The Career Path of a Chef
There are few, if any, professions that have stood the test of the time, unchanged and unaltered by modernity. The career path of a chef has more options today than in years past. Technology and cultural influences force all things to naturally evolve or become obsolete–think switchboard operators.
Fortunately for the culinary industry, food is at the heart of everything we do as human beings. The way we obsess, glorify and think about our meals has undoubtedly taken on a new dimension in the twenty-first century; fueling a desire for creativity, innovation and a demand for higher standards of food quality, presentation and overall dining experience.
If your ambition is to carve out a successful career as a chef, there are now more opportunities and avenues to pursue than ever before; however, while there are certainly many ways to claim the head chef title, there is consensus about one thing: you have to be prepared to eat a lot of humble pie on your way there.
Learning on the job
The temptation to bypass the academic approach of entering the cheffing profession is understandable and in some cases more gainful. Not everyone can afford to attend elite institutions or take time out from earning a salary to enter full-time education. Also, some individuals learn better through experience and observation in fast-paced environments than they would in a more academic set up.
Learning on the job exposes you to the real dynamics of a kitchen from the onset so that you can develop more robust skills while building your network and acquiring mentors from the early stages of your career.
There are three things to consider if you choose this approach:
- There are no shortcuts – If you want to distinguish yourself as a chef, you will have to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of kitchen life. The only way to do that is to pay your dues. You will most likely start out as a commis chef or apprentice, chiefly concerned with food prep, cleaning and running errands. Showing that you are a dependable team player will go a long way to helping you work your way up from here.
- Low pay – Depending on your location, the starting salaries at the bottom of the rung can be relatively low. The experience and qualifications you are able to gain on the job will determine how quickly you progress up the pay scale.
- Sharp adjustment – For someone with no prior training or work experience, the long and demanding hours will undoubtedly take some getting used to. You need to ensure that you are a resilient and driven individual to keep motivated in this position.
Formal education is one of the best ways to enrich your knowledge of the industry, its requirements and most importantly, yourself in relation to all of these things. When you enroll on a catering course, you should expect to be provided with the tools, experiences and time to ruminate on your strengths and weaknesses – this is particularly helpful if you’d like to specialize in a specific cuisine or aspect of the profession. Many employers will value your achievements and experience, placing you in a better position to negotiate salary and progression.
On a culinary course, you will not only learn about food preparation, preservation, storage, science and hygiene; you will also explore elements of business management, marketing, leadership and research, making you a more well-rounded prospect for future employers.
Like everything else in life, you will get out what you put in. Some top chefs and restaurant owners have mixed opinions about the worth of a culinary degree or certification, but if you use your time wisely, make the most of the resources available to you and cultivate a determined work ethic, you will not only walk away with a degree or certificate, but also a well-developed resume or CV.
Something else worth considering when deliberating whether to get an official culinary qualification is whether you have ambitions to travel and work in different countries. Having accreditation will often be very useful when applying for certain overseas positions and, subsequently, the visas required to work in those countries.
Lastly, when choosing a culinary school, you need to make sure that you are making a worthwhile investment.
Here are three crucial things to look out for when choosing a culinary school:
- What is the feedback from current and past students? Are their alumni working in similar roles and establishments to the ones you aspire to? If this information is scarce, outdated or mostly negative, this may not be the school for you.
- Does the school have a good rapport with local restaurants and does it offer its students hands-on practical experience?
- What is the experience and caliber of the faculty staff? Do they inspire creativity, encourage learning and what do they bring to the table in terms of know-how?
Taking up a new role
The career trajectory of a chef usually goes something like this:
- Commis Chef
- Chef de Partie
- Sous Chef
- Head Chef and Executive Chef
Assuming that you are striving for the highest post, you will have to carefully map out your journey to get there. However, you shouldn’t let being strategic overshadow the importance of fostering good relationships and building up an appropriate length of work experience in any given kitchen.
It can be tricky deciding on the best time to spread your wings and move on to a higher level position. Your next step will largely be determined by your abilities and experience.
Unless you have been taking on contract work, your resume or CV needs to demonstrate that you are, above all else, reliable.
In an industry that demands a lot of dedication, employers will not be keen to invest training hours into someone who flits from one establishment to another every year or couple of months. Particularly while you are in the beginning stages of your career – commis chef, chef de partie – don’t scrimp on the opportunity to hone your skills and master your craft.
As you assume more responsibility in roles such as sous chef and, eventually, executive chef, you will begin to seek out positions that offer either better pay and working conditions or more opportunities for creative expression. Either way, you will have to commit to at least two years in a new kitchen to establish yourself and make a worthwhile investment in your career progress.
With all of this in mind, it’s also crucial to recognize when you are being siloed and move on before your name becomes too synonymous with one kind of restaurant, cuisine or level of capability. Growth is key to self-fulfillment, and you will have to choose wisely when accepting new positions or preferring to stay where you are.
What are the essential tips to successfully integrating into a new kitchen?
- Camaraderie is a word that often bounces around in the culinary vernacular. That’s probably because jobs in this industry genuinely require a one for all and all for one mentality. All roles are usually interdependent and directly affect the stress levels of one another. Being able to communicate and anticipate the needs of everyone, from the kitchen to front of house staff is essential.
- When you start your new role, tread carefully before beginning to enforce your ideas, opinions and suggestions on how you think things should be done. Study your co-workers and superiors; anticipate when they might need your help and establish yourself as an approachable, trustworthy member of the team. Every kitchen will have its own personality, idiosyncrasies and best practices – you don’t want to rub anyone the wrong way by harping on about how you did things at your previous job.
- Ultimately, the best advice when taking on a new role is to remind yourself of your goals and where you’d like to be in the future; then, align your intentions with your actions and be willing and open to learning at every level.
It’s not just about the destination
When choosing to work in this business, you need to really know what drives and motivates you. Negativity and poor work ethic can really destroy a kitchen and, ultimately, the establishment that kitchen caters to.
If you are passionate about working with food, the best way to find the most effective starting point for you is to get experience. Whether it’s through volunteering, taking on a low-level kitchen job or a short course, getting a taste for the environment is key.
