It's all around you.  You feel it when you start getting slammed on a Saturday night.  You feel it when your chef asks you to make a special for tonight's menu.  You feel it when that cute bartender sits down with you to eat family meal.  It's powerful enough to make you completely lose focus.  It makes you slow down, like your muscles are fatigued.  And the worst part about it?  It happens to everyone--especially cooks trying to move up in the kitchen.  And it's all in your head.

Self-doubt.  Insecurity.  A feeling that you're not good enough, not smart enough.  When was the last time you felt it?  Sometimes it shows itself for a good reason.  You made a bad choice, or took a risk that backfired, and second guessed yourself.  Other times it shows itself when you've been killing it on your station all night long and your chef is so pleased with you that he asks you to make something 'special' for that 4 star chef that just sat down at the counter.  It's unpredictable.  For me, being lucky enough to work amidst highly talented cooks during my career has often been enough to make the doubt creep in.  "Am I good enough to work here?  Is my technique adequateDid I make a mistake becoming a cook?  Can I really hack it?"

Doubt plagues cooks and chefs on every level.  Speaking to a chef that I greatly admire about a night where he served a group of chefs that he greatly admired, he said "Well, I hope they liked it."  Seeing as how this chef has four stars, I can only imagine that they did.  To an extent a little nervous energy is a good thing...it keeps you on your toes.  But when it starts to boil over it can lead to you losing your temper, shutting down, or letting service slip away from you.

So lets make a resolution--right now.  Lets resolve to stop listening to the static and bullshit and let ourselves feel confident.  Collectively, lets stop worrying so much about pleasing everyone, and just focus on what we know makes our guests happy.  Let's take risks.  Ignore the voices in your head.  Let yourself feel confident, and dont worry about being cocky.  (you know the difference)  Let yourself move forward in 2009--no excuses, and no holding (yourself) back.

  • eating organically then not eating organically will make you feel sick as hell
  • funkytown when you're medium sick is kinda fun.  funkytown when you're full blown sick is horrible.
  • the trojan vibrator commercial with the old lady is kinda gross.
  • i keep telling myself not to have another piece of bacon, but I just cant stop.
  • happy new years everyone!

corey quotes to close out 2008
  • "Hey dude, roll over on your stomach.  I wanna show you something."
  • "I knew this chick that used to wear old spice."

kozy lounging, the big fat duck cookbook, we'll miss you Nick, red bull and cola?  ew.



Not much to say today, but Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and thanks again for reading.  Just some notes, Corey quotes, and pictures today.

  • Reason # 7 that hot girl in the dining room is crazy?  She's always alone.
  • Re-watching Six Feet Under is considerably less depressing than it was the first time.
  • Luis, we're not laughing at you.  We're cheering you on.
  • Rabbit snack this week:  my new shoes.
  • I could not have lived without these things this year:  iphone, moleskine notebook, blue bottle coffee, anchor steam beer, delfina pizza, nopa sweatshirt, the wife.
  • Speaking of the iphone, these apps are getting a serious workout:  calculator, converter, remote, mobile fotos, twitterriffic.
  • After meeting Corey's Mom, I know where he gets his sense of humor from. 
  • Not working on Christmas eve is pretty nice.

corey mania
  • "I stab myself."
  • "What's up girlfriend?  You wanna make three bucks the hard way?"
  • "Can I take your phone in the bathroom?"
  • "I want you to hold me down, choke me, and spit in my mouth.  And I want you to say 'this is how the mommy birdie feeds the baby birdie.'"

from top:  dish pit decorations, amy's holiday spread, czech fernet, um...thanks?, leonard's bourbon, jamie's christmas card, baked pasta, dinner, mushrooms en papillote from brandon, nopalito brunch at nopa, jamie looks astonishingly like clive owen, corey toasts, michelle lucha libre, the 'big dinner', al ready to wrestle, goldschlager...all bad, christmas eve gibraltar, linden graff, sky, in the east bay christmas eve.


pastry days.

It's 6:30am, and im standing in a cold, tiny kitchen. The hoods are off and the stoves are empty. The only sound I can hear is the hum of the refrigeration. I'm all alone, and this is a problem. You see, a week earlier, after a night of getting thrashed on sautee, I overheard my chef telling the sous that he needed a pastry production cook. My standing with my chef wasn't exactly good at this time; the previous night I asked the sous why I hadn't been fired yet, and his response was something like, "Well, it's hard to fire a guy that shows up on time and tries hard." It's not like my pastry skill set was strong or anything--but I needed a way to get off his radar while contributing to the restaurant. So I volunteered for the job. It meant early mornings, all alone, prepping desserts. How hard could it be?

