Seeing stars.

There are two things that will make a cook sick to their stomach:  Cooking for a chef that they respect, and cooking for a critic.  The difference between the two is that when you cook for the chef, they will usually come up to the kitchen and say thanks at the end.  There will be smiles and handshakes and pats on the back.  When you cook for the critic you aren't even allowed to look at them.  You plate with care and precision, sending your food out to be judged.  Then comes the waiting game.  It's like waiting for medical test results to come back.  You stay on the lookout for repeat visits, and you second guess yourself, and shit--did I remember to wipe my fingerprints off that plate?

Being part of a team that gets a good review is a memory you can't forget.  When I was at VDV, we recieved 3 stars. (which they maintained this past Thursday)  It was one of those moments that gives you the feeling that you have have taken a step forward.  Your confidence swells (as does your reservation book) and you get the pleasure of starting a journey with your team.  For the rest of your career you get to look back on this time with pride.  When you step back in this kitchen, you do so with your head held high.  You feel like you own it.

A bad review is a little more complex.  There is disappointment, and blame, and a sudden push to be "better."  You try to pin point where it went wrong.  Who was cooking fish that night?  Who was his server?  Did I psych my cooks out by telling them he was here?  Over the next few weeks and months, the push for that third or fourth star starts to wear on people.  Cooks fade out.  Servers get cranky.  Sometimes the food goes through so many transitions and changes that by the time the one year anniversary comes around, the place is almost unrecognizable.

Stars do crazy things to people.  Of course there are politics that play into it.  Some chefs say they can care less about them--whether any of them mean it is another thing.  They attract cooks, and sometimes send them running.  They are all at once the source of joy and fear and pride and envy and a million other emotions.  So ask yourself, what do your stars mean to you?

  • Mourad fucking served Cat Cora on Iron Chef
  • Corey's new nickname is Boney Water
  • Wheat berries take a very long time to cook
  • Default sous chef snack:  bread with something smeared or stuffed into it
  • Michelle gets jealous when Violet comes in
  • Nopa kitchen.  Hobart killers.
  • Grant Achatz is on twitter. (@Gachatz)  He asks some very interesting questions...
  • Speaking of twitter, how did I end up with 117 followers?
  • Geeks = guys who make bets about whats going to happen on Battlestar Galactica.  Like me.
  • To that cute girl:  J-Lo actually cooked your fish
  • Are we ready?
  • Nopa is not Applebees.
  • Nopa also does not serve mac n cheese.  Except for family meal
  • Don't eat eggs at 3am
  • Also don't joke with Ann unless she approves it
  • Portland!  I love you guys.

quotes and conversations:

"I'm a little bit amazing."

"I kicked a refferee in the nuts in my dream."

"You're turning into a mini celebrity, and I don't mean because you're short."

Me:  If I were gonna shoot heroin, I would do it in this vein.
Goose:  That would be a good one.  But it'd collapse in two weeks.

Goose:  Gah!  You can't be yellin at me.  I get all nervous and shit.  I might piss myself.

Me:  If you forget to give me fry time, I will punch you in the dick.
J-Lo:  He has no dick!

"Don't get blinded by the tattoos dude."

"I'll tell you what, if you ask nice i'll show you my twitter."

"I want to see Mourad punch Alton Brown in the face."

"It's too dry there."
-Camaal, after spilling my water.

Me:  Hey Al, come here.  I have to give you a kiss on the back of the neck.
Al:  Yeah sure, go ahead.

from top:  green garlic, cheese sauce, lamb and cod, rose buds, really merrell?, failure bread, ponderbuns, chickens and espresso, ras el hanout, dancing, lamb sugo, cod and cauliflower, insult graph, donation, pasta, ponderpasta


Camille said...

Stars definitely change a place. One of my best nights ever working in a restaurant kitchen was the night our 5-star review caame out, the place was full booked, we were halfway through service, and the power went out. We cooked off the radiant heat of the flat-top in the 125-degree dark for the next hour and a half, then drove all the perishables across town to the chef's new house to refrigerate for the night. Shortly thereafter, the work became intolerable (due, in large part, to my own inexperience) and I had to quit for the sake of my own sanity. Still, I'll always remember that night with fondness.

Mr_J said...

I know there have been some chefs in France who have committed suicide after losing Michelin stars!

Mr_J said...

There have even been chefs in France who have committed suicide after losing Michelin stars!

Keep up the good work.

Lisa said...


And enough with the sexy chickens; I'm getting concerned for my own mental well-being.

Chef in Progress said...

a) make bets about BSG all the time the only downside is none of my friends watch so i am talking to myself
b) I agree with Corey Alton Brown should get punched in the face; he is a giant douche on Iron chef america

kirchartfour said...

First let me get a shout out in the next podcast

"Heath's got the best part in Mind Field"

That'd be awesome

MY question for discussion is:

Do you ever catch yourself confronted with people who
'don't know what to do'?

It sounds strange; as I like to think that none of us have really 'arrived' in life and are always still learning but sometimes im baffled with blank stares from people who are in their mid 20's that freeze up. *run on sentence.

Do you ever feel like there's a time for everyone to 'nut up' and handle business? Rather than passively letting circumstance decide whether or not they get to go home feeling badass about how the night went or like a bitch.

What do you think about that?

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