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sudsy9977
03-03-2011, 12:27 PM
so a question to all those chefs, cooks etc out there......i used to work in restaurants but i went down a different path.......when i cook for big dinners sometimes i'll do something a little more upscale for everyone......alot of times i might make a mistake......well not a mistake but say i might have to substitute something or change a recipe a hair.......and it doesn't come out as perfect as i know it could be.......

so my question is-do chefs say to themselves "well it's ok but it could be better"......or do they think they have created the best dish on the planet?.......is there a force behind you to ALWAYS strive to make it better?........

people always get mad at me....yes literally mad when i say "well it could be better than that"......i always think it is because they don't have a reference point for taste......


if i have eaten the best chicken dish in the world somewhere in the hills of italy and i have a kfc chicken breast for dinner i might not be impressed......however u take someone that never ate chicken and give them a kfc breast they might have a heart attack it is so good........does that make sense to anyone?.....am i alone here?.....ryan

JeffS
03-03-2011, 01:01 PM
Just a home cook here. I tend to do the same thing. I'm fairly sure that I am much more critical of what I make than any of the people eating it. I almost hate asking them what they think of it because they always say its great while I'm trying to figure out what I could do to make it better or "right".

Be interested to hear from our pros in residence.

Chef Niloc
03-03-2011, 01:07 PM
[quote] Am I alone here [\quote]
Ryan you will always be alone looser (:



Seriously:

There is a constant strive to make everything better, I call it refinement. Having been a chef now for 25 years ( 25 years 3 weeks ago) I can say that I have a hand full of dishes that are " refined" to the point that I don't see haw they can be made better, but that does not mean I stop trying. The thing I think you are missing is the "cockiness" that Chefs have. I will not ever talk about "bad dishes" at work, at work I am infallible. I think this is acutely important as a chef as every one looks to you for strength. A good chefs passion is the driving force behind any good restaurants, his standards the back bone. This past winter when I had some "down time" between my last job & start of work on the new place I was luckily enough to get "hooked up" with old school michelin star chef ( one of the first in the US). I must say it was nice to get to "work for" someone that I could consider a superior, I learned a lot. It's hard as a "established" chef to get to talk with ones pears, the long hours at work or the "competition" factor make it hard. In the city I know a lot of chef have a "hang out" were they can just chill and talk shop, I have done this from time to time. However it's not the same as working with some one day to day, the hours spent together make it so.
In a nut shell keep your "failures" to your self at work & try and find a friend in the food world so you don't feel alone.

sudsy9977
03-03-2011, 01:44 PM
good answer colin......i have seen many a cocky chef and uderstand the reasoning behind it.....good post....ryan

JohnnyChance
03-03-2011, 01:51 PM
Everything Colin says is dead on. It sounds like something from Animal Planet, but it's like you don't want to show weakness. You are the alpha male (or female for you professional lady cooks out there). I have screwed up stuff when I was in charge, but I am always the first to admit it and fix it. It is also easier to get a dish just right at work than at home I find. I spend more time there, I have more room, better equipment, etc. And someone to do all my dishes is nice too, haha. Plus the repetition of doing something over and over always helps. And I always want to a do a better job for my friends and family than for some faceless consumer (sorry customers), so there is more pressure there to get it just right.

So in short, at work in one night I might put out 30 sea bass and feel each one is perfect. And for the meals I have cooked for my family, maybe only a handful of times have I felt they have been perfect. In reality they are probably equally good, just my perspective and expectations are different.

ecchef
03-03-2011, 04:28 PM
For me it's a little different.
When I was working a la carte or in clubs, 'good enough' was never good enough and everything Colin said was applicable. But in catering, you sometimes have to compromise. Event palnners f*ck up their timelines, long-winded speakers throw off your timing, unfamiliar/(crappy/non-existant) equipment/(facilities/products) turn easy off-prems into nightmares. At some point, you look over a few hundred plates and say to yourself 'they all consistantly meet or exceed expectations'. Then you stop worring and send it.

I agree with JohnnyChance that at home I'm much more critical of my work. Probably because my wife is just as good a cook as I am & I don't have a battery of 10 cooks & porters to do my evil bidding.

