"Wow, you’re a chef…what’s your specialty?"
Can’t tell you how much I really dread that question. It usually comes at my kids' soccer games, at a party with people I haven’t met, or on an airplane with a chatty neighbor. “Gee, not sure what you mean, I like to cook a lot of things,” I think to myself. I love Mexican food, should I talk about the quesadillas I made for my youngest son last Saturday? Or the R/D in the test kitchen last week where we were working on bar foods and created a collection of sliders patterned after classic holiday meals? Or that I have always loved long and slow braised meats like shortribs or the classic pot roast, things no one cooks at home anymore?
Usually I opt out and say the truth that I have many favorites but just love to cook things I think my guests will enjoy. It’s really not a mystery, chefs just like to cook and hope people like what we have prepared.
Now, there are chefs who revolve their careers around a narrow but deep list of foods or cuisines. I have utmost respect for them and celebrate their cause of Spanish tapas, Malaysian street foods, or fish-only expertise. These are the true specialists, and they find as much comfort in their circle of knowledge as they do discomfort outside of that circle. Personally, I believe that the modern great chefs are good cooks first, and specialists second. The business is too diverse and guests too food-wise to be focused on just one topic. The chefs in Marriott, Renaissance, and JW Marriott hotels all have the challenge of being very good at many things, and I think they do a great job with that balancing act. Each one may have their personal favorite, but their specialty is in running large, diverse kitchen operations that produce great food in their restaurants, bars, and banquet facilities. Being a hotel chef is a specialty, and not every chef out there can do what they do.
What’s on YOUR plate today?