Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I hope everyone has a wonderful, safe, and belly-filling holiday.
See you all next year!
And just in time for a holiday miracle..
Grant Achatz diagnosed Cancer Free.
Congrats to him, his family, and his staff.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The majority (3 Votes) believes that Yes, America is slipping away as the big culinary dog. While some (2 votes) think that Kinda, and have voiced their opinions.
From comments and talks I've gathered we once again find ourselves not in the debate of "Are we slipping?" but rather "Slipping from what?".
We've come back to the idea that there is no original cuisine in America. What, if any, was considered "Traditional American Cuisine" is nothing more then variations of styles of cooking, techniques, and recipes from around the world.
This is really no big surprise, We are a country discovered, founded, invaded, and settled by many cultures, traditions, and hence, Cuisines.
Our rise to the top of culinary prowess has only been possible by changes in media, public interest, and by some damn good marketing.
It was never really a matter of "Why aren't we the best?" or "Oh no were slipping" but curiosity as to why our interest once again wanes from what we have here at home, to what is going on in far away places. Its in that that we can find a hint to why.
We have become familiar with what we are doing on the home front, so now we seek outside of it. We look back in wonder and what's going on around us. It works in the fashion of most things, everything repeats itself but in a different way, time, place, and with different insight and interest. The culinary world is no different.
America may be slipping down the non-existent (thank god) chart of "The Top Culinary Country" (give it time, I'm sure someone will have a reality show for this) but it's not necessarily a bad thing. We will look more closely at what others are doing, what we are doing, and hopefully, we will improve the way we eat, drink, and be merry.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
In recent years we've seen a rise of European chefs once again, namely in England and Spain. I've pondered for awhile if this is just due to our never ending fascination with all things "Old World" or perhaps its because America is starting to slip as the top "Culinary Giant".
Quality, consistency, and perfection are what herald the top chefs and restaurants/hotels to their star-studded lists. Has America begun to slip? Have we gorged ourselves silly on Happy-Homemaker-Cuisine that Das (Food)Netwerk would have us consume? or is there some sinister plot for revenge from our old world masters at play?
While none of these are really correct ass-u-me-ptions about the return of splendor to the old country, I can't help but wonder what others think.
So, with this I return a long absent section to The Foodist blog, The Great Debate. Feel free to comment on your thoughts, plots, and questions. The poll can be found to the right.
Thanks, and happy eating!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tis the season again...
Far more impressive then just one personalized copy is the vast number of prizes being raffled off for the event;
This is the time of year when we are supposed to think about others, but with so many goodies at stake its hard to do that!
Seriously though, this can be a tough year for many families, in the US and abroad, so even if you don't give to this charity I ask you give somewhere. Volunteer, give money, clothes, canned food, anything to families and organizations that are respected.
But back to the contest for a second.
Its really very easy. Just follow these few steps and you will be entered in a drawing for that copy of Elements of Cooking, or any of the prizes you choose.
If you're interested in buying into the raffle, here's what you need to do:
1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at http://www.chezpim.com/blogs/2007/12/menu-for-hope-4.html
2. Go to the donation site at http://www.firstgiving.com/menuforhope4 and make a donation.
3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. Example:
Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02. Example:
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.
Please, Give generously and have a great holiday
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Grats to all the fellow bloggers who made it as a finalist in the WellFed.net Food Blog Awards.
Some of the names you may very well know:
Farmgirl Fare- Best Food Blog Rural
Congratulations to all nominees, and the best of luck. Many of the sites listed in the contest are very much worthy of the award. My heart rests with Farmgirl Fare, French Laundry at Home, Michael Ruhlman (of course)...
Good Luck Bloggers!
ps- Even if you dont vote, check out some of the finalists. There are some great sites out there and no better way to find the best of the best then by through contests like this one.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Now, I guess I should say up front that I wouldn't consider myself pretentious when it comes to food. I love food, and as a lover of food I realize not everyone likes their food the same way; Sweet BBQ vs Spicy BBQ, Deep Dish vs Hand Tossed, Apples vs Oranges.
I'm also a very picky eater, and I enjoy my comfort foods very much (Eggs Bene at the diner every single time we go....) but am not without a sense of culinary adventure. Tripe, Sweetbreads, Rocky Mountain oysters; had them all. But its the little things. Those little glitches or moments in a meal that bug me.
Take for example yesterdays lunch at Domonico's. The food was decent, more so the fried mozzarella appetizer I had, but what really bugged me was the giant sprigs of parsley as garnish on the plates.
Maybe I'm spoiled, maybe I'm to "New School" but hadn't we; and I say "We" as the culinary community, decided that giant sprigs of parsley made bad garnish?
Now I know its cheap, and I have no personal hate for parsley. Used right its very good. But when multiple giant leaves of parsley stand between my fork and my food I just have to hang my head in shame. Why not chop the parsley? or maybe, just maybe lightly fry a piece of basil? see..fried mozzarella/fried basil, it works! On top of that, when my Tortellini came out, all I could taste was the chopped parsley. Where was the beautiful tasting red sauce that came with my appetizer? why didn't they use the same sauce?
At least the Zabaione tasted great, If I knew any better I'd say it was the real deal. But again, giant sprig of mint. Was there mint with my berries and Zabaione? no. Just a giant sprig on top.
Domonico's was not the only offender of my haute peeves. Extremely dim lights at Republic made it near impossible to read my menu without a headache, as well as not being able to inspect the display of my food. That's half the fun to me, seeing that plate when it first arrives, eating it with my eyes and my nose before my fork or spoon even touches it.
Unfortunately Republic committed the most grievous of sins against my near insane set of rules: Portion Size. Bare with me, were headed into crazy land here folks.
Too Big. That's right, I said it. Too much.
We ordered (3 of us mind you) a large Sake to share, and Four "Small Plates" (as they were labeled on the menu). Grilled Eggplant, Chicken Skewers, Crispy Tofu, Coconut Shrimp. All of which were a good size I would think, Decent for a Tapas situation for sure.
We also ordered a noodle bowl each. This is where the offense took place. These bowls are MASSIVE. I can pack away the food, don't get me wrong. But dare I say we each could barely finish half of our bowls, say for the roommate who somehow managed to finish his whole thing. I attribute it to it being a broth, that or the hollow leg he hides so well.
After forcing as much in as we could I looked around the table. Dare I say only 70% of what came to the table was eaten. With a 2 hour train ride home, and no desire to carry it that far there would be no To-Go.
I don't want you to think ill of either of these places. There was a warmth to Domonico's and I would highly suggest their fried mozzarella, Republic had a great city feel to it and the food was good.
But the devil is in the details as they say.
Want to "spice" up your holiday?
Want to add some "heat" to your gifts?
Want to...um... ok I ran out of metaphors.
Well in any case, try sending your relatives and loved ones some suggestive cookies this year.
Thanks to Cha Xiu Bao for finding this treat
Saturday, December 1, 2007
What do you do when you have time sitting around in an airport, then a six hour plane ride?
So that’s just what I did over my Thanksgiving break. I dived headlong into the personal life of one of Thomas Keller’s (now former) Captains; Phoebe Damrosch.
When I read the reviews, descriptions, and even the cover text of the book I was expecting something... a little different.
Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time reading Devil in the Kitchen or any number of Bourdains scaving blog entries; but what I expected was a down and dirty, secret telling, mud slinging front of the house version on Kitchen Confidential.
Boy was I wrong.
Not that any of that being wrong in this case is a bad thing. Phoebe spends more time in an autobiographical style, telling us a brief history of her "rise" to the top, her training with Thomas Keller and his military-esqe management staff, and her personal relationships as she transitions from a casual foodie to a marrow searching, bubbly drinking, full blown Food-E.