Knowing how you learn and what drives you will help you to determine whether advanced training or learning on the job will be a more productive option for you. What matters most is that you choose a path which will keep you inspired but also present you with the opportunities to grow.
How to Properly Arrange an Awe Inspiring Professional Buffet Set Up
It is time to set up your buffet and prepare your guests for the ultimate dining experience! How? Here are a few useful pro tips guaranteed to help you plan a professional buffet set up and impress your guests.
In this era of technology and social media usage that we live in, one source of inspiration for social media posts comes through beautiful plating and buffet presentation. The dining experience you provide will first please the eyes of your invitees and afterwards their appetite.
Here are our thoughts for an unforgettable event:
Mind the Decoration and the Theme of your Buffet
Before you start planning your buffet, choose a theme or the kind of decoration you want to have. For example, do you want your buffet to be modern? Then choose geometrical patterns and vivid colors for the decoration. Do you want your buffet to be traditional? Then choose luxurious bronze and gold tones in combination with baroque patterns like flowers. Add some accent lighting, bows and flower decoration. However, don’t overdo it with the decoration because you want your buffet food arrangement to be the focal point. Arrange everything as one cohesive concept; your food, your decor, your buffet risers, plates and bowls so as to create a memorable experience for your guests.
Carefully Choose your Buffet Risers & Serving Dishes
All the details have to be well thought out and prepared in advance in order to surpass the expectations of your invitees. Consider purchasing quality modern glass dinnerware of different shapes and sizes which will catch everyone’s eye and trigger the desire to share the amazing set up on their social media with their friends. If they are inspired to share your buffet presentation with their friends it is like free advertising and may generate future customers.
Create levels in your presentation! Choose a variety of sizes and heights for your buffet risers arrangements which will break up the space, creating layers and make the presentation more appealing. Regardless of whether you use traditional or unconventional risers pick platters and bowls in different colors and shapes, playful so as to elevate the experience. Show something different to your customers and you can be sure that it will be appreciated.
Prepare your Venue to Welcome your Guests
When choosing the arrangement of your buffet, keep in mind that long table arrangements set one next to the other against the wall will not allow a flawless movement of the guests. You need to have ample empty space for them to move around easily and not stiffly. The more space your customers have, the more they will enjoy the dining event you have organized for them.
Use different tables for glasses, water carafes, cutlery and napkins. Make sure that the utensils are enough for all of your guests and that your waiters keep an eye for any replenishment needs.
People tend to crowd around the beverages so it is a good idea to have the alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages in different areas. Even more important, have the beverages on a different table than the main buffet table.
Don’t create stress for your guests by forcing them to try to figure out how to hold the plate, the silver, and the drinks in one hand while they are trying to move around and get food. The best way, if you have a big enough room, is to separate the drinks from the food and the seating area. So imagine three separate areas in the room for your event. If you have the luxury of budget and space, it will make a significant difference in your guest’s dining experience!
Use Separate Tables for the Food Presentation
Consider having a multi table set up with different cuisines and different food variety. For example, have your salads, breads, appetizers, main dishes and desserts on separate tables, perhaps some 8’ tables, some 6’ tables, and/or some 4’ or perhaps round tables. If you are running a multi themed cuisine event, use different stations for Asian cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine, vegan, vegetarian etc. This will allow your guests to move from one buffet table/station to another without having to wait in one long line to get to their favorite cuisine.
It is important to place the table with the beverages next to the kitchen and the table with the plates before the food. It makes sense if you think about it..the beverages next to the kitchen because the staff should be able to replenish based on the needs an any given time and the plates before the table with the food as the guest should not be wondering “where are the plates”? Also put the cutlery at the end so the guests aren’t afraid that they will drop the cutlery while they try to serve themselves.
Follow the above mentioned professional buffet set up tips and you will have happier guests who have a better, more seamless dining experience rather than the typical crowded buffet with people waiting in a queue to serve themselves, which often results in guests becoming impatient and disappointed.
Remember to place explanatory tags in front of every dish so there is no guesswork in what they are eating and no-one will be mislead while they make their food choices!
Maria is a buffet systems advisor at Buffetize – a world leading buffet display systems manufacturer. With good eye for details she provides quick aesthetic and functional solutions that improve hotel and restaurant operations. Maria brings over 10 years of experience in the hospitality market and has worked with chefs and F&B managers from major hotel chains such as Four Seasons, Marriott and Hilton. She has a good understanding of buffet set ups and extensive experience in assisting clients create memorable buffet presentations. When she is not helping hotels improve their operations she loves to travel and organize occasional home cocktail parties herself.
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The passing of Anthony Bourdain on June 8, 2018 hit cooks & chefs worldwide with remorse and a great sense of sadness. Although most of us had never personally met Anthony Bourdain, the vast majority of cooks felt a sense of loss because we consider him to be a bother, a fellow comrade of the kitchen, a representation of both who we are and who we can be.
I think of Anthony Bourdain not as the stereotypical cook/chef but more so as the archetypal cook/chef. He represents so many aspects of who we are as cooks…brutally honest, somewhat (or a lot!) antisocial (because we are brutally honest), desiring honest human expression rather than political correct bullshit, having our own addictions & demons, beating some of our own addictions & demons, and so much more. Bourdain was above all else unapologetically human and honest. Something which most cooks either consciously or unconsciously endeavor to be. It’s what gives us our antisocial reputation.
After reading “Kitchen Confidential” many years ago I realized that here was a true person, willing to expose “the underbelly” of professional kitchens, giving legitimacy, expression, and identity to the normal cook’s life. He had no shame in exposing his ego/arrogance in claiming that he was a fantastic grill cook in order to get a job (in Kitchen Confidential his assistant out performed him!). And he successfully revealed the commitment, pain, stress, and adrenaline needed to successfully survive in the professional kitchen.
To me, Anthony Bourdain is an icon and the archetypal cook because he made people realize what it is like to be a professional cook, what it takes, how hard it is to achieve the physical & mental fortitude needed in order to serve 300 – 500 demanding people (including some worthless pompous assholes who probably can’t cook ramen correctly!) a perfect meal.
