It's late, and for the first time all night you're all alone.  Tonight was your last night in this kitchen.  The past three weeks since you gave your notice were full of lots of jokes about being a short timer, and pats on the back, and reminiscing.  You felt your once iron grip on the kitchen start to loosen as you took a step back.  You trained the folks taking over your responsibilities.  Every night your bag was a little heavier, as you slowly started taking home all of the spoons and spatulas and knives that weren't necessary for a typical service.  Tonight was amazing;  a perfect service (because none of the cooks wanted to fuck your last one up) followed by drinks, and hugs, and a tear in the eye of that hostess that had a crush on you.  And now you're standing in a dark, quiet, shiny kitchen.  You've known this moment was coming--in fact you were even looking forward to it.  But now you're filled with this strange melancholy.  Walking out of the building feels weird.  It's not exactly like the leaving the hotel after a great vacation, but it's pretty close.  Everything is about to change.  You're moving on.  A quick "Oh shit.  What happens now?" flashes through your head.  It's part excitement, part self-pride, and all terror. 

Some cooks never move on.  They find a spot they like, and they stick.  There is no shame in that.  It's amazing to hear the stories;  cooks that have thrown down on the same station for 10+ years.  Even better are the tales of dishwashers that became prep cooks, then sautee cooks, and eventually sous chefs.  Sometimes it's about money.  Sometimes it's about comfort.  But the vast majority of cooks are always looking to the horizon, wondering what comes next.  So go ahead:  Ask yourself, right now, what's next?  Where do you go from here?  Have you paid your dues?  Are you ready for the next step?  Do you still find a good challenge in your current place?  What is it that's making you stick?

In my life, i've only ever been good at two things:  writing, and cooking.  I've tried so many things--most of them utter failures.  Writing has been easy for me since I was young--it started in sixth grade and hasn't stopped since.  Cooking came later, but came on strongly.  That the two have intersected to become this blog has been great;  it's been such a huge part of my life for the past 2 years that at times it's overwhelming:  Work all week.  Write notes, take pictures, jot down quotes.  Run errands all day Friday, until the podcast.  Saturday, wake up, go to market, come home, write, edit the podcast, return emails, go to bed.  Sunday it starts all over again.  The fucked part is that I actually want to cook and write more.  It seems like there is some much to do, and no time to do it.

In a month and a half, I turn 30.  Sometime in the next year I will probably become a father.  Things are going to change.  I have no current plans to leave Nopa, nor do I want to:  Nopa is like a warm hug on a cold day.  It has this amazing power to energize and inspire you, and in this industry, that is a true rarity.  But no one is going to end their career in that kitchen.  Hopefully the Nopa kitchen becomes a breeding ground for the next crop of great chefs...but who knows?  I think I have a pretty solid idea of what I want next....but how do I accomplish it?  I'm stuck at this scary, unfamiliar crossroads, with no idea what comes next.

The reassuring thing is this:  a good cook will always have a job.  People need to eat.  The only disheartening thing for me has been that i'm probably better known at this point for writing than cooking--but that's not exactly bad.  I will do both, for the rest of my life, regardless.  It's easy to lose track of why you do something when you're a slave to numbers:  how many covers did we do?  How many hits on the blog this week?  How many twitter followers?  What were sales this week?  The truth is, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is you.  That sounds selfish.  It is.  That doesn't mean its wrong.

I want to know what you think about this.  What do you do next?  What has guided your decisions up to this point?  What is next?  How does a person leave their mark?  Are you scared?  Where do we go from here?


  • merrell's list of why i'm a geek:  comics, video games, blogging, dumb jokes, etc.
  • corey can still kill it at night
  • sous vide is coming to nopa.  shhh, don't tell anyone
  • i dont get nervous cooking for chefs.  but cooking for eddie and scott beale was a bit nerve racking
  • sometimes genorosity in this city is overwhelming;  coffee at blue bottle, strawberries at dirty girl, a free tee from eddie, and mourad letting me use his ultravac.  dang
  • leaving your rabbit out of the cage when you go to market is not recommended
  • summer is in full effect at the market

quotes and conversations:

"I had a rabbit once, but it got eaten by an owl."

