Among the many things I learned this past summer from my chef and sous chef at the golf club was the importance of working cleanly. This sounds like a no-brainer, a given, a goes-without-saying element of cookery. It is — though “working cleanly” doesn’t really capture the paramount importance they place on it.
For working cleanly isn’t just a means to avoiding a run-in with the health inspector; no, working cleanly — and I mean crystal — is the foundation of their overall philosophy about cooking. And it’s one I now share, even if it means my hands are dried and cracked, having been exposed to various cleaners, soaps, sanitizers and disinfectants on a daily basis for months.
Working cleanly means being organized.
A disorganized cook — who doesn’t think about how she or he is doing something, anything, even the simplest of tasks — will inevitably prepare messy food and produce even messier plates.
Being organised requires planning, foresight and attention detail.
For every action — be it peeling carrots, transferring a hot liquid from one vessel to another, handling raw meat — the organised cook considers all aspects of it: what’s involved; how best to use utensils and other necessary equipment; ensuring these tools have been gathered in advance; moving deliberately yet carefully to avoid spillage, slippage, seepage or stupid mistakes.
Of course, all of these measures mustn’t impede swiftness.
And therein lies the great great challenge of working cleanly: doing so as fast, if not even faster, than the cook who cuts corners for the sake of expediency.
Have I mastered the art of working cleanly? Am I supremely organized when I cook? Do I move with the speed and grace of a cheetah? Hell no!
Am I a fierce adherent to my chef’s philosophy? Absolutely.
If only I could find a holster for my can of Comet…