What I took from extern: Weeks 1-4

I stepped into the kitchen with no real expectations. I was every excited and just as anxious. my first day i wandered around the kitchen looking for someone on the management team. After managing to find my way into bake shop I finally found the Sous Chef. He put me in connection with a manager. I immediately jumped in to help a team slice carious garnishes for a salad bar. It was simple work but still very entertaining. After finishing that I did various tasks around the kitchen. I was essentially a tournant, my role was to jump from team to team to help pick up the extra work.
One of my tasks involved searing crab cakes for a party the next day. A slim, African American gent was standing over the tilt skillet furiously dropping and turning crab cakes. I was awestruck when I saw how many he had completed, as well as how many were remaining. 2 full sheet racks, each filled with 18 trays, each tray containing over 50 crab cakes. I introduced myself and found out that his name was Jeff. We stood, with the racks dividing us, and mindlessly seared crab cakes for another hour or so. I had fully lost track of time by the end.
I discovered later that Jeff had not left until 2am that morning because he had to make and form all of the crab cakes the night before. We were actually doing yesterdays prep work. Regardless it ended up being one of the best decisions I made on extern. I made a solid friendship that would end up helping me. Jeff and I had a very unique relationship. It was more of an unspoken agreement but after that day we continued to work in tandem on tasks. If one of us needed help the other would jump in ,no questions asked. As a result we frequently ended up with more overtime than most of the people we work,ed with. I really enjoyed the work though,. I always had fun doing these monotonous tasks. I think it was partially attributed to the fact that i had a solid teammate. We are always told that a kitchen is made up of a team but it is seldom that you find a teammate you can so heavily rely on.
This stayed constant during my entire 18 weeks at Marriott. I noticed though in the early stages that everyone was very nice, but no one was really willing to stay to do extra work or help their team. That’s not to say I didn’t get help from anyone else. I just felt that the teamwork aspect didn’t really exist. I didn’t mind it, because it forced me to work hard and helped me improve on various skills and timing. Thanks to Jeff and many others my first four weeks were quite enjoyable.

Critical Thinking and Common Sense.

I really enjoyed our first day of lecture in Fish ID.  Chef Viverito has a completely split personality.  As soon as he moves from the kitchen to the classroom he becomes more friendly, relaxed and funny.  Within minutes of beginning lecture he discussed the importance of critical thinking.  After hearing the words critical thinking three times, once in each of my kitchen classes, I have begun to realize its importance.

We first touched on critical thinking in Culinary Fundamentals.  We really discussed the difference between common sense and critical thinking.  Chef DiPerri talked about how they were exactly the same thing.  I think the discussion originally came up when someone in class used a 1 gallon pot to make 1 quart of soup.  He talked about how we had to think for ourselves and the importance of critical thinking or common sense in the industry.

When we entered meat class, it wasn’t until the very end of the class that we began to talk about common sense.  Chef Elia was talking about how it was crucial that when we make purchases for meat that we think about what we are doing.  Why would it make sense to pay more for portion cut steaks?   He said we could just spend the time to learn how to do it and then save a lot of money.

And now fish class.  There really wasn’t a reason why we started talking about it.  Chef just decided to include it in his lectures.  I thought that this was fascinating because each chef had managed to touch on this topic at least once in the course.

I feel like critical thinking is something that people can’t learn. You can teach someone why it doesn’t make sense to peel the carrots after you cut them.  Critical thinking says, because I have to peel the carrots before I cut them, I should also peel the potatoes before I cut them.  No amount of schooling or money can make someone develop critical thinking.  Each person takes their own route when learning things.  Some learn quicker than others and more often than not, people that can use common sense learn quicker.

I am certain that when we I begin working in production kitchens in the next two weeks that I will be hearing a lot about making smart choices.  Using common sense or critical thinking in the kitchen drastically separates the skilled chefs from the amateurs.  Now, I am by no means a professional but I feel that my ability to think quickly and critically places me in the top portion of our class.

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