10.21.2009

Teaching the Terrible Tournant.

It's Thursday night, and your stomach is knotted.  It's the second day back from your weekend, and your station is just the way you like it.  Everything is in its place, your board is clean, and you got through prep quickly enough to sharpen your knife.  All of the best cooks are on the line tonight, and your chef de cuisine finally listened to you about the pasta app, using your idea.  Everything is going great, but your face is still crossed.  And the reason for your stress just stumbled into the kitchen and knocked over your salt.

His name is Oliver, and tonight he's the tournant.  The idea is that Oliver has shown enough drive and raw skill to move off of the cold station, and get a chance to lend a hand and even try to fill in for a few orders as the night goes on.  Ideally, Oliver would already be proficient on all of the stations in the kitchen before being given this position.  But this is simply not the case.  The exec sees the tournant as a position to train a cook.  So as the night wears on, you will have Oliver on your station, trying not to fuck it all up.

Around 8:30, the kitchen is a hot, sweaty mosh pit.  You've barely uttered two words, and there's a soft crease running across your forehead.  There's a quiet, aggressive focus driving you.  Oliver steps into your station on the pick up, holding a fish spat.  His hands are shaking like he's had too much Mountain Dew (which is probably accurate) and when he goes to plate, he cracks your perfectly cooked filets of sole in half.  Without missing a beat you drop another one, only to catch him saucing the duck...but not before he dribbles sauce across three other plates.  You wipe furiously, flip your fish, and send plates.  There are still five orders of pasta on your burners, and you catch Olivers gaze. 
"Two and three.  Ill take the three.  Go."
Oliver twirls the pasta around his tongs and goes to nestle the noodles gently, but his grip slips.  The pasta flings out of the spring loaded tongs and into the pile of chives you just cut a la minute.  You drop two more orders, race to cut more chives, and finish the plates.  Then you realize your sole re-fire scorched.

There are two options in this situation:
  1. You grab Oliver by the collar of his chefs coat, slam him into the ice machine door, and shake him until his eyes bleed.  While you choke him with your forearm, you tell him that if he ever steps onto your station again, you will kill his entire family.  Your sous tries to pull you off of him, but not before you leave Oliver crumpled on the floor, shaking.  Walking away, you point at him.  "STAY. IN. YOUR. FUCKING. BITCH. CORNER."
  2. You clean your station down, cook the rest of the night on your own, and find Oliver during family meal.  Sitting down with him, he barely looks at you.  You look him in the eye, and pause for a moment.  You run down the laundry list of dumb shit he did tonight.  You re-assure him, and tell him that you had days like this too.  You make a plan for him to be back on your station Friday night, where you will slowly walk him through the pick ups.  Oliver has become your project.  Your responsibility.  
Training and teaching a young cook is the seasoned vets job.  Sure, you could just show up every day and cook.  And when the green cook steps onto the station you are not required to give them much more than a grunt and growl.  But the goal in cooking is to pass on your craft.  The mark of a great cook is one that leaves a mark on all those around them.  In a way, your success will end up hinging on them.  As you progress through the kitchen, your ties to these cooks become all the more important.  It's no longer about your own station; its about the kitchen, and the guest, and the well being of the restaurant.  Everything becomes your responsibility, and subsequently everything becomes your fault when it all goes to shit.  It's so easy to lose your patience, and write these green cooks off.  But you came up the hard way, and went through all of the same things.  And regardless of whether or not there was a cook there to teach you, you have to see the importance of being a mentor.  I'm not saying you should hold their hand.  A little venom in your approach might help to motivate your student.

