Tag: chef life

Eating in America Sucks #3

Ketchup.

Heinz ketchup.

Heinz ketchup has single-handedly brainwashed every American.  Do not ever say foodie to me, ever, because I swear that you do want ketchup on that damn fine burger.  Don’t give me this a ‘hot dog doesn’t get ketchup’ bullshit when Heinz is in every kitchen across ‘Merica, from casual dinner, to upscale diner, to Artisanal burger bar, to high-end restaurants.

The thing is, nobody wants house made ketchup.  Every one secretly and openly wants Heinz.  Not the 27 variety spiel, just that one uniquely bland taste of tomato paste and corn syrup goodness.

Because everyone is addicted to sugar, that smooth sweet paste is craved by all.  Even you.

Hence we are all brain washed.  It has created such an understated niche monopoly on food culture, that we are hesitate even to notice how pervasive this product is.  Understand, there is no other ketchup. Heinz is ketchup like Bandaid is bandage and Rollerblades are inline skating.

I think it is time to buy stock in this company.

the poor man’s slow hustle

Its hard to be creative when you are always tired.  Where is the inspiration when even mundane movements are gruesome?  Where is the hope when the justice of any pay off is not there?

I am afraid of working too hard because it is going to make Marigold dull.

I am afraid of loosing her sharp edge with the dulling intensity of work.

-Me

Basic Instincts

Basically I am trying hard to not think too far ahead.  It’s not that I don’t have a plan, well it’s more like a scheme.  A loose draft, if you will.  But the details, the accents, the exact colors, I am not sure.

Basically I am making the rest up as I trod along my flowered path.  I plant a seed and watch it grow up.  Sometimes is it an orchid, sometimes it is crabgrass.

You make your own choices.  You draw the outlines, document the blueprints.  The coloring comes with the wind, the fluidity travels in the motion of today.

Eating in America Suck #2

Americans have an unhealthy obsession with plastic and it has to stop.  I do not understand why so much disposable plastic is produced and wasted by everyone all the time.  EVERYONE ALL THE TIME!

Why does everything have to be wrapped in plastic?  People feel a weird sense of security when their food comes all bundled up like a chirstmas package.  Please do not let the outside world touch my food!  This food has been grown in a labaratory and has never been exposed to human hands, or pollution, or chemicals, or dirt of any kind.

A few examples:

Please be sure that you do not place any naturally wrapped food (which will peeled prior to cooking or consumption) directly on that dirty, god forsaken conveyor belt at the supermarket.  That thing is made out of rubber, and you know what they say about rubber.  Rubber really gets around.  Its nothing like pristine plastic.  Plastic is super clean.  Godly clean.  Pastic wrap is pretty much the closest thing to god that we have.  Nothing like that devil rubber conveyor belt that has touched literally everyone else’s food.  Gross.

For bulk buying, or food service demands, that thin membrane of the grocery store plastic bag isn’t strong enough to support the contents in the bag.  So please put fragile contents in a cardboard box.  But you know what they say about cardboard boxes, they are unreliable.  So mind as well wrap that cardboard box in plastic.  Godly plastic saves the day again!

I am not joking or exaggerating.  Plastic bags placed in boxes that are wrapped in plastic.  This is like normal.  Every day.

Oh, it continues, this PLASTIC rant.

Be sure to save the uncooked/unconsumed/ unused product in plastic.  As for your leftover dinner, be sure to also cover that in plastic.  That way, when you go to reheat it in the microwave, all you have to do is press a button.  Or course it is perfectly safe to eat things out of plastic.  Plastic is godly, and definitely does not cause cancer.

Clean up is a breeze when everthing is wrapped in plastic.  You don’t have ANY dishes to do whatsoever.  Simply take the plastic, and put it in the plastic garbage can that is lined conveniently with a plastic bag.  Dont worry, the plastic will disapear completely with no threat of getting into our food supply.  It’s magic, it’s godly.

So much plastic you can’t even imagine, I know.  It is sick.  We have a plastic problem.

Sugar’s Dilemma

I am a Pastry Chef who doesn’t eat sugar.  It’s more than confusing, it’s a paradox.  My career revolves around a singular subject, one type of ingredient that takes on multiple forms.  Glucose, fructose, maltose, sucrose, lactose, whatever the crystallization, the commonality is the sweet sensation.  Honey, turbinado, jaggery, molasses, confectioners, maple, sugar beet, sugar cane, whatever the source, the building blocks of taste are the same.

My nickname is Sugar, that’s how ingrained this ingredient is in my life. I personally, however, avoid consuming sugar.  I try not to eat it.  Ever.  I do this for health reasons.  As you may have heard, sugar is linked to all kinds of weight and mental issues.  All I know is that I feel better when I avoid it.  I try to eat a very high fat and vegetable diet.  The problem with the Paleo lifestyle is that it is literally impossible to be a Pastry Chef who doesn’t eat sugar.  It makes no sense, it is not logical, professionally unacceptable, a contradiction.

