- On The Line
- Season 1
- Episode 7
A Day With the Chef de Cuisine at a Top NYC Restaurant
Released on 12/06/2022
Few of my responsibilities
as the chef de cuisine is kind of in the title,
chef de cuisine, chef of the food.
I'm in charge of all of the food that's being produced
and all of the people that are producing that food.
I would say I'm under a good amount of pressure,
especially representing this cuisine in my background,
and I really wanna make sure
that I'm being a proper leader for them.
[bright upbeat music]
Hey, I'm Juliana Latif.
I'm the chef de cuisine of Zou Zou's.
Why don't you guys come on in?
[bright upbeat music]
Right now it's very quiet in here,
but in a couple of hours it's gonna be packed.
We serve lunch and dinner,
feeding over 600 people for the day.
[bright upbeat music]
It's 9:30 and the first thing we get to do today
is set up this beautiful, gorgeous fire.
We have our grill cook here, David.
He's gonna blow this thing up right in flames.
We're gonna throw about 40 to 60 eggplant on here
and get that ready for our dip.
Let's go check in with the team
and taste some dishes for lunch.
This is our wonderful prep team back here
getting everything ready for lunch service.
Lots of work to be done here today.
So right here we have our prep lists for the day.
So our colors over here are essentially per person.
Over here we have it all broken down kind of by station.
So this is all based off of who's working that day,
based off the schedule, which I also take care of.
So every day we have a dozen people
in the kitchen in the morning.
So the first thing I'm gonna be tasting today
is some of our dips.
I'm here with one of our line cooks, Kristen.
She's been with us since the beginning.
Mar dips are like a huge, huge part of this restaurant.
It's essentially setting the mood for the entire meal.
About every single table that comes in gets a dip tower.
We sell about 80 dip towers a day.
All right, so this one's our green tahini
and it's a hot seller.
We do a little bit of whipped aquafaba on top of it.
Whipped aquafaba is chickpea water
that we season with garlic, lemon juice, and thyme.
And we whip it in a KitchenAid mixer
until it has these nice hard peaks.
It hides the green tahini and it's really, really fun.
Most of our dips were actually a collaboration
between me and the executive chef, chef Madeline Sperling.
We both had a lot of fun creating and getting crazy with it.
So a big thing here is also texture.
There's a little bit of avocado to make it nice and smooth,
some lemon juice.
Right now, Kristen nailed it.
I'm gonna taste the whipped aquafaba next.
So this is our chickpea water.
It's seasoned with grated garlic, lemon juice, and salt.
It is gonna taste very, very strong
because once you whip it and aerate it,
it'll really tone down those flavors.
It's my coffee for the day.
Right now, I think this could use a little bit more lemon.
All right, you wanna taste it too?
I always make them taste it
if I notice something that is missing.
And when we add lemon juice
or whatever we need to to add to something,
we'll taste it again together
so that their palette kind of registers
what we're looking for.
So this is our duck borek.
These are for dinner service.
We have our amazing prep cook, Raisa, over here
building a bunch of them.
She's gonna prep about 30 to 40 of these.
But before she does all that, I'm gonna pop these in
so we can taste it before we carry on with our day.
All right, so this is our ember roasted eggplant dip.
I'm looking for that smoky char flavor.
A lot of times with this,
they clean the eggplant a lot and we lose some of that char.
When that does happen
we will roast a little bit more eggplant,
get that skin in there and make sure it's nice and smoky.
All of these flavors are all flavors that I grew up with.
I'm of a Lebanese and Jordanian background.
Everything has a little bit of warmth
and a little bit of home when I get to eat it,
so it's a lot of fun.
So a borek is a traditional filled pastry
in the Levant area.
The duck borek is one of our signature dinner dishes.
It's essentially based off of the duck a l'orange
that is a classic French dish.
We've got one that has a little bit of a mistake,
but this is why we do this kind of stuff.
Right here the pastry kind of ripped open.
You want to kind of roll it nice and loose
so that it doesn't end up tearing.
It's a nice crust, not too oily, nice and crispy.
I'm gonna taste this thing now.
You know, having a lunch service is a plus and a minus.
We have a huge break of our prep time
to go ahead and serve about 200 people.
But it's also a great bonus
because all these wonderful cooks get to help us prepare
and get ready for dinner,
which the speed of service is a little bit different.
You know, we're serving a lot of food
for a longer period of time.
It's about 10:30 right now
I'm gonna get this stuff put away,
I'm gonna hop onto some last minute butchering for service.
But I am gonna touch base with Raisa
about how tight she's rolling the duck boreks,
and get going for lunch soon.
So this is our local New York City fluke.
We have a little bit of sweetness in this dish
from the pickled radishes,
and then a little bit of heat from that Zou juice.
It's a green hot sauce usually made
with serranos or jalapenos.
