Basic Books

Reading is important. It is especially important to young cooks or anyone who wants to learn the basics in the most efficient way possible.

Cookbooks are something that I’ve cherished for a long time.  They’ve taught me almost as much as working has. Working in restaurants makes you fast, clean and flexible. Books make you smart, knowledgeable and they give you a base to be creative.

Good Chef’s do not just make food, they read. They spend years honing their skills, they pour over cookbook after cookbook, pushing themselves to learn the huge history and the techniques from our incredibly old profession.

So the books. There is a metric fuck ton of books. It gets confusing, it gets weird, but I’m here to help, these are books I suggest for anyone who wants to learn how to cook and get into the industry, or who just wants to up their basics game.

Just so everyone knows if you guys decide to buy the books on this blog post it does go to helping the blog, just click the picture!

On Food and Cooking – by Harold Mcgee

We called this bad boy the bible in culinary school. It is filled with all of the science that you need to know. As you become a more knowledgeable cooker, you will slowly realize how important the science is. This book will teach you. I do have to warn you though, it is very text booky, but it is an incredible reference. Things will happen that you won’t understand and this book will show you exactly what’s going on.

What Einstein told his cook – by W.W. Norton & Co.

Think of this book as On Food and Cooking light.  It’s a great book and it’s way easier to read. If you’re not a professional or plan to be a professional, skip On Food and Cooking and pick this bad boy up.

Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

This was a big book for me. It’s a cautionary tale of Anthony Bourdain’s journey through his career. It’s big, it’s powerful and most importantly it’s honest. Anthony doesn’t pull punches and if you want a look into our lives, this is a great place to start.

The Making of a Chef – Michael Ruhlman

I went to this school. I believe it’s one of the best culinary schools in the country, if not the world. Michael Ruhlman went through the course and shares what this culinary school is like, and he nails it. This is great for anyone considering or planning to go to culinary school.

The Flavor Bible – By Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

This reference is invaluable. there are not a lot of recipes, but what it does have is an incredible amount of flavor pairings. It is essential for menu planning and it needs to be in your library if you’re doing menu planning stuff.

Ma Gastronomie – Fernand Point

Ma gastronomy is a classic. the food is very very french, But it’s not written like normal recipes there is more of fluidity to the recipes. This book is great at, make it good. When you are cooking, you need this kind of mentality. If it’s not right, you fix it. This book will teach you not only the mentality but also the hospitality that will make you so much better at your job.

Industry Tattoos

We have tattoos. A lot of tattoos.

We get tattoos for different reasons, and they are all personal. Really at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I know people that get tattoo’s because they have something they want to remember ( Friend passing, Child born, girlfriend) but, I also know people who get tatted because they wanted free hot dogs for life. or because rick and Morty is a rad show.

Tattoos in the industry is a throwback to where the industry comes from. Twenty years ago most cooks were ex-cons, drunks, floaters, or people who couldn’t do much else.  You had tattoos because you existed on the fringe of society and you had something to say, or you wanted people to view you as strong.

Tattoos are accepted in our part of the world. I’ve worked with people with tons of face tattoos. People who have had a rough past (think white lightning bolts and king crowns) and also people who just want Morton’s salt girl on their arm. A lot of those guys were awesome at their job. That’s what matters here.

Tattoos say a lot of things, including, don’t fuck with me.  You work next to a guy with a cobra on his neck and you’re gonna think twice about touching his stuff. It’s a way of saying “don’t fuck with me.” and in a strange way, it shows a dedication to the craft. It shows your commitment to the craft.

I know a lot of people in the industry that have industry tattoos. A lot of pineapples, a lot of bacon, a lot of food related items (knives, forks, spoons, that sort of thing), plate settings. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Being in this industry is special. There are different rules and it feels like you live in a completely different world than everyone else. Don’t get me wrong there are also just a lot of tattoos. A lot of them don’t have anything to do with the industry.

There are different rules here. It feels like you live in a completely different world than everyone else. In a way, we do.  My tattoos have landed me jobs, they show that I’m not fucking around. I don’t know any other industry that’s so close to the mainstream and also so foreign. People hate how we look but love how we cook.

Our tattoos are for us. It’s part of our culture. and I know a lot if industry kids that will never get a tattoo, let alone one of cabbage. Tattoos are so much more of a personal thing than a standard thing, but restaurants are a place where you don’t get punished for them and they aren’t demonized.

 

*I have incredible luck and a ton of my friends have let me post their tattoos here. They should all be tagged and if anyone else wants to show off just message me. I just wanted to show the incredible diversity with industry tattoos. we have literally just a strip of bacon, to flames on one foot, symbolizing one foot in the fire. Thank you for everyone that has let me post their pictures!

 

HOW TO STAGE.

The word Stage comes from the french word stagiaire (sta‧gi‧ai‧re). Stagiaire means trainee, or intern. In france, Stage is interchangeable with commis or volontaire. One of those means guest Chef, and the other means volunteer.