The book itself was a very easy read (was finished in 3 days) and some chapters left me wanting to skip ahead slightly. That’s probably the cook in me saying, "Come on.. enough with the relationships... tell me Keller’s secrets!!!".
Some of the most appealing aspects of the book were watching her grow from a nervous backwaiter to a (a little) less nervous Captain, her time spent server notorious restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and even some funny stories about her regulars at Per Se.
90% of the book though is an autobiography, spending allot of time focused on her life as it revolved around serving. It reads much like you’d expect any professional restaurant workers biography to read; Heartache, Heartbreaks, Cut and Bruises, Ego and Humility, and the hundreds of personalities you come in contact with on a day to day basis.
I would give the book 4 out 5 if I was going to judge it in that fashion, but only because as a cook I was hoping for a little more.. I don’t know; let’s say "information" about the actual detail of how Keller likes his service to run.
I leant the book to the PM Caterina instructor, "G" (as he prefers to be called), and as we were taking our final I saw him poking through some of the pages. When I turned my test in, he looked at me and said "Thank you, I can tell I’m going to absolutely love this".
I think you would to.
Bob will be working directly with Hendricks farm to start their own line of Charcuterie products.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
After I finished putting my presentation together I realized something....
I never write much about the drink on here!
Now I'm not what you would call a big drinker, I more of a social drinker but I do have my vices. Most of the time I spend my days sipping on a 7&7 (yeah yeah I know, Old Mans Drink) but there are a few occasions where I will indulge myself.
There are few liquors I enjoy more then Tuaca. I first found the drink when I was working for a chain restaurant (that shall remain unnamed) which was including the drink in two applications on their menu. As a mixer and an accompanying shot to an iced drink. I was standing around the bar after my shift and saw a bottle I failed to recognize in the managers hands. When I enquired about it I was offered a small taste and fell in love.
Tuaca, an imported Italian Liquor, is made with Brandy with hints of fruit notes and a strong flavor of Vanilla and Citrus. It’s wonderful amber brown in color and succeeds at a warming mouth feel that goes down smooth.
Most often Tuaca is served as a mixer for drinks, but one of the best applications for the drink is as a Digestivo (after dinner drink). Served with one or two ice cubes in a glass and poured slowly over it is a fantastic way to end the meal.
As for culinary applications Tuaca works in the same arena as Frangelico and Grande Marnier. The nutty vanilla and cirtus (mostly orange) flavors of the liquor are accented when reduced or flamed leading this drink a wonderful way to accent any number of deserts from mousse to Crème Brulee.
Though, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best deserts you can do is pouring yourself a shot of Tuaca then adding a single scoop of Vanilla ice cream/Gelato to the glass.... Heaven.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
I hope that your day is filled with tryptophan filled fun!
Ill be spending my Thanksgiving in Colorado; eating a meatless meal...sigh.
Someone save me some leg meat please!!!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
So as I near the end of Devil in the Kitchen I notice the numerous signs of greatness and success that are present in so many of this style of book.
Bourdain had it in Kitchen Confidential, White has it in Devil in the Kitchen, and I can only imagine what Phoebe Damrosch has in store for my eyes in Service Included. Stories of mental stress, physical pain, and emotional anguish on the path to achieving a goal in a field that takes no prisoners and fails to know the meaning of mercy.
What separates a lot of these stories from today is they are memories of a time before "Das Netwerk" ruled the face of the culinary world and the Michelin Guides reach had not yet landed on American shores.
What stories are going to emerge from the new culinary scene I couldn’t foretell. In my heart of hearts I hope they remain somewhat the same as the stories and books I've come to love and feed myself on.
Its a cruel thought really, to hope to read about people obsessed; about people so focused and centered on their kitchen that the world outside it passes on without so much as a second thought. But that’s the reality of it isn’t it?
White does a fantastic job of showing us the reality of a man possessed by a goal, a dream that he can’t shake. After receiving his second star he was flooded with press, many of which followed him around like hungry dogs looking for a bone. But still he stood behind a stove, slaving and beating his body to pulp. For what?
Love of his craft.
Passion. Passion above all else is what separates greatness from mediocrity. You can make a living in this field. You can go into your shift at a hotel or restaurant and work your 8 hours and return to your life outside the kitchen. Chances are at that pace you could do it for years, Slow and steady wins the race right?
Perhaps. But what if there is a desire for more? To go beyond just "work". Its love of a craft that pushes us beyond that. It’s the wanting to taste, smell, make everything we can that forces us to strive for the greatness.
So what’s the blueprint for this insanity? Honestly, can there be one? If the definition of Chaos is the absence of order and control then perhaps that’s a choice that would come close. But these Chefs aren’t chaotic. The "whirlwind" that White so vividly describes around him so often in his book is not chaotic. Matter of fact its fluid, controlled, and focused. From the outside looking in, to the uninformed, it would seem like a ballet performed by drunks.
So what keeps it together, what keeps it so clean and focused?
The last question on Chef LiPuma's pre-day one quiz for the kitchen portion of Caterina is":
"What is the one thing that is required to cook well in Caterina?"
The answer he’s looking for... Love. Love is Passion, Passion is greatness, and Greatness is good food.
Try everyday as though your under the gun, push yourself as though every single one of your guests is a Guide reviewer, go faster, go harder, go longer.
The cameras, the stories, the fame and fortune are second to the best plate you have ever put in front of a customer.
I was told yesterday after a very bad morning that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. If I'm not hard on myself now, or ever, then someone else will be. If not, then I will never be as good as I feel I can be. Without effort, without passion, this life is just a slow ride; And it will always be a work in progress.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Now I’ve always been one for curling up next to a warm fire to read a few chapters in a good book, but throwing the book into that fire to be able to read it?! Now that’s interesting!
Thanks to Ed from The Input for pointing this one out!
It seems that Bruketa & Zinić have created an interesting and exciting way to release their annual report for the food company Podravka. The book must be placed in an oven before it can be read!
Well Done was created using a thermo-reactive ink and paper that exposes images and text after being baked at 100°C (212°F) for 25 minutes. Not only that it’s a very slick looking book, a sterile appearance with clean images and texts.
Not only does the book itself contain the report but a smaller book inserted into the pages of the first are filled with recipes and products from Podravka.
All in all an amazing marketing strategy by the company to get people to purchase and read their report.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I have a package!...
..not like that; get your mind out of the gutter.
My Amazon.com order came this morning, filled with plenty of reading to keep me entertained over the next couple weeks (Ok months, but who’s counting).
At first glance, and from what I've gathered from notes and clips, Michael Ruhlmans' new book, Elements of Cooking, is one (Professionally Trained)Mans look at the kitchen essentials. What you need, what you want, and what must should have is listed in the book... but not in the manner I imagined!
The bulk of Ruhlmans books I have read have, to date, been behind the scenes first person looks into the culinary world. Making of a Chef and Soul of a Chef both took an almost outsiders view of someone being plunged headlong into the culinary world.
Looking at Elements of Cooking I thought to myself "Ohhhh, a deeply opinionated piece about the basics!", what it IS on the other hand is a mix between short opinion piece and reference book.
The first 50 odd pages are a step by step look at what elements are used in a professional kitchen, from Sauces to Finesse, which he calls "The Cooks Finest Challenge and Path to Ultimate Rewards". Makes it sound like a Holy Grail for cooks right? Well he’s not far off.
Starting on page 51 we're treated to another 192 or so pages of in-depth definitions of terms used in professional kitchens across the globe. If your not a trained cook and don’t know what A al Minute means, your in luck its there. Alginate? there. Definition of Recipe? yeah its there.
You’re probably saying "Wait, what? Recipe? everyone knows what a Recipe is." You’re probably right everyone does know what a recipe IS, but what Ruhlman does is give us a look inside his head, which is like looking inside some of the best chef’s heads across the country/world.