So every day we butcher one fresh fluke.
I'm gonna break it down into nice four filets,
and then I'm gonna cure it with a salt and sugar rub.
Depending on the size,
we could get about 20 portions of crudo.
This is my favorite part of the day.
There's something very romantic about butchering fish,
and I have a lot of pride in it.
I get to teach a lot of people how to break this down.
One of my duties as a CDC
is to teach people how to do everything.
So I'm passing on all my knowledge to the team,
and it's really rewarding.
So I'm actually just gonna make a couple marks right now
of where my filets are.
Down here the fish has its guts,
so I'm gonna cut around there
and make sure I don't puncture any guts
and make a huge mess.
Go right down here right in the spine,
and you can kind of feel it.
Some people like to remove these guts
before they break this down,
but I like to kinda live on the edge.
Using my boning knife holding up against the bones,
that's the key.
You know, you always wanna hear your knife
kind of hit these bones,
and that's how you know you're doing a good job.
So that's one filet and we're gonna get four all day.
But this side is the flatter side of the fish.
It's gonna have a little bit less meat.
As you can see, there are no eyes on this side of the fish.
Funny looking guy.
Okay. Now I'm gonna remove the skin,
trim it up, and get it ready to cure.
If you have a really nice sharp knife all you gotta do,
let your knife do the work.
Now they're ready to be cured.
Right here we have our fish cured.
It's just a very simple three to one.
Three part salt one part sugar.
So essentially the cure is just gonna season it,
kind of, cook it a little bit,
and then I'm gonna portion some already cured fluke
for our lunch service.
So this is a single bevel slicer.
It's meant especially for fish.
It's very top heavy,
so that your knife kind of does all the work.
Little bit of olive oil on a napkin to kind of wet my knife.
Lube it up.
And a little bit right on the fish, so it's easier to slice.
Essentially, I want a nice thin slice.
I don't want to get it too crazy thin
to where there's no texture.
I am not putting any pressure down on this knife.
Otherwise, the fish will shred.
For lunch service we'll serve about 8 to 10 orders of fluke,
and dinner service we'll serve about 15.
So we prep about 20 plus orders of fluke every day.
All right, so it's 11:15 right now.
Let's go set up expo for lunch.
All right, we've got 10 minutes until people start arriving
and this dining room fills up.
This is our expo board.
This is what we use to hold all of our tickets
and organize them for service.
Our line is broken up into four sections.
We have garmache over here.
This is where we do all of our salads, crudos.
Right down here we have our dip section.
And then over here we have a saute section
where we fire some burgers.
And then all the way at the end we have the wood fire grill.
That's the star of the show.
What's special about this line
is that it's in an open kitchen.
Technically called our service kitchen
and in the back that's our prep kitchen.
They get a show and a meal.
We try to have a lot of fun here.
I always get a little bit of pre-service jitters
especially when expediting, because you are the leader.
I like to make sure that my ticket printer is nice and full
with a fresh roll of paper.
Your mood and your attitude going into service
reflects how everyone's day is gonna go.
Gotta keep it cool, calm, and collected.
All right, we got our first ticket of the day.
So I'll be calling the five dips and the first course first,
and then I'll let everybody know what's on back
and when to fire that.
For our five dips,
we're gonna fire a hamachi and a fluke over here,
and in our second course we have two Caesar, two Cobb.
So I'm marking the table number
right on the bottom left of the ticket.
This way I can stack my tickets
without necessarily having to see the table number
that's printed out.
It's got our second ticket in.
So we have one hot app.
Our saute cook Eleon is gonna be firing one artichoke.
All the way on the grill station
he has his own ticket printer,
so he will know when to fire those artichokes.
That's kind of a solo station.
You have to have a good memory.
The trick for the cooks is to pull all their plates,
so when they hear a Caesar salad
they'll pull a Caesar salad plate.
And if they ever get confused,
they'll ask me for an all day.
And an all day is essentially
what that station needs to make
on the entirety of the board in that moment.
All right, so we've got five dips going to counter one.
And then what we have next is a hamachi fluke.
And I'm just waiting for another runner, hands please.
So you'll hear me call for hands,
and essentially that's me asking the food runners
to kind of step up to the plate and get ready to gather
whichever table we're about to walk.
You take one hamachi, one fluke counter one.
I crossed it off as it walked.
To walk a ticket essentially means
to sell the food to the food runners,
and they'll walk it straight to the guests.
Myself and chef Madie, we interchange
between who's expediting.
For lunch there's only one expeditor,
and then for dinner we have two expeditors,
one on the cold station and one on the hot station.
The expeditor is like driving the bus
and can't really let go of the steering wheel.
We're gonna take two chickpea burgers,
one with fries, one with salads,
and a Zou burger to counter four.
All right, so this ticket has fully walked.
I'm gonna go ahead and stab it now.