BertMor
03-03-2011, 06:16 PM
I'm not so sure I agree with Colin. I am always having some doubt. Oh I know that I have something good working, but either the execution is missing somehow, or the ingredients technique whatever is not quite what I want it. And I tend to wear my feeling on my sleeve. I am constantly asking others "What do you think?" Doesn't mean I change anything but I llok for input outside of myself becasue somethimes I can't see the forest from the tree's.

But like he did say, almost nothing is ever to the point that it can't be improved in one manner or other.

Audi's or knives
03-04-2011, 12:42 AM
Home cook here and I like hearing some criticism when I know it's coming from the right people, it's incentive to get better/improve and keeps me from being complacent. Really respect all the pro chefs/cooks and what they do in a world filled with bloggers, online reviewers etc where everyone has become a critic. Can't imagine how you shut out this constant source of criticism from most people that aren't qualified to make the decision on how good your food is, with no clue on the work/time involved to make it so.

la2tokyo
03-04-2011, 02:16 AM
I agree that you need confidence, but I believe one of the most important qualities of a good chef is that he can immediately recognize if something is not on par with the best they can produce. It is a philosophy of mine, that not many others follow, that it's better to have a tiny menu than add something that isn't as good as the best dish you can produce. I think part of the reason for feeling that way is because in Japan there are so many places that make only one thing, but they do it very well. If I sell something to a new customer that isn't as good as everything else on the menu, they will not have a representative picture of my ability. Someone could come into my restaurant for the first time, try that dish, and leave thinking we were a 7 out of 10 rather than 10/10 because they ordered the wrong thing. I believe strongly that a restaurant is only as good as its worst dish rather than it's best dish because the customer doesn't always have the luxury of knowing what to order. I suppose a lot of people would argue that.

Some of the worst chefs I have ever met were often the cockiest. They were never willing to admit that they made a bad dish. It's easy to say one of the things that makes Joel Robuchon great is that he has confidence in what he's doing, but he has a one-of-a-kind palatte that he partially learned from other people telling him how to cook. There are A LOT of horrible chefs who think their food is great, who are unwilling to accept the fact that they made a bad dish. I think any discussion about having confidence in your food has to include a discussion about those types of people, because we're not all Robuchon, but most chefs decide at some point to listen a little less to people who doubt them as their confidence grows. If you've been a chef for any amount of time you know the type of person I'm talking about: Someone who makes the crappiest food you've ever had, refuses to listen to anyone who tells him otherwise, and tells tells everyone else to make it just like he does. The servers know it's bad when they taste it, but they can't tell the chef because he's an egomaniac, so they just tell people not to order it, but once in a while it gets ordered and sent back half eaten etc. etc. Meanwhile you've lost a potential regular customer because the chef can't take any criticism. IMHO it's more important for a chef to recognize mediocre or bad food than have almost any other skill.

I'm not saying I disagree with others who said you need to be cocky, but I think there's also another very important side to the argument.

Chef Niloc
03-04-2011, 02:56 AM
I'll admit I have made a bad dish but not during service or in front of the staff. I also will not serve a bad dish, I'll remake it. I always say people would rather wait for good food then get bad food fast.

Ec catering is a *****, I hate it.

Bert I too have doubt some times all ways with new dishes, I just won't show it durning service & I won't serve a dish to paying people that I don't think is spot on. Don't be so hard on your self.

JohnnyChance
03-04-2011, 03:50 AM
I wasn't trying to say you need to be cocky. You need to be confident. It is when that confidence is combined with ignorance that it becomes a detriment and leads to cocky behavior that hinders your ability to create quality food and lead a quality staff.

Chef Niloc
03-05-2011, 12:34 AM
I wasn't trying to say you need to be cocky. You need to be confident. It is when that confidence is combined with ignorance that it becomes a detriment and leads to cocky behavior that hinders your ability to create quality food and lead a quality staff.

Nicely put

Delbert Ealy
03-05-2011, 01:02 AM
I am a home cook and I have a very critical group to cook for, 5 females. They are very demanding. In addition my wife has several unusual allergies, and many dislikes. We all like comfort food, but I try to serve a healthy menu for as many nights as possible, I usually try for 5 healthy meals out of 7. I have a few recipes I have perfected that all agree are delicious. This is a rarity, I usually have 1 dissenter. Or I'll only have 1 agree that its good, most often its my oldest daughter, she seems to have similar tastes to my own. Recent example; I made french onion soup. It turned out really good, but ony my oldest agreed. I try new recipies every month or so, and I am lucky to get one recipe out of 5 that passes.
I worked in fast food for 14 years, and my home audience is a tougher crowd than I ever encountered there.

