Recipe testing in Dieta Chef Vesa Saaristo’s test kitchen is often finding out how a challenging recipe can be implemented better, based on clients’ needs. A recipe that is being tested is often tested a couple of times. During the testing both working methods as well as the recipe are being improved and the results are being monitored. When all the challenges have been solved the recipe gets approved by the client.
How is the recipe testing process in the testing kitchen?
The recipe testing process always starts with the client presenting a challenge — at times implementing a certain recipe can produce headache to the whole kitchen, and at others the need might be regarding applying the recipe.
When Dieta Chef Vesa first accepts a challenge he sits down at his work table. Brainstorming and writing ideas down are an important part of the process before setting foot into the kitchen. It is important to find out whether the challenge at hand is purely related to the client’s working methods; can the recipe be prepared with different methods or does the ingredient list have to be altered.
After the brainwork it is time to roll up the sleeves. The ingredients are prepared for the first test round and then the work can begin.
At first it’s reasonable to assume that the results will be moderate at best. After that it is time to do the homework: were there any problems, what went wrong, and how to continue forward, says Vesa.
The test rounds are repeated, usually with small ingredient sizes, as long as the solution is found. Sometimes however, preparing a full-sized industrial kitchen portion is necessary to ensure the right outcome.
When the recipe has been customized to the client’s needs it is sent to get approved. Taste, texture and structure are important, but equally significant is making preparing the recipe possible and easy. Often key personnel from client companies come visit Vesa’s test kitchen, or Vesa visits the clients at their companies, when the results of the improvement are shown and certified.
In recipe testing the client and focus on solution are in the centre
Vesa gladly takes on cases about clients’ challenges because working together, helping the client and success inspire him. In a recipe testing project the clients needs and a focus on the solution are always in the centre.
One of Saaristo’s most memorable recipe testing projects was when a Central European client contacted him because preparing mashed potatoes had long been a nightmare process in his kitchen. Saaristo showed an easy way to prepare mashed potatoes for the particular kitchen. When the kitchen staff came to the test kitchen to see the process they were stunned; it just can not be this easy! Vesa prepared the potatoes almost with one hand while chatting with the guests at the same time.
It took a moment for them to believe that it was actually that easy, Vesa laughs.
Vesa thinks the best thing is to see when clients succeed — whether it is just a single recipe that brings them true joy. Often collaboration with clients does not end even if there was no actual problem anymore: help is still at hand. Clients are kept in touch with and many have been helped to achieve even greater success.
Client-centred approach seems a bit of a broad term to Vesa when he thinks about his job with his clients. He would describe his relationship with his clients more like a friend-partnership, where equal respect and being easily approachable are highlighted — you can always call Vesa on a low threshold!
Trust in professionalism is a cook's most important tool
Testing and developing recipes require trust in one 's professional skills. Without it things never get done, processes prolong and the wrong projects might be taken upon. While working as a cook for years Saaristo has learnt, among other things, many patterns that help in developing work and helping customers.
Sometimes I know straight away that some recipes will work better for example by changing starch. In these cases multiple test rounds are not necessary, Vesa notes.
Not very often are requests to change a recipe dismissed but a professional also recognizes those cases where the changes won’t work. Once Dieta Chef was asked if chilling fish soup could be done in a mixing kettle. On the basis of experience Vesa knew immediately that the soup ingredients would break down into nothing but pulp during the process. In these cases Vesa has a habit to discreetly push the client to think about it, and usually the client already has the right solution.
Even though professional skills help Vesa in the Dieta Chef job a lot he does not have to work alone. The best thing for him is to work alongside with the clients, to exchange thoughts, and to get inspired together. Vesa does not have to do taste testing alone either — in an office of 30 people there are plenty of eager taste testers and feedback givers!
Take a look at Vesa's mashed potatoes recipe and apply it to your own industrial kitchen — much easier preparing a delicious mashed potatoes can not get!
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