involves the careful consideration of the existing menu.  

https://www.nutrition.org.uk/putting-it-into-practice/food-seasons-and-celebrations/autumn/

The day in the life of a chef starts early.

For many chefs in hotels, the day will erupt before breakfast, possibly with an early morning call prior to 5 a.m. For those working lunch, the preparation will begin about 7 a.m. when the organised structure begins. 

Ovens, hobs and fryers will be on; the peeling, chopping, and washing of vegetables takes place whilst overseeing the consistent guarantee of quality, following safety and sanitation procedures. 

Early morning is a stage of limited pressure where potatoes and spinach can be prepared in a relaxed atmosphere of delegation and menu ideas bouncing through the opera of a busy kitchen. 

The mid-morning all builds up to a crescendo. It’s nothing new but ‘Chef Stress’ is now a thing these days. The pursuit of perfection on a plate is a demanding occupation that has been presented as ‘a curse of the culinary genius’ – 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/nov/26/chefs-mental-health-depression

Flavours Assemble!

3-course meal served

The long hours, the hot conditions and the noise of a busy kitchen are all weighing heavily as the pre-lunch tasting takes place. Chefs mentally assemble a flavour and the tasting of everything from sauces to pasta water takes place. 

Taste testing is tacit knowledge. It’s not really something a chef has time to teach – imagine people of culinary calibre micromanaging at those times! – a chef knows what to expect and it’s a pre-requisite to every serving. Tasting is all day, every day, in the life of a chef and nothing leaves the kitchen without the chef overseeing its flavour.  

The Finished Product

All the hard work and dedication is leads up to this moment. Chefs are not judged on the day but on every solitary serving, on every shift.

The adrenaline rush leading up to the moment of acceptance; the compliments; the awards; the respect – it’s all earned and only achievable through hours of dedication and intense labouring.

The final presentation is all part of maintaining excellence. The arrangement that engages the senses and draws the diner in like a distant masterpiece is a composition that simultaneously unites all the various elements of a great chef.

Just as an artist has a deep, empirical knowledge of how paints and inks behave, the chef paints a perfect picture with food. The day in the life of a chef is complete when methods of cooking and diligent organisation combine to bring a fine balance of tastes, textures and colour to the table. 

Are you looking for a day in the life of a chef?

Autumn and winter are busy times of the year for kitchen staff. Halloween, Bonfire Night, the Game Shooting Season (Oct – Feb), Christmas, and this year’s late, winter World Cup are great times of the year that bring people together. 

If you are looking for quality food at your event, contact Citreus Catering www.citreuscatering.co.uk