Three weeks later, you are working tournant.  Your exec would be pissed if he knew you had switched with Oliver, but you feel like the kid is ready to do give your station a shot.  As he settles, you step back from the station, stepping in only to turn burners down, wipe plates, and point out small details to him.  As he goes to plate his sole, you hold your breath for a moment.  But his hand is steady, with that familiar soft crease running across his forehead.  The kid is getting it.  And you got to guide him down the right path.


notes.
  • When Corey is on the line, its certain to be an agressive service.
  • Aziza gets a Michelin star. 
  • When your to-do list covers the front and back of the piece of paper you wrote it on, you should probably only sleep for five hours the night before.
  • why is it that 75% of my visitors at work are out of their minds drunk?
  • kinda feel like shit right now.
  • people are surprisingly non supportive about me getting into shape....but in a fun way.

quotes and conversations:

"There's a direct ratio.  As you soften, I harden.  You're doing yoga, and i'm turning into a foul mouthed asshole."
-Eddie

Me:  You've got a bat in the cave.
Eddie:  A bat...oh, an eye googie?
Me:  No dude.  A bat in the cave...did you say eye googie?
Goose:  Put that in the book.  He can't get away with that shit.

"At this place they'll make a wax mold of a vagina and give it to you."
-Corey

Me:  Whatta ya say Eddie?  Would you have a little casual sex with me if I took you to a nice dinner?  If I took you to Sebo and got you drunk on soju?
Eddie:  If you took me to Sebo...
Me:  Then we could just go back to your place.
Amy:  I think it's more like a wam-bam thank you maam in an alley.
Me:  That is more my style.
Amy:  I know it's more your style.

Me: OK.  Who would win in a fight:  A land shark or a sea bear?
Paulie:  Land shark.
Camaal:  Land shark.
Eddie:  It's gotta be the land shark.
Gerardo:  Sea bear.
Me:  Why?
Gerardo:  Cuz it's a fuckin' bear!
Me:  OK, same question, but this time it's between a four headed eagle and a flying rattlesnake.
Gerardo:  I got a rattlesnake for my tenth birthday.

Gerardo:  What the fuck is espinacas?
Me:  Spinach.......Gerardo, I don't want you using language like that in the kitchen.
Gerardo:  Spanish?

"Ah skeet skeet skeet.  That's right.  I said it."
-Eddie



from top: 3am stock, creamy head, corey, that was close, pork belly.

10.14.2009

Do you cook?

You've been on the meat station for eight months now, and after rotating through hot apps, pasta, and fish, you feel like you've found your niche.  In the beginning it was all bad;  missed temps, scorched lamb saddles, and over salted steaks.  But as time went on, you started to kill it.  There was fluidity in your movements, and a confidence in your approach.  You were quickly accepted as a member of the "A" team.  Service stopped being a struggle, and instead became second nature.  If your brigade was a sports team, you would easily be one of the star players.  Your ego grew a bit, but that was ok.  You really felt like a cook.

It's just past midnight on Saturday, and you're at the bar with your crew.  Over a handful of beers and shots, you talk shit, and brag about how no one else can hold down your station like you do.  Everyone is patting themselves on the back, and feeling cocky.  When cooks from a chain restaurant down the street walk in, everyone puffs their chest out a bit more; your crew is the made up of the best cooks in town, and you know it.  You notice that your sous isn't having any part of the festivities, and is casting a sideways glance at you in particular...but you ignore it and take another shot.

The next day you're breezing through prep, having a laugh with your crew, and still talking shit.  As you wipe down your station, your sous walks over and places an onion in front of you.
"What's up?"
"Brunoise.  I'm timing you.  Go."
You hear the beep of his stopwatch as he looks sternly at you.  At first you laugh...then you realize he's not joking. 
"Go motherfucker.  I said im timing you."
You halve the onion, peel it, and a short time later, you're done.  He runs his hand through your brunoise, and holds up the ends of the onion, still whole.
"What about these?"
You say nothing.  He sifts through the brunoise, picking out any irregular pieces.
"And this.  It's not very uniform, is it?  That took you over 2 minutes.  The extern does it faster than you." 
He steps in closer to you.
"This was a fucking onion.  You talk a big game for a guy that barely brunoise."

A cook that works dinner service is a different animal than the am prep cook.  PM cooks have more moves and a different energy level...but what about their skill set?  An am cook typically handles the bulk of the evenings prep work...while holding down a lunch station.  They braise your proteins, roast your veg, and generally make sure things are nice and tidy for when you step onto the station.  They receive none of the praise of the dinner cook...even though the PM shift is essentially just heating things up.  The pm shift can bang out hundreds of covers, but can they actually cook?

