The Pro Chef Challenge

I have been cooking since I was 5 years old, constantly challenging myself to try something new or unexpected. I have learned to prepare an enormous variety of dishes from sourdough bread to gelato and sashimi to soufflé. However, in spite of all my skills, I am still not good enough to work in a professional restaurant kitchen. Why?

The key to working with anything besides dishwashing, is speed and efficiency – when the pressure is on, I do not yet have the skills to consistently churn out a myriad of quality dishes within the tight time frames required in professional kitchens. If I want to make professional use of my culinary skills in the same way as my make-up skills, I need to improve my technique, efficiency and speed.

Inspired by Tim Ferris’ newest book, The 4-hour Chef, I have decided to address my shortcomings and take my culinary skills to the next level. Under the category The Pro Chef Challenge, you can follow my progress through this challenge.

The Challenge:

Bring all my culinary skills to a professional level in 6 months through daily practice and study. Since I normally cook at least one meal per day from scratch, I can always dedicate time towards learning and practicing.

What I am good at:

  • A wide range of classic and contemporary recipes from several culinary cultures (historical and modern)
  • Theory
  • Most basic preparation techniques
  • Improvisation
  • Taste & texture
  • Creativity
  • Food hygiene
  • Basic nutrition
  • Planning and organizing for informal/private events and activities

Cuisines I have the most experience with

  • Italian
  • American
  • Japanese
  • French
  • Swedish
  • Thai
  • British
  • Indian

What I am working on:

  • Fine-tuning of all techniques/skills
  • Precision, Speed & Efficiency
  • Keeping my workspace organised, sanitised and tidy
  • Plating & Serving
  • Presentation
  • Etiquette
  • Nutritional balancing
  • Correct terminology & knowledge of relevant literature (Escoffier, Pépin, etc)
  • Planning & menus for formal situations

What I will NOT work on (due to a lack of the necessary equipment or space):

  • Barista techniques requiring special equipment (such as steamers and large espresso machines)
  • Bartender techniques requiring special equipment
  • Large-scale outdoor barbecuing (eg. grilling a whole cow)
  • Making matured/cured cheeses and charcuterie that require a “cheese cave” or curing fridge
 Specific Goals:

Overall goals

  • Perfect my technique for dishes and goods I already know how to make
  • Bridge my current knowledge gap with dishes, goods and techniques needed to make complete set dinners in the cuisines mentioned above.
  • Plan, prepare and serve at least one formal dinner from each cuisine listed above (including degustation and Kaiseki).
  • Apply my improved knowledge and skills in a professional restaurant.

Improve prep times

  • Peel a potato by hand in under 10 seconds
  • Peel a carrot by hand in under 30 seconds
  • Butcher a chicken carcass in under 60 seconds
  • Bone out a chicken carcass in under 90 seconds
  • Make a classic French omelette in under 2 minutes (including cracking and mixing the eggs)

Have I missed something? Let me know!

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