2:13am | February 29, 2012

Staying Creative in the Kitchen


Am I the only chef who sometimes finds it difficult to stay creative in a bustling and busy restaurant? Yesterday, I was collaborating with my super talented chef de cuisine, Robert Hohmann, and we worked out a plan to tackle this problem. Together, we came up with a coaching tool that we hope will inspire us to develop techniques that we can pass on to the sous chefs who will then pass it on to the cooks. The benefits of this inspiration will be passed on to our customers.

We’ve mapped out three months of research — not of dishes, but of techniques.  We’re going to start if off by braising for the first two weeks.  Beef shanks, lamb shanks, goat shanks, oxtails, pork shoulders — all in various liquids like broths, vegetable-rich braises, confit, sous vides, goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk. Each day we’ll pair one type of meat with one type of braising, and we’ll measure our success over the weeks to determine which technique works best for each protein.  None of these are dishes that will be served to the customers; they’re the genesis of techniques that will later become the ideas for dishes.

Two weeks later we’ll try alternative flours for pasta and their best shapes, followed by whole fish cooked in salt crust, cooked in pastry dough, whole roasted or whole poached.

The intention is to build a trend in the low season to carry us through to the high season.  Techniques developed in low season, and the results of these techniques, will be applied to various dishes during the busiest time of years.  The idea is to take time when we have time, so we can save time when we don’t.  And hopefully, we’ll benefit with 12 months of recipe development.

I’m curious what my other Chef friends do to solve the same problem.  How do you maintain your creativity throughout the year in a busy kitchen?




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