"Recipes: Recipes are not assembly manuals. You can't use them the way you use instructions to put together your grill or the rec room Ping-Pong table...."
Need I say more?
This book goes far beyond Reference Manual and is the wonderful love child of experience and knowledge. Its like having a copy of The Food Lovers Companion, just more opinionated. After the unfortant passing of Companions' Author, Sharon Tlyer Herbst, I'm almost relieved another form of reference has immerged.
With Christmas/Hanukah/Winter Solstice on the horizon, this book would make a perfect gift for anyone who loves and cares about cooking.
And might I add a tear jerking Acknowledgement to fellow blogger and all around nice guy Bob del Grosso in the back. Ok, maybe Tear Jerking was a little much, but it’s a nice few words about the guy.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
**Danger, Here be Spoilers!**
So its finally done.
It came down to Michael Symon and John Besh, and being as impartial as I can be I have to say that at first I was surprised to see Symon make it as far as he did. Looking back there were improvements and he learned from every single one of his experiences. I think it’s that fact that kept him alive till the end.
Besh, what can I say, I like the guy. He’s focused, calm, cool, and collected. He went, in my opinion, above and beyond by giving Morimoto exactly what he asked for, a swordfish desert.
In the end it was Symon who won the battle, and in turn won the title of the New Iron Chef America.
My hats off to all the chefs who competed in the event. It takes a lot to stand in front of a camera and say "This is what I want, I am this good" and be sent away.
I think it’s important to point out some of the things the judges said during the final episode. There were comments made about John Beshs focus and his ability to maintain the same standard throughout the competition. Being as though consistency is a huge fundamental skill required of chefs of that caliber you have to give credit to the man for that.
I have to be honest here, in my heart I was pulling for Besh the whole time. It was upsetting to see him lose this thing, but I have a feeling that it wont be the last we hear from Besh in kitchen stadium.... can you say rematch?!
Regardless of the outcome, I might have to tune into a few episodes to see how Symon fairs on his new throne.
All in all we got to see some great chefs push themselves and prepare some interesting and exciting dishes and my hat is off to all of them for providing us with some entertainment worth watching.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Eating out (99.9% of my splurge expenses)
So with Michael Ruhlmans upcoming trip the the CIA to promote the release of his new book I thought it only fair that I go and get a copy before he actually arrives and I ask him to sign a pair of chef whites because I slacked and hadnt purchased it yet.
and of course when it comes to splurging you dont just get one thing...oh no no no, you have to go and get MULTIPLES!! (Its called splurging for a reason folks.)
So after listening to Bob Del Grosso rant and rave about sausage and being teased with visions of pancetta and sausage and wanting the book for awhile I also picked up Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.
And why stop there? oh no no no, we have to get more!
Ive been hearing alot of good things about Service Included by Phoebe Damrosc, so I figured Im going to need another juicy-ugly side of the culinary world-laugh out loud book after Im done with Devil in the Kitchen so I grabbed that as well.
And what kind of supporter would I be if I didnt also get a copy ofThe Herbalist in the Kitchen (The Food Series) by Gary Allen, unfortantly that one will have to be shipped at a later date, but its on the list Gary.. I promise.
So all in all Im going to have some serious reading ahead of me, now if I can just find time to do all of it.
Well after a few days in Caterina (The CIA's Italian restaurant) I’m finally getting used to how things work, and to think in 2 more days I will be out of the kitchen.
You hear all kinds of horror stories walking into Caterina:
"Chef is tough"
"Your going to be getting out at like 1 am"
etc etc etc, which for the most part are true. The Chef is tough, pulls no punches and doesn’t baby you along. The hours are long; first day we didn’t get out till 1 am, second 12 am, and the last two days 11 pm. But in hindsight isn’t that what working in a real restaurant is like?
There’s method to the madness, and the true beauty is in seeing yourself improve. Even by days 2 you notice yourself making improvements and focusing on the next step.
Funny thing is you hear so many horror stories, but after you’re in it you hear allot of people say;
"I loved Caterina, I want to go back"
But that’s the negative for you; you will always hear it long before the positive.
Given the choice, I would choose to stay with Caterina till I graduate. The hours are a little tough, but the work to me is twice as rewarding. I’m getting my butt kicked, and its all for the better.
I just wanted to point out this article that ended up popping into my email this morning.
Marco Peirre White, Thomas Keller, and William Grimes sat on a panel at 92nd Street Y
to discuss some things including how the public views food, how the chefs view food, and a little about food blogging.
One of the best qoutes comes from White"
How do they train staff to meet their exacting standards?
".....White conceded that some folks are simply more gifted than others. To paraphrase him: If everyone's a donkey, nothing gets done, and if everyone's an artist, they bicker all day."
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Halloween is right around the corner, and being one of my favorite holidays (yeah that's right..HOLIDAY!) I think it only fitting to mention some Halloween-e stuff here.
I can only imagine the time and effort it takes to do these things.
Check him out and have a great Halloween!
Monday, October 22, 2007
Ok I missed this Sundays NIC, I was out of town and didn't get a chance to watch.
When I see it Ill post my humble thoughts but I'm trying my best not to look at Ruhlmans blog or anything to do with NIC till I see the episode.. I don't want to be heartbroken before I see it if one of the ones I'm rooting for get Das Boot.
As school comes closer to its end for me I find myself in the situation of an all out job hunt. I mean full blown, armed to the teeth, no holds bared, job hunt frenzy.
I think the hardest thing about job hunting is trying to locate a place to work that is both a place to learn and a place to grow. I want badly to find a place where I will be taught something as I go along my daily routine as well as a feeling that when I get out of bed in the morning I'm doing more then just "Going to work".
As far as being fresh meat in the field right out of culinary school I fully expect to get a earful, worked to death, and be low on the totem pole. That doesn't mean that I have to hate what I do.
It also doesn't mean I have to "Settle" for the first thing that comes along. Its a tough call, the choices are wide open but at the same time very limited.
On one end a culinary graduate can find themselves a nice cushy job doing mindless repetitive work peeling potatoes or something of the sort for a large company like Hilton, Starwood, or MGM. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this route. Its a safe job with benefits and set hours, good for someone trying to settle down.
On the other end is the chance to work at places like French Laundry, Charlie Trotters, and the like. A bit harder to get your foot in the door as well as not having allot to offer in the way of benefits you have to be highly motivated, focused, and have some bank to hold your head above water. But the bonus to these places is the fact that you train with some of the best, every single day is a challenge and I would almost bet you would learn allot.
With less then three months remaining its time to figure out where I will end up. I don' t think it would be a far stretch to say that where I go after school will determine where I step for the rest of my career, but only time will tell on that.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
It seems as though Michael Pollan and his book, Omnivore's Dilemma, have had a much larger impact on how we view what we eat then I thought it would.
Aaron Wolf, Ian Cheney, and Curt Ellis have made a documentary, King Corn, in which they follow Americas mass produced feed corn from the earth to our stomachs.
One of the most adhering aspects of the film is that they actually bought an acre or so of land and grew corn themselves.
I doubt it will be at a theater near me, but I'll be keeping my eye out for it as should you.
Monday, October 15, 2007
**Danger Will Robinson, Spoilers Ahead**
Well week two is down and another one bites the dust.
Jill Davie put up a good fight, and I really thought her Bone Marrow Potato was a great idea, or at least in concept. Sadly from what Michael Ruhlman hinted to it came down to taste; which the dish failed to achieve.
I'm kind of sad to see Davie go, the second of only two women to be in the contest. I would have liked to see her last at least a little longer, but even since the first episode she seemed to be barely holding on.
She said it herself "At least I had fun." and really she seemed like she was having a blast.
Lets take a look back at the episode and I'll give you my humble opinion and mention things I found to be very interesting.
