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Picture of McDonald's Executive Chef Dan Coudreaut in action!


Funny how he's violating Chef Knife Skills 101 by extending his index finger over the top of the blade. And what the heck is he doing with asparagus?! This is McDonald's, after all.

Mr Taster

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  1. I believe that I have seen every episode of the old Molto Mario and Mario Batali would use that "technique" all the time.

    1. This reminded me that Jacques Pepin was exec. chef for Howard Johnson's for many years.

      4 Replies
        1. re: junescook

          1. Clams have tongues?
          2. Jacques is so easy to love. Aren'tcha glad he's our neighbor (sort of)?
          3. I wonder if he knows how to make those corn toastees--one day I'll figure it out.
          Thanks for that article!

          1. re: kattyeyes

            He is, KE. I once did have the opportunity to meet him and spend a few minutes chatting with him, and he is the same, unassumiing guy as he seems in his books and tv programs.

            1. re: junescook

              You are a lucky, lucky, lucky man! I have no trouble believing he is the same person we "know" from his books and shows as he just seems so genuine.

      1. I think "Executive Chef" means "We'll pay you serious money to use your name"

        1 Reply
        1. re: redfish62

          McDonald's Executive Chef. I think that must be the example used under "oxymoron" in dictionary.com.

        2. Oh, I bet a lot of chefs would trade a kidney and a testicle (if they had one) for Mr. Coudreaut's job.

          I must admit though, it took me about ten minutes after seeing the picture of his misplaced finger to stop laughing long enough to post this. He must not have learned his "knife skills" from the interwebs.

          1. LOL! I worked for a big food manufactuerer and we had an impressive pedigree of 'corporate chefs'. It's basically where chefs go when they want to have a family, celebrate holidays or their knees can no longer take the long hours...

            Although our line of frozen foods and food from a box was at first blush, rather limiting, we gave our chefs pretty much free reign (within an established but hefty Kitchen budget) to play with new trendy ingredients, develop recipes for boxes, trade shows, website and basically develop new product extensisions.


            14 Replies
            1. re: Dommy

              And then there's Jacques Pepin, who never ran a restaurant and worked for Howard Johnson for the best part of 20 years. And Pierre Frenay, who was executive chef at Le Pavillon when Howard Johnson hired him away. Pepin was 26 and Frenay was 40. Exceptions to the rule.

              1. re: John Francis

                Jacques Pepin wrote a memoir called "The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen". It's a very enjoyable book. I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of his cooking shows.

                He did in fact run and own restaurants and worked in many both in France and US. His parents were also restaurant owners. His Howard Johnson work was only a small part of his many accomplishments over the years.

                1. re: pamf

                  Yes, everything you said is right on. The book was quite good.

                  However, I am going to nitpick on Howard Johnsons being a minor accomplishment. I have seen and read almost everything Jacques ever did and on more than one occasion he has talked about how proud he was of what he did at Howard Johnsons.

                  What Howard Johnson, along with Jacques, attempted to do was something quite unique. Provide quality food, that was not "fast food", in a nice environment for a reasonable price. One of the things that Jacques had to do in order to accomplish this was study food science.

                  To this day, people will make snide remarks about his decade at Howard Johnsons (including a recent appearance on Simply Ming where Ming kinda laughed when he mention Howard Johnsons...BTW, I am also a fan of Ming Tsai, but he did sorta laugh about it), but, he was trying to do something that had not been done before.

                  Between The Complete Technique, his series and appearances with Julia, Howard Johnsons and so may of his efforts since then, he has tried to break down the refined and elegant food arts so that regular people like myself could get a better understanding and have it demystified.

                  I realize that you were absolutely not bad-mouthing him, but, I wanted to get that off my chest and I thought that this was as good a time as any.

                  1. re: DougRisk

                    It's funny, I saw that Ming Tsai show too, last week I think. I was just being brief, so I do agree with you that his Howard Johnson's work had an impact.

                    I also think he mentioned that as a husband and father, he saw it as a chance to provide a better situation for his family. Because back in those days being a restaurant cook (or chef) was not considered very prestigious and having a corporate job was more stable with better long term prospects.

                    Personally, I think his greatest gift to the world has been the career in teaching that he found later in life. Both in culinary schools and via TV and books.

                    Overall he is just a wonderful, inspirational person. Anyone who is even a bit of fan, should take time to read the book, you will enjoy it. It even has some recipes.

                    1. re: pamf

                      "I also think he mentioned that as a husband and father, he saw it as a chance to provide a better situation for his family."

                      In his book, he actually mentions some dollars and cents for some of the positions he worked.

                      When he left Le Pavillion for Howard Johnson's, everyone left. (I don't remember if Jacques or someone else was the first to leave).

                  2. re: pamf

                    I've read "The Apprentice" and don't remember that Pépin was ever the top chef at a restaurant in France or America. After his apprenticeship he was personal chef to Charles de Gaulle and two other French heads of state, then came to the U.S. Here he was a sous-chef under Henri Soulé at Le Pavillon, from which he was snatched by Howard Johnson. So I think I got it right - but by all means, show me where I'm wrong.

                      1. re: John Francis

                        He had his own restaurant in the 1970's before being in a major car accident.

                        1. re: DougRisk

                          Either that fact (his ownership of a restaurant that he ran) has been omitted from all the online sources I found (wikipedia along with several others) or it's an urban myth. Do you have a name for the restaurant or an online attribution? If true I wonder why that is totally gone from his bio?

                          1. re: Servorg

                            You know, I was working from memory and tried to find a specific source myself, and could not find the name of the place.

                            My memory was this: reading his autobiography I can distinctly remember a picture of him in the restaurant. Now, that does not answer your question, and I don't have any more free time this morning to find it.

