Sprouting seeds

31 Mar

When I started this new chapter in my life I knew what the process was going to entail. I’d spend a few years absorbing, gathering knowledge, experience, ideas, and connections. Then the day would come when this seed would begin to sprout and begin to grow. I don’t know if I’m there yet. I know I’m close…or maybe I’m just anxious. But either way It’s really got me thinking about where I want to be and what I want to DO.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what I like, what I do well, and what I have yet to try. So I thought today I’d share a little about what I’ve experienced that I like, and what really gets me excited in the kitchen.  It might not be a good read…but it will certainly help me sort some things out in my head.

First and foremost. Fresh is best.  Local is even better. Pick a tomato from your garden, then go buy one from the grocery store that could have come from any number of countries. Then compare them in look, taste and texture.  The garden tomato will will every single time.  And even from an economic standpoint, I’d much rather put my money back in to the local economy than send it to a large company or even worse, other countries.  This goes for produce as well as proteins and dairy.  I’ll always buy local when available.

I think the next thing I am passionate about is waste.  There is a concept called “snout to tail” that embraces the idea of using most if not all of any product you buy.  Obviously the phrase is referring to a pig, useing all of the bones, cartalige, hooves, ears, ect for various applications, but we can apply this concept to produce such as celery, onions, carrots, or anything else that might yield left over “scrap”.

Consistency is the next thing I know I want to focus on. If I made 100 chicken Marsalas, every one of them would look and taste exactly alike.  But it doesn’t just apply to the kitchen.  I’ve worked in 4 kitchens now in my professional career, and my single biggest pet peeve and eventually the one thing that drives me away from a kitchen, is when Chef sais to do things one way, and then sous chef A instructs you differently, and then kitchen manager B has yet another method of doing things to the point that you are setting your station up and preping and even cooking a certain way depending on who is working that night.  I’ve seen it so bad that I would actually have to change my station over when one chef would leave and another would come on during my shift. This concept can apply to the front of the house as well.  Consistency in the way we treat our guests, adhere to service standards, react to situations, and resolve issues is what will ultimately make or break a business.

Quality is last on this list but certainly not unimportant.  Doing things properly from the polish on the stemware, to the seasoning on the food to cleaning the ovens properly, will only make food better and provide the best possible experience to our guests, which is exactly why I’m in this business.  I love food and I love to cook, don’t get me wrong, but in the end, the thing that gets my rocks off (snicker) is knowing that my guests have a dinner they will talk about for the next 2 days.

The next few things are more food related…things that get me fired up about cooking and make me want to get right into a kitchen.

Top on the list…Presentation. I love a beautiful plate. Something that has been put together with care, precision, and just plain ole….swagger!  Something you just stop and look at for a minute before you even think about touching your flatware.  Something like this:

Next I think, would be flavor.  I LOVE big and bold! Rich and full of flavor…just…wow on your tongue. Layers upon layers.  It’s hard to describe but easy to accomplish if you don’t take shortcuts  (Another pet peeve of mine) and put a little love in your work.  I think that’s the key. The love part. Letting ones passion come out.

I love working with fish…well seafood in general. You all know how I adore a well cooked scallop. I’ve also got a big fantasy to go hand diving for scallops. But I love the smell of a freshly caught fish and they taste soooooo good.

I also have a big fetish for what we’re now calling “Molecular Gastronomy” but its really just a new way of cooking food. A set of techniques that are a little outside the “classical” way of cooking.  One of the things I love about Nove, where I’m interning now, is the first day onthe job I walked in and saw an immersion circulator.

This device allows you to “poach” things at a very accurately controlled temperature.  It’s used for what we call sous vide cooking. Which basically means to cook things in vacuum sealed packages.  I won’t get too far into this…today….but it lets us cook things at lower temperatures for a longer period of time in its own fats and juices, and renders a VERY tender and perfectly cooked product.  Its very cool!  As a matter of fact, I’m working on building one of these at home and I’ll have a nice series of write-ups on it later.  But things like liquid nitrogen ice cream, peanut butter powder, freeze dried tea foams, and tomato soup spaghetti are things I love! Finding new ways to do things we’ve done for years, like cooking a perfect medium duck breast ‘sous vide’, really excite me.

For now…that’s about it. As time goes on and my experiences broaden, I’m sure I’ll add more to this list. But I think that’s enough for today.

I don’t know how interesting of a read it was…but it was something I certinaly needed to do so…thanks for reading, and I PROMISE…I’ll have some real food next time!

Until then

B

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