The first challenge was for the chefs to create a dish that could be consumed in one single bite. What the Chairman was looking for was for each chef to use their signature style to create the dish.
I have to say, given the time allowed there were some beautiful looking dishes being made. I called it when I said that Gavin Kaysen would be the quiet guy in the corner who surprises everyone. His one bit dish was beautifully plated. Sadly he wouldn't do so well on the next challenge.
The one thing that REALLY ate at me during the One Bite challenge was the fact that Aaron Sanchez failed to plate all 6 required plates in the given time. Then he goes on to throw a mini temper tantrum about not being allowed to plate after the timer stopped. Ok man, come on. You competed on Iron Chef America and won, did you have to be totally plated by the end of time on the actual show? yes, so what makes you think the contest to be the Next Iron Chef would be any different. Stand up, say you fouled up, and be thankful your butt didn't get cut because of it. Frankly not being plated on time is a major no no, even in culinary school. Your late plating and you get points off.
I have no doubt in my mind that Aaron Sanchez is a awesome cook, but get it together man.
They let each of the chefs judge each others one bite dishes and the result was the majority felt as though Michael Symon portrayed himself the best in the challenge.
The second Challenge was, for me, an awesome event. There's allot of blow back from the blogging and foodie community about this event, but I'm not everyone else am I? nope.. I loved it.
Molecular Gastronomy is the name of the game this time.
The chefs stood before numerous M.G. gadgets, including an AntiGriddle, a Sous Vide machine, as well as numerous chemicals used in M.G. foods. They each had to come up with a dish using the gadgets to show innovation.
Frankly I was down right startled to find none of the chefs had even seen or heard of most the stuff. Have they been under a rock for the last two years or so?! no, they've been neck deep in their restaurants. Not all of us have time to read the fine print these days, but I was really glad to see they focused a little on M.G.
It was also really interesting to see how the chefs reacted to the gadgets. When Wylie Dufresne walked in along with Philipe Preston, president of Polyscience, I was giggling in my seat like a school girl. As far as M.G. goes they couldn't have picked two better people to step in and give a basics course for the chefs, well next to Ferran Adria of course.
Regardless the chefs seemed to have some fun with the gadgets, but in the end it was Jill Davie; who's frozen composed salad was a big miss with the judges. Gavin Kaysen came dangerously close to losing his head this time, his attempt at a smoke pillow was initially well received but it seems he spent so much time on getting it together he didn't pay attention to flavor in his main dish.
Flash and Glitz is grand, but flavor is above all most important. Its how chefs like Grant Achatz, Wylie Dufresne, and Ferran Adria have made M.G. work in their kitchens, they haven't forgotten about flavor.
All in all it was a fun episode to watch. I'm sad to see no more female contests and I'm just getting sick of all the camera time they're giving Donatella Arpaia. Yes we know she wears low cut shirts and bats her eyelids when Michael Symon tells her how pretty she is, but come on, less about looks and more about the food please?
Even Adam Roberts, The Amateur Gourmet, mentioned how much time they spend swooning over her with the camera and less on the judging.
"-I'm frustrated that we don't get to hear more of the judging. At one point Andrew Knowlton said, "I disagree" about one of the dishes to Michael Ruhlman. What did he disagree about? Why couldn't we hear that argument play out? I feel like we get little snippets-like Donatella's flirty exchange with Chef Symon-but no meaningful discourse. These are all really intelligent judges and I want to hear more of them-it's a wasted opportunity to have their reactions trimmed down so mercilessly. (Luckily, judge Michael Ruhlman is blogging about each episode when it's over on his blog Ruhlman.com.)"
I'm with you on that one buddy.
Lets hope it gets better next round, but somehow I wouldn't bet my favorite side towel on it.
Monday, October 8, 2007
***SPOILERS WITHIN, you have been warned***
Its not often I get ants in my pants about a particular television show, even less so about ones on the Food Network, but call it hometown pride at the first part of N.I.C. being shot at the CIA or reference it to the uncontrollable urge to watch a train wreck, I was there in my seat before the clock even chimed 9pm.
I have seen many of the I.C.A. which the contestants were involved, many of which I enjoyed very much (which is a stretch when it comes to Iron Chef America). Some of my favorite past competitions were Traci Des Jardens, John Besh, and Morou Ouattara.
The first trial involved speed. Pitting 4 at a time against the clock and each other to Clean a salmon, Open 8 bi-valves, de-bone a whole chicken, retrieve 2 cups(I think thats right) of coconut juice from a coconut, and slice a daikon so thin you could read a newspaper through it, all in 15 minutes.
I was down right amazed at Morou's speed as he completed the task with 3 minutes on the clock. Sadly speed is not everything, as he was docked points due to numerous bad cuts, which included leaving the fins and bones in the salmon. There was some outrage from blogger's I've seen saying Morou got cheated because it was a test of speed, but think of it this way folks.. would it not take MORE time to go back and correct the problem then to do it right the first time? I stand by the judges call on that one, there's no DOUBT in my mind he could have done it perfectly the first time, he had 3 minutes to spare!
The second contest was to create two desert dishes, and with no cheese, butter, or sugar to be found in the kitchen. On top of that the contestants had to choose one item not normally found in a desert course to work with and feature. Tripe being the most amusing of the lot.
I was downright amazed at some of the creations, most impressive was Besh's catfish and grape truffles, Chris Cosentino's Tripe croutons, and Jill Davie's beef gastrique.
Sadly in the end it was Traci Des Jardens who got the axe. Her choice to use salmon roe on her desert seemed to be the unanimous downfall.
After watching the first show I have to say there are some I am rooting for and there are those I cant wait to see go.
The Good Guys
John Besh- I love this guy. His attitude in the kitchen is both focused and funny. He's busy cracking jokes and hassling his co-competitors as though its no big thing. He's laid back, funny, and a damn damn good chef.
Morou- This guys a powerhouse. His presentation on his deserts were flawless, and I'm going to love to see what he does next. Not only that I loved how even though he was competing he was still watching everyone's back. Calling out to Jill Davies that her cream was boiling over, and calling a 15 minute warning on the clock, sign of a true team player.
Gavin Kaysen- The quiet young guy in the corner no one expects to fly out and wow you. He's not getting allot of camera time, but I think in the end he's going to really wow allot of people.
Jill Davies- There's something about her I both like and dislike. But I find myself rooting for her mostly because of how she both turned beef into a desert AND made a fantastic call of judgement on making her own ricotta cheese and deciding the desert lacked beef flavor, choosing to add another component to the dish to enhance that.
The Goodbye Guys
Michael Symon- I know there are allot of people out there who love him, but frankly I can't stand him. He seems to be an ego-maniac and bull headed. I've worked with people like him before, all of them needed to be taken down a notch, which is what I think losing this competition would do for him.
Chris Consentino- Cooler heads prevail they say, which is one lesson I dont think our friend Chris has learned yet. He's wound up so tight he's going to explode, mark my words.
Aaron Sanchez- I'm still 50/50 on him but I'm going to put him in this camp because there's something about him I dont like. I look at him and look at the way he works and I see the guy who would throw salt in your soup just to spite you. We'll have to see how it plays out in the end.
All in all there are two people I would LOVE to see this come down to: John Besh and Morou. I loved what they did on their Iron Chef America episodes and I love what they've done so far on N.I.C.
Ill be tuned in next Sunday to see who gets cut.
Well you can't avoid bad news forever.
The top three winners were announced at the end of the Cook-off and we did not place then. We waited patiently for the results to the cook-off to come in and they did at the end of last week.
