How to cook 250 filet mignons in one hour
Before I begin, let me say that I enjoy being a Chef. I'd have to. I really love creating menus and specials, organizing my mis-en-place and bringing together a band of misfits to dance together during a busy service. I love the frenetic pace of pushing out food so fast that I forget what I plated 5 minutes before. I love the interaction between myself and the front-of-house staff, no matter how heated it may get. It lets me know I'm alive. More importantly, it lets me know I'm needed! And what Chef wouldn't consider his or her favorite part of the day enjoying a post-dinner service drink with their fellow "Cookies"?
All that said, being a Chef is tough work. It's nothing like what you see on the Food Channel. All those Celebrity Chefs you see wearing pristine white jackets and taking one hour to make one dish? Yeah, half of them have never even worked "on the line." I'm not putting them down (with the exception of Rachel Ray - she's not a even worthy of the canned food she cooks with), but there are some that I have a lot of respect for. Those rare few have actually proven themselves by starting in the trenches and working their way up through hard work and dedication. I guess what I'm trying to elude to is that what you see on television is in no way a reflection of what working in a busy kitchen's like at all. I have twelve years worth of stories to share about just how difficult and taxing it can sometimes be. The following is one of those stories...
New Year's Eve, 2002. I had just been "stolen" away from a restaurant that had pigeon-holed me to prep-cook hell by a Chef that I met at a dessert competition. He had just started to work at a busy new upscale bar & grill and was desperate to put together his kitchen staff. He offered me a position as his Sous-Chef and I gladly accepted - two days before Christmas. Needless to say, I burned a bridge with the restaurant I was already employed at, but I had heard promises of a raise and promotion for far too long. So, I start working at the new bar & Grill the same day I quit at my former job, and was immediately asked to help plan a New Year's Eve menu. The Chef already had most of it put together, but just wanted a fresh set of eyes to make sure the menu was simple, yet offered enough of a choice and would be easy to execute (we were all new staff starting in an unfamiliar kitchen on one of the busiest restaurant nights of the year). Together, we made a few tweaks, and started preparing for dinner service of 300 people. New Years night before dinner service, we had a little pow-wow to see what stations each cook would work. It turned out that I had the most experience working the grill, so I was put in charge of cooking the Filet Mignon. I didn't have any problems with that choice because I knew I was strong on the grill and wanted to prove myself to my new Chef and Boss. By the end of the night, prove myself I would...
Would you ever want to work in an extremely busy kitchen?
There were only four items on the menu for the night and we knew that the Filet Mignon would be a popular choice. Just how popular, we highly underestimated. The doors opened, and the appetizers started to flow out of the kitchen. Things were off to a great start. About 20 minutes after opening the doors, the first dinner tickets started coming in. "Fire on 2 filets - 1 medium, 1 medium-well!"
No problem Chef, I got this...
Two minute later, I heard "Walking in, 6 filets - 2 medium, 2 medium-rare, 1 rare and 1 well-done!"
Okay, now we're starting to dance a bit...
"Walking in, 4 filets - 3 medium, 1 medium-rare!"
Breathe Delaney... you can do this.
"Party of 8 walking in! 3 medium filet medium, 2 filets medium-well, 1 filet well-done! Call back please!"
Shit - getting buried. "Okay Chef, I've got 9 filets medium, 6 filets medium-well, 2 rare, etc..."
"Walking in, 4 more filets medium-well!"
Okay, at this point I was beginning to sweat. It was only 15 minutes into dinner service and I had about 45 filets going at the same time - all with different temperatures. Tickets were starting to literally fly in and I had to use every ounce of my cognative ability just to remember how many steaks I needed to cook.
"Walking in, party of 10! 9 filets, 3 well-done, 2 rare, 4 medium-rare! 1 Salmon!"
Hey People! We DO have other items on the menu!!!
"Next, fire 7 filets! 2 medium-well, 2 medium-rare..." you get the point.
To cut a 50 mintue long story short, I worked my ass off that New Year's Eve, and by the end of the evening, only had one steak come back. I had earned my reputation of being one of the fastest and most consistant grill-cooks in the valley (may sound concieted, but that reputation has followed me), and I went home that night reeking of smoke but feeling accomplished that I single-handedly managed to perfectly cook 250 filet mignons in less than an hour. Actually, 249. The guy who sent his steak back wanted his to be leather, so it's excused. Five filet mignons a minute... Beat that Rachel Ray!
Grilled Filet Mignon with Buerre Rouge
for the filet -
- 4 eight ounce filet mignon (trimmed and peeled)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
for the Buerre Rouge -
- 1/4 cup minced shallot
- 1 tbsp. minced fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/2 lb. chilled butter (cut into one inch pieces)
- 1 tbsp. manufacturing cream
for the grill -
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- salt & pepper to taste
Chop the garlic cloves and add to the olive oil and use to marinate the filet mignons for at least one hour. Meanwhile, saute the minced shallots in a heavy-bottomed sauce-pan until just translucent. Deglaze with the red wine and add the fresh thyme. Reduce the mixture by half and add the apple cider vinegar. Remove from heat and add the cream. Next, whisk in the chilled butter until fully incorporated. Hold in a water bath or bain marie on medium-low heat until reday to serve.
Over hot coals or the hot side of a gas grill, mark the filet mignons for about 4 minutes on both sides brushing with butter then transfer to a sheet-pan to finish in the oven. Cook to desired temperature then allow to rest for 6 minutes before serving. To plate, ladle the buerre rouge over the top of each filet and garnish as desired.
Come learn to cook with some of my Perfect Recipe hubs!
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- Steamed Mussels in Garlic Saffron Broth - Truly, one of my favorite recipes. Mussels were one of the first things I ever learned how to cook, and this recipe was perfected over decades of experimenting with freshly caught Pacific Black Mussels.
- How to make Perfect Meatballs - Try this authentic Sicilian recipe the next time you're in the mood for meatballs! This hub also includes some great tips for avoiding dried-out meatballs, and links to some great Italian cookbooks. Salud!
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- Smoked Peach and Chipotle BBQ Sauce - Another Chef Delaney signature recipe, this sauce combines sweet, spicy and smoky flavors in perfect harmony to create a grilling sauce with just the right amount of stickiness, and a one of a kind flavor that will boost you from Backyard Chef to Grill-Master in no time!