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?

  • 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."

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."

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?"

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?


Podcast 2.6 - What is progressive?

What is progressive in terms of cooking?  Is it molecular?  Is it looking back to move forward?  Is it a bong full of whiskey?  This was our topic on this podcast, which was graciously hosted by Eddie Lau. (hotfoodporn.com) Amy Brown was there, as well as Katrina Dixon. (@ramekinparty)  There was food, and booze, and laughs.  Things were pretty loose for, oh, 15 minutes or so...but its all entertainment.  Enjoy. 

If you want to play our drinking game, take a sip every time you hear the word "progressive."  You will probably black out.

Opening music is Mullet Head by The Beastie Boys

00:30 - Our worst intro ever.
2:43 - Eddie's fortress of solitude.
4:11 - Why are you making me look dumb in front of our friends?
5:15 - Bong sounds.
6:30 - You guys are making my first time really nice.
7:25 - Alright we're at 7 minutes, and...
8:50 - Well, i've never worked in an office, so...
11:34 - No dude.  Im protesting.
14:23 - Annnnd finally onto topic.  David Chang/Chris Cosentino/Chris Kostow 7x7 Panel
17:55 - Oh wow, we've got a subject!  What the fuck is progressive?
23:47 - And they're probably girls.
25:33 - The asparagus problem.
30:00 - We had to bring up Achatz.
33:45 - What's not progressive?
42:58 - I don't like looking at cookbooks...
44:30 - If you take a drink every time you hear the word progressive...
47:06 - Second devil's advocate of this podcast...
56:03 - Why would you buy the cookbook if not to cook out of it?
1:00:50 - Michael Ruhlman is a bad ass.
1:06:14 - I was typing angrily.


Podcast 2.5 - Jon Bonne and Kevin Kelley. Wine!

We've only done a couple of off site podcasts, but this was the first time we left the 415 altogether.  Amy and I had an interesting drive up to Santa Rosa, where we hung out at Salinia with wine maker Kevin Kelley and wine writer Jon Bonne. 

There is an absurd amount of information crammed into this podcast...If you cook, and you feel like you dont understand wine as much you would like, this might help.  And of course, we cap it off with plenty of sillyness at the end.

Opening music is "Damaged Goods" by Gang of Four.

2:45 - We're not talking wine...I don't know if there's any wine on this table.
4:20 - I just shot it.
10:55 - It's similar to cooking....
17:30 - If I made the same wine year after year...
19:32 - This is hurting the case for the Nopa frozen food line.
22:29 - So we won't see your wine in Vegas anytime soon?
27:42 - The case for whole clusters.
35:33 - Most of them are under twenty dollars a bottle...
42:42 - What Wolfgang Weber does at restaurants to get a great bottle of wine
46:15 - Jon's favorite wine varietals and regions
49:45 - It's easy to blow off a category of wine, but...
57:20 - What restaurants do you go to for interesting wine?
1:00:00 - Enough wine...
1:10:21 - Are we in the 707? 
1:14:40 - I feel uncomfortable where this conversation is going...
1:18:56 - Calling Corey.


Being present.

Your girlfriend broke up with you.  Your dog died.  Rent is late.  Your car broke down.  Your roof is leaking, and you're so broke that you cant wash your work clothes.  Everything is fucked.  You're completely overwhelmed and miserable, and now you have to catch the bus to work.

Everyone has been there.  Life gets so complicated and messy that spending twelve hours in a kitchen seems impossible...and it's only your Monday.  You walk around in a haze of distraction, barely present.  In the middle of a pick-up, the meat cook nudges up to you and taps you on the shoulder.

"Hey dude.  You gonna plate that risotto?"

They say to leave all of your problems at the door when you come into work.  Be present and aware, every day.  Just cook, and you get to forget about everything.  And to a certain extent, I agree with all of this.  The problem with this approach is that every cook handles their problems differently.  Rudy might get drunk before he comes in.  Leslie will slam her oven and refrigerator doors all night.  Doug will try to laugh it all off, barely containing his misery, and David just might break down and cry around the time the second turn is sitting down.  It's a funny thing to be asked create such highs for others while feeling so fucking low.  You're not a robot.  So I say take a different approach.

