When Cooking Isn’t Just About a Cooking

Abdul Halim Ahmad


Revealing what chefs actually do.

Pursuing a career as a chef.

source: josephwatsoncollection.com/cooks-in-the-kitchen/

Back with the article that I wrote 2 years ago 7 sad truth of being Chef, I have mentioned a lot of things that most people know nothing about. This time I am not going to re-discuss about it, but I will reveal what we do.

A chef, cook or food handler is one of the toughest careers in this world. Can you imagine that they require to stand more than 8 hours or more, sometimes it could get up to 16 hours, it depends on what occasion is happening on that day?

A person who called the chef in the organization itself is not just the same as the other. This man having massive experience, ideas, management skills, accounting skill and so on. If you ever heard “La Brigade de Cuisine” it is a system of the hierarchy inside of the kitchen that you will find in the Restaurant or Hotel. This system explained that not all chefs having the same job inside the same kitchen, in fact, the one and only you call a “Chef” is the only leader who led the kitchen. The rest of the team has various positions if you read one of the classic France culinary books, there is Chef Tournat, Chef de cuisine, sous chef, Chef de partie, Demi chef and Commis chef. But if you go to some of the small restaurant, only Head chef, Chef de partie, and the cooks.

source: www.highspeedtraining.co.uk

The classical Brigade de Cuisine is so complicated, the above mentioned is just in general, sometimes in a French restaurant or Japanese restaurant, they have different sections with a different name of the position. For example, the chef who handling grilling, roasting or broiling in French called Rôtisseur. But In Japanese Restaurant it is called Robatayaki chef, This man will handle grilling item in charcoal griller. In general, both look having the same position, but it is not. It just explains that both chefs are experts in their section with grilling food.

The chef in charge or Executive chef him/herself is expected to be the smartest in the organization. This person probably has more than 10 years of experience. Yet, the experience is not the only reason for a person to hold the position.

The chef is always expected to have unlimited knowledge, not only food or recipe related but also in finance, technology, communication, management, business skill, nutritionist, and Science, biological in particular.

I tell a student that the most important class you can take is technique. A great chef is first a great technician. ‘If you are a jeweler, or a surgeon or a cook, you have to know the trade in your hand. You have to learn the process. You learn it through endless repetition until it belongs to you. -Jacques Pepín

Source: medium.com/@chefchris

Those mentioned are not a joke, like science, we (as a chef) have to understand the characteristic of the ingredients. If you are not interested in biology, when you want to pursue this career, then you have to. We got to know all edible ingredients from the land or sea.

I have read a book from Dr. Stuart Farrimond who specializing in food science, in one of his new coming book “The Science of Spices” is explained a lot that A chef needs to know the taste, characteristic, pairing of spices, etc.

I favorited one of his sentences in his foreword :

To cook without spices is like composing an orchestral opus without a string section — Dr Stuart Farrimond

Talking about business and money is an endless story. Yes, the reason that this career exists because of money, everything about revenue. How do restaurants determine the price of the dishes is not just from the price of ingredients multiplied dozens of times. The calculation must right, there is some factor that needed to be calculating. If the food cost is not right, then the restaurant going to be lost a lot of money causing bankruptcy.

Here, a cook must learn from the beginning, how to control food cost, how to calculate, how to maintain wastage.

Besides that, Chefs know about hygiene and sanitation, that also are taught in college, or any culinary major school. This includes HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control point) every chef around the world needs to know this, especially here in the United Arab Emirates. The chef must have the ability to take care of their customers, to serve safe food to their customers. The chef cannot do “Khali wali” or be careless.

The next one is Management and leadership, as both are part of the skills needed by the chef.

source: google.com

The way management treats associates is exactly how the associates will treat the customers. — Sam Walton

One of the motivational speaker Simon Sinek once said “Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything — for better or for worse. As a chef, to make the team followed his/her order, doing the job properly is not that easy, a true chef must understand how to control his/her team. Leadership was not just to lead the team, it is also an action taken by a leader to make the team doing and followed the chef’s order.

In one of Simon Sinek’s book “Start with why” explained a lot how a great leader inspires everyone to take action. The culture brought by the chef to his/her kitchen will affect a daily basis operational, when the culture itself is not good it will affecting in the long term.

After discussing several things behind the chef’s mind, we will now go further, which is the main thing to keep people coming back to enjoy the chef’s dishes. Becoming a nutritionist, an artist, and a philosopher grandmother.

Yup, these three are the main things, how to be creative in art while making a tasty dish, by the tasty dish you have to keep a balance of the healthiness of the food. To make a plate of delicious and beautiful food you got to be at least understand the nutrients from the ingredients itself.

A great chef will determine what’s good on a plate, pairing with other ingredients, maintain the freshness and keeping the nutrient together.

The word of philosopher grandmother is coming from my experience of myself. My granny taught all of her daughters to creates tasty dishes, to keep the family from dining out a lot. She told all the family where is the food comes from, she and my granddad managed huge farming of mixed ingredients, from just basic vegetables, carb sourced food, fruits, protein including lamb, beef, freshwater fish and chicken. Sustainable ingredients are our family pride before they passed away.

We were told to be proud of our farm, grateful and sharing with others. Getting those ingredients, produce it and share.

From this, it is great if the chef could control the sustainability of food supply. How amazing it is if we could use local ingredients for our amazing dishes. So many reasons to use and get ingredients from locals in your area.

The chef must able to do this without reducing the quality of the food, they must thinking out loud to create the food without a doubt.

The culinary trend, such as the sustainability of food supply is one of the jobs as a chef behind cooking. Because the updated chef is the most wanted and the peoples will look for.



Abdul Halim Ahmad

Food writer | Research & Development | Chef Consultant | Food culture enthusiast | Professional chef