09 Oct How would a chef run your home kitchen?
Tips from the chef at Crusoe’s on the Lake
Successful restaurants are those that can produce high quality meals with continuous variety at a good price while maintaining profitability: a tough ask and the reason why so many fail. This is why a well organised and experienced chef is crucial to the successful running of a restaurant. A chef must wear numerous hats, in the same way that a home maker must. A few tips from one of Newcastle’s best chefs might help your home kitchen run much more effectively. So if our chef was a full time homemaker, what things would be implemented in the kitchen to ensure that meals are cheap, quick to prepare and taste good?
Failing to plan is planning to fail… A cliche, but a good one; particularly in a commercial kitchen. In the same that a restaurant runs from a menu, your kitchen should have a weekly plan of attack.
Map out your week ahead and schedule in the meals you will eat and on what days. Take into account when you won’t be home and when you might have company. This will help you save money through less wastage or spoilage. Think about leftovers and how they might be used for future meals. For instance, a roast lamb one night is perfect a couple of days later in a pie!
Mise en place
The foundation to any well run kitchen is preparation or as the French call it, mise en place. With you meal planning for the week done it is important to set aside some time to prepare elements of each dish ahead of time. This is what allows a restaurant to push your meals out in a matter of minutes. So how might mise en place work in a home setting?
When you get home from your weekly grocery shop take a look at your menu for the week and create a ‘prep list’. This is the chopping, initial blanching, roasting etc of the different parts of your dishes ahead of time so on the night you don’t need to be slaving away.
For example, you might be having a stir fry on one night and a shepherd’s pie another night. If we just take one ingredient, the carrot, we chop it up accordingly ahead of time -so julienned for the stirfry and macedoine (small cubes) for the shepherd’s pie.
Make it taste good
The biggest difference in a meal prepared by a chef compared to the average home cook is seasoning. Seasoning (generally salt and pepper) brings dishes to life so always have a taste of your meal prior to serving and determine what kind of seasoning is required. It is also worthwhile learning a few basic tricks that can carry over to many dishes. A good base stock (vegetable or meat flavour water) is a wonderful thing to have on hand for instance and can even be reduced and frozen. Stocks are used as a base for soups and sauces as well as some basic dishes like risotto and bolognese sauce.
Other basics that can go a long way is learning how to cook the perfect steak, making shortcrust pastry and cooking vegetables correctly to better enhance their flavour.
We believe that if more home cooks followed these simple instructions, meal preparation would be a whole lot easier, cheaper and the food would taste better! You could always just eat every meal at Crusoe’s on the Lake though…