If he recognized your educated opinion he gave you an honest, educated response. But if you were just a self-aggrandized prick he called you out. Chefs hate nothing more than someone who pretends to be someone who they are really not, or pretends to have talents which they actually lack. Bourdain was articulate to a fault for calling out culinary fakes, wannabes, or impostors.
Some of Anthony Bourdain’s famous quotes include:
“I assumed from the get-go that every minute I was on television was a freakish anomaly that would be over quickly. It came as a sobering and confusing moment when I realized I was still on the air. What the fuck is going on?”
“Don’t touch my dick, don’t touch my knife.” – Kitchen Confidential
“Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives.”
“Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: ‘Is it good? Does it give pleasure?”
“There are people with otherwise chaotic and disorganized lives, a certain type of person that’s always found a home in the restaurant business in much the same way that a lot of people find a home in the military.”
“I’m not afraid to look like an idiot.”
“Oh yes, there’s lots of great food in America. But the fast food is about as destructive and evil as it gets. It celebrates a mentality of sloth, convenience, and a cheerful embrace of food we know is hurting us.”
“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit. Oh, I’ll accommodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”
“Being a vegan is a first-world phenomenon, completely self-indulgent.”
“I’m sure that at no point in my life could I ever have shown the kind of focus and discipline and commitment necessary to work a station at elBulli or Le Bernardin. No. That ain’t me.”
“I feel that if Jacques Pepin shows you how to make an omelet, the matter is pretty much settled. That’s God talking.”
“”[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted, and advantages squandered.” – Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
“Don’t lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on. Just don’t do it again. Ever”
“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom … is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
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“Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night. Seeing two guys who’d just as soon cut each other’s throats in their off hours moving in unison with grace and ease can be as uplifting as any chemical stimulant or organized religion.”
“Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying… If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple fucking answer.”
Kitchen Staff Management Tips
Today’s chef has many hats to wear including managing the budget, creating new dishes, writing recipes, costing recipes, managing cooks, dealing with HR, and so much more. But one of the most crucial roles of a chef is effective kitchen staff management and training. You might be the greatest chef in the world, but during service a chef is no better than the cooks surrounding him/her. If the kitchen staff isn’t properly trained then you will fail during service.
I have had the great fortune to be able to build some fantastic kitchen crews to work with, and the pleasure of mentoring some truly exceptional people. Following are 8 key actions which will improve your kitchen staff management effectiveness & improve the quality of your cooks (not in any specific order of importance):
8 Tips on How to Manage Kitchen Staff
- Always Give Clear, Specific Instructions Regarding Expectations & Standards
- Explain your Reasons and Why you Think the Way you Do
- Know When to Put Your Foot Down
- Always have a pre-service
- If the Shift is Going to be Ugly, Warn the Staff Early!
- Always be Mindful of the Way You Criticize/Instruct Your Staff
- Teach Self-Discipline & the Importance of Choices
- Do Your Best to Accommodate Their Life
Always Give Clear, Specific Instructions Regarding Your Expectations & Standards
Telling them that they are doing it wrong, or they need to do it better, or they need to make it look nicer is not clear instruction. You need to show them specifically what you expect and tell them exactly what you want and how to do it. Show them the nuances which take something from simply being good to being something exceptional.
Explain Your Reasons and Why You Think the Way You Do
One of the best ways to manage kitchen staff is to teach them to think like you do. If you want a solid crew then teach them at a deep level which will give them a solid culinary foundation. Simply telling them, “Do it because I told you to” is not good enough. If you want the crew to make the best decisions then teach them how to think like you do. Tell them, “this is how I want this done and these other reasons why.” By doing so you become a mentor, an instructor, a giver of knowledge, teaching the “how’s and whys” of culinary excellence.
Know When to Put Your Foot Down
Opposite of the above tip, there are definitely times when as the Chef you must tell a crew member “Do it because I told you to.” Someone asking questions because they want to learn is a good thing. But someone asking questions because they are challenging you is another thing. That person needs to recognize the chain of command and that they work for you. “This is what I expect, this is why I expect you to do it this way, and this is exactly the way you will do it. Do you understand?”
Put them in their place. If you have an HR process then go through the paperwork for insubordination. You are the instructor, the mentor, the teacher, but you are also the king. Always enforce your rules/standards/expectations.
Always have a pre-service
Always have a short pre-service meeting to cover the business of the day. Go over how many covers you expect, big tables, VIP tables, menu changes, potential challenges for the shift, solutions for those challenges, and so on. The pre-service is your battle plan for the shift.
The pre-service meeting is your chance to get the crew on the same page regarding today’s service and possible challenges. Do it early in the shift so the crew can plan and prep appropriately.
If the Shift is Going to be Ugly, Warn the Staff Early!
Giving them a heads up that the tonight is going to be painful gives them the opportunity to mentally prepare for it. And being mentally prepared is more than half the battle. Telling them that they are going to be bent over and beat with a stick may not be politically correct, but if you have a well-disciplined crew they will do everything in their power to prove you wrong and the night will then usually go smoother than expected. Being mentally prepared wins the toughest battle.
Always be Mindful of the Way You Criticize/Instruct Your Staff
Although publicly criticizing one or several of your staff over small things may be OK as a reminder to all that you are watching, it is imminently important to never publically humiliate one of your crew in front of others.
There is a significant difference between constructive criticism and punitive humiliation
Public constructive criticism can be stern or funny, sometimes it can be in the form of peer pressure, but the end result must always be that it is taken as positive instruction by the team member.
More personal/direct/disciplinary/painful conversations should always be done in private (with one supervisor witness). Never publicly humiliate a crew member by ripping them apart in front of others. Your goal/intent should never be to humiliate/degrade/dominate/embarrass them. Rather, your goal should always be to mentor/edify/educate/instruct them on how to become better in your kitchen.
That’s not to say that these conversations are never harsh or painful, they just should not be cruel. There is nothing wrong (in fact, perfectly legit) in telling them, “You keep doing it this way when I’ve told you to do it that way. If you continue to do it the wrong way then I will be showing you the door. Do you understand what I expect from you?”
