Saturday, December 20, 2008
Quick note: I'm beginning to hate blogger. I plan on switching to typepad or something else soon but I'm feeling too lazy at the moment to explore the idea any further.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tonight for my amuse bouche: lobster nigiri-zushi with mango coulis and wasabi tobiko
Friday, December 5, 2008
the saute cook (and a good one at that) was fired early last week for giving his opinion when asked for it by the GM. now, he did sort of insult the exec. chef in doing so, but it was still a pretty lame thing to happen. it sucks that he's gone but on the bright side it has opened up some opportunities on the line. i'm currently training on the section they call "middle." it's on the line between saute and grill. it's sort of a filler position and does most of the hot veg and plating. it's an awesome step up and one i didn't expect so soon; i haven't even been at the restaurant (which is my first kitchen job) for a month yet.
on a not-so-good note, the restaurant is doing poorly. most casual fine dining places have been hurting the most during these financial troubles that our country has been going through. many similar scale restaurants have been closing. at least it's the holidays and we are busy with parties. tonight we had a 60 top, a 35 top, a 30 top, and a 14 top. that pretty much maxes out the restaurant so we were basically closed to the public except for bar seating, which saw some business as a result. we were absolutely slammed; it was as busy as Plate will really ever get. the good thing is that because it was all preplanned parties, it was also preplanned menus. only the 14 top was al la carte which meant we knew way ahead of time what was needed. this made for some busy prep time but when it came time for service we were locked and loaded and everything went down smoothly. the chef gave us all a big thanks and the end and the GM passed out beers, which is alwasy a pleasant way to end a shift.
i've also received my first paycheck from my new job. ouch. the paycut hurts but i have zero regrets. i love what i'm doing, i'm learning a lot, i'm moving up more quickly than i thought i would, and it is awesome experience. if i can train quickly to jump on saute or grill (our grill guy is currently looking for work elsewhere) then i can also ask for a raise and will have solid hours; and again, it will be awesome experience. i know it will happen, it's just a matter of time. i think hard work, reliability, and a tactful expression of my opinion when asked for will make the difference. it's a fast moving business with a good amount of turnover.
i'll try to get some pictures of the restaurant and the food we make soon to show everyone what i'm up to.
the only other thing i have going on is school. i'm just taking one class this trimester: adv mgt/restaurateur. it's been getting off to a slow start but the entire class is basically one big project, which is to go through the steps of opening a new restaurant. choosing a site, raising/collecting funding, owner arrangements, hiring staff, and of course the fun stuff - design, menu creation, etc. it will be a fun project and i hope to learn a lot.
if you want to read some cool stuff (because i don't feel like i'm divulging anything of much interest), check out http://blog.ruhlman.com/
that's it. i'm tired. a few more beers, maybe some leno/conan, and then bed. night.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Apps have gone out to the 70 top everything still moving like a fragile ballet, pirouettes on the edge of a knife.. You clear some counter space and get ready to plate salads for the party. Greens, dressing, parm, sliced tomatoes, and plates at the ready – it’s all there, just waiting for your willing and able hands. You dunk your head in the cooler to double check what you already know is there: backups of everything. You nod to yourself and turn back to the counter when…
The ballet freezes and everyone stands silent and motionless for a minute. There are broken dishes all around your feet and all over the counter where you were prepared to plate the salads. The dishwasher is standing next to you, eyes wide and starting to swim. She was bringing the plates you asked for but tried lifting too heavy a stack up to your overhead and dropped the lot. She dives for a broom and dustpan but everyone knows the real harm that’s been done: there are broken shards all over the place and who knows if any got into the salad mise en place, it can’t be used. You can’t risk serving something that might harm a customer, not to mention cause a law suit and shut the restaurant down.
The chef doesn’t blow his top, but he’s pissed and the atmosphere becomes severely uncomfortable. He doesn’t hesitate to order all the salad prep 86ed. He starts barking out for you to start from scratch. Luckily, there are a few extra people staffed tonight and they’re on top of taking care of the party. The next few hours are a whirlwind of intense focus mixed with anxiety and chaos. The printer is screaming orders for regular diners and walk-ins so you switch gears and try to find your pace again.
