August 30, 2005

a little survey

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August 24, 2005

Ha! and yet, one of the final paragraphs, with the quotes, struck a chord with me: Chefs view themselves as "bringing quality to life," and treat the profession as seriously as any corporate job. Being surrounded by the "beauty and the sensuality" of the food is "what every chef lives for" and why most of them would not dream of another profession. "For most of us, we have no other choice in life."

August 22, 2005

There's too much to know!

One thing that's strange about being a chef is that everyone knows quite a bit about food. Everyone has their favorite foods, their favorite recipes, maybe even a special technique for making something. Besides that, everyone eats, every day!

I went to school for this, so I guess people expect me to know everything about food. Ingredients, techniques, origins, and methods. While I do admit I probably know more about food than most people, I don't know everything. You can be sure that I'll look it up the minute I get back to my cookbooks or get a hold of a computer, but geez, people, can you imagine what life would be like if people quizzed you about your field of expertise all the time? You can't always just give them a straight answer, you've got to research a bit.
     Hey, you're a lawyer, [something] happened to me, will I win if I sue?
     Hey, you're a judge, do I have a chance if I fight this ticket?"
     Hey, you're an architect, will this blueprint get approved by the city?"
   ...or my favorite cliché:
     Hey, doc, why does it hurt when I do "this"?

Of course, the correct (although somewhat snotty) response to any of the above is, "I would love to help you, but I don't know my schedule. Why don't you call my office and make an appointment, and I'll see what I can find out for you. My assistant will go over payment options when you call......" Ideally this is said in one breath, and finished with a huge smile.

The other night I was having dinner with friends, and there was a cheese-shaker jar full of a dark red-brown substance.
My friend asked me what it was. I told her "sumac".
She asked what it tastes like. I told her "it's sour".
She asked what you put it on, I said "anything you'd like to taste a little more sour; it's like adding salt".
She asked where it comes from. and I said "it's common in persian, lebanese, and other middle-east cuisines"
she said. "No, I mean, is it bark, or leaves, or fruit...."
      and I lauged and said, "Gosh, I don't know. Does that mean I get a B- on your little quiz?"

She finally stopped the interrogation....but I think she got the point. Anyway, here comes the science.

Oh, and my other non-favorite thing people ask when I'm eating with them, usually at fine restaurants, is "Can you make this?" The short answer is "yes, of course!" but the long, and more accurate answer, is "Yes, if I had these ingredients, all the accoutrements of a commercial kitchen, an entire day to make it, and a staff of assistants to peel, chop, blanch, puree and mince... of course I can make this!"

Last thing I ate or drank: toasted home-made cinnamon bread and, of course, a latte

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August 21, 2005

testing, 1,2,3...

sorry this is a test, please disregard!

August 20, 2005

people who didn't get the memo.

Everyone has been asking me for beef and pork.
Everyone has been asking me for Italian food, especially pasta.
Everyone has been asking me for rich, chocolate desserts.

Come on, now! This is L.A. people! Don't you read the magazines? The rest of the world doesn't believe you eat pasta and red meat!

Eat brown rice and tofu, with a side of raw veggies like you're supposed to!

Last thing I ate or drank: I'm about to make some tabbouleh for dinner. Completely raw ingredients: cracked wheat, olive oil, tomato, cucumber, parsley, herbs, fresh lemon juice. Someone's got to set an example!

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August 18, 2005

Recipe request

Hi, everyone. I have a sort of a weirdo request. I need a recipe for Shoo-Fly Pie. I want to bring it as a gift to a client who deserves a pie. He mentioned in passing that he missed home cooking, and that was one of the things he included in his list of things you can't find around here in Los Angeles.

Not exactly what they teach you in culinary school, I'm afraid. My Chef-Instructor, a venerable god of a pastry chef, taught us how to do opera cake and napoleons and spectacular danish from pastry we made from scratch. But no shoo-fly pie. I know I could simply google a recipe, or try to find it on any of the plethora of recipe sites, but... well.... know how you can look at a recipe and think, "uh, no. i think something's not quite right with that one..." well, I've never SEEN shoo-fly pie, I've never TASTED shoo-fly pie, and I certainly have never MADE a shoo-fly pie, so I have no frame of reference. All I know is that it's sweet as all get out, and made with sugar and corn syrup (and sometimes molasses? maybe?) It's been described to me as "pecan pie without the pecans", in other words, just the sweet sticky goo. (ack!)

Anyway, that's what he wants, so that's what I'd like to make for him. Do any of you readers have a "tried and true" recipe for Shoo-Fly Pie? I'm not asking for you to divulge your grandmother's handed-down recipe, but if you can tell me if the recipes I linked to seem good (they're pretty close!) I'd appreciate it very much. If you want to send me one by e-mail, I promise I won't post it or publish it or share it in any way besides making it for this one guy.

Last thing I ate or drank: a glass of viogner. overpoured, thank you very much!

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August 15, 2005

lots to tell, too much to do

OH, my friends, I'm so sorry I haven't posted. I hadn't had a day off in about 10 days, and I probably won't get one for another 5 or so...

I keep doing my usual Personal Chef sessions, plus I had a big party in Malibu, 75 guests for a company "barbecue" at the home of the president and his wife.

