Tuesday, May 29, 2007

And this little piggy went wee wee wee...

Arrived back at school, for all purposes, in one piece. Orientation and settling in has taken most of the day as well as getting prepared for the onslaught of classes ahead of me.

Not much to report food wise at the moment really, but hopefully being back here will change that soon enough.

Have some back logging to be done as well as some poking around my favorite sites to see whats new and exciting (if anything).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Longest Journey

What a strange few days its been...

Leaving my externship site in Arizona, packing the car with everything it can hold, and returning to the east coast to finish school has taken up all my time.

Please stay tuned and be patient as updates will start again soon, but first I must get settled at school and back into the grind.

Till then

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cancer is hell

Though it has been awhile since my last post (work and internet issues preventing) I have to post today in a solem state.

Frank Miller, a friend of mine, has been battling brain cancer for the last year and a half. This morning after much suffering he passed away.

Frank was one of those amazing people who burn so bright, and sadly so very fast. He did things in his life most people take years to accomplish and his warm loving nature has made him many many friends in this world.

My fondnest memory of Frank was driving 2 hours to Philidelphia (his home town) after work one day just to eat at this german restaurant he raved about. Honest to god old world german food to, not just saurkraut with sausages.

After about 20 or so of us stuffing our faces with fatty, rib sticking german food we all set out to head home. I got a call from Frank the next day asking how I was feeling, puzzled I asked why..

"Those damn dirty germans did it to us again, food poisining this time!"

I must have laughed about it for a week.

I am going to miss you Frank, and the next time I am at a german restaurant or all you can eat Chinese Buffet (his favorite) I am going to raise a glass in your honor my friend.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Cheers my friend, Cheers.

If you can help here is a link to a fund started by a friend to assist with the cost of his long battle. Please, give if you can.. and on behalf of his family and friends I say Thank You.

Frank Miller Cancer Fund

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Beard Awards

The James Beard Foundation announced its winners the other day and I thought Id take a minute to touch on some of the winners.

Grant Achatz took home Best Chef:Great Lakes. Well earned in my opinion. (if you couldnt tell from the constant linkage on this blog)

Thomas Keller took home "OUTSTANDING RESTAURATEUR". Cant say it was a suprise really, but interesting to see both him and Jean-Georges both nominated.

was very happy to see "THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA" by Michael Pollan get Best Food Writing. Now I really have to pick up my own copy and stop stealing glances at chapters from my chefs office.

But I think most exciting from the awards was David Leite and Linda Avery from Leite's Culinaria win
"WEBSITE FOCUSING ON FOOD, BEVERAGE, RESTAURANT, OR NUTRITION". If you havent checked out the site yet, its a must.

Well written and well informed it makes for a great read.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Food Porn as only Conan can do it

Thanks to Bob del Grosso for the link

The Very, Scary, Reality

I was looking through the NY Times Dining and Wine section this evening when I stumbled across an article that drew me in. A topic of hot debate for me with my fellow students and co-workers for years this article only works to comfirm the deepest fears of any culinary student.

The Article written by Kim Severson touches on the difficulty of Culinary Arts students securing a well enough paying job to balance the loan cost at the end of school.

The article itself does an excellent job of pinpointing one of the biggest myths about culinary school in general, especially at this day in age, that every graduate will be the next Julia Child or Emeril.

"They want to cook. They just did not realize how deep in debt they would end up.".. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

So what happens when you leave culinary school 48,000$ in debt and can only land a job making 10.50$ an hour?

"As a result, as many as 11 percent of graduates at some culinary schools are defaulting on federal student loans. The national average for all students last year was roughly half that, at 5.1 percent."

So why? Why after paying 48 thousand (and often more) cant culinary graduates secure a higher paying job?

Its not for a lack of work, the culinary field as a whole has always had a gapping hole for a hard working well trained work force. But with the rise of culinary schools in the last ten years ( as per ShawsGuide to Culinary Schools a rise of 322 since 1989) there has been an influx of "trained" foodservice workers. The Department of Labor claiming the average wage earned by these workers, a whopping 9.86$ an hour.

So lets do the math.
Average loan of 48,000 divided by a standard 10 year loan plan= 4,800 a year divided by 12 months= 400 a month.
9.86 x 40 hours a week= 393$ (pre tax).. so well say 260$ a week x 4 weeks= 1040$
1040$- 400$=

640$ a month on which to live.

Thats with going by the book, which we all should well know by now isnt how it works. That 400$ a month is more like 600$ after interest rates. That 40 hours a week is lucky if you can secure a job that has the hours to give.

The numbers alone are enough to scare anyone. More so those paying for the schooling out of their own pocket (Myself included). So why? why do it?

I cant speak for anyone else but myself. For me, its never been about the money, or the fame. I never wanted to be Julia Child (Though she did know how to have fun with a chicken!) or even the next Bobby Flay (I think my skin just crawled).

