August 29, 2006

Chef ''busted'' for serving foie gras in Chicago.

"It's ridiculous. There's far too many things going on in this town to worry about a duck liver. I don't know what the person's problem was in the first place with the whole thing, but I do know black and white. There are things far more important to be dealing with in the city, the Health Department and in the restaurant business."

August 28, 2006

Los Angeles Restaurant/Food Service Expo - Post Event Summary

Cool things:
1) I'm a serviceware junkie. I love all the little plates and bowls and cups and special spoons... and this one company that had this unique little fork-like device which I just spend 30 minutes trying to find a picture of online....to no avail. I'll just have to order a couple dozen, and you can hire me, and I'll use them for your amuse bouche.

2) a silpat pan liner that you fill with one flavor/color of cake batter, then fill the rest of the way with another flavor/color of batter, to make a really lovely textured/colored/patterned design. I don't bake enough to merit owning them, but I covet them anyway. I wish I baked more.

3) a machine that makes ice cones with a screw shape in them... and they are used with a cone-shaped glass that has a corresponding screw shape, so that you screw the ice into the glass, and you fill the ice with the drink. Fantastically awesomely cool... but you have to buy their special ice machine. If I had a bar, I'd buy this thing in a minute. I do not have a bar. Woe is me.

Worst thing: fermented juice drinks. Have you ever accidentally had a container of orange juice sit in the fridge too long, but you only discovered that it had spoiled when you tasted it? Fruit juice isn't supposed to taste like old milk...but that's what they were selling. In 8 flavors. Eight flavors of funky, spoiled-tasting fruit drinks, all with that mushroomy, musty, mildewy thing going on. Because of the fermentation, they're mildly alcoholic, (5%) but I think I'd have to already be a little drunk before I'd drink this. It was horrible.

Nicest booth employee: worked for a company that made all-natural fruit juices. Teased me in a friendly way when I read the label, was very knowledgeable about his products, had a great sense of humor, and did not act like a salesperson. Did not tag-team with another salesguy. Did not compliment me within an inch of my life.

Dumbest booth employee: worked for a company that sells restaurant software. I asked her about training, and she said they only do training for people who buy the software. I asked her how I was supposed to get trained on it if I didn't have a restaurant and I wasn't going to buy the software, and she told me to get a part time job at a restaurant. WTF? Her sales partner came over and offered to sell me an 8 hour class, for $650. He said he's have to do a one-on-one sales training, which was included if I bought their $1600+ software. No thanks.

Trendiest Trend of the Tradeshow: Pomegranate. In tea. In salad dressing. In chicken sausage. In gelato. The overabundance was comical.

The saddest thing I saw: Dave from Top Chef was the last speaker scheduled on the last day of the show. Not a coveted timeslot. He was schlepping boxes of shirts and books. He looked tired and disorganized. People were failing to act nonchalant about having a person who had been on TV in their midst.

Best part about going on the afternoon of the third day: I found street parking with an hour on the meter already, so I spent only $1.00 on parking. The trade show floor wasn't crowded, so I got through nearly the whole event in those two hours. All the vendors were very loose with the samples and the promo items. I got some decent schwag, and didn't have to fight off the people for tastes of food.

Tasting's really important. One iced coffee drink was mostly ice, the next was not sweet enough. There were a few pizza crust vendors. One had bite-sized pizzas that stayed crispy even though I carried it around the trade show for a while, (waiting to see if it would wilt, but it didn't!) The soy sausages were horrible. The soy fish was amazing. There were tastes of juice drinks everywhere you looked. A few booths had chefs working right there on site, not just doing demos, actually cooking things.

Overall Grade:B+. I could not find some things I wanted to meet vendors for, and I didn't see any of the food competition stuff (which I'd seen the previous two years I attended) And I didn't see one woman working as a chef/cook in a booth, only serving tastes or general sales stuff. Plenty of guys in whites, no chicks. Just thought that was worth mentioning.

Did you go? What did you think? P. S. The winner will remain anonymous, but the limerick was a perfect rhyme, had good rhythm, and was too dirty to post. E-mail me if you want to read it.

Last thing I ate or drank: Beef rib roast, mashed potatoes, green beans amandine, chocolate cake. It was like we were having dinner with my in-laws in Chicago.

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August 26, 2006

Another "sell-out"? Yeah, but you'd probably do the same...

Tyler FlorenceWhen I told Kelly that Tyler Florence had sold out to Applebee's, even HE let out a very anguished "Aaaaugh!". Tyler!

I would be fine with getting some corporate sponsorship money, but I would have to think twice about who I affiliated with.



"Applebee's International Inc. (APPB.O: Quote, Profile, Research) on Friday said it hired Tyler Florence, a chef from cable television's Food Network, to develop four exclusive menu items for its casual dining restaurants."

Only four items? They should have had him revamp the entire menu. Post haste.

P. S. RayRay turned 38 on Friday.

August 24, 2006

Do It Yourself Wine Tasting Course

It's important for me to be able to respond to people's inquiries about what wines to pair with the food I make.

I got an "A" in my wine class in culinary school, but I never felt like I got a lot out of it. The instructor was kind of a schmuck (Hi, Sean!) because he was so obsessed with having us know what grape came from what region of France that I never got a true feel for what wines go with what food.

Wine is such a wide and vast subject that I don't ever feel like I could come close to being good with it. I'm still anxious about the different brands, I don't pay much mind to terroir, and I don't know a thing about vintages. Sometimes the descriptions I read in Food & Wine sound more like porn than beverages. Which is fun, but not very instructive.

By now, though, I know the traditional pairings, and I feel good about what I order when I'm not getting the suggested pairings at a restaurant.

Here's what I have done to help me get to know wines:

Print out a list of terms and descriptions
a good one is here.
(I have no affiliation with KJ, but the site IS extensive!)
Become familiar with the vocabulary & pronunciation (pet peeve:
Meritage = "MEHR-it-idge" like heritage, not "mehr-ih-TAHDGE")

Buy two bottles of the same varietal of wine by different brands
Like two merlots, or two chardonnay, or two rieslings...
They don't have to be too expensive;
Maybe $7-$12 each to start, until you feel comfortable spending more?

Pour a glass of each, side by side, and compare them.
one will be more acidic
one will be perfumed more strongly
one will be clearer in color
one will have more tannin & astringency
one will be more.... You get the picture?
And yes, you'll probably like one more than another, but now you'll have a quantifiable reason why you like it.

Also think about what kinds of food you crave when you taste the wine. Does it make you want a flame-grilled steak, or a rich tomato sauce? Does the flavor make you think of buttery herb sauces or vinegary gastriques?
Still having trouble? Click here

You don't have to finish both bottles (!) but you do have to try at least two at a time to get a good feel for what you're comparing. Eat bread and a plain-flavored cheese to keep from getting too buzzed!

And my own tip: get a few plain black napkins to catch drips when you pour, you can use one the whole night and it won't look like a crime scene.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION:
      http://www.PodcastCookingLessons.com

I've got three podcast cooking lessons recorded, and I'll be editing them this weekend. If you'd like to get on the mailing list, please SUBSCRIBE and I'll keep you posted!.


Last thing I ate or drank: chugging icewater like I just ate an entire pizza...but didn't.

August 21, 2006

Limerick Contest! Win Tickets! (Los Angeles Restaurant Expo)

The 2006 Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo is taking place this weekend, and I've got two tickets available, compliments of Chef JoAnna, Inc. and the California Restaurant Association. (Valued at $45 each!)

If you would like to attend any of the three days (Sat/Sun/Mon) of this industry only trade show you can try to win a pass by entering a contest:
CULINARY LIMERICK CONTEST

Haikus are just not my style, but I'm quite partial to limericks. For this contest, write a standard limerick about something related to cooking.*You get points for humor, originality, and best use of rhyme. The winner will be chosen by me. If the winner can't use both passes, then the second pass will be awarded to the first runner up. Put your entry in the comments of this post. Comments will be 'hidden' until Friday. NOTE: you are automatically disqualified if you try to rhyme JoAnna with Banana. It is unimaginative and a cop out. Shame on you if you just said, "Awwww!"
Anyone can enter, if you want to have the joy of being declared the winner, but please tell me, and decline the tix, if you're not in Los Angeles or you're not available to go this weekend, it would be a shame for these to go to waste. By the way, you only win the pass; parking and everything else is on your own...but if you're a westsider, or you can get yourself to Santa Monica, you will also win a chauffered ride! (I'll drive, you get to ride shotgun in the luxurious comfort of the chefmobile. I'll even let you choose the music.) OH! and the Los Angeles Wine & Food Festival is somewhat affiliated with this as well; you can get into their event for only $10 if you have a pass to the Food Expo: Click here for a brief intro and click here for the full site. * By submitting an entry, you give me non-exclusive, irrevocable, perpetual rights to modify, distribute, publish or print the entry at my discretion.
Last thing I ate or drank: applesauce, to which I added cinnamon and sprinkle of splenda.

