While studying my way through culinary school I worked over the weekends with a local caterer and I ended up learning more with the catering service than I did at school. Well, I guess I should rephrase that a little: I learned more practical information with the caterer than I did at school. Culinary school is still necessary to be a chef, that’s for certain, but they do graze over a lot of real life information. While working with Still Waters Food Service I learned the value of customer appreciation above all else, and I also saw what it takes to keep up in a professional kitchen.
Still Waters Catering offered so much more to their customers than food service; they immediately showed that they were willing to work with their customers as long as they could work up to their own high standards. The food preparation is 80% of any kitchen and I got to see the craft in that. Food preparation with the chefs at Still Waters was an art form. They showed me how to manage and separate certain foods, always with the health and allergy concerns of the customers in mind. No corners were ever cut and no lines were crossed. I would probably eat off of the floor in that place because it was so clean, and that sense of cleanliness has stayed with me since working there.
I also learned how to manage large orders with last minute changes easily. Although catering menus are predetermined by the chefs and customers there are always changes that will come in at the very end and as a chef you will always be expected to deliver. Party sizes go up and down and new food allergies will trickle in because someone forgot to tell someone about someone’s Aunt Mildred’s peanut allergy. Being a professional chef means being ready for anything in the kitchen.
In learning the intricacies of the menu at Still Waters I learned how to artfully prepare many different types of cuisines. There was an element of school work application that I appreciated, but there was also an element of creativity and experience that I saw in the chefs that you just have to learn over time. As I watched and listened to them create and prepare new dishes while maintaining some of their classics I learned how to be versatile in the kitchen in addition to being knowledgable. This also gave rise to experience with professional serving and catering in general. Just because I’m a chef behind the line it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t know how professional dining service operates. As a caterer you must know both of those fields very well.
Working with the professionals at Still Waters Food Service was the best choice I could have made while finishing culinary school. I kept up my studies and focused on my craft in school while learning from quick-thinking chefs in real cooking situations, it was truly the best education I could have received and now I understand just how a catering service should operate.