Making Stocks for soups and sauces

Stocks are the basis to all good soups and sauces, they have to be nurtured with care. some will take days to simmer to perfection, but it will be totally worth it.There is a saying in the industry which goes, Garbage in Garbage out! This week I am going to give you some good tips on making stocks, so please ensure you come back everyday to get them.

Complimentary Paperback copy of Chef's Tales

For the month of July, I am willing to give away signed paperback copies of Chef’s Tales. All you have to do is send me proof of purchase of a copy of the hard back from Amazon.co.uk plus the postage fee and the complimentary signed paperback, which you can give away as a gift, will be on its way. Enjoy reading 30 years worth of real life, incredibly funny and heart warming stories that will inspire you to enter the wonderful world which is the Hospitality Industry.Please contact me at michael.saxon@e-o-hotel.com for more info.

Private online Chef – Fantastic and Professional cooking tips entirely free

I would like to share my knowledge to anyone who would like to learn basic cooking skills so that they can learn how to cook gourmet meals themselves at home. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to inspire but one person to cook themselves or their loved ones a home cooked meal. The basic family structure can be strengthened by all the family members sitting around their own private dining table recounting their day and relating their experiences over dinner. To help this become a reality, good tasting and healthy food has to be a step in the right direction. I am willing to answer any question, no matter how silly it may seem to the person asking the question, in total privacy to ensure the person does not feel embarrassed.

If you allow everyone to benefit from the answer please post the question on Chef’s Tales blog by sending me a comment. They will be published in the Questions and Answers page here. If you would like privacy, please e-mail me the question. If you do not know how to make real mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, basic sauces, soups, vegetables or even dressings then I am the person you need to know. If I do not know the answer to your question, I will find the answer or put you in contact to another professional more suited to the question asked. I will try to give you directions that are easy to follow, make logical sense and help you to understand the basic science that I have studied for over 30 years. If anyone needs any help,I am right here…..and its completely free!!! All I request is that you tell your friends about it so that I can increase the volume of people visiting my blog. Sincere thanks.

Lee Kuan Yew

We have just had two wonderful days at our beloved hotel, The Eastern & Oriental with Singapore’s Minister Mentor Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. As you can imagine, not everyone who walks through our doors on a daily basis qualifies for being outstanding members of the international community, but this man does. Obviously having him in our hotel was an honour to say the least, but more importantly I have to say it was also a pleasure. The man oozes class and behaves impeccably as if he is a walking advertisement to how the human race should conduct them selves. Mr. Lee, (as he likes to be called), I take my hat off to you and declare on a personal note that I wish there were more leaders like you that carry themselves with such dignity. I think that as the world becomes a busier place and everything becomes a matter of time or bottom line, that we are forgetting the importance of standing still for a second, looking at people in the eyes whilst conversing and paying attention to them as if they were, at that moment in time, the only person in the world that you want to talk to. Only when we begin to do this can we hope to start to improve as a species.

Self Confidence is the Key

It is never too late to change if you do not entirely admire what you see in the mirror, every single person is a “works in progress” and we should all help each other develop, feel better about ourselves and become better people……otherwise what is the point of having friends.

Life is Beautiful!

When I was working in the Bahamas, a few friends and I rented a sea plane, the small propeller type that lands on the sea. The pilot flew us to a remote & secluded tiny island and dropped us off so we could enjoy a very private barbecue. It really was a tiny island with a pink tinged, fine sand beach! We spent the whole day there followed with a sunset to midnight barbecue, it was unbelievable. It was so untouched you really did have the feeling that you were the only people who had ever been on this particular island and beach. We sat round a camp fire waiting for the plane to come, it was pitch black and you could see every single star that lit up the sky. The only worry was if the pilot forgot about us and did not come back!!

The Importance of people Skills

When I was a teenager and walked through the back door of the hotel for the first time, I received a very big wake up call and understood extremely quickly that that you learned something every day or you were punished.

A good kick in the back side, pastry cream rubbed all over my face, name calling, intimidation, a hit on the elbow with a hot sauced ladle maybe, a bath in a huge pot of dirty water or even threats of “Saxon, you will never make a chef as long as you have a hole in your arse!” would be the standing order of the day.

How I ever stayed in this business is beyond me, I used to think to myself that it did not deserve me, but what could a teenager do, I just wanted, no dreamed of being a chef.

I have witnessed it all, but I am still here, still plodding on and still ensuring every day that all those idiots are proved wrong.

I am lucky enough to have been taught by my mother & father the difference between right and wrong, so I do not and will not ever make the same mistakes as others and in doing so betray my colleagues trust with humiliation tactics.

Today I walk around the pot washing area, not as a toe rag as I was treat 30 years ago but as  General Manager of one of the best hotels in Asia. In doing so I shake the hands of the people whom wash the pots knowing that If they are not taken care of and they resign and leave their posts I may have to wash the pots myself and I know how hard that is being as I have “been there and done that”

So here we are, its 2010 and we have finally arrived in a modern working environment where people skills have become our most important and prized asset, without such motivational skills, you cannot be any where near as successful as you had earlier dreamt.

It is quite amazing really that there are still people out there whom believe others can be beaten into submission, intimidated & threatened thereby being forced to learn only to then turn around and demand to be thanked for the privilege to have studied under them. 

