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Simple Ways to Work Smarter

In order to achieve higher revenues and lower expenses in the professional kitchen, it’s imperative to embrace new ideas that are practical and cost-effective. Working efficiently can make your operation more successful by maximizing time, resources and materials. An organized kitchen can increase productivity, resulting in greater profits.

The right tools for the right job

A number of easy solutions can help any foodservice operation run more effectively. By selecting the right tools for the job—think about ease of motion—and by maintaining a safe work environment, you can significantly reduce the time spent on each task.

  • While working at the stove use an immersion blender to purée soups and sauces without creating a mess or having to use additional pots or containers.
  • Use a mandoline for slicing potatoes into matchsticks for french fries or for creating thin slices for Potatoes en Casserole. A mandoline can accomplish these tasks in half the time when compared to using a knife.
  • Keep an empty container next to the cutting board. Prepped items can easily be swept into the container without having to put down your knife.
  • Position yourself for ease of movement. Stand on a riser if the counter is too high, or stack cutting boards to bring the work surface to the most comfortable working level.

Make the most of your time and money

These techniques will not only impact the productivity of the garde manger department, but the entire foodservice establishment. Consider implementing the following suggestions to make the most of your time and money:

  • Heat-sealing machines. These machines allow foods, such as appetizers and hors d’oeuvre, to be prepared in advance and held until service. They are especially useful for caterers when transferring food to off-premise locations.
  • Common sense. Save time in the kitchen by employing common sense. For example, there is no need to wash the exterior of leeks prior to splitting them. Also, when preparing crumbled hard-cooked eggs for an ingredient or garnish, quickly pass them across a roasting rack, or tamis, into a hotel pan.
  • Organization. Reorganize workstations to save time through efficiency. Specially designed racks used to hold bottles are useful. These racks make it convenient to quickly locate and pour liquids, such as vinaigrettes, oils and sauces that are used repeatedly during service.

Organizing the kitchen

In every business, wasted time is wasted money. Improving the organization of your kitchen/bakeshop can contribute to increased productivity and higher profit margins. An important concept used every day in the most efficient workspaces is to store items in the most convenient and accessible locations. By utilizing the most convenient storage spaces in your kitchen/bakeshop, your staff won’t waste an extra moment gathering the tools they need to do their work.

Use these tips to create and maintain an organized workspace:

  • Use markers, pens and labels to mark stored food clearly and legibly
  • Use color-coded labels for your food-labeling system
  • Store items commonly used by staff together in one central location
  • Use portion cups for organizational tools 

Elements of the perfect buffet

Balance
Food supplies the important visual elements of the buffet design: colors, textures and shapes. Foods also supply two important, but nonvisual, elements: aroma and flavor. The design principles at the chef’s disposal include symmetrical or asymmetrical compositions, contrasting or complementary arrangements, and the use of lines to create patterns or motion. A certain amount of regularity and repetition is comfortable and appealing, but too much of anything becomes simply that—too much.

Texture
Food surfaces tend to either reflect or absorb light, making some foods appear glossy and others matte. Some foods have highly textured exteriors, while others are smooth. The way the food feels when you bite into it is another aspect of texture that the chef must include in a plan. Too much of the same texture is monotonous.

Cooking technique
The process of cooking gives the chef a chance to enhance the food in significant ways. “Visual flavor” is important to the garde manger chef creating a cold food display. Unlike hot foods, with their abundant aromas to entice guests, the aromas of cold foods are less apparent, making it necessary for guests to “see” flavors. Some techniques darken the food’s exterior, such as grilling, roasting and smoking. Other techniques introduce new elements, such as coatings or wrappers; pan-frying and deep-frying are two such techniques.

Shape and height of the food
Cubes, cylinders, spheres and pyramids are just some of the shapes food can assume. Alternating or repeating shapes in a design adds visual interest. You can alter the natural shape of a food by cutting or slicing it. To give height to foods that are naturally flat, you can roll or fold them, arrange them in piles or pyramids, or use serving pieces such as pedestals to raise them up.

A focal point
The focal point introduces a large shape into a field of smaller shapes on a platter, and helps the guest identify the food. Garnishes are most effective when they offer information about the food instead of simply adding color.

Strong, clean lines
Lines arrange food neatly and can be straight, curved or angled. When two lines meet, they create a shape. When you repeat a line, you create a pattern. The more evenly spaced the lines, the more obvious the pattern. In order to have a line, you need a starting and ending point; the focal point in an arrangement is that reference point.

The platter’s layout
When the focal point is off center, one side of the arrangement appears to have more weight. Lines going away from the focal point are of different lengths. When in the center, it gives the impression that both sides are in equilibrium. Lines going from the focal point are the same length. Asymmetrical arrangements tend to look natural, while symmetrical arrangements look formal.

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