                            However, it may still be available via Google Books (they will often have lots of pages available for free).

                            However, to my knowledge, he has spent very little of his career actually running a restaurant, and, he has said in interviews that he has had little desire to do so in his career.

                            1. re: DougRisk

                              I finally ran down one reference to it: "Pepin would go on to start his own restaurant in New York, La Petagerie (sic)" (it must have been a brief stint so that probably accounts for why it's not mentioned much)

                              ADD: found on page 2 of this piece: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/chef-...

                              NEXT ADD: Pepin tells the story here: http://www.thefoodpaper.com/interview...

                              1. re: Servorg

                                Yeah, I just found the reference as well in the book. Actually, it was called La Potagerie...as in, Potage (Soup). You can find a fuller explanation in starting on page 217 in The Apprentice.

                                1. re: DougRisk

                                  You call that a restaurant? I call it a soup kitchen. :-)

                                  (OK, I stand corrected.)

                                  1. re: John Francis

                                    Well, it was a Soup Kitchen.

                                    The plan was to have a number of Potageries around the NYC area. He explains it in the book.

                                    Here is my understanding of what Jacques wanted before he had that bad auto accident.

                                    He would have loved to have been a Chef de Cuisine at some fine restaurant. However, he was well aware of how Chefs got screwed over financially, especially when you consider how much skill and long days and long weeks are involved in the craft.

                                    As he became more aware of how a profitable enterprise could be run, he wanted to make sure that he could provide a better life for his family, prestige* be damned.

                                    Things like Howard Johnsons and La Potagerie provided him opportunities for these things. Had it been different back then and people (say, like Michael Chiarello) could go back and forth between industries more easily (one moment you are an executive Chef, the next you are running a catering business, the moment after that you are hosting a show, the moment after that you are owning a restaurant, etc.), he would have wanted to run his own restaurant, on his terms.

                                    This is all speculation on my part. Take it for what it is worth.


                                    * Chefs would not become "prestigious" until, at least, the late 70's. And, even then, it was no more than a handful in all of America. It would not be until the 90's that things would really take off for them.


                2. Everyone wants to make $ and have great bennies, but when do you become a "sell out"?
                  A great Master Chef that I first worked under almost 40 years ago told me "With years of training and hard work you will become a cook, or you can be a "cooker" and bullshit your way through" unfortunatly over the years I've realized there are more "cookers" out there.

                  1. Jacques Pepin's daughter Claudine holds her knives that way, with the pointed finger, and daddy doesn't correct her. But he himself holds his knives properly.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: John Francis

                      Not for nothing, but, when I am using a paring knife to dice a shallot, I put my pointing finger on the spine of the blade.

                      1. re: DougRisk

                        I recall Daniel Boulud sticking his finger down the spine of the blade during his appearance on Julia's Kitchen, as well as most recently on Cuisine Culture with Ashley James.

                        Don't think anyone would question his skills as a chef or his knife skills. For fine work a finger down the spine does give a little more control, much like how a scalpel is held during surgery, for work requiring stability like chopping onions the "pinch grip" is definitely better.

                        Must admit the finger down the spine looks a bit funny, never seen it in any of the kitchens I've worked in. I've never worked in Daniel, however.....

                    2. As much as it's tempting to, i can't bash the man off of a single picture of him working.

                      That's how tabloids do so well with celebrities.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Irregular

                        I know, yeesh. It's a promo picture, not a photo resume. Besides, if we're going to analyze the picture the guy looks like he's going to either score the asparagus or cut it in half lengthwise so why would you want to hold down the asparagus with your knuckles and why would you not want to hold the knife with your finger on the spine?

                      2. I realize this thread is dead, but a thought came to me just the other day because of a problem I am having using my chef's knife. I wonder if Dan isn't having the same pain in his thumb that I am having from a type of "carpal tunnel" corollary when I bear down to cut something these days? I mean, just thinking about how much more cutting he does than I do makes me surmise that this is a pretty obvious answer to the issue. Putting my index finger on the top of the blade takes a lot of the pressure off of whatever nerve is irritated and the pain is either substantially lessened or completely obviated by using this "non standard" technique.

                        1. Putting aside the likely possibility that this photograph was completely staged...
                          He's not using bad technique at all in the first place. He appears to be cutting asparagus lengthwise, using what I call a 'draw cut.' Putting one's finger on top of the blade is considered fine technique (and usually more precise and controlled) when using a draw cut - that is putting the tip of the knife down and drawing the blade toward you.

                          The pinch grip is often what is recommended in knife skills classes - it's what I use most of the time as well - but it is by no means the measure of one's knife skills. There are countless examples of people with fantastic knife skills who seldom or never use the pinch grip, or who use other grips as the job demands. Examples:

                          Known mainly as Salty on the knife forums, he typically holds the knife with a high hammer grip similar to the pinch grip, but doesn't actually pinch the blade. And chances are he puts everyone commenting in this thread to shame with his skill level, myself certainly included.

                          Hung of Top Chef fame, praised by Tom Collichio for his fantastic knife skills. If you pause at exactly 0:26 seconds, you'll see that he switches from his normal pinch grip for the same kind of long 'draw cut' seen above and puts his index finger on top of the spine. Also of note, he forgoes a chefs knife completely and mainly uses a thinned sujihiki (Japanese double beveled slicer) for all of his knife work.

                          Here, an unnamed Japanese cook breaks down some fish with the finger-on-top grip. Among Japanese cooks, precision with a knife is traditionally more valued than it is among Western cooks, and putting the index finger along the spine is considered the correct technique for many cuts. Frankly IMO, the pinch-grip-only rock-and-chop Western old school has a lot to learn from the Japanese in terms of knife skills.

                          There's a lot more to knife skill than what you learn in 101.