My Safety & Sanitation exam results

YAY! I just found out I passed my Safety & Sanitation exam and I'm happy to have gotten such a high score... but I really wonder which question I missed to have gotten a 93% though. I'm bummed that I'll never know which one/s I missed, and I can' learn what I thought I knew but apparently didn't.

No matter: I've renewed my certification for another three years, and even though it wasted an entire Saturday, which was quite a lovely day, I'm glad to have it out of the way.

I will say this: if you have to take this test, and you live in California, I highly recommend the one day class with Click hereCalifornia Food Safety. Sean did his best to keep the class focused and entertained, and that's no easy task when the topic matter is as dry and boring as food safety.

Last thing I ate or drank: just woke up; a bowl of total, with banana & rice milk

August 19, 2006

Restaurant Review: JiRaffe

JiRaffe was lovely. I had the mushroom salad and the Loup de Mer special. Kelly had the corn ravioli and the almond encrusted trout. We had, I believe, the best seat in the house. Perhaps it pays to have my opentable send my confirmation emails to the ChefJoAnna.com domain, and the outgoing voicemail message on my phone say that I'm a chef.

Mostly I'm posting this to remind myself to blog more later. It's late, I'm tired, and I have to brush my teeth still.

Last thing I ate or drank: banana split-ish sundae, a few hours ago. Why does ice cream make you crave water?

August 17, 2006

August 09, 2006

The End Is Nigh... Prepare yourselves!

I have exactly one veggie dog and one hot dog bun left.

I fear that when I consume that last hot dog from a package, in the final hot dog bun, the world as we know it will come to an end.

P. S. yes I eat veggie dogs. Even though I know they're made out of tofu lips and seitan snouts.

Hey, L.A., What's your grade?

How much does it mean to you that the restaurant you're eating at has an "A" grade by the Los Angeles County Department of Health? CLICK to find out if your favorite establishment is making the grade. (applies to Los Angeles county only.)

August 06, 2006

Kansas, anyone?

It's a little bit "Geographically Undesirable" but for that price, you literally buy the whole city block! And when you move in, you actually increase the population by a discernable percentage.

<insert "Green Acres" theme>
and turn it way up...to drown out my screams.

August 04, 2006

Fruits and vegetables added to WIC list - Yahoo! News

I thought this was interesting enough to post most of the article. (click the link to read the full article)

Fruits and vegetables added to WIC list - Yahoo! News

Comments on this are strongly encouraged!


"WIC now pays about $35 monthly for staples such as juice, eggs, cheese and milk, but the program will pay for less of those products to cover the new foods' cost.

The revisions follow the advice of the federally chartered Institute of Medicine, which said the WIC program needs to reflect changes in science and society since it was created three decades ago.

The addition of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products also tracks changes last year to the government's own dietary guidelines.

'The WIC food package has not been revised or updated since 1980,' said Kate Coler, the Agriculture Department deputy undersecretary who oversees the program. 'We thought it was a prudent time to have a scientific review of the package."

Proposed changes include:

_The amount of juice would be cut from up to 9 ounces daily to 4 ounces for children ages 1 through 5.

_Milk would be cut from up to 3 cups daily to 2 cups for children 1 through 5. New substitutions would allow soy milk and tofu for people who have milk allergies or trouble digesting lactose.

_Whole grain bread would be added to the list. Substitutions such as corn tortillas and brown rice would be allowed to reflect the cultural diversity of those served by WIC.

WIC encourages mothers to breast-feed their babies by offering more foods, particularly for women whose children aren't getting formula through the program. Those women currently can get one vegetable, carrots, as well as canned tuna.

The new list would increase the amount of canned fish to 30 ounces and add canned salmon as an option. The president of the U.S. Tuna Foundation, Anne Forristall Luke, applauded the plan.

"Canned tuna is a convenient, affordable and nutritious food we all grew up on and is unrivaled in its nutritional benefits," she said.

WIC pays for canned white, light, dark or blended tuna packed in water or oil.

Maybe Monday, maybe Tuesday...

No answer yet on whether I've been approved for the loan. I called Sam at the bank, and he said probably by Monday, but definitely by Tuesday.
eeeeeeeeeee!

August 03, 2006

$50,000?

Tomorrow I will find out if my loan request for $50k goes through. As far as I can tell, my credit should be excellent, but there's still the process to go through. $50k is not that much, really. It's only about twice the rent of the space I'm seeking. Between that, and one line-cook's wages for a year, it's already spent. YIKES!

Last thing I ate or drank: Pho at Red Moon (no way am I going to bother to try to find the diacritics for those letters. Just pronounce it FAH and let's be done with it, ok?

what did you have for lunch?

I've been eating little candy-coated fennel seeds.

one at a time...

since 10:30am...

while working on my beastly food-business project.

Blood sugar's RIGHT UP THERE, (oh yes indeedy!) but now that it's 2:30 and I've only had a bowl of cereal, (the stuff that looks like pine-forest ground cover) so maybe it's time for something more substantial.

Hey - This post reads like Sheri might have done it. Sheri, did you take over my mind, and my blog? Say hi next time ya visit, sweetie!

July 31, 2006

...and what have you done with my REAL husband?

In the past several nights, my darling husband has eaten the following items willingly:

Monkfish (which I made for him, here at home)

roquefort butter (the sauce provided with the filet mignon served at Orris)

braised romaine lettuce (also at Orris

truffled gaufrette potatoes (I snuck it on him, but he liked it & didn't know why)

baked tofu in a waldorf salad with a soy yogurt dressing (he ate the whole thing!)

tempeh in an orange-cinnamon sauce (he had seconds!)

see, I'm really getting him to come around!

Last thing I ate or drank: above mentioned tempeh dish. Needs tinkering in my opinion, but Kelly really enjoyed it!

July 29, 2006

Someone's reading my blog, from beyond the grave...


or maybe, IN THE GRAVE!!


OK, seriously, who was clever enough to set up their google address as a cemetary plot? That's brilliant!!!

July 28, 2006

11 years of TOFU!

The Los Angeles Tofu Festival is back, August 12 & 13th. You can get more information by calling 213-473-1615. And the best thing about it (yes, even better than all the tofu you could ever want, prepared in ways that you didn't even know existed) is that the proceeds benefit the Little Tokyo Service Center. Bean Curd for charity! Yeah!


Last thing I ate or drank: an amazing dinner at Orris. Get the fruit wonton with yuzu custard for dessert. You won't regret it.

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It's a restaurant, not a hotel, I get it.

Primitivo Wine Bistro has the following point included in their website text. It seems that it is a list of guidelines for their servers and reservation staff, which is fine, but the tone is kinda, um, icky to have this posted on their website:
On Fridays and Saturdays all parties of 8 or more shall be advised, they have a window frame of 3 hours...I think that would be enough to dine for anyone.
How would you feel if your server told you that? Would you feel differently about the restaurant if you were aware of that before you sat down?

July 27, 2006

Testing...

Geo Visitors Map
Just seeing if this works before I commit it to my template.

July 20, 2006

crack that whip!

I just can't seem to get myself in to a groove to work.
  • menus for the new company
  • filing so it doesn't pile up and make me waste time looking for stuff
  • emptying my truck so I can bring all the stuff to the Bark-B-Que on Sunday
  • research on packaging and shipping... only that's not entirely my fault, as I said, the salespeople don't call back, even when I return their messages
If only there were someone here to babysit me, I'd be much better. I'd be too embarassed to sit around and blog and fuss with stuff that doesn't need fussing. Like how I just matched all my odd keys to what they're supposed to go with. Is that really necessary?

Could it be a coincidence that I've become a lump of goo on the same week I've broken my coffee habit?

Last thing I ate or drank: bowl of cereal with rice milk. Doesn't it seem strange to not read latte here? Yeah, to me. too.

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Tagged!