Merrell:  Fire flatbread. 
Goose:  You fire flatbread.
Merrell:  I don't know how!

Me:  Eddie, have you had sex with yourself lately?  You really shouldn't deny yourself the pleasure.
Eddie:  I really haven't.  Fucking busy lately.  Plus, I don't have internet.

Eddie:  Guess what I was reading this morning?
Me:  What's that?
Eddie:  Best Women's Erotica 2009.

Me:  You might get a guy to give you a western style handjob.
Eddie:  That guy being Paulie.

Me:  Gerardo, did they violate you?
Gerardo:  YES!

from top:  everything is going just fine, corey at night!, duck pancetta, brooks cherries, induction, jamon iberico, merrell and chop, late night snacks, dinner, eddie, rooftop plants



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?


  • 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.
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


Podcast #11 - Kevin Kelley (The NPA) and Wolfgang Weber (Spume)

Wow, what a change. Kevin Kelley and Wolfgang Weber came out to podcast with us, and we had our first non bourbon and beer soaked podcast. Sadly, Amy had to miss this one, so Corey and I hung out with the boys, talked wine, and had some laughs. Topics covered were all things wine, organics, and why crocs suck.

Audio quality is very nice, so I think our recording troubles are over. (knock on wood)

Next week we head to Sebo late night to chat with Michael Black--our first off site podcast. The following week is hopefully the Ryan Farr/Eddie Lau re-record, and following that should be our East Coast-Skype recording. Then things get wacky for me (weddings, time off, etc) and for Corey (baby!) so we'll see what happens.

As with all our guest podcasts, this one clocks in a bit longer--around 90 minutes.

Intro music is Barracuda by Heart.


More questions than answers - The future starts now.

Why do you cook?  Who do you cook for?  What's the ideal in cooking?  Does a 'Dream Kitchen' exist?  What's next for restaurants?  How do we take the next step forward?  How can you make your impact?  What is it that you contribute?  Is it possible to create a kitchen environment like the one Thomas Keller talks about in Soul of a Chef?  A place where there are no chefs;  just equal peers, collaborating and sharing all of the day to day responsibilities?

# soparker@linecook a.k.a. someone always pulls more of the weight and most people sit back and reap the benefits of cooperative labor
# Sarahsoparker@linecook people working together inevitably look to satisfy their own immediate interests even to the detriment of the common interest...
# Manny Arcerandomplacement@linecook don't know how well that would work, too many chefs spoil the pot? I think all could have input, but someone needs to lead
# Manny Arcerandomplacement@linecook I cook for myself and hoping that I can please people, which in turn pleases me, quid pro quo... Hummmm
# Matthew WilcoxsonChefMatthew1@linecook yea, probably for a good reason. My restaurant is owned by 4 siblings but one of them is prez for a reason. He breaks a tie.
# Robert FaucetteRFaucette@linecook yes. As long comunication was amazing and everyone understands the idea and shares the work evenly.
# Jonas M Lusterwildhunt@linecook It's been done. But a chef's job is doing the job no one else wants (fishtags, stocking, complaints, expo, etc.). Who'd do that?
# radicand@linecook PS if you start one, sign me up (for anything but cooking). Long hours and hard work for such an idea sounds right up my alley.
# Colleen McGarryradicand@linecook makes me think about rainbow coop & others - they take a lot of work and commitment, but CAN happen and be great for all!
# Colleen McGarryradicand@linecook sounds like a coop restaurant/a restaurant coop. I love this idea.
# Sarahsoparker@linecook ever hear of tragedy of the commons?
# Meagan Holstrommeagancooks@linecook I cook for friends & customers: I delight in food, find energy & inspiration in the creative process, & love to create community.
# Meagan Holstrommeagancooks@linecook YES, it would be totally possible and I would work there in a flat minute. Respect for each other's ideas & ability is the key.
# hyperlinghyperling@linecook i cook bec. I really enjoy making people happy. Bec. a bowl of soup can turn a cold day warm & a donut can put a smile on 1's face
# Mike Toddmtlicious@linecook Cook to feed those I care about. Cook to feed my mind: challenge myself to learn & to explore new/new-to-me flavors & ideas
# Mike Toddmtlicious@linecook A la Keller's musings in @ruhlman's Soul of a Chef? Head-less kitchen sounds nice, but can the group maintain a coherent vision?8:03 AM May 11th from web in reply to linecook
# Leonard Shekleonardstinks@linecook whycook? 1. pleasure principle, immediate reward 2. keep learning for personal business growth 3. share with people | who? family.
# Matthew WilcoxsonChefMatthew1@linecook no why... Egos...what happens when you disagree? Who makes the final call?
# Armando Cascomando66@linecook I went to the CCSF Hotel/Restaurant Program. I cook for my family so we can be together and enjoy what we made and the SMILES!
# Matt Wangm_twang@linecook Yes if they are co-owners and equal partners with a clear understanding of eachothers strengths and the shared goal.
# Jonas M Lusterwildhunt@linecook might be "possible", but why'd you want to?