The results are as follows:
1 :: Team Ace (No. 8) * Avg. 82.8
2 :: Hot Thang (No. 10) * Avg. 82.4
3 :: The Pair of Aces (No. 1) * Avg. 75.6
4 :: Hokey, Dokey and Smokey (No 12) * Avg. 75.2
5 :: Smoke ‘n’ Hot (No. 2) * Avg. 75
6 :: Hurricanes (No. 6) * Avg. 70.9
7 :: Red Hot Chili Chicks (No. 7) * Avg. 69.3
8 :: Team Chupacabra (No. 3) * Avg. 68.4
9 :: Team Culinary Lovin’ (No. 11) * Avg. 67.2
10 :: The Three Amigos (No. 9) * Avg. 66.3
11 :: Red Hot Chili People (No. 4) * Avg. 64.5
12 :: Off the Wagon (No. 5) * Avg. 63.8
So what went wrong? How could this be?!
Well looking back there are a few things we could have done differently.
I honestly believe the recipe is solid in its base. The problem came with the act of cooking.
The judges feedback was as follows:
Too Thin and Oily
Uneven Braise, Some Off Taste Like Olives, Way too Salty, Too Big and Random Pieces
Good Heat Balance, Deep Color, A Bit Thin
Meat is Starting to Shred, Bit Salty, Somewhat Watery
Separated Grease, A little Salty, Cumin Overdone
Needs Cumin, Needs Salt, Loose Sauce, Oily
Greasy, Mild Flavor, No Cumin
Way Greasy, Pre Chewed, Funny Flavors
Too Salty, Meat Tough, Way Greasy, Not Hot Enough
A Little Oily, Too Much Cumin
Some of this makes sense. Our stock was not de-greased well enough (Totally my mistake), and the cuts were far too large (also my error in judgement). The biggest flaw that killed us was that the meat began to shred close to presentation time. Even as large as our cuts were they ended up looking like a pulled BBQ then a chili.
We should have held the meat to the side longer and reduced the base a little before adding the meat in, or cooked it on a lower temperature. That in itself was a problem due to the stoves we were using, one side put out a much higher BTU then the other which was unexpected. We adapted to the issue and did the best we could given the time allowed.
Our test batch came out far better then the batch at the cook-off, but I honestly believe with some slight adjustments and some practice the recipe could carry on strong.
All in all we came, we cooked, we had fun and that's what really matters. For my first actual cooking competition I have to say I'm mildly pleased, but knowing me Ill obsess over the recipe given the free time till I cook it right every time.
A very special thanks to Gary Allen and his wife for showing up and showing their support.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
There are a few moments in life that truly amaze and inspire me and in recent months I have been feeling that stagnant feeling as though it was about time for one of those things to present itself.
Ladies and Gentleman I would like to introduce you to:
Bryan Zupon is no ordinary Duke college student. While others are cheering at sports games, out drinking on Friday nights, and eating pizza and Chinese food he's in his jury-rigged kitchen preparing meals that would make some New York restaurants look paltry.
Zupon, a Economics and Media Major, started Kitchen Z in his Junior year and has become a sort of underground sensation in the Raleigh-Durham food scene.
I first caught the attention of Zupon from Ruhlman's latest blog entry that mentions meeting him at the BlogTogether event in Durham. Zupan not only cooks in his makeshift kitchen, but also reviews restaurants for the school paper and sits on the dining advisory board at Duke. He also guest blogs at eGullet.
What I find most intriguing about the whole thing... He doesn't want to become a chef.
“The hours are too long for the compensation you receive,” he said. “It’s a hard, sweaty job.”**
He respects the food, He loves the food, and he understands what it means to be a working Chef.
Well Bryan, you may not be a chef my friend, but your one hell of a foodie!
Congratulations on your success with your passion for food and your willingness to accept nothing less then great food.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
..Both figuratively and literally. After being neck deep in wines class I exited only to be hit by a series of flu like symptoms. Now after almost a week I am starting to feel a little bit better and have a moment to come back to writing.
I wish I could say allot of exciting things have happened in the last week, but alas, I can not.
But on the horizon there is a light!
I will be interviewing Chef Phil Falsone from Hendricks Dairy Farm, who is their Executive Chef and Culinary Educator. Shortly after the interview I also plan on visiting the farm for a first hand view of daily operations.
Also in the works is a makeover for the blog thanks to Bartoneus over at Critical-hits.com. Hopefully our combined genius will produce something a little less bland, if it doesn't destroy us first.
October is one of my favorite months, and fall one of my favorite times of year. The summer growing season draws to an end, the fall harvest comes rolling in bringing with it a bounty of corn, root vegetables, and a plethora of colour.
I am hoping to make it to one of the numerous apple orchards that upstate New York is so famous for as well as the Milbrook Winery or maybe even The Brotherhood Winery to help build on all that wine knowledge I seemed to have almost forgotten already.
I've had the pleasure of being given a little breathing room in finances, so hopefully I can translate that into a more esthetically pleasing series of entries in the near future.
All in all, October looks to be an up and up for the blog as I try to plan a little more diversity in the entries as well as a possible new look.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I will be posting the results of the chili cook-off in the next couple days when I get a free moment.
For now, need to fill my head with more wines information.
If you hear a loud POP that would be my head exploding.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Thanks to Bob for the distraction from studying wines in the form of an automated milking machine!
I know there is nothing new to milking machines...but how bout one that does Step A all the way to Step Z?
What really gets me about the system is the cows come in and out as they please (At least that is my understanding of it).
Here's a clip for all the food (and science) g33ks out there:
While watching the whole process I noticed how very at ease the animal seemed with the process. Cows already seem lethargic to me, but if you have ever seen one trying to be "escorted" into a confined area you know they can get pretty wild.
I'm really interested in getting over to the farm at some point in the near future to visit and possibly get some samples of their product.
For anyone interested its Hendricks Dairy.
Monday, September 17, 2007
I had not even given it any thought till this afternoon. People throw around the word "purist" all the time around here, most of the time its in relation to those who preach from a soapbox.
I never considered myself a Food Purist per say. If I ad my choice between using something packaged or fresh from the ground I would be all over the fresh stuff in a heartbeat, no question there. But to think of myself as preaching on a soapbox about purist ideas and ideals was a thought that never crossed my mind..till today.
Now, I want to make it clear I will not go all preachy about purist ideals here. I may sound off from time to time sounding like one (I know I have in the past) but I refuse to bash the whole of modern society for functioning. Honestly, Id prefer if it did not function the way it does in regards to food.. but the most I can do is offer suggestions, recipes, and ideas to try to counter our dependence of "Convenience Foods".
I was sitting in the schools cafe eating my margarita pizza (Which is really not bad at all I must say) browsing the latest issue of Food Product Design when it struck me. I think the moment it struck me was when I was reading about the award they gave to Michigan State University during the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo for "creating a new food idea and develops the concept through marketing and production". The product developed was "Chicken Noodle Bites, a microwavable snack based on a whole-grain pasta shell stuffed with ground chicken and vegetables."
I stopped reading and looked around for a second, looked back down and read it, then almost shivered as a voice in my head said "What the F....".
I proceeded to browse the advertisements of the magazine and realized how much artificial flavorings and tastes we are creating in the R&D sector.
I had the sudden urge to run outside, dig a carrot up from the ground and gobble it down, dirt and all.
I wonder if all Food Purists go through the same process?.. regardless I make my bed in the camp that believes that we should eat healthier, rely less on additives, and strive for a better relationship with our land and our surroundings.
If the purists mail me a soapbox..would it be rude to Return To Sender?
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Well its official.
"Off the Wagon" has been selected for one of the twelve finalists in the Culinary Institutes of America's annual Chili Cookoff.
We're both very excited and anxious to get out on the field next Sunday to make some good chili.
We had a very small test run this evening at a fellow students place and we are, to say the least, very content with the results.
