Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Staying Power - The Mark of a Great Chef

Hello, My name is Scott and I have been a professional Chef for the last 20 years of my life. I have worked in a variety of places from truck-stops to world-class restaurants, and one thing that I have noticed as being the common denominator for any Chef, is "Staying Power". Staying Power is something that I believe is sorely lacking for a remarkably large number of cooks/chefs, and I think that it needs to change.
What Is Staying Power?
Loosely defined, Staying Power is the ability to last at a particular job in a particular kitchen under the normal or adverse conditions for longer than 6 months. It is the ability to take the daily pressures that we, as Chefs face every day and use them to our advantage. A lot of Chefs that I have encountered do have that ability, but there are an increasingly large amount of Chefs that seem to lack in that department. These are the people who get a job, work a 2 week pay period, then leave once the cheque is in there hot little hands. Or these are the people who, for various reasons, can't handle the constant pressures put upon them and then decide to leave at the least convenient time. For instance, in the middle of a busy holiday weekend, something that seems to happen on a regular basis in a resort town, or on a ski hill.
Why Does This Happen?
That is a very good question, and I think that there is no single answer to it. Various reasons have been cited as to why a cook/chef decides to cut and run before the magic 6 month period. The most common one is money. Although that is completely understandable,and this a notoriously low paying business, it shouldn't be your reason for leaving. In most place, the longer you stay, theoretically the more money you make. This may not hold true with a lot of places, but with the good ones, Staying Power is rewarded with better pay. Theoretically.
Another reason could be working conditions. Unfortunately, there are too many restaurants around that have positively deplorable working conditions. Whether it is a dirty, broken down kitchen, or the chef is at best a complete moron with a superiority complex. In these extenuating circumstances, it is understandable to leave. Hell, I wouldn't stick around.
How about another job? Well, if the job that you are going to is going to provide you with better opportunities for advancement, then it is most certainly in your best interest to leave. But if the job doesn't offer you that, then why go? Try sticking it out, maybe the place that you are in just takes a little longer to offer that. You just never know until you stick it out.
What Do I Do About It?
Well, there is really no easy answer to this. My suggestion would be to stick it out, go along for the ride and see where things end up. If you are having issues, don't be afraid to talk to your chef/manager about your issues. If you are a professional about things, your concerns will be heard and dealt with in a professional manner. But if you go about things like you own the place and this place owes you, then your concerns will fall on deaf ears. Most restauranteurs are professional business people who are in it to make money, and most know that the work is hard and that is the reason why people are hired, but they would drop employees like a bad habit if they feel that they are being disrespected. So be a professional, always be a professional.
So in conclusion, if you want to survive as a chef for any length of time this business, you need 3 important things:
1. Good Footwear
2. A good set of quality chef knives
3. And Staying Power.
If you possess these three important things, the skills follow, then the money. without good foot wear,quality chef knives or staying power, you won't survive 6 months. Happy Cooking!
A quality chef knife is a crucial element for any chef. It can mean the difference between a good prep day or a bad prep day. Get informed, and know what you are using, check out my Chef Knife blog for some experienced information today!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Low Sodium Recipes - Baked Lemon Herb Chicken With Fresh Mushroom Stuffing Recipe

This is a very moist and flavorful baked lemon herb chicken recipe. The mushrooms help keep the stuffing moist and the flavorful green onions (scallions), celery, fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil, make this recipe very flavorful. No salt is added. A salt free lemon herb seasoning is used, so this would be a more heart healthy, chicken recipe especially good for a low sodium diet. Using fresh lemon is a low sodium tip that helps food taste more salty. If you like chicken and the flavors of fresh lemon and fresh mushrooms, you will enjoy this healthy chicken recipe.
Lemon-Herb Chicken With Fresh Mushroom Stuffing
1 whole chicken 3 to 3 1/2 pounds (broiler-fryer size)
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 pound (8 ounces) fresh mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Lemon-Herb seasoning, (preferably a salt-free seasoning), divided
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (lemon rind, yellow part only), finely grated
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
1 cup soft or fresh bread crumbs
Remove giblets and neck from inside chicken. Rinse chicken inside and out with cold water, pat dry with paper towels and set aside. In large non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil over medium low heat. Add green onion and celery and gently cook until softened, then add mushrooms, and cook until tender. Stir in 2 teaspoons of salt free lemon herb seasoning, lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons of the lemon juice (1/2 of it), and the bread crumbs. Stir well to combine but don't make a mush. Turn off the heat and let stuffing cool a bit.
Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan. Stuff with the mushroom stuffing. Don't pack it in, just lightly spoon it into the bird. Truss the chicken, (this will make a nicer presentation), but not absolutely necessary. In a small bowl, combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon-herb seasoning. Brush this mixture all over the chicken. Bake at 350 F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until done. Serves 4 - 6.
Note: You can double the stuffing recipe and bake half of it or all of it in a dish, covered with foil or a lid along side the chicken for about 45 minutes, remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
Pan drippings for a sauce: Skim off the excess fat. Add some water (up to a cup) or dry white wine or even add more fresh lemon juice with some water to the pan and bring the drippings to a simmer with a little more lemon-herb seasoning and perhaps some freshly ground white or black pepper. Scrape up the fond (browned bits at the bottom of the pan) and let the liquid reduce to intensify the flavors. Serve on the side.
Serving suggestions: Slice the chicken and serve with some of the stuffing and some of the sauce. Serve with rice, or pasta like orzo, with minced fresh parsley, sprinkled over all. A fresh green salad would also go well with this chicken recipe. Fresh lemon wedges, (optional), served on the side.
And now for more low sodium tips, recipes and information I invite you to sign up for our FREE Season It Newsletter when you visit Benson's Gourmet Seasonings at
Get more free information about low sodium, including a low sodium diet, low sodium cooking tips, salt free seasonings, salt substitutes and low sodium recipes. You'll learn how you can use seasonings, fresh herbs, fresh fruits & vegetables, olive oil, nuts, vinegars, wine and different cooking techniques to flavor your food without adding salt and sugar. You'll find out how to get more flavor than you ever thought possible.
From Debbie Benson owner of Benson's Gourmet Seasonings with over 30 years experience promoting salt free seasonings. Loving to cook and being salt free most of my life by choice, I have learned a lot of tips and tricks to create flavor without salt and sugar that seems to be in everything these days.