Sugar is a dilemma.  It gets a bad rap, but has a place on the dinner table.  I have carved a career about of the very thing that I try so hard to avoid.  The problem is in the excess.  Sugar is everywhere and in everything.  It is not left to the special birthday cake, a once in a blue moon sweet.  It has gotten so out of control that sugar is even in water.   The singular essential ingredient to human life, and that too has been enhanced with the manufactured syrup of modern eating.

I put it in everything, but that is because I put it in the proper role.  I am a Sugar Fairy that knows what percentage of sweetness is perfect for taste and digestion, how to construct a plate that is balanced with a touch of salt, a sprinkle of acid, and good amount of crunch, a lot of creamy texture, a silky mouthful.  Sugar is important.  Sugar is fun.  Sugar is a life enhancement but it must be used cautiously.  You leave that part up to me.

For now,  I will keep on trying to avoid eating peanut butter bacon cookie dough, mint chocolate chip ice cream, lemon curd, or chocolate mousse for breakfast.  I need to remember to take a hint from myself and save it for the right time.

#cheflife

It was a holiday weekend for those nine to fivers.  The fortunate get a three day weekend, with Friday being the coveted day of freedom.  It was a nice sunny day, a great day to seize the opportunity to meet up with friends and enjoy a nice lunch.  On this cursed day for your food service worker friends, we were ill prepared.  That is an understatement, ill prepared.  There was no preparing for the pandemonium that happened behind the line, in the bowels of the 100 degree kitchen.  Lunch is normally slow, with maybe a small rush but nothing too crazy.  This Friday, though, the people came in floods.  They came in droves.  They came in herds.  They came in murders.  They came in bunches, in parties, in clusters, in groups, in parades.  They were jovial and they were hungry.  Everyone wanted a bite of the proverbial apple pie.

In one hour we served over 100 people.  That is more people than lunch does the whole week combined.  They all came in at the same time, and they were merciless in their hunger.  They were there to eat and drink and celebrate the freedom.  I cannot really delve into the complete incompetence of the one and only line cook that runs the show during lunch.  Why the hell the chef thought he could work it, I have no fucking clue.  I have roughly zero training on the lunch menu, as my job is pastry prep.

After honestly the second ticket I had to start helping out, cooking and plating dishes I have never seen, cooking meat to the right temperature on a grill I have never used, getting trained by the worst employee we got.  It was pandemonium.  Sheer, complete, insanity.  The ticket machine was throwing up tickets like the day after new years eve.  Its pattering printing sounds were the music we were dancing to.  It was nuts.  We were going down in fiery flames like Dante’s nightmare.  We were getting burned up like a Detroit house fire.  We were so in the weeds that it felt like a jungle.

How can I describe how ill prepared we were for the rush?  The line cook wasn’t even prepared for the 15 covers he was expecting.  Chorizo for 3 orders.  Potatoes for 7.  Not burger miser in place.  No tomatoes cut, no onions rounds, no cheese sliced, no lettuce picked.  The soup is not heated up.  Do you think we are going to sell burgers on the 4th of July?? No, its not a big grilling holiday.  I think people are going to go for Christmas ham instead.  At another point, he was plating something that also gets breakfast potatoes, it was at that moment he realized there weren’t anymore cooked.  Is zero enough to get through?  I am going to go with a solid no.

It was a grade A disaster.  It is shocking that I did not physically harm my poor co-worker.  I did tell him that I wanted to chop him up into pieces and put him through the meat grinder. I told the food runner that I hated him because he ran the special food ticket to the wrong table.

I lost a hamburger due to sticking to the grill because I was trying to cook it faster.  I was so mad that I had to restart the patty when the rest of the ticket was ready to go.  This unfortunate burger was finishing cooking in the oven when I had to go in the back to prep the hundred of things that we did not have set up.  I said to him “that burger needs to be sent out as quickly as possible.  It will be done in 3 minutes, put it on the fucking plate and sell it.” I come back 5 minutes later, ask if the burger flew, and the lunch guys says (honest to god) “what burger?”  I plated it, wondering how the hell he could have possibly forgotten after how many times I talked about it.  Seriously, I said something to him about getting that damn burger no less then 10 times.  Pandemonium.  Sheer madness.

At one point I was looking at all the tickets, my head spinning with the details, and I have a vague feeling that no, it was not possible to get this done.  I wanted to panic, I wanted to walk away, I wanted to shout, I wanted to throw my tongs and say I am not a damn lunch cook, I do not make my living cooking fucking eggs!  I screamed PANDEMONIUM and went about cooking as fast as possible.

