Monday, September 20, 2010

I just finished reading "Medium Raw" by Anthony Bourdain. It felt like an update. A lot of the material he has been over in past writing or, on No Reservations. The Fish on Monday's chapter was proof of that. I have two chapters that were my instant favorites:

The first being, Go Ask Alice, chapter 12, is a view of an idea that, while being a good one, Alice Waters doesn't seem to consider the functionality of putting her ideas into play. And, the fact that she thinks SHE KNOWS what we should be eating is, ridiculous at best.

The second and favorite, My Aim is True, chapter 18. The description of Justo Thomas' work day is beautiful and familiar to me. Coming from a seafood background, particularly fish and, having worked while at Pesce Seafood Bistro with JoJo, a former co-worker of Eric Ripert while he was at Jean Louis at The Watergate, I know only too well of what he speaks. The way he describes Justo handling the delicate protein is, how it should be done. Pure poetry.

I would have to say that, overall, the title of the book describes perfectly the content. This is not a ass stretching, barn burner of a book. As I said, a lot of the material we have seen or heard before. Which is not to say it isn't a good read. It is. And, I think the lack of new, more up to the moment material is simply due to the fact that, he is no longer in the business. He used to be an insider and now he's outside looking in. Consequently, his perspective changes. Which is fine. We all grow up and, I think that, that's exactly what Anthony Bourdain has done.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back in the day!

Yep, That's me back in 99'. I was running a small Italian kitchen owned by Roberto Donna and Enzo Fargione. There were 3 of us in the kitchen. The place sat about 120. We'd do around 300 covers on the week-ends, 150 weekday's. It got crazy at times. I have some great memories from that time.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper. Please pass the salt and pepper. May I have some salt and pepper? Most of us utter these phrases or something like it everyday. Salt was once so valuable that it was used as currency. And for good or bad, salt is in practically everything we consume.
So, the question I have is, "WHY, is it so hard to get some cooks to use salt and pepper?". I will ask a cook, "Did you salt this?", only to get back, "Not yet Chef". Well, what the FUCK does that mean? Aren't you supposed to salt and pepper your food? These are supposedly seasoned cooks that I am referring to! So, what's that all about. I once had to tell a cook that I had reprimanded before for not seasoning his orders, "The next time you don't season your food, YOU'RE FIRED!"
I season at the beginning, middle and end of cooking. While tasting all the way. Except, for legumes(Beans) because I feel it makes them tough so I season them usually during the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking. You have to season adequately otherwise, you end up with either a bland tasting product or something that tastes of nothing but salt!
Salt and pepper are basic. You could say that, we are taught to season in culinary school. But, aren't we taught from a very early age to season our food? Most dinner tables have a salt and pepper shaker, when you get a carry out order they have those terrible little salt and pepper thingy's in the bag. So, what's the problem? Why can't you, as a professional cook, use the salt and pepper? Here are some excuses that I have heard:
Sorry Chef, I forgot!
Sorry Chef, I forgot. You forgot to season is not an answer. Did you forget to put your shoes on before you left the house for work today? No, OK then, Seasoning should be the same as getting dressed to a cook. It's the most basic part of the cooking process yet, it seems to be the hardest thing to do. C'mon seasoning with salt and pepper is really basic cooking 101. I forgot is a lack of attention to details.
I didn't have time!
I didn't have time, is not in any kitchen professionals vocabulary. You didn't have time? It's part of your job. This is laziness, plain and simple! To say that you did not have time to season because you were too busy is ridiculous. I have heard this one before. If you don't have time to focus on the basics of cooking then get out of the business. No one half asses it in my kitchen. PERIOD!
Mussels have enough salt!

I've heard this load of crap before too. In my kitchens, EVERYTHING gets salt and pepper. The idea that Mussels come out of salt water so, their should be enough salt in them is bullshit! I season my mussels and I have NEVER had an order come back as too salty.
Chef, I didn't know you meant the salads too!
Why wouldn't you season the salad too? Does lettuce come out of the ground already seasoned? NO! So, season your salads.

So, Why do cooks not season? I believe it's laziness. I have no tolerance for this. My solution to is, See you later, Adios, Syonara, Fuck off! whatever but, your not working here.
When I walk into a new kitchen, the first thing I tell everyone is, my policy on salt and pepper. I want them to understand right away my feelings on this subject. I want no misunderstandings. It's simple and basic. I take pride in what I do and so should my cooks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Update, August 10, 2010

