11.29.2009

You can't go home again. But you can eat dinner there.

It's two hours after service, and Joey, Angelo and I are standing in a cold, quiet kitchen.  Angelo is layering cured duck legs into confit, while Joey and I de-vein foie gras for terrine.  There's a hotel pan simmering on the stove with a thermometer bobbing in it; our poor attempt at sous vide.  We drink beers, and talk food, and even after a busy service there's a buzz in the room.  Everything feels good.  Simple.  Around 1am we cook eggs for each other, plan the next day, and walk out with a lightness in our step and our heads held high.  Everything is exciting, and constantly changing.  We're line cooks.  In a year everything will be different; but at this moment we're like a child taking their first steps.  We have the whole world ahead of us.

That year passes, and our collective faces have been washed over with a hard gaze and a stack of clipboards.  We're still killing it on the line and learning new techniques and flavors...but things have changed.  Instead of inspiring late night projects, we inventory, and code invoices, and drink.  Heavily.  Day to day operations have become less about growth and more about grinding away.  300 covers is no longer a challenge.  We take on new dishes, and try to out-technique each other, but for the most part the spark has faded.

The adolescence of your cooking career is a lot like your own adolescence.  You're confused, excited, your joints ache and you're probably horny all the time.  You feel like you're falling in love, every day.  It's scary, and fun, and your heart is racing so much that you start to worry about high blood pressure.  You obsess over cookbooks and websites the way a teenager obsesses over pop music and corny vampire novels.  You're just trying to survive, every day.  Is there any way to get back to this place?  To the excitement and hunger you had then?  Would you be regressing?  Is it even possible to re-capture that old feeling?

Every cook wants to become the chef; they crave the responsibility, and the control.  As you move up, you begin to notice something else:  Every chef yearns to be back on the line, cooking again.  They see their cooks, making constant progress, learning so quickly...and its almost painful.  Were you a quick learner that just feels average now?  Are cooks doomed to become that jaded chef that only has those sweet memories of the days on the line?


notes:
  • buddha monk training.  not as easy as you might think.
  • best western has a completely different meaning in our kitchen.
  • one year on twitter.  dang.
  • you ever go back and listen to the music you were into when you were 15, and realize that there are layers and lyrics you never understood?
  • podcast season 2 sometimes feels like throwing confetti into the air and just kinda seeing where it lands.
  • writing this was maddening, and part of me kinda hates it.
quotes and conversations.

Me:  OK Gerardo.  Who would you rather bone down with.  Adam West Batman, or Christian Bale Batman?
Gerardo:  Adam West?
Me:  Yes.  Adam West.  Batman.  Adam fucking West.
Gerardo:  Adam West?
Me:  If you were my kid, I would beat you.  I would just beat the fuck out of you.
Gerardo:  Who's the other guy?
Me:  Christian Bale.
Eddie:  Trick question Gerardo.  George Clooney Batman!
Me:  Of course it's George Clooney Batman.  I hate you Gerardo.

Me:  I had yogurt, granola, a bartlett pear, and 2 cups of coffee.  Then I ran three miles and did 200 push-ups and 200 sit-ups.
Eddie:  I had cassoulet and I boned down.  I win.

Corey:  Hey dude.  Can you help me make pumpkin or squash pasta?
Me:  No.  That would be...wait, really?  Pumpkin pasta?  I mean, I can help you make spinach pasta, or tomato pasta.  We could have tricolore pasta.
Corey:  Hey dude.  Fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you.
Eddie:  Hey dude!  I brought you chips!

Me:  Who doesn't like getting choked when they're getting humped?
Eddie:  (Raises hand.)

Me:  You  ever use that stuff?  Organic toilet paper?
Ponder:  (defeatedly) This morning.

"Go shave your chin and fuck off."
-Corey

Goose:  See that?  I make a little well..
Me:  That's a really good idea.  You're smart...
Goose and Me:  ...sometimes.

Me:  You never know.  You might like it.
Gerardo:  What's that?
Me:  Sucking dick.
Gerardo:  You never know until you try.
Me:  Well Eddie's not doing anything right now.
Eddie:  Certainly not getting erect, that's for sure.

"I think if I were gonna get a Mt. Rushmore themed tattoo, it would have to be of the bad guys from Superman."
-Maritess

Me:  OK.  You wanna see a tornado and go in the sewers.  What else is in your five year plan Gerardo?
Gerardo:  Lots of stuff...
Me:  Like what?  What the fuck else is in your plan?
Gerardo:  I wanna get my asshole eaten out.

Me:  I just don't get it.  It is spicey.  It says spicey fennel sausage on the menu.
Eddie:  You know who's to blame?  That Rachel Ray bitch.

Goose:  Mer-mer.  Can you bone down right now?
Merrell:  Yeah!
Goose:  Well I didn't know if you were still hurt or not.
Merrell:  Are you offering or something?
Goose:  No.  I just didn't know if you could do it.
Merrell:  If anything i'm more flexible.

"Isn't that narcissism?  When you just fall asleep?"
-Goose.

Me:  You ever hear of that?  People that use a knife when they bone down?
Corey:  Why wouldn't you just use your dick?


from top: cut, mangalitsa, the crew, stained, kozy, gouge away, add spice?, ramen, noodles, pork, where am i?


6 comments:

Matt said...

in a coffee shop, see that theres a new post and audible go "yesssss!" and do a fist pump. Needless to say I think you do good work. For some reason that pic of the chit reminded me of a ridiculous one we got the other night. So the ticket pops up with a note "Allergic to seasoning." Doesn't look as funny in type but it was. believe me.

jcII said...

Maritess's tattoo comment makes me want to marry her.

Watchman said...

I am up to my ears this morning in statements, bills and invoices, sitting in front of a computer instead of a cutting board. Being an executive chef has is advantages, but there's a downside you describe that many people don't see.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

The answers are simple, you can take control of your life. It takes guts and an ability to distinguish your real ambitions from those that may overtake you during the endless services and impossible rosters that we all take on at some time.
I wish you well.

Naunga said...

Great way to put it all into perspective. This is truly the reality of it all. Good work man.

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