Hotel Professionals

Characteristics of successful executive chefs.


Young, adventurous, and inventive chefs dominate the North American foodie generation. They appear in TV shows, and talk a lot and convincingly while demonstrating their cooking styles.

Many reveal the secrets of combining ingredients and flavours from all over the world. Some of them run their own small restaurants frequented by young, well-heeled food lovers. Some of these chefs take “flavour and texture risks”. A few are successful, while others fail abysmally. A few write books, also bottle their “secret recipe” sauces, or package pates. In short they are businessmen.

True chefs run kitchens, some of whom feed thousands of hungry people day in day out, Many serve lunch and dinner, yet others, dinner only for five days weekly.

In large convention hotels that frequently serve banquets to 500 and more, executive chefs become `production managers whose main concerns are to have the food ready in a timely fashion, and which is nicely presented, all the while meeting food cost parameters. They cannot afford artistic presentations, refinement of technique, or other culinary niceties or sophistications.

The use commonly frozen convenience, prepared and oven ready entrees, as frozen vegetables, and even desserts from commercial patisseries.

In small restaurants, executive chefs concern themselves with consistent, well prepared, refines, elegantly presented food.

Their food is classically prepared using well founded but more refines techniques from culinary stars of the past like A. Careme, A. Escoffier, P. Bocuse, R. Redzepy and many others.

They consider execution, technique, consistency and balance of the plate.

They never shout or make scenes in the kitchen, as was the case in European kitchens well into the 1960`s. There may still be a few “old timers” who run their kitchens like small fiefdoms with fear, and outbursts of anger, shouting, and demeaning comments to cooks who fail to meet their demands.

Executive chefs train cooks, look for quality ingredients, and are genuinely interested in the well being of their fellow workers. They even advise those who seek their counsel, and may be willing to let young and ambitious cooks try out a few recipes of their own inventions. They may experiment with foams, specifications, and other sous vide cooking methods invented by

Successful executive chefs never go out fro drinks with their crew members and fraternize. There is always a distance and respect between the chef and the crew.

They look for well-executed fundamentals in their food with impeccable ingredients and cook mostly a la minute to preserve the integrity of ingredients.

If a cook fails to produce an airy gnocchi, or poached lobster in clarified butter, or pan-fry a halibut filet, the cook is shown not once, but if necessary, several times how to achieve perfection.

They look for detail and rarely intervene during service, but “discuss” the matter with the cook.

Successful chefs heed nutritional concerns, know what is appropriate to serve at dinner, what kind of foods are complimentary (why would you want to serve Brussels sprouts with a delicate fillet of sole or scampi? Or cucumbers or canned sardines at dinner to old people with delicate stomachs?)

Professional cooking requires stamina and good coordination skills. It is hard work and may even be dangerous if you don’t know how to operate a pressurized commercial steamer, or huge deep fryer.

You must love what you are doing, while other people enjoy themselves on Saturday and Sunday nights.

It is a profession that requires a long, intensive apprenticeship, and years of practice to acquire all qualities to lead a crew of professionals to feed hundreds or thousands of people with interminable demands because of allergies or personal preferences.

Young cooks graduating from culinary schools want to start as sous chefs immediately, but they lack the wherewithal of the intricacies of running a production facility within cost parameters.

Hrayr Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.

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