RECIPE ETIQUETTE

Recently there is all of this talk about recipes. People have been asking me if the recipes I use are “mine” or if they have been passed down to me. And I have this ziplock bag that houses different spiral bound notebooks full of my penmanship and my life and am met with disbelief when I say that yes indeed these are my go to recipe books. Or I have been in a restaurant kitchen and been asked-do you have a recipe for this? Answering their own question, they whip out a cookbook straight off of their shelves and flip right to the recipe they are using, all of the recipes they are using straight from the books. Right, so what the hell am I talking about?

The etiquette of using recipes, how you obtain and attain them, and my ziplock bag. Not in that order!

I worked under a french pastry chef for many years. All of his recipes were handwritten in notebooks and they were kept in a plastic sleeve. The recipes came and went with him everyday. No one except him ever went into his books. You wouldn’t have been able to decipher them once opened anyway. But most importantly, it was out of respect for him. He worked so hard and for many years to get all of those recipes. For someone just to open that book and start copying his recipes would have been the ultimate betrayal but it would also show right away just how stupid and disrespectful that person was. That was how he judged people-he knew the ones that only wanted his recipes. Then he would just watch what he showed them, after all method is just as important as the ingredients. You can’t do one without the other. Or he would just scream at you everyday until you found a new job. I have carried this with me. Definitely the ziplock full of notebooks, but also the eye for recipe hawkers. What? Okay-so it is not as covert, secret service as that, but just understand this. When someone comes to work for you and they have been there just a week and they start asking for your recipes for everything and saying how good everything is-I am not flattered! The first thing I start to do is look at how they work. You can’t keep your area clean or get your station ready for service but you want my recipes? How about this-liken it to the karate kid. Ralph Macchio was not allowed to start learning the moves until he learned basic discipline. Karate baby-now it’s clear, right? It is all about respect and oddly enough the food network doesn’t teach that.

Now, about this little ziplock bag of recipes I have. And trust me on this, most kitchens I go into, the pastry chefs have a binder with all of their recipes in little plastic sleeves, with them all typed up for 1x, 5x, 10x. Me? Not so much, no. Well I do have recipes typed up all housed in their little plastic sleeves in their binders on their shelf in their place. But they don’t like to come out so much really for me. They are for the cooks. You see, I don’t know where to find the recipes in those books. In my notebooks, I know in which book I will find the recipe and where in the book it will be. It’s sentimental for sure. Getting into those books is recalling all of the time spent doing this. It’s like constant flashbacks but in a good way.

And onto cookbooks and those recipes being “mine.” First to the cookbooks-they are wonderful sources of reference. They have beautiful pictures, they inspire, professional ones can teach new techniques. Do they belong on your shelf in your professional kitchen? I will hear cries about this one I am sure and I am prepared. I say no. These books are for reference and should remain in your home library. Why? Liken it to this- original artwork is more valuable than a reproduction, okay. The original has the soul, the heart. God bless you if you can open books and make exactly what is in them because it makes life a lot easier. You don’t have to figure anything out. Everything is done for you. And again I may hear cries of there is nothing original left, everything has already been done. And some of that is true, but when you see something, don’t you want to put your heart in it? I believe people know the difference. Which leads me to are these recipes “mine?” Well I don’t know if I can own them. The recipes I use are all based on something I have been taught or I have found in books. Blasphemy you cry! Liar! Hold on! Some of the ones (not all) I have been taught, I have changed over time as I have changed. I can honestly tell you I don’t use anything verbatim out of a book. I do take the original recipe and try it and then I change it based on what I would like to achieve. I don’t say I want to make a chocolate cake, let’s start with 7 eggs, 500 g sugar. Hell no! Do people do that? You can because everything is based on a ratio so let’s go ahead and God bless all of those people, too because that is one heck of a job.

But in the end these are all just my beliefs and musings and I am the last one to tell you this is the way because I oftentimes can’t remember which is my left and which is my right. But guess what? This is my blog!


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