Five items in the freezer.
1. The freezer container to my ice cream machine
2. lots of boxes phyllo dough
3. a container of ginger sorbet that I made
4. a dozen of those blue ice pack thingys (Now that there's room for them in there!)
5. a bag of wonton skins and dumpling skins.

Five items in my closet.
1. Cute purses I don't carry because I use a giant swiss-army-brand piece of luggage as a purse (it fits the iBook!)
2. Cute shoes I don't wear because I bought them even though I don't have outfits to go with them
3. Cute oufits I don't wear because I don't have shoes to go with them
4. One of those plug in vibrating chair pads that you're supposed to use when you relax
5. White polos with a "Molson Canadian" logo embroidered on them, that I haven't yet covered up with Chef JoAnna logo patches yet, because I can't sit still long enough to sew.

Five items in my car.
1. A makeshift pen-on-a-retractible-cable that I modified from a cable thing that was still attached to the hole puncher I got from an office depot that went out of business
2. a "deposit to the account of" stamp that I double-face-taped to my dashboard, because I can't ever remember what my bank account number is
3. a bazillion paper-wrapped extra long drinking straws I bought because the little short ones get lost in my nalgene bottles
4. a teensy little fire extinguisher
5. a extra complete set of kitchen clothes, including shoes, because you never know when you might have to cook!

Five items in my wallet.
1. Business card sized magnets with my phone number
2. A toothpick wrapped in plastic
3. A photo of my sweetie
4. A 50¢ piece that I'll probably never spend
5. A little Feng Shui card that is supposed to attract money to my wallet. Because, what if it works?

Five people I tag for this meme:
1. Cate
2. Joe
3. Katie
4. Sarah
5. Wade

July 19, 2006

So this was the TV program interview:

Subject: RSN Television Request
 
One story we want to produce is a profile of a personal chef - you.

 "The RSN Lounge" co-host, Beth Lahr will be reporting the story and conducting the interview. We would love to be able to profile your personal-chef and in-home catering concept, explain how its becoming a trend, and maybe show a dish that you could prepare (without too much time invested, obviously).  The timeslot for filming would be Tuesday, July 18 from 3 to 6:30pm

     -snip--

"The RSN Lounge" is the network's daily half-hour lifestyle program that profiles great destinations, gear and gadgets, fashion, dining, personalities, and cutting-edge trends.

RSN Television (www.rsn.com) produces programs for its network of stations that broadcast to 105 premier mountain and beach resorts across the United States.  With a Nielsen-measured annual unduplicated reach of 52 million viewers, RSN is the premier resort television network.  RSN is the number-one rated channel in its markets (beating ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, ESPN, and all other cable, network, and local channels), and delivers an upscale, engaged viewer.

-----> It went great: They showed up on time, got out on time, were very polite to my client and respectful of her home (hey, are you sure that these are really TV crew?)  They said they were really happy, I felt pretty comfortable during the interview, and I'm still trying to figure out how to get the photos out of my phone!

July 18, 2006

Where's my hair & makeup trailer!?

I'm on my way to go shoot a segment for a TV show today, about how hiring a Personal Chef is not just a luxury.

Sunday, I'm the Chef for a charity event where TV crews are expected.

This stuff is fun, but it sure is nerve-wracking.

"Hey, why is the chef drinking the vanilla?"
"Because they didn't get her a hair and makeup trailer."
"Oh. Well, yeah, obviously.

FW: At-Home Recipe w/ Podcast Capabilities For Your Blog

Hey, Adam.

New at this, are you?

you can’t use fancy fonts when sending recipes.  can you guess why?

...and you obviously haven’t read my blog, if you think I'd pimp OG!   you saw what I did to sizzler, didn’t you?

for crying out loud!
------ Forwarded Message
From: Adam Singer <asinger@piersongrant.com>
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2006 14:31:20 -0400
Subject: At-Home Recipe w/ Podcast Capabilities For Your Blog


Hi there, fellow food blogger,
 
I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog and think that your readers may like an at-home recipe from Olive Garden for its Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto.  This dish is one of three new Olive Garden entrées featured in online cooking demonstrations with podcast capabilities.  The demonstrations are available to view and download on Olive Garden’s Web site (blah blah blah) Please consider this at-home recipe and podcast cooking demonstration as a blog post.
 
I also have at-home recipes for the other two dishes demonstrated in the podcast including Olive Garden’s Chianti Braised Short Ribs and Tuscan Garlic Chicken if you are interested.
 
Feel free to contact me with any questions.  
 
Best,
 
Adam Singer
Pierson Grant Public Relations
6301 Northwest 5th Way, Suite 2600
Fort Lauderdale
, FL 33309
INGREDIENTS


8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup white onion, diced
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
∏ cup dry white wine
∏ pound fresh asparagus spears,
stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
18 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
∏ cup butter
1∏ cups Parmesan cheese
blah blah blah


Oh, my dear readers, do you have any idea how many of these I delete? I just had to share this one so you'd see how flagrant they are about whoreing their product, and how silly and clueless these PR people are.

July 17, 2006

Customer Service, ISN'T

Since when did it become acceptable for a company to respond to a customer's inquiry with "please call me back when I'm in my office"

While researching my new company, I have called several businesses with whom I wanted to establish a vendor relationship, and many of them are responding to my requests with emails that say something like, "I'm in my office between 9am and 5pm, please call me during that time."

NO, silly, I sent you an e-mail asking for more information, so if you're not going to send me the information, I expect YOU to call ME.

Who is training salespeople these days?

>SIGH< I am trying to console myself in that anyone who works for me will understand that the customers pay US money to do business with us, and we have to earn it. Our customer service wouldn't even have to be that good to surpass our competition.

...and that's hardly a secret to success. frown!

July 14, 2006

Muppets Swedish Chef Collection

click to view the Swedish Chef "anthology"

New disney flick for foodies? Ratatouille (2007)

It's never too early to start hyping a movie, right?

Trailers for Ratatouille (2007)

Alternate link here

After the quick commercial, watch the trailer for "Ratatouille"

More info Click here

July 13, 2006

Easy, now! Put... Down... The... Knife....

I bought some fruit, and I went to get an orange for a snack.

I went to the kitchen, got a knife and a cutting board, and paused for a second once I realized:
I don't have to section it out, I don't have to carve the skin off into decorative spirals, I don't have to slice thin circles out of the center to reserve for garnish before I juice the halves, I can just eat it.
so I sat down (gasp!) and peeled the orange like a normal person and simply ate it a wedge at a time. It was delicious. And a little scary!

OK, your turn. What stories do you have that made you realize, "Gosh, I've got to get out of the kitchen!" Come on, out with it...

July 10, 2006

Ouch! ...and waaaaaah!

cha CHING!!
Do you have any idea how FREAKING EXPENSIVE this lovely little piece of machinery is?

my jaw dropped...

Bacon Cereal

My culinary experiments don't usually go like THIS...

July 09, 2006

My reel is finally done!

click for my "demo reel"
revised link...it streams now!

These are snippets from my Microsoft Office endorsement video, clips from the Bobby Flay BBQ show on Food TV, and my appearance on Survival of the Richest.

It's only about 3 minutes long...Please let me know what you think!

July 07, 2006

An e-mail from my business partner...

...who's on vacation from Vietnam:

I found us a great kitchen too!

It's large and filled with hardly-used equipment, and, while it's a bit old, was fully tricked-out when made. What's best, nobody's using it now!
   
click to enlarge
So, I hereby propose that we make our food in the kitchen of the former South Vietnamese Presidential Palace. Except for a tour coming through every hour, I think it will work great for us!
Between Wade and my husband Kelly, it's amazing I haven't yanked out every hair on my head.

Last thing I ate or drank: espresso, not my typical latte. Have I mentioned that I've given up milk?

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July 06, 2006

I found my kitchen today!

I found the kitchen that I'll be using for my 'other' company that I'm starting.
You know, the one that's top secret and I can't really feel comfortable talking about until the LLC is filed and the lease is signed? Yeah, that one.
It's HUGE, it's cheap, it's furnished, it's Dept. of Health approved, it's mine exclusively, and it's close to home.

Anyway, as I explained to Kelly, it's like someone promised me a new toy - I know what it is and I have seen it and it's MINE MINE MINE, but I can't have it YET and it's killing me. I have the patience of a caffeinated gnat on crack.

