Yes, Chef!

Every evening in class, at least a half-dozen times, my classmates and I say, "yes, chef!"

It always reminds me of the military but it's just part of the kitchen brigade. Whether our chef is barking orders to preheat the ovens early or reminding us to reduce a sauce enough, we always reply, "yes, chef!"

Culinary students at the French Culinary Institute study under the same chef for two levels. We learn this kitchen hierarchy from the beginning, but as much as the system is supposed to create uniformity, the chefs' messages are often mixed.

A substitute chef from last night's class added more fuel to my theory: Always agree with the chef but don't take what they say as the end all, be all.

Take consomme as an example. While making a raft (a mixture of lean ground beef, julienned vegetables and egg whites), one chef has told us to stir constantly and another advised against it.

Who do you trust? You may agree with one chef over another or disagree with both, but I've learned you do as your told in whichever chef's kitchen you work in.

An advantage of working with different chefs and partners in class is it simulates what you experience in a professional kitchen. You learn to deal with different chefs' personalities, quirks and cooking philosophies.

So it may be the consomme, nicoise salad or apple tart. But you learn quickly to say "yes, chef" each and every time.