I think we overlook a lot of the possibility for flavour by not trying flowers either raw or cooked as sometimes they change and often give a beautiful scent to compliment a dish.
Hello one and all,
My name is Chef Matthew Schutten-Burt. I’m a Canadian chef with 15 years of experience on the line. I’ve worked across the country as well as in the UK. I work, currently, at http://www.garlicsoflondon.com under Head Chef Carla Cooper, where I function as the morning chef. My team and I are responsible for bread shift, desserts, set up, lunch service and all the butchering. Formerly, I was the sous-chef at http://www.dinkels.ca and the attached restaurant, Paulo’s Italian Trattoria.
I was asked to write a piece by Chef Noel on any topic I so chose and I think I’ve come up with an important one for both male and female chefs.
First things first, it’s important to note that I’m not…politically correct. I don’t go out of my way to offend anyone, surely, but I also feel the need to be direct in what I’m going to say because it is of, I believe, utmost importance.
We aren’t going to talk about food today. Nor are we talking about any new technique, method, recipe or ingredient, we aren’t even going to address the Business itself, but rather our actions within it.
Today, now more than ever, our actions are under constant scrutiny. We have health inspectors, TripAdvisor, Yelp and a whole host of food blogs, YouTubers and Twitter users who have the ability to let others know what they think about our food in an instant.
This is on top of the already demanding specifications it takes to make it into the likes of the AA Food Guide, or even appear on Michelin’s radar, and I’d argue the blogger and twitter-er can do more damage to a restaurant than either “major” group can. That is to say, there are plenty of successful restaurants that make their owners millions without a rep ever setting foot in the dining room.
Thus, we come nicely to my topic: professionalism.
What do I mean by this word? Simply this; how we interact with each-other, FOH and our punters, whether behind closed doors or in full view of our dining rooms.
Never before have we been watched so carefully. Our profession, due to the likes of Chef Ramsay and Chef Oliver among others, has been shot to the forefront of pop culture. Yet never more have we been thought of less for our craft and more for the shenanigans that have been brought to light and have, for all intents and purposes, become tropes and memes of culinary culture.
It is expected of us to shout, to scream and the swear. We are expected to belittle our co-workers, to behave as children and over-dramatic actors. It can be argued, and, in fact I AM arguing, that chefs such as Gordon Ramsay have done more harm than good for our trade over the last few years.
Certainly he is innovative, and his food is par excellence, but one cannot, cannot, cannot look away from the antics and showmanship that is demonstrated on American television through Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen.
Is the face that American telly puts on for us our true persona as culinary wolves? No. It is, however, what sells in America. One needs only look as far as what British television shows to know that this isn’t the case. The UK version of Kitchen Nightmares is far different. Being Canadian, I’m blessed to get access to both.
But sadly, it’s usually the vocal, crass and often loud minority that draws attention to itself. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and all that.
But in this case I think it is imperative to be the solution ourselves, rather than just stand by and let the customer and the media portray us how they want. We are professionals and, if you’re reading Noel’s blog, I have to assume you’ve CHOSEN this career path, not been forced into it.
Your pride should genuinely be hurt by the low, base and unexceptional level that is not only expected of us, but (in some cases) looked for.
There is, however, a remedy for this.
We need to treat ourselves, firstly, with respect. It is impossible to function and work in a high-stress, fast-paced, often hot and exhausting environment unless you look yourself in the mirror every day and say “I can do this. I’ve got this. I’m well trained. My crew has my back, and I’ve trained them well. We know our roles, we know our staff, we know our menu.” Only when you can do this can you move on to step two.
Secondly, treat your under-chefs with respect. Don’t talk down to them. Talk WITH them. Certainly, when the heat is on, expect a “Yes, Chef!” from them, but don’t call them out in front of the rest of the crew. That kind of action gets passed around to those who weren’t there as the night’s juicy gossip. Talk to them after service. Work on the issue together, and never in hearing range of others. Most of us have offices. We should make use of them.
Please note there is a caveat here. Some people just don’t fit, and the level of insubordination can get insane. If you must remove somebody from line for the sake of customers and staff, do so. Firmly, calmly. Let them make the noise. Retain your composure.
Thirdly, be kind to your servers and, through them, the customer.
FOH is the link you have to the customer. Without them you can’t get food out of the pass, let alone get orders in to the kitchen. They tell you about allergies, dietary restrictions and modifications. Granted, most of these are irritating, but if the customer comes back, or stays longer buying booze and dessert, who gives a damn? We exist to make money. We have a skill we are passionate about that people are willing to pay for. Respect the servers and the (reasonable requests) of your customers and they’ll be singing your praises.
This may all seem like common sense, but I think it bears repeating. Especially in light of how trainee chefs are coming out of catering college these days. I don’t know the current situation in Europe or in the UK, but here? It’s a disaster.
These…petulant and petty youngsters are coming out like puffed-up little school children, not realizing that finishing catering college is only the first rung on a very, VERY long ladder.
If you’re a trainee chef and reading this, check your ego. I’m not concerned with how good you think you are, there’s always someone else who’s better, and if there isn’t? Quit now. You’ve peaked. It is important to look at every shift, every service, every day as an opportunity to improve upon your skills and learn some new ones. Only then will you begin to be thought of as worth your salt by your superiors.