So anyway, it's 1:36 AM and I'm sitting here making lists and fussing with menus and thinking about placing ads to hire help, and worrying about packaging and worrying about whether I will have enough equipment to get us started, and worrying if we'll have enough MONEY to get us started (we will, I'm sure, but I can't help but worry...)

and I'm thinking about all the stuff I need, and how will I know what I need, and how will I get it, and should I buy it new or used, and should I buy it now or in five weeks, and on and on and on...

but I have to sit back, and ponder, and breathe, and realize:
    I've been doing this for years.
      I've made all my lists already
        I know what I can handle
          I know how to be cost conscious
            I have to trust myself
And OH YEAH, I'm a damn good cook.

So stop typing, stop worrying and just go to bed.
You don't botch things, and you don't let things slide.
You're too much of a control freak to let that happen.
You've got all your ducks, sure, but it's too soon to line them up.

so go brush your teeth, stop yawning, stop fussing, and let it go.

It's going wait for you until you're ready.
And when you're ready, it's going to be there.

Last thing I ate or drank: a sweet, delicious, juicy really perfect melon. I spend a lot of time in the melon section, poking and prodding and smelling and hefting every melon I can reach, and I've had four out of four successes over the past two weeks!

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June 28, 2006

Menu for 10 to be served on Friday night.


I haven’t been posting lately because I've got so much going on...   but I am really happy with this menu that I came up with, and I wanted to share.  

The client didn’t make any requests besides “no pork” and “no veal”. She didn’t even specify a certain cuisine that she wanted to eat!  She just suggested that I propose my own ideas for a menu for her and her 9 guests.   

That’s pretty exciting, but I didn’t want to go TOO off the wall and go all El Bulli on her. Foams and airs and agar-poached things and freeze-dried things and other such culinary nonsense are NOT first time kitchen things. Not that I didn’t have a wonderful and memorable experience at Alinea but when you’re working in someone else’s kitchen for the first time, you get a little nervous about how things are going to turn out.   

Foreign kitchens can be tough, but I have made everything on this menu in the past. I've tweaked certain components a little to make it a bit more exciting, yet not so much that anyone’s going to look at it and say, “uh, what is that?”

What do you think?

Appetizer:
    Manchego & Pine Nut Empanadas with Mango-Yogurt Salsa
First Course:
    Sweet Corn & Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup w/ Garlic Custard
Entrée:
    Pollo a la Chilindrón (Chicken in a rich tomato sauce w/ green & black olives)
    Sautéed Julienne of Farmer's Market Vegetables, Saffron Rice
Dessert:
    Olive Oil & Almond Pound Cake, served with Tangerine Sorbet

*MY* mouth is watering just reading it again.  I'll have to take pictures to post here.

cheers!

June 21, 2006

New and improved feature of ChefBlog:

If you enjoy reading other people's real-life cooking questions, (maybe because you're too embarassed to ask for yourself?) you're in luck. I'm going to make answering cooking and kitchen-related questions a regular part of my posting repertoire, and I would love to have a few more real questions to answer.

I am not going to post any fake questions, to fill space with namby-pamby softball requests like

  • "I need ideas for how to make pork chops more tender and juicy, do you have any advice? "
  • I always have lots of leftover egg yolks after making angel food cake (which calls for only the whites). What can I do with the yolks?
  • How can serrated knives be sharpened?

    (By the way, these are actual questions from the Feb 2002 issue of Martha Stewart Living. The fact that such magazine is in my house shall remain undiscussed, and is not a question that may be posed via Chef Chat. Mmmmmm-kay?)

I'm looking for questions that can get answered with more than a cursory google search. (which is what I just did, in to include the links above.)

So, would you please consider posting a link to my Chef Chat page on your blog?

Ask me things that draw upon my experience as a Personal Chef who works in a dozen kitchens each month. Let me provide answers that can only be provided by someone who has catered parties in private homes under the most horrific of circumstances.

...And for the love of bacon, please don't ask me for specific recipes or for other things that you can look up on your own. There are lots of very good recipe listings, covering various cuisines and diets all over the Interwebs. Use them.

Anyway, here's the full HTML of the link. I would love it if you'd post it on your website, or your blog, or even have it ironed onto the posterior of your favorite sweatpants. Assvertising seems to be trendy these days, so why not?

Got cooking questions?
Ask Chef JoAnna

If you don't know how to put HTML into your blog, I think you can copy/paste the following HTML code into your blog and it should work. If it doesn't, just e-mail me and I'll send you the proper code.
<center>Got cooking questions?<BR><a href= "http://ChefJoAnna.com/chefchat.html" target="_blank">Ask Chef JoAnna</a></center>

Thanks!!

Last thing I ate or drank: smoothie made of frozen pineapple chunks, rice milk, and soy/spirulina powder, blended up with a few ice cubes. My latest personal culinary fad. I've just discovered that blender leaks, though, there's a crack in the blade mechanism, so there's a sheen of green I have to clean up everytime I make breakfast. Bummer!

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June 14, 2006

Funny Food Flashback

A long, long time ago, Paul Rodriguez did a standup comendy routine where he is talking about "white people" going to a mexican restaurant. Sara from The Delicious Life just reminded me of it, in describing her trip to La Talpa one of Pico's many mexican restaurants. That skit is easily one of my favorite comedy routines, and it goes something like this. (I may have either destroyed it or punched it up, I can't be sure because I can't find it online.)
Husband: (Long Island accent) Yes, waiter, I have a few questions about the menu here. What's in a taco?

Waiter: Beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, in a tortilla, sir.

Wife: Oh that sounds nice... What's in a (carefully sounding out) Burr-eeeee-toe?

Waiter: Beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, in a tortilla, ma'am.

Husband: Well, that won't do at all. Uh, what's in a (pause) jimmy, chimmy, cha cha?

Waiter: Yes, the chimichanga, sir? Beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, in a tortilla

Wife: I feel like having a salad. What's in a taco salad then?

Waiter: (becoming frustrated) Beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, in a tortilla bowl.

Husband: This is a rather large menu to choose from, and I am rather confused. How about a tostada?

Waiter: (condescending) Yes, sir, that's something very different. A tostada is made with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, ON a tortilla!
It goes on for a while, but every time I make or eat mexican, I strive to make things a little different from each other.

Thanks, Sara, for reminding me of that routine!

June 12, 2006

That's not ice cream!

I must remember to label things I put in the freezer.

I just grabbed a spoon and was ready to dig in to a smooth, cool, creamy tub of chicken fat.(YUM!)

I thought it was a bit of home-made vanilla ice cream. Oops!

Let's just leave it at that, okay? Can we just skip over the part that that addresses why I have a small deli container with about 8 oz of frozen chicken fat?

Cool.

Thanks.

June 07, 2006

Text from an e-mail interview

The follwing is the text of an e-mail interview I did a few months ago. I'm not sure whether the reporter got the article published, but as I re-read it, I thought it might be interesting to post it here.

Special Events: Dealing with Celebrities

For OC METRO

1. Why do celebrities bring visibility and attract more media attention to public relations campaigns and special events than most other public relations strategies?

I can’t comment on this one, but many celebrities have hired me, and several have been guests at my clients’ events.

2. Why is it important to understand the mindset of a celebrity? What motivates a celebrity to say “yes” (beyond money)?

The “mindset of a celebrity” as it applies to my business:

I serve more than food, I cater to egos, too. The people who expect to receive special treatment, get it. They’re used to having people fawning all over them and doing their bidding. The ones who are more humble, and down to earth, the ones who don’t expect special treatment, however, are just a joy to work for. It’s almost as they’re trying to be accommodating to me, apologizing for the fact that my staff or I might be nervous. It’s actually cute to see celebrities get nervous before their events. One guy kept going out and buying things: one time he’d come back with flowers, another time, a few bottles of wine, then he went out again for sparkling water. I think he’d have kept it up until the guests arrived. Another celebrity spent too much time re-doing her flower arrangements, then her assistant showed up with several dozen candles and she moved on to rearranging them compulsively until the doorbell rang.

3. How do you successfully contact, negotiate, and work with celebrities? Does it require critical research and specialized rules of protocol and etiquette?

