What is a chef's best tool in the kitchen? Blog by Frank Davie

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th April 2016
“For 14 years you’re a sponge, you’re absorbing” This astute statement by legendary chef Gordon Ramsay is true both to the aspiring chef and Ramsay’s financial interests over the previous decade. But his point holds substance. The race begins in the teenage years, and the chef has around a decade and a half to squirm their way up the ladder as much as their mental and physical state will push them, constantly striving to learn more and more as the years pass. The ultimate tool to any chef is not the notorious Thermomix, or the trusty spatula and it’s unquestionably not the Global. And no, it’s not that loyal K.P. that’s stuck around for most of his life. Surprisingly, it’s probably the pen and paper. The two tools that bestow you with the ability to absorb and store knowledge for future accomplishment in an industry that’s survival relies on the passing on of knowledge through the generations. Fuck the material, it’s all about the mind. Two simple items: a notebook and a pen. These are a chef’s passport to succeeding in this harsh trade. noteThe notebook (not Ryan Gosling) is a motivated chef’s best friend. Write everything down. It is crucial to any form of objective learning. Scribble and scrawl every recipe, shred of advice and any other fragment of information you may stumble across in the kitchen and accumulate them together into a blueprint of knowledge on paper. Knowledge is only useful if it is appropriately recorded. We’re all human, and we have a ridiculously bad habit of forgetting things. The kitchen will bombard you with more and more knowledge on a minutely basis, subconsciously or not, so to be a chef and not have some method of recording the constant flow of new information to the brain is probably insane, and certainly fruitless. However, the problem is that it is almost impossible to collate any series of words into a small book while deeply embedded in the unrelenting ricochet of panic and rush of the kitchen and you’ll find your quick notes are literally scribbled onto the page on top of a hideous canvas of splattered tomato paste and celeriac puree. But upon freedom of the kitchen, instead of darting into the fridge and cracking open that familiar can of beer and then doing nothing, I’ve found it useful to take some valuable time to transfer these particles of knowledge into a larger, more professional book that can be kept safe and far away from the black hole of pens and paper that is, the kitchen. This ten minute task will also refresh all the new knowledge inherited from your most recent shift into your head.quote The most frustrating memory I’m perilously trying to forget is losing my notebook at my previous place of work just days before leaving – that’s one hard year of unique and invaluable knowledge thrown away never to be retrieved. It’s a painful feeling. But what about the chefs that never scrawled down a single letter in the first place? I suppose ignorance is bliss after all. It’s sad to see any young chef traipsing around a kitchen with a borrowed knife and no fiery endeavour to learn. It’s a symbol of a dying passion – a generation of chefs that believe two grams of weed and a shiny Japanese knife will gift them with a  free pass to fame and wealth. Working in a kitchen is a steep curve to success, and learning is the only tool a chef can truly exploit to obtain this seemingly rare final goal. A place to store this barrage of potential knowledge is pertinent. The notebook and pen idea is where the chef will discover the truth behind their passion for food. If a chef wants to learn how to cook, then they will, and they’ll do everything they can to do so. If they don’t, then they’ll find that the relentless hours and never-ending stresses of work will hit them harder than a wet towel dipped in the fryer to the face. The kitchen is a classic example of the “what you put in, you get out” concept where the hard work you carve out between those four monotonous grey walls is guaranteed to reward you in return with experience to build the future, more successful version of yourself. It should never be about money. food1Chasing money in this industry is like a dog chasing its own tail. You will move from job to job earning slightly more money each time until you’ve burnt through half of your career potential with little to no passion and a shady knowledge of real food. Don’t fall into this trap. Knowledge is key, and the money will only come if the knowledge is there in the barracks of your mind ready to be deployed. Using these two simple tools will not only benefit yourself, but also prove to your head chef that you’re in that kitchen to play ball. You’re there for a reason and you, unlike the other chefs, are physically proving that you don’t want to be flipping burgers at the age of thirty. It’s quite simply common sense. Work hard and learn hard and you’ll make it. Chase cash and drift through job to job and you’ll crash and burn like bacon in a fryer. A blog from an erratically ambitious chef with one foot in the hospitality industry and the other desperately trying to run away. You can read more of Frank's blog posts here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th April 2016

What is a chef's best tool in the kitchen? Blog by Frank Davie