pastry days.

It's 6:30am, and im standing in a cold, tiny kitchen. The hoods are off and the stoves are empty. The only sound I can hear is the hum of the refrigeration. I'm all alone, and this is a problem. You see, a week earlier, after a night of getting thrashed on sautee, I overheard my chef telling the sous that he needed a pastry production cook. My standing with my chef wasn't exactly good at this time; the previous night I asked the sous why I hadn't been fired yet, and his response was something like, "Well, it's hard to fire a guy that shows up on time and tries hard." It's not like my pastry skill set was strong or anything--but I needed a way to get off his radar while contributing to the restaurant. So I volunteered for the job. It meant early mornings, all alone, prepping desserts. How hard could it be?

Well, like I said, I was alone. The sous chef that was in charge of the pastry menu was supposed to be training me, but he was late.
I looked over our prep list: pate a choux, pastry cream, bread pudding, chocolate sauce, caramel, whipped cream, souffle batter, 3 cookie doughs, creme brulee, and cobbler or crisp. While I waited for my trainer to arrive I tried to situate myself. The pastry station was in the middle of the tiny kitchen, next to the dishwasher and ice machine. At best this space was an afterthought; to prep and run a service out of it seemed impossible. I pulled the recipe book and got to work. Cracking eggs, melting chocolate, cutting fruit, burning caramel sauce then starting it all over again...things were not going well. I started to notice I had a woeful problem with using a tablespoon when it supposed to have been a teaspoon, or baking powder when the recipe called for baking soda. By the time my trainer showed up I was no longer in the weeds--I was lost, deep in the woods. The lunch crew was trying to shoo me off the line so they could start service, and my jacket had so much chocolate on it that you would think I was wearing a smok. I rushed while tempering my creme anglaise and it turned to scrambled eggs, right there before my eyes. It seemed like I was adding more items to my prep list than crossing off. My time management, to put it mildly, was very poor.

Eventually I started to settle into a routine. It helped not really knowing anyone that worked in the morning, as there were no distractions. I would go in and bang out the biggest projects first; bread pudding soaking while chocolate is melting, crack eggs for bread pudding and souffle at the same time, caramel cooking while stirring pate a choux. The other pastry cook had earned the nickname "Salty" after he mistook salt for sugar and ruined an entire batch of Scharffenberger souffle batter....so next to him I was starting to look good to my chef. My confidence rose a little bit, and when chef fired the grill cook mid-shift, he barked at me to take his place on the line. Three weeks later, I was back on sautee, only helping pastry one morning a week.

Pastry is one aspect of cooking that most hot line cooks will tell you strikes fear deep in their hearts. It's precise and difficult and completely unforgiving. It means early mornings, little to no help on prep, and a constant fight for space on the stoves. It also means a strong lesson in efficency, humility, and cooking delicately. After working pastry your approach to everything from mise to plating changes. Your palate adjusts to appreciate not just taste, but texture. And in the end you are a stronger, more competant and confident cook...as long as you've been minding the salt.

if you were an exotic fruit, what kind of exotic fruit would you be?

paul - passion fruit. obviously
ponder - mango. ripe.
al - dragon fruit.
nick - durian.
me - star fruit.

  • "So, no balls?" -Eddie, wondering if we needed an order of salt cod fritters.
  • "My cat took a dump on my clothes last night." -Corey
  • "New record last night, 4 covers! Pretty fucking pathetic" -text, from Joey.
  • "The only way i'm doing it is if I go on national tv and Ronald McDonald gives me a blowjob." -Corey, on what it would take for him to sell out to McDonalds.
  • "And he should be wearing a shirt that says 'im lovin' it.'" -Corey
  • "Sometimes I stand in my doorway naked wearing an easter bunny mask." -more Corey
  • "If I ever get in a room with Tyra Banks, I will kill that bitch." -even more Corey
  • "It'd be fun to slap Tina Turner." -Nick, when asked if he would rather be on a pairs ice skating team with Bjork or Tina Turner
  • "If he were younger and single, he's the kind of guy I might go out with." -Kim Keme, who disputes Corey's low standing with the ladies.

  • Thank you to the buzz blogger team for giving me blog of note this week. That shit was bananas...visitors from all over the world, in very large numbers. (6000 hits in two days!!) To everyone that commented and started following this blog (up from 32 to over 160 now...) thank you very much. Sometimes i'm still baffled that folks read this at all.
  • I also got linked on Michael Laiskonis's blog--the pastry chef from Le Bernadin. He's a chef I really admire, so this was pretty damn exciting. He's also an exceptional writer.
  • My head was in 7x7 magazine. Seriously, just my head.
  • Blue Bottle coffee + bacon + glazed pork belly + donuts = chest pain.
  • The more I talk to Justin Simoneaux, the more I think he's a cool ass mother fucker. The same goes for Brett at Coi, and Luis from Orson.
  • This photostream has a really funny picture of Thomas Keller and Corey Lee playing on their iphones.
  • The Dark Knight on blu-ray was awesome.
  • Pork Belly "porchetta" at coco500. One of the best pork dishes i've tasted in a long time.
  • I wore my new jeans once, then my rabbit chewed a hole in them.

from top: cara-cara's, hey hey hey!, mongoose, the view from here, black cod, citrus party, amy, donuts, pork belly, risotto, blogs of note, a gift from Tiffany (top chef season 1) and the hail storm.