Fast forward… the night’s over. You only had to stay 30 minutes over your scheduled shift, which you spent joking around with the dishwasher while you help her finish up (she was buried, again). The GM gets you a beer and a few verbal pats on the back from the chef have you feeling pretty good.
Above is a description of what happened Saturday, my fourth night on the job. I have to say that I am absolutely loving every minute of it. I’ve never felt so alive or so focused, but I’m trying to keep myself grounded. I haven’t made any catastrophic mistakes yet so I’m trying to keep my skin thick for when it happens.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Last night I was trained from 2 til about 4:30, then my trainer left and I ran my station with the help and instruction of the sous. It was great that I got to just jump in there, I kind of feared that they would just have me shadow someone for the first few nights and have me just watch. This station is easy though. I'm right on the end of the line so I can watch the saute and grill cooks. I'll be taking a lot of mental notes because if the opportunity to jump on one of those stations comes up I want to be ready to take it.
Okay, so here's what I'm responsible for on pantry:
Wedge Salad - bacon, blue cheese, red onion and a balsamic vinaigrette (entirely unexciting)
Spinach Salad - chevre (goat cheese), walnuts and a maple, bacon vinaigrette (entirely delicious)
Endive Salad - grilled endive, roasted beets, Roquefort cheese and truffle vinaigrette (awesome and beautiful plating)
Lobster Bisque with Cognac Scented Creme Fraiche
Insalata Caprese (which they simply call Tomato and Mozzarella Salad) - Slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella with basil, balsamic reduction, and olive oil (another really nice plating)
I also do an item on the Bar Menu: Ahi Poke - this is a Hawaiin dish with sashimi grade raw tuna, cucumber and daikon (asian radish) sprouts with a sweet and spicy chili sauce
Pantry also handles the desserts, which I won't attempt to list in detail from memory but there was a pecan pie/cheesecake, bread pudding, tiramisu, apple pie, sorbet, creme brulee... all very pretty and delicious looking.
I haven't been able to sample much yet but you better believe I'll be working on that; I love the menu. Mainly, I was very impressed with how calm, clean, and organized everything was. I understand that it was a relatively slow night, even for a Wednesday, but it was good first experience just the same. My station is a breeze and I'll have it down by the end of today so I can concentrate on impressing everyone with my amuse bouche creations. It was a great first night.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I'll try to get some pictures, but only if I can do it incognito. I don't want to look like the idiot new guy culinary student who is so happy to be working in a real kitchen, even though that's what I am. In the meantime, check out their website: http://www.platecolorado.com/
Monday, November 10, 2008
We only had a brown chicken stock left to use. Ideally, a very clear chicken stock, or better yet, consomme, would be used so that you could see everything in the bowl. The Christmas wreath looking thing is a parmesan cheese touille made with some parsley. This soup is fairly simple in concept but is actually quite difficult to make and the result is absolutely delicious. Cracking that yolk just makes the soup so rich and creamy. It's a wonderful thing.
Chef really loved this one. Three Prosciutto and mozzarella cheese crostinis, each with a different topping: artichoke heart bruschetta, kalamata olive tapenade, and fire roasted pepper tapenade. I garnished with a little more of each topping and some herb oil. I could eat a mountain of this stuff.
Here's where I really could've done things differently. First and foremost, I poured the sauce on top of dry pasta. Not only is that not Italian, but who the heck wants to eat plain pasta?? I should've tossed the pasta in some of the sauce to coat it, then plate it. Secondly, asperagus is great, but I don't think it was the best choice for this dish. Broccolini would've been nice but we didn't have and weren't getting any. Thirdly, the dish was just plain missing something. I'm thinking a secondary sauce would've really made it pop. Like a balsalmic or sweet red wine reduction of some kind. Hmm... will have to revisit this one, I'm not settled.