On Monday, I was trolling the CraigsList ads over breakfast, and one of them caught my eye. I googled the fax number, and found out that the restaurant was a place of some significance. I sent in my resume, and got a call that afternoon! I had an interview at this guy's restaurant! And he liked me! I wanted to work part-time, on-call, but it turns out he only wanted a full-time, six-nights-a-week line cook. Sorry, no. I was so flattered, but I knew that there is so much stuff already booked in my calendar, I couldn't commit to a real job with him. But I've offered to go there every night I'm free if he'd let me, maybe teach me some things, and he said yes! KICK ASS! He does such beautiful work and his food is so yummy. Every time he'd make something on the line, he'd pass the pan over the "island" for one of us lackeys to take to the sink. All us lackeys had spoons, and were encouraged to taste the sauces from the food. OMG, I had to hold back from physically licking the pan. One of the trainees put the wrong foam on the minestrone, and of course, it couldn't be sent out to the dining room like that, so we, uh, ate the evidence. The most delicious crime I've committed. I would be happy to become a recidivist, if that guy keeps making mistakes! I did more than just eat, tho. I skinned, seeded and julienned a 200 pan of roasted red pepper. I made 2 quart containers full of brunoise of idaho potato (a brunoise is smaller than 1/4" dice). I zested (with a peeler) about 25 limes, then chiffonade'd the zest, then sectioned out the little lime sections. Then I peeled about 2 quart containers worth of garlic cloves with a little paring knife, shredding my thumb in the process. Luckily, I did the limes BEFORE the garlic. I had a blast, and I can't wait to go back!!!

Well today was supposed to be the day "off" but I've been trying to do all the other stuff I've put off for those 10 days, and I'm not even 10% done with the crap I have to catch up on. And I promised friends they could come over tonight for drinks before we go out to dinner.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I've got two formal-seated dinners.
Thursday is a Personal Chef gig.
Friday I plan to work at the above-mentioned restaurant,
and Saturday is the Restaurant Expo at the Los Angeles convention center.

Perhaps on Sunday I'll rest.

Last thing I ate or drank: a little snack of candied ginger

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August 06, 2005

Google's recruiting for an Executive Chef...

My friend Ann sent me the following article:
Google in a Hungry Search for Executive Chefs
By Chris Gaither
Times Staff Writer

August 5, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO — Google Inc.'s stock is cooking, but the Internet giant is
having trouble in the kitchen.

Google on Thursday announced a global search for two executive chefs to
oversee preparation of the company's most celebrated employee perk: free
gourmet meals.

To help feed the rapidly growing company, Google advertised an opening in
December for a second lead chef to help Charlie Ayers, who formerly cooked
for the Grateful Dead. Then, in May, Ayers quit to start his own chain of
restaurants. Neither job has been filled.

"It's been a challenge to get someone who has the scale and quality" to live
up to the company's expectations, said Susan Wojcicki, a Google vice
president on the hiring committee.

The requirements: five or more years as a sous-chef and three years as an
executive chef. Must be able to cook for vegans and carnivores alike, and
use organic food whenever possible.

Wojcicki would not disclose the pay. "I'm sure it will be competitive, plus
all the Google benefits," she said, which include — along with the food, of
course — stock options, sports facilities, massage and yoga classes.

Google plans to invite the top applicants for a "cook-off," preparing meals
for several dozen members of a "tasting committee" that will probably
include co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

"You know when you meet the right person," said Wojcicki, who put Ayers
through the same paces in 1999, when the company had about 40 employees.
Today it has about 4,200.

Finding a chef with experience cooking for thousands of people isn't easy,
said Dawn Jantsch, managing director of the American Culinary Federation,
which represents nearly 19,000 chefs. Still, she has never heard of a
company issuing a news release and holding a cook-off to find a corporate chef.

"It almost sounds like a reality TV show," she said.
Even if I were qualified, I wouldn't go near that one... But thanks for sending the article, Ann!

Jobs like those can be a blessing or a curse:

blessing=trying to play around with food to get the best results when making large quantities and feeding many people in a buffet setting

curse=trying to do it under a certain budget. Perk or no perk, I can't imagine them giving carte blanche for food costs for free meals.

When you do huge numbers like that, you lose the ability to feed people food they enjoy; you're stuck making food that will hold up well at 145 degrees for long periods of time. And suddenly, diners find things on the buffet like green beans in the meat lasagna, or nameless soups made exclusively of veggies from yesterday's salad bar.

And the cook-off thing? It's good if it's done right. The staff will probably WANT to eat things like lasagna and chinese chicken salad and meatloaf and mac&cheese and chicken-mushroom pasta, so why have a cook-off where the chefs will do things like "poached skate in a green apple gastrique with pommes macaire", or " kobe beef burgers topped with confit of onion and manchego cheese, served on a brioche-style bun?"

Have them do mystery baskets. [1] That's a real challenge: Here's a chicken, some potatoes, some chard, a lemon, an apple, and a bunch of carrots. GO! Here's a chunk of tofu, a jar of peanut butter, some celery, pea pods, and some barley. GO! You've got to know how to work with food to make something special out of a mystery basket.

[1] For the competition each young chef is given a
mystery basket of food items. Using all of the mystery
basket ingredients and drawing from items in a
common pantry, the contestant must execute a 3
course meal for 4 people. Each contestant is given
30 minutes to write the menu then 3 hours to cook
the appetizer, entrée and dessert and another 30
minutes to serve. Dishes are judged on taste,
presentation and originality. The kitchen judge rates
the contestants on organization, sanitation, product
utilization, and proper cooking techniques.

Last thing I ate or drank: pizza from Dagwoods, the best pizza place in Santa Monica. They just remodeled, too, so they get even more appreciation from me.

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