But that is completely different from telling them, “You are an incompetent, shit cook. Get it right or get the fuck out of my kitchen!” This type of interaction only expresses your anger and teaches them nothing other than the fact that you are an asshole. They will stay with you long enough to learn as much as they can from you, and then get as far away as possible.
Teach Self-Discipline & the Importance of Choices
When you verbally discipline someone remind them that they have choices to make and that becoming a better professional cook is about self-discipline. “Dude, we’ve had this conversation before, I’ve shown you what the expectation is but you are not doing it. That indicates to me that you are either unable or unwilling to do it correctly. Since I’ve seen that you have the ability to do it properly, it means that you are simply choosing not to do it the correct way.”
“If you want to continue working in my kitchen then you will need to choose to do it my way. If not, then you are choosing to leave.”
Statements like this are clear, to the point, reinforce your standards and the need for discipline, showing that you believe they have the ability but ultimately it is their choice. They can choose to do it correctly or not. They can choose to continue to work in your kitchen, or they can choose to be fired. You are telling them what they need to do, and then giving them the ball and letting them decide what to do with it (assuming that they actually do have the ability…don’t bullshit them if they don’t).
This method enforces your standards but also reminds them that failing to meet your standards is a choice which they are making. This is one way that I teach my staff self-discipline. I don’t want mindless bodies who simply bend under my thumb and do my bidding simply because I tell them to. I want them to choose to do it because they understand that it results in a better product, a better dish, a better experience for the guest. This teaches them the process of learning to think like a chef and creates fantastic cooks and future chefs.
And of course, if they choose not to step up then they are the “dead wood” which you terminate.
Do Your Best to Accommodate Their Life
Trying to accommodate employee requests for days off in the restaurant business is always a massive challenge but one which is worth the effort. The staff know that they are going to have to work most weekends and probably most holidays. And of course the events they want to attend (concerts, parties, etc) are almost always on the weekends which are of course the hardest days for us to give someone off. You need to balance the needs of the business with the needs of your crew to have a life.
If giving one person an occasional Saturday off will make life harder on the crew but will not impact your guests then it’s worth discussing with your crew. If it means that they all get an occasional weekend night off then they are likely to be willing to work harder and share the pain knowing that they will also get a chance for an occasional weekend night off.
And for major events such as the graduation of a child, a family medical emergency, the funeral of a loved one, etc, do not make them choose between their loyalty to their family and their loyalty to their job. That’s not a fair position to put them in. In fact, it’s morally reprehensible for an employer to consider themselves more important in these extreme situations.
What tips would you add which help to manage kitchen staff? Tell me your thoughts!
How to Prevent Knife Damage – Top Tips from the Experts
It’s one thing having a good quality chef’s knife, it’s another ensuring that you get the best out of it. To discover some inside tips on kitchen knife care and maintenance, catering supplier Russums spoke to Robin Bailey at The Sharpening Service, former chef Andrew Green and The Sharpeners.
Here’s what knife experts had to say:
- “Always take your knives with you. When knives are left unattended, other chefs can use them and potentially cause damage.” — Robin Bailey, The Sharpening Service
- “Chopping against bones or other hard objects is a common way to cause knives to chip. To prevent this you must only chop down onto a wooden board or block.” — The Sharpeners
- “A lot of the kitchens that chefs work in tend to have stainless steel worktops and drawers. Knives are often thrown into these drawers, which can cause damage to the tip and blade.” — Andrew Green
- “Once you have a professionally sharpened knife, you need to maintain it daily. This will just need a couple of swipes with the steel. Eventually it will wear and cannot be kept sharp, at which point it is time to go back to the sharpener to put the edge back.” — The Sharpeners
- “Knives are often damaged by not using a steel correctly. I sharpen most knives at 15 degrees each side, most people use a steel at about 20-25 degrees, meaning that they very quickly remove the sharp edge I have put on.” — Robin
- “Chefs should use roll bags when not using their knives. Magnetic wall strips can also be used – these are great for protecting knives as this type of storage means that the blades don’t touch.” — Andrew
- “Blunt knives can cause repetitive strain injury to the wrist due to the extra pressure needed to cut, and there’s a higher risk of cutting yourself.” — The Sharpeners
- “Chefs should always clean their own knives after use. In most kitchens, knives just get handed over to the pot washer who doesn’t really care about protecting them and they are often just chucked into the bottom of a sink.” — Andrew
- “Match the knife to the work — don’t use a fragile thin-bladed knife to cut through chicken bones. I see a lot of Global and Kai knives that have bits missing because of this kind of misuse.”— Robin
- “Learn how to sharpen your own knives!” — Chefs Resources
What kitchen knife care tips do you have which we forgot to mention?
Did we forget something? Add your knife care tips in the comment section!
Artisan Italian Cheesemaking at Ferndale Farmstead Cheese
I’m here today with Daniel Wavrin co-owner and cheesemaker at Ferndale Farmstead Cheese and we’re going to discuss a number of questions about cheese making because he’s got some really fantastic cheeses and is clearly very knowledgeable about artisan Italian cheesemaking.
Chef David, “What awards have you won in the recent past for your cheeses?”
Daniel, “Well this year we were lucky to win 3 awards at the American Cheesemaker Society competition. The ACS is a national organization where all the owners and cheesemakers participate in an annual competition held in a different city each year and this year we won three awards in three different categories for our Scamorza cheese, our Caciotta cheese, and our Asiago Pressa.”
Chef David, “That’s awesome! So what makes a equality cheese? What should chefs look for?”
Daniel, “In my opinion, a quality cheese is defined not only by the skill of the cheesemaker but also by the quality of the ingredients. Cheese is an amazing creation because it only includes 4 ingredients (milk, cultures, rennet, and salt) which give rise to the plethora of flavors and types of cheese available today.”
“Cheese is a concentration of milk via fermentation. As with anything, it will be harder to concentrate low quality starting material into high quality finished product. So starting with a high quality milk is #1. To us, that means not only high components of fat and protein to give it rich flavor, but also low Somatic Cell Counts (SCC) and low bacterial populations which are naturally present in milk from the farm. This rich but extremely clean milk allows for flavors that are enjoyable all the way through the tasting experience.”
