5.23.2009

Brigade.

My brigade is not perfect.  My brigade does not have fine dining experience.  My brigade is mostly non college educated.  My brigade is a work in progress.  And my brigade can probably cook most brigades into the ground.

My brigade is not a family.  At best, we are a close knit group of friends with a mutual respect for one another.  We hang out, and chat and drink, but we know where the lines are drawn.  Speaking to one of my best chef friends, he told me about a sous chef that was fucking up at his work.  Borderline scams and laziness, and all of it allowed to pass because he is friends with his boss.  Friends before the restaurant.  Not in our crew.  People are important--but the guest and the ingredient come first.  Personal sacrifice is just part of the deal.

My brigade isn't out to prove a point.  There is no bigger sense of purpose here.  We love cooking.  We feed on serving people.  We hate failure, but don't deny how important it is to help us move forward.  We're comprised of simple people.  Smart people.  Folks that believe in loyalty.  We speak the same language, even when we don't.  My brigade isn't concerned with Michelin, or James Beard, or Food and Wine Magazine.  The only concern is what's happening, that day, at that moment.  Looking forward is good, but can make you fuck up now.

My brigade is an enigma.  As strong as we are collectively, and as closely knit as we appear, we still hang by a thread on most days.  One person removed ruins the equation.  We are lucky to have a core that sticks.  Nothing is static:  energies change from night to night.  My brigade understands the fragility of the situation--how temporary all this is.  None of us will end our careers together.  I can't look at a great sautee cook and hope that one day I can hire them;  if all goes according to plan, I should end up eating in their dining room. 

My brigade frustrates me.  I want them to want more.  I want to see more...but I understand that the intense nature of our environment probably has a lot to do with these elements not emerging.  They are not average.  My brigade is a group of people that would never be friends, or even know each other outside of the kitchen.  They all have their dreams, but the necessity to be in the moment can distract from that.

At our best, my brigade is a force of nature.  Unstoppable.  Intensely focused, but with a smile on their faces.  My brigade will come at you like they're looking for a fight.  When they're making it happen, pride swells up in me and is almost impossible to contain.  My head tingles, and I want to stand on the fume hood and yell "Yeah motherfuckers!  You're fucking welcome!"  On our best nights, my brigade brings people closer together, creates cherished memories, and gets people laid.

I've been a part of three brigades that mattered:  the two person brigade that was just me and Ginger in culinary school.  The Va De Vi brigade that had Angelo Smith, Joey Rachel, Chris Rossi, and Saul Flores.  And the current group at Nopa.  So ask yourself:  What does your brigade mean to you?  Who are it's members?  What sets you apart?


notes:

  • oh, right.  my towel was on fire
  • shuna wrote this, and it's very good
  • being brought bourbon twice in one week is pretty cool - thanks Jason and Peter!
  • eddie, the artist.  super nice guy.  
  • writing for yourself:  easy, fullfilling, cathartic.  writing for others:  difficult, frustrating, draining
  • every chef should re-read Ruhlman's books from time to time
  • super glueing your buttons will keep them from popping off your bag
  • coming in and saying hi:  cool.  staring and pointing:  not so cool.

quotes and conversations:

Chef:  Corey, would you like to tell the nice people about your Corey-zo?
Corey:  Well, it's a calibration between me and Al...
Chef:  Collaboration.
Corey:  Yeah.

Me:  White guys with dreadlocks dude.
Justin:  White guys with dreadlocks?
Me:  White guys with dreadlocks.
Justin:  Last guy I punched was a white guy with dreadlocks.

Me:  She kinda looks like a vampire.
Goose:  Yeeeessssss!  I love vampires.
Camaal:  She gonna suck it?

Al:  Did you read the Chronicle today?
Me:  No.
Al:  You didn't read it?
Me:  No.
(pause)
Me:  What was in it?
Al:  I don't know, I didn't see it.

Me:  Gerardo, you ever put your dick in a peanut butter sandwich?
Gerardo:  (Nods.)

Me:  So how was it?
Camaal:  So good.  We go to the house, we are drinking, smoking...
Me:  Cool man.
Corey:  What's his name?

Me:  Hey dude, is that a half pack of Rolo's in your pocket?
Corey:  It's actually half of a tic-tac.

Jeff:  Sometimes it's a girl, sometimes it's a guy.
Corey:  Like Paulie's dating life.

Me:  You can smell her moustache from here.
Ponder:  It smells like a Bolivian bat cave.

Me:  OK, if Natalie Portman told you that you could bone down with her, but you had to eat that... (pointing at Paulie's sweeping pile)
Paulie:  Just that?
Me:  Yeah.
Paulie:  OK.



from top:  heart, sauce reflection, pancetta, the crew, halibut, cherries, clog wars, voltron, leg of lamb, let's be frank dog

2 comments:

Ginger said...

Number one: that was the best thing I have ever read by you dude. I almost started to get weepy.
Number two: You have cherries & I hate you.

ontheline89 said...

ruhlmans books are great, i work under chef polcyn who is the subject "the soul of a chef" and the co-author of "charcuterie" its amazing to work under him and learn something or even many new things every day.

p.s


my preserved lemon/lemon confit came out very nicely, i used it with braised octopus and tsubugai clams.