We've had the routine summer turn-over in our kitchen over the last 2 months. As business slows ever so slightly, we are still running around and trying to cover everything... due to employees on vacation as well as turn-over. One area of our focus now has been on training. It's something that our hotel puts a lot of attention on, but as always, the kitchen is its own thing. We don't fit into the norm. It did, however, get us thinking... what restaurant or kitchen have we ever worked in where we were given an actual training. There may be 2 or 3 days of working with someone else on a station, then you are tossed into the fire. I'm amazed at how many new cooks show up to work and do not even have pen and paper. It's true that training and learning are 2 way streets, and a cook has to reach for information. Regardless of this common lack of real training, if we can make the process better then we will.
I started to focus on cooking processes used in our kitchen that new cooks may not be accustomed to. True, we can show them how to use it and the physical steps that must be completed to achieve an end result, but if they do not understand what is happening during those steps it's pointless. My first 'tutorial' or introduction plan focused on sous-vide. This is to get the new person used to using the vacuum sealing machine and also to understand why we choose to cook with this method. I hooked up the thermocirculator and began to cook eggs. We ate a few at 62C, then ate more later at 65C, then more still at 70C. This was done in reference to Herve This' explanation of egg cookery in the introduction the the "Sous-Vide" book by Roca and Brugues. We sampled and observed the different levels of coagulation of proteins with the egg at the temperature intervals, and the team became motivated. It felt a little like a classroom forum for a minute instead of our usual kitchen cranking out room service orders, hamburgers and chicken tenders for the pool, as well as fine dining dishes for the restaurant. This in turn motivates me to do another tutorial on the next huge unfamiliar area of importance... umami. Understanding this primal sensory phenomenon can be simple if approached correctly.
There is one question that Chef K and I had after eating the first batch of eggs at 62C. All eggs that we opened had the same familiar textures as always (we usually do our 2 hour eggs at 62 for the softness of the yolk) except for one egg... which was much softer and appeared less cooked than the rest. Why is that? Is it due to irregularities in eggs that one may possibly contain different levels of different proteins? Is it because our experiment was done with simple Sysco white eggs instead of hormone-free organic free-range farm fresh eggs? I chalk it up to nature... and as with all other things in nature, there is always an anomoly and there is always imperfection... part of the beauty and surprise of nature. Either that or it's chicken steroids.