Although I am working only as an extern at the restaurant, I feel like I am part of the team. I have come to notice how the company culture of the restaurant emphasizes teamwork and continuous learning. Chef Alan has instilled that in his staff through what I would consider to be the “Wong way.” The company’s mission statement talks about how we strive to work hard but more importantly work together to bring out the best in each other. There are few companies out there that truly exemplify their mission statements. I am glad that Alan Wong’s restaurant is one of them and that I get to be a part of it.
Teamwork is essential in any work place and even more so in a kitchen. Through my experience, it is just as important to be able to work as a team; as it is to be the best you can be as an individual so that you do not end up having to depend on others to be successful. This type of teamwork is evident in the staff at the restaurant. Everyone on shift seems to work well with each other. Prior to service, they act like family playfully teasing each other while they do their prep work, but once service starts everyone switches to their professional side and are ready to go. On multiple occasions, I’ve seen the cooks from other stations run over to help another station catch up with tickets that keep flowing in. I enjoy working in a teamwork environment because everyone is striving for the same goal, which is a successful service.
Chef Alan also works closely with his management through team discussions. It was a privilege to be pulled into a discussion where the head cooks would put their twist on an existing dish and present it to Chef Alan. My initial expectation was that he would advise the cooks on whether the dish was good or bad and what could be better. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that instead of just critiquing their dishes, he had asked them questions such as why they chose that particular combination of flavors, what other options could they have considered, and what not. He opened up the discussion so that the cooks could share their input with him. This type of team collaboration is what connects a manager with their team in a way that creates a friendly learning environment for everyone. When a manager is in tune with their team, it ultimately leads to a successful result.
One of my takeaways from Chef’s discussion was about flavor profiles. Chef mentions flavor profile to consist of three main points: seasoning, balance, and the execution of a dish. Seasoning meaning whether the dish was salted enough. The balance portion of a flavor profile refers to evaluating whether the flavors have balanced each other out. For example, for something sweet in a dish there is usually some sour flavor to equal it out. Likewise, there should be a balance of acid (usually a citrus) in a dish that contains a lot of fat or cream. In regards to the execution of a dish, you would be evaluating the dish to see whether the item has been cooked to the proper doneness. After the chefs’ discussion, I felt like I had walked away from a class with a whole list of notes to remember.
With every discussion I have with Chef Alan, the more I realize he is much more like a teacher than I thought. Chef openly shares his abundance of knowledge with his staff and doesn’t just tell people what to do. He makes you think rather than just telling you the answer or saying what you did was right or wrong. I appreciate any time and advice Chef has to offer as I continue my culinary journey.
My main goal for this upcoming week will be to continue to work on my knife cuts. I need to work on honing my knife cuts to a point where I won’t have to constantly double check and fix my work. Once I have the confidence in my knife skills, I will strive to increase my speed.