Working at night, you risk becoming a line monkey.  Your entire service is spent in the haze of an adrenaline rush, constantly dipping and diving, just trying to keep things moving.  It's easy to become lost in this...to start to feel like you're progressing.  But is your skill set diminishing?  Have you stuck with the basics?  When you think about it, cooking a dinner service sometimes involves very little actual cooking.  You might be a hardcore sautee cook, or a creative genius when it comes to your menu...but when was the last time you made pasta, from start to finish?  Have you ever worked a prep shift?  Are you relying on someone else to do the bulk of your work?  Do you deserve to be called a "linecook?"

notes:
  • ty-flo?  that sounds like a bathroom problem. -eddie lau (hotfoodporn)
  • if you were to cook as fast and hard as you could--like the deepest weeds you had ever been in--how long could you sustain that pace?
  • Not so many people comment anymore.  Nowadays it's all about the twitter replies on my posts.
  • Eddie Dick used to be such a nice boy before he started working at Nopa.
  • why do all hapa guys have the same haircut?
quotes and conversations.


"The thing I like about Project Runway is that it's a developmental experience."
-Eddie.  Likes Project Runway.

Merrell walks in with two guys.
"That better be your brother Mer-Mer or you're gonna be in trouble."
-Camaal.  Protective.

Me:  OK, add an osso bucco.
Eddie:  OK.  Two pork, two pasta, one fish.
Me:  No.  Two pork, fish, pasta, osso bucco.
Eddie:  OK.
Me:  Did I say pasta?
Eddie:  I think so.
Me:...
Eddie:  OK, so two pork, one osso, one fish, one pasta.
Me:  No asshole!  Two pastas!

Me:  Pick up galactic.  Light speed to the window.  Faster than twelve parsecs.
Maritess:  What?
Me:  You know.  Twelve parsecs.  The Kessel Run.  Fast enough for you old man?
Maritess:  What is that?
Me:  Star Wars dude! 
Maritess:  Which movie?
Me:  A New Hope!  When Obi Wan Kenobi meets Han Solo in the cantina?  Obi Wan asks if the Millenium Falcon is fast, and Han Solo says it made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, fast enough for you old man? 
Maritess:...
Me:  Bullseyeing wamp rats in my T-16 back home?
Maritess:...(laughs)
Me:  Arrgh.

"Ill tell you what though.  C&C Music Factory had some kick ass music video's."
-Ponder.  Likes early 90's music videos.

Me:  Eddie, if my dick were made of cheerios, would you pour milk all over it and eat it with a spoon?
Eddie:  Are strawberries involved?
Me:  Absolutely.
Eddie.  Then yes.

Me:  38% said yes, 22% were undecided, and 40% said no.
Goose:  What about the other 10%?
Me:  38 plus 22 is 60.
Goose:  You see?  I didn't do that good in school.
MeWell in school.

"If I have my dick punched through with a metal rod, i'm not gonna make it into work."
-Eddie.  Getting pierced.

Me:  Eddie, wanna get a tattoo?
Eddie:  No.
Camaal:  A butterfly on your ass?

Goose:  Hey dude, can I sing?
Me:  No.
Goose:  Can I sing R. Kelly?
Me:  No.  I will fucking stab you.
Eddie:  Whatta you got against a little bump and grind?

Me:  You wanna be my agent?  I'll give you 2% of whatever I get.
Corey:  Word.  I'll do that shit for free.
Me:  O.K.  You're doing it for free.  It's a deal.
Corey:  No dude!  2%!  I need to buy baby shoes.

Me:  You see Maritess, I spent extra time this week making hypertext links so everything would be extra relevant, and I dont think anyone clicked on them. 
Maritess:  I did!  I clicked on all of them!
Me:  Even shark vagina?
Maritess:  Yes!
Eddie:  I didn't click on shark vagina.  I was there.

