Who: Ed Cotton, Executive Chef at Sotto 13 in New York, Top Chef Season 7 runner-up, and former sous chef for Cat Cora on Iron Chef America
Where: Long Island City, Queens, New York
Read the series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
If there's one thing every chef will tell you is an essential part of cooking — both in a restaurant and at home — it's the necessity of working clean. This phrase pops up everywhere. Thomas Keller even wrote about it in Ad Hoc at Home: "The term [working clean] can be very specific, referring to ingredients needed to complete a recipe, measured out and ready to use, or it can be more general: are you organized, do you have everything you need to accomplish the task at hand?"
Ed Cotton reiterated that when he spoke to us about the challenges of cooking in his restaurant and at home. Here's what he said.
At the restaurant you have everything you need at your fingertips. Space is often very limited at home, so you have to work harder to execute the food. Everything takes a lot longer in your home kitchen. You want restaurant-quality food done at home, but it can be challenging ...
[But] I have the same mentality at work as I do at home. Keep everything organized and clean. Keep it fresh and keep your pantry (dry goods) moving. The last thing you want to have on your shelf is something sitting there for months or even years. If you haven't used it in six months, get rid of it, or find a way to use up items that have been sitting idle.
Chefs Barton Seaver and Charlie Marshall also offered their own takes on "working clean" when we profiled them. Barton Seaver cooks with a bar towel so he always has a clean workspace, while Charlie Marshall washes dishes while he cooks. "As soon as I have a second, I am cleaning up whatever mess I just made," Charlie notes here. "This not only helps keep my kitchen clear and usable, but ... over time this becomes a habit so that one’s kitchen cleanliness is never three steps behind the chef."
Want to get better at "working clean" while you cook? Check out these posts for tips and help!
What habits do you employ that help you "work clean" in your kitchen?