Sunday, September 27, 2009
The culinary world is much like the fashion world. Styles change. Trends and fads come and go. One constant, regardless of trend fad or style, is execution. It doesn't matter if you're at a diner or a Michelin three star restaurant. Execution is king and consistency is queen.
There are many moving parts that go in to presenting a plate of food. Part of it is dreaming up the concept of the dish. Part of it is teaching the technique behind the dish. Part of it is preparing that dish over and over again with the same consistency of execution. The last 'part' is the one that matters most. You can write amazing menus with amazing ideas. You can be a great teacher of your techniques to your staff, but when it gets right down to it, if the cooks who are in the shit at 8pm on a saturday night can't execute your ideas consistently, who cares? All the planning, sourcing, writing, teaching, etc.....it's all for naught if the execution sucks. Pack it up and go write cookbooks or something.
I love food. I love cooking. I love restaurants and 'restaurant life'. However, if I really dig deep the thing that really drives me is execution. You can do something a million times perfectly and it will be that one million and first time that you burn it or under season it....and the world goes sideways. It has to be perfectly executed every time. Every plate. Here's an example: The 19 year old kid in the picture above works hot 1st course at the Mansion. He handles a whole host of dishes in addition to the amuse every night. He's got a lot of dishes that require multiple steps but the one that always makes him roll his eyes is the foie gras;(in fact I don't even order it as foie gras during service. I call it 'damn it') it's also the order that can quickly put him in the shits if other orders stack on top of it. It only requires two steps. Toast brioche. Sear foie gras. Everything else is plating. It's only two steps, why is it so bad? Execution. Toasting the bread to the perfect color and searing the foie gras to the correct doneness requires a bit of 'hand holding'. Basically, you're whole night can go sideways in the blink of an eye. Even worse is if a piece of too dark brioche goes to the pass....then to the trash and start over....and you're officially in the shit. Congrats.
It's perfecting execution that drives me. Every day is different and something you thought you had a handle on can step up and smack you in the face at any time. Can you peel this carrot faster and better than you did yesterday? Can you make 34 perfect pretzel rolls faster than yesterday? Will the plates look and taste as good at 8:15 when you have orders stacked up like an air traffic controller as they did at 5:30 when the night was starting?
Talk all you want about new cooking trends, fads, styles, foams, gelees, liquid nitrogen, whatever. No matter what you're talking about it all comes down to two words. Execution and Consistency. In order to be a great cook, you've GOT to master these two words. I'm still working at it....every day, I'm up against their wall.