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Eziemniak

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This summer, first time in years, I got a job in fine dining kitchen.
All great, it is a change from hotels I have worked in, learning curve etc.
However, I was and am still surprised at the number of substances we use to gel, texturize, stabilize and what not our dishes.
Albuwhip
Gelcream
Trisol
Xanthana
Glucose
Glicerine
Absolutcrystal
Lecithin
Various pectins
Ascorbic acid
Ten different obscure types of sugar

Years ago, it seems to me, kitchens made without all this stuff.
The food is great, looks even better than tastes, but I kind of wonder if it the same stuff across all restaurants nowadays?

Also, what about cooks who can produce 10 differenf textures of sauce or foam, but struggle to fillet a bass or bream?
 

Dutch chef

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You bring up a great point.
I tend to come across jong chefs that want to dive into fine dining with expectations of making instagram plates. But lack in the most basic skills. It’s a rude awakening when they realize that basic skills are far more valuable. I tend to teach my students with a solid foundation of basic skills. Including basics of butchering , pastry. There is always something new and interesting to learn about food and I don’t mind some experimenting. But we as a team pride ourselves in teaching our students a basic foundation of skills slowly getting lost in World of social media hype and trendy Looks, instead of sensible basic knowledge.
 

M1k3

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Molecular gastronomy is cool. But it's not the only way. I personally like playing with that. But I can't stand when the food revolves around it.
 

Eziemniak

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Hehehe, yes I sound like grumpy 'back in my days everything was better/harder/easier/different' guy.
Nevertheless I would not put half of this stuff cooking for myself or family, so why such a strong push towards it nowadays?
Dutch Chef mentioned social media, are we really that vain?
 

Tim Rowland

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It certainly is different.
I did fine dining in Palm Springs, Ca about 20 years ago before going into high end hotels. The things we did then versus now is night and day. That said I do not hire cooks without them doing a cooking/knowledge demo including breaking down a whole fish, whole chicken, and demonstrating a hollandaise in the traditional manner. If all they are interested in is molecular gastronomy or being the next big name I thank them for their time and give them a few suggestions of high end restaurants in the area and who to ask for if they want to stage or interview.
 

soigne_west

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I did fine dining for a while. It’s cool but for me it was not fun AT ALL. Definitely learned a lot. A lot of the ingredients you listed have been making their way more mainstream cooking for a while now. I think every pro cook should work fine dining atleast once in their career, if at least to see how to properly communicate in a kitchen.
 

AFKitchenknivesguy

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Man, great reading about your experiences and how you dealt with them. I'm not in the industry but glad I'm not wealthy enough for it from a customer perspective!
 

Bodine

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It certainly is different.
That said I do not hire cooks without them doing a cooking/knowledge demo including breaking down a whole fish, whole chicken, and demonstrating a hollandaise in the traditional manner.
Heck I can do that as just a home cook, be in Dahlonega for the weekend, any dining suggestions?
 

lechef

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I started working about 10 years ago, and been in fine dining about half my career. Actually I felt we used all the chemicals much more back then when the Spanish influence(post El Bulli) was at its top, now it´s gone much more back to the basics and rather natural influences(Noma, L´Arpege). But the good products(like you list) that came from it has obviously stuck.
Regardless, like you say, the cooking/chef should always come from an solid understanding off the basis. I have also seen my fair share of cooks in 3* who lack the skill to understand the food they are cooking(myself included). I have also seen places where they are able to combine the modern with the traditional craftmanship and then it´s truly amazing. If the Chef is invested in building a proper team that he actually teaches things and they are not just there to fill a purpose of being 2 silent working hands, that is when you get a good result.

Anyway, have fun at your job! Going back to mine myself in a few weeks after been cooking casual food since March..(Covid..)
 

panda

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not a fan of all the frou frou crap. people are more concerned with how pretty it looks rather than taste.
 

Tim Rowland

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Heck I can do that as just a home cook, be in Dahlonega for the weekend, any dining suggestions?
Dahlonega is a very small town, mainly just North Ga. University and some touristy places.
There are quite a few nice wineries in the area though.
Not sure how many of them have opened back up.
I know the Executive Chef at Kaya Winery and he and his team make some great food but again not sure if they have fully reopened.
 

mise_en_place

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Hehehe, yes I sound like grumpy 'back in my days everything was better/harder/easier/different' guy.
Nevertheless I would not put half of this stuff cooking for myself or family, so why such a strong push towards it nowadays?
Dutch Chef mentioned social media, are we really that vain?
I think @ian might appreciate this analogy. It's like matrices in math(s) (<-- shout out to my Brits and your former colonies). You should learn the theory, history, and how/why by doing them by hand. Then you can use your fancy calculator to get **** done.

So, I'd like cooks to know the history and traditional techniques before you move on to hydrocolloid city. Know how to cook a steak that's 2" thick before you decide to throw every damn thing in the circulator.
 

ian

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At the same time, 200 years ago every mathematician was also a physicist and a chemist etc..., and 50 years ago every mathematician knew applied math, and now here I am a mathematician who took no other science classes in college (except CS) and has never taken a statistics class, while my papers are so specialized that even their titles are incomprehensible to all but 5% of mathematicians, and 0% of nonmathematicians.

You could argue that the ability to break down salmon is irrelevant to someone who makes foams all day. Similarly, does it matter if your pastry chef can’t cook a steak to medium rare consistently? But yea, I totally agree that if you’re going to be doing a high level version of something in your job, you’d better understand the fundamentals too (eg SV steak vs traditional methods). That’s a good point. And a basic level of knowledge is necessary to understand how you fit into the line, even if what you do is super specialized. But I have no idea how fine dining kitchens work, so I’ll leave this to you and the other experts.

ps: I love the analogy!
 
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Barclid

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The fine dining restaurants I worked at that used modern hydrocolloids and other such things always used them in tandem with other procedures that required more "basic" techniques. There is nothing preventing you from knowing and using both and there are certain things that these stabilizers or gelling agents simply do better than their less refined or more basic counterparts. They are popular nowadays because they're much more widely available and their effects and benefits are more well known across a broader spectrum of people. The argument that you would never use them when cooking for your family so why use it at a restaurant is fundamentally flawed. People go to restaurants specifically TO eat food that they would not be served at home.
 
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