  • Negotiation:
the trickiest part of negotiation is that you can’t just ask your client a question and get an answer. Sometimes the question has to go through assistants and planners, so you have to be extremely patient, and you have to be very attentive to following up and getting the answers.
  • Research:
I made sure to have a vegan entrée available when I became aware that Richard Gere was to be a guest at a dinner that a client hosted. The client never mentioned Mr. Gere’s attendance to me, but gratefully, her assistant was a bit star-struck and told me that he was on the guest list. He’s known for being a practicing Buddhist, and even though the client didn’t ask for a vegan alternative meal, I had everything ready to go just in case. He didn’t end up attending, but I was ready. I always want my clients to come off looking good, so anything I can do to prevent a faux pas or remedy one, I will do in a heartbeat.
  • Research:
I might not suggest serving a dessert of Bananas Flambé, for example, to the certain super-svelte someone who has had an intimate (and infamous) on-screen moment doing something with a banana... I served a flourless chocolate cake instead, she ate the whole thing!

4. How do you budget for celebrity participation?

doesn’t apply to my part of the industry, my clients make those arrangements.

5. Celebrities can be very demanding and difficult to work with. How do you best deal with this? Please give some examples.

  • Difficult:
I worked for a celebrity who is allergic to peanut and sesame products... but no mention of this allergy came up at ANY point over my menu negotiations. He kept sending servers back to the kitchen asking for ingredient lists for each thing I prepared, and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought he was just being picky and annoying. Somehow, neither his wife, nor their personal assistant, nor the party coordinator ever thought it might be important to mention that there was an allergy issue.

  • Frustrating:
I catered a fundraiser luncheon for another woman who kept walking through her kitchen to gaze longingly into her fridge. Each time she’d walk away, saying, “There’s nothing I can eat” in the most forlorn voice. The poor thing was starving. She was wearing this long yellow sheath dress that hung so closely on every curve, if she ate a grape it might have showed. The rest of the staff and I were making food for her 50 guests all afternoon, so there was food everywhere! She kept complimenting that everything looked beautiful, but I couldn’t get her to eat a thing.

  • Demanding:
One of my clients stipulated on his contract that he wanted dinner served at 7:00pm. One of his guests, an even bigger celebrity, didn’t show up on time, so he asked me to push back the service time 30 minutes. I pulled the filet mignon and the Salmon en Croûte out of the oven so it wouldn’t overcook, then put it back in to warm up for a few minutes before I was to serve it. Just as I was ready to bring them into the dining room, he sent one of my servers back into the kitchen to delay service another 30 minutes. When the guest finally showed up, it was 8:45, and this scenario had played out several times. Somehow, I managed to serve the filet medium-rare and kept the fish moist, but I was nervous everything would be overdone. Later, when the final bill was presented, he complained that the total didn’t match the estimate. Duh, the costs for labor were higher because the party ran so late!



...it's a filler post, yeah, but I'm taking this week off!


Last thing I ate or drank:

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June 02, 2006

funny phonecall

me: pick up phone, look at caller ID, don't recognize the number. "Hello, this is Chef JoAnna"
caller: Hi, how are you?
me: Fine, thanks. (practicing the art of shutting up, resisting the urge to ask "Who are you?")
caller: great! well, I was just driving by and I saw your truck... it looks great, by the way!
me: Oh, thank you.
caller: Yeah, so, I just wanted to introduce myself, I'm soandso from suchandsuch, and we're a party staffing company.
me: yes?
caller: so maybe if you need to hire any servers or bartenders we can staff your events.
me: ok. would you like to send me a rate sheet or a portfolio....
caller: we charge what everyone else does, about $25 an hour. We're having our brochures printed up right now, but you can look at our website...
me: ok, what is it?
caller: www.way_overdone_website.com
me: (typing it in) oh, there's music (disgusted) ok, hang on, I have to turn it down
caller: ha ha, oh yeah, my son just asked me, "Mommy why did you turn the music down?"
me: (giving the phone a 'huh?' look, as if that does anything, but I can't help it) ok, here we go.
caller: blah blah blah, we do staffing, blah blah blah
me: do you have any culinary staff?
caller: yes, I think so, we do, yes.
me: and what is their rate
caller: oh, I don't know, probably still $25 an hour, I'd have to refer you to my business associate for that, he handles the billing.
me: ok (why are you making a call if you're unprepared to give me information?)
caller: blah blah blah, we do staffing, blah blah blah
me: yes, ok
caller: so do you hire people to staff your events?
me: usually I use my own staff, but I've used staffing companies in the past, like when a client doubled his headcount three days before the party...
caller: Yeah. Oh, wow! So, yeah! (or something equally erudite)
me: Do your kitchen staff bring their own tools?
caller: I think so, yeah. So now you could call us when you have that kind of thing happen.
me: sure
caller: and we can call you, when we have a party that needs a chef, right?
obviously, since my name is written in silver foil on my truck, I must certainly be a skilled chef, and a reputable person... but yet, so desperately in need of additional work that I'd agree to a relationship with a company who employs a less-than-knowlegeable staffing representative that is empowered to hire me, spontaneously, sight-unseen, as she's driving around town.
me: Uh... I don't usually work for other companies.
caller: Hello? it got really static-y all of the sudden. Hello?
me: Yes, I hear you...
caller: Hello? There must be something wrong with your phone, or maybe it's my phone, there's a lot of static. HELLO!?
me: I can hear you just fine.
caller: HELL-----OOOOOooooo?
me: click

Please don't ambush my servers at the kitchen door.

I am always trying to talk my clients out of having so many options on their buffet or cocktail party menus.

If there are 5 options, most people will try all 5.
If there are 7 options, most people will try all 7.
If there are 9 options, most people will try all 9.
I'd bet if there were 18 options, most people would try to eat all 18.

It's human nature, I suppose, to want to taste everything... and still, when people find what they like, they will keep eating it. (they even pace outside the kitchen doors to ambush my servers as they exit.) Then towards the end of the party, guests sometimes come back in the kitchen and say, "I really loved the ___ will you be sending more of that out?" and although I'm flattered, I have to think to myself, you've been eating for the last 2 hours, you can't still be hungry!

Has anyone eaten at Sizzler lately? How could anyone think that the 5 oz grilled chicken breast PLUS a 6 oz sirloin PLUS a half dozen shrimp, each accopmanied by their own specially coordinated carbohydrate and vegegable should be consumed in one meal? Would be a healthier choice than the 16 oz porterhouse? It might, because it would be more likely that you would only eat half of it.

I went to Violet last night, and shared five small plates with my husband. A glass of champagne each, and the total came to about $60. It was nice to have the variety, but it was really nice that everything was served in small portions...because it was delicious and I could have easily eaten more of any of the selections if it was already on the plate.

I wonder if Sizzler sold stuff as a small plates restaurant if they'd have any measure of success. Nah, forget it. Nobody goes for the lettuce, celery and cherry tomatoes at the salad bar, they load up on cheese, olives and bacon bits, covered in blue cheese dressing.

Which, by the way, are delicious.

Report: Restaurants should shrink portions - Yahoo! News: "'If companies don't tell them, people have no way of knowing how many calories they are being served at restaurants. And chances are, they are being served a lot more than they realize'"

May 26, 2006

I'm right there with you, Chef Kondo!

Danish royal chef quits in disgust: "'All the soul has gone,' says Chef Kondo about cooking for the Danish Royal Family. "

Something nearly every chef has to deal with is cooking for people who don't know how to eat.

Your cornish game hen is glazed with an apple-apricot-brandy sauce, and you'll notice that I've pre-boned the legs for your convenience. It served with Pommes Macaires. I have labored over these little potatoes, clutchng a birds-beak knife and making perfect little tournées out of them, then carefully boiling them, drying them, roasting them in herbed butter. Isn't it lovely how they're golden and crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside? Isn't the perfume of the thyme divine?

No, no of course I don't mind, I'll be happy to bring you some ketchup.

May 25, 2006

working a lot lately...

The work I get paid for is performed at clients' homes, but I have to do office work from too.

and in order to keep organized, keep track and keep on task, I work a lot from home.

When I'm here, it's me and the dogs, something ambient from iTunes and traffic noises.

unless the phone rings, I don't talk to other people. I don't even really chat up the dogs too much unless I'm feeding/watering them.

which is why, when I figured out a tricky thing in filemaker...
and, in my excitement of realizing it worked...
I shocked myself at the sound of my own voice when I said,

That's what I'm talkin' about!

and let out a couple of whoop-whoops, for my own benefit.

heh, I think I'm ruined for working in an office environment any time in the future. How did I ever manage to not get fired from those jobs? What a little drone I must have been.


Last thing I ate or drank: leftover chicken & pork fried rice that I made the other night. after I came home from cooking for a client. because Kelly asked for it. I'm such a sucker for that boy!

