The art of preparing and cooking food is called culinary art, and the people working with this form of art are termed as culinarians. They prepare mouth-watering, appetizing meals that satiate one's taste buds. From chefs to restaurant managers to dietitians, nutritionists, etc., there are several careers in the culinary field, that people can adopt. However, there is another job profile that not many are aware of. It's that of a 'garde manger'. Stemming from the French term, 'garde manger' means 'keeper of food'. He is the person responsible for preparing and/ or seasoning and presenting cold food, like salads, cold meats, cold soups, cheeses, garnishes, ice sculptures, fresh fruit, etc. The job also includes inventory control, menu selection and modification, etc.
Garde manger actually refers to the pantry, which stores salad items and other cold dishes. This pantry is managed by a person called the garde manger chef. This whole concept stems from the nation of France, where during the 16th century, having ample amounts of food leftovers was considered to be a sign of wealth and power. The houses of the noble class had one cold storage room, which was managed by a steward. Traditionally, garde manger chefs were expected to transform food leftovers into interesting cold dishes.
Garde Manger Duties
- The job of a garde manger is an entry-level job in the culinary field. In upscale restaurants, it may involve highly specialized tasks, however, in casual restaurants, he is nothing more than a salad chef.
- For example, in Italian restaurants, his task would be mainly related to the preparation of antipasto course, comprising a tray of cheese, Italian vegetables, and cold cuts, whereas, in a casual restaurant, it will be to plate salads. Thus, the type of restaurant one works in, will determine the kind of responsibilities.
- In general, a garde manger should be proficient with simmering, frying, roasting, curing, drying, and poaching.
- He or she should have thorough knowledge of culinary techniques and the restaurant's menu.
- He should be able to apply proper seasoning to the cold food.
- He is expected to have excellent knife skills and should be an expert in dicing, carving, and chopping.
- He or she is to prepare all the components of cold appetizers, ranging from salads to cheese plates, terrines, antipasto course, and present them wonderfully.
- He inspects the vegetables for their freshness and quality and also the quality of other ingredients, like cheeses, meats, etc.
- He or she will have to prepare their own inventory list for their station and are also responsible for selection of items on the salad, cheese, or cold meats menu.
- They ought to work in coordination with other line chefs so that salad entrée and meat entrée arrive the table at the same time.
- This chef is expected to clear the station at night before leaving and store all the leftovers properly.
- Like the traditional role of a garde manger chef, he is expected to use his or her creativity and come up with innovative cold foods from leftovers.
- He should have the ability, knowledge, and skill to fill in for another chef when he or she is absent from another station. Thus, basic overall culinary knowledge is required.
If you aspire to become a garde manger chef and feel that the job description is what you would definitely fit into, then try taking home economics in school. This will help you have strong baking and culinary skills. After which, enroll with a culinary school and take up garde manger courses. Studying a little bit about butchering and curing meats will also help you better.