BIG SKY CHEF said...

Big Sky Chef Here...Well deserved BLOG OF NOTE. What we all want to know is when do you find the time to write around a schedule we cooks endure. You are direct & shine a realistic light on what a cook faces in the trenches. Any Chef that adds Pastry to his repertoire will WIN in the end.

Marco Crupi said...

Hello I really like your blog, I would like a link exchange with you, I insert your blog to my favorite blogs ;)

the address of my blog is: http://marcocrupifoto.blogspot.com/

Dana said...

You know, I'm glad you got Blog of Note, because otherwise I don't think I would have had the smarts to find you on my own. I really love the way you write. It's genuine with just the right amount of wit. Cheers!

David said...

Great blog.

adm531 said...

i really like the site. keep up the good work. check out my site when u can.


Mel said...

Corey's quotes are effin hilarious! Keep em comin'!

Queenie said...

i'm so glad i found you due to blog of note because you make me laugh! having professional chefs in my family, i appreciate your life on the line. and that corey is hysterical!

Brilynn said...

I actually like the pastry side, but you're right, it's completely different from hot line.

hyperling said...

Congratulations on 'Blog of Note'! After a grueling week of spreadsheets, high maintaince clients, and primadonna co-workers...you guys were the bright cheer in a long dark week... thank you for the laughs and amazing food! - Kim K.(super hug)

Sarah said...

You have yourself a fantastic little blog here! Maybe you realize it, or maybe you don't, but people really identify with you. You're honest, witty, sharp, and completely amusing... Kudos! You keep writing, my friend, and all of us will keep reading! :)

Balić said...

hey nice blog :)
please come and see my blog

Ejking said...

It's funny reading your trials on being a pastry because I'm a pastry chef. I first worked as a dishwasher to line cook/ pastry. I work at The Football Factory in downtown Toronto, Canada. I bake the bread, biscotti, tarts, blueberry pie, wedding cakes for special occasions, double chocolate cake and much more. To me it was easy because when I messed up, it tasted better! I've been in the industry for 3 years. Funny thing is I shit loads to learn. I'm only 15 and I'm a big dreamer.

La Muse said...

Glad I checked out the Blogs of Note. Love what you've got going on!

Babbles said...

Awesome stuff! I am a new fan! I cannot relate except that I eat in restaurants...ha ha! Sounds like you may have some rabbit on the menu soon..

Happy Holidays!

Lisa said...

Hey, congrats on Blog of Note!

Life with Kaishon said...

You seem very interesting : ). I cant wait to read more about your coking experiences.


Dots said...

Excellent. I love cakes. Can you bake for me please? Smile.

ZaHaN @Namo37 said...

Hi,nice blog to read.Keep blogging and a very Happy New Year from me/

kota said...

You have a very nice blog!
Would you link mutually if possible?
I have placed a link to your blog below.

Thanks in advance!

Drofen said...

One of the precious few "Blogs of Note" that I've clicked on to discover I enjoy reading.

Great blog!

lakeviewer said...

I'm just thrilled to be reading this blog. You definitely let us in the back door and let us watch you work and think and sweat.

There is a frantic tempo that you captured beatifully.

Thanks for letting us in.
p.s. I'm much more appreciative of the food and the work to prepare it for me.

mika said...

your blog and photos are so nice
you can visit me at:

Jestr said...

Merry Christmas from Czech republic!

Thumbbook said...

Greetings from Foodista!
What a great blog! How you find the time to write is amazing but definitely a great read! Hope you have a happy and healthy 2009!

weegeegoil said...

Glad I happened upon your blog..I used to do pastry full time in the fine dining scene, 15 years ago...funny, everyone else on the line had the same attitude about pastry, like it was some hideously freaky thing, but I loved & excelled at it. I did a swing shift which allowed me a pretty good chunk of time to get my desserts & breads together for dinner. My biggest flop: a triple chocolate terrine for a winemekers dinner that never really set b4 service. Plating up for 80+ what a bitch.
Thx for bringing back the memories....

Steve Parr said...

hey great stuff, love your blog. ever see the movie "parsley days"? worth seeing if you like bikes. must-see if you like halifax.