“The first taste of the cheese should eventually give way to the flavor of the milk it was made from. This “finish” is the best way to judge the quality of cheese in my opinion, because it illustrates the quality of milk from whence it came. There is much complexity around what goes into the science of milk production, but disciplined crop harvest and storage and the environment the animals live in are also essential to good quality milk.”
Chef David, “When you’re talking about quality milk how does the diet of the cows affect the flavor of their milk and the flavor of the cheese?”
Daniel, “The animal’s diet directly affects the cheese because milk is a vessel. Flavors from the field will carry over to the milk, for example if a herd got into an onion patch, the milk may not be suitable for a proper quality cheese because the milk will cause off flavors of onion in the cheese. This is why a quality farming practice and storage program are so important to ultimate cheese quality, especially for artisan Italian cheesemaking or any other artisan cheese.”
“A well known example in the cheese world is if spoilage organisms grow in silage, the butyric acid producing and spore forming bacteria can affect the aged cheese made from the milk produced from the spoiled feed. The spores carry through the animals milk and are actually activated or woken up by the pasteurization temperatures. Subsequently, these spores produce gas that creates defects in the cheese in the form of gas holes or cracks. It can be so bad that the wheel of cheese will blow up like a basketball!”
Daniel, “So, the diet directly determines the quality of the milk and the cows need a balanced diet of many different nutrients in order to be healthy and produce quality milk. So for us that means having a feed ration that covers all of the nutritional requirements of the animals, as well as sourcing the ingredients for that ration and knowing that the feeds come from sources that we can understand and control. For this reason we produce about 90% of the feed that makes up the rations for our cows and in doing so we can ensure that the quality of the harvest and storage is superior.”
“Seed to Cheese”…this is the motto or ethos of Ferndale Farmstead Artisan Cheesemaker Daniel Wavrin
Chef David, “What is a common diet for cows raised for cheese making milk?”
Daniel, “A common milk production cow diet in the United States will include a mix of many different nutrients that will include grasses as a large basis of the diet. Our farm uses about a 60% grass-based diet along with legumes such as alfalfa hay which is a legume we grow, as well as dried cornflake for grain, dried distillers, soya, and other nutrient sources such as whey for protein.”
“My father is a veterinarian and he takes care of the health of our animals and develops the specific feed which both benefits our cows and yields high quality milk. We grow the majority of our own feed, control the storage of that feed, manage our own herd of cows, they are milked in the morning and 15 minutes later that milk is being tuned into cheese! We truly are a farm to table operation.”
Chef David, “Are there any cheese myths you would like to discredit?”
Daniel, “Many cheeses in the US are improving in quality, however Mozzarella is still a far cry from its original Italian version or quality. Here in the USA, most producers make fresh Mozzarella with vinegar or citric acids added directly to the milk instead of using cheesemaking cultures as they do in Italy. This diminishes the flavor as the cheese is essentially dead rather than a live cultured product. Beyond that, a bleach is used to dye Mozzarella pure white with a compound known as Titanium Dioxide. This nasty ingredient has no place in cheesemaking and is used to mask the natural yellowish color of rich cow’s milk cheeses.”
“A similar comparison can be made with Cheddar. In recent years White Cheddar has become popular but years ago everybody thought Cheddar was supposed to be orange, not realizing that the orange color was an additive. Today Mozzarella is sort of in a similar situation in that what the majority of US cheesemakers are currently producing for Mozzarella is quite a bit different from the original Mozzarella made with cow’s milk in Italy. True Italian Mozzarella cheese is known as Fior Di Latte Mozzarella and it is this traditional artisan Italian version which we make here at Ferndale Farmstead using cultures that we bring directly from Naples, Italy.”
“We are very proud to be making the traditional Fior Di Latte Mozzarella using true cultures, which yields an authentic Italian Mozzarella with a more forward flavor, a firmer bite, and a characteristic cream color (as opposed to the bleached white color of domestic Mozzarella). In doing so we are excited to be leading a revolution in flavor in fresh Mozzarella cheese within the United States.”
Chef David, “Tell me about the pasteurization process you prefer for your artisan Italian cheesemaking at Ferndale Farmstead.”
Ferndale Farmstead milks their cows in a barn across the way from their cheese making facility. It’s close enough that the fresh milk is pumped into the cheese making building in as little as 15 minutes after milking the cows. Here it goes through a centrifuge which separates the cream from the milk. Then the milk is pumped through a high tech HTST High Temperature/Short Time Pasteurizer. HTST pasteurization heats the milk to around 161° for 15 seconds, versus the more standard Batch Pasteurizer which heats milk to 145° for 30 minutes or longer.
Daniel says that the HTST pasteurization method, although more costly to implement, yields milk which is more like raw milk in flavor and therefore yields a more quality finished product. And, it requires less energy to operate which is more consistent with their green footprint philosophy.
From there, the milk is pumped to the next stage in the process. We have 3 milk vats and each one holds about 700 gallons of milk. Up to the vat stage all the cheeses are basically the same. After that is when the process begins to be different for each unique cheese. Each of our cheeses uses a different culture and a different recipe to produce each unique cheese.
Chef David, “Describe the process of culture selection. How many different cheese cultures are there for any given cheese variety?”
Daniel, “Depending on the type of cheese and where it is produced, cheese can have any number of cultures. Raw milk cheeses may add none and instead utilize naturally present bacteria to drive the fermentation, especially in traditional cheesemaking regions in Europe. Some cheesemakers in the US may use a cocktail of several strains, perhaps 5-10 cultures to achieve this diversity in flora. Some more simple cheeses may only use one.”
Chef David, “What separates one culture from another as far as quality/flavor goes?”
Daniel, “Different bacterial culture strains produce different effects in cheese in terms of flavor, texture, and appearance. Gas producing cultures used in Swiss cheesemaking known as Propionic acid producing Shermanii provide the “eyes” or large holes found in the texture. Blue mold cultures known as Penicillium Roqueforti produce the veining found in blue cheese as well as the astringent flavor that results from the breakdown of certain parts of the fat and protein. Many other types are used to create the various flavors in various cheese types.”
Chef David, “About how long does each cheese stay in the vat?”