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May 16, 2006

Google Loses Newly Acquired Chef

Google had hired two new executive chefs, Scott Giambastiani of San Mateo's high-end Viognier restaurant and Steve Petusevsky, a former national director of creative food development for Whole Foods Markets.

After a highly-publicized search, (which included many, of my friends forwarding the details to me, heh) they came in to replace Chef Charlie Ayers, Google's most recent chef and former Grateful Dead chef. Ayers left Google in May 2005. It has taken Google over a year to find a new chef; the search began in December 2004.

Today I read that Steve Petusevsky already quit as the co-exec chef of Google's headquarters.

Did he just do it for the publicity or was there something about the organization that didn't sit well with him?

If you get a link to more information, I'd love to find out what happened.



Google Loses New Chef

May 09, 2006

culinary school flashbacks

I used a recipe that one of my Chef-Instructors gave me a long time ago:

Chef Drumlake was in charge of doing a dinner for Chef Rosier's product demo for Ghirardelli Chocolate. We student workers were given a recipe for something called "Firecracker Ono" but he only told us to make the fruit salsa. Fresh pineapple, mango, cilantro, red chili, and red onion. Good stuff.

I've held on to it all this time, and finally made the complete dish. The "firecracker"part was pieces of lime-marinated fish, dressed with chilis and cilantro, then wrapped in nori and thenwrapped in rice paper. Really pretty presentation.

I made it five times over the past week:
  • once to test it out, following the directions but couldn't find ono and used tuna. Pretty good.
  • once to test it, but instead of frying it, I tried spraying it with oil and baking it. Not as good, but not horrible.
  • once to refine that last test, frying it briefly and then baking it in a 450 oven to cook the fish through. pretty good, and less splattering
      luckily, my husband who had never eaten seaweed before, liked this a lot, because he ate it three nights in a row.
  • then once for a client who loved it, and said to put it on their "repeats" list
  • then again for a client who didn't like it, in fact, disliking it so much he was motivated to send me an e-mail to tell me so.
It's a matter of personal taste, of course, but it's so confusing that one client just LOVES it and another just HATES it. I'm not so much proud of myself when someone loves my food, but when someone dislikes it, I can't help but take it personally.

It reminded me of when I entered that first cooking competition at school... I practiced so many times, and Kelly dutifully ate the same meal many times in a row. On the day of the competition, the other students raved over my braciole and the rich tomato sauce it was dressed with, but Chef Parker scolded me because he thought it tasted like canned tomatoes...even though he said in class recently that you'd be an idiot to use fresh tomatoes out of season. It was, after all, December. Would it have been useful for him to have told me how to avoid that in the future? You'd think so.... but he didn't. I had to learn it for myself.

Funny what you learn in culinary school... sometimes it has nothing to do with cooking.

May 02, 2006

I'm the chef in this article about the Survival of the Richest TV show!!

Reality News Online - Survivor - reality TV - Big Brother - Apprentice - Amazing Race - American Idol - Television Entertainment: "The next morning, the producers have arranged for a personal chef to cook the players an elaborate breakfast. Unfortunately, when the chef arrives, the kitchen looks like a disaster area, complete with a sink full of dirty dishes and several inches of crud cooked onto the stove and grill. The chef throws up her hands and declares that she cannot cook in these conditions. She storms up to the bedrooms and rousts the kids out of bed to clean up the kitchen so that she can cook.

The kids slowly get out of bed and down to the kitchen. The chef says that she will not cook and they will not eat until the kitchen is spotless. Not what they think is spotless, but what she thinks is spotless.

The kids don’t seem to take well to someone barking orders at them. Of course, dear readers, if you remember the previews from last week, you know that things are only going to get worse for these kids.

Anyway, they get to work cleaning the kitchen. As always, the rich kids can’t seem to figure out which end of a mop to use, while the poor kids just shrug their shoulders and get down to work. Hunter tells us that he has never developed the skill of cleaning, but that he has developed the great skill of how to order a fine meal, which is just as good.

Jacob provides the morning’s entertainment when he and Hunter are setting the table. Hunter asks if Jacob knows where the knife goes in a table setting and Jacob answers that he never uses a knife when he eats. Hunter says that Jacob fills all the stereotypes of a southern bumpkin. Jacob finishes off the stereotype by announcing that he doesn’t like all this fancy food and would rather have a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast.

But, the kitchen is cleaned and the players all have a good breakfast of what looks like Eggs Benedict. Sammy says that this is what breakfast should always be."

Cate, you saw it, right? Tell 'em it was really me!

April 29, 2006

Uh, excuse me, ma'am ...

I've been wearing these white polo shirts with my logo on the left chest. I wear them with black pants. It's my uniform for days when I'm cooking. It looks put-together, pseudo-professional and neat, but it's still a comfortable outfit.

I wear this as my "uniform" while shopping, on the way to go cook at my clients' homes. Even though it's TOTALLY different than the uniforms that the grocery stores' staff wears, I'm constantly asked for directions, help or other information.

I am always entertained by the reactions I get from people when I tell them, "I don't work here"... everything from embarassed apologies to raised-eyebrow stares that imply the attitude of "So? Answer my question anyway!"

If they say "please", "excuse me", or "pardon me", I'll usually help them, but not if the just blurt out their question with an unfriendly attitude. Heck, the actual store employees shouldn't even have to help them if they're rude!


Last thing I ate or drank: Take Five candy bar. Covers the sweet and salty craving all in one shot, really a nice combo!

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April 21, 2006

for when "microwave until warm" is too complicated...

When I do Personal Chef sessions, I put a little tag on each package of food that gives the description of the food, the date it was made and reheating instructions, whether it's "Bake at 350 for __ minutes" or "Microwave until warm".



"Samsung has teamed up with Birds Eye frozen foods to develop a smart oven that knows how to cook a meal by just reading “Smart Codes” found on specially marked packaging. Buyers seeking the ultimate in convenience will appreciate this oven, just scan and cook. It’s priced at $525, no word yet on availability"

April 20, 2006

The Language of Baklava: A book review

Ever read a book that makes you jealous for not having been invited to the party? Then, as you continue reading, you gasp, Oh, wow. that's just like me! Diana Abu-Jaber has written such a book. Intelligent, and moving, and hilariously funny at times.

This was a lovely story, reminding me somewhat of my own childhood and my over-the-top overprotective father. The descriptions of her family's meals are incredible. I found myself rushing to make the recipes, looking forward to enjoying devouring them as I read, like I was sitting at the table with the author.

One of those books that you think, "Ok, it's late... I'll just read until the end of this chapter," then you don't put it down.

Well, if you're a foodie daughter of an immigrant like me, anyway.


By the way, if you are interested in hearing an interview with the author on NPR: Click here then click on the red LISTEN icon. If you use quicktime, you can play it at just less than double speed and hear it without losing your mind.

Last thing I ate or drank: a latte from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Did they use decaf? because, dammit, I have a lack-of-caffeine headache!

P. S. it's funny to re-read that I think I'm missing caffeine, and that I'm putting Abu-Jaber and Block on doublespeed.

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April 17, 2006

Kosmonaut Photo Blog: Food Styling with Chef JoAnna

I did a food styling session with Kathryn Hill, a photographer who works out of both San Francisco and Los Angeles. We spent an afternoon working on this project together, and it was a blast! We spent 5 hours from beginning to end, making all the food (in my kitchen), setting up the table (against the orange tree in my front yard) and all the props (it's all about the the props), and taking lots and lots and lots of photos.
Los Angeles food stylist   Los Angeles food photography   food styling and photography in Los Angeles
click to embiggen.

This was all actual food, everything was not only edible, dare I say, everything was delicious!
Click over to Kathryn's blog for the rest of the photos, and to her site to hire her.

April 13, 2006

The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook: a book review

I was recently sent an itty bitty book targeting people with itty bitty kitchens. I have worked in kitchens that are bigger than my entire 2 bedroom condo, with every appliance known to mankind at my disposal, so my modest four-burner standard-rental-issue Tappan oven/range and my stupid (no really it's stupid) one-basin sink is a chef's horror. Kelly and I are constantly fantasizing about how we could just tear out the walls, convert the dining room area into part of the kitchen, and have a big, lovely, roomy space in which to work. Fact is, I've got too much stuff to move around well in my current space, I really need to move some of that stuff out.