"A leader always emerges."  -Connie Desousa, chef.
"So, not to sound too cynical but I don't think the chef-less kitchen could work."  -Michael Black, chef.

It's been bouncing around in my head lately.  This vision of a tiny kitchen, filled with chefs that I respect, our combined years of experience coming together to create the ideal kitchen.  A place that feeds all the reasons why we cook:  to please the guest, for personal fullfillment, to be a part of something that's more than the sum of it's parts.  A place where everyone gets say.  A line made up of chefs instead of cooks.  Something new.  A risk.  An attempt to push things in a different direction, that has nothing to do with ingredient, or technique, or even money.

Is it possible?  I dont know.  Probably not.  But just think about it for a second.  Close your eyes, and put yourself there.  Imagine the possibilities.  Who would be in your crew?  Where would you be strong?  What are the weaknesses?  Could you see yourself working pantry a couple of nights a week to share the load?  How much would ego play into it?

I believe that we are reaching a remarkable place in culinary history.  Things are changing--every day.  As the world becomes smaller, eaters become more informed, and chefs more connected.  Are there secret recipes anymore?  Has there ever been a point where cooking was progressing so much?  And i'm not just talking about molecular/new/gastro cooking--rustic cuisine has seen such a burst as of late that it seems like finding an unknown region, or heirloom recipe is the new black.

Something is going to happen in the next five years.  As this new generation of cooks comes of age, how could it not?  But what will it be?  How does our generation contribute?  Is it through maintaining the status quo?  Is our grand contribution going to be the next version of foam or encapsulation?  Or will it be something bigger?  The kind of thing that carves out it's own niche--surpassing passing trend to eventually become a shared tradition.

Things are changing.  And it's up to us, right now, to start pushing them in the right direction.  So ask yourself the hard questions.  Why do you cook?  Who do you cook for?  What's your ideal--whether it be food, kitchen, or crew?  Are you just another cog in the wheel?

I have more questions than answers.  It doesn't matter.  The future starts now--even if only an inch at a time.  Are you in?

  • one thing you can be sure about:  if our kitchen fucks up one night, we will come back ten times as hard the next night
  • to the woman that writes pentemporary:  no, it's not annoying.  Just hard to get used to.
  • Even Violet gets cuts on her fingers
  • Sebo gets more props
  • Oh John Mariani, you so crazy
  • No biggie, but my mom is Catholic
  • In case you missed my summary of the Lost season finale on twitter, here it is: My review of the Lost season finale: Blahblah Jacob! Blahblah flashbacks! Blahblah Jack and Sawyer fight! Blahblah Magnets! Blahblah boom
  • Speaking of twitter, check this out if you want to make pancetta
  • Tommorrow:  Sunday May 17th in Dolores Park is Amy Brown's Paint That Bitches Bumper Black Bake Sale.  Starts at 1pm.  There will be goodies and beer and snarky talk about spoiled marina chicks

Quotes and Conversations:

Eddie:  Wait, is seat four reading meatpaper?
Me:  I think so.
Eddie:  Cuz that's far more acceptable than the guy with the laptop.
Me:  It's Wallpaper magazine.
Eddie:  Oh.

"Hey, my dick is perfectly fine in size."
-Merrell.  Big junk.

