Most of us have daydreamed about becoming professional chefs and wowing everyone with our superstar skills in the kitchen. Sadly, not all of us are equally good when it comes to cooking, and intense training in the secretive ways of the culinary arts seems like a grueling task.
Petteri, a chef from Finland, is here to tell you that absolutely anybody can act like a professional cook — if they know the right techniques. He uploaded a series of photos to imgur, demonstrating how to use average kitchen knives to cut food into ultra-thin slices.
Image credits: hewari
Image credits: hewari
Bored Panda interviewed chef Petteri from Finland about how to properly use cooking knives for cutting food, and how to take proper care of them. Petteri told us that he spent 3 years learning the trade at a hotel, restaurant and catering college, and a further 8 years working at fine dining, a la carte and lunch restaurants, as well as in the catering business.
“You don’t get the benefits of a high-end knife if you use them only for home cooking,” Petteri shared some of his in-depth knowledge about knives with Bored Panda and explained that the main difference between expensive and cheap knives is the quality of steel. “For example, my expensive knives actually dull faster and need more sharpening and maintaining compared to the knives I have at home because they are in constant use. Good mid-range knives last for a lifetime if cared for properly.”
Image credits: hewari
Image credits: hewari
The chef also recommended anyone interested in taking care of their cooking knives to get a whetstone and honing stick: “They are easy to use and the Internet is full of great guides on how to use them. Honing the blade will straighten the blade and keep it sharp and the whetstone will reform the actual blade and remove little nicks and dents from it. Hone the knife when you feel it isn’t cutting smoothly. And use whetstone when you feel that the honing isn’t helping anymore.”
Finnish chef Petteri taught Internet users how to cut vegetables super-duper thin
Image credits: hewari
Image credits: hewari
Petteri warned us that we should never, ever put a knife in a dishwasher. “Rinse the blade with water and use a brush if there is something sticky, rinse and repeat. Avoid using soap and always store knives separately, such that the blade part does not come in contact with other knives and other utensils. I recommend getting a magnetic rack or a knife rack.”
Image credits: hewari
Image credits: hewari
“When testing the quality of a knife, I look for a few things. Is the handle comfortable in your hand? Do you like the grip? Is it well balanced? How fast does it lose its edge? Sadly, there is no sure way to tell if the knife is fantastic on the spot. Usually, after a month of use, I have a clear idea if I like the knife or not. I have had knives made of really high-quality steel but the handle falls apart or the blade is really top-heavy which makes the knife cumbersome to use,” the chef added.
This cutting technique can be used even with very cheap kitchen knives
Image credits: hewari
Image credits: hewari
Image credits: hewari
He also had some final advice for anyone planning on going shopping for cooking knives in the future: “Don’t buy those knives that market themselves as “never needs sharpening” or “never dull”. They actually can’t be sharpened and once it’s dull or you accidentally drop it and the blade nicks a little, it’s gone and you wasted money. It’s important to get the right knife for the right job and I recommend, at the very least, to get one knife for meat, one for veggies, and one for pairing. In the end, it’s not how expensive your knife is, it’s how well you treat and use it that counts.”
Here’s what people had to say about cooking knives
Creator’s transparent burger robot doesn’t grind your brisket and chuck steak into a gourmet patty until you order it. That’s just one way this startup, formerly known as Momentum Machines, wants to serve the world’s freshest cheeseburger for just $6. On June 27th, after eight years in development, Creator unveils its first robot restaurant before opening to the public in September. We got a sneak peek…err…taste.
When I ask how a startup launching one eatery at a time could become a $10 billion company, Creator co-founder and CEO Alex Vardakostas looks me dead in the eye and says, “the market is much bigger than that.”
Here’s how Creator’s burger-cooking bot works at its 680 Folsom Street location in San Francisco. Once you order your burger style through a human concierge on a tablet, a compressed air tube pushes a baked-that-day bun into an elevator on the right. It’s sawed in half by a vibrating knife before being toasted and buttered as it’s lowered to conveyor belt. Sauces measured by the milliliter and spices by the gram are automatically squirted onto the bun. Whole pickles, tomatoes, onions and blocks of nice cheese get slices shaved off just a second before they’re dropped on top.
Meanwhile, the robot grinds hormone-free, pasture-raised brisket and chuck steak to order. But rather than mash them all up, the strands of meat hang vertically and are lightly pressed together. They form a loose but auto-griddleable patty that’s then plopped onto the bun before the whole package slides out of the machine after a total time of about five minutes. The idea is that when you bite into the burger, your teeth align with the vertical strands so instead of requiring harsh chewing it almost melts in your mouth.
