Category: career

Cook’s Conundrum

It’s never actually worth it, the perfectionist life of a chef.  It’s not worth the money, the back aches, the missing out on having an outside life, not seeing your friends, skipping every holiday to work in a hot kitchen for no extra pay or appreciation, cutting vacation short, skipping the summer tan.   It’s not worth the countless extra hours, the extreme attention to details that no one will ever see, all the subtle nuances that just end up get covered up with decoration.  Yes, there are short cuts, and people who makes these hacks tend to do well, because it’s not very often that the customer notices.  It’s not worth cooking for a living- it’s hardly making a living or having a life of your own.  It’s choosing to be a servant when you don’t have to be one.

The truth is that it is compulsive, it is a personal trait to make everything perfect to present something in a dimly light dinning room, to make every edge smooth and perfectly flush on a cake that is then covered with a border.  I have to make everything perfect, just to smash it.  Why?  So that I can sleep at night, so that I can feel good about every single thing I make time and time again- whether it’s a once in a life time wedding cake, or any one of the countless numbers of labor intensive penguin shaped ice cream sandwiches that go out on daily basis to the masses of diners.

Focused on the Blur

After so many first times, it must, at some point, level out and start to get easier to do things for the first time.  It Must. Right? Or is it like how getting fully submerged in a cold lake on a hot summer day never gets easier no matter how many times you shock dry skin into the heavy wet water?

I have a great salt and pepper blend of confidence and humility, but I get nervous-I am not graceful on my feet.  I am a behind the scenes person, I am the focus of my delusions, but secretly super shy.  Interviewing a chef is like photographing Sasquatch, we are creatures not fully of this dimension and most times talking is hard.

I remember the first time I split and scrapped a vanilla bean- a long, thin, small, precious, and plump, ready to create a subtle explosion of flavor- I was hands shaking with my pairing knife, afraid to waste any one of the million seeds, knowing that this was a turning point in my life- one small step, the first one really, into a study that I so enthusiscitcally pursue.  So everytime I do something for the first time, I remember how natural it is for me to split a vanilla bean.

T Minus Countdown

Ok everyone, so it’s the last official day before we officially start serving the general public with their opinions and their impressions and their reviews.  Am I nervous?  I would say terrified is more appropriate of a feeling.  Am I starting out with safe desserts?  Crowd pleasers that are tried, tested, and true?  Well, no, obviously.  That would be too easy.  There is risk involved, there is a good chance of failure.

Things not helping my anxiety:  the boys are killing it with their dishes and their execution.  These are professionals with professional tongues.  Every time I taste the food, my ego is like “what the fuck are you doing here?”  I have wanted this for a very long time, I have worked very hard to get here. I have the training, the education, the creativity, the work ethic, the vision, yet still, I feel unprepared, and no amount of work will make me feel prepared.  After a 6 month build up, and 3 weeks of work til you drop, the focus of a med school student, I still feel like a wet lost dog.

Thanks for listening everyone, see you on the hot side of the counter.

Seeing Tres

 

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Early summer’s rendition of 3 leches:

Lemon-poppy seed cake with buttermilk added to the traditional three milk soak, rhubarb preserves, fresh market strawberries, confit lemon, strawberry chantilly, violet meringue.

Light and bright like spring’s glorious rays warming up our frosty skin, delicate like those first flowers brave enough to poke out of the hard ground, melts in your mouth like fresh spun cotton candy.

Flavors mimic a sweet tart candy, just sour enough to make you crave another subtly sweet bite.  A disappearing crunch, a creamy cloud texture, a cartwheel of flavors to carry you home.

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Convenient Conconction

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It all started with meringue.  I had a test batch of honey meringue and I did not want to simply throw it away after I assessed its success (or not).  So here I am, left with a the smallest batch possible of meringue (which is 1 quart- no less can be made while using a kitchen aid, trust me), not wanting to simply wash it away as it was still perfectly delicious. The only answer was use it to make a dessert for staff lunch. Contemplating the deli of fluffy pale yellow foam, I thought to myself, what goes great with honey meringue?

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My first thought was cream pie, and my mind went right to coconut.  So coconut cream pie and honey meringue it is.  Pie is typically made with pie dough ( you have to make it, let it rest, roll it out, let it rest, bake it- all of which was too much work) or a graham cracker push crust (super easy and fast, my method of choice for this extra credit project).  We do not have graham crackers or the store-bought crumb lying around the kitchen, so I decided to improvise: we have some extra streusel, why not grind it up and add butter just like the graham cracker crust concept?  So  I ground it up, added butter, and made a push crust.

