THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF AN HTA STUDENT
1. Thou shalt keep thy knives sharp.
Your most basic tool is your knife – it is an extension of your hand.
To cut well, all your knives must be sharp: make sharpening a daily routine.
Remember, it is never the knife’s fault.
2. Thou shalt work with the best people.
To become a great chef, you need to gain experience with three or four very good chefs.
The best is not always the most popular or most famous. It can just as easily be a chef in a small establishment who is simply very organised and very good.
3. Thou shalt keep thy station orderly.
From the storage of vegetables to the finishing of mise-en-place, everything needs to be marked and date labelled, in proper containers and taking up minimum room.
A well-organised station is respected by the rest of the kitchen staff.
4. Thou shalt purchase wisely.
A profitable restaurant runs on this principle: Use everything.
Pay attention to the price of ingredients and keep them in line with what a customer will pay.
The more you utilise everything, the more you will be able to afford the best ingredients.
A great chef respects the culinary value of every ingredient – from a tomato to a truffle.
5. Thou shalt season with precision.
Proper seasoning enhances the taste of every ingredient.
There is an exact point at which ingredients are seasoned correctly.
More is not always better.
Learning how to season correctly requires endless practice.
6. Thou shalt master the heat.
From 50°C to 500°C, there is an enormous range for heat to affect ingredients. A truly great cook has such an intimate knowledge of heat that he or she develops a sixth sense of timing for the moment of doneness.
7. Thou shalt learn the world of food.
Experience different cuisines whenever you can. This will broaden your foundation as a chef
Do it when you are young, as you are building your career.
Even when you have begun to progress through the ranks of the kitchen, use your time off to go places, try new restaurants and buy books.
In other words, immerse yourself in the world of food.
8. Thou shalt know the classics.
No matter what cuisine you concentrate on, the classic dishes will cover the spectrum of techniques and ingredients needed to master a cuisine. The fundamentals of stocks, sauces and seasoning are all in the classics.
9. Thou shalt accept criticism.
As an apprentice, you spend your days and nights being criticized and analysed by the chefs you work for. Criticism may not always be conveyed in a sensitive manner, but it is other people’s way of telling you how to improve your results and it is important to learn from it. It is equally important to learn how to criticize when you become a fully-fledged chef.
10. Thou shalt keep a journal of thy recipes.
You cannot remember everything you see or have cooked, but with a journal, a computer and a digital camera, you can bring those taste memories back to life and they will act as your guidance and support throughout your professional career.
* Adapted from ‘Letters to a young Chef by Daniel Boulud’