If you want to be the first to try it, Creator is selling early access tickets at 10am Pacific today. Otherwise it will be open for lunch Wednesdays and Thursdays until the public launch. Eventually, an app will let people customize the exact ratios of all the ingredients, unlocking near infinite permutations.
For now, the startup’s initial pre-set burger options include the classic-style Creator vs. The World with a mole Thousand Island special sauce, the oyster aioli Tumami Burger designed by Chef Tu of Top Chef, The Smoky with charred onion jam and the sunflower seed tahini Dad Burger from Chef Nick Balla of Bar Tartine.
The taste of each is pretty remarkable. The flavor pops out of all the fresh-cut and ground ingredients that lack the preservatives of pre-sliced stuff. The patties hold together as you munch despite being exceedingly tender. And afterwards I felt less of the greasy, gut-bomb, food coma vibe that typically accompanies scarfing down a cheeseburger.
“This is the kind of burger you would get for $12 to $18 [at an upscale restaurant], and it’s $6,” says Vardakostas. It might not be the best burger I’ve had in my life, but it’s certainly the best at that price. A lot of that comes from the savings on labor and kitchen space afforded by a robot cook. “We spend more on our ingredients than any other burger restaurant.”
The CEO wouldn’t reveal how much Creator has raised, but says it’s backed by Google’s GV, frequent food startup investor Khosla Ventures and hardware-focused Root Ventures. However, SEC filings attained by TechCrunch show the startup raised at least $18.3 million in 2017, and sought $6 million more back in 2013.
It’s understandable why. “McDonald’s is a $140 billion company. It’s bigger than GM and Tesla combined. McDonald’s has 40,000 restaurants. Food is one to the top three biggest markets,” Vardakostas rattles off. “But we have a lot of advantages. The average restaurant is 50 percent bigger in terms of square footage.” Then he motions to his big robot that’s a lot smaller than the backside of most fast-food restaurants, and with a smile says, “That’s our kitchen. You roll it in and plug it in.”
From flipping patties to studying physics
What you want in a founder is a superhero origin story. Some formative moment in their life that makes them hellbent on solving a problem. Vardakostas has a pretty convincing tale. “My parents have a burger joint,” he reveals. “My job was to make several hundred of the same burger every day. You realize there’s so much opportunity not taken because you don’t have the right tools, and it’s hard work.”
Robots and engineering weren’t even on his radar growing up in the restaurant in southern California. Then, “when I was 15 my dad took me to a book store for the first time. I started reading about physics and realizing that this could be a possibility.” He went on to study physics at UC Santa Barbara, got to work in the garage, and finally drove up to Silicon Valley to machine the first robot prototype’s parts at the famous Silicon Valley TechShop.
That’s when he met his co-founder and COO Steve Frehn. “Steve told me he was from Stanford and I was super intimidated,” Vardakostas recalls. But the two had a great working rapport, and a knack for recruiting budding mechanical engineers from the college. Momentum Machines started in 2009, was a full-time garage project by 2010, incorporated and joined Lemnos Labs in 2012 and the startup began to make serious progress by 2014.
In the meantime, other entrepreneurs have tried to find a business in food robots. There was the now-defunct Y Combinator startup Bistrobot that haphazardly spurted liquid peanut butter and Nutella on white bread and called it a sandwich. More recently, Miso Robotics’ burger-flipping arm named Flippy made headlines, even though all it does is flip and cook patties on a traditional griddle. “We have an arm that pulls out the burgers, but that’s probably 5 percent of the complexity” of the full Creator robot run by 350 sensors, 50 actuators and 20 computers, Vardakostas scoffs.
Breaking burger behavior
The CEO’s past in the kitchen keeps Creator in touch with the human element. He tells me he thinks the idea of a staff-less restaurant where you order on a computer sounds “dystopian.” In fact, he wants to give his food service employees access to new careers. Vardakostas says with a sigh that “people look at restaurant work as a charity case, but man, we just need a chance.” Referring to the old Google policy of letting employees try out side projects, he explains how “Tech companies get 10 percent time but no one does that for restaurant workers.”
“Something we got really excited about in 2012 and we’re just starting to execute on is reinventing the job of working in a store like this, where the machine it taking care of the dirty and dangerous work,” his co-founder Frehn explains. “We’re playing around with education programs for the staff. Five percent of the time they’re paid just to read. We’re already doing that. There’s a book budget. We’re paying $16 an hour. As opportunities come up to fix the machine, there’s a path we’re going to offer people as repair or maintenance people to get paid even more.”