Stuff, however, is exactly what Justin Spring, the author of The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook is telling me to get rid of. And he's right, I know. I'm just in denial.

I have a full set of everyday spatulas, spoons and whisks.

...but I also have a backup set of spatulas, spoons and whisks. In the kitchen.

... not to mention, the complete set of spatulas, spoons and whisks I use for when I go do Personal Chef work

... and, um, the equally complete set of spatulas, spoons and whisks I bring with me when I need to hire kitchen staff on catering jobs.

...and the two abbreviated sets of tools I keep for cooking Kosher.

It's all color coded and organized, so even if stuff gets mixed, it's easy to get separated and reorganized. But it is a lot of stuff.

It's just a guess, but I'll bet I've got over 75 spatulas to my name. Rubber ones, plastic ones, wooden ones, metal ones, offset metal ones, and my favorite, the silicone spatulas, and my favorite of those is Greenie. (insert angels singing here) Whenever I see Greenie for sale, I buy the store's entire stock. I have bought greenies in New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Do I need that many green silicone spatulas? YES! They're awesome. They're not indestructible, though, so when I find them, I buy them. They're $3 apiece, so it's not like I'm investing my retirement money in spatulas, however I do confess, I'm single-handedly cornering the market on Greenies.

Anyway, back to the book review CHEFFY!!

So, this book was really good at making me feel guilty for all my stuff. (The author actually used a special font or a graphic image that made the word "stuff" look different than the rest of the typeface, so you know he was serious.)

But, just as seriously, how am I to make waffles without a waffle iron? How am I to make delicious frozen delights without my cool Cuisinart machine?

But, then again, do I need a toaster AND a toaster oven? Do I NEED a standard countertop blender, an immersion blender, a countertop mixer, a hand mixer, and a hand-crank eggbeater? They perform similar but very specific functions. Do I NEED that hotpot on the counter, when I have a stove and microwave at my disposal? No, probably not, but you can have it when you tear it from my burned, calloused, ragged-cuticle-beset hands. so there.

Actually, there's a very, VERY good list of the drop-dead essentials at the end of part one. Even if you don't use the 100 recipes he includes, that list alone is worth the price of admission! Plus there are lots and lots of useful tips for how to economize space and make tools do double-duty.

I also love that he doesn't hold the space sacred. Hang things from the walls! Hang things from the fridge! Hang things from the cabinets! It confounds me when I go to cook in other peoples' kitchens, and find that the counters are decorated with tons of useless trinkets, and all the useful stuff is put away in remote cabinets. *then again, these people don't cook, and that's why I'm there!

Anyway, even if you don't cook on a boat, even if you have graduated from college and don't have to cook in your dorm, and even if your kitchen is larger than 45 square feet, I think this book is well worth the paltry $10.

The pants hanger trick was the one that really hit home for me.

Anybody need a spatula?

I just had the freakiest experience...

So, long story short, Stephanie is no longer employee #2 of Chef JoAnna, Inc. Too many times showing up late, or not showing up at all, too many mistakes that I caught her on, and a general lack of professionalism. It's sad, when she first started she was a lifesaver, and then the last two weeks of March, everything went straight to shit. And she knew it.

Anyway, so I've been calling my old culinary school, and trying to speak with someone in the placement office. Several times. Today when the receptionist, ahem, pushed my buttons:
   Career services, please
Who do you want to speak to?
    Career services
I can't transfer you unless I know who you want to speak with.
    I don't know, the last three times I called, just asked for career services.
So who did you leave a message with?
    I don't know!! (just transfer my call, bitch!)
Well, what is this regarding?
    [very pregnant pause] Can you please put me through to Chef Bernard?
[shorter, but even more pregnant pause] Umm. Just a moment

Chef Christophe Bernard is the super big shot director of the culinary department. He came in after sweet, sweet Chef Joe Zoellin left the school to go start his own school in Northern California. Chef Z was a "ain't broke don't fix it" kind of guy, but as soon as you told him something was broke, he'd do something about it. Like the time I told him that the spices were a mess, he said, "If you give me a list of what you think should be in each kitchen, I'll make sure it's there." Within a week, it was done. On the other hand, I thought that most of his policies were kind of lax, and everyone (myself included) exploited them to the fullest.

When Chef Bernard took over, reigns were tightened. Tightened so tightly they left angry red marks. Everyone (myself included) wasn't happy about the new boss's new rules, and he was very strict with them. You know what sucks? A mild-mannered, soft spoken French guy who won't let you argue with him. You didn't exactly lose an argument so much as get frustrated by banging your head against his proverbial wall. He would say some equivalent of "because I said so" and get away with it. Damn that accent!

On the other hand, when you'd ask him for something, and he agreed with the request, you'd get it. But if he didn't agree, he'd simply say no, blame it on policy (Which was likely a policy he just made... It was a dictatorship, no question there)

So anyway, I got him on the phone, and told him that I wanted to hire an assistant, and he asked me my name and my company name. I told him, and he asked "Do you park your car by xxx hospital?" and I said yes, and then he asked, "And your name is on the truck?" and I said yes. He said, "Yes, I've noticed it. I make a point to notice these things. It looks very good..." and he proceeded to ask me what kind of vehicle it was and how I liked it.

so that was "arresting moment number one" -- that he noticed my truck and said it looked very good.

Then he asked me how I knew of the school, and I told him I went there, (he was only there for my final quarter, which ended in March 2003, so I didn't expect him to remember me from mentioning my name.) He congratulated me for being successful and said that it was great that I was looking for help through the school. He told me who I should get in touch with, gave me direct lines, e-mail addresses, and such, and told me that if I had any questions that didn't get answered by Career Services, that I should contact him. He invited me to the school's onsite "bistro" for dinner, and I said, "Thank you for your help, Chef" and he said, "It is my pleasure, Chef" and he hung up.

I'm so tickled: he called me Chef!


Last thing
I ate or drank: the sweet, sweet nectar of success.

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April 12, 2006

It's the Chef JoAnna Show!

Well, no not quite... Not like anyone told me (I found out by looking at my stats) but woo hoo, Microsoft finally put my interview video online.

Click to watch the clip!

and less interesting, but still pretty cool,
clip #2 and
clip #3


Last thing I ate or drank:

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April 11, 2006

Where have you eaten?

Here is a link to an article about the Top 50 World-class Restaurants according to Restaurant magazine. Personally, I've only eaten at Charlie Trotters. How about you?

April 10, 2006

I got a new puppy!

Of course, food things are still happening, but the big news right now is that I have a new puppy.

April 06, 2006

Whoopsie!

When you're looking for Raz Al Hanout, and you call Penzey's , and they don't have it but they suggest Baker's Catalog, and they don't have it, and they suggest another place, Spice House is not the place you're looking for! (Not Safe For Work, depending on how likely it is that your boss would look over your shoulder!)

Update, It's actually THE Spice House

(Thanks to Debby M for the update!)

March 30, 2006

March 26, 2006

Lemon Drop? Yes, make mine an Extra Large!

Lemons that weigh between 3 and 6 pounds each that yield lots of juice? Bring it on!

It's a bit early for an April Fool's joke, so maybe they are real! I'd love to get my hands on one of those!


I'll bet that The Food Whore would be interested in an extra large Lemon Drop, too.

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Click to read article

March 25, 2006

Book Review: I Want My Dinner Now!


"I Want My Dinner Now! - Simple Meals for Busy Cooks"


This book came to me in the mail, and the author even graciously signed it to me! How sweet!

This book was thoughtfully written, including all the info that a novice cook needs to put food on the table.

Any cookbook author should include ingredients and directions... That's a given, but including an estimate of the time it takes to make the food is a nice touch. Plus, Ms. Pottle includes a listing of dishes that go well with that recipe

There are also lists of pantry items which you should have on hand, market items, that you probably have to buy at the store, and even tips to make preparing the food a little easier.

MY FAVORITE THING about this cookbook, though, is that she includes measurements for TWO and for SIX servings for each recipe. No culinary math!

The one recipe I tried was the Skillet Chicken Paella. It didn't include saffron or any seafood, and it called for 'instant minced onion' and 'instant minced garlic' So basically, it's a chicken & tomato dish with peas. Not like paella all that much, but it was pretty good.

I have to confess, though, this cookbook's a little basic for me. I can make most of these items listed without a recipe, but I cook professionally so that's not a fair analysis. ChefSmiley I am sure that it would help my gravely kitchen-impaired friend Kumari, and if I ever see her again <sob> I'll give it to her. (she and I work too much and live too far away, it's so sad) I'm sure she'd get far better use of it than I would, and it's a good way for her to start getting accustomed to using her new kitchen.

