After I finished writing down my recollections I summarized what I had learned with the following:
What does a Respectable Mastery of Culinary Arts mean?
Now back to the fundamental question, by what rights do I proclaim I have a “respectable mastery of culinary arts”?
It begins with my experience and my understanding of food and food handling, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, basic sauces. Understanding preparation techniques, also sanitation practices, food temp awareness, food safety standards, along with other aspects of food sciences, application of heat, etc.
I also understand basic paperwork, inventory, ordering, receiving, scheduling, POS systems and such.
I understand mise en place and I understand how the restaurants operates back of house and front of house.
In my active years I could be placed into any kitchen (where we speak the same language and everyone is on the same side.) and become a valuable asset during a rush. Why? Because I understand the basics that all restaurants have in common, I can be quiet and watch, listen, learn.
Besides knowing how to graciously take direction, one must observe and communicate. Can I help you? What should I do? Is it okay to do such and such? Simple clear communication and echo, that is, acknowledging when spoken to, to make clear we are all following the same plan.
Then follow through on my assignment - if it’s helping cook, or dish, or expedite, or go back to help the dishwasher get caught up and get the line restocked, or to do some emergency prep. I know how to go and do it. By that I mean, my ego doesn’t get in the way, I’m happy being a cog in an operation focused on a common goal.
My weakness is my taste buds and palate memory. That coupled with a curious innate indifference toward food makes me mediocre when it comes to seasoning and judging flavors, or creating grand dishes and menus made to impress.
Just give me the product and I’ll process it the way you want and create a good wholesome meal, nicely plated, and served with style.
Definition you'll find all over: “Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, etc. before you start cooking. Pans are prepared. Mixing bowls, tools and equipment set out. It is a technique chefs use to assemble meals so quickly and effortlessly.”But, Mise en place goes beyond that to include cleanliness of one self and one's station along with mentally preparing yourself for show time.
Culinary Service Arts
To this day when I discuss guest service my back straightens and my hands and arms become animated because I appreciate that good restaurant service is an art, a performance, a skill. A good server/host appreciates that two-thirds of what guests taste is the experience.
Personal enthusiastic service, knowledge of the menu and wines, attentiveness, when to step up or step back. Be observant, scans faces and table tops, we aware of the pace, tempo of individual tables - the server is host and responsible for the logistics of a successful dinner, which includes successfully ordering and communicating with the folks in the back of the house.
In the kitchen, cooperation and “echo!” - speak, listen, acknowledge, respond - following the rules of the house is just as important as schmoozing your guests.
Did I mention that liking good teamwork is a requirement for success within Culinary “Arts”?