Tag Archives: JWU

The Time Flies Files: Part 1

4 Mar

So I woke up this morning in my lovely campsite on beautiful Las Vegas and I realized…WOW! I have not blogged in over FOUR months and a WHOLE lot has happened in B’s life. So I’m gonna catch you guys up as efficiently as possible. We’ll call this blog part one…there will probably be a part 2 and 3…we’ll see how energetic I am.

So in our last episode, I was beginning to toy around with Molecular Gastronomy. I picked up some really cool toys from amazon.com:

Spheres from liquids, powders from pastes, pasta made of soy sauce, and all sorts of other cool recipes became my focus for a bit. I had a blast making things like this:

It felt really good when you put so much time and research into something and turn out a dish that looks like this. And…it was SO MUCH FUN! Did I mention, I love cooking?! ANYWAY! I’ll put more picutres up and I make new and interesting things. I’m currently playing with alcohol and mixers to make some cool things. More on that in a later blog.

In other news.

My good friend, colleague, and well…my damn BOY, Yang (that’s his name) talked me into entering a cooking competition with him. It was a mystery basket competition put on my the Cooking Asia club at JWU. There were 6 teams, we had 1 hour to put out 2 plates. Now I’ve never competed before in my life. Work is a competition sometimes, especially when we get to make VIP courses “on the fly” but this was something different. We were going to be judged by some of the toughest, most experienced, and quite frankly…best chefs at JWU.  These guys have been all over the world and worked in Michelin star restaurants and they were going to be judging OUR food.  EXCITING!!!

For those of you who don’t know, a mystery basket is like that show “Chopped” You get a basket with some unknown ingredients in it. They say go, you open it up and see what’s inside. Then you have an hour to turn it into something amazing.

Yang and I had a couple practice sessions at my apartment and were feeling good. Then…game day. We were there SUPER early, armed to the teeth with equipment, and ready to go to war! We had our briefing from the judges, and then it was go time.

They unveiled this AMAZING table of ingredients we could utilize:

Then we got our “basket”….

Inside…4 fresh…beautiful…DUCK BREASTS!

Now duck is one of my favorite proteins.  It’s rich, full of flavor, and renders some AWESOME fat to cook with!  But we had no time to be excited.  We now had 58 minutes to “do work” and we needed a game plan.  We had already discussed strategy going into the competition.  The theme was Asian, so that was easy.  We were going to keep things simple, put a lot of emphasis on the protein, really make it shine, and make a basic, and beautiful, starch, veg, and protein plate.

The plan was to make a super flavorful marinade for the duck and make a confit (cooked in animal fat) of vegetables.  We had selected, eggplant, zucchini, chayote squash and Brussels sprouts for our veg.  Now it was time to get moving!  We knew an hour was not a lot of time and we’d really have to “mueve tu culo” to get it done.  So Yang started prepping veg, and I was on the marinade. Things were going great. We had about 5 timers going to keep us on track, we were well organized and feeling good.  15 minutes in, we had the fat and skin rendering, duck in the marinade, poaching water was on and heating up, and and veg was just about prepped.

Next I would roll the breasts in plastic, this makes a nice uniform shape for slicing and ensures even cooking in the water.  The poaching liquid was at 185 and holding (perfect for poaching)…I cant tell you how perfect everything was going. We couldn’t have scripted it better.

Duck went in the water and I was cooking the veg in the duck fat (yummmmm)..then it hit me…in all our planning and organization…we DIDN’T DECIDE ON A STARCH!!

Sigh…

No biggie…we’re both experienced cooks, we’ve been in the weeds before. Yang looked at me and sais “risotto?”  Now…let me back track here…I have been dubbed the king of risotto at JWU…at least that’s what my classmates say…I’ve made a risotto in every single class for the past 2 years and I can say this without being too cocky…I’m pretty damn good at it. After all, it is one of my favorite things to eat and cook.  But I looked at my watch…20 minutes left and we didn’t even have a stock on yet.  But what the hell right?  You only live once and neither one of us had anything to lose so I didn’t even answer him. I just went to work.  I think at one point I had all 4 of our allotted burners going at the same time making the risotto, the confit, and searing the poached duck.

I won’t bore you with the details…but in a nutshell, we banged out the duck, which was (pardon my french) fucking PERFECT, finished the veg(kinda…more on that in a minute), I actually finished a smacking risotto in 15 minutes, AND managed to make a pretty nice pan sauce. Yang was working on getting the plateing done and I was bringing the pans to the plating table…with only 90 seconds left…Yep…all that hard work and there just wasn’t enough time to get it all on the plate.  I knew it…I think Yang knew it…I was heart broken…big time…but…there wasn’t time to for that. We had to get plates out…NOW.

