September 30, 2005

I think this guy qualifies as an actual star!

I'm sorry I haven't posted lately, I've been so busy. I haven't even had time to invoice this past week's clients. But here I am, making a bit of time for the blog. This stuff is so cool that I don't think I'd even be able to make up stuff this cool!

Last night I fed my home-made lasagna and a caesar salad to this guy. He was a guest of this guy, who was hosting a little season premiere party at his house. Pretty cool.

Sunday, is the day that Bobby Flay's BBQ show is going to come and tape the doggy park fundraiser. I am nervous and excited, and oh yeah, totally nervous. I have got to go get a facial. And lose 25 lbs. And develop a fake british accent like Madonna. I already bought a green polo shirt (I'm not allowed to wear white or black on TV) so I can cross that off my to-do list, but I still have to sew my logo patch on the shirt!

Last thing I ate or drank: glass of orange juice. not so exciting, sorry.

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September 18, 2005

Trip to Chicago coming up...

...and I've got my restaurant wish-list lined up!

TRU, Tramonto and Gand
Topolobampo, Bayless
Alinea, Achatz

Grant Achatz is a protegé of Keller. He has also worked under Adriá of El Bullí. (or Señor Foam, as I refer to him. Affectionately, of course.)

I have worked at a place here in Los Angeles where the chef uses foams and emuslions and bakes eggshells in bread dough covered with ash to serve things in the shells. He serves things up on rocks and slate and in test tubes and candle holders. People go nuts over it.

In my little corner of the industry, though, I haven't had anyone ask for foams, gelées, emulsions, or other esoteric treatments. My creations are ususally eaten from plates, with forks. (oh the horror!)

People who hire me want real food, delicious food, good-sized portions, and things they recognize. Nobody's asked for young coconut shreds enveloped in a sheet of carrot gelée. I have fielded no requests for foie gras with broiled filet of peach in vanilla-chili sauce. The other day I made cookies with white chocolate chips and pink peppercorns and couldn't give them away. (they were delicious, really!) I have a hard time getting people to choose the more adventurous appetizers when I'm doing a cocktail party!

I try to put my passion into juicy roast chicken and creamy mashed potatoes and perfectly-cooked green beans... but then I have to explain that chicken that is wet-looking inside is not raw, it's MOIST. No, there is no wasabi or garlic in those potatoes, just a bit of butter and salt, like nature intended. And I'll toss those beans with a bit of salt & pepper and some really nice olive oil; they do not need anything else, they are perfect.

Then the other side of the coin - I get asked, "what do you do that is exciting with beef?" and my answer is "I will cook it perfectly over an open flame or on a grill-pan, maybe serve it with a compound butter...or sautéed mushrooms...what did you have in mind?" and they want wellingtons, they want sauces, they want something DONE to that hunk of beef, or else they don't feel like it's "special".

So you can't win for losing.

Find out what your client wants, and serve it up. Buy good ingredients. Charge a fair price. Wash your hands. Pay your workers. Wear good shoes. Be excellent to each other. It's a simple business, really.

I have a slight problem with the holier-than-thou attitudes of chefs who drop farmers' and ranchers' names on their menus. Do customers TRULY care if you use Niman pork? Will a customer actually notice if your raisins came from a private farm on the central coast or from Sysco?

After all, now you can buy Emeril-brand heirloom tomatoes at Ralphs! (They have no smell and little flavor, but oooh, the colors!)

Make the food with love, don't make love to the food.

I shop at the farmers markets whenever I can, and I admit to using a bit of gelatin here and there...I'd give culinary aromatherapy a shot if a client was into it, but I draw the line at feeding grown adults by hand because I want them to experience the bite as I intend for them to experience it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to Alinea in October! Just because my clients don't get off on weird experiential food doesn't mean I won't!

Last thing I ate or drank: a dish that has turned out to be an Enchilada-like concoction, but it wasn't baked. and I added rice. Kelly liked it a lot. Oh. then I ate peanut M&M's with my right hand, which I used to pull the ribs and seeds out of the chilis I used for dinner, and my mouth was all tingly from the peppers!. Pretty fun!

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September 17, 2005

More Gore

This nasty looking food was done intentionally! Eww!

Last thing I ate or drank: Litchi cookies from the 99 Ranch store.

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Use some good judgement, people!