Well, like I said, I can't really complain. I'm happy with the way things turned out but it's almost a little bittersweet being so close to a perfect score. I imagine it's something like placing second in the World Series of Poker.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
What I cook for myself: ghetto breakfast tacos
I'm getting better... I'm not as lazy about what I cook for myself as I used to be, but I still have my moments. For me, a big part of cooking is to bring other people pleasure and enjoyment. When I'm just feeding myself, I do whatever is quick and easy. Last night I didn't eat dinner until after 10pm and was very hungry. I just fried some corn tortillas then topped them with cheese, potatoes, onion, an over-fried egg and some hot sauce. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but it was a kind of ghetto good. Haha, I just looked at my plate after I finished making them, laughed, then took a couple of pictures thinking, "you go, culinary student."
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tonight we are going to a restaurant called Silver Pond for some (according to chef) legit Chinese cuisine. I'm excited but I'm also still broke, so I'm expecting a bittersweet experience.
I've decided on a menu for my Foundations class final exam. Here's what I'll be making:
Soup course: Zuppa Pavese (Pavia Soup) - this is a fairly simple soup but has a great presentation quality and will be really tasty. You toast bread in a pan with some butter then put it in an empty bowl. Crack an egg on top of the piece of bread then fill the bowl with boiling hot chicken broth, poaching the egg. Top it with some extra pepper, grated Parmesan and minced herbs on top and that's it.
Second course (appetizer/salad/amuse bouche/whatever): Antipasto platter - I'm going to make some Prosciutto and Provolone cheese crostinis and serve them with three toppings: artichoke heart bruschetta, kalamata olive tapenade and three pepper tapenade.
Third course (entree): Pork Tenderloin alla Napoli with Broccolini and Penne.
I'm feeling pretty confident and excited about this. I making some things that are very different from what the other students are making so we'll see how it goes but like I said, I'm excited.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Self-gratifying place setting
Japanese Eggplant (after being mauled)
Udon Noodle Soup w/ Duck
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Bacon Wrapped Hot Digs in Maple Bar Donut Buns
I think you're gauranteed a heart attack with every three bites.
White Bean and Ham (we used more bacon than ham)
Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Tomato Soup with Parmesan Touilles and Savory Whipped Cream
And then this was just a random amuse bouche type plate. From the top going clockwise: olive tapenade, fire roasted pepper tapenade on a waffle cut potato chip (I forget the French name for this), more olive tapenade on a chip, stuffed mushroom (these were AWESOME), fire roasted pepper tapenade by itself, and a sort of chicken salad mixture thing on a chip, with fried leek strings and savory whipped cream in the middle.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
“Thank you for Jesus and God and Mama and Daddy and me and Cosette. Thank you for Jesus and Little K on the tv at church. Let Cosette and me and mama and daddy have no bad dreams. Dear Jesus’ name. Amen” -Connor (4)
“Jesus loves me so….Bible tells me so….Jesus loves me so….Amen.” -Cosette (2)
>>Last night we had a guest instructor schooling us on some Japanese food. We made miso soup, soba noodles, fried tofu, vegetable and shrimp tempura, and (oh yes) sushi. Okay, so I loooove sushi and had never made it before last night. It was awesome. I realised how easy it is to throw sushi together, but I also realise now how difficult it would be to truly master. Not so much for flavor but sushi is all about presentation. Perfect cuts, perfect arrangement, perfect rolling (or nigiri-squeezing), etc. I wish I would have had a nicer plate, something square and dark colored maybe, but at least I have pictures this time!
Not bad for my first time, eh? It all tastes wonderful, my favorite was the spicy tuna handroll. I think I've got the bug... I could totally see myself a few months from now with all my own stuff at home to make sushi, and with the new Asian market that just opened down the street that sells everything I would need (including sashimi grade tuna-maguro), it would be all too easy.
In case you're interested, here's what on the plate: the roll is a California Roll (sushi rice, sesame seeds, crab, avocado, cucumber, tobiko [fish eggs], and nori [seaweed]), shrimp nigiri (the butterflied shrimp has a dab of wasabi on the underside to help it stick to the little palm of rice that was squeezed, which is what nigiri means), tuna nigiri (or nigiri maguro), and the yellow one is nigiri tamago (tamago is egg, it's kind of like an omelet but the eggs have a little salt and sugar in the mixture and is cooked in a square pan in thin layers of egg that you keep folding over - this was really cool and I think it's a great example of how the Japanese take something simple like scrambled eggs and cook them and present them in a way that is far superior and beautiful), and lastly, the spicy tuna hand roll (my favorite) which was tuna mixed with rooster sauce (I don't know the name, but it's that chili sauce with the picture of a rooster on the bottle), a little mayo, and green onions; also in the roll is the sushi rice, avocado, and a leafy green called shiso (similar in flavor to basil, actually).