One tradition Creator couldn’t escape was French fries. Vardakostas says they’re basically the least healthy thing you can eat, noting they’re “worse than donuts because there’s more surface area exposed to the frier.” But chefs told him some people simply wouldn’t eat a burger without them. Creator’s compromise is that burgers are paired with hearty miniature farro or seasonal veggie salads by default, but you can still opt for a side of frites.
Creator’s fate won’t just be determined by the burger robot and the people who work alongside it. The startup will have to prove to fast food diners that it can be just as quick and cheap but a lot tastier, and that they’re welcome amongst the restaurant’s bougie Pottery Barn decor. At the same time, it must convince more affluent eaters that a cafeteria-style ordering counter and low price don’t mean low quality. Oh, and the name is a bit rich for a burger spot.
For now, Creator won’t be licensing out its bot or franchising its restaurant, though those could be lucrative. “I don’t want someone putting frozen beef in there or charging way more,” says Vardakostas. Instead, the goal is to methodically expand, and maybe take advantage of its petite footprint to move into airport terminals or bus stations. “We want to get out of San Francisco,” Frehn confidently concludes. “Our business model is pretty simple. We take a really good burger that people like and sell it for half the price.”
Spago opened on January 16, 1982. Wolfgang Puck was so insecure that he told [his investor] Don Salk to invite his wifes enormous extended family to ensure a somewhat full house. But when the dentist and his family arrived, they were confronted with eighteen Rolls-Royces in the parking lot and had to wait hours for a table. The restaurant did 170 covers that night.
When the doors first opened, remembers Barbara Lazaroff, I was still shoeless standing on top of the kitchen counter getting the track lights correct. I thought of it as a stage. I used to study theater lighting and design; thats what I did. So I said, Thats my star. These are my stars. Im lighting them up.
I never even got to realize what I was in the middle of because who would have thought Spago, which became what Spago was overnight, would become that? says Nancy Silverton, who was the restaurants pastry chef. What Silverton calls the floods came the minute the doors opened. Because there was only the open kitchen, she had to clear out by 4 P.M., when Ed LaDou, the pizza maker, came in. Shed prepped days worth of ingredients prior to opening night, but it was all gone by closing time.
Things were even more discombobulated on the hot line. Of that first night, Kazuto Matsusaka remembers: The timing was horrible. And nobody knew what to do. Theres no system. Theres no preopening meeting or preopening discussions. There was nothing. And the food started to run out. That was the craziest opening Ive ever done. Mark [Peel] was next to me; he was on pasta. He was making a pasta at six. Later, he was cutting [more fresh] angel hair pasta.
Puck was a draw, which was great for business, but a doubleedged sword. Continues Matsusaka: Wolfgang was in the kitchen, so when we opened Spago, everybody came to see him. That means theyre going to start talking to him. So he was on the grill. Then the food has to go out together. So Wolfgang starts talking, nothing is coming out. So I told Mark, Mark, we have to kick Wolfgang out of the kitchen. Thats what we did. Because he loves to cook and he loves to talk. He has to be out of the kitchen so he can schmooze those people, talk to people, whatever he wants to do, then we can run the kitchen a little more smoothly.
It was so crazy we could not get a handle on it at all, said Puck. Famous customers denied a table screamed at me and said they were never going to talk to me again. If he tried to accommodate them, resulting in a wait, then they screamed again. It was so hard.
Between Pucks Ma Maison fan base and the restaurants heat, Spago began drawing a celebrity clientele. Before long, two paparazzi were stationed like snipers along the hill that ran up from the parking lot to the restaurant.
I had just come from five years working in a beauty salon, says Wendi Matthews, a childhood friend of Silvertons who became an office manager at Spago. Lots of cocaine and lots of Quaaludes. Lots of hip, cool, young people. Everybody was sleeping with everybody. And it was sort of that same feeling at the restaurant. There were customers coming upstairs and sneaking off into the storage area to get high, and employees and people sleeping with everybody. It was that same sort of feel. It felt like being at a party all the time. I mean, even though during the day we werent open and it was work, but everybody was sort of having fun.
You knew who was holding, who was high, who wasnt. But definitely there was a lot of substance going on, says Jannis Swerman, who helped run the dining room. You couldnt get into the bathrooms. People were going two at a time, so it was either sex or drugs or both.
Swerman thinks Puck and Lazaroff were largely oblivious to it, but Lazaroff, who maintains she was an abstainer, was routinely offered coke and pot by customers, as a tip or just to share the good times. She told them owners dont accept tips, to give it to the staff at the door.