Dont ignore it, embrace it.  Let it feed you.  Immerse yourself in it.  Let every single bit of whats on your mind seep in and consume you, to the point where you feel like you cant take it anymore, then go cook.  It will be horrible at first.  You'll feel overwhelmed, slow, and you'll barely be able to tell the difference between your spoons and knives.  You can handle it though;  You barely even notice when you cut and burn yourself anymore.  A little bit of adversity isnt going to kill you either.  As you go on, you'll start to have a little bit of clarity.  The intensity of your problem, coupled with the intensity of cooking, will help you to see things for how they really are.  Then suddenly you'll feel that lightness return to your step, and your focus will shift.  Your problems haven't actually gone away, but you're at least starting to feel better about them.

Cooking is a place to find peace.  In all of the chaos and noise, a good cook is quiet, with their head down.  Their distractions become part of their focus.  Dealing with these problems on the line, instead of shutting off, or repressing, or simply trying to distract oneself can contribute to a stronger, more focused cook.  Sometimes making things really hard is the best way to move forward.

  • when you see us high-fiving, we're not congratulating each other, we're making fun of Marina guys.
  • there are no death traps in our kitchen
  • when asked to choose between david chang and chez pim, i'm going to choose the former.
  • if you get a number, you buy beers.  that's the rule.
  • hypothetical thursdays.  there are some very strange scenarios that come up

quotes and conversations.

"I gotta admit.  I miss the Dick."
-Ponder.  Was missing Eddie.

"Yeah dude.  I like sardines.  They're quick.  Like my lovemaking."

Corey:  Yeah dude!  Get in the fuckin' matrix!
Me:  You want some trance music to get you in the matrix mood?  You've already got the green bandanna on.
Corey:  Hey dude, you used to like house music, and my bandanna's the same color as the matrix.
Me:  I just said that.
Corey:  Really?

Me:  So it's about this aspiring singer and neurotic comedy writer.  Annie Hall.  If she likes it, marry her.
Corey:  And if she likes Best From Behind 2, marry her.
Me:  Best From Behind?
Corey:  Yeah.
Me:  The porno you found at your Grandma's house?
Corey:  Yeah.

"Hey dude.  She wants to pound your masa.  Organically."

Gerardo:  Hey Richie?
Me:  Hey Gerardo.  (pause)  I'm listening.  (pause)  Go ahead.  (pause)  WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?
Gerardo:  Have you ever boned down in a walk-in?
Me:  That's kinda a cold place to whip out your dick, don't you think?  You're supposed to bone down in dry storage on bags of flour, or on the linen.
Gerardo:  How about the freezer?

"My name's Corey, not asshole.  Thank you."

Me:  OK.  Anything with four legs you have three of.  Anything with feathers or scales you have two of.  Anything made of dough you have one of. 
Eddie:  OK.
Camaal:  I have three legs pito.

Me:  Check out Tony Soprano and his harem of Jersey bitches.
Eddie:  Heh.  You said Jersey bitches.

Me:  What's that smell?  Is it the escarole?
Eddie:  No, it's the cheese.  It smells like noonie.

Me:  Eight out.
Eddie:  Eight out.
Me:  Who's getting ate out?
Eddie:  You just said eight out.
Me:  Who's getting ate out?
Eddie:  You...ahh.  Clever word play like that is going to send you right up Technorati.
Me:  Technorati?  Does that website even exist anymore?
Eddie:  I don't think so.  I think I just dated myself.

"Nah, i'm serious.  I have pictures of it.  I was pettin' a goat!"

Me:  He looks like an evil televangelist.
Paulie:  (laughs) Is there such a thing as a good televangelist?
Me:  No.  But I mean evil like the televangelist in the movie Dragnet.

from top:  bistecca alla fiorentina, dario ceccini, corey and al, mer-mer, may the tortas be with you, asshole, oh paulie, ?, damage, pasta, duck