>>Okay, now for the "Snow" part of the title... yep, winter is here. Last night we had our first snow. It's very pretty, just a light blanket of snow over everything. It didn't affect the roads at all, which is good because I really, really need to go get some new tires...
Friday, October 17, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I also finally got a braised pork that I'm actually happy with. I want to work on the seasonings/flavorings some, with the desired end result of Carnitas like I used to get back at Super Mex in Cali. There just isn't any good, hardcore Mexican food here in Colorado Springs. At least not that I have had yet.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Same pizza but covered with mozzarella
The pizzas were really freaking good, and I'm getting a little faster and better at making my own doughs.
Last night was NY strip, sauteed and basted with rosemary garlic butter. It's sitting on top of a carrot mash and tomato mushroom gratin. The steak was great and the veg was tasty, but looked a little like baby puke. I like the tomato gratin but I'm thinking I should concasse the tomatoes first, there was way too much liquid.
My beautiful wife, Nikki came home last weekend with a 1.75 liter jug of Jameson's. I loved her and despised her in the same moment because I knew what this would do to me, especially being that I have the week off from school. I make a point not to get sloppily drunk anymore, but it's been six days since she brought the jug home and it's over half gone...
Trouble in a bottle.
On top of that, she'll be up in the mountains this weekend on a retreat. I plan on doing a lot of reading and cooking, but it's just not as fun (or maybe purposeful) without her around. I've always said that I started cooking because I love to eat, and boy do I. But really, I'm not sure how true that actually is. When I'm home alone I'll just do whatever is quick and easy. I get excited about cooking when I'm cooking for others. There's no better feeling to me than to see someone else bite into something that I made, roll their eyes back in their head, and groan about how good it is. Nikki does this pretty much every time I cook. I think it's more out of love and support than anything else, and she's fairly easy to please when it comes to food. It may not be the most advantageous critique in terms of helping me develope as a cook, but it sure is edifying.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Oh well, on to what really matters: the practical. Here's what I made for my entree.
We had to make two courses, a salad course and an entree. I was originally assigned chicken for my protein and saute for my method but when I got to school the chef decided too many people had chicken and he wanted more variety so he switched me to beef and told me I could cook it however I wanted. For a split second I was thrown off because I had really prepared myself to saute chicken, but really there's nothing I enjoy more than grilling some steak. So I grabbed a NY strip, threw it in some herb oil to marinate and then got to work on the salad and prepping the rest of the entree. For the salad (sorry, forgot to take pics) I used spring mix greens, cantaloupe, crisp raw onion, and a Thai vinaigrette, which turned out pretty nice, I thought. I garnished it with some minced lemon zest, parsley, cilantro, and red pepper. For the entree I made a pumpkin coulis (basically a puree), fried potatoes, and wilted spinach. The garnish was just scallions and bell pepper for color. Here's what I thought could've been better - the pumpkin coulis had a touch too much salt; the potatoes could've been a little crisper; and I felt like I used too much shallot with the wilted spinach. Here's what the chef though:
ACE!! Yep: 100%. He gave me a 10 out of 10 on everything. It's kind of funny how critical you can be of yourself and your own handiwork but then turn around and get a critique like that from a professional. Obviously, it made me feel great and the whole work issue just didn't matter to me anymore. It was a nice way to finish off before the fall break. Now I have a week and a half of no school to relax, read, cook at home, or whatever. My wife will be happy since I'll be cooking for her and I also plan on finishing The Physiology of Taste and writing a report on it (chef said he'll give extra credit and it's a phenomenal book anyway).