It's our first ticket of the night.
Thank you so much. You're welcome.
So this right here is what we call a chit.
Essentially it is for any VIP guests
or any allergies we'll get a little note like this.
This is our way of communicating with the dining room team.
So it's 2:00 PM right now.
Lunch service is just about over, but my job's not finished.
All right, so we're gonna start taking inventory
of some of our products
since we have to do ordering every single day here.
I'm just gonna come in, see what we have in house,
and see what we need to get in for tomorrow.
We make these nice Excel sheets
for all our different sections
of where we need to take inventory.
And if I need something, I'll kind of just put one case.
If we're all set on it, I'll give it a little check mark
and say we're good to go there.
Tomorrow's Friday, it's a very busy day.
Let's get a lot in for the weekend.
We sell a lot of Labne.
We press a lot of ricotta for that whipped ricotta dip.
So we're gonna go check that walk-in downstairs.
Come on down.
All right, so this is our dry goods area.
Lots of fun stuff that I get to take inventory of.
Something that I will check every day
are pretty much the basics like salt.
We go go through maybe about four boxes
throughout the whole building in a day.
Sometimes accidents happen.
People will spill a box of salt,
so I'm gonna get an extra case
just to cover our bases there.
Right now I'm just checking our inventory
for our grape leaves.
This is what we use for our fire roasted sea bass.
We go through about two to four jars a day.
We've got about a dozen here that's good for tonight,
tomorrow, and maybe the next day.
Also gonna check out our saffron that we have here.
Saffron is very, very expensive.
It's about $50 for this little tin here.
This is something that we always have to keep track of.
This is not really something
you can run to the store and grab.
Most of the specialty goods are from Kalustyan's.
That's one of our purveyors.
They provide us with a lot of cool stuff.
Next up is the produce walk-in.
So right in here is where we keep all of our produce.
We have, again, tons of product in here.
It always needs to stay nice and tight and organized.
Even if it feels like we have a lot in here,
we always need to get a little bit more
to cover our bases 'cause you never know
when someone's gonna order maybe three dip towers
for two people.
I have to go place these orders now
and then shift into dinner mode.
All right, let's get outta here.
It's 4:00 right now.
This is our last push before a big dinner service.
Right here we've got our lamb stock going.
Really super important ingredient in this restaurant
and a couple of our sauces.
Most importantly, the sauce for the smoked baby lamb chops
when we make a smoked cherry sauce,
and this is the base of it.
This lamb stock will add lots of body
and lots of depth and flavor
into that smoked baby lamb chop sauce.
You're eating a lamb chop,
and you're tasting the sweetness from the sauce,
but also there's a little bit more depth from all this lamb.
So this goes for two days.
Yesterday we roasted up all of our lamb trim
from any of our product.
Got it in here with some mirepoix,
little bit of tomato paste.
Early this morning we strained it.
Constantly skimming the fat off of it
and letting it to reduce to our desired texture.
I'm looking for color, I'm looking for flavor,
and I'm making sure that there's not too much fat in here.
Really good, it's super close.
I think it needs to go for another half hour, 45 minutes
to get to that perfect consistency,
and then we'll be good to go.
And the rest of the items I gotta taste are out on the line
so follow me.
Right behind, right behind.
So one of the first things I'm gonna taste
for dinner service is our tomato vinegarette,
which is gonna go on our sea bass.
It's pairing with a very simple fish.
This has to be very strong.
This is Lance, he's our grill cook at nighttime.
He's made this for us
and we're gonna connect about it right now.
Very good. I think it does need a little bit of olive oil.
It's a little bit too acidic.
What we're looking for's a nice balance of heat, sweet acid,
so that olive oil is gonna kind of cool it down for us.
Go ahead and fix that up for me, Lance.
[Lance] Yes, chef.
Our sea bass dish is very simple.
It's butterflies black bass wrapped in grape leaves,
and then we cook that right over the grill,
so it's charring the leaves, steaming the fish inside,
and then that is paired with this tomato vinegarette.
Very simple but very strong flavors
to kind of balance it all out.
Lance and I are tasting this back and forth
making sure he understands exactly what we're looking for.
Perfect. Good job.
All right, so I've gotta go taste
a couple more things for dinner service,
and then we're gonna wrap it up and get outta here.
What's up, chef?
How are you?
So all of our check-ins for dinner are done.
We've gone through the whole prep list
to make sure everything's finished.
This place is about to get packed.
Since I expedited lunch service,
I'm gonna pass the reigns off to Chef Madie over here.
I hope you guys had a wonderful time following me around
and I hope I got to teach you a little bit
about what it's like to be a CDC in New York City.
I'm gonna get outta here really soon
and you guys should too.
He knows just about everything you need to know
in this restaurant.
He's my number one guy.
[Producer] Oh, that's cute.
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