Thursday, July 17, 2008

How Do I Know?

My years of cooking have taught me a lot and one of these lessons is that the customer is a fickle animal indeed. Those who know me will tell you that I am always unsure how the diner will react to what I serve them. I must ask the servers a dozen times a night how everyone is doing, if they are enjoying everything. Sometimes the server will show me a clean plate and remark that everything was eaten so they must of liked it. I usually reply that all that means is they were hungry and did not necessarily like it. I have also learned that just because someone says everything is good they may actually be thinking something different, and so one cannot always take the customer at their word that all is well. It may take weeks, months before a restaurant finds out that what they are doing is not what the customer wants or that the restaurant is still producing at the level expected of them from the dinning public. I have always asked myself the question, "How do I know I'm still on track?" This is the single most question that keeps me awake at night. It's the question I ask myself everyday almost every hour. How do I know? I don't know. It's not like we churn out exact copies of every dish that goes out. Each dish has it's own personality and even though we try to produce each dish like that last we are still human and so each dish will differ in small ways, sometimes, but not very often, even in noticeable ways. Also, because these changes are often very small it may be sometime before anyone takes notice and then a correction has to take place. How do I know I am consistent? I don't know. I may make a particular dish a hundred times before it is taken off the menu and because of this the small changes that creep in can take hold if I am not diligent and over time change the entire character of the dish. You know, I guess it comes down to three things when trying to remain consistent: 1) Diligence, 2) Consentration, 3) Honesty. I have to make a diligent effort each day, to keep up the standards I have set for myself and for my food. I cannot allow my concentration to slip during service. A cook's concentration is key to a successful service. When concentrating on the dishes before me and not thinking about other things I am focused and therefore make sure each dish is prepared properly. By being honest I mean a cook has to be able to tell her/himself that what they are doing is wrong, bad or unacceptable. Honesty keeps the cook grounded. I guess I'll never come to the end of questioning my food. What I can hope for is that I stay honest with myself and allow course corrections when they become necessary.

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