Paco Elvira/Cover/Getty Images Paco Elvira/Cover/Getty Images
By Hannah Howard

Have your mis en place in place. Be prepared.

Season everything.

Taste everything.

Perfectly ripe Camembert feels like the soft spot on a loosely clenched fist, between your thumb and first finger, solid yet yielding (but tastes much better).

Run the faucet nearby to help with your onion tears. Tears are not tasty.

Don’t let them see you sweat. This is metaphorical because a hot line is a fantastically sweaty place. Definitely do not let them see you cry.

Always stir your fellow cook’s mushroom purée when you see it needs stirring, and he’s in the bathroom or texting his girlfriend or distracted pitting cherries. You don’t have to ask.

It’s ok to ask “What can I do to help?” But it’s even better to anticipate: Strain the stock. Pick the mint. Wash the spatulas.

Hold your knife like you mean it.

Mean it.

When in doubt, more butter.

Every plate should be a plate you’d be proud to serve your mom.

When garnishing with a rain shower of fresh herbs, sprinkle from high above the plate so as to avoid awkward clumps of chervil.

If your buerre blanc threatens to separate, take it off the stove, add a few ice cubes, and whisk wholeheartedly.

Play with fire.

Always have a clean jacket, a clean station, and a clean brain.

The answer is always: Yes, Chef! Or Oui, Chef, if you’re in an old-school kitchen.

Yell. Louder. No one can hear you above the wild clamor of service.
Drink water from quart containers. Glass is a health code violation, plus glasses don’t hold quite enough. You are sweating buckets.

Wipe every plate with your clean, damp, hot towel, and wipe again.

The walk-in is a perfectly suitable place to cry.

Workout. You need serious forearms for successful ice cream scooping and lugging a side of beef up a few flights of steep stairs.

 

Supreme citrus like a rock star: Cut off the tops and bottoms to make a truncated sphere. Stand the fruit up and peel away in strips, hugging the round body of the orange/grapefruit/whatnot with your pairing knife. Furrow out the citrus segments from the strips of membrane encasing them. Squeeze out all the juices. Beautiful.

 

When butchering, work with the animal. Your blade will slide smoothly into ravines in the beast’s musculature. Pigs and cows and ducks have seams. The trick is finding them.

 

Cooking starts with shopping. Stunning ingredients make a stunning meal.

 

Listen to the steak. It is talking to you.

 

Don’t be afraid to fuck up. Or be afraid, but fuck up anyway. Fuck up again. Forgive yourself. Make something heart-wrenching. Collapse with exhaustion. Repeat.

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