The plain truth is that we must ensure our junior colleagues want to work for, or even better work with us due to respect and not fear, only then will they deliver their total worth, contribute their entire mind heart & soul and in doing so ensure that as a manager, you look far better than what you actually are.

We must understand that we are only as good as the people around us and with a happy, healthy team built on foundations of mutual respect, physical & mental support and yes a little bit of emotion who knows what may happen.

Although there are still some lunatics out there that still practice the ways of the big stick, they are in fact the remnants of a dieing breed, their days are numbered and the clock is ticking slowly but ever so surely to the big day when we can say goodbye to the intimidation culture.

Ladies and gentleman, right here and right now I put my hand on my heart and solemnly swear that for me, this time can’t come soon enough.

The International Hotelier

Can you imagine the pressure of catering for a young couple about to get married and relying on you to make sure it’s a day they will always remember with pleasure rather than one to forget? Hoteliers, and more especially restaurateurs within the hotel industry, are a breed on their own, living a strange lifestyle that only they can fully understand and appreciate. Of course, hoteliers would not exist without their guests, and they too form part of my rich store of treasured memories as an international chef and hotelier. To all these people I dedicate Chef’s Tales and share my reminiscences, hoping that one day we will all have the opportunity to work and live alongside people from other cultures, and so enjoy the sort of priceless experiences that have been my daily life for the past 30 years.

Gold or Chocolate Medal?

I remember many years ago I worked for a very “old style” hotelier who never cut me any slack, he used to constantly berate me at every possible occasion, belittling me daily. This constant harassment made me think at that moment in time that my life was worthless. I was working my butt off, he never left me alone for a second and in a moment of weakness and or madness, I asked him how harder he thought I could work. He turned around, looked at me with his usual facial expression of discontentment and announced, “Work smart not hard, its no good to get a Gold medal for effort and a chocolate medal for expertise”. Wise words indeed and valid to all hoteliers around the world, this teaches us balance is of the essence if we are to retire happy, healthy and with a soul mate. I have mine….hope you have yours.

The World People

Being a hotelier has provided me with experiences that money could never buy and memories that time can’t erode. I’ve worked with people across the globe and come to understand and appreciate the religions and cultures of the many countries I’ve worked in and visited. As a result I would like to think that this has made me a more tolerant and open minded person who can adapt and fit in just about anywhere. The hotel business is a very transient one; where people become well, plain and simply people. To offer a good international range of food, a hotel has to have a diverse range of staff from different countries. Working in harmony with other different foreign nationals is imperative, understanding different cultures to appreciate each and every customer who walks through the door, no matter where they have come from is do all and end all. Tolerance of any nature, truly is a beautiful trait to have.

Learning how to be a Chef

When somebody wants or dreams to be a chef, they have to remember one simple rule and that is that if they are going to be a successful chef, they have to love to cook from the heart and not just because they want a regular pay check. Being a chef is a way of life, you have to dream about cooking when you are asleep, you have to think about food when you are conducting your daily life’s rituals that have nothing to do with the subject of cooking. You must live to eat and not eat to live. You must live, eat & breathe food, hotels, restaurants, magazines, cook books and listen to anyone who is willing to talk to you about food. You must never think that you know it all, you must stay humble and always believe that others know more than you. You must forget about celebrating with your friends, as they will be celebrating whilst you are working and they working whilst you celebrate. You must forget about the clock and stop watching it. If you can do all this and more, then you are ready to start to learn the art of cooking from the bottom….washing lettuce, peeling potatoes and onions whilst peeping over your chefs shoulders when they are not looking. This after you have been successful and passed your cooking exams. All your dreams are going to come true and your future truly is in your own hands. Happy Cooking!

Cooking Fundamentals

When people want to learn how to cook, following basic recipes from a cook book is not always the best way to go. They need to know the fundamentals first so they can understand the basics and therefore learn to experiment themselves. A very simple example to illustrate my point would be boiled potatoes. If you think simplistically, when boiling potatoes, the way they cook, is the water they are boiling in penetrates the outside of the potatoes working its way to the middle. As the water works its way through the layers, the potato cooks from the outside in. The potato will cook more the longer it boils, until eventually after boiling for long enough, it will be cooked all the way through. Therefore, with this very basic logic you can determine that if you boil the potatoes with plain water, all the potatoes are going to taste like is….yes you have got it, just water! So therefore, whatever you place in the water before boiling the potatoes will absorb into the inside of the potato making the potato taste like that particular added ingredient. When you start to decide what you want the potatoes to taste like and start to experiment with ingredients, is the time you actually start to cook and the moment in time that you are really creating and a simple boiled potato starts to be your own personal creation.

Television Chefs

I love watching many of the chefs on television cooking up a storm and teaching people how to cook themselves at home. I respect most of them and think that they are doing a good service to our industry, I do wish however, that the ones who are always screaming, belitteling and swearing at colleagues would stop and think twice, as they are actually hurting the industry rather than helping it. Many young chefs may want to be them, but they sure as heck would not want to work under them. This puts many young people off joining the industry and portrays chefs as uneducated people that only swear to gain attention to them selves on the screen and increase their ratings.