Chef De Cuisine Association of California (CCAC) is a local association of chefs and culinarians. We collaborate and unify community efforts, veterans, students, community members and leadership to improve life in California through culinary events, culinary fundamentals, international cuisines and education.
Chefs, colleagues, friends,
Years ago when in culinary school we all learned about product utilization. We have all heard stories of crazed chefs that had cooks scraping bones to gather the meat for pates; galantines, sausages etc. I remember sometimes thinking what a waste of time. Friends would tell stories of their chefs in apoplectic rants about waste and not squandering anything; time, product, or infinitely more important the chef’s patience! To that end we have all seen visons of unconscionable waste either through poor planning, or certain physical location constraints, or regulations.
Years ago when I first read this short story in the ‘French Laundry Cookbook’; it moved me deeply. Over the years since then it still tugs at me.
Behind every beautiful fillet mignon, coq au vin, fillet of sole, venison, and prosciutto is a terrible reality. An animal’s life was taken. Death is never pretty, if you have never been to an abattoir as a professional, you should. This is not a vegan inspired PETA inflamed rant. No, this is to remind you all of respect; respect for the White Toque and the profession that has provided so much to us all. Respect for the animals that provide us some of the means behind our craft. It is our professional mandate to treat the products of that sacrifice with respect. It begins in the home with our children and extends outwards in everything we touch as professionals.
It is easy to forget that when we see a box of tenderloins come in what that really represents. Every two is a steer, if we had to go out back and do the harvesting ourselves would we be so nonchalant about treating it like a case of widgets?
They say the hunter is the biggest environmentalist because they love the wild environment the quarry thrives in; the beauty of animal in all its forms, on the wing, on the hoof, and on the table. Expertly harvested, responsibly dressed, and elegantly prepared.
I say, as chefs we should be the biggest environmentalists; we should demand nothing less of our staff. I am talking about ensuring that we do everything in our power to treat the food we prepare skillfully, nutritiously, beautifully and respectfully.
Please read Thomas Keller’s account of the importance of rabbits:
Thomas Keller on the Importance of Rabbits
“From 1980 to 1983, I worked in the kitchen of a small restaurant near Catskill, New York, on a patch of the Hudson River Valley so remote it didn’t have an address. The sixty-seat restaurant was owned by René and Paulette Macary (she remains its proprietor today). La Rive, named thus because it sat on a wide running creek, was a fruitful training ground, and New York State had extraordinary livestock. Beautiful veal came down from Utica. I found a man who raised spectacular pigeons. I began to ask these farmers for unusual items to experiment with, things like pigs’ ears, cockscombs, and duck testicles.
One day, I asked my rabbit purveyor to show me how to kill, skin, and eviscerate a rabbit. I had never done this, and I figured if I was going to cook rabbit, I should know it from its live state through the slaughtering, skinning and butchering, and then the cooking. The guy showed up with twelve live rabbits. He hit one over the head with a club, knocked it out, slit its throat, pinned it to a board, skinned it – the whole bit. Then he left.
I don’t know what else I expected, but there I was out in the grass behind the restaurant, just me and eleven cute bunnies, all of which were on the menu that week and had to find their way into a braising pan. I clutched at the first rabbit. I had a hard time killing it. It screamed. Rabbits scream and this one screamed loudly. Then it broke its leg trying to get away. It was terrible.
The next ten rabbits didn’t scream and I was quick with the kill, but that first screaming rabbit not only gave me a lesson in butchering, it also taught me about waste. Because killing those rabbits had been such an awful experience, I would not squander them. I would use all my powers as chef to ensure that those rabbits were beautiful. It’s very easy to go to a grocery store and buy meat, then accidentally overcook it and throw it away. A cook sautéing a rabbit loin, working the line on a Saturday night, a million pans going, plates going out the door, who took that loin a little too far, doesn’t hesitate, just dumps it in the garbage and fires another. Would that cook, I wonder, have let his attention stray from that loin had he killed the rabbit himself? No. Should a cook squander anything ever?
It was a simple lesson.”
– Thomas Keller, from the French Laundry Cookbook