Well, like I said, I was alone. The sous chef that was in charge of the pastry menu was supposed to be training me, but he was late.
I looked over our prep list: pate a choux, pastry cream, bread pudding, chocolate sauce, caramel, whipped cream, souffle batter, 3 cookie doughs, creme brulee, and cobbler or crisp. While I waited for my trainer to arrive I tried to situate myself. The pastry station was in the middle of the tiny kitchen, next to the dishwasher and ice machine. At best this space was an afterthought; to prep and run a service out of it seemed impossible. I pulled the recipe book and got to work. Cracking eggs, melting chocolate, cutting fruit, burning caramel sauce then starting it all over again...things were not going well. I started to notice I had a woeful problem with using a tablespoon when it supposed to have been a teaspoon, or baking powder when the recipe called for baking soda. By the time my trainer showed up I was no longer in the weeds--I was lost, deep in the woods. The lunch crew was trying to shoo me off the line so they could start service, and my jacket had so much chocolate on it that you would think I was wearing a smok. I rushed while tempering my creme anglaise and it turned to scrambled eggs, right there before my eyes. It seemed like I was adding more items to my prep list than crossing off. My time management, to put it mildly, was very poor.

Eventually I started to settle into a routine. It helped not really knowing anyone that worked in the morning, as there were no distractions. I would go in and bang out the biggest projects first; bread pudding soaking while chocolate is melting, crack eggs for bread pudding and souffle at the same time, caramel cooking while stirring pate a choux. The other pastry cook had earned the nickname "Salty" after he mistook salt for sugar and ruined an entire batch of Scharffenberger souffle batter....so next to him I was starting to look good to my chef. My confidence rose a little bit, and when chef fired the grill cook mid-shift, he barked at me to take his place on the line. Three weeks later, I was back on sautee, only helping pastry one morning a week.

Pastry is one aspect of cooking that most hot line cooks will tell you strikes fear deep in their hearts. It's precise and difficult and completely unforgiving. It means early mornings, little to no help on prep, and a constant fight for space on the stoves. It also means a strong lesson in efficency, humility, and cooking delicately. After working pastry your approach to everything from mise to plating changes. Your palate adjusts to appreciate not just taste, but texture. And in the end you are a stronger, more competant and confident cook...as long as you've been minding the salt.

if you were an exotic fruit, what kind of exotic fruit would you be?

paul - passion fruit. obviously
ponder - mango. ripe.
al - dragon fruit.
nick - durian.
me - star fruit.

  • "So, no balls?" -Eddie, wondering if we needed an order of salt cod fritters.
  • "My cat took a dump on my clothes last night." -Corey
  • "New record last night, 4 covers! Pretty fucking pathetic" -text, from Joey.
  • "The only way i'm doing it is if I go on national tv and Ronald McDonald gives me a blowjob." -Corey, on what it would take for him to sell out to McDonalds.
  • "And he should be wearing a shirt that says 'im lovin' it.'" -Corey
  • "Sometimes I stand in my doorway naked wearing an easter bunny mask." -more Corey
  • "If I ever get in a room with Tyra Banks, I will kill that bitch." -even more Corey
  • "It'd be fun to slap Tina Turner." -Nick, when asked if he would rather be on a pairs ice skating team with Bjork or Tina Turner
  • "If he were younger and single, he's the kind of guy I might go out with." -Kim Keme, who disputes Corey's low standing with the ladies.

  • Thank you to the buzz blogger team for giving me blog of note this week. That shit was bananas...visitors from all over the world, in very large numbers. (6000 hits in two days!!) To everyone that commented and started following this blog (up from 32 to over 160 now...) thank you very much. Sometimes i'm still baffled that folks read this at all.
  • I also got linked on Michael Laiskonis's blog--the pastry chef from Le Bernadin. He's a chef I really admire, so this was pretty damn exciting. He's also an exceptional writer.
  • My head was in 7x7 magazine. Seriously, just my head.
  • Blue Bottle coffee + bacon + glazed pork belly + donuts = chest pain.
  • The more I talk to Justin Simoneaux, the more I think he's a cool ass mother fucker. The same goes for Brett at Coi, and Luis from Orson.
  • This photostream has a really funny picture of Thomas Keller and Corey Lee playing on their iphones.
  • The Dark Knight on blu-ray was awesome.
  • Pork Belly "porchetta" at coco500. One of the best pork dishes i've tasted in a long time.
  • I wore my new jeans once, then my rabbit chewed a hole in them.

from top: cara-cara's, hey hey hey!, mongoose, the view from here, black cod, citrus party, amy, donuts, pork belly, risotto, blogs of note, a gift from Tiffany (top chef season 1) and the hail storm.