Daniel, “Our cheeses take anywhere from 2 hours to make up to 12 hours to make it depending on the type. Our fresh Mozzarella is a slow fermented and cultured version which can take 10 to 15 hours in the vat to produce.”
“One of the most artisan of all aspects of our cheeses at Ferndale Farmstead is in the way that we cut. We cut with two separate cutters rather than using only cheese wire knives or cutters. We also use a second pair of knives known as Spinos or Lyres . This unique cut is done entirely by hand and by eye. It is a very difficult technique that took me nine months to learn cutting with my mentor Raffaele everyday.”
“Each Italian cheese that we make uses a different culture, a different amount of rennet, a different cut, a different aging time, different brines, and a different technique to produce.”
Chef David, “So how do you create different varieties of the same type of cheese? For instance, different varieties of bleu cheese.”
Daniel, “You can create different varieties of cheese by altering the process by which it is made, however you may still end up with a result which is similar in flavor profiles due to the lack of diversity within the cheese culture pool.”
“Almost all cheesemakers and artisan cheese makers in the US currently source their cultures from three producers: Cargill, Chris Hansen, and Danisco companies. This can lead to a similarity across the board in cheese flavors in American.”
“Many of the differences in flavor that we can taste in similar cheeses is based upon the taste of place or the terroir. This taste of place results from the environment where the animals, the crops, and the cheese is produced and living.”
Chef David, “What bad trends, if any, do you see happening?”
Daniel, “Some alarming trends that I am concerned with personally are the increasingly high costs of production. Milk prices are high, cheesemakers must work extremely hard and are expensive to train, and food safety regulations are always increasing costs to the producer while the consumer wants to pay the same price or less than they are accustomed to. This is true for all dairy products.”
Chef David, “What good trends, if any, are you glad to see in cheese making?”
Daniel, “I am happy to see a trend not only in artisan Italian cheesemaking but in the cheese making community in general towards the use of more diverse starter flora. Starter cultures can be a source of similarity between producers or a source of great uniqueness. Some artisans are experimenting now with natural fermentations and isolating strains of bacteria found on the farm that are desirable for cheese production. This may open a whole New World of flavors, literally, since we Americans have been sourcing their cultures from only a few European origins up to this point.”
Chef David, “What is the best way to store various cheese varieties after opening?”
Daniel, “Bleu – Bleu Cheese is best stored in foil in my experience. It needs to breath but not too much.
Asiago – aged cheese like Asiago can be stored in cheesepaper (formaticum) after it is removed from vacuum for a short period until it dries out.
Mozz – Mozzarella as a fresh cheese is best consumed fresh and never frozen. Freezing and plastic wrap after removal from vacuum changes flavor. Unfortunately true fresh Mozzarella is very difficult to store!”
November 1, 2017
Contributor: Shoes for Crews
Catering Safety Tips
Working in the catering industry can be an exciting prospect, as the limitations placed on you – as opposed to a restaurant – arguably make it a much more challenging task but that also means there’s little room for error. It’s your chance to impress and exceed expectations, and hope that the guests who have attended an event you’ve catered for will seek your quality service down the line.
However, safety is imperative in catering and one tiny mistake can trigger a domino effect and result in many more errors. Many mistakes and hazards are avoidable if given proper attention and planning, so you should take great measures to ensure not only your safety, but the safety of the staff and your guests as well. Here are some tips you should take into consideration when it comes to catering safety.
Know The Hazards
If you’re going to be catering at a mobile location, it’s important to visit the site beforehand and know where it is you’ll be catering and conduct a risk assessment. This is because you don’t want any dangerous surprises springing up when it’s time to cook, and some hazards in that situation can be unavoidable which puts your health at risk. Sometimes, it’s difficult to actually notice a potential hazard until you’re there, so undertaking a risk assessment beforehand is a good first step to catering safety.
This way, you’ll be able to thoroughly check the venue, your clothing and even the equipment you’ll be using to scout any possible dangers and potentially rectify them in time so nothing will pop up as a major surprise. This also assists catering safety because it gives you enough information to know whether you’re able to transport large pieces of equipment safely, such as mobile wash basins. So, consider pathways and walkways so there’s enough space for everyone to move around safely, without creating other hazards such as tripping.
As hazards can occur at any time, consider having first-aid kits and fire extinguishers on hand as a safety precaution, as it’s better to be prepared in that situation. If you’re catering at a remote location as opposed to mobile, then regularly updating safety plans and having multiple first-aid kits on-hand is vital, and it’s even better if you or someone else in your team is trained in that department.
Always Maintain Your Equipment
For catering safety, equipment maintenance is crucial as you need to ensure everything is both safe and fully functioning. This can be to check whether the knives are sharp enough to making sure that gas appliances you’re using are maintained in a safe condition. These are the types of factors you, as a chef, should consider before catering as it gives you valuable time beforehand to prepare and replace any damaged equipment which can turn into a major hazard.
While you’ll lose valuable time, it could also be a danger to you, the rest of the kitchen staff as well as the guests, as their safety also needs to be taken into consideration. Although you’ll be working inside of a kitchen, there’s still a big risk you could be turning towards the guests – food poisoning. It’s your job to make sure you’ve safely stored and transported any and all of the food you’ll be cooking, as poor storage results in poor hygiene. Food labelling and meat storage are other factors you need to consider as well, so you’re not contaminating the food before you even get to start cooking.
Along with this, as the chef it’s important you communicate with the rest of the kitchen staff and make them aware of the food danger zone (food sitting between 4 to 60°C for more than four hours allows bacteria to multiply at dangerous rates), to ensure that none of your guests get food poisoning from eating improperly cooked or reheated items, or food sitting out on warmers or ice.
Health and safety comes before anything when you’re catering, so it’s important to know the types of injuries that can occur to you or anyone else in the kitchen, along with the correct measures you should take to avoid them, or at least know what to do if the injuries do occur. Think about kitchen ventilation as the HSE has made it clear that kitchen ventilation is required to create a safe and comfortable working environment. As catering and cooking produces significant quantities of fumes, vapors and heat, ventilation is necessary to remove these to keep you safe when working under such conditions.