The veg was already on the plate, so I did a super quick slice on the duck, found the best 2 pieces and put em on the place.  In the end, our Poached & Pan Seared duck, over vegetable confit, with an Asian spiced risotto and duck pan sauce ended up being this:

Not a bad plate on it’s own…but it wasn’t even close to what we wanted.

In the end…the judges loved the duck, the veg was nice but…the Brussels sprouts were pretty raw…we needed to blanch them first, and the plate was pretty lacking overall. The judges asked about the rest of the dish and in the end told us it was a shame it didn’t make it on the plate because it would have made our offering hard to beat.

We didn’t get last…but we didn’t get first.  We had a LOT of fun and learned a lot.  I think we both wish we had time to compete again but as life would have it…neither one of us are in Providence right now so that’s not gonna happen any time soon but who knows…maybe we’ll get another chance to redeem ourselves in the future.

That’s all for now.  See you soon in “The Time Flies Files: Part 2”

*HUGE Thanks, hugs, and kisses to Lisa Chu for the awesome photographs! Thanks girl!

I Love Food!!!

29 Mar

I guess being the first post in my blog, I should probably do a decent job of telling the world a little about me.  This will all be covered in my Bio but for now I have a few things I want to talk about.  But first…the disclaimer.  I’m not a trained chef…yet, I’m not a doctor and I’m FAR from a writer. This is just my opinions…that’s IT! Now…on to the show.

Where was I, AH Yes!  I love food! Man do I ever!  I love the way food tastes, when it’s good. I love the way a great dish can wake up senses we never knew we had. I love the way it makes us feel when we eat things that we had as a kid…You know what I’m talking about. Those “Comfort Foods”.  The ones that we just put in our mouths and the texture alone is enough to bring a tear to our face…ahhh.  But I digress…

I love to cook!  It’s the one thing that’s remotely creative that I do well. I mean, I try to play guitar, I can play drums well enough to do pretty good on Rockband and after a few shots of tequila, I’m a Karaoke MASTER!  But none of those things are at the level that one could call them a creative “outlet”.  A place that I can channel my emotion, my feeling, my desires, and my whole being…take that and put it into a dish.  Then when I see the look on someones face, when they bite into it and they get that “AH” look…it makes it all the more exciting.  I love how I get excited when I cook new things like the ostrich that I hope I am going to get in my mystery basket on day 9 in my Nutrition final here at JWU.  Or the fresh hand dived scallops that I’m aching to get my hands on from New England.  I can’t describe how it makes me feel, I get “gheddy” like I’m in the 3rd grade and were about go to to recess.  I live for that excitement!

I love to teach! One of the things I enjoy as an older student, is having a little life, and kitchen, experience and being called upon to share that with the 16, 17, 18, and 19 year old students in my class (if it’s wanted or not) really makes me feel good!  Like I can contribute something back to the great circle of life.

As I progress through my classes here at Johnson & Wales I am constantly searching for things that catch my eye.  See, as culinary students, we’re supposed to be focusing on techniques, learning things like braising, stewing, deep-fat frying, poaching, and things like that. Then when we get out of here, we are “supposed” to spend the next 5-7 years developing a mastery of those techniques and developing, what is called, our “style”.  I think that’s all fine and good if you’re 17 and you have 35-40 years in the kitchen ahead of you.  I was reading Daniel Boulud’s book, Letters to a Young Chef, in which Chef Boulud talks about this very topic.  It’s very rare for a great chef to start so late in life because it takes that kind of time to develop those skills.  And for the most part…I agree!  As much as it pains me to say it.  I’m old!  I don’t have 40 years left in me…I don’t think I do anyway.  But I have all that ground to cover.  Now dont get me wrong.  I’m not trying to be famous.  But I WANT to be a great chef! I WANT a Michelin star! I WANT to be the kind of chef people see and they just know…Hey this guy is capable of great things.  But to do so…I know it’s going to take accepting nothing less that excellence.  Notice I didn’t say perfect. That’s another thing it’s going to take…knowing the difference.  It’s going to take doing right. Right by the my chef(s), right by the customer, and doing right by me!  I’ve got to do in 5 years what most young chefs do in 7-10.  I know this…and it makes me love food even MORE!

I think that’s enough for now.  I could go on forever and I have a nutrition practical exam to practice for tomorrow.

Ciao,

B