Bringing Trends To The Tabletop

This information originated in American English.

November 20, 2009

A former associate of mine, and good friend, constantly explained, "Life is Good." He would take a moment to pause from what he was doing, ponder a thought or two, and when asked what he was thinking, he'd simply reply, "life is good." And why not, we are chefs after all, tasked with the joy of preparing meals for the masses. As anyone from a gourmet food enthusiast to a five year-old child can attest, food is good. So his three simple words are ones I cannot argue with. If it's our job to make good food, then yes, life is good.

In the current age of food-inspired television shows, cooking competitions and celebrity chefs, simplicity and elegance of menu preparation is a challenge to all chefs. They are asked to be more creative, cleverer and more detail-oriented, while all the while maintaining control over flavor, presentation and the guests' experience.

Within the Hilton brand, we are not only asked to keep pace with such trends, we are expected to bring to the table an experience that will leave our customer so satisfied that they will insist on returning to Hilton as their first choice. To ensure this, we have to go beyond the kitchen. We have to constantly work hand in hand with our sales/marketing team, supporting the local community and striving to act as inspiration to future chefs. Not only to help them understand the demands and challenges, but to also show them the pleasures and triumphs of our line of work. Hilton is not only about housing a guest for a weekend, nor is it only about having a place to hold a conference. Hilton endeavors to create a unique experience for every individual in all aspects. As a chef, it is my goal and my pleasure, to ensure that this experience transcends from the guest's pillow and meeting room to the dining room table and the plate.

A simple truth that I've learned with 30 years of experience in the kitchen is that all chefs come to work with one thing in mind. They are going to do the best possible job with the menu that they have designed. It is something I do, it is something I've seen in my peers and in the individuals I admire. Of course, everything from purchasing and cost of food to banquet coordination and china has an effect on my day to day operation. But there is nothing more important than keeping that one simple goal in mind. Take an ordinary idea and prepare it extraordinarily.

Even still, you can have the best concept in the world, but none of this would be possible without being able to rely on each and every one of my team members. This is what it means to be a chef - to understand the big picture and diligently strive towards excellence. It is a daily process in making sure that our sales and marketing teams are properly informed on what the kitchen is doing, ranging from conferences and special events to holidays and general dining. Furthermore, each chef and cook needs to be trained and prepared in his/her specific area. Should a conflict or change come up, they need to understand how to improvise and meet the challenge head on. Even choosing the right flatware can be somewhat bothersome, but in this arena, it can be the one thing that makes or breaks the experience. But if the proper preparations have been taken and the team members trained, success is not a matter of hard work, it is a matter of destiny. Seeing the process unfold like the gears of a well oiled machine is one of my favorite parts about being a chef. And at the end of the day, when the dishes are cleared and the dessert enjoyed, I would be hard pressed to find someone that could disagree that, "life is good."

Jan Osipowicz, Executive Chef, Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort, is a 13 year Hilton Team Member.


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