Physical injuries are also a common occurrence in catering. You’ll be expected to do a lot of heavy lifting and carrying items which can cause back pain and other aches, especially if repeated continuously. To combat this, it’ll be more beneficial if you make more trips rather than trying to carry a heavy load at once, as this is less strenuous on your muscles and joints while getting somebody to help can also help, and increase productivity. Receiving proper training, and providing it to less experienced kitchen staff can also maintain catering safety, such as eliminating knife accidents by training staff on safe working practices when using, sharpening, and carrying knives.
This can be extended further, as catering safety also needs to prioritize the different types of hazardous cleaning chemicals that are used to maintain cleanliness, and this can cause damage should it come in contact with your skin and that means handling any food could cause further contamination.
To round it all off, another important aspect of catering safety is to ensure you always have safe equipment on hand, so you avoid putting yourself in any danger while cooking. As scalding is one of the most common injuries in the kitchen, ditching long, flowing sleeves is a good first step as it’s a recipe for disaster if they’re dangling over a burning flame. Synthetic clothing is also a hazard as it can potentially melt on your skin if it catches fire, so choosing an alternative material is a beneficial step to take – such as wearing a chef jacket featuring cotton buttons instead of plastic.
Whether or not you & your crew use cutting gloves is also a crucial safety decision, as the repetitive use of knives inevitably results in someone getting cut sooner or later. Additionally, dermatitis is one of the main causes of ill health for catering staff. With hands being the most susceptible part of the body, dermatitis can be severe enough to keep you or a crew member off work. To avoid that extreme, wearing cut-resistant gloves can eliminate two big risks and ensure catering safety.
As you’ll be standing throughout your shifts, it’s always a tiring process so you’re going to need comfortable, slip-resistant shoes so you’re able to stay on your feet throughout the day and not be at risk of falling due to spills. Ensure your clothing isn’t a fire hazard, anti-slip rubber mats can also be beneficial, especially in a fast-paced catering environment.
Ensuring total safety for catering might be a time-consuming process, but the benefits of taking great and detailed measures to remain safe will only result in bigger benefits down the line.
How to Keep Restaurant Customers Happy Through Text Messaging
At the heart of every successful restaurant is high-quality customer service. When you want to keep your customers happy, opening a line of communication between your restaurant and your customers by implementing a restaurant text messaging service platform is one way of doing this, especially if you are targeting the massive millennial demographic. Most adults are walking around with a cell phone, and it is the most efficient way to communicate while on the go. Whether your customers want to find out about menu specials for the day or they want to make a reservation, text messaging is the best way to communicate with your customers.
Customer Service Through Texting is Cost-Effective
When you run a restaurant, you need to maximize your profits. Customers can send in a text message asking simple questions, minimizing interruptions for your restaurant staff. Because texting tends to be “short and to the point” a texting program can save you time and money. Instead of being on the phone for minutes, your employee can answer a customer text in seconds. Customer feedback will be a lot faster with SMS so that any issue can be looked into right away.
Customers Can Text from Anywhere
If you run a takeout service, customers can text orders to you from just about anywhere. This means that if they are stuck in a meeting and want to order dinner, they can do this through a simple text. If a customer is about to start their commute home they can quickly text their order and pick it up on the way home. This is a perk that many of your customers will love because they can text in a food order and its ready when they arrive.
An Employee Can Help More than One Customer at a Time
When you have a restaurant text messaging service platform in place, an employee responsible for customer service and responding to texts can help more than one customer at a time. This is going to make your customer service faster and more efficient, while reducing costs. Your employees will be able to handle more customers, keeping your customer satisfaction high.
Texting Makes Wait Times Easier
When a customer puts their name in to wait for a table, you can set up the customer to receive a text message when the table is ready. This means the customer can go outside without having to worry about a buzzer still being in range. When your customers must wait for service, make it easy on them by offering to text them when their table is ready.
Offer Exclusive Deals Through Your Restaurant Text Messaging Service
If you are having a slow business night in your restaurant, you can offer a flash deal to all of your text messaging subscribers. You’ll want to make this deal good in order to draw in a crowd who is ready to dine out at the last minute. Remind your customers that the offer is exclusive and time limited to spark interest in your restaurant. SMS is a great way to fill your restaurant on nights that are slow while also rewarding your loyal customers.
Customer service means reaching the customers in the ways that they want to be contacted. Good customer service means using a texting platform to offer deals, answer questions, and share information. When customers know that they can reach your business through texting, they are going to enjoy this form of communication. From takeout orders to reservations, your restaurant will benefit from allowing text communication between your business and customers.
To learn more about how implementing a text messaging software can improve customer satisfaction, click here!
Ken Rhie is the CEO of Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases. Mr. Rhie holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School. He has over 30 years of experience in the software, internet, and mobile communications industries.
How to Increase Sales By Text Messaging Coupons to Loyal Customers
Thursday May 11, 2017
by Ken Rhie
Mobile marketing techniques help companies engage with their customers and get people excited about your products and services. An increasing number of customers are using mobile devices to search for products, services, and restaurant text messaging coupons to help them make their dining choices. With text messaging options it is easy for them to ask questions when they find a brand they are interested in. To get started you’ll need to build a loyal customer list of fans who have “opted in” to your loyal customer program because you can’t just send out texts to the general public. Once you develop your list, it’s time to focus on coupons and deals that will improve your sales.
Be Clear With Your Offer
If you are sending out restaurant sms coupons, make it clear how your offer is going to be redeemed. You want your customers to understand your coupon and how it is supposed to be used. Don’t use vague language when you send out coupons through text messaging, and provide your customers with a specific deal that’s easy to use.
Send Rewards to Your Loyal Customers
Keep your loyal customers happy by rewarding them for making a purchase. You want customers to have an incentive to continually return to your business to make a purchase. Make sure you send coupons that are targeted towards your most loyal customers, as this will help build further loyalty and slowly build up your business. Rewarding your loyal customers will help increase consumer confidence.
