May Newsletter 2015

May 2015 · Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA

My Pantry

The word “pantry” and its meaning have evolved over time. Its origin was in medieval Europe as a place to store bread and the foods prepared alongside it. This could have been a cave with a constant temperature or a structure buried into the ground such as a cold cellar. Several generations back it morphed into an actual storage space within a large home or estate for items, such as preserved foods, cured meats, spices, plates, silver and service wares. This “space” in the modern home has gone through stages of necessity, removal, inclusion and now, resurgence. As food has become more important in our home and lives, kitchens are getting bigger and pantries are being added back into the design of the modern home.

In the professional kitchen, we have the luxury of a large cooler and a storage room, which allows the chef access to a wide range of ingredients and products to create dishes on the fly. Having several ingredients at one’s fingertips is great, but also a hindrance. The art of preservation, charcuterie and fermentation is all the rage again. Chefs are creative in finding ways to place things in every corner of the kitchen due to the reduction of restaurant footprints. Look around at some of the great chef-driven restaurants and see if you can spot the mason jars, hanging meats and pickle barrels. For me, the concept of the pantry is not a specific room but having an overall plan in place.

In culinary schools, across the country, we preach the phrase “mise en place.” We can all recite it in our sleep, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” When I first started to teach or talk to people about how to work in a kitchen, I theorized that this concept was limited. It’s very easy to believe that the modern professional kitchen has its roots in the French classical system. Le Guide Culinarie was the bible of that kitchen. One of the basic premises of this book was the assumption that the reader was prepared and had strong, well-tuned fundamental skills. Digging through the pages of Escoffier’s Basic Elements of Fine Cookery, you come across reference to his Elementary Preparations. He classifies these into several broad groups and specific ingredients, such as anchovies, aromatics, breading’s, herbs, fats and garnishes. The list is uniquely French and age appropriate, however, all of the items are ingredients. These words and teachings have been the driving force behind this part of culinary education. This is where I expanded this concept to include, not just ingredient mise en place, but both physical and mental mise en place. It is a related trio of needs. If you think about the history of the word, didn’t the pantry incorporate that concept? A good chef needs the space, the right tools to work with as well as a plan in place. Some of the best chefs I know may not have the ideal conditions to work in, but they are smart enough to make a plan and use what they have available. I can’t say it enough to my own kids learning to cook, “clean up your mess and put away things that you are done with before you start the next step.” For the catering chefs, there is a lot said about having aluminum foil, Sterno and duct tape on the job. If you have mise en place, you can cook in a weird situation and still cook some great food that will please many guests.

As the modern kitchen is shedding some of its classical ties and incorporating flavors and techniques from around the globe, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my pantry and what I have on hand, as I get ready for cooking season. Yes, it’s that time of year to start inviting people over to raise a glass and enjoy a plate of food.



Anchovies Salted Fish: Anchovies, Fish Sauce, Dried Shrimp and Bonita Flakes
Anglaise Breading: Gram Flour, Panko, Corn Meal, Cracker Crumbs
Aromatics Fresh Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Bay Leaves
Spices: Several Paprikas, BBQ Spice, Whole Nutmeg, Indian Spice Box
Seasonings Salts: Kosher, Sea Salt, Pink Salt and Smoked Salt, Fermented Soy
Acid: Sherry Vinegar, Lemon Juice, VerJus, Rice Vinegar, Pickles
Hot: Sambal Oelek, Sriracha, Jalapeños, Tabasco, Chipotle en Adobo
Sweet: Raw Honey, Cactus Sugar, Agave, Molasses, Crumbles, Mirin
Condiments Pungents: Garlic, Ginger, Lemon Grass, Shallots, Preserved Lemon, Horseradish, Dried Chiles
Hot: Mustards, Steak Sauce, Worcestershire, Soffritto, Thai Curry Paste
Smoked/Cured: Smoked Bacon, Smoked Turkey, Spanish Chorizo, Pancetta, Dry Cured Hams
Butter Fats: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Mustard Oil, Ghee
Chervil Herbal Garnishes: Micro Greens, Arugula, Watercress
Lemons Finishing Touches: Limes, Oranges, Reduced Vinegars, Glazes, Bottarga, Reggiano, Truffle Oil

Let’s start cooking!



I have been on a Belgian kick lately, so try this Duvel sometime. Watch it, they can sneak up on you!


Escoffier’s Basic Elements of Fine Cooking, Including Sauces & Garnishes

Escoffier's Basic Elements of Fine Cooking, Including Sauces and Garnishes
These are hard to find, but you may find a copy in a library or on amazon.


Jiro Ono and René Redzepi Have a Cup of Tea

Jiro Ono and René Redzepi Have a Cup of Tea
Here is a great clip on how long you need to learn the basics before you can say you have mastered something.

Download May Newsletter

John Reed
Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA
John Reed is a professional chef with over 30 years experience. John has extensive knowledge of culinary techniques, ethnic cuisines, food history and more!

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