Tuesday 8 March 2022

The Wizard

Chefs get way too much credit!

I mean 20 years ago nobody cared about the people making their food. But today with the success of Master Chef and kitchen television, the title of "chef" is glamorous and important. When I told my parents 25 years ago that I wanted to be a chef it was cause for deep concern. The irony is that that same title of “chef” today is added before a cook’s name giving them the recognition of professions like a doctor. A doctor… someone who saves people’s lives whereas everything I work with is already dead. 

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the newfound prestige the job holds, but I can promise you a restaurant is not about the chef. A chef is actually a very small percentage of what makes a restaurant great. The customer does come primarily for food, but the food takes a journey and an army of talented and well-trained people to get it to them.  Products need to be hooked, harvested or farmed by professionals, found by purchasing, received, stored and served and all of this needs to be managed, paid for, marketed and organized by someone and it ain’t the chef. 

Making sure people can find the restaurant, update websites, organize events, reply emails, pay staff, sort out crises, repair all that is broken and make decisions that keep the lights on is not done by the chef. There is one secret every restaurant has, and it is the difference between open and closed. A person who makes decisions based on logic, education and understanding as opposed to chefs whose decisions are based on passion and emotion. It is the person everyone including the chef goes to when there is a problem, and no one credits for the solution. This person is rarely seen much, like the wizard of Oz making decisions from behind a curtain, and without them, no one would care about Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow or the Lion. 

So, the next time you go to a restaurant and enjoy a meal, look around at the cast of characters and try to spot The Wizard. In our restaurant, her official title is Director, we call her "boss", her name is Virginia and her mother calls her "Cuca", thus the name on the door.

By Chef Kevin

Sunday 28 February 2021

The Covid Perspective

When covid whacked the world last year, everyone was affected and everyone saw things curiously different. It is difficult to judge those who locked themselves in a bunker or criticize those wandering around mask-free desperately clinging to life as normal. Everybody had a perspective, and it is only when you understand someone’s beliefs, lifestyle and culture that you begin to see a new point of view. While hysteria and misery ooze from TV and social media, the world’s cities have lost their buzz and those picture-perfect holiday towns are left deserted and no longer scooping ice creams on cones. As far as how to react in this new fanatical, germ-free, hand washing obsessed ultra-sanitized world, well…perspective is everything.

Covid hits everyone dramatically and very differently. With lockdowns, school closures and physical distancing, kids are growing up missing the opportunity to develop social skills. Students in their final years lose the gatherings and celebrations that cement the year’s academic successes. Athletes no longer have competition and must train from home with no medals to be gained. Those in hospitality like us are simply left scratching their heads waiting for guests to return and meanwhile pivot to home delivery, which barely covers costs but somehow gives comfort within its mindless repetition. Those in the later years of life are retired and avoid the drama of frozen income with pensions flush, but sit dishearteningly within the category of high risk as their homes become confinement. Everyone has their story to tell and everyone is affected, although it is when we noticed the unusual way the Balinese dealt with Covid that we understood exactly what makes them so remarkably special.

As the material world shows its cracks and people everywhere look to find strength in timeless core values like family, friendship and compassion, we all see now how we have prioritized financial gain over happiness, success over health and career over family, but not the Balinese. This pandemic has taken away, as it has for many, their income, their jobs, their careers and their fancy mobile phone plans, and left them with nothing but themselves. Now…there lies the big difference: the Balinese are intrinsically joyful people, they only need themselves, their family and friends for happiness and it has always been like this. Covid has only had a material impact in their lives, but their core values and support system have not been affected. They look at us with pity and a sympathetic smile as we stress out trying to find meaning in our now empty days. The basic pleasures of life are easily found and somehow globally so easily misplaced for the rest of us mere mortals...

So as the world is still figuring out what to do, the Balinese have long ago started to heal! Hopefully the rest of us will eventually also learn to appreciate those special little magical moments every single day has to offer but we miss while being too busy looking the other way.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Cooking without recipes (by Chef Kevin Cherkas)

Cooking is tough. Not because transforming ingredients into food is difficult but getting them to taste delicious… is. Any idiot can put a piece of meat on a BBQ and burn it on both sides, but what the hell to serve it with? There lies the challenge. That’s where the skill of cooking begins, in the delicate balancing of flavours and contrasting of textures. That’s where delicious hides, and it's always tough to find. 

The solution to many has either been to stick to what you have always made or be guided by the classic cookbooks that always deliver. The results unfortunately always end with eating the same old thing until, eventually, you end up in a restaurant where flavours explode….but why? What do restaurants know that you don’t? How do they take the exact same ingredients and make wonderful what at home you make worrying?

The solution is more simple than you may think. It’s like, as a child, the training wheels you use to learn to ride a bike or the lines you stay between in a colouring book to end up with a picture. No one is giving a child a blank piece of paper and expecting good results, but that’s what we are doing with cooking, giving you ingredients without the lines and, as you can see, we are not ending up with a picture but a fricken mess.

The good news is I can teach you those tools. I can show you how to create rather than copy, how to craft the tastiest dishes without being dependent on recipes, a valuable skill and one you can use for every meal, for the rest of your life. One hour to begin to understand the mistakes you are making and the solution to delicious. It is free and just a click away!