Youtube channels with professional kitchens
November 23, 2015 7:17 AM   Subscribe

I want watch how people in professional kitchens clean, prep, and execute a service. I've already seen lots TV-chefs and youtube-wannabe-tv-chefs making single dishes, but I want to see cooking at scale. Any youtube channel/film suggestions?
posted by beerbajay to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
It's not a video, but you might like this New Yorker article about how cruise ship kitchens work. Also, in the documentary Carrier, about an aircraft carrier, IIRC there's a bunch about working in the kitchens and food service.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:05 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

There is a fantastic series called "Great Chefs" and "Great Chefs of the world." It's not a YouTube series, but I watched it a crazy ton growing up and it just takes you into a professional kitchen while the chef prepares a dish. Each episode is 30 min.
posted by carnivoregiraffe at 8:49 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can't think of anything I've seen that would give you a really good idea from start to finish--a lot of the boring stuff gets elided. So here's a sample of my day, starting at the end of the night before.

Pretty much the last thing I do at the end of my day is check my station for what I need to make tomorrow (and be mindful of what I need to start tomorrow that will be finished the day after), then check the walk-in and dry stores for anything I need chef to order for me, as well as general stuff the restaurant needs--e.g., after this weekend I know I need to make brioche and hamburger buns on Wednesday, and that's going to take a lot of eggs and butter, so better order some, we're low. Then I make my list for the next day.

On arrival, I get changed into white and checks, sign in, and double-check my station in case anything's gone wonky overnight. I also take a boo at the reservations system--most restaurants are pretty dialed-in as to which days are busier than others, and how much we can believe the reservation book from one day to the next. Ask chef if there's anything I need to have on my list that I don't know about yet (e.g. specials). Then I set up my station for prep. Hone knives (I sharpen every couple of days, depending), cutting board, salt and pepper, other seasonings that get used a lot--where I work, that's a lot of thyme and bay--and grab any special equipment that I need immediately.

Then it's time to prioritize my list. I work in a very small place and right now it's just me and chef in the kitchen, so I have to do a bit of everything. Bigger restaurants, with bigger brigades, can afford to specialize more. In general, you want to front load your list with the stuff that takes the longest, while small things like chopping herbs can (and need to) wait until the last minute--stuff like that generally gets left until after I've set up my station for service; I can easily chop a container of parsley while service is beginning.

So first off is starting any baking. As I said, on Wednesday I need to make brioche and hamburger buns. Brioche is a two-day process (it rises three times: fridge overnight, then out of the fridge, then shaped and risen again before baking), so I can shuffle that a bit to the back--got to get on the burger buns first. They have a double rise: make the dough, rise for an hour-ish, form into buns and rise again. So the first thing I do is get the buns going. Then I look at what else is kind of "make and leave it alone for a while" and try to time my day so I can fit shorter tasks in between things that require sporadic attention. Something I need to be mindful of is what needs precision in timing, and what can slide for a bit--when I make gnocchi, for example, I have to blast through the process as soon as the potatoes are cooked, because if they get cool they become gluey.

So that's basically my day up until half an hour before service: juggling the competing demands of the all-important list (one really simple separation of amateur or dilettante from a pro is who makes lists) with an eye on the clock. Generally speaking, one wants to not ever be prepping during service. In practice, sometimes that happens, so you need to be mindful of what can be done in between building plates. And sometimes you have to gamble--there's no way you're going to get to X, so here's hoping that 7 portions is enough for tonight... As you prep, you finish things (and chill as necessary), and label them with the item and the date before putting them either in your fridge or the walk-in.

At 5pm, half an hour before service, I aim to have finished everything but the little bits and pieces, and stuff that's better last minute anyway. It's time to set up my station. That means grill and fryer on if we haven't been using them during the day, to start. Then I gather my equipment: spoons, so many spoons; a few bowls of varying sizes for salads, passing small items to chef, etc; tongs; a stack of towels; a small bucket with soap for washing my hands; knives (I usually use two during service, this all-purpose wonder, and a small paring knife for ripping open vac-sealed proteins); more spoons.