It was awful.  That is also an understatement, but I will leave it at that.  Awful.  At the end of the rush, the waitress is crying because she was working alone.  Served everyone by herself, and she was upset that she could not give people the nice service they deserved.  She was rushed and rude, and that does not make you feel like you did a good job.  You work very hard and at the end you feel like shit.  You feel that your best is not good enough.  No matter how hard you tried, you failed.  There is no winning in this game.

Afterwards, when the day settled down and the Chef decides to show up, he informs you that it was all your fault that there were 45 minute ticket times.  How could this have happened he wanted to know?  Why did I not call him with my third arm when I was cooking for the entire city?  He could have called back-up, which wouldn’t have arrived until the rush was over anyway.  It was in no way his fault for not thinking that maybe, just maybe, we would be slammed the Friday before the fourth of July.  Not his fault for making the schedule, for not informing me that the lunch line guy was going to change to this guy who is still in culinary school and has absolutely no experience.  Why is he not working the salad station?  I have no idea.

I cannot describe the anger, dissatisfaction, contempt, and spite I felt at the end of the day.  I saved the fucking day, and my reward was disappointment and an empty stomach.  Rumble, rumble cooking is not so easy all the time.

A Change is Going to Come

Tomorrow I am going to say a few words that are going to change my life.  I know its going to happen because I am the one deciding to follow the opportunity for a new job.  So tomorrow I am going to tell my current kitchen adios, its been short and mostly fun.

I am afraid to do it because I know that it is very unexpected, and I don’t want to say goodbye to my friends.  I feel like I am sitting at a point where I am going to tip into a new direction, but nobody else around me knows that the mountain is going to roll with a different slope.  I have changed my life so many times that it’s daunting because I know what is in store.  I am not sure I want to do it again.  Start afresh and anew, undo everything just to redo it in another manner.  Close the shop, move everything, unpack, get resettled and acquainted with the surroundings, develop a bond with the people around.

Since attending pastry school 5 years ago, I have lived 4 different apartments and have worked in (kiki’s, custom house, girl and the goat, publican, farmhouse, province, cicchetti, deleece, now la sirena) 9 kitchens.  That is a lot of life change for one girl.  This constant shifting and continual movement is making me quite tired.  I am exhausted of starting over, of turning the page over again and seeing a white sheet.

Am I afraid to do it again?  Yeah, kinda.  Am I excited?  I am too tired to fully answer that question right now.  Truthfully I am not entirely sure how the situation is going to unravel, I cannot predict what the reaction will be.

Today was the last day to be simply today, par for the course, clear sailing, everything is just like it normally is for a Saturday.  Tomorrow we set sail for a new course, to chase a new star.

Daily tasks

Cooks notes for the day:

That day when you don’t quite get the seal on the ice cream spinner door to suck properly in place, so as you spin the ice cream, the loose base drips steadily cause a huge, huge sticky mess. The entire time you are debating weather to take it out and start over, or roll with the continual mess.  Either scenario ends in a fanciful mess.  If the ice cream turns out icy again I am going to loose my cookies.

The restaurant next door come over to ask to borrow 70 pounds of fryer oil.  You respond casually: “only if you beg and crawl.”

The entire bottle of yuzu spill on the floor because the bottom inexplicably detached as if an invisible alien snuck into the kitchen and sliced off the entire bottom in one quick pull of the trigger.  $100 bottle gone in a flash, it was a delicious smelling mess.

The server warns you that you probably should help the lunch guy because she just rang in 6 plates.  6. Total. Plates.  She wants it to be less than 45 minutes and I am sympathetic.

There is a young good looking man/boy applying for a food runner position, so you try to check him out behind the semi-sheer black curtain.  You dropped your work to see him, but do you say hello?  Nah, don’t feel like it.

A beverage delivery man tells you he just saw a rat run into the employee bathroom.  I obviously do not believe him, until I see the prep guy pulling the door shut as to trap Mr. Raton.  Until he gets a moment to deal with the situation, you kindly tell your co-workers not to use the bathroom.  After he kills Mr. Raton, he chase one of the line cooks around the alley with the corpse of the rat.

We know that when the toaster and the freezer are plugged into the same outlet, the fuse will eventually blow.  The situation still remains unchanged.

Finally get around to changing the menu into a format that I find slightly more satisfying.  Slowly, so slowly moving into the right direction.  I realized today how much I have given up on bettering the restaurant and myself.  I am glad that I found some small spark of motivation and integrity to continue to do what I think is best.  It gets very challenging when you have too much on your plate, covered with a thick sauce of negativity, sprinkled with hesitation, doubt, and fatigue.  Today was a step to the right beat somewhere in that kitchen dance.