Me:  Right Gerardo?  Mer-mer should just bone down nasty style and get it over with.
Gerardo:  I like to use the word raunchy.


from top:  paris, i heart dc, saba glazed cipollini, beautiful black cod, snickers, tattoo, sardines, construction, divis couture, look closely


Podcast 2.4 - Tablehopper. Marcia Gagliardi

The best podcasts we do are the ones where almost nothing is planned, everyone loses track of time, and the conversation flows the whole time. This is certainly one of those podcasts. Marcia Gagliardi, (who writes Tablehopper) was our guest this time around. Also at the table was Eddie Lau (of Hot Food Porn) and Corey Nead. Marcia spoiled us with cheese, sparkling wine, and manhattans...and mixed the drinks out of her very awesome vintage executair traveling bar.

intro music is Award Tour by A Tribe Called Quest

1:27 - Smallpenises.com
8:18 - An unusual amount of time spent on love parade
9:54 - Do you think we could?
12:20 - What's your favorite place to drink a Manhattan?
14:23 - Inspiration from the internet?
22:18 - Bustling.
23:00 - What food media do ya'll consume?
27:32 - Chefs who go the TV route.
29:50 - What's your path Richie?
33:12 - Corey's path.
34:28 - Eddie's path.
36:06 - Is that like my ass?
41:28 - Top 3 cookbooks.
1:02:00 - The female chef thing.

10.06.2009

The end of the culinary world as you know it.

The world is ending.  Restaurants are closing, chefs are without jobs, and Gourmet will soon be no more.  The food world at large is being dominated by a handful of cooking based reality shows and a million terrible recipe and food blogs.  Trends are turning over so quickly that even your Mom has a calcium chloride/sodium alginate set up, right next to her bread maker and pizza stone.  Things have regressed so far that opening a restaurant seems like suicide.  Let's just open a quesadilla food cart instead! 

Well, I say bullshit to all this doom and gloom.  You realize what's about to happen, right?  You can see what's around to corner, can't you?

Here, in San Francisco, there is a group of chefs that are rightly considered to be at the top of their gameThey're all in the same age group, they all came up paying their dues, and they're all brilliant at their craft.  They're who you want to work for in this town.  When you see them get together, it's like a meeting of the illuminati.  They are the chefs that will be cited as the dominant influences for the next generation.  And that next generation is about to come into its own.  Right now we are standing on the edge of a whole new era of chefs.  Young cooks, that came up through less traditional avenues than our predecessors.  Cooks that are embracing traditional and boundry pushing techniques--often on the same plate.  It's happening already.  Chefs like Charlie Kleinman, Ryan Farr, Brandon Jew, Thomas McNaughton, Chad Newton, Ian Begg, Justin Simoneaux, James Syhabout, Ron Pei and Luis Villavilazquez are all young, driven, and quickly making a name for themselves citywide.  And beyond the traditional kitchen format there are chefs like Anthony Myint and Josh Skenes that aren't just cooking good food, but are challenging the idea of what a restaurant is in the first place.  Add in a crop of hungry and talented sous chefs (Brett Cooper of Coi, Alejandro Rodriguez of Nopa) and I just cant see how an eater wouldn't be foaming at the mouth for what's coming.

Think about it like this:  No era of chefs has ever had access to the quality and variety of farm fresh ingredients that this group does.  No era of chefs is as closely tied to organics and sustainability.  No era of chefs has had their worlds brought closer by means of the internet and social networking like this group does.  And no era of chefs has had such a rabid audience for the next big thing, and the next big chef.  And come to think of it, few eras of chefs care as little about celebrity as this group does.  It's an interesting dynamic; cooks that have seen the cost of selling out, television, and cooking for awards and not for guests.  These next chefs run their kitchens with humility and dignity, and they don't forget the whole point--that cooking is just food, and its supposed to be fun.

I think the most exciting thing is to look forward.  5 years, 10 years, 15 years...where is this new class of chefs going to lead the San Francisco culinary scene?  What will be their impact on the next group of cooks coming up under them?  Who is going to end up running a 4 star kitchen...and who is going to open a quiet neighborhood spot?  The culinary world is not ending.  The future is bright, and we all get to be a part of it.

notes:


quotes and conversations.