I set up my equipment in easy reach--everyone who cooks is idiosyncratic about what goes where, but there are a few constants: spoons stay in a container of hot water that gets refreshed periodically during service. Bowls for tossing salad stay in the fridge. Salt and pepper and butter are as close as possible to the cutting board--an endless frustration for me right now is due to the setup of the kitchen, I have to have my s&p on the left, and I'm right handed.

Then it's time to organize product for service. Most of it I'll have organized while prepping--pre-portioning, putting into appropriate-sized containers, that sort of thing. I'll rearrange my fridge from prep/storage mode to service mode, organizing ingredients together for easy access. I have a station that looks like this, more or less (removable covers instead of a hinged door), so up top I keep stuff that is used frequently. Usually in small batches that I'll work through and then grab backups from around my knees. Some items that are less frequent I'll keep collected together on small trays in my fridge. So when I get a gnocchi, for example, I pull out a tray that has a container of gnocchi, cauliflower puree, blanched cauliflower, pre-washed and cut escarole, salsa verde, a chunk of parmesan, and a peeler (for shaving the parm). Boom, everything's there--so I can make the dish and then tuck it all away again. Some things can be done partially ahead of time. For example, we mark the tops of our hamburger buns on the grill, so I'll do half a dozen of those before service to save time later.

Okay, now it's 5:30. My station is set and ready to go. We're going to assume I'm not frantically still prepping into service, for a change. The printer goes. We don't have a dedicated expediter ("expo")--someone who is responsible for timing the orders so they reach the pass at the same time. In bigger kitchens, there will either be someone whose sole job is expo, or usually it'll be the sous chef, the chef de cuisine, or the exec, if the latter two are separate people. In other kitchens it's either catch as catch can, or who calls it depends on where the printer(s) is/are located--garde manger (salads, charcuterie, cold appetizers) is often the default there.

At that point I (I call the line bc printer is literally right in front of my face) have to call out the order. Where I work, we call like so:

"Ordering. Two scallop with one mixed greens, allergic to nuts, one app special. Followed by one duck, one burger, two pork." Or if they're not having appetizers, "order fire, gnocchi with lamb."

We swing into action. Like I said it's just me and chef and we know all the timings, so we start accordingly. The usual order of operations is to lay out plates for hot dishes under the pass so they get warm (we don't have room to keep plates hot--some places do), then start cooking. As we're putting the final touches on plates, we ding the bell for servers so that nothing dies on the pass--we have to be particularly careful with when salads are plated, lest they wilt. I'm being mindful though--I owe chef three components for the duck to come, the burger takes a while to cook, and while the pork is cooked sous vide it needs to get grill marks on it and then rest so it's hot all the way through. So as soon as the apps go out, everything for the next course gets fired--one of the things you look at is what can sit for a while and still be fine, and what needs to hit the plate thirty seconds before it goes out. Every restaurant has different standards on that. So we work ahead, and wait for the server to punch in a pickup--that means "we'd like the next course now."

And that, lather rinse repeat, is basically how service goes. It's kind of like juggling.

Once service is over, it's time to clean. First, repack any leftover product--label and date of course. (This is when you start building your list for the next day). Then everything that isn't nailed down goes to the dishpit. Switch off oven, salamander, grill, fryer--every other day (unless there's been heavy use) that also means emptying the fryer, straining the oil, cleaning, and refilling with either fresh oil or the older stuff. Give the grill a good hard once over with the brush (I've been brushing during service where possible). Sweep the line (the dishwasher does the rest of the kitchen, and mopping). Then a bucket of hot soapy water and a scrubbie, and every surface gets scrubbed then wiped with a clean dry towel. Have a pint, go home. Occasionally we'll do a bit of prep after service--stuff like butchering birds (we air-dry the duck breasts overnight), breaking down pork or beef (our pork chops get brined overnight before cooking; our steak is a flatiron that gets the sinew in the middle removed, then glued back together with transglutaminase, which has to sit overnight before cooking).

