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Gee Mr. Chef, can I see the kitchen?



By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist

I recently wrote about how food TV has benefitted us as chefs. Here’s a perfect example:

A few weeks ago, we had a couple of regulars, Bob and Donna Thompson, come in to the Buck’s T-4 restaurant with their grandson, Ian. They called a day or so before their reservation and asked if we could give Ian a tour of the kitchen. Ian is 12 and loves cooking; he also watches cooking shows of all sorts. Shortly after they were seated, I greeted them at the table and invited Ian back for his tour.

We walked through the kitchen door from the old dining room, and Ian looked like he was getting a glimpse of a concert backstage, or a view from the top of a skyscraper.

Mindful of the beehive of activity around us, I began navigating pathways I knew were easiest with young Ian sidled up to me. Sauté pans flipped and clinked. The cooks were all talking at the same time, yet knew what was being said and, more importantly, who was talking to whom. The printers were producing food tickets as fast as the cooks could pull and hang them up.

I pointed out the three separate areas, called lines, where all the food comes out. Ian was mesmerized.

We then visited the first of three walk-in coolers. Ian’s amazement with a refrigerator so big you could actually walk inside it reminded me of the first time I saw the giant propeller of a battleship out of water when I was a boy.

Proceeding to the banquet kitchen, Ian couldn’t comprehend that we have two kitchens that big. I explained that we didn’t always use this kitchen. It was for parties. “So you only use it when someone wants to have a special party so you don’t get in the way of the other kitchen?”

It was a question indicating the keen observation of someone truly interested in learning about this new place. It was also a revelation to the young boy, opening up a world that only moments earlier he never thought existed.

Ian and I then visited the cooler where we store most of our meat. “How many pounds of meat is in here?” he asked. I told him between 400-500 pounds. “That’s a lot of money,” young Ian replied.

“You are going to make a great chef one day,” I told him as we finished our tour. He smiled proudly, but still with a boyish enthusiasm that said he didn’t fully grasp the breadth of my compliment.

Youth will always be fascinated with becoming doctors, lawyers, football players, or even the president. But young boys and girls who aspire to be chefs is a reassuring feeling. It says our craft will continue to thrive and grow.

To show a young culinary fan what it’s like in a restaurant kitchen was as rewarding for me as it was captivating for him.

I told Ian he could come back and visit us again anytime he wanted. His eyes lit up like his favorite sports hero just gave him the game ball.

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the Executive Chef at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky.

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