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Next was the coconut cream- a standard pastry cream made with half milk and half coconut milk, with toasted coconut flake added it.  Pour this into the crust, and set in the refrigerator for 3 hours, top with that infamous meringue, and then, of course, torch the meringue with a flame gun (because of course, because of brulee).

Coconut Cream Pie with Oatmeal Streusel Crust and Honey Meringue

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Visions and Delusions

  1. My desserts are going to be better than those at Rick Bayless’ new restaurant.
  2. I was going to pair the tamarind cake roll with caramelized plantain ice cream, but then decided to go with horchata instead.  Why?  Because it sounds better for summer.  But, Since Chef Bayless has a “butter-roasted plantain” ice cream, I think I might have to return to the original idea.  Obviously because mine will be better.
  3. I need to talk to some people about how to design the menu, make it look as cool as it is.  Rick Bayless has this fire and ice theme going on, which is only sorta cool.  It’s a little too played up.  I want my elemental theme to be downplayed, but still somehow acknowledge visually or descriptively.  You know, to build viewer hype, like I don’t want dessert, but since that one is on fire make we should try it?  Yeah, like that.
  4. Rick Bayless is a celebrity chef, and has no idea who I am.
  5. Ok, ok so El Che seems to be very close to Rick Bayless’ newest restaurant.  I am not worried, just a little disappointed because when I saw the kitchen under construction at El Che, I was impressed because I had never seen anything like it.  But now I have and it is at the new restaurant across the damn street.
  6. My desserts are going to be better than those at Rick Bayless’ new restaurant.

To Do List

Things to do before vacation in one month and five days from today, presented in no particular order:

1. Design, test, and execute dessert menu for new restaurant

2. Train two people, one at La Sirena, one at El Che

3.  Hire a person for El Che

4. Make two dinners worth of food for 30 people, store and freeze

5. Decorate paddle boat in the “mystical creatures” theme

6.Talk to Shortbread about campsite layout

7. Stretch daily

8. Don’t Panic

9. Plan birthday party at the house for this weekend

10. Weed the garden and plant all the seedlings

11.  Revamp menu at La Sirena

12. Look up yoga studios close to work

13. Gather supplies for 5 days camping trip

14. Clean my bedroom

 

Spring Remodel

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Black Bottom Brazilian Cheesecake, Violet Meringue, Rhubarb

 

Forging for spring ingredients,

Feeling frantic for bright flavors,

Inspired by natural colors

Enrobed with the love of chocolate

Somehow we find a way to wait patiently for the spring produce to pop.

 

 

Rice Pudding Parfait

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This rendition of the classic rice pudding dessert truly highlight the humble grain of rice.

It’s a rice on rice concept, one that makes the most out of one ingredient.  The rice is cooked in horchata-  a Latin American drink made from water soaked in rice, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. This flavor is highlighted by first toasting the rice in the horchata and in the rice pudding itself.

The dish is served with candied almonds, to bring out the almond flavor in the horachata, to match the toasted flavor in the rice, to add a necessary crunch to the mushy pudding.

The horchata rice pudding, rice on rice custard, is also served with diced raw banana and a caramel sauce made from Guanabara beer- A Brazilian Imperial stout made with raw cane sugar.  The caramel sauce is additionally sweetened with raw cane sugar- in this instance piloncillo, a Mexican version that is readily available.  The banana and beer go great together, each drawing out the flavors of one another.  The grain of the beer pairs well with the toasted rice, unifying all the flavors.

To further draw out the raw sugar flavors present in the beer, and the natural sweetness of the banana, the horchata rice pudding is sweetened with demerara sugar- it’s like sugar in the raw but just slightly less processed, having a nice raw flavor to it.  The only processed white sugar in the dish is presented in the candied almonds- here it is necessary because the almonds are caramelized slightly, and this can only be done with a purified sugar else it will burn.

This dish is finished off with long, thin crisps made from almond meal, banana purée, and rice flour to add height and another crunch dimension.

This dish is presented in layers in a parfait style to give class to this common food item, to showcase the subtle flavors that all tie together nicely to highlight the simple grain of rice.