Dont get me wrong, I want to do great things with food and in the industry. But I need no spotlights or tv shows to do that. The respect of my fellow foodies, the brutial honesty of critics, and an open communication with the seasoned chefs is all I want.

Ive said for years, If I can pay my monthly bills and have enough left over to feel at ease I will be content, but a big part of that, a HUGE part of that is having a job I can wake up to everyday that challanges me, that pushes me to better myself, that teaches me and forces me to think and act.

Without that, hell I could go be a doctor with the money I shell out for culinary school. But I wouldnt be happy with the work I do.

So with the looming debt, and uncertainty of income ahead Im probably crazy for what Im doing.. but you know the saying..

Theres a fine line between Genius and Insanity.

But Kudos to Kim Severson for touching on the dark and dirty side of the Culinary Youth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Final Frontier

Not until recently had I had the chance to get to play around with a very small portion of what the culinary world is calling Molecular Gastronomy.

My chance came last week when I got a very brief but informative how to from one of my Chefs in regards to creating "Caviar". Now most of us know what real caviar is by now, if you were alive during the 70 and 80's you probably could go your whole life without seeing another fish egg and die happy. But for the uniformed Caviar is:

An elegant and expensive appetizer of sieved and salted fish Roe (egg).

The "Caviar" I’m talking about is not harvested from fish, but rather naturally occurring chemicals often found in seaweed and algae.

What on earth am I talking about?

If you remember my post involving the Egg That Wasn’t an Egg you’ll have a better idea of where I am headed.

Now bare with me cause I’m about to get all scientific on you, but Ill explain it in basic terms when I’m done.

To create basic "caviar" your going to need two naturally occurring chemicals, both of which are perfectly food safe so don’t worry. You’re going to need Calcium Chloride and Sodium Alginate. When combined together the two create a gel like substance, but you don’t want to mix them together alone.. Defeats the purpose.

Now three things you need to be aware of when doing this.

1- Measurements need to be as exact as possible. We are talking about a scientific chemical reaction here. Too much or two little of one thing will end in a failed product.

2-The PH level of the "Juice" you’re using needs to be about middle of the road. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, just remember the "juice" cannot be too acidic or too salty (Alkaline). The reason for it is either end of the PH scale will start to break down or hinder the chemical reaction.

3- Measurement for this is done in metric.

Now to start with your going to need that "Juice" I made mention of. By juice I mean any product you can puree, strain and maybe thin with water or stock. The easiest thing I can think of to use as an example would be Cantaloupe.

When you have your "juice" prepared and ready you’re going to sprinkle (very important) the sodium alginate solution: 1 to 1.5% sodium alginate and 0.3% sodium citrate (by weight) over the top. The higher percentage of sodium alginate, the thicker the liquid will become. When you sprinkle the mixture over the liquid allow it roughly two minutes to "Set".

What you’re doing is basically the same process as blooming gelatin. You’re allowing the molecules in the mixture to absorb and adhere to the liquid your using and by doing so allow them to begin the chemical reaction needed. After those 2 minutes is up use an immersion blender to mix in the mixture to the liquid. Make sure you blend it well.

Now take your Calcium Chloride and mix into water. You’re going to need 1% calcium Chloride, by weight, to water. Example: 5 grams of Chloride in 500 ml of water.

You will now need a fine mesh strainer, a third bowl of fresh cool water, and a third empty bowl.

By now your head is probably swimming, and I know it seems confusing but don’t worry its really very simple. Now we get to the fun part.

You should have a nice plastic syringe (the kind your mom used to give you medicine with as a kid will work great, just make sure it’s got a wider opening on the needle) and draw into it a tiny bit of air. Then draw in some of your "juice" with the Sodium Alginate mix into the syringe. Wipe off an excess and position just above the surface of the Calcium Chloride water. Drip slowly into the water and watch as the chemical reaction happens almost instantly.

What you’ll notice is the juice does not disperse into the water. Rather the two chemical compounds create a jelly like shell around the juice creating a nice spherical object that will settle on the bottom of your bowl. After you’ve made a few allow it to sit for a minute more in the water then strain through the mesh strainer keeping you water (hence the second empty bowl). Rinse off your "Caviar" in your clean water set aside and there you have it!

This procedure, among many others along the same lines, were perfected by Albert and Ferra Adria of El Bulli fame, Godfathers of Molecular Gastronomy.

While I can’t say they created this process they are most certainly responsible for bringing it to the forefront of the culinary field. Molecular Gastronomy is still a hot bed of debate; many chefs don’t even acknowledge it as cooking at all but rather food science. In many ways they are correct, but by using what we learn more and more about food and what makes us the things we eat we are left with many new possibilities.

Nothing new has been done in regards to food in a very long time, no matter what anyone tells you. The same processes have been used for centuries, only they have been perfected, dissected, and recreated and called "New".

What we are witnessing with the rise of Molecular Gastronomy I honestly believe is the final frontier of food. It will be one of the, if not the, last new and exciting fronts in the world of cooking.

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