Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No, This is Not a Restaurant!

Many a home cook is dazzled by the sparkling execution of amazing dishes in restaurants and then they find themselves slightly disappointed when they try to recreate it at home.

Quelle surprise!

A restaurant is a professional enterprise whose goal is to make money in exchange for fine food. Your home is where you need to make food daily. There are significant differences between the two kitchens.

Firstly, there's just a question of simple energy. Unless you have a professional range stove at home, there is no way you are pumping out the BTU like that of a professional kitchen. You need power. Real power. Power that makes it hard to breathe in the heat. Most restaurant kitchens are insanely hot. So fuggedaboutit. You don't have it. Just enjoy the meal when you go out and forget about reproducing it. Certain dishes are impossible to cook at home.

Secondly, only someone who has never gone behind the scenes at the finest of professional restaurants would assume that they grind pepper out of the ludicrous pepper grinders. It's all pre-ground. The salt and pepper is sitting in large bowls which they can use to toss by the handful. And they do toss by the handful!

The single biggest difference between a restaurant and "home cooking" is that a restaurant uses vastly more salt. The CC believes that most people go for it under the rubric of "indulgence" which a spirit of abstemiousness prevents at home.

The same is true of the "fresh" spices. Pre-chopped. So are almost all of the ingredients. It's all pre-prepped and sitting in a refrigerator including the fish. Particularly the fish.

Thirdly, the idea that they are going to whip up a five-course meal for you at the drop of a pin is beyond ridiculous. Of course, it's all fuckin' pre-made. The sauces are pre-made. Everything is. How do you think you get a dish on your plate that takes hours to make within minutes?

Fourthly, it's only the last step of the execution that is left to the kids. And yes, they are kids. They are in training in the kitchen. Yes, they may have talent but no famous chef has ever made your meal not unless you are a billionaire.

Ironically, it's the third fact that cuts two ways and there are two separate lessons that one may learn from it.

The easiest way for a great home cook to compete with a restaurant is to offer meals at dinner parties which rely on speed of execution. Last minute speed where reheating would kill the product. A fancy restaurant can't compete simply because of the economics. (Incidentally, when you have great meals in Madrid, Rome, Istanbul, Mumbai and Singapore, this is the trick. The restaurants run in cheap rent districts. They are playing this game.)

The second more pragmatic version is that you need to learn what can be made ahead of time. This is crucial to greatness in the home kitchen.

So go ahead. Say it already. Liberate yourself.

No, this is not a restaurant. This is entirely different!

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