Issue 29

Under the Radar: Culinary Kudos

Under the Radar: Culinary Kudos

Following our weekly routine, we delve straight to the section of the newspaper and magazine to read that day’s Culinary Review. The article is filled with great accolades for the work produced by the executive chef which can lead the reader to believe that restaurants seem to run strictly on the talents of the executive chef. The executive chef, a cook who has no doubt put in his/her time, physically and mentally, deserves serious praise and glory.

However, there are others who fill up the back of the house on a sunny Saturday afternoon, heads down and knives to the cutting board, who make your experience as the diner, unforgettable. For instance, when the reviewer can’t get enough of “the chilled pea soup, poured tableside over snow-white sorbet, like a blast of winter, freshened with a flush of spring,” we automatically think to ourselves, “wow, that chef is incredible, how did she think of that?”

The truth of the matter is the culinary team likely had as much to do with that dish and concept as the person who leads the team. For example, two nights earlier during a lull in the evening rush, the executive chef, the sous chef and a line cook tossed around concepts for a cold soup. Within minutes and the input of many, the pea soup concept came to life.

You’d never know the 18 year old prep cook started at 2:00 p.m. the next afternoon,  blanching, shocking and pureeing peas, carefully seasoning the delicate liquid, gently passing the soup through a chinoise for the desired silky-mouth feel. Later that evening, during the dinner rush, it is the 23 year old line cook who artfully finishes the dish to order.

Next it’s off to the 26 year old cook responsible for expo [expediting] to give the dish its last minute seasoning and garnish placement. This team, assembled and orchestrated, by the Executive Chef, is just as deserving of accolades for the taste, texture, and arrival of your meal. Unfortunately, it is rare that you will see or hear the names of the many talented sous chefs, line cooks and prep cooks that makeup the back-bone of most professional kitchens.

In writing this article today, the goal is not to downplay the importance and creditable talents of the executing chef, but to pay homage to the hard-working, unsung heroes of today’s kitchens, the team of tremendously driven men and women whose main goal is not only to impress the guest and executive chef, but also to strive for and achieve their own culinary expectations.

Paul Urban

Paul Urban

At 27, Paul has been in the restaurant industry for 13 years, working at approximately 25 restaurants, both locally and abroad. In 2006 Paul graduated from The Institute of the Culinary Arts, Omaha NE, with a degree in Culinary Arts and Management. Paul received the 2007 State of Nebraska ProStart mentor of the year award. As a member of the slowfood movement, Urban and the staff work with local farms in an attempt to stay local, fresh and sustainable. On September 25, 2007 Paul became the executive chef at Darwin Bistro, a concept and goal he had been working towards for five years.


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