Texture of the meat was dare I say perfect. It fell apart in your mouth while holding its shape in the pot and during service. The consistency was just a little loose, but nothing a small amount more cooking time wouldn't solve. The color was spot on, deep dark brown with a hint of red.
The choice to use adobo sauce to finish was a great idea. The aroma was enticing to the senses while not overpowering. An hour or so after eating the chili I got the wonderful taste of it in my mouth with the chipotle peppers showing up even till the end.
Sadly no camera was on hand to document the event, but with a promise there will be PLENTY of photos come Sunday.
For anyone interested the event will be the 23rd and open tasting starts at 1:30 PM.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
In my hustle and bustle starting Wines class this week I failed to take a moment to post on a subject that has not gotten much attention in light of the bigger event.
Sept 11th saw America defaced and shook to its core just 6 years ago, but one of the greatest losses of that day to the culinary world doesn't seem to get mentioned very often.
When the North Tower collapsed that day it took with it one of the best and most respected restaurants in the world;
This is a photo of one of only two surviving Windows employees on that day. Her name is Beatriz Susana Genoves and she was a greeter for the restaurant who was stationed on the 78th floor to welcome guests and direct them to a second elevator that would take them to the 106th floor, where the restaurant was located.
This is a brief account of her experience:
"I had been working since 7 o'clock. Everything was fine. Then I felt a big explosion. Smoke filled the air. I saw a woman come out of the smoke. She said, "Oh my God, I'm burned, I'm burned."
A man told me, "Here are the stairs, take the stairs. " and I went down. It was so hot in there. So many people were trying to get down, it was really slow. Somebody said, "Stay against the wall. Just one line down, so the firemen can go up."
I had my walkie-talkie in my hand. I hear a man, upstairs on the 106th floor say, "Please help us." I heard his voice, but there was nothing I could do."
Lost in this horrific event were 73 restaurant staff members and 16 waiters.
My heart goes to the families and loved ones of those lost and hope that in the time that has passed their grief has eased.
Windows on the World Restaurant 1976-Sept 11 2006
Photo by Dan Heller
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
After keeping the poll open an extra two days because of a seeming lax in voting on the subject its finally brought to a close.
Out of the 6 votes its tied dead even with 3 for "Yes" and 3 for "No".
I'm slightly disappointed in the votes and lack of responses/comments to this question as I was thinking that this is a serious culinary issue.
It dawned on me that perhaps we all view the idea of "Cuisine" quite differently, leading us to believe if it really is dying out.
I spent some time over the course of the vote to discuss the idea of cuisine with a few friends, fellow students, and chefs. It would seem allot of the younger generation doesn't seem to understand what exactly Cuisine is. When I asked some of the chef instructors for their view on the subject the answers were varied, but all had a good idea of what exactly what Cuisine really is.
I asked one student, one I did not know personally and in passing, their opinion and thoughts and the response was something like this:
"Well yeah, cuisine in America is alive and flourishing! I mean you've got Italian, Chinese, French.. you know all that stuff."
There are two fundamental things wrong that I see in this response. First, and foremost prevalent, the student in question saw Italian, Chinese, and French as all there was to cuisine. The area, no more so the style, of the food seemed to be what dictated cuisine to him. Secondly, all these are not American.
While America is a "melting pot" of cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles to say our cuisine is defined by styles from places around the world is a mistake.
That statement alone leads to another great point in this debate. Does America even have a Cuisine?
I believe the answer is a resounding DUH!, but what exactly it is seems to be fading further and further away. Awash in a sea of fast food, 30 minute meals, and commercialized convenience.
I hope that America awakens to the reality that we tread dreadfully close to losing one of the most profound aspects of a unique culture, Our Food Heritage.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
What he speaks of is one of the biggest part of the decline of Cuisine in this country. We do not heed our history, and the history of those who brought us great food for countless years.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
For thousands of years humans have developed the style in which we lead our lives. Its ever changing, constantly adapting, sometimes falling backwards as our ideals, feelings, and lifestyles change.
Food is no different.
Since the rise of the first civilizations on the planet we've been adapting and changing the way we view food, cook food, and the social interaction of food.
The dictionary defines Cuisine as:
1. a style or quality of cooking; cookery: Italian cuisine; This restaurant has an excellent cuisine.
2. Archaic. the kitchen or culinary department of a house, hotel, etc.
While in a literal sense this is correct, there is so much more to cuisine. Geography, Terrior, Social Interaction, Religion, and Availability/Trade/Commerce all pay huge rolls in what makes cuisine.
Since the dawn of restaurants we've defined cuisine as what Chefs are making, what's hot and not, and what people are willing to eat. Gone idle by the intervention of interstate commerce, refrigeration, and preservation Cuisine has adapted and changed to fit our day to day needs.
Now on the preverbal twilight of Haute Cuisine, and the rise of the Fast Food Nations we stand at a very frightening time in Cuisines torrid history..
So my question to you is this.
Do you think Cuisine is dying out?
Do you think the ideal of Cuisine being strongly tied to the land, the environment in which we live and obtain our basic animal needs is giving way to something new, something different?
Poll added to the sidebar, Feel free to comment and vote!
Alot of people seem to be voting No to the question, please leave a comment as to why your voting yes or no.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Well, The recipe has been submitted and now we await word if it qualifies for competition.
I did allot of reading up on different award winning chili's and comparing and contrasting them under a microscope for a couple of days over the weekend.
It took a little more research into traditional chili and the have/have not's of really good traditional chili to come to a conclusion.
After talking with my roommate about what we wanted to accomplish we set to brainstorming and come up with this: Keep in mind this is only a basis for what we want to do. It'll be tweaked and refined over the coming weeks if we get accepted
“Off The Wagon” Chili
15# Beef Chuck, Cubed
5# Pork Butt, Cubed
1 T Veg Oil
1.5 oz Garlic, minced
5 # onion, medium diced
3 ea Dried Ancho Chilies, Diced
3 ea Dried Pasilla Chilies, Diced
1 can Chipotle Chilies, Diced (Reserve Adobo Sauce)
Bourbon, To Deglaze
Ancho Powder, TT
Black Pepper, TT
Dried Oregano, TT
1.25 Gallon Beef Broth
5 oz Onion, Chopped
4 oz Carrot, Chopped
4 oz Celery, Chopped
1 ea Dried Ancho Chili
1.50 gal water
1 # Roasted Beef Bone
4 # Beef Chuck
-Cut meat into uniform cubes.
-Mix together dry spices.
-Make reduction of two cup Bourbon, chill.
-Mix dry spices with Bourbon reduction and rub onto meat.
-Hold, covered in fridge overnight.
-Prepare Broth, Chill and hold for next day
-Heat Veg oil in large pot.
-Sear off meat in batches, making sure to get good browning on all sides. Drain excess fat.
-Keep roughly 1-2 T fat in pot and on low flame slowly sweat onions, garlic, Ancho, and Pasilla chilies.
-Deglaze pot with Bourbon, reduce.
-Return meat to pot, cover with Broth.
-Add diced Chipotle
- Allow to reduce slowly, adding broth as needed over the course of cooking time.
- Adjust seasoning with dried spices, salt, and black pepper.
-To finish add reserved adobo for added flavor.
Id like to give special thanks to Gary Allen for his feedback and suggestions. They made a big difference in the choices we made for this recipe.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
I scurried around looking for a site to plug when I stumbled back onto Farmgirl Fare and noticed an amazing looking and sounding recipe for veggie tacos and cabbage slaw.
I think I’ve mentioned this site before but checking out the post is everything I love about it. Great pics (Man I want to reach through the screen and grab one of those tacos so bad right now) and well informed information lend me to love this site more and more.
I also should say that I’ve been digging around Leites Culinaria's recipe section as well.
So check them out!
Saturday, September 1, 2007
At the start of this month I signed up and started tracking and have been, well, very pleasantly surprised by the results. One of the most exciting aspects is seeing exactly where people are visiting from.
