Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Cooking... The Forgotten Trade

Well it was my first day at my new job today. For anyone who doesn't know, today is the day I started work as a Commis Chef at a hotel near Glasgow Airport. And while I was working away, I realised something. The word 'cooking' has changed, and not a lot of people realise it. A few years ago, cooking, used to be the process of taking raw ingredients and combining them to make something delicious. You know, Julia Child style.

Isn't that still the case? Well let me elaborate, take you inside the world of a modern day commercial 'cook' if you will. You see, before I took this new job, I worked in the kitchen of a popular chain of bars/restaurants known as JD Wetherspoons, for a mere two months. How would I describe Wetherspoons? Its kind of like the next step up from McDonalds, granted that its a pretty big step but a step nonetheless. It has hundreds of bars and sells cheap, quick meals. About 80% of the food served there is NOT cooked on the premises. Well if its not cooked then what is it? It is simply reheated in a microwave, an oven, in a fryer or on the grill. Some people may argue that it still counts as cooking, and fair enough, nowadays it seems to. I wouldn't make such a big deal about it if the food was appetising after it had been reheated, but anyway, I'm not hear to slag off any establishments so I'll let you be the judge of that one.

So if the food isn't prepared and cooked on the premises, then where does it take place? It takes place in large company owned warehouses where its packaged and sent off to the different branches. If you think about it, there isn't much difference between this food and a frozen meal from a supermarket.

Now don't get be wrong idea, the place I work at now, even though it is owned by the largest chain of hotels  in the world, does cook the majority of its food on site. I say the majority because there are a few select dishes that still get ordered in pre-made (eg. Lasagne, Curry, Rice, Sauces), so we'll say around 70% of the food IS cooked at the establishment. So that is a hefty improvement upon Wetherspoons standards but its still not that 100% I always imagined when I dreamed of working in big expensive restaurants.

Well does that mean everywhere is the same? Definitely not. The first restaurant I ever worked in was a place called the Corn Exchange in New Zealand where I held the position of Larder Chef. Everything the sold was made on site, from the bread to the desserts and from the mash potato to the sauces for the steaks. It is possible. I hope I gave you something to think about. I may have to post something on where food really comes from, that could be interesting. I'll probably add more to this but its almost 1am, so until next time, Caio.


  1. Says something about UK standards, doesn't it? Good post.

  2. Thanks. It certainly does, yet its nothing compared to the standards in America, standards in which we seem to be adopting very quickly.