If you'd like me to review YOUR book or product, please see the review policy here: [Chef JoAnna's Review Policy]

March 21, 2006

Happy Birthday to Mr. Yuk

Free Mr. Yuk Stickers:
To request a free sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers, send a self-addressed stamped business size envelope to:

Mr. Yuk
Pittsburgh Poison Center
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
3705 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2583

Video Flashback!

March 19, 2006

Restaurant Wrap-up

There are three things the world does not need from me.

  1. Another cookbook There are a hundred already on my shelf, and a million more that will never make it there, so please, don't ask when mine is coming out. I have no desire to write one anymore.
  2. Another restaurant OK...yes, I see places that have great potential, and yes, I would love a kitchen I could call my own, and yes, I'm fairly certain that I could make one happen and be successful... but come on - there are so many failures and customers are so fickle that it's a lost cause before it even starts.
  3. An organized, comprehensive collection restaurant reviews I eat out so rarely, and so reluctantly, that it doesn't make sense for me to offer my opinions. I only dine out in a handful of specific situations. Either I want to entertain someone outside my home, I want to see what the other pros are doing out there, my husband has a hankerin' for something I wouldn't be able to whip up in 30 minutes, or when I'm not able to get to my own kitchen.


That said, here are a few quick restaurant reviews, because if you use the Internet to search for these places, and you want an honest comment on one individual's last experience at that venue, I'm glad to give it. Because, you see, I search for reviews, too, and I'd like to discover the everyman opinion right along side the S. Irene Virbila opinion... and often instead of her opinion!

So, here is a quick wrapup of the places I've been lately, and what I thought of them.

Drago   6/10
    I've lived within 1 mile of this place for 5 years, and never ate there. Despite his good reputation, and despite the proximity, it just never happened. Finally, I went, taking my friend Iliyan, recently returned from Hungary, to welcome him back to the United States. He and I went to culinary school together, and he's worked for me a bunch of times. So the first thing we did when we sat down was evaluate the restaurant. The busboys (what a horrible word, what else can we call these men? server-assistants?) were redundant, as soon as one guy filled our water glasses, the next guy would come over and try to refill them. But then they must have thought the other had it handled, and they never got refilled. When it was time for black pepper, same thing. I have no problem with people who don't have a grasp of language trying to get work, but I *DO* resent having to explain, and re-explain that I've already got pepper on my salad, I don't want any more! (I can't decide whether it would be rude to speak Spanish to the busboys.) Our waiter was a pro, though. I should have recruited him. We split an appetizer, which was lovely and delicious, but the entrées were horrible. Flat-tasting, ungarnished, and in the case of Iliyan's risotto, undercooked! Please, world, risotto is supposed to be creamy and smooth like pudding, NOT al dente! Moreover, the food was presented on mismatched blue and yellow china that looked really, really horrible. My food literally looked like puke (green pasta with a grayish-brown venison ragu, made to look worse when served on a worn-looking blue and yellow plate) For $60 for the two of us for lunch (drinking only tap water, not wine!), I expected better. I would not go here again on my own volition, and certainly not on my own dime.

---------------------------------

Kelly and I spent the day in Pasadena yesterday, putzing around in various shops and such, basically just enjoying the day in a different neighborhood, so we were predisposed to having all our meals and snacks OUT. Here's the summary.

Zankou Chicken 8/10 So much has been written about the Kou that you don't need me to much else on it... except that Kelly said that he thinks that the one in Pasadena is the best he's tried so far. I concur, but why do they fill the tarna, which is wrapped in pita, with MORE pita? Did I get ripped off?


"Food Court" in the 99 Ranch Plaza  5/10
    Well, no false advertising there. It was a food court, just like you'd see at a mall, but that's all it was. I spent a little too much time trying to find a link to anything that had anything to do with this place, and that chowhound link was all I found, so hopefully, this is the PSA that it needs to be. *grin* The inexact address is 1300 S GOLDEN WEST AVE, ARCADIA, CA
91007. It's at the corner of Golden West Ave and Duarte Ave in a strip mall, however, it has an indoor "food court" with several counters, and a big seating area in the center.
The first thing you see when you walk in is a gorgeous little cafe -slash- pastry shop. There's a big open window where the pastry chefs did their thing, and several cute girls working the counter. Free sample of tiramisu was delicious, and the willpower to simply have tiramisu for our lunch was tempting. We went inside, and looked at all the booths, and the first thing I noticed was that every place BUT the pastry place had a "B" grade from the Los Angeles department of health. But many asian food places usually do. Oh well, I was giving this a shot anyway. As Kelly mentioned later, it would be even scarier to eat vietnamese street food in Vietnam, so all things considered this was a pretty small risk. Besides, I was jonesing for some duck, and there was a BBQ duck place, so that settled that. I had Duck Leg Noodle Soup. So, basically, a pho type soup with a roasted duck leg thrown on top. I was given a spoon, a fork, and some chopsticks. I could manage the noodle part but I was reduced to a caveman as I had to eat the duck leg by tearing it up with my hands, and gnawing on the bones. It was hardly worth the effort, but hey, what do you want for $5? My second choice would have been to just get half a duck, but I wanted more than just duck-meat. Kelly had fried rice, but barely ate half, saying it was burned-tasting. Sadly, he didn't go for any of the prepared items in the hotpans - those really looked good, and if I didn't have my heart set on duck, I'd have gone for their combo plate and gorged on japanese eggplant and tofu and sautéed bok choi - but alas... I couldn't justify getting what I wanted (duck from the duck guy and veggies from the other lady), just eating as much as I wanted, and inevitably throwing the rest in the trash. Such is the dilemma of eating out when the person you're with doesn't want the other half of what you're having, and you don't want half of what you know is going to be sub-par fried rice.


Zephyr Coffee House and Art Gallery   8/10
    Kelly noticed this place and suggested we give it a shot. We could see workers from the street, but thought it was going to be kind of dead. It wasn't, in fact: we got the only two sofa-seats available. I had a mocha and he had a double espresso, but no food. They had a panini press and a crêpe maker, and as far as I could judge, a decent menu considering they have such limited ability to cook. (they're using applicances that don't require a ventilation hood) The vibe of the place was comfortable, and I would certainly make an effort to go there again, perhaps the next time we go see our friends' show at the Pasadena Playhouse. The only thing that skeeves me out about going there after 8pm on a Saturday night, is knowing that they are closed on Sunday and likely will be trying to use up whatever's leftover from the week. Frankly, the prices are too low for me to think they're using quality ingredients. In closing, I want that place, and I want it right now. I want to turn it into a bistro/cafe of a higher caliber, and serve a more sophisticated menu. I think Zephyr is like a non-elegant version of Jin Patisserie *NOTE: OVERDONE SITE: WINDCHIME AUDIO AND FLASH ANIMATION* If I could dress it up, elaborate the menu, and keep it comfortable and homey, I would have to reconsider not having a restaurant... but I don't really want to deal with it. In the hour that we were there, we generously estimated that their revenue was under $35. That's ridiculous. Even so, I like to keep my little fantasy alive.


Amigo's Restaurant and Cantina   7/10
    After Kelly ran some errands at Guitar center, we drove up and down Colorado Blvd in an effort to find somewhere that had metal utensils and didn't require a dress code. We drove past this place and it caught our attention, so we turned around to find it, missed it, and turned around again. My hopes weren't high, but all I really wanted was some chicken nachos or something that would keep my stomach from rumbling too loudly while watching our friends' improv group. The place was kitschy-mexican-cute with a few tijuana-bought painted clay suns and a mural, but the pencil sketches of famous/infamous Mexican generals by the register were impressive. We split an appetizer platter for two, and I also had a "cup" of Albondigas soup. The "cup" was $4.95 and was as big as a large soup bowl in my own cupboard. The service was good, the prices were good, the music was bad (Chuck Mangione? Huh? Why didn't they play Spanish-language music?), the food was above average, but not knock-your-socks off good. But then again, I'm judging this place on a bowl of soup and an appetizer platter. YMMV

So, there you go. A few more restaurant reviews. That didn't hurt too much, did it?

Last thing I ate or drank: a mini-loaf of raisin bread spread with cream cheese, washed down with passion fruit tea.

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