So a quick Hello/Bon Jour/Willkommen/G'day/Buenos Tardes to my friends across the globe who stop by to visit, glad to have you!
One of the other great aspects of seeing where people visit from is seeing the areas that have the most visits:
I know I’m probably sounding a little off when I say it, but I’m excited to see all the repeat traffic from these locations. This will also give me a good standpoint on topics I could post relative to the areas viewing such as news, updates, happenings and the like.
But also it being the first of September this means:
The Foodist blog is 6 months old! *pops streamers and releases balloons*
We're getting basic motor skills down and starting to crawl so here’s to another good 6 months and thank you all for reading and participating!
Culinary School education came in very close (33%/5 votes) and a larger majority then expected (26%/4 votes) decided that they didnt see a difference.
By the comments to the Debate Post relating to this poll I would have to say the majority would want a good mix of both.
It came to light that I should have been more specific when I said "Job experience", and what I meant was job experience equal to that of a culinary school grad. In otherwords both bottom rung.
What I was hoping to see was how the general public saw culinary grads. Are we just a bunch of pompus rich boys/girls who were looking for an easy way in or devoted foodies finding another path other then the dreaded internship?
I think by the reactions and the polls that we still see a sense that one who fights in the trenches so to speak would seem to be the better pick to the one who sits behind a desk. But a overwhelming majority said that a perfect mix of education and hard work would make the best candidate for employement. I was glad to see that, feeling as though anyone who attends culinary school should have that experience in a real kitchen so they know what they are in for.
Thanks for voting all! I look forward to the next Great Debate.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
He had a solemn look on his face and asked me:
"Hey did you hear about Chas?"
Turns out my former classmate Chas Ebeling died a month or so ago. From my understanding his heart gave out in the kitchen and was pronounced dead on the scene.
I knew Chas to be one of the most focused, hard working cooks I’ve ever had the privilege of working beside.
Quiet as he was, you could always count on him to make some random comment at some random time that made everyone laugh.
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to speak with him again before his passing.
I’m left with only a reminder of how fragile life is, and how quickly the bright path of so many can be snuffed out.
The culinary world will miss you greatly Chas, Rest in Peace man.
"One must retain the base, the foundation, and build on that modifying and refining to suit changing tastes in changing times" Chef Farnand Point
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Such is the case with Cha Xiu Boa
I stumbled across this blog via Michael Ruhlmans and was at first slightly confused by it. It was about food yes, but historical and philosophical about it.
The gut feeling was to run away. It was too much, it made no sense, flee while you can lest you be further confused! But I couldn’t help but return to it time and time again. The pictures and the text alone were astonishing, beautiful, and mesmerizing.
I returned to it from time to time, often finding something to chuckle at but most importantly astonished the depth at which it is written.
My feelings about Cha Xiu Boa were solidified today when I rolled over to the page to find this beautifully written and profound post entitled, Life Could Be Flavorful.
Something so simple, but at the same time deep if you think about it long enough.
I invite you all to visit Cha Xiu Boa often, and stick with it, confusing at times your brain gets used to the obvious translation difference and suddenly you’re brought into a world of a person who both loves and respects what we put into our mouths.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Its in the spirit of spreading GOOD Information that I will now share tricks and tips that I have learned that I know to work well in a segment I’m going to call Method Madness.
Today I give you:
The Perfect Hardboiled Egg
Credit for this trick has to go to Chef John Reilly. Chef Reilly showed me this trick when I was in his Garde Marger class and it has NEVER failed me. It takes 10 minutes to make the perfect hardboiled egg.
-Place eggs into pot; fill pot with warm water from tap till they cover eggs then one inch above.
-Place pot onto stove, DO NOT SALT THE WATER. Even though an egg has pores there is little point to salting the water, the short time it takes the egg to coagulate (cook) does not allow the salt to pass through the pores and have a good enough effect on flavor. Adding salt also changes the reaction of heat with the water. Contrary to popular belief it does NOT make water boil faster, it merely holds the water temp higher for a longer period of time.
-Turn on heat to high, cover pot.
-When water begins to boil start timer. Let boil for 5 Minutes
-After water has boiled for 5 minutes remove pot from heat, uncover and let sit for 5 More Minutes.
-After it has rested for 5 More Minutes place eggs into an ice bath to cool.
- Enjoy immediately or hold. You will notice the whites are perfectly cooked and the yolks are bright yellow with no grey or green spots.
The Perfect Hardboiled Egg!
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Chili is both one of my favorite dishes to eat and cook so this should prove to be, if anything, fun.
First step is submitting a recipe for review. The top 8 recipes will be chosen to compete in the actual cook-off.
Its one of the biggest in school competitions we have, also yielding the largest first place prize...8oo$, and bragging rights that you make the best damn chili on the CIA campus. The moneys nice, but man the bragging rights are awesome!
After I submit our recipe and hear if we made it to the finals I will share it with you all
Monday, August 20, 2007
The topic came up again today, not directly by me or involving me, but was overheard in passing.
It’s an old debate, but one I think needs to be stressed in particular at this point in Professional Culinary History.
The argument for both sides is strong, Culinary School vs School of Hard Knocks.
In my opinion we need to pay very close attention to this debate now because of the influx of culinary students, and as a result the increased amount of graduates from culinary schools flooding the market.
The food industry has always been a high need, low skill, high turnover business. That’s mainly why it’s so very hard to get loans and investors for new restaurants and why so many go under so very quickly. There are many many elements into why exactly it happens; Lack of funds, lack of planning, high turnover, theft (VERY HIGH factor), and legal reasons being the top few. People are more apt to sue a restaurant over anything then probably any other business I can think of. Its one of the reasons the industry (and even some culinary schools) teach their card carrying members to Incorporate. When you do so you may lose the corporation in a lawsuit, but you won’t lose the shirt off your back. You can start over, so to speak.
But the main focus of mine, being a culinary school student, is the concern about the influx of culinary students/graduates. Now on one hand I may be a little bitter about the whole thing. My opinion is slightly biased. At my age I’ve been involved in the culinary scene for awhile, let’s just say Pre-Food Network when being a Chef was still a dirty word for high school students to say. When I was looking at culinary schools in high school Johnson and Wales only had its Rhode Island and Virginia campuses, and Pennsylvania Culinary was recruiting students as if they were all made of some precious metal.
What has happened since that time has really blown my mind, even as a current student at the Culinary Institute of America. Requirements for acceptance have slipped, the schools have become more like a meat grinder of education then an institution, and there is a general feeling of mass production in the classroom.
From my standpoint Culinary school was my best option for a professional cooking career. With no high end restaurants where I come from and barely any spots in the semi decent ones open to a "newbe" it was the one best chance at getting a foot in the door. What is happening now seems to be a mix of social frenzy and increased information. The more America looks at the Food Network the more there’s a push for the glitz and glimmer of it all. Unfortunately if these kids only knew what awaited them in the industry.
On the other end of the spectrum you have those who grew up in restaurants. Grew up slaving behind the lines, moping floors, scrubbing out walk ins. They got where they are through blood, sweat, tears, and by someone’s good graces. What’s happening now seems to be a push and pull between these two sections. Bitterness is growing in the Hard Knocks camp..
"F%&$*ing culinary students, think they know it all"
..and misunderstanding is ever present in the Culinary Grad camp...
"Well if he wants to work in a kitchen he should go to culinary school".
Both of these are quotes I’ve heard time and time again.
The more the meat grinder that is Culinary Higher Education turns out grads the more flooded the market becomes. I’m not just talking about kitchens. Advertising, Research and Development, Management positions... all being jammed with grads.
