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Career Connections: Culinary Chef

9 minutes

(male narrator) What is your favorite food? Maybe you like Italian or Spanish cuisine. Regardless, someone has to cook and prepare that food when ordered at your favorite restaurant. These people are called chefs. They cook raw foods and materials into spectacular plates of food served every day. We take a deeper look into the world of culinary chefs and explore this career path.

As a culinary educator and chef, my primary responsibility is not only to build up a skill level in my cooks, but also to run the kitchen, and essentially the restaurant, manage inventory, menu preparation, menu development. I have six executive chefs working. Each one of those chefs runs their own restaurant, basically. They all report to me. My daily routine is working with them consistently, making sure their menu applications are exactly what they put through and are complementary with the menu. I taste as much food as I can and make sure that our cooks taste their food so it hits the mark.

(male) First, you're a cook. You have to have sound cooking principles down, making sure that your food doesn't spoil, that you have the right amount of food for a busy weekend. You have to be able to manage quantities and proportions.

You're not just a chef cooking the food. You have to manage the business. Math is very important. It's not just culinary math, but it's analytical skills. You need those analytical skills. Cooking isn't necessarily an art. It's more of a craft. But you really have to have a good hold on composition, textures, colors, those things. You need to know addition and subtraction, to be able to scale recipes, to be able to read your financial reports if you're going to be self-employed, just to look at your paycheck and see if the taxes are taken out properly. Keep art in the forefront of your mind because being a chef, it's all about the art. It's all about taking the sciences and math and things that are going to develop your dish and run your organization or your restaurant. You need to be really on top of it. Your understanding of how everything works is what really makes you a great chef.

Somebody comes to my restaurant for a little taste of Italy. We provide that. We have Italian artwork, Italian music, Italian food. We have nice china and make it a fine dining experience so they can escape to another culture. You eat with your eyes first. You see the way of colors, the symmetry of the plate. There's a lot of tricks to know about how to make your plate look appetizing. When you're looking at food from an artistic mindset, the world opens up very wide. It's very wide. It's very big. To know and to have a working understanding of arts, in the food industry, is a blessing because every dish is a work of art. When most people walk into an establishment, and if it is not clean and crisp and you are not engaged as a guest by the people running that place, it's not gonna work. You have to understand the culture of fine arts in order to be successful in this business.

Every day you are weighing the cost of everything you're doing. You want to know the cost analysis for a cook to be on the clock, how much to pay him. You need to know everything in a very business mindset. Also, every time there is a mistake, you're losing money. Every minute that the restaurant doors are open, it's costing you money. You need to know how much you have to make to keep afloat. So financial literacy is extremely important.

(Hannan) When you're managing what we call "a cost center," what we call "the cost of goods," is you're responsible, as the chef. What we call "variables" or "controllables"-- that's labor cost and food cost-- those are what bring in your profitability. So if you're not in tune with those metrics and the analytics, you're going to be behind because you're not managing the business.

In the kitchen, there's always reference to Italian dishes-- zabaglione being one of them, which I love, or risotto. All your basic French sauces-- béarnaise, hollandaise, chasseur sauces-- espagnole in Spanish. I could go on. You need to have the basic. There's a lot of French classical terminology that is defined, as far as applications and what we call "method" and "technique." If you don't have a good hold and understanding of the French language, you're not starting with the fundamentals. Our trade essentially was developed in France. So a lot of the terms that you'll be using are French terms. Specific to the United States, particularly in the South, most kitchens are very heavily Latino, and without knowing Spanish, you're in trouble. To be able to speak multiple languages, as a chef, will only benefit you and help you progress and make, not only friends in this industry, but also develop your menu and your dishes.

At the end of the day, it's very gratifying when you can see guests leaving with a smile or laughing, as well as your employees. At the end of the day, everybody's happy and exhausted. There is no better feeling than to-- to bring joy to someone else. If you do that at work, that's a neat thing.

(Easler) You start to love the stress, fast pace, the artistic portions of it. You love learning about new things, new cultures, new languages. The food industry is so wide that you just can't learn it all. It's impossible. So that mystery of that always keeps me coming back.

Funding to purchase and make this educational production accessible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education:

PH: 1-800-USA-LEARN (V) or WEB: www.ed.gov.

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Explore the exciting world of culinary chefs. Viewers will learn about the variety of skills needed to be successful in this dynamic career, from world languages and the fine arts to knowledge of math and science. Part of the "Career Connections" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 9 minutes

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Episode 1
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