Tristan
03-08-2011, 01:25 AM
Home cook here

I'm just wondering, hardly anyone enjoys criticism, yet all of us say we crave it. So how often do we accept our own criticisms, but weigh the opinions of the people that comment depending on how well they cook?

I'm ok taking criticism from anyone who I think cooks better/equal to me - or in fact of anyone that cooks regularly at all and takes pride/joy in doing it, or if it is the first few times I am trying out a new dish... but I resent the remarks of people that don't cook much or at all. I'm struggling to decide if this is immaturity, or a case of "walk a mile in my shoes first"...

tk59
03-08-2011, 02:31 AM
This is a surprisingly interesting thread. In my world, criticism = respect and by criticism. I don't mean complaining. It's more like feedback. If you don't comment or ask a question it means you don't give a crap and yes, it really has to come from someone who knows something about food because the sorts of feedback you get from non-cooks generally means nothing, as in they aren't sure what they mean themselves. That said, 99% of the people I cook for that are over the age of 3 give me nothing more than praise even when I know I've f'ed up in some way.

tweyland
03-15-2011, 01:07 AM
I feel fortunate that I have learned from great cooks and chefs. I believe there's definitely a window or a range of good food. I don't believe that there is one absolute, one correct way to do make something delicious. I often think about a street vendor that's made his/her one dish for their entire career. Then some "chef" comes by and makes his or her fancy version. Both versions can be good. But it also means you can learn something from the dishwasher as well as the executive chef.

I listen to everyone's feedback, but there are a few people whose palates I trust - their comments get a lot more consideration than those from other people. Even then, ultimately, you gotta just trust your own palate and "vision" for the dish.

Mostly I work on twisting dishes that are recognizable from cuisines that people may or may not be familiar with. But at least there's a template. I can see how it would be much much harder as one tries to be more original.

Just my humble opinion,

~Tad

Eamon Burke
03-19-2011, 06:38 PM
I typically make dishes to satisfy cravings or to focus on certain flavor combinations. I don't like complicated food, and I like food that tastes real and distinct. I don't have flavors that I ban as evil--bitterness, gaminess, even "burned". I don't feed people with any kind of taste refinement, so I can testify to exactly what you were talking about. Often my customers are people who have never had better chicken than KFC. I make tomato soup from scratch, and they turn it down. Give them Campbell's from a can and they LOVE IT. I fight this institutional food addiction every day. I never doubt when my food is good, I eat it for lunch. But I often am not making my food--people love the crap that comes from freezer to oven to plate, drowned in ketchup and mayonnaise.

When I make food at home, I often don't think it's as good as it gets until every aspect of it has been considered and utilized to it's fullest. I had a cup of coffee the other day, Freshly roasted Organic Brazilian Blue beans, water filtered through a great system, heavy whipping cream, unrefined cane sugar, and Weller bourbon. If anyone's got a problem with a drink like that, they can make their own!

rysara
03-24-2011, 01:30 AM
I tend to be my own worst enemy at times whenever I make a dish. I conceptualize the dish in my mind all the way up to the plate up and once I put it out and when the first fork/spoon/chopstick hits the food, I'm consistently going over the things I could have changed and would have done differently. But that's just me being a perfectionist. I love creative criticism and I think that you can't be a great cook without an open mind.

heirkb
03-25-2011, 12:08 PM
I'm only a home cook and know virtually nothing about restaurant life, but I do think I can say one thing about criticism. I think that as long as it has some elements of being well-intended (not some mean remark), clear enough to understand, and honest, it is useful criticism. I mean seriously, are you just cooking for people who are food experts? I know that I like to cook for my family and ordinary people who aren't as crazy about food as I can be, and their criticism can be helpful for me to understand what they like even if it's not what I like or what I want to make. I guess all I'm saying is that you don't need to have years of culinary experience, tons of dollars invested in food/food knowledge, and hours of research into food in order to have the right to have your perspective validated. If you don't like fresh tuna and like the canned stuff way more, fine. I'll disagree with you, and I can make the decision to try to push you to try new things or to just give you canned tuna, but I'm not going to be a snob about writing off your perspective. There is no objectively good food, and that's why I figure everyone has a right to their perspective/criticism (as long as it has some of those elements I already mentioned) without having me write them off. If you're an immigrant, have visited other countries, or know people from very different backgrounds from yours, I'm sure you already know this, because some of the foods you or the people you know/have met love is completely disgusting to other people.