Sometimes you should NOT take photos of your food.

red salad dressing is not an attractive thing. It looks kind of gory.

This is not my photo (god no!) but I'm not naming names, tho, to protect the victims of my harassment.

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September 12, 2005

food of the new millennium

Last night for dinner, I ate something I've never eaten before.

I had read about this product in Wired magazine more than a year ago, and wondered if it would ever make it to my grocery store shelf. Now, of course, when you think of food magazines, god save you if you consider Wired one of them, but this was the most appropriate venue for me to learn about this amazing new food product. It is truly space-age technology.

And i found it in the frozen food section at RALPHS, not Wholier-Than-Thou Foods, not some weird Santa Monica health food store... right there across the aisle from the corndogs and frozen White Castle burgers.

it looked like chicken
it tasted like chicken
it felt like chicken when you chewed it
It even smells wonderful!

but it was a completely non-animal product.

I brought out some barbecue sauce, some Kecap Manis, and was ready to bring out the arsenal of odd condiments i keep to give this stuff a flavor, if needed, to choke it down.

All it needed was a FORK. It was delicious.

While I was eating it, i was coming up with all kinds of recipes for how I could use it. Instead of chicken in a parmagiana sandwich. (tomato sauce, mozzerella, parmesan, over ciabatta) On a bun with a pickle, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Served with a mushroom-wine sauce over pasta. OMG my mind was racing.

Are you ready to hear what it is yet?

OH - wait, the best part, was that to make it, you take it straight of the freezer, put it on a paper towel in the microwave, and make it go for 60 seconds. POOF, it's food.

It's called QUORN. It's a mycoprotein. It's made from a type of mushroom. I only just discovered it for sale, but it's been on the market for a while. I just never saw any advertising for it so I never knew it was available here.

Seriously, you need to try this stuff. There is even a link on their website where you can find out where it's sold where you live. It's not THAT expensive, and it's really, really good for you. Try it. I'm sure you'll be as pleasantly surprised as i was!

Last thing I ate or drank: latte and home-made banana bread for breakfast.

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September 05, 2005

Your 3-day weekend...

is my busy, three-day workweek!

Saturday, I did a 6-course dinner for 6 guests at a fancy condo in Brentwood. I say a fancy condo because there was a valet who parked my car and a security guard who helped me bring in all my containers on one of those brass hotel cart thingies. and you couldn't just get in the elevator, the desk attendant had to let you in and activate your floor for you. Nice kitchen, great family. I worked all by myself for this one: I showed up at 2:30 and had the kitchen cleaned and was out of there by 9pm. I'm getting this whole in-home chef thing down to a science. Everything came off flawlessly, all the food was prepped and served on time, and I kept the kitchen presentably neat throughout the night. I'm really proud of myself. As I loaded out the last of my equipment, another security guard showed up to help me load out... and lo-and-behold, it was STEVE who was formerly a security guard at my culinary school! Imagine that! We gossiped a bit about some people we knew, and he asked me how business was going. I told him that I was really happy and having a lot of fun, I'm standing there with him, wearing my logo shirt, after cooking for people who he knows are pretty wealthy, and the valet came by with my truck, with the silver logos all over the sides, and Steve was pretty impressed. I felt a little embarassed, but hell, what could I do? When I got in the house at 9:30, the phone rang. It was the producer of a reality show that I'd been playing phone tag with for a couple days. Could I go over and cook for the cast tomorrow morning at 7am? Sure! a full, formal breakfast with less than 12 hours notice? After working all day? Bring it ON, baby. I eat some fast leftovers that Kelly had reheated and I get back in the car, with Kelly, to go to the grocery store. Get in at 11, spend an hour fussing over lists and menus and such, and force myself to bed.

