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Fifty shades of gravy. A very saucy look into commercial kitchens

This is more of a chefs memoir rather than something of practical implications. My shout out to all the chefs out there putting all their passion and hard work and creativity in to everyday that that go to work. I remember well the blood sweat and tears literally that went into cooking, blood from cutting myself in some way or another at least every week, the sweat of a 16 hour day in 40 degree plus kitchens, and the tears, well maybe i am not fully ready to share about that just yet. Jus, gravy, jus i am sure it has all had its trends been called one or the the other over the years, something i guess we relate with a roast meal. However the reality of the process that we chefs go to to get the final product really is something to admire. So heres a little insight into what chefs all round the world are willing to do just so you can have an amazing meal. I will share with you the processes that go into making that final sauce that every one loves so much. I remember the butcher bringing a trolley into the kitchen with boxes of bones stacked so high that you could not see the man pushing, although phil was pretty small guy. We used to use veal and chicken bones for making our stocks, which is the first step in the process. Veal bones are great as they have a super high collagen content which helps to give a body or thickness to the stocks and sauces, and chicken bones have a great all round flavour for use in just about everything in cooking. Firstly the bones are roasted in a hot oven, until they reach a deep golden colour this can take anywhere from 45 minutes to and hour. While they are roasting we make our mirepoix, which is roughly cut onion, celery, carrots and leeks. Normally in serious kitchen there are Special pots or stock pots that are there for the soul purpose of cooking stocks, large enough to take hundreds of litres of liquid. The mirepoix is firstly browned in the pan caramelising all over, then we add garlic and robust herbs like rosemary and thyme, garlic, tomato paste and then red wine by the tonne, we used to use around 6 bottles. Now the bones are added and the pan is filled up with water, brought to the boil, then reduced to a heat were its is barely simmering to create a long and slow cooking process. The fat and some scum will come up to the top, this is were us chefs like to skim pots, staring into the steaming large pots carefully skimming all fat and scum to ensure the best product to work with. This is left to cook overnight, now there is a lot guides about times and how long to cook a stock, but sometimes you can follow the literature too closely. After cooking all day and all night the next day it is drained off and the bones are thrown away and the stock is kept, this is truly a horrible job, scooping the bones out hot stock with a large scoop, the heat given off the smell is not the best its just not a great job i have to say, but there is that chefs love again. The whole process is repeated just this time we add the stock we made to a fresh batch of roasted bones, this now becomes the second boil. Cooked again overnight, of course skimmed all the fat and scum again to actual perfection, Drained again. Now the second boil can be reduced by around half and this becomes a Demi-Glace. A great base for any meat sauce. Now the finishing part turning it into the fine jus. Depending on the sauce been made but again more flavour is added by roasting say for example pigeon bones and trimming for a pigeon sauce, pan roasting shallots and adding maybe some spice for example maybe juniper with a venison sauce, and again normally more and better quality wine or port or another type of liquor is added and reduced before adding the Demi-Glace to the reduction, then cooked, skimmed and passed through muslin cloth at the end. What is produced is a shinny beautiful sauce with depth of flavour, Always finished just before it is put on the plate with a knob of cold butter or as we chef like to call it monte au beurre. It truly is a thing of beauty, i remember making my first one, i was so proud i felt like i was moving up the ladder in terms of what i could achieve, as time went on i learnt more and more, made better and better sauces. I guess i have been do a lot of reflection lately into my career as a chef, do i miss it? is it time to go back and rekindle my chefs career? or is it a passing feeling that will go as quickly as it arrived, Hmmmm. So i thought id share this with you so you can realise all the hard work passion and blood, sweat and tears that we chefs put into our careers. Maybe next time i will do a little Piece on some simple and semi simple techniques to making a gravy or jus at home, stay tuned!!!!


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