So, here I am, having been caught up in a family business in which "Blood truly is thicker than water". I now find myself in the market for a job. Of course, I had no idea that this was going to be the case when I accepted the position in October 09. In fact, it was never even mentioned to me at all until late November 09.
I began the Executive Chef position October 19, 2009 and, in November 2009 I was being told that the grandson was going to be groomed to take over the hotel portion in January 2010 but, that I would have autonomy with the restaurant and lounge and would answer only to the owner and the CEO. My comment to the owner and the CEO was, "If you had told me this during the interview, I would not have taken the position".
Now, to put this into perspective, I should say that none of the parties involved have ANY background in the hotel or restaurant business, aside from being owners. I was informed by not only the CEO but, the owner/Grandfather that, his grandson had no experience in any business, running a business, in fact, no business background at all! I was told that he did try his hand at real estate once and, I quote, "He failed miserably" end quote. I was also informed by the owner/Grandfather that, the poor kid (27yo) had no direction in his life and that letting him run the business might help with that. The grandson had recently graduated from some university with a degree in English literature (Really, just graduated at 27) Wow, I was taken aback. I still cannot believe it.
Anyway, by the time January came around, I was being told by the CEO that I should probably begin looking for a new position (Happy New Year! Right!) which I promptly began doing. Then a week later I was told to stop looking and that it would be OK because the CEO was going to continue to oversee the operation. By this time, I was clueless as to what was going to happen or not happen. In hind-sight, I should have continued my job search then. The CEO asked me to trust her and I had no reason not too, so I did.
By April 2010, just as we were getting ready for the busy season and a menu change I was told by the CEO that things between her and the grandson had spiraled out of control and that she would be leaving her position at the hotel and I should do the same. So, once again, I began looking for a new position. Then, a week and a half later I was told by the CEO that she had jumped the gun and I could settle back for a nice long relationship in my current position. Cautiously, I agreed but I also kept one eye on the job market which, was, as it is now, getting worse.
Then finally, in June 2010 the bottom dropped out. We had a managers meeting at which time we were told by the CEO that that day, in fact, that moment was to be her last at the hotel/restaurant and that, the grandson would assume total control after she left that day. GREAT!!!
Within a week the owner came to me and suggested that I begin looking for a new job since I was far to professional to be able to work with his grandson. Of course, by this time, I was up to my eyeballs with this shit and ready to do so. Christ, my head is still spinning! So, as I began, Here I am.
What irritates me about the whole situation is that, I finally found a restaurant that I loved to work in. Really! I mean, I was excited about what I was doing everyday! and, excited about what I wanted to do in the future. And now, that's gone.
I truly enjoyed the working relationship that I had with the owner and the CEO. As unusual as it is, the CEO and I saw eye to eye on practically everything. I say this is unusual because, generally speaking, I rarely find that sort of working relationship with someone above me. It really was a joy to work with these people and they shared the same sentiment about working with me as well. Also, gone.
The fact that I moved all the way out here on my own dime. Signed a 1 year lease the whole time knowing, there was no other place that I could work out here and, exclaiming as much to them when I accepted the offer. It looks terrible on my resume and, is a real pain in the ass to have to explain that to the next prospective employer! Christ, I'm starting to feel like Peter Chang. This just sucks!
The good news, I am looking for a less dis-functional restaurant that will allow me the setting to produce "My Cuisine". Which is everything that I have learned about all the cuisines that I love. I just want to cook good food that's accessible to everyone. I hope I find it soon!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Sticky Rice, Apple Cucumber Salad & Coconut Milk

The pork tenderloin was marinated in smoked paprika, honey, cumin, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Once it hit the grill all those flavors caramelize onto the meat and create a wonderful crust that, seals in the meat juices making for a succulent piece of pork.
The salad was made with a Julienne of gs apples, cucumber, cilantro and a small amount of red onion which was then dressed with a red Thai curry vinaigrette. A little spicy but very refreshing.
The coconut milk reduction was prepared with sliced fresh ginger, one whole clove of garlic, cilantro, white wine, rice vinegar, honey and sesame oil. Reduced slowly. Strained into another pot, warmed and held.
The rice was a good variety of sushi rice cooked in a rice cooker and molded in a ramekin with toasted white sesame seeds outside.
I don't play with asian flavors too often but, every now and then I get the feeling.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Camera Trials In Horse Country

Driving in the Virginia country side, I thought I would take a few practice shots to see how they came out. There's a colt in there but, when I whistled in an attempt to lure them closer, they gathered around it so you can't see it.

They were very curious. They all came over to see who the stranger was. I'm not really a horse person but, I do love nature. I guess I was thinking how happy they used to be when they were running wild on the plains back in the day.

Now, to tie this to food, I have eaten horse meat. I was not fond of it. I found it sweet and stringy. It's been some years since eating it so, maybe I would feel differently about it now.
By the way, I am not suggesting dining on horse. Calm down Peta! They are beautiful animals.

So, my next planned entry, will be an oil cured black olive bread. With pics!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fun Time! @ Veranda Bar & Grill

Last night I cooked @ Veranda Bar & Grill and had a blast! A small kitchen but, clean and pretty organized. Cooking in this kitchen reminded me of my day's at Pesce in Dupont Circle. Small, hot, fast moving, the personification of a dinner service.
My contribution was a special, penne pasta with Loukaniko, wild mushrooms, fresh herbs and cream. Loukaniko is the greek word for sausage. This sausage had fennel and orange peel in it which made it nicely sweet. All that had it, enjoyed it, so I was pleased.
The menu at Veranda is small and primarily Mediterranean with an emphasis on Greek mezze. The regular menu items I cooked were, Pan sauteed trout which was stuffed with herbs and served with potatoes, carrots and green beans with a toasted pine nut beurre noisette.
Grilled hangar steak with fingerling potatoes confited in evoo, garlic and thyme with a red wine and mushroom sauce.
Gambas al Ajillo. Shrimp sauteed in garlic, lemon, white wine and dill.
Lamb sliders on brioche buns with tzatziki and fries.
As well as a few others off the menu. I had a great time preparing with the staff and cooking with all of them. Great bunch of girlz and guys. Kitchen folk are a special breed and I have always been proud to be a part of that group of people. We are tough. We have to be.