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Repetition: The Tasks That Make You a Chef

Repetition: The Tasks That Make You a Chef

Abby Olitzky | Chef's Blade

Homework: tourné 5 carrots and medium dice 3 potatoes. My chef exits the class, and I am left with a bag full of vegetables and the realization I will be spending my evening cutting vegetables. Even though I dread repeating the same cuts all night, I know that there is something important in repetition, not only the idea that “practice makes perfect” but grasping the kitchen life and a sense of professionalism. Knowing one’s fundamentals and techniques is highly important. For me, it exemplifies a dedication to the craft, acquiring skills I need to become the best.

So what if no one tournés their veggies anymore — I mean come on, when was the last time you had them)? Does it really matter than I can tourné? Did I really have to stand there for hours cutting and shaping carrots into mini footballs? (To be honest, I like my carrot shaped like a carrot.) But my chef insists. This practice is not only instilling a sense of dedication, but creating a separation between me and the myriad of home cooks, giving me a sense that not just anyone can be a professional cook. I know that repetition will be the mainstay of kitchen work, and that I better get used to it.

Upon repetition, you find a balance. Here’s what I mean: after making a batch of celery root and pear puree, I made another batch. The second batch was far superior, creamier and more flavorful. Why? I am not sure…I thought I did everything the same. Yet, repeating the dish allowed me to learn and adjust something intuitively. I became aware of the outcome I wanted and how to better manipulate the consistency and flavor. After cutting hundreds of carrots, my tournés have vastly improved. Before I just kept munching on the misshapen oddities so no one would see. But there are only so many carrots I can eat. Now, I have started to build up muscle memory and I can picture in my head the exact shape. I have become the mighty sculptor of carrots.

Repeating is not just “do the action, and do it again,” a mindless and Sisyphus like torture. It is the chance to make it better, to hone my craft and to share with other culinary professionals, as we chop, mince and dice. Accepting the ceaseless tournés, juliennes, dices, I am accepting the life of a cook.

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