Bottom line, chefs? Be excellent to each other and your staff. We have little home life, leave our spouses and children alone when we wish we didn’t. We miss birthdays, anniversaries, valentines, new years and football games. We miss Christmas Pantos. We miss baptisms. We miss graduations and vacations.
And sometimes…well, this causes our home lives to collapse. When this happens, we only have each other. Our families extend beyond our homes. You know this. And you know we forgive the worst offences from each other because of it. But, let’s not abuse it, shall we? Each one of us may come to a day where our restaurant family is all we have for that moment.
Until next time, chefs,
Chef Matthew Schutten-Burt
Garlic’s of London
Traditional Italian Easter Breakfast
In Italy, a famous saying goes: “Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you wish.”
This proverb seems to invite a real exodus from their family environment, but perhaps in Rome and surroundings, is not quite so, because to the Romans, Easter is an important holiday that you get to celebrate since the early morning, with a rich Easter breakfast.
The traditional Roman Easter breakfast is, generally, preparing the table with dishes symbolic of the Christian religion, because this moment (Easter) celebrates the end of fasting and the return to life.
The table is completely set because this “breakfast” is very important in the regional tradition, almost more than the classic Easter lunch.
On the table will be present both sweet dishes and savory dishes.
We will find the typical Pizza battuta, served with chocolate Easter eggs, Pasqualina cake, to match with the Corallina (a type of salami), but definitely not miss the Colomba, the famous Easter cake.
In addition, the Roman tradition wants that on the table there are some cooked dishes including, for example, the Coratella with artichokes, Frittata with artichokes and boiled eggs to enjoy with cheese pizza.
Surely you can’t say it’s a light breakfast but the traditions are traditions and as such, we must try to pass them on from generation to generation because it’s nice to continue what our ancestors began. Happy Easter everyone!
P.s.: Don’t forget this breakfast has to be served with a generous glass of wine… maybe two!!
Sid Sheehan, Chef, Nutritional Therapist and CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) graduate writes about the medicinal benefits of Turmeric.
Sid offers a range of nutritional advice and gives practical demonstrations on how to implement these changes into your diet at his Cookery School in Listowel Co. Kerry.
More information on him and the courses he runs can be found at http://www.nourishbynature.ie
The Power of Turmeric
Turmeric is one of nature’s most powerful painkillers and anti-inflammatories, or rather the chemical compound Curcumin, which is its key component.
This yellow flowered plant is a member of the ginger family. It is grown in Indonesia, China, India and other parts of the tropics, where the dried aromatic root like stem is ground to form a powder. This deep orange yellow powder is commonly used as a spice and one of the main ingredients in curry powder. Along with being used as a preservative, colouring and flavouring agent, turmeric has been used for over 4000yrs in Indian and Chinese medicine to relieve conditions ranging from flatulence and digestive disorders to menstrual irregularities. It is now widely recognised in the West as a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
How it fights Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s attempt at self-protection. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body there is a biological response to protect the affected area.
This immune response to a whole host of injuries, infections, illnesses and general disease of any part of the body is characterised by heat, redness, swelling and pain in the affected area. This complex protective mechanism can however become self-perpetuating whereby more inflammation is created in response to the existing inflammation. It is at this stage that we need to treat the inflammation by attempting to reduce it with the use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Curcumin works as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals, these harmful molecules damage cell membranes and cause cell death. In addition they inhibit oxidative DNA damage and relieve oxidative stress. Curcumin is able to regulate the foundation of nitric oxide which is carcinogenic and plays a key role in inflammation.
As an anti-inflammatory, Curcumin works in a similar way to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) by inhibiting the activity and synthesis of specific enzymes. Clinical trials show that at dosages of 400-1200mg/day, curcumin is comparable to ibuprofen.
Curcumin also acts as a choleretic, that is, a substance that increases the volume of bile and amounts of solids secreted from the liver.
Through its various mechanisms, this spice supports colon health, exerts neuro-protective activity and helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by providing significant protection against damage of the inner lining of the blood vessels.
Extensive lab tests have shown that curcumin interferes with melanoma skin cancer cells causing them to self-destruct.
How best to get Turmeric into the diet
If you can manage to get your hands on fresh turmeric root, then that’s fantastic. You can use it grated or finely chopped in soups, stews and curries. Chances are though that you will find it in its powdered form more easily. The bio-availability of turmeric is greatly increased when co-administered with piperine, a powerful component found in black pepper. Always use a good twist of freshly ground black pepper when cooking with turmeric, to enhance its healing benefits. I always add a teaspoon of ground turmeric to a breakfast smoothie in the mornings
Recipe for Anti Inflammatory Breakfast Smoothie
200mls coconut milk
½ ripe mango
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon
¼” slice fresh ginger (peeled and chopped small)
Place all ingredients in blender with some ice and blend until smooth, this will make approx. 500ml smoothie.
Im on ywitter @chefnoelk & instagram @chefnoelkeane and our facebook page tralee culinary gangsters