The Food service industry, mainly kitchens, have been formed by a strong network of hard knocks cooks, and even harder knock chefs for ages. Now that is being threatened by a sea of classroom taught, fresh faced cooks eager to get their piece of the Food Network Dynasty.
So the question I pose to you:
If you had to choose, which would you choose?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
What we have here, is a recipe for... Chocolate Truffles. *Dun Dun Duuuunnnn*
So grab a pen and paper, or if your internet inclined Cntrl C, tranfer to Word, Cntrl V and lets get started.
Makes about 50 truffles, scale as needed
You will need the following items:
2 Large Stainless steel bowls (One bowl filled less then halfway with ice water)
2 Pots, 1 Pot is used as a double boiler so the bowl should fit snuggly into the pot.
1 Pint/Quart/or Cup measuring cup
1 Heat resistant Rubber Spatula
2 Sheet trays (Cookie sheets are fine for home use)
Wax paper (2 to 3 sheet tray size sheets should be fine)
1 Fine Grainulated Sifter
1 medium bowl
1 pot (Again to fit the medium bowl)
In order or importance/Prep list
1.5 # of Semi sweet chocolate. If your buying for home use and using bars break apart. DO NOT USE SEMI SWEET PELLETS/CHIPS.
8 oz Heavy Cream
4 oz Curacao Liqueur Orange flavor works best, but other liqueurs work well to.
2 #'s Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 # Cocoa Powder, sifted
-Crush your semisweet chocolate and place into large bowl
-Place about a half a cup of warm water in the first pot and place on stove on medium heat, allow water to come to a simmer and maintain that temp. **DO NOT PLACE BOWL ON POT YET**
-Measure out cream and Liqueur, do not mix.
-Place cream in second pot, bring just to a boil on stove.
-Working quickly add boiling cream to chocolate, working in smooth motions with a rubber spatula (heat safe). Be aware the chocolate may seem as though it is "siezing" on you, keep working the chocolate as best you can
-Place bowl onto double boiler and add Liqueur.
-Work in swift but smooth motions to ensure all chocolate has melted. You should end up with a velvet like look to the chocolate but still offering a slight resistance when stirred.
-Remove from double boiler and place bowl into ice bath. Stir chocolate gently, pressing against the sides of the bowl to smooth out any and all lumps. When the chocolate begins to feel stiff and becomes hard to mix by hand, scrape down the sides of the bowl and place into freezer. (Make sure to clean off spatula and hold for next step)
What we have done in this step is created the base for our truffles. This mixture when cooled to the right temp will be pliable enough to roll into balls, but soft enough to eat with ease.
-Place semisweet chips into medium bowl.
-Place over second double boiler
-Melt chocolate about 2/3'rds of the way.
-Remove pot and bowl from the heat and continue to stir the chocolate till compleatly melted. Once this is done remove bowl from double boiler.
**This Melted Chocolate will need to be at about room temp when used in the final application. Slightly lower then body temp (98 degrees F), If it gets too cool replace over double boiler and warm slightly.**
-Place wax paper on one sheet tray, dust liberaly with cocoa powder. Hold for final application
-Place wax paper on second sheet tray. Hold for final application.
Remove chocolate from freezer. Ensure it is warm enough to mold, but cold enough to not melt. Get together your sheet tray of Cocoa, your melted chocolate, and your dry sheet tray.
**If you have foodsafe gloves, now would be a great time to put them on!**
-First, form your chilled chocolate into bite size balls (Slightly larger then a large marble) Hold on wax paper. Work quickly at to ensure chocolate maintains correct tempurature, move chocolate in and out of freezer as needed. **Formed balls do not need to be rechilled, once shaped they can stay out**
-Once all your balls have been made Lay out your Mise en place (prep) in this order:
(Based off a right handed person, sorry lefties- just reverse ;-) )
Left- Sheet with formed balls
Middle- Bowl of melted chocolate
Right- Tray with cocoa powder
Far right- Container that you will hold your truffles in
Working from Left to Right:
-pick up a ball with one hand
-hold over melted chocolate bowl, using opposite hand dip into chocolate, transfer ball to that hand, roll ball gently in melted chocolate. **The idea is not to smother the ball in melted chocolate but to give it a nice coat.**
-using "Clean hand" drop ball onto tray with cocoa, roll in cocoa till covered, transfer to clean container.
**This process is alot easier with two people, one coating the balls the other rolling and transfering to container**
Repeat as needed till all balls are done.
These can be held at room temp.
There you have it, Easy Truffles!!
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Today was one such fair and as I made my rounds shaking hands, meet and greets, and shoot the breeze I realized, sadly, there was no job site that really jumped out at me.
With graduation looming just after the new year the thought of securing a post school job has been forefront in my mind. Yet, with the unique situation I find myself in finding a job I know I can perform well at and make something out of is seeming to be harder then I thought.
I was hoping to be able to look into some avenue of food writing, but alas no such luck at this job fair.
My choices seem limited post graduation, only graduating with an Associate Degree limits the options that are open to me and with no other degree to back me up my hopes rested on slugging it out on a hot line while I pieced it all together.
I tell myself not to worry, that this is what to expect after graduation.. but after wandering around the career fair today I got horrible mental images of being stuck doing prepared meals for upscale grocery stores or worse yet... getting stuck behind a desk doing R&D or something of the sort... oh the humanity!
There is still time till G-Day but I dont want to wait till the last minute to find something. Ending back up where I started is not really going to work to well for me.
So I plug away, studying as hard as I can and hoping that something out there screams to me in a language I understand...
"Psst Hey you.. yeah you!... Come work here, youll love it."
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I email Bob from time to time to share links and info that I find while slipping and sliding along the internet.
After emailing him earlier this week with a story he wrote back that he was interested in having me guest blog/contribute to "A Hunger Artist".
This is very exciting for me and a step in a good direction. I want to thank Bob for this chance and invite you all to join me there from time to time for a first person look into the life of a Culinary School student.
A Hunger Artist
Thursday, August 9, 2007
I asked him if he had any contact with the protesters fighting the Foie Gras Battle Royal. He chuckled and said .."you know when I first saw those Hugs For Puppies *Expletive Deleted* I thought, hey cute name.. now all I want to do is (mess) with them."
I took that as a yes.
Luckily the restaurant he works at has gone relatively unscathed, say for a few sidewalk protests.
The conversation took an amusing turn when he mentioned some of the crafty ways Chefs are both passively and actively fighting back.
During one protest in the city one chef was kind enough to send the busy protesters some complimentary hor'dorves during dinner service, complete with server and silver tray.
Another neat thing allot of the cooks of these establishments have been doing is "Infiltrating" ( I won’t tell you how because I don’t want to be responsible for the system getting screwed up..ever seen 50 angry cooks? not pretty) the organizations that protest and tracking their protests to stay a foot ahead.
One story that really amused me and strengthens the point I have previously made about the reason why the Foie Fight is such a tough one for chefs. The uninformed public in general has no idea what Foie Gras really is, how it’s farmed, and what the details are. Along comes PETA and Pals and suddenly we find ourselves staring down angry customers..why? because PETA and Pals tell them all the "Horrible and Inhuman" things we do to get Foie Gras. The uninformed are being led to believe in half truths and allot of times lies.
So how do you counter act it? well my friend explained to me they had a very long term customer call and demanded to speak with someone in the kitchen. The Sous Chef took the call only to hear "...If you continue to serve Foie Gras I will no longer be returning my business to your restaurant."
After an apparent 30 minute phone conversation the Sous chef explained the process of making Foie Gras, the fact he had personally visited the location where they buy the Foie to ensure no cruelty, and other interesting Foie facts.. to which the customer replied "oh, I had no idea.. I look forward to my next meal in your restaurant".
Sometimes it just takes a little talking to work through your differences...
Hugs for Puppies, how bout a hug for a chef?