Sunday After not being able to sleep all night worrying about how everything would go, I forced myself out of bed (why are you always suddenly comatose at 5am when you have to be up at 5:30?) and finished the last minute loading of my truck. I went over all my lists to make sure that I had everything, and showed up at the mansion right on schedule. I signed a big fat NDA so that means I can't tell you anything good or else they can sue me for two million dollars (!) so I will just tell you that everything went great, smoothly, perfectly, they liked me, I liked them, everyone was so super nice, and I really had fun with the experience. They did a quicky little interview with me with the cast in the background, and so I will probably get some real airtime. And they filmed me driving away in my truck! (Uh-oh, will they blur the phone number? I hope!!) I was high all day thinking about how cool it was. Kelly came with me, and he was going to be my assistant, but they kept him in the control room the whole time, so he got to watch the whole thing. Just before the food was to be served, I got a migrane from the lack of coffee and the lack of sleep and OD of nervous energy, to the point where I started feeling pukey, but I tried hard to choke it down and soldier on. Kelly said he didn't even notice. Thank god, because when the adrenaline finally wore off, driving home, I was sure I'd have to make him pull over. So the show is supposed to be aired late next spring or early summer. <rolleyes> I'm sure that my own reality show is right around the corner... </rolleyes> No autographs, please. thfbbbbt!

Monday Speaking of reality, I'll be cooking for the new clients again. Big batches of simple food, cooked in their lovely kitchen. I adore that kitchen, you can have one hand on the huge viking stovetop and another on the enormous sink with one of those pull-out squirty things that I covet... and there is counterspace everywhere. Walk-in pantry, gorgeous equipment, pretty plain white china for plating. OH, and absolute freedom with the menu. Makes it hard to come back to my apartment and my crowded little kitchen with the wussy stove and the one-compartment sink.

Tuesday I'm going out to dinner and a play with a girlfriend, and Thursday I cook the third of three meals of a gift-certificate deal. Friday I'll be shopping, planning and prepping for Saturday's cocktail party for 30.

Who knows what adventures next week will bring!

Last thing I ate or drank: I sweated some diced onions, added some diced broccoli stems, added some chicken bones (saved for this exact purpose), brought it to a boil, skimmed it, let it simmer for about an hour, pulled out the bones, added some salt, and some Cous-Cous. Sprinkle with a bit of lemon, and it's dinner!

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September 04, 2005

Sorry for the inconvenience...

I'm getting a lot of comment spam trying to send people to these fake ad blogs for culinary school. They come up with a saccharine compliment telling me how much they love my blog, and then they link to their ad blogs that have no intelligent content whatsoever.

I have no problem taking a few minutes time and deleting those posts over and over and over.

I encourage all other foodbloggers to do the same.

and I have to confess, I'm going to be a little more of a stickler over who can post comments. Sorry... Please keep commenting, I love hearing from people who read this blog, but sheesh, I am way sick of being an unwilling shill.

September 02, 2005

Chicago, Chicago!

Even though I've lived in Los Angeles for 10 years, I still think of Chicago as home. Chicago is a foodie's town. We're going to be there for 7 days, and I'm going to plan out as many meals as I can! Gino's East, for sure. Also Reza's. I will have my own sack of White Castle Sliders, and a hotdog at Johnny's and I want to eat at that Greek[1] restaurant down the street from where I used to work, and I want to get a big greasy sausage at Portillo's and, most of all, I want to eat some REAL Italian food.

The last time I was there, I ate at one of the foodie meccas: Charlie Trotter's. I'd called on a Tuesday afternoon and got a seating that Friday. Amazing, expensive, and interesting... but I would have to admit, the only reason I'd go there again would be if someone else made the reservation and if that someone else was paying.

Anyone want to go to dinner with me in Chicago? Anyone got any recommendations?

[1] Greek restaurants not always about gyros and saganaki in Chicago. Many restaurants called "Greek" restaurants are, in fact, owned by Greek families, but they are "family" restaurants where you can get just about anything you'd want. Kind of like eating at a deli, but instead of a Jewish twist on the menu, it's a Greek twist.

Last thing I ate or drank: one giant, perfectly ripe mango.

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September 01, 2005

Martha, you're so mean lame!

Martha Stewart's apprentice phrase when she eliminates contestants from the show is going to be "You just don't fit in" which is the lamest catchphrase in reality television's history. Couldn't they have come up with some varying mutation of "it's a good thing" which is her catchphrase? Even "it's a bad thing" or "it's not a good thing". I just hope she doesn't apologize every single time she fires someone... apologizing is a weak thing in business, and this is not a weak woman. oh well. it's silly, and I'll never watch it. Not because of her, but because I don't watch TV unless I'm on vacation, and the hotel has cable. (I do get movies through netflix, watch video on ifilm and iTunes, and watch commercials through I'm not totally out of the media loop!)

Last thing I ate or drank: a perfectly ripe pear... but that was hours ago.

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