Pursuing Excellence…

Always.

From an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America:

Cooking is an inexact science, and this is where the art comes in. You’ve got standard ratios that work up to a point. There are always variables, as far as: Did you cook all the roux out? How high was your cooking temperature? How much evaporation did you have? How much did it reduce? You have to take all those things into account, and see what your final product is, and figure out how to fix it. You have to be not so stressed out or under pressure that you can say “I know it’s not right and I need to fix it.”

“You can’t ever send a product out if it’s not right,” he continued. It doesn’t matter how busy you are – your reputation is on the line every time you put a plate out. If you send it out hoping they won’t notice, then that’s the kind of chef you will be all your life.

“So. Start. Good habits. Early! Do it right. Take your time.”

As Tom Peters would say:

EXCELLENCE.

Always.

If not EXCELLENCE, what?

If not EXCELLENCE now, when?

Excellence is not a goal – it’s the way we live, who we are.

What’s up at your place, excellence-wise? Are you content with the same old, same old? Is is good enough? Or are you pursuing excellence?

Strive for excellence – ignore success.

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What’s Your Stock?

Stock…

…the foundation for all classical French cooking.

At the CIA (that’s Culinary Institute of America), you start off your three-year education by learning how to peel vegetables and prepare a basic stock. You don’t do it once – you do it every day during the three-week rotation of the first class. Students move on after the first three weeks, but will continue to use the stock prepared by the next class of new students. Every three weeks, a new rotation of prospective chefs learn how to prepare stock.

A great stock is judged by:

  • Flavor
  • Clarity
  • Color
  • Body
  • Aroma

The perfect stock has what is referred to as a “neutral” flavor. This is a kind way of saying it doesn’t taste like anything you’re used to eating or would want to eat. But you can do a million different things with a great stock because it has the remarkable quality of taking on other flavors without imposing a flavor of its own. It offers its own richness and body anonymously. When you reduce it, it becomes its own sauce starter. You can add roux to stock and create a demi-glace, and with a demi-glace, you can make over a hundred distinct sauces that define classic French cooking.

What’s your stock?

Personally. Organizationally. However you want to define it.

What’s that basic “thing” you are, have, or do that makes everything else come together to make things happen?

Learn to make a basic stock, and the possibilities become endless.