Corey does 78 burgers.  New record.

The Enemy.

There are those nights where it's all clicking, and it all feels good. No one is in a bad mood, the food looks and tastes great, and the food is going out so quickly that you have extra time to work on projects and get ahead on the next days prep. Then Randy, the burnout server that has body odor and keeps forgetting to mention the fish special comes up to the pass and this happens:

Randy: This pasta was supposed to be a duck.
Expo: A duck?
Randy: Yeah, I swear that asshole said pasta.
Expo: Fire duck, on the fly. It's gonna be a minute.
Randy: Yeah, sorry.

Forty-five minutes go by. It was annoying enough having to drop everything to fly his duck out, but now the rhythm is back. Until:

Randy: I need you to hold desserts on table thirty.
Expo: What? Why? That souffle is coming out in two minutes.
Randy: They're still eating their mains.
Expo: You rang in that souffle almost thirty minutes ago.
Randy: Well they're eating slowly.
Expo: Hold that fucking souffle!
Pastry Cook: Hold it?
Grill Cook: I fucking hate Randy.
Sautee Cook: Yeah, and he fuckin stinks too.

Then the real trouble starts. The Expo, in the fog of rage does this:

Expo: Fuck him. Put that ticket in the back of the slide. He can wait.

You see, the thing is that when you punish a server for making a mistake, you punish the guest. Every cook has a story about a chef or cook that would do this. Tickets get pushed back, or the food is cooked without care--all in the name of hurting the server. The thing is, whether the server is having an off night, or if they're just a shithead, it doesnt matter. The job of the cook is to please the guest--to give them an extrordinary experience. Petty grudges can't get in the way of this. Sure, you can talk shit over a beer with the boys after service, but you have to stay focused on the dining room during service. The truth is, you and that server are tied together--without each other, you are both diminished. Think about this during your next service. FOH is not the enemy. They are on your side--despite any obnoxious tickets or bad timing. And in the rare instance that they're not on your side, you still have an obligation to the guests. After all, they do fund your paychecks...

  • Seven days in a row feels strange. By day five you're tired. Midway through day six you get a strong second wind. On day seven your cold has gotten so bad that you take sudafed and go to funkytown.
  • A tip to folks that want to talk to Alejandro: He speaks English.
  • The ladies love these cooks: Mongoose, Paul, Nick. Not Corey.
  • Your motivation can't come from an energy drink.
  • Please don't mistake me trying to focus with me being angry with you.
  • My rabbit enjoys sitting on her log, laying in front of the heater, and chewing wires.
  • Watchmen. I don't see how the movie can work.
  • Talking to Daniel Patterson about food is pretty cool.
  • The Ting Tings live is kinda cool. On cd they suck ass.
  • Ponder tied the burger record. Atta boy.
  • This blog is going to be updating on Fridays or Saturdays instead of Thursdays. Just a heads up.

conversations and quotes.

Corey: Paulie, the secret word for when you need help is anchovy in my pants.
Paul: How about get the fuck over here Corey?
Corey: I like anchovy in my pants better. Less swear words.

Me: If you want to re-negotiate the terms of your pancetta contract, you better call your lawyer.
Amy: My pancetta lawyer? You mean Porky Goodman?

  • "Dont kick a pint container." -Ponder
  • "You wanna smell my downstairs beard?" -Corey
  • "You want a tubesteak smothered in underwear?" -Corey
  • "Dont you guys read anything other than Maxim?" -Me

From top: Corey's new bandana, Corey's merguez, Ponder doing chickens at 1:35am, Riley and Chef, cabbage, another of Nicks lists, perfect carrots, salt cod, Nick and Corey, guanciale and salt cod, cutting a burger 4 ways (fuckers), nopalito salsas, a cookie from Luis @ Orson, cold medicine, ass, Singapore TV, the burger record countdown, Ponder waits, more burgers, menu writing, short ribs, duck pasta, and sturgeon.