Sometimes the sheer volume of self-abuse so overwhelmed her that shed go home at the end of the night, throw open the door, and sob into the living room of the house she and Puck shared on Fifth Street. We knew we were on this new wave, this niche of people wanting to have a place that was their own little casual playground that was exclusive in certain ways but was also inclusive, because actually you had a lot of people who were very well known in different fields, a lot of them in entertainment, but in different fields, says Lazaroff. And some of the most powerful werent known by the other people in the restaurant, like the studio heads and whatever. I mean, the stars knew who they were, but there were loads of people. Our postman who delivered our mail would come there and dine.
All of Hollywood came to Spago, from an intergenerational mix of above-the-line names such as Michael Caine, Teri Garr, Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, and Barbra Streisand, and everybody who ever played James Bondas onetime dining room manager Swerman puts itto icons like Johnny Carson, to wunderkind directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and emerging industry power brokers like Mike Ovitz. Naturally, no special requests were turned down. Puck also found creative ways to flatter VIP guests, such as automatically sending them a smoked salmon and crme frache pizza, known colloquially to staff and guests alike as the Jewish pizza.
Like the crowds, the fame just came. All of a sudden Entertainment Tonight was there, remembers Matthews, who transitioned into a PR role. I was getting phone calls: We want to do a segment on ET. I didnt think, Oh my God, weve hit the big time. It just sort of was. (It should, however, be remembered that Spago didnt monopolize the entertainment business. Mortons and The Ivy, to name just two popular old-school canteens, still drew bold-faced names, and Chasens retained its popularity among the over-fifty set, reinvigorated by recently elected President Ronald Reagans fondness for it.)
Maybe, too, the populace was simply ready for something new: In 1981, nearly thirty years before the likes of Eataly in New York City, Jane Erickson, the punk-coiffed companion of notorious art dealer Douglas James Chrismas, opened Charmers Market, a combination open-air market and restaurant with more than twenty-five Champagnes, under a stucco tent in Santa Monica, a stones throw from the beach. Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Ali MacGraw, and Goldie Hawn were regulars. Charmers bridged nouvelle (scallops with raspberry sauce) and California (hot barbecued duck salad) cuisines and forecast one of the defining characteristics of Spago: dinner as entertainment, for the entertainment set. I didnt set out to get the Hollywood crowd, Erickson told the New York Times. But I guess theres a certain atmosphere of theater here.
Lazaroff was the embodiment of Spagos theatricality. As her bank balance grew, she began realizing those childhood fashion dreams with a loud, colorful, and unmistakable style that extended from head to toe: I wear twinkling clothes, Tinkerbell clothes that glisten with beads and sequins, she said. My style is my own dream as a five-year-old of what Id look like when I grew up. (That five-year-old must have also loved animals; circling around Lazaroff like cartoon butterflies were twenty-eight of them: parrots, rabbits, cats, and dogs.) Her wardrobe, housed in a twenty-foot-long closet that she kept locked, even from Puck, comprised more than one hundred dresses and more than a hundred pairs of shoes; just two examples: a purple taffeta Karl Lagerfeld mini-dress with a full, circle skirt, and a black bolero Rifat Ozbek suit with white passementerie. Often, she tied primitive objects into her hair and emphasized her eyes with exaggerated black eyeliner that extended the edges. (I paint my face as if the audience were looking at me from fifty feet away, she said.) She maintained that it only took her twenty minutes to prepare such a getup, but hours to dress casually.
Puck, too, flowered into fame: He was gifted at making the most demanding guests feel special. He says that because he came from a small town, where the nearest cinema was five kilometers away and they had no car to get there, he didnt see movies as a kid. They didnt even own a TV. As a consequence, I was never impressed by them, he says. I wasnt like most of the people were if somebody was a movie star: Can we get an autograph? Because I didnt watch the movies. Most of them I never saw. When he became friendly with director Billy Wilder, I had to lie to him, faking appreciation for his classics such as Some Like It Hot, while privately thinking, I hope he doesnt ask me who was in that!
Tables were hard to come by, but in theory the restaurant was democratic, with one exceptionPatrick Terrail [Pucks former boss at LA restaurant Ma Maison] was forbidden. One night around 1989 while Puck was in San Francisco, his matre d called telling him that Terrail had shown up unannounced with good pal Ed McMahon. You know what to do, Puck told him, and hung up.
From Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll by Andrew Friedman. Copyright 2018 Andrew Friedman. Excerpted with permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.Read More