If you are in culinary school, or exiting high school, and you plan to cook in a high level kitchen, then you need to know what this means, what it means for you, and what it means to your potential employer.

Staging is an interesting concept. You go into someone else’s place of business, and you help them out for a day. This is the best job interview I think there is. It makes a lot of sense in a field that is so determined by your knowledge base, cleanliness and skill.

That’s not all that restaurants are looking for. If you have no idea what you’re doing in a kitchen, the Chef’s will pick up on that pretty fast. Don’t pretend you know things you don’t. Kitchens are dangerous. There is a lot of fire, and a lot of sharp metal. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself, or someone else. Be Humble.

No one will yell at you for not knowing, and if they do, you’re in the wrong place. Walk out of allinea and find a working restaurant where you can learn before you’re Top Chef.

There are rules.

I  have Staged a lot. In many different states, and many different cities. One thing is always the same.

You are a guest.

Act like one.  Do not come into someone else’s house with an attitude. Don’t tell them how to do things. Be quiet, do your chores and ask if you don’t know things.  Do not scoff because you have to peel a case of gooseberries. Everyone know’s that this chore fucking sucks. That is why you are doing it. You are literally the help.

Keep a positive attitude. Remember, you are not paid. You don’t have to be here. There are plenty of other places that will have you. But if you want this one then put your head down and act like you need this, like you want this.  It’s important that you want to be here, because there is a good chance that you will be underpaid and overworked. That’s how this industry is. If you don’t want to be here, no one else wants you here either.

Work clean. Leave everything cleaner than when you started, when you start your stage, find the cleaning things. keep them with you, and push to make everyone’s life better.

Keep your focus and don’t work too fast. You are new here. You will not be fast. Unless you have spent the last twenty years chopping onions, go slow. Ask entirely too many questions about your tasks, It’s ok to be a little annoying to make sure that the Chef is getting exactly what they want.  If someone gives you a project, show it to them after you’ve done a little. Better to lose a small amount then everything they bought for the day.

Don’t try to talk to everyone right away. Get a little comfortable and show them that you respect their space, they will talk to you eventually. If they don’t, that’s fine. Sometimes a restaurant isn’t your style. Sometimes it isn’t the right fit, and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid of not getting a job, just do your best to leave a good impression and to work hard.

Always ask the cooks if they need help. If you run out of things to do, go find a cook and make their life easier. Make sure to ask though, don’t just grab what they are in the middle of. Treat them like someone who might train you one day and be entirely too respectful.

If you cut yourself, own it. You’re somewhere new, you’re nervous, you feel like everything you’re doing is being critiqued (rightly) and you cut yourself. You are in a kitchen, and this does happen. Your reaction to how you cut yourself is important.  Do you break down and need to leave? not a great move. Do you suck it up, get it fixed and move on with the stage? There’s a chance they won’t even remember that. Don’t be afraid of your mistakes, just learn how to fix them.

There are a lot of reasons to stage. To get a job, to meet people, to learn something new. Staging is one of my great loves about my profession. It keeps you humble.

Always be Humble.

Words and phrases I use a lot.

Kitchen slang is a thing.

I have a ton of new cooks in my kitchen and on the first couple of days, they all have the same questions for me. What is 86. How do you all day? Why am I a shoemaker?

There is a ton of kitchen slang. It varies hard between restaurants and regions. It relates to what is happening in the kitchen, How people are performing, and where product comes from. It’s a language, and just like any language it takes time to understand it.

So lets get into it. I’m going to miss a lot of slang here, but i’ll give it the ol’ college try.

86 is that we’re out of something. This relates to dishes, or product. This can also relate to people, events, clothing, phrasing, cut fingers, moods. It’s very much a catch-all phrase, and it’s used a lot.

Top refers to a table of guests. Top is usually accompanied by a number, six top, two top, etc.

Covers refers to how many guests are coming in or have come in. “We have 70 covers tonight”, or ” we did 125 covers”

Guests  restaurants tend to stray away from the term customer. We are not selling you something, we are inviting you in and giving you an experience.

Expoditor is the guy who arranges the tickets and make sure that food comes out together and properly.

Pass is the space between the cooks and the expeditor. This is where the dishes come up, and often where the heat lamps and the ticket machine live.

Board is your ticket line. This is the thing that hangs in front of the pass that you read tickets from. This also refers to cutting boards.

fire is the hot things on the grill or in the oven. It is also what you should be making at that moment. “I have two sprouts on fire”.

Order refers to what has just came in through the printer, it also refers to what needs to be ordered from the store.

On back is what you need to get ready, but shouldn’t Fire yet. Think of it as a warning. Like hey, you have five chickens on back and you should probably get them started so they come out with all of the other stuff on this 20 top.

All day is how many things you have. This usually relates to all of the items on the board.

Shit Bucket a bin for your trash.

There are a ton more, and I’ll update this list as I think of them, but this is a great start for anyone looking to start learning restaurant language.