Presenting cold foods in a fine restaurant is the job of the chef garde manger. French for keeper of the food, a garde manger is responsible for preparing cold foods such as salads, cold soups, and hors d'oeuvres. Typically an entry level cook position in most restaurants, this pantry supervisor station is often the most demanding job in a kitchen.
Preparing for an impressive food presentation is something that a garde manger should excel at. He or she must be able to season food accurately and creatively, requiring a keen knowledge of cold foods. Some people in this position may even be required to season cold foods prior to being cooked and served hot as well.
The foods that a chef garde manger is responsible for can vary by restaurant. In addition to standard cold foods, such as salads, hors d'oeuvres, and soups, he or she will often be in charge of plating artful desserts. Cold buffet items, charcuterie, decorative dishes, pates, aspics, and any other dish prepared or served cool are typically handled by this chef.
Cold food preparation, however, is not the sole duty of the garde manger. He or she may create centerpieces, which are typically edible, for fine dining experiences. These may be made from cheese, ice, tallow, fruits, vegetables, salt dough, cake, butter, or any other malleable foodstuffs.
Attention to detail is key in this position. The garde manger must maintain strict sanitation, optimal flavor, accurate recipes, and ingenious styles to ensure the best meal possible for every plate. In preparation for this position, a fledgling chef should have a strong background in all forms of preparing food, including searing, molding, pureeing, seasoning, smoking, poaching, marinating, carving, and any other method used in cooking.
To prepare food for a patron or critic, this chef must ensure that the final plate is not only a delicious dish, but also a work of art. He or she must wipe off any excess drippings off the dish's edges, as well as arrange each component, from the heart of the dish to its smallest garnish, as artfully as possible. Creative table arrangements are also sometimes executed by this chef.
The pantry reserved for storing cold dishes itself is also referred to a garde manger. This area, usually found in a large restaurant or hotel, should be very cool and clean, with plenty of circulation. Garde Manger is also the name of a Montreal restaurant known for its seafood platters.