1.08.2008

Back to basics.

I reek of onions and beef right now. A stew is braising away in the oven, giving me just enough time to update here...a place that has been sadly ignored for a couple of weeks now.

December was a crazy month. It saw all four sous chefs on six day work weeks, cranking out big covers and a lot of holiday parties. My one day off a week was spent shopping for gifts...and trying to rest. We got a short reprieve Christmas week...then into New Years. Now, things are calm.

Having been a cook these past five years, many things have changed about me. (and many things have stayed the same.) My thought process is completely different; every thought is geared towards forward progress....toward efficiency. When things are hectic, I tend to do my best thinking.

So in all this chaos and deep thought, I've noticed I feel apart from my cooking self lately. Months of learning and progress has seemingly halted. More and more I feel simplicity tugging on my sleeve. Joey and Ginger both cook gorgeous, tasty food....that couldn't be more simple. Having spent months now cooking weekly with Joey, I realized how little 'cooking' I have actually been doing over the past year at work. Sous vide, while calling for precision and great care, barely feels like cooking. Gums and food additives are fun, but making a fluid gel for a dinner party feels a bit silly. I felt a great desire to get back to basics....back to ingredient.

So when the good people over at Nopa asked me to call their Chef about joining their kitchen, it felt right. Nopa does simple, wholesome food...and uses almost exclusively organic, local ingredients. They use a wood burning grill and oven. What you read on the menu is what you get; three or four ingredients, lovingly cooked and simply presented. The Chef and I had a great talk, and he laid it out for me. His goals had nothing to do with fame, or press. He wasn't interested in being rich. He just wants to 'take care of his people.' After a meeting with his GM and partner, he invited me in to work a night. A sous position was offered, and I accepted.

I have been with my current company for almost four years now. I love both restaurants with all my heart....sometimes too much. I've made friends that I will know for the rest of my life, and I got molded into what seems like a dying breed: the dedicated line cook. I owe a lot to Va De Vi and Pres a Vi. I owe a lot to Chef Kelly and Bob, the GM at VDV. And I owe a lot to all the people, good and bad that I worked with.

But now it's time to move on.

More tomorrow. I have to check on my stew.



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5 comments:

www.stlbites.com said...

Congrats, you seem like a level headed guy that's in no hurry to be a chef--not because you couldn't be, but because once you are you want to be the best you possibly can.

It seems few cooks are like that these days.

I strove for that when I was a cook, and although I personally failed in the end as the hours got to me, as a result I am appreciative of those of you, like yourself, that cook in kitchens tirelessly day in and day out, as I remember what it was like.

Short form:
That's awesome!
Good choice...though I don't think you need it.
Good luck.

Richie said...

Thanks for the comment Bill. This new job is going to make for a very interesting year.

www.stlbites.com said...

that was supposed to be good luck...though i don't think you need it. Damn the typos.

shuna fish lydon said...

This is lovely, thanks for filling us in, bravely and honestly. I've missed you and hope we can catch up soon.

in mandarinquats...

chefcheff said...

I love the pressure. I crave the hard work. I hate the pay. i've been cooking for about ten years now, and have just started a new job. I am in aserious dilemma: there are other cooks with whom i work that seem to be out to get me. They are throwing me under the bus left and right while i am not at work and I have done nohting to deserve it. I follow all the recipes to the absolute letter because its not the way I want to do it, its the way the owners want me to do it. the guests want consistency and i want that too because I don't want to screw my employers out of hard earned patrons. I am fast, I am precise, and my dishes never come back. I do not disrupt the flow of service, and I am never late to work or late to leave. How do i battle these individiuals? How do I keep my cool and not choke the dogpoop out of the people who look to see me fired? I am desperately trying to do everything right. how do i survive?