Thursday, 02 February 2017 17:10

Super Bowl Kitchens

I grew up in Canada. We were pretty much a one sport country.

Hockey, hockey, hockey.

It was easy to get a kid hooked on hockey.

Teach him to skate and pretty soon he is going 30 miles an hour.

Then give him a stick and tell him that he is allowed to hit the other kids with it.

Little boy heaven.

Understanding sports in this country was an adjustment.

At first blush baseball seemed courteous and cerebral. The use of the bat was baffling. Guy has a perfectly good stick in his hands and he is not allowed to hit anybody with it.

Football suffers long periods of inaction. Everyone runs like hell and smashes into each other for a few seconds and then they stand around for a couple of minutes talking about it and thinking what to do next.

The fans are crazy.

Paint your body and then dance around naked in the freezing cold with cheese on your head. Makes even the wildest Canadian hockey fan look civilized.

Everything is football at this time of year. All talk is about offense and defense and valuable players.

Restaurant kitchens are a lot like football. It is a team sport. Kitchens have quarterbacks, running backs and receivers and on any given night you are only as good as the guys and gals on your team.

During play the head chef in the middle of your line is your quarterback signaling orders to his grill guys and sauté guys - calling plays according to patron orders charging at him like crazed defensive linemen.

Sauté guys are the kitchen’s receivers. They are all about great reflexes and speed. Sauté chefs work multiple burners with lightning hands and precision timing. Try cooking seafood in ten pans on ten flaming burners at one time - then try doing it for five or six hours at a stretch.

Grill guys are running backs - the heavy lifters. Constantly working twenty pounds of the world's best beef and lamb on and off the grill and in and out of 450 degree ovens to precise timings of doneness. Miss a steak by a minute and it's not medium rare any more.

Plating requires the execution of a perfect pass play. Multiple preparations of vegetables and garnishes and sauces and proteins all at varying degrees of doneness and cooking times hitting one plate at precisely the same time - while different plates for the same table are being perfected simultaneously.

 And the play is repeated again for another table seconds later.

Special teams are your pantry - salads and desserts that have to be precise and perfect because they open and finish the game for you - first impressions and lasting ones -

game changers and memory makers.

The best defense is preparation. To face an onslaught of diners with low blood sugar and high expectations you need a great prep team. Whole fresh fish and shellfish, procured, cleaned and portioned, meats trimmed and cut, bread baked fresh, sauces finished to velvet, and luscious desserts nurtured to nirvana.

All of this incredible work is accomplished in an environment as dangerous as any football field.

The chefs are constantly dodging and weaving through hot ovens, flaming burners and flashing knives.

There is one, last, ironic parallel that kitchen teams share with football teams.

At the end of the Super Bowl game they give the trophy to the owner.

I get to watch this fierce and exquisite interplay of talent and athleticism from the owner’s box and at the end of the game the critics give me most of the credit.

And all I did was find the players.

 

 

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