Sometimes, you’re not the only cook in the kitchen! It’s important to know how to be a great sous chef and how not to get in the way of putting a great meal on the table. Support in the kitchen can look like washing and chopping vegetables, sharpening knives and preparing mise en place.
THE CUTTING BOARD
Chopping ingredients properly is a crucial skill in cooking! Onions are one of the first things that you should learn how to cut, as they are used in 40% of any cook's repertoire. There are two basic onion cuts – the slice and the dice. To slice, place the onion half-flat on the cutting board and trim off the root and stem. Hold it in place with your free hand, keeping your fingertips curled backwards and the flat part of the knife resting against your knuckles. As you get to the end, rotate the onion so that it’s laying on its most stable base and continue slicing.
To dice an onion, peel it, cut it in half and trim off only the stem end, leaving the root intact. Using the tip of your knife, make a series of parallel cuts, leaving the onion attached at the root. Again, keep your fingers curled back, using your knuckles as a guide. Next, rotate the onion and lay your hand flat on top of it to keep it stable and make one to two horizontal cuts. Now, slice the onion perpendicular to the cuts you just made. Use onion slices as salad toppings or to sauté caramelized onions. Use diced onions in pasta sauces, salsas, and soups. Remember, when chopping anything, use a very sharp chef’s knife.
There are two basic onion cuts – the slice and the dice.
THE SUPPORTING ROLE
Mise en place is a French term that dates back to the 1800s. It means “putting in place” and is used for preparing kitchen tools and food. It is a great practice to adopt if you wish to stay organized and save time during the cooking process. Take a look at your recipe and come up with a plan. You’ll want to gather all of the ingredients, utensils and equipment that you require and then wash, cut and measure out the ingredients. Now that your cooking station is ready, you can begin cooking. Mise en place is also a helpful step for baking.
Mise en place is a French term that dates back to the 1800s.
To best support the head cook in the kitchen, stay available for anything that they might need and know when to stay out of the way, or else you'll be a hindrance to a successful cooking session. It may be a spill that needs to be wiped up, an egg that needs cracking or any number of tasks that come up. Your job is to step up and assist when needed.
One of your duties will likely be preparing the dishes for the main cook to plate the prepared food onto. This might look like simply counting out the appropriate number of dishes needed, warming them or placing a mould atop, depending on what is being served.