Coming from a background of only baking and pastry, and working in restaurants that had separate pastry stations, I never saw myself venturing over to the savory side of things.
Pastry chefs are an added cost that many kitchens cannot afford. It is much easier for a savory chef to execute some simpler pastry dessert than it is for a (strictly) pastry chef to take a savory dish from start to finish. Pastry chefless kitchens often have their executive chefs that draw from books and the internet. With that said, I do not think that pastry “stations” are necessary to put out bangin’ desserts; but, they are an added benefit. (I may have just dug a grave for my future hope-to-be-re-employed status.) When Justin has an idea for a dessert, he likes asking me how to make it because he most of the time has no clue. (Yes, he will agree with me on that statement). With that said, I hope I have a job when I get home because the best kitchens should have us. (There are always exceptions.)
The way and how much you fold something is important. The way you temper your chocolate is important. A temperature range for sugar does vary for your surroundings. A well composed, well thought out, pastry plate with good technique is hard to come by. Bread – – that’s a whole different story.
My experience at Kiin Kiin
At Kiin Kiin, I have a huge learning curve to climb. (Apparently, so does Justin since he was assigned to the pastry station at AOC. Hah.) At Kiin Kiin, everyone has to know how to do everything because no schedule is the same every week. Tonight I was in charge of the quail dish. It was the third day I broke down quail – I decapitated it, removed the legs, boned the leg, and made boneless skinless breasts. It’s may be an everyday thing for most savory cooks, but for me, as someone who can’t stand the sight of roadkill, it’s an accomplishment. I will admit, the first day I was sick to my stomach – I don’t handle blood so well, nor the cracking sounds of bones detaching from the ligaments.
As for service, I had to sear off the quail leg and saute some mushrooms. Sounds simple, right? Not so much when there’s someone who’s used to working with cold food. It’s like wearing a sweater that looks exactly like your favorite one, only it’s not yours. Savory cooking is an uncomfortable feeling, though I’ve seen it many times. The night was a success (or so I believe) since the staff was giving each other high 5’s for a smooth service. I’ll never forget this experience, and look forward to my 2nd week. I think this will make me a better pastry chef.
However, I believe and now know, that it is not in my blood or passion to cook on a hot (or cold) line. Pastry has a very different mis en place schedule because many items have a “longer shelf life” or can be taken 90% of the way. Unless there is “cooking” to order (like saute-ing fruit, caramelizing cake, frying doughnuts), it really comes down to speed of plating up. I am a much more methodological person. Sometimes I tell Justin I am spontaneous and I like unplanned vacations or even dinners, but I’m starting to see that that is not the case. And he must really love me because he hasn’t ever tried to tell me I’m crazy for thinking that I actually like spontaneity.