Across the world, and in every type of cuisine, the concept of modern scratch cooking is gaining momentum in the chef community. New, convenient products and more efficient ways of working are helping chefs with the challenges of running 21st century kitchens without compromising on creativity or quality. Read on to discover what’s fuelling this trend, and how to meet diners’ needs.
Slow service is one of the most frequent complaints of guests and, for many, it’s their number one issue.* Even at formal dining occasions, guests want prompt service without big gaps between courses.
Menu choice vs. capability
Over the past decade, guests’ expectations of the number of dishes on a menu have almost doubled.* Yet, the number of staff in an average kitchen team has remained the same, or in some cases, reduced. These days, it can be quite difficult to bridge the gap between the choices guests demand and the resources available. This is where modern scratch cooking comes into play.
Convenience without compromise
To keep up with these demands, many modern chefs now accept the role that more convenient ingredients can play in their kitchens. For many, it’s about the need to save time; beginning the preparation of a dish one or two steps further along the cooking process. Chefs are choosing professional ingredients that vary in their level of convenience from partially to completely ready-to-use, and are making their choices based on immediate need. But for many chefs, opting for more convenience is just as much about quality and consistency as it is about saving time.
For example, many agree that the best way to make stock is by cooking it from scratch, but sometimes the bones used can have less meat or be of poor quality and that’s when the finished stock suffers. Quite simply, a convenience stock can perform better, with more consistent results and with none of the associated health and safety issues.
Of course, professional ingredients are no substitute for talent or training. Kitchen staff need to be just as skilled to handle professional ingredients as they do raw ingredients.
But, with the time saved, their cooking skills and creativity can be developed further. At Unilever Food Solutions, our culinary teams are committed to demonstrating how professional ingredients and modern scratch cooking can help kitchens work more efficiently. They are looking forward to demonstrating new ways to prepare some classic dishes over the coming months.
Smart preparation methods
As part of our commitment to making the entire cooking process easier and more efficient, below are some simple, smart preparation methods you can employ to can reduce stress, time and cost.
- Economies of scale – An effective work schedule for each week will calculate the optimum MEP production batches. It will also take into account shelf life and quality.
- "Must have" dishes – Don’t waste time and skill creating menu essentials that may not be fully appreciated by guests. Convenience products can help to create these dishes with consistency.
- Mise en place – Season the dishes during the mise en place. This reduces the pressure on staff when the dishes are served, making it possible to serve the same number of guests with a smaller team. Distinguish between production and serving stages when developing the menu.
- Cleaning up – Who cleans what, and how often? Clearly indicate which cleaning jobs should be carried out by which team member.
- Flexible staffing – Help the team become more flexible by making sure that each can work at every station. This makes the operation better equipped to cope with personnel changes. On quieter days implement a job swap; for example, ask the pastry chef trade places with the garde-manger for the day.
- Time and motion – Allow the team to calculate the number of steps they make and see if improvements to the kitchen layout can be made. Consider the results annually and calculate how much time could be saved.
- Second opinions – Consider bringing in an independent consultant or chef to observe your kitchen at work. They can analyse your ways of working and come up with some fresh ideas.
- Ask for ideas – Create an ideas box and ask the team for ideas relating to efficiency. The idea that saves or makes the most money can win a prize.
*Harris Research 2009