Tag: chef life

Lucky Number

Already it has been two months since the new year rang its bell.  I have not yet divulged all the luck I drew over the past year, I have not yet documented all the adventures that the past year brought.

Until June of last year, I was a devout personal recorder keeper. Last year began with high ambitions of art and writing.  I was posting on Marigold every day- so much so that I had posts planned out for weeks, scheduled and ready roll out at a set time.  I had recently rediscovered drawing- black ink highlighted with colored pencil- a very whimsical yet focused and symmetrical portrait of dancing lines.

I have not been the artist I was in the start of the 2016.  I have not even begun to document all the dishes I have put out in the last 6 months- a personal goal that is greeted with a D- failing grade.  It’s not that the resolution to Marigold wore thin, it’s that I found and focused on a large, all consuming professional project.

Marigold is not the only one who has experienced the profound drop-off in friendship, communication, sanity, support, and the charisma of the real me.  I spent so much of the second half of the year at work that it took everything and everyone from me.  I started a  giant and lovely garden that I let die hot summer sun.  I had to make appointments to see my roommate.  I saw my boyfriend while he slept, and he kissed me goodbye while I snored. Hell, I even miss myself.

It’s been one hell of a year.  I have two jobs, two homes, a boyfriend and roommate/bestie situation.  Life lately has been bananas and so detail-oriented my brain feels like I am constantly holding a plasma globe.

Yet, these are small sacrifices for the amazing feats that 2016 brought to me personally. 16 has always been my lucky number.  Ever since grade school, this auspicious number has been a good luck charm. For me, 2016 was a very lucky year.

January 2016 was greeted in South Africa.  The year started with a trip to a country that I never thought I would actually experience.  That feeling was a carry-over from 2015 when I rang in the new year in India.  I never thought that I would be lucky enough to travel to either country- and yet within one year I got very nice introduction to two very different cultures.

I have spent everyday of the entire year utterly in love.  Love is something that I never take for granted; it was not something that I was expecting to come to me.  Love is very special, and I feel extremely lucky to have found it.

Last year I got a promotion.  I got to be part of opening a brand new restaurant, and with that came the opportunity to run 2 pastry programs, simultaneously.  Much against my constant fear of failure, the new pastry program has been going better than splendid.  One might even call it a success.  We sell a butt load of dessert, I have received all good reviews from Chicagoland critics.  There has not yet been one flop.  The dish that sold the least made it in the top 131 things the MIke Sula ate that year (number 45 the Argentinean Float).

I got nominated for rising pastry chef of the year award- local but still legit.  As it turns out I did not win, but the nomination was very flattering.  I went to the awards, I wore a lovely emerald green dress, and my whole family went to support me and my growing career.

I was on television twice.  Local news- one was aired live, the other taped in one sitting.  I said “ummm” too many times, but I felt confident, I felt comfortable being me, being taped, being in high definition.

I almost got to meet Obama.  Seriously, he almost ate at one the restaurants.  How cool is that?

January 2017, started in tears- shockingly.  It was the chef’s dawn (9am) when I broke open my eyelids like two cold eggs- with a feeling of peril in my gut.  I woke up with a profound sense of dismay- of having to start the year over again- to have to experience everything that has to happen, again.  It’s a scary thought, to revisit the hardships and fears, the emotional roller coaster that was 2016.  Yes there were many positives that came out of the year, but it was a very challenging year at the same time.  It was worth it, but the thought of having to go through that process again, from the beginning, is terrifying.

I don’t want to have to face that caliber of a struggle again, even though I do.  I create my own struggles and my own wars, because they are a necessary side affect of my accomplishments.

Maybe 2017 will be just as magical as last year, maybe it will get easier with time, maybe I will find my artistic voice again, maybe I will not be so afraid of failing, maybe I will have time to dance.

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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.

The Poor Man’s Slow Hustle #4

True confessions of a chef #1

After 10 years of cooking professionally and trying with all the might my small yet determined physical self can offer, with all the passion in my glowing heart, and with all the smarts in the multiple folds of my brain, I only make a few dollars (literally a few, this is not a dramatized statement) more an hour than when I graduated from college.  10 year of toil, turmoil, and complete dedication.  I make less than I did before pastry school.  I make so little that I was upset when minimum wage got increased.  I make so little that I got a pimple of stress when my great job offered its shiny spot to me.

Eating is the number one necessity to living, but the work involved is not valued.  Like teaching your children, these building block of society our overlooked and negated to the needy.

I have preached it before and I will continue my soapbox speech.  Tipping is ridiculous and at this point it proves nothing.  You tip because you have to, not because you want to.  Since the industry has exploited the goodness of your dining generosity, it needs to be restricted.  Servers, food runners, hosts, cooks, dishwashers, and bar backs, we all deserve to make a living wage, and just like a capitalistic system, the wages should not be so binary.  Front of the house makes it rain, while back of the house is in the drought.

The system is not working, and this in turns makes it very difficult to want to go to the kitchen day in and day out, taking that precious passion and putting it towards you.

We are the overlooked crowd.  You read about running a restaurant, and the service  involved in making the guest have such a grand experience, and the struggle or impute of the chef is never mentioned.  It’s all about that happiness in the dining room, the articles never mentions the that person under the bandana.  It is starting to get to us.  I see a lack luster in cooks because we are not getting enough out of this bargain.  Someone has to speak up, and it will be Marigold and her golden wit.

