Chef in the City

A La Carte A La Chef Shine!

August 21, 2015
danielle shine chef shine

Today I learnt the true meaning of ‘A La Carte’…  As a customer, dining A La Carte simply means to order from a menu – it’s all about choice. Perfect. Except for the chef. Why? Because choice for the customer translates to uncertainty in the kitchen. Behind the scenes, chefs must prep enough of everything in a timely manner to ensure availability and freshness of a meal at the precise moment it’s ordered.

Today, I leant how to mise en place (a French culinary meaning to ‘put in place’ or in other words: to prepare all ingredients) properly for A La Carte dining. Typically, when working from a recipe at school, we prepare all ingredients before cooking each one to perfection to produce a great, freshly cooked meal that is plated, presented to our chef instructors then eaten together to taste and talk about the different aspects – appearance, flavour, etc. But in the real chef-ing world it’s all about production and preparation, LARGE scale. In a restaurant, time is of the essence, especially when you have 5, 10, 15, – 50 customers all ordering different dishes! In this situation, there is no way on mother earth chefs are able to cook every meal, one at a time from scratch! Preparation is key. Communication too. Funny how these two things apply to almost everything in our lives right?! But I digress…

Have you ever marvelled at how your table of friends/family (who have all ordered completely different dishes) are all able to eat their meals of choice at the same time? I have! And now I know… Put simply, there’s a whole symphony of prepping and parboiling (partially cooking) food going on in the kitchens long before you have even begun to get ready to go out! Chef’s must clock in early to mise en place assigned elements (ingredients) of dishes they’re in charge of. If it’s a large restaurant, chances are there’s quite a few chefs of varying authority all working together in the kitchen, managing tasks in tandem with their team. Like most things in life, it comes down to teamwork and timing. And it’s pretty impressive stuff.

At school today my classmates and I were lucky. We only had three A La Carte items to prep and cook to perfection once ordered. Below are the three dishes I had to prep earlier in the day, then cook and plate perfectly within a set time frame. I’m pretty happy with how I performed, though I know for sure that this kind of cooking in a restaurant is not for me. I have a few ideas bubbling away that I will share with you closer to the time I graduate… For now, take a look and let me know what you think about my meals…which one would you order? If in the comments below there’s a clear favourite that emerges, I promise to share the recipe!

danielle shine chef shine

Wholewheat pasta with tempeh bolognese and broccoli with basil oil and grilled bread brushed with garlic oil.

danielle shine chef shine

Seared wild caught salmon with a miso glaze on a bed of brown basmati rice topped with watercress, nigella seeds and garnished with a shoyu sauce.

danielle shine chef shine

Sautéed organic apples in wholewheat phyllo cups with cinnamon, toasted walnuts, raspberries and mint.

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  • Reply Jessica August 21, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Hi! I love the look of the salmon dish, but I’m vegan!! So my request is that you share the pasta dish, I love tempeh, it’s really versatile though I never thought of using it in a traditional spaghetti bol dish, genius :)

    PS I really love your blog, and see you’re a former IIN student – did you enjoy that school? I am thinking of signing up. You’re very inspiring.

    Jess x

    • Reply Danielle Shine August 22, 2015 at 7:30 am

      Hi Jess! Thanks for your vote. The pasta dish is delish and super easy. Yes, I LOVE tempeh ground up and incorporated into this sauce – same texture as mine meat which is fabulous. I grind it up and make meatballs as well, sooo good.

      Thanks for your kind words about my blog :) I started it to document the Natural Foods Chef process, plus share my recipes but it’s definitely turning into something more than that. I’m really humbled to hear from people like yourselves who feel as if they are getting something from my writing, just wonderful.

      Yes! I was an IIN student, great school that provides an outline of all dietary theories, plus support and guidance in terms of setting up and managing your own health coaching business. I enrolled for me to be honest, it really helped me heal my body from years of damage. You can read a little more about my IIN story here, but be sure to come back to visit my blog from time to time. You can sign up for future newsletters here, and please feel free to keep commenting!

      Much health and happiness to you.

      Danielle x

  • Reply Sam August 22, 2015 at 1:06 am

    The pasta dish sounds amazing – tempeh?? Thought was just a hippy thing, but reading your post, am understanding it’s a good protein?? Where can I buy it, am curious to try it now because of this – looks just like the spaghetti bolognese my mum used to make, mins the meat. So yes, my vote is the pasta dish, am really curious to try it out and it doesn’t seem like it would be such an intimidating meal to make. Thanks, Sam.

    • Reply Danielle Shine August 22, 2015 at 7:41 am

      Hi Sam, happy to verify that tempeh is NOT just a hippy thing…anymore! I’m seeing it on a LOT of menus these days – there seems to be more awareness of its many health-supportive benefits amongst the health and wellbeing world too which is just fantastic. Although I am not vegan, since moving to New York and studying to become a Natural Foods Chef, I have not once felt like eating animal meat. I find I’m getting all my nutrients and energy from delicious grains and beans I never knew about before!

      Tempeh and tofu are also playing a big part of my delicious foodie life – I am amazed at how many things I can made with both products. I am going to share the pasta recipe very soon, and encourage you to make it with the tempeh to see what you think! You can get tempeh from most places in the US – Trader Joes is my go to supermarket for great organic tofu and tempeh. If you’re here in New York, the best tempeh EVER is from Barry’s Tempeh – more info here. If you’re not in NYC, or the US. Take a look in the refrigerated aisle of your local supermarket – it’s usually alongside the other meat-free food products. If all else fails, take a look online. Goodluck!

      Thanks for taking the time to write, I look forward to hearing from you again, keep your comments coming :)


  • Reply Matt August 22, 2015 at 5:17 am

    Pasta dish please. But can I use something else other than tempeh? I’m a bloke – isn’t soy bad for men? Thanks for offering a blog I can read too – most food blogs are very girly, pink – not the kind of thing you can look at withhout losing your manliness. I found out about you after my girlfriend made me your dad’s raw passionfruit cake which was f***ing great. I am a sugar addict but trying to let go of the fake crap, not great for my health I keep hearing. With that said, can you share another healthy, sweet recipe, maybe a cookie one? You posted a cookie picture on instagram and said you were recipe testing – are you done yet? I’ve eaten three of the passionfruit raw cakes ones and would like to try something different. Thanks and keep up the great work.

    • Reply Danielle Shine August 22, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Hey Matt, you’re in luck my newfound friend, I just shared a healthy choc chip recipe this afternoon! Take a look at it here

      As for the soy thing – the short answer is: no. No, soy foods aren’t as bad as they have been made out to be in the past – REAL soy that is!! But, with that said, I still maintain the advice that too much of a good thing can be bad for you too, so try some tempeh in the pasta recipe I’ll soon share and go from there.

      My advice as a integrative nutrition health coach and Natural Foods Chef in training is to incorporate a little tempeh or tofu into some meal times and see how your body reacts. How do you feel 1-3 days later? Listen in and you’ll soon know if soy is messing with your system or not. I used to think soy was terrible too so I stayed away. But becoming a Natural Foods Chef is teaching me natural, real, 100% organic soy products like edamame, tofu and tempeh (not the fake, processed, genetically modified soy ‘stuff’ that’s available) are doing all kinds of good things for us humans.

      Hope this helps! And I hope you and your girlfriend enjoy my choc chip cookie recipe!

      Cheers, Danielle

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