By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist
The other morning, I headed into the kitchen of one of our restaurants to assist with the production of the day, as is my summer routine. I set my briefcase and knife bag down and begin to retrieve all the things that I typically fill my pockets with for a day’s work. As I did so, I was reminded of a conversation I had with the Kalispell Prostart team and their instructor in the Buck’s T-4 Lodge kitchen as to what my typical day was like. The conversation progressed into a discussion about everything I carry on my person in a workday.
It never occurred to me just how much “stuff” I carried around in a given day. These days it isn’t nearly as much, but at the height of my kitchen activity, here’s what I carry on a typical day. I suspect any seasoned chef’s pockets may look similar.
Sharpie. Chefs and cooks label everything, or at least they should. From cardboard to blue tape, this one is absolutely essential. I can’t possibly imagine a chef that doesn’t carry a Sharpie pen.
Pen. I realize we live in a digital world, but I don’t know many jobs in which you still don’t need to write at least something every day.
Highlighter. From marking tickets on the line to items on a prep list or banquet event order, it is a quick way to identify specific items. And any color will suffice.
A dry erase marker. I quickly discovered this might be the most underrated item of them all. From walls to tables, you can write on just about any surface with one. Whether drawing plating or buffet layouts on stainless steel tables, or marking the rim of a sample plate for plating, a dry erase is worth its weight in gold.
Small utility knife. Something that can open and break down boxes and plastic, but also have at least a couple extra tools to pry or tighten screws.
Lip balm. Montana’s dry weather should make this one obvious.
Phone. Again, this one may seem obvious, but we all know a phone is so much more than a phone. There are many apps, tools and websites that are indispensable to a chef, some of which I use on a daily basis.
Mini notebook. I simply cannot conceive not having some means with which to record thoughts or daily notes for the day.
Additional pen and Sharpie. If I am wearing a chef coat with pockets, I have another one of each in my breast or sleeve pocket because on any given day, one of your staff will ask you for yours. Sometimes I think a cook should carry four or five Sharpies like a server carries pens.
Thermometer. A must for sanitation and food safety. A quick read thermometer is required to check internal temperatures of ready-to-eat foods, food surfaces, as well as cooler and freezer temperatures.
Phone charger or mini battery pack. Given the length of day a chef endures, even a brand new phone lacks the battery life of an entire chef’s workday.
Eye glass cloth. Since I wear glasses, this is a must for everything from cooking splatter to wind and dust at an outdoor catering event.
This may seem like a lot of items in one’s pockets, but every one of these items got put there because I once needed them and wished I had them.
What’s in your pocket?
Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is an executive chef, former certified beer judge and currently the multi-concept culinary director for a Bozeman based restaurant group.