"I love you Mer-mer.  I'm going to make you the happiest woman in the world."
-Camaal

Me:  We're on orange alert?
Nick:  Yeah.
Me:  Yeah dude!  That's my favorite alert!  It's one alert away from code red.
Dega:  Which one is Amber alert.
Me:  Amber alert is a kidnapped child.

A tall, cute girl walks by.
Camaal:  Why not.
Paulie:  Because she's twice your size?
Camaal:  So?  Danny is twice my size.
Paulie:  ?....

Goose:  Never suck dick for crack.
Me:  That's good advice.
Ponder.  I have par cooked risotto stuck in my teeth.
Me:  I don't even think we're listening to each other anymore.

EddieWhy did you tell an entire week in October to fuck off?
(3 hours pass)
Goose:  Hey dude, I just wanted you to know that when you told this week to fuck off, you put it for next month. 
Me:  Yeah, that's part of this week sucking.

Me:  I don't think you can base an entire film on an unlikeable character.
Amy:  But it's been done.
Me:  Yeah, in the Phantom Menace with that little kid.
Corey:  I got your phantom menace right here.

Amy:  When you told Brooke about millennial values, did you use your nerd voice?
Me:  No, I used my CNN voice, pented my fingers, and used air quotes.
Amy:  Nice.

Rachel:  You should get Corey to run with you.
Me:  I don't think that's gonna happen.  Corey's gotta stop eating melted brie on triscuits first. 
Corey:  It's baguette ends.  Triscuits are for sliced cheddar.

Merrell is plating, and she's short on a set.
Eddie:  Did I fuck you?
Merrell:  Don't say that Eddie.  It's weird.

Me:  Fire two families.
Goose:  Hey dude, there better not be more than six families left cuz I ain't got more than that.  So if they're tryin' to get me, they're gonna be out of luck cuz I only prepped for..
Me:  FIRETWOFAMILIES!!!!
Goose:  Yes.

Me:  What about you Goose?  Would you pay to see nude pictures of me on the internet?
Goose:  Well, I guess if you were tryin to raise money or something.

Eddie:  Guess what I made yesterday?  Fish and chips.  Only I didn't have potatoes, so I made onion rings instead.
Me:  Wow, that's extra un-healthy.
Eddie:  And that was for breakfast!

Eddie:  I'm going to Sonoma at the end of the month.  The Rancho Gordo outlet store is there, and they have t-shirts.  I'm gonnna get one.
Me:  That's very geeky of you.
Eddie:  I like beans.  They're delicious, and economical...
Me:  You're still talking about beans.

Corey:  Mer-mer, your balls taste good in my mouth.
Merrell:  Thanks Corey.
Me:  Weird, Matty told her the same thing last night.

Me:  OK Gerardo.  If you could bone down with a really hot girl, but she had a robot vagina, would you do it?
Gerardo:  I don't know what that would feel like.
Ponder:  Trick question!  That would be the end of the world.  That's cylon vagina.
Me:  OK.  Same question, but this time it's shark vagina.
Gerardo:...
Eddie:  Trick question!  Sharks don't have vaginas!
Gerardo:...



from top: dega's text, cipollini eyes, burnt bacon, corey and goose, superglue, baby snails, you touch your dick, a brand new vitaprep

10.05.2009

Podcast 2.3 - Hot Food Porn meets Porn - Eddie vs Violet

Well, i've never recorded a disclaimer for my podcast, but I suppose it was only a matter of time. This is certainly something different for us--a podcast centered around sex, and it's relation to food. There is little talk of restaurants, or professional cooking. But what you lose there you make up for in fun, interesting content. So dont be a prude. Give it a listen. Intro Music is I Was A Lover by TV On the Radio

2:42 – Handjobs. Enough said.

4:32 – Twitter questions

12:45 – What is a lifetime supply of KY?

16:22 – You are a pervert

22:54 – Hanky Codes

31:40 – March 14th

41:22 – No titties?

46:45 – That’s gonna be an interesting dish.

58:00 – Eater National