"Her arms are bigger than mine, she's with O.J. Simpson, and she wants Danny to eat her mochachina.  Not that Danny shouldn't eat her mochachina."
-Mongoose.  Can spot a keeper from a mile away.

Me:  Mer-mer, don't get jealous.  You're still my number one.
Merrell: (smiles)
Me:  #1 slut.
Merrell:  What did you say?  Did you say #1 slut?  I knew I hated you.

"Speaking of uncircumcised penises, that's what orecchiette reminds me of."
-Merrell.  Freud would have a field day.

Me:  Fire flatbread, half no bacon.
Goose:  Flatbread, half retarded.

"I don't really like baseball, but I like drinking at the ballpark."

Goose:  I just made that up!
Me:  What?
Goose:  A hug a day keeps the doctor away.
Me:  I can't believe you were ever locked up bitch.

from top:  Halibut, Wu-Tang, Engrish, onions, Vi at the bus stop, labels, mini taco, squab, wtf mixer, goose, cider braised osso bucco



I'm sitting here staring at the menu.  For the past 20 minutes.  There has been this ugly struggle going on in my brain lately.  Maybe you can tell me how this happens:  You have all of the most beautiful ingredients on the planet in your walk-in.  There is a limitless well of technique and talented cooks to draw on, and your chef has so much trust in you that he almost never questions your menu items.  And you have exactly zero ideas of what to do with the duck dish tommorrow.

Inspiration.  Where does it come from?  Where does it hide?  You know it the moment you feel it:  during a great meal, browsing a cookbook, or just walking around your city.   There is a burst of energy, a momentary loss of breath, followed by a tingling feeling in your brain.  Your pupils dialate, and all you know is that you need to store this moment away, and later translate it into something amazing.

When inspiration is eluding you, it's akin to depression.  You feel thin, gaunt, lost.  Looking at food, all you can see is stolen ideas, and repetition.  Your ideas--so mundane and sophmoric.  At best, you could cater the green room on a t.v. talk show.  But why?  You can cook.  The menu, up until tonight has been a hit.  Do you feel like all you're doing is repeating?  Are you stuck in the culinary equivalent of Groundhog Day?

Inspiration is not linear.  There is no map to find it by.  That book that lit your fire a year ago might seem completely foreign to you now.  But the constant pursuit of inspiration is what's going to make you better.  You have to search it out.  Push all the time.  Read.  Listen.  Ask questions.  For me, lately inspiration has come from the people in my life.  Surround yourself with honest, interesting, creative people.  Open yourself up to them.  Show them everything.  Stop being afraid of yourself.

Every cook has that fire burning in them--and you can really tell when it's burning brightly.  If you're not inspired, it's your duty to seek out whatever it is that gets you going.  Re-visit.  Talk.  Laugh.  Read.  Listen.  Love.  Fight.  Debate.  Get angry.  Feel elation.  Let pain in.  Just don't deny any moment that might move you forward.  At the end of the day, inspiration might be what ends up getting you through.

  • really, I wish Violet and Ben could be on our podcast every week
  • I like when people I respect talk me out of things
  • Chasing people with a cart at Ferry Plaza is pretty funny
  • Why not use a thesaurus?
  • Corey is now on twitter.  @coreynead
  • If you had to choose between eating at Schwa, Alinea, or Avenues, where would you go?

quotes and conversations

"Hey Rich, I touched the sausage all day.  Heh."
-Ponder, who was trying to tell me that he got into his backup of sausage.

"Camaal just called me a flower."

Me:  You could say that Mongoose salutes big cocks.
Goose:  You could say that.

Me:  That's the second Wondertwins reference today, and that's two too many.
Ponder:  I like the Wondertwins.

Goose:  Did you say trifecta graph?
Me:  Yes, i'm blowing your mind on a daily basis now.
Goose:  That's not the only thing you're blowing.

"I miss Merrell."

Me:  Gerardo, I want you to get a coffee mug and put a scoop of tokaji and strawberry in it.
Gerardo:  Just that?  No coffee?

from top:  a whole night, peas, artichokes, leg of lamb, choices, broken freezer, steak, dinner, no lactose, small dice, i hate sundays, merrell's fry pocket, gibraltars, eddie and ryan