Wait For It…

I have perhaps the best idea ever for a dessert.  I am going to say a word that I never thought I would ever say pertaining to a dessert, especially when the word “great” or “best” or “anticipation-worthy” is involved.

So here it is: s’more.

There, I said it.  If you immediately lose interest, I understand.  I certainly would not listen past this word when someone is trying to describe an innovative product, a salivary-induced dessert, and new idea that will spark imagination and delight.

Also, I will not say “deconstructed” because the dish is not deconstructed, it is reconstructed.  But that word will not appear in the name or even in the description based on principal- the principal that deconstructed is an overdone and a cliché concept.  Anything resembling that terribly passé word will be lumped into that same, shameful category.

I am thinking about calling it “Fireside” or perhaps “The Rebirth of S’more.”

I don’t want dull childhood memories of this store-bought mélange of ingredients to come across as misleadingly simple or contrived.  This ‘new best idea ever dish’ amplifies the best part of the s’more while also improving upon the aspects that are underwhelming.

I can’t say too many details about this idea without giving away too much.  You have to wait for it.  The intended restaurant where this is to début is not open for business yet.  The doors are not open, the fires are not lit, the tables are not yet set.  Until then menus are printed, until the water glasses filled, until your cocktail shaken, until the music spinning, full disclosure on “Fireside” is clandestine.

The best part of this over used childhood treat is in the applying of heart to transform the ordinary into the somewhat extravagant.  The parts themselves are simple, but together they transform into a classic.  Since the best part about the s’more concept is the interactive involvement of everyone, a active role will play a part in the enjoyment of this dessert.

The underwhelming part of the this treat is the reason why I don’t even think that the s’more is good.  It is this gooey glob with a single note sweetness.  Let’s be honest, it’s boring.  Outside of the bonfire, it’s bland.  The novelty trumps taste, the overall impression being lack luster.  There are only two flavor profiles, being chocolate and graham.  I think I can do better.

Unfortunately this is call I can tell you until El Che opens its doors, until there is wood for the hearth, until someone can slide your credit card.  Until then, keep your tongues anxious and your minds curious.

The Beautiful Beet

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The enigmatic tendency of nature, the goal is beauty

Sexy curves confuse with a hypnotic dance

Uniform and unique the multitude of spiral slices

Are sweet and crisp

Delicate and divinely lush

A late summer gift, to remind you of the surprises

Still waiting to be unearthed.

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Chameleon

Art is about having a vision, expressing your stylistic mind, and being flexible with your grandiose designs.  A concept can be amazing, but sometimes in practicality the idea does not pan out.  Creativity is about being fluid, not getting too caught up in the one direction that you thought would drive your boat, steer your car, build your model empire.

I want to be successful, I want to make things so delicious that it is magazine worthy, that gives a lasting impression on your taste buds and also on your imagination.  I had an idea, I thought about it a lot and hard and in many ways.  I try not to get married to an idea without the proper courtship, but when an idea is born you get attached.  The concept was solid, the individual components were stellar, but together the harmony was wrong.

I have great taste, but if the final play does not match the concept, it is time to tweak.  Not start over, or consider the idea a failure, you have to be flexible and confident enough to come up with a new strategy.

Do not consider yourself a failure because it didn’t work out the first, second, or hundredth time.  I want to be perfect the first time so bad, that I have to remind myself that art is an evolution, and being successful takes a lot of patience.  Creativity is knowing when something is wrong, and coming up with new ideas to lead your project in a different direction.  You might surprise yourself with the new, unintended outcome.

Art is growth, simplicity is complicated, and rules are fluid.

Today was a learning and humbling day, but through this process you gather strength in your artistic eye and salivating mind.

Dichotomy at a Stop Sign

I work in a very strange spot, where old industry meets new technology.  It’s at a crossroad that sounds more like a metaphor than a real spot, an unassuming corner that brings old school Chicago together with business for the new millennia.

You cannot even squeeze a tiny bicycle down Fulton Market street during the early morning to late afternoon.  The street is packed with tall men in long white coats, running to and fro, bringing stacks of brown boxes to idling trucks and muscular forklifts.  The street is littered with men and machines, anxiously filling orders and ready to scurry at a moments notice.  It is a public street, but there is no room for cars, pedestrians, let alone bikes.  Enter at your own risk, you will be the frog leaping, the chicken wondering if it can cross the road.

The meat-packing district of Chicago is an industry staple, and this intersection is where it was born.  This trade formed the identity of this Midwestern metropolis, molded it into the meat-centric, gastro-destination of the nation.

IMG_0145At the end of this meat-packing row, at the corner by a stop sign, sits a small restaurant, serving up Brazilian influenced and locally inspired food.  It’s quaint, it’s unpretentious, it strives to make good and simple food day in and day out.  It is innocently unaware of the power struggle raging on outside, blissfully happy in the crossfire between the old world and the new regime.

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After the stop sign, past the meat empire, sits the new google building.  This will be the hub for the technological overlord that will be the new master of Chicagoans, representing the new direction in industry.  These modern offices will shape Chicago in many ways that are just as meaningful as the meat-packing legacy, but oh so completely different. This is not the physical labor of men in uniforms, trucks almost running you over in their physical hurry.  Here, the work is conceptual, all the running around will be done with fingertips instead of fork lifts.

The restaurant is the twilight of these two worlds, and I am caught in the transition.

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