That's more or less how it works in every restaurant. The bigger the kitchen, the more specialized both prep and service are, which can get dreadfully boring prepping the same few items every day.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:30 AM on November 23, 2015 [181 favorites]

Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, Season 4, episode 10 shows the service at Les Halles. It's not perfect, but it's one of the few examples in this very under-appreciated category you're looking for.
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:34 PM on November 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

This is a pretty solid example of what high-end plating looks like. Notice all the mise en place in plastic containers--that's standard. (I'm surprised by the lack of labeling, though.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:14 PM on November 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

If you're interested in books, Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line is about this exact subject. It can be a tad overdone on the Anthony Bourdain "macho chef" stuff, but I found it fascinating. (To clarify, not a Bourdain book -- but is reminiscent of that stuff of his.)
posted by andrewesque at 9:57 AM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Then I gather my equipment: spoons, so many spoons;

Ballpark, how many?
posted by cardboard at 11:14 AM on November 25, 2015

In an ideal universe, I would have infinity spoons. In reality, ~20ish seems to get me through a busy service. Bear in mind I lose spoons more often than most cooks-- I have one dish I do that has nuts in it, so the spoon I use for plating goes straight to the dishpit as soon as I'm done using it, so it doesn't contaminate the others (I have allergies; luckily it isn't a dish that requires tasting per se-- olives and walnuts warmed in an olive oil and sherry vinaigrette with some garlic/thyme/chili flakes). I also react with thinly-veiled horror anytime I see anyone use a spoon for tasting and then toss it right back in with their other spoons. If something touches my mouth, it goes to the pit and doesn't touch food again until it's been cleaned.

Thank you, iffthen. You're very welcome.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:22 PM on November 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is a pretty solid example of what high-end plating looks like. Notice all the mise en place in plastic containers--that's standard. (I'm surprised by the lack of labeling, though.)

Hey! I've eaten there a few times. Have really enjoyed the food tremendously, and have also visited the kitchen, the staff is very nice and it seems like a very positive place.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:08 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Feckless, the knife link in your post wasn't working but I looked at the script--is it a Global G-4? If not, please re-link because I'm sure others are (or will be) curious.
posted by oneironaut at 9:32 AM on November 27, 2015

I'll just throw in here. I'm a professional chef with over 15 years experience in everything from sushi bars and ramen joints to multi-million dollar kitchens run by Michelin starred chefs.

What I would want to know is: what kind of restaurant are you wanting to know about? There are many different styles of restaurants with many different styles of service in the world with various factors like culture, style of food, casualness (or lack there of), etc. informing what their set-up and normal service would be like.

I'm not sure about youtube, but if you have time to invest in a couple of documentaries, Netflix is actually a great source for this.

For a greasy spoon, diner set-up and service run by a single proprietor try I Like Killing Flies.

To see a very, very high end (arguably the best in the world) sushi bar: Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

To see a three Michelin star chef and his crew at work, there is the incredibly entertaining A Matter of Taste.

Each of these has segments on prep, miss en place (and mental mise en place), service and some philosophizing on life in the kitchen.

The best extant written examples that I've read are in Kitchen Confidential the chapter entitled "A Day in the Life", and Down and Out in Paris and London.

Keep in mind, these little vignettes are glimpses into whatthese particular chef's kitchens are like.

Happy to answer any questions I can if you're curious.
posted by kaiseki at 11:47 PM on November 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

kaiseki, I for one would be fascinated to know how Michelin-level prep/service differs.

oneironaut, yes the G4. Anything else is too big for me (I'm a relatively small person as kitchens go). It's useless for any butchery--the grip gets too slippery--and is fantastic for basically everything else. Good workhorse knife.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 PM on November 29, 2015

How common is it for kitchens to do their own bread baking from scratch these days? Surely it would be less of a hassle to just buy in the basic bread requirements like the rolls, brioches, burger buns and so on - even part-baked ?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:46 AM on December 11, 2015

Kinda depends on the restaurant. Where I am now, everything from scratch (except the bread we use for toast at brunch, and for grilled cheese sandwiches on Sundays only), so I do a lot of baking. (Yesterday was foccaccia, today is burger buns and starting brioche).

The last place I was at, we brought it all in. It's largely a space/time issue, as well as the philosophy of the restaurant, in my experience.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:38 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

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