sudsy9977
03-25-2011, 07:56 PM
lots of great responses in this thread....glad i started it...ryan

olpappy
06-03-2011, 07:56 PM
This thread made me think of people who get a dish seasoned the way it should be and pull out the salt shaker and start dumping salt on it, or soy sauce, or ketchup, etc.. I guess that could be a form of criticism, implying that it needed to have some extra stuff added. Sometimes I think you have to consider the source, different people have different tastes, so I suppose a critique by a "food expert" should carry more weight than a critique by a random member of the public.

MadMel
06-04-2011, 10:10 AM
This thread made me think of people who get a dish seasoned the way it should be and pull out the salt shaker and start dumping salt on it, or soy sauce, or ketchup, etc.. I guess that could be a form of criticism, implying that it needed to have some extra stuff added. Sometimes I think you have to consider the source, different people have different tastes, so I suppose a critique by a "food expert" should carry more weight than a critique by a random member of the public.

I actually disagree with that. How much a certain food is seasoned is dependent on who tastes it. For example, me and my peers at work have quite different tolerance levels for saltiness, heat and so on. So as far as that goes, a so called 'food expert' will also have his own preference for how much seasoning goes onto the food as he is human like the rest of us. To me a critique by a normal customer hold as much weight as one by an expert. The only reason we make a huge fuss is cause his review is gonna come out on some highly frequented website/blog/newspaper column and it's gonna affect future business to a certain degree.

I constantly doubt the dishes I put out, though I'm only in charge of the appetizers. I just always have that niggling thought at the back of my mind telling me that something could have been done better. Better dressing, better presentation, etc. Probably due to my relative inexperience.

tk59
06-04-2011, 11:36 AM
I actually disagree with that. How much a certain food is seasoned is dependent on who tastes it. For example, me and my peers at work have quite different tolerance levels for saltiness, heat and so on. So as far as that goes, a so called 'food expert' will also have his own preference for how much seasoning goes onto the food as he is human like the rest of us. To me a critique by a normal customer hold as much weight as one by an expert. The only reason we make a huge fuss is cause his review is gonna come out on some highly frequented website/blog/newspaper column and it's gonna affect future business to a certain degree.

I constantly doubt the dishes I put out, though I'm only in charge of the appetizers. I just always have that niggling thought at the back of my mind telling me that something could have been done better. Better dressing, better presentation, etc. Probably due to my relative inexperience.

I totally agree BUT I do have issue with people dumping stuff on what I cook BEFORE they even taste it! :angry1:

rockbox
06-04-2011, 11:40 AM
I totally agree BUT I do have issue with people dumping stuff on what I cook BEFORE they even taste it! :angry1:

That's my pet peeve as well.

MadMel
06-04-2011, 12:01 PM
That's my pet peeve as well.

It actually ranks among the top few. Mine is when people come into an Italian restaurant and says that they are strictly vegetarian, which means they can't have eggs, honey, milk, and strangely enough, garlic, onions and anything of that family, in addition to meat...
And you know the best thing? We are located next to a vegetarian restaurant... That is the single most irritating group of people that I have encountered.

JohnnyChance
06-04-2011, 12:59 PM
It actually ranks among the top few. Mine is when people come into an Italian restaurant and says that they are strictly vegetarian, which means they can't have eggs, honey, milk, and strangely enough, garlic, onions and anything of that family, in addition to meat...
And you know the best thing? We are located next to a vegetarian restaurant... That is the single most irritating group of people that I have encountered.

What the hell kind of vegan is that? Do they think "elephant garlic" comes from an elephant?

tk59
06-04-2011, 01:16 PM
:rofl: I gotta say, that's a new one to me.

goodchef1
06-04-2011, 01:55 PM
for myself, I doubt dishes all the time. When I do private VIP functions, where money is a non issue, I can use the best quality products available. Then, no worries.

