Definition of Staging: When a cook or chef works briefly, for free, in another chef’s kitchen to learn and be exposed to another chef’s techniques and cuisines.
This Fall 09 was one of the greatest opportunities to do just that. Not only was the position available at the Wynn, but it with one of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants. I was fortunate enough to go behind the scenes at a Michelin Star restaurant, Daniel Boulud Brasserie.
Upon arriving at the kitchen, I met and was introduced to the Sous Chef, Connor. He escorted me to the Executive Chef’s office, Wesley Holton. As I passed by the famaliar dish tank, hot line, garde manger line, pastry line, storage area, refrigerators, and pantry shelves, I noticed immediately that this kitchen was like no other. The usual disarray that I have found in most commercial kitchens was missing. In it’s place was a beautiful backdrop of a very efficient kitchen. My eyes could not take it all in at once. I was in awe with the spaciousness of it all. Everything seemed in total order and purpose for any chef. It made me very very nervous to work at the garde manger line that evening.
Next, I was introduced to Matt, Stephanie, and Amanda. I was priviledged to be working with the Garde Manger crew. Matt who trained me for the evening showed me the charcuterie station, oyster station, cold salads, and hot salad station. It was the largest space I’d ever worked in before this. It felt like a mansion compared to the small hut dimensions of my past kitchen experiences.
Matt and I gathered the ingredients for the daily ceviche which were three different kinds: lobster, shrimp, and crab. He explained that whatever produce was there to use that night was what would go into the three different recipes. He started picking up cilantro, lime, daikon radish, carrots, parsley, and in the pantry pimentos, hearts of palm, extra virgin olive oil, and many other ingredients for the night’s mise en place. He did this all without glancing at his notes.
When the evening began, I realized that three people on this station was going to be an orchestrated symphony lead by the conductor, Sous Chef, Connor. Total cover was four hundred thirty-five. Although this was an average night for a Saturday, in a Michelin Star restaurant, this was an orchestra that played as if it was well rehearsed. I began that evening honing my knives and craving out a spot of space so that I could help but not be seen but definitely heard.
I can’t remember all the crescendos of the evening but what I do remember was the satisfaction and gratification I felt for having the opportunity to work with such fine craftsmen. There didn’t seem to be any chaos in this kitchen only precision and order.
Some day I hope to own a Michelin star kitchen of my own but for now I am willing to stage in one. I picked up more tips and techniques in this one kitchen than months of training of another in my past. I will always remember Vegas, not for the glitz and glamor but for the ultimate professionalism of its fine dining restaurants.