Offer Something Just For Signing Up
You can send out a coupon to customers as a thank you for signing up for your mobile list. You don’t want to just send out pushes to buy products or services. You want to start by offering free drawings or rewards, getting customers interested in what you have to offer without making them spend any money. You’ll be able to collect useful data from your customers when you offer a free drawing, and even a small free product can help build brand loyalty. Keep your messages a mix of coupons, information, and deals for your restaurant.
Keep Your Text Messages Brief
When you want to reach your customers, an SMS software is the best way to get a quick message out. An SMS software is also better for urgent messages that need to be sent immediately. Don’t send out texts excessively, as this will get people to opt-out of your texting campaign.
Continually Promote Your Mobile Coupons
When you have a good mobile coupon to offer, you have to get your message out to potential customers. This means you’ll want to advertise your offer on social media, and encourage existing customers to share the deal with their friends on social media. When you are reaching out to your customers through mobile messaging, you’ll want to promote signing up to receive these messages any way you can. When customers make a purchase, you can encourage the customer to sign up for your opt-in texting campaign at this time.
Growing your opt-in texting campaign of subscribers is important to your success. Offer your customers valuable deals, and continue to promote offers wherever possible. Keep your loyal customers coming back by offering the right coupons.
Ken Rhie is the CEO of Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases. Mr. Rhie holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School. He has over 30 years of experience in the software, internet, and mobile communications industries.
Thursday December 12, 2016
by Rich Lansdale
Accommodating Gluten Free Diets in your Restaurant
Today’s restaurant customers can seem overly demanding to the casual observer. Some patrons request gluten-free products. Gluten free menus may seem like the industry’s latest buzz word, but celiac disease or intolerance to products made from wheat, barley or rye is a common problem suffered by a significant minority of the population.
While less than one percent of Americans have celiac disease and follow a gluten-free diet as a medical necessity, many others are ditching bread for other reasons. Some believe a gluten-free diet offers a healthier lifestyle and avoid gluten products because it simply makes them feel better.
Gluten-free menus make it easier for people with this condition to eat out, but restaurant staff still need to be prepared for questions. For example, are fries cooked in the same oil as chicken fingers which are floured?
As a restaurant owner, you want to address the issue, but you don’t to compromise your quality. Luckily for all of us, an entire industry of wheat and grain alternatives is now available. Take a moment to explore your options. You may be surprised by how many ways you can avoid adding wheat or gluten to your menu.
Alternatives to Traditional Flour
Consider what you need your alternative flour to do. If you want to just throw it in your mixer and make your lovely, artisanal bread, try coconut flour.
Coconut flour is made from the pulp leftover from the process of making coconut milk. The meat of the coconut is dried in an oven or dehydrator and then ground into a soft, usable flour which is obviously gluten free. It has an almost traditional flour look and texture. It’s full of carbohydrates and fiber, with five grams of fiber in just two tablespoons.
Before you use coconut flour in baking, you must keep in mind that it requires about double the liquid of wheat flour. Coconut flour is much drier than your average wheat flour and absorbs a lot more moisture, including liquid from eggs.
When baking with coconut flour, add an additional 20 percent of water or milk (or whatever liquid the recipe requires), and, for every cup of coconut flour, you will need at least three eggs. Many coconut flour bakers recommend you give your batter time to sit once all the ingredients are mixed together to ensure the flour and the liquids are fully merged.
Coconut flour users love the product and claim the final baked product is more aesthetically pleasing.
Baking and cooking with coconut flour can take a little practice, and you may want to experiment with mixing it in with different alternative flours to keep your bread and pastries from being too dry.
Cassava Root Makes Great Flour
Another great gluten free flour to reach for when stocking your restaurant kitchen is cassava. Cassava, also known as yucca, is an ugly, brown root that can be skinned, dried and powdered into a usable and tasty flour. In fact, many fans of this flour brag consumers can’t tell the difference between regular and cassava flour.
There are a few health reasons why cassava flour is so popular. Anyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or just general stomach discomfort finds baked goods made with cassava flour are much easier on their digestive tract. People with nut allergies can’t eat almond or coconut flour, so yucca is a great, allergen-free choice.
Fans of this flour cite taste and recipe convenience as the main reasons to use it as a substitute for traditional flours. This alternative flour doesn’t have any flavor of its own. Cassava is neutral and soft, and it is used in the exact same amounts as called for in recipes calling for white flour.
One serving of cassava has 1.6 grams of protein and 1.6 grams of fat, making it a very light choice that doubles as a protein supplement. The same serving size also packs in over 11 grams of fiber and about 417 grams of sodium, making it easy to eat and process.
Cassava can be used to make desserts or standard bread, and there are lots of great cassava recipes available online for you to try.
Banana flour sounds like a strictly dessert- or banana-bread-making flour, but this new product is versatile and completely gluten free.
This unique product is made strictly from green bananas. The sugar content is low, and the flavor mellow and neutral. The unripe bananas are peeled, sliced, dried, ground into flour, and packaged.
Banana flour recipes require less flour than other recipes. This is due to the higher starch content. It binds more easily with wet ingredients. You can also blend banana flour with other flours with no effect on the final product. Like cassava flour, this product is allergen-free and gluten-free, which makes it a popular choice for establishments offering gluten-free products on their menu.
Banana flour adherents claim it is full of a disease-resistant starch and has a high potassium content. Many places advertise products made from banana bread as being healthier for you, especially products like sling brownies and pies.
Producers assure buyers that using this flour produces light and fluffy bakery products. While the flour does have a light banana smell and taste in its raw state, bakers who use it claim this goes away as soon as the ingredient is blended with the other ingredients.
While it may seem like a major shift in your kitchen operation to make your baked goods gluten-free, many believe it worth the time and effort. Even if your customers don’t suffer from celiac disease, or have allergies or sensitive stomachs, they will appreciate the effort you put into your menu to make choices available for everyone.
Many customers who have given up bread to avoid gluten will appreciate the option of eating bread products again. While others may be intrigued with the unique ingredients and convert to consuming and baking or cooking with alternatives to standard flour.
Experiment with all kinds of flours as you move away from traditional baking so you can adjust to the new textures, demands, and tastes that each non-wheat flour brings to the kitchen. Soon, the slight changes in recipes or preparation, depending on the alternative flour you use, will become second nature to you and your kitchen staff.