If you're not in the restaurant industry, you might not realize that cooks are strange creatures. We tend to be restless. While it behooves us to stay in any given kitchen for at least a year, unless we are committed to a certain cuisine or particularly worshipful of a certain chef, most of us are unlikely to stay put for more than a year or two. Every kitchen is different and cooking is a constantly evolving beast. As a result, we move around frequently.
Sometimes we get lucky and find a kitchen we want to stay in indefinitely, or take the plunge to open our own places. But things don't always work out, and the learning process is never over. So how do we go about getting new jobs?
You've probably heard the terms "stage" and "trail." To stage in a kitchen means to work for free for the purpose of learning. It can be for a day, or a week, or a month. Kind of like an unpaid internship (and we do those, too, usually while attending culinary school). A trail is working a full or partial shift, usually shadowing other employees, in lieu of or alongside an interview for the purpose of obtaining a position. Why? Because you can fake it on paper, but not in the kitchen.
And then there are tastings. Tastings are pretty standard for chef positions. Why hire someone who gets to be in charge of a menu if you have no idea what their cooking is like, right? Going into a tasting, a chef wants to show off a variety of their skills and also that they understand the style of the restaurant. For savory chefs, this tends to be a couple of appetizers, some entrees, perhaps a side or two. For pastry chefs, this can be anything from breads to plated desserts to event cakes to petit fours.
I did a tasting a couple of weeks ago at a restaurant that has a thriving breakfast and brunch program but hasn't had a dedicated pastry employee before. I was tasked with making two breakfast/brunch items, one sweet and one savory, as well as three desserts. I don't have a lot of experience with savory baked goods or yeasted things, but they're areas that I want to work on, hence my interest in the position. I chose to whip up some sticky buns as my sweet option, and decided scones would be the best thing to make to showcase what savory skills I do have.
As lovely as herbed scones are, I decided something fairly neutral but still unique was in order. Goat cheese is among my favorite ingredients and goes well with almost any type of preserve, and pepper wakes your up tastebuds. I chose an equal mix of freshly ground black, white, and pink peppercorns (which are well-rounded and not as harsh as straight black pepper.)
Scones are very simple yet delicate creatures. They should never be dense or chewy. They should be flaky and tender like a biscuit on the inside, and crispy on the outside. To achieve this perfect texture, you need to eat them as soon as possible after baking. Luckily, they freeze exceptionally well unbaked and can be baked straight from the freezer, and in fact this recipe is helped by freezing, due to the extra fat added by the large amount of goat cheese. Tangy chevre, along with the blend of finely ground peppercorns, make this scone a zippy, savory breakfast treat that pairs well with virtually any jam, jelly or marmalade, from blueberry to fig and grape to guava.
And yes, I got the job. Make these scones to celebrate with me!
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About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.