People think “power in the kitchen” refers to: yelling, throwing of pots and pans, demeaning someone, or verbal abuse, but they’re wrong…real power in the kitchen refers to “the extra grain of salt.”

Walk into most commercial kitchens and you’ll see this: different levels of chefs cooking, waiters and waitresses yelling in their orders, busboys, and dishwashers. Kitchens are set up in a variety of different ways: some with many different stations with specific chefs, ones with only two chefs, and ones where everything just sort of happens. But all kitchens nave a pecking order. Sous chefs then answer to the head chef. The kitchens that are set up to have two chefs operate where one chef oversees the dinner specials and steam table, and the other chef is running the grill. They work together, and help each other out when needed, but they are just as quick to call each other out. Then there are the kitchens where the head chef is nowhere to be found, and everything just comes together and gets finished and accomplished.

Power in the kitchen is making sure that everyone knows that, even if you are not doing the immediate cooking, you’re still in charge; and the person with the power is not necessarily who it appears to be!

I saw this while in Nafplio, Greece. I was eating in a small café, observing what was going on behind the counter: the daughter/granddaughter was obviously learning the family recipes and proper ways to cook. The mother, standing right behind her, was helping her and making sure she was following instructions and doing it correctly. The grandmother was sitting in the corner knitting. She looked up from the knitting, scuffled over to the other two, looked in the pot, took MAYBE 2 grains of salt, put it into the pot, stirred, looked at the granddaughter and nodded. The Grandmother was proving that even though she was in the corner, SHE still holds the reigns.

In a Jewish kitchen, the power lies with Bubbie, the Grandmother. She is the backbone, heart, and soul of the kitchen. She is usually small, not more than 5 feet tall, keeps a Kosher home, and, most importantly, has the final say in HER kitchen, and don’t you dare disagree. Bubbie’s power also comes with her recipes. These are very special in that there is truly one way to prepare them (hers), and if you are lucky, over time, she might teach them to you. These recipes are also very special because they are usually family recipes that have been passed down. Her power also comes with hovering over you while you are cooking a certain dish, making sure that you are doing it correctly and not making any mistakes. Or course, she only corrects you when you are about to make a fatal mistake.

This is the same process modern commercial kitchens teach “newcomers.” The chef hovers near you, and observes every move that you make. You learn a step-by-step routine of the way to properly prepare the dishes, and variations are not encouraged.

Whoever is in charge and, even though is not in the kitchen, still knows everything that is going on, just like Bubbie, and will come behind the line to stir a pot, taste a dish, or even cook an order; ensuring that all know that the Boss is here.

Power in the kitchen is universal. In the States, most (if not all) of the kitchen answers to the head chef. Sometimes it’s the one will occasionally decide to “stir a pot” and make an appearance in the kitchen. Again, this is to make sure that everyone knows who has the power.

No matter where they are in the restaurant; whether it is behind the line cooking, up front schmoozing with the customers, behind a desk doing paper work, or adding a pinch of salt, power in a kitchen comes in all forms.  But look at your own family and how your kitchen works. Even if you do all the cooking, do you really have the power?

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With a crash of thunder and with a bolt of lightening, Sam Bieber was born. A native of Keene, New Hampshire, Sam grew up with a natural love for dabbling in the kitchen. His first experience was breaking a few eggs, and making some omelettes at a young age at home. He slowly began enjoying being in the kitchen, mixing and stirring, all while learning the “basic” cooking techniques. After high school, he enrolled in Johnson and Wales for Culinary Arts, and although he did not graduate, he gained the information and techniques needed to work in a kitchen. Let’s hop into the DeLorean, hit 88mph, and flash-forward a few years where we find Sam working in a kitchen in a family-style restaurant in his hometown, seeing all his friend’s graduating and moving on with their lives. Not thrilled where he was, he enrolled in a local college in Vermont, and earn a basic Associate of Arts degree, in hopes of transferring to another college to earn his B.A. The year was 2013 and we now find our hero, Sam, enrolled at Plymouth State University, majoring in Tourism Management and Policy. He is particularly interested in the intersection of food and local culture and, in New Hampshire that means the collaboration between local producers/farms and their connection "to table.” While at PSU, Sam worked with various local businesses, refining and retuning their business methods, in hopes of helping them with their return rate of customers. Sam has also been fortunate enough to explore this food-culture connection in Italy, Israel, Greece, and, most recently, China. It was here he observed the critical issue of the food-culture connection: whether it was in Greece, seeing the 3rd generation learning the proper techniques and having the Grandmother getting up from the corner, shuffling across the kitchen, “shooing” away the younger generation, adding MAYBE a grain of salt, looking at them, nodding, and shuffling back across to her chair; or in China, seeing family run restaurants with the entire family having some part of the experience. What makes this great is that not only are entire families participating, but ensuring that the way and know-how never dies. Sam also finds this connection in his love of learning about his personal heritage, and family recipes. He finds learning to cook these recipes that are being passed down into the next generation incredibly satisfying, even on those occasions when he asks: “Why is it done this way?” and the response is: “Because that’s the way your Grandmother did it.” Either way, Sam loves learning and combining food and culture, and truly believes that that they are connected.

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