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
There are many colorful and interesting stories I could tell from the overly eventful weekend, but for now you get just one: the cyborg. Yes, we did indeed encounter a cyborg at the Select Hotel in Tulsa, OK. I'm not sure how he infiltrated our group but apparently it had to do with another student speaking to him in German, which caused the machine-man to develop an afiinity for our entourage. As you know, cyborgs are multi-lingual. He was proud to share with our group that he had duped an unknowning human, who was also staying at the all too elegant Select Hotel, into an arm wrestling match, scheduled for precisely 12:30am that evening. The silly homo sapien had pushed a wager and would be into the cyborg for half a million dollars, should he lose. The cyborg told us of his plans for future upgrades in biofuel and hydraulic technology, to be installed by scientists in Japan in February of 2009 in return for 12.8 million dollars, but he was certain that his current system would be able to handle the engagement without fail.
After paying $20 for two cigarettes (apparently his lung system was equipped to filter nicotene), he noticed the arm of another member of my group, bearing a birthmark on the inside forearm, starkingly alike in shape, color, and location to a mark on his own arm (of course this was not a birthmark but most likely a scar from a prior battle or a manufacture flaw, of some sort). He immediately recognized the significance of this similarity: the cyborg was indeed an android replication of the student, sent from the future.
I swear that this was a real person, who really said all of these things and much, much more. I wish I was making it up...
Things I learned and/or realized from this trip:
I need sleep
Battered and fried Winsconsin cheese curds are insanely good
The spider-lady is a bitter person/arachnid
Cochin chickens have silly looking afros
Jesse breaths like he has a turbine engine in his chest when he sleeps, but doesn't snore
Non-stop episodes of The Sopranos in the back of an Escalade is the ONLY way to ride to Tulsa
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
blonde roux, used to thicken the bechamel for the pommes dauphinoise
brown roux, used to thicken the pan juices for the finished bourguignon
beef bourguignon, just before going into the oven (the carrots are hiding)beef bourguignon, right out of the oven
wilting spinach in garlic oil with shallots
plated dish. gotta love the maple leaf parsley garnish, guh...
brie en croute, I didn't pinch the dough tight enough, hence the sea of cheese
(reminds me of Primus)
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Brie en Croute
Carrot Jus Lie (one of chef's creations)
Chicken Nouvelle (there's a lot more freedom with this one, we just need to display the characteristics of nouvelle cuisine)
The bourguignon and pate take hours to make so I'm not sure exactly how that will work out. If he gives us the full class time, 4.5-5 hours, then no prob. We'll see how he wants it. A couple of the dishes are simple, like brie en croute and ratatouille. If we draw one of the easy/quick ones then we might also have to cook another dish to accompany it, or we might have to get all Thomas Keller on it (like the ratatouille made in the movie by the same name, it was designed and created by Keller) and really try to impress the chef.
My eyes are stained red from lack of sleep; time enough for it in the grave but people have made comments. I almost always drink a full bottle of wine, and more, when I drink wine now. It's getting expensive. My dog still craps in the house on a regular basis, but according to my wife she's "gotten better about it." I don't iron my shirts for work anymore and I wear my slip-resistant kitchen shoes to the office, but I don't think anybody cares or has noticed - yet. If I keep this pace up, I will graduate culinary in 16 months. Might be better to kick back my class schedule, switch to mornings, quit my job with the credit union, and get into a kitchen somewhere. Right now I'd much rather be prepping veg than to fund another freaking loan. This way I'd have several certifications and a good amount of real world experience under my toque by the time I'm done, but I wouldn't be able to keep all my lovely corporate benefits up until graduation. We shall see, we shall see...
While macerating a bunch of garlic last night I let my attention wander to the person next to me who was telling me how they do it differently. When I looked back I found that my left index finger was missing a good portion of its fingernail and I was about to get blood all over the garlic. I grabbed a paper towel, wrapped my finger up tight and then finished the garlic. I got a bandaid for it later but I wanted to be sure the garlic was ready when chef asked for it. It's kind of funny looking and only really hurt when I went to shampoo my hair in the shower. I'll take a picture and post it, with pictures from the dinner I made Sunday night. I promise, pics are coming.
Monday, September 22, 2008
I used the weekend to practice the French dishes we've been learning about in World Cuisine. We have a practical this Tuesday and we haven't had any really opportunity to practice during class. My wife invited a coworker and her fiance to come over for dinner last night and the three of them were my guinea pigs. This was the menu:
Appetizer (was too much to be called an amuse bouche)-
Chicken Pate with Red Onion Marmalade
Boeuf Bourguignon, Pommes Dauphinoise, and Wilted Spinach with Shallots and Garlic Oil
Brie En Croute with Blackberry Coulis
I took pictures of everything, they'll get posted later. It was a lot of fun cooking all this food. I didn't run into too many problems except that I didn't have a food processor. I called my chef at school and he said it was okay to swing by there and use the Robocoup, which worked out well for the pate. Speaking of which, the start and end of this meal featured my two new favorite things: pate and brie en croute. This is a problem, though, because they are both loaded. I call pate a "heart attack loaf." And baking a big wheel of cheese in pastry dough and smothering it with jammy sweetness? Forget about it... Not that the beef or potatoes were any better. The sauce/gravy for the beef is thickened with brown roux, which is just butter and flour, and the potatoes were baked in a bechamel with a ton of gouda and gruyere cheese. But hey, we had spinach, right!?!? That's healthy! You gotta love the French. It's all about butter, cheese, and cream. At least for cuisine classique. We didn't dive much into nouvelle because chef is a haute kind of guy. I believe our studies turn to China after the French practical exam so hopefully that will be a little kinder to my arteries.
Monday, September 15, 2008
On Friday I made risotto Milanese (w/ saffron), chicken glace, and sauteed chicken breasts with beure blanc. I have pictures but I'll have to post them tonight. We continue our study of sauces tonight in Foundations and tomorrow we continue through our Study of France in World Cuisine. I really hope we dig deep tomorrow night because, after one week of studying France, I don't feel like I've learned much of anything about the country.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Last night we started off with another wine tasting. The purpose of this tasting wasn't really to analyse the wine but rather to practice how we taste and to continue to develop a platform that will help us identify wines. The guest sommelier was great. He really explained everything in a way that you could see, smell, and taste what he was talking about. I'm going to keep a copy of my notes from that class in my truck so when I go out and have some wine I can refer to it and keep practicing my tasting and developing my palate. We had a Cotes du Rhones and a Bordeaux, which were both great but I prefer the Bordeaux for sure.
After the wine we went into the kitchen and made Arrancine, which is Italian. Don't ask me. We're supposed to be studying France but the chef has other more important priorities, apparently. He's a great chef and I love his classes but I don't really feel like I'm learning anything about France yet, and we only have a few more sessions to cover the country before we have a practical and move on to the next country. He keeps saying that we're really going to bust through some hardcore French stuff soon. I hope so. I really want a grasp on France the same way Chef Matthews gave us a grasp on Italy.
Anyway, here's to the weekend. I'm going to clock some hours helping out for an event at school to help pay down my tuition and do some cooking at home as well. My b-day poker tourney is tomorrow also, so it's going to be a busy weekend, but it should also be a lot of fun.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I was a bit early to class and the chef walked in while I was talking with another student. I was telling him what an awesome read The Physiology of Taste is. On the first page of the first chapter Brillat-Savarin discusses the senses. He names the traditional 5 senses we all know and then he defends his idea of the 6th sense: phsyical/sexual desire. His defense runs along the lines of purpose. The function of all the senses is to allow us to interact with the physical world as well as to gratify us. Physical and sexual desire does this a way unique from the other 5 senses but is still very powerful and so should be put into it's own category, according to him.
Anyway, my brain is tired so that's all I've got for now. We've been crazy busy at work and I just smashed all my old records for number of loans and dollar amount funded in one day. Time to recoup a bit for the next hour and a half before heading back to school.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
low country fish stew-
I used the fumet I made with the fish bones, and chunks of the meat that I scraped from the skin and carcasses, along with some basic mirepoix, to make this soup. It probably cost all of $3.00 to make when you break it all down. I used too much fennel, though. sadness
Like I said, I wish I had some much cooler pictures and stories to relate from some