April 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

Stage – is a culinary term for an internship or a brief course, whereby one enquire new culinary skills & experience in kitchens. The dynamics in every restaurant is unique, as each chef has his/her own way in overseeing it. From ordering fresh/seasonal ingredients, special cooking techniques, firing an order, detail plating to serving the dish on the customer’s table.

Kitchens are filled with mundane task. As a new stagiare, one can be placed in the corner to zest and juice a couple of pounds of lemons and lime or asked just to scale out ingredients. If lucky or trusted, one is allow to bake a simple cake or churn ice cream. My eyes are to observe the new environment, how the cooks maneuver hastily over the counters and chefs run about gracefully on the kitchen floor. It is rare to see mistakes as they themselves have been through laborious moments under high pressured seniors.

With envy, I absorb every move, like a lady finger sponge cake soaked with espresso, I filled my eyes with meticulous baking steps, cutting and plating techniques. Sometimes helping a hand or two.

The commis cooks are usually helpful and friendly with newbies. Before service, we break the ice and get to know each another. Break time is often, 4.30-5pm. To answer my friends, who are not in the service industry and ask “so dinner at 7pm?” No dear, we serve dinner. Preparation starts before dinner, we take a quick snack before service, or eat after service, usually when the last customer leaves.

Don’t get it wrong a stage can be immensely fun. A well-prepared kitchen and responsible upbeat service crew make a brilliant team. When front of the house informs the kitchen crew with precise bookings/VIPs, misc en plac is organized, food is fresh or piping hot, orders are fired at the right pace, dishes are served on time to keep customers satisfied.

When the team is not cohesive, hot plates can be seen flying around, profanity is heard in every sentence, spillage over the counter and a tense energy raises ferociously. There is nothing glamorous, just sheer endurance & self-contentment.

Yet I’m inspired by the people, who put their strenuous and passionate heart into the industry. It holds priceless intrinsic values and few extrinsic rewards. I’m keeping my heart and mind open to what is entailed in every kitchen. Finding the right fit, learning more about pastries, and meeting endless motivated people to share their stories with others.


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