However, from a business stand point, where cost/price is a major factor, I can only use products that fit into a price structure. So yes, not being able to use the highest quality product for any given dish makes me always think "man, this would be so much better if"

a chef relies on staff for line work or prep, so it is just as important to have a quality brigade so one can feel confidant that the products that reach the customer is of the highest standard, and with great pride.:biggrin:

Eamon Burke
06-05-2011, 12:40 AM
There is a bit of recognition that customers will alter a dish to their liking, that's why tables have salt, soy sauce, wasabi, bbq sauce, hot sauce, mustard, etc. But the people salting the food before they eat are telling you something. They have a salt addiction.

The combination of salts and simple sugars creates a reward stimulus that is the heart of America's health problems. You shouldn't see a rude person, you should remember that you are witnessing the #1 cause of death in America.

MadMel
06-05-2011, 01:28 AM
There is a bit of recognition that customers will alter a dish to their liking, that's why tables have salt, soy sauce, wasabi, bbq sauce, hot sauce, mustard, etc. But the people salting the food before they eat are telling you something. They have a salt addiction.

The combination of salts and simple sugars creates a reward stimulus that is the heart of America's health problems. You shouldn't see a rude person, you should remember that you are witnessing the #1 cause of death in America.

LOL!!!

tk59
06-05-2011, 02:32 AM
...you are witnessing the #1 cause of death in America. Correct me if I'm wrong. Are you saying it's okay to wipe these people out because they are killing themselves anyway?

WildBoar
06-05-2011, 10:48 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong. Are you saying it's okay to wipe these people out because they are killing themselves anyway????? That seems like quite a bit of a reach.

JohnnyChance
06-05-2011, 12:46 PM
Haha, I do not think that is what John was saying. He was saying that the average american diet has programmed these people to eat their food that way and that same diet also has lead to our high rate of heart disease and other ailments.


But when I am working and handed a business card from a waitress that one of her patrons gave her that outlines their myriad of preferences and allergies, I do take a little joy in knowing that even just 100 or so years ago when there was still a survival of the fittest aspect to human life in america, people allergic to apparently half the items under the sun wouldn't have lasted that long. :D

mano
06-07-2011, 09:49 AM
Home cook here and I doubt what I make for several reasons.

In no particular order:

I love the process of planning, preparing and serving food people really enjoy and there's always room for improvement.

Being exposed to excellent chefs in person or on-line reminds me how much I don't know.

I suck at plating

About 8 years ago I had surgery which impaired my ability to taste so I'm always asking other people, including a few "super-tasters" to check my food as I cook.

Occasionally I make up dishes that have the potential to be home-runs or strike-outs. A member of my wine and dinner group called me "The bravest home cook I know." Sometimes I get carried away and have to remember that "less is more" is usually true for home cooks. Or at least it's true for me.

Sometimes I drink wine while cooking.

MadMel
06-07-2011, 10:18 AM
Less is more kinda applies everywhere. I've seen guys who just keep adding additional ingredients to their dishes. It is important not to over-complicate your dishes. Drinking slightly is ok but smoking is not as I feel that it kinda affects your sense of taste.

WildBoar
06-07-2011, 05:51 PM
My wife likes to try new recipes for parties, etc., and I'm more of a 'let's make it for ourselves first, a week earlier and see how it is" kinda guy. Guess which one of us usually wins that discussion :scratchhead:

Thankfully she has a great intuition for how flavors will combine, and we have yet to get into trouble trying new recipes without testing them first. Oh, and we do taste a lot as we're working through the dishes; we often find amount of seasoning, herbs, etc. are off the mark, so we have a chance to fix things before the dishes are completed.

We are pretty critical of what we make, and we'll spend time dissecting it after the guests have left. But most of our friends are grateful to be eating something besides take-out or microwaved food, so we rarely get much in the way of useful critiques from them :(

MadMel
06-08-2011, 02:40 AM
Lol.. I find that the most demanding critic is often yourself, unless you can't be bothered. But you won't be cooking if you can't be bothered so...

stopbarking
06-10-2011, 02:08 AM
Home cook here and I doubt what I make for several reasons.

In no particular order:

I love the process of planning, preparing and serving food people really enjoy and there's always room for improvement.

Being exposed to excellent chefs in person or on-line reminds me how much I don't know.

I suck at plating

About 8 years ago I had surgery which impaired my ability to taste so I'm always asking other people, including a few "super-tasters" to check my food as I cook.

Occasionally I make up dishes that have the potential to be home-runs or strike-outs. A member of my wine and dinner group called me "The bravest home cook I know." Sometimes I get carried away and have to remember that "less is more" is usually true for home cooks. Or at least it's true for me.

Sometimes I drink wine while cooking.

I do this professionally and have the same issues you do. Those professional chefs of us who are lucky enough to have some creative license struggle with the same issues.

I'd love to be your next door neighbor. Keep at it!

SpikeC
06-10-2011, 12:44 PM
Jackes Pepin says that you should drink wine while you cook!

Eamon Burke
06-11-2011, 01:01 AM
I'm not just saying this, I really do cook better when I drink spirits that make their way into the food while I am cooking.

mateo
06-14-2011, 11:27 AM
Home cook here... but to answer the basic question, yes I do doubt my dishes. What I find myself doing is comparing my dish to something you would eat in a restaurant -- if it doesn't taste like it would/could be served in a nice (not 3 Star Michelin) restaurant I'm generally not happy with it. Then again, as I've gotten to be a better and better cook, I certainly tend to enjoy restaurant food less and less.

Although I do have a question for those Chefs working -- do you feel as if when you're cooking something you've become almost... desensitized to it's aromas and flavors and simply will NOT taste as good if you didn't make it? I kinda feel this way as a home cook -- especially if I'm braising or stewing, because I'm smelling it for hours.

Eamon Burke
06-14-2011, 12:47 PM
Sometimes it can be like that. You have to either back off the concept of the dish and just make it with care and occasional tasting, or completely immerse yourself in the concept of making the dish. This is especially true with soups. There are so many moving parts, and making a great soup requires so much tasting and standing in the aromatic steam, that by the time you are done, you are sick of it!

As for restaurant food, the way I see it, food on a 1-10 is like this:
1-5 - can/should get it at home(why pay for lackadaisical preparation?)
5-9 - should get it at a restaurant(why work that hard for dinner?)
10 - can only be gotten at home. Restaurant food, by nature, has to please a lot of different people and tastes. A lot of the best food I've ever eaten was home-cooked--best brisket, best burger, best whole turkey, best apple pie, best cup of coffee, the list goes on.

MadMel
06-15-2011, 10:14 AM
Sometimes it can be like that. You have to either back off the concept of the dish and just make it with care and occasional tasting, or completely immerse yourself in the concept of making the dish. This is especially true with soups. There are so many moving parts, and making a great soup requires so much tasting and standing in the aromatic steam, that by the time you are done, you are sick of it!

As for restaurant food, the way I see it, food on a 1-10 is like this:
1-5 - can/should get it at home(why pay for lackadaisical preparation?)
5-9 - should get it at a restaurant(why work that hard for dinner?)
10 - can only be gotten at home. Restaurant food, by nature, has to please a lot of different people and tastes. A lot of the best food I've ever eaten was home-cooked--best brisket, best burger, best whole turkey, best apple pie, best cup of coffee, the list goes on.

I believe that becoming desensitized to the flavour and aroma is probably due to palate fatigue. It happens all the time cause you are constantly tasting, probing, smelling so your taste buds get tired in a sense.
I really agree with the rating you have there except maybe I'll go 7-9 for getting it at a restaurant. It's gotta be above average for me to go there. And yeah the best Risotto I've had was made at home. Same with fish and seafood.

Crothcipt
04-15-2012, 03:26 AM
I love this thread. I have learned how to cook to the cooks around me to their ability. So I know I am not cooking the best dish that I can. I may seem like I am sounding cocky but I have had many customers ask "who made this?". To later ask for me to prepare it when I am not at that station. Have had people walk out when I was off work for the day. Many cooks out there don't put their heart into a dish, but cut corners to just get "the slop" out there. I don't like this but it is true, and not just in a kitchen either.

I agree with Chef Niloc that when in a position of leadership you have to be 100% sure of the dish. If you are 99.9% sure the waitstaff and other cooks will pick up on that.

When I am coming up with something new I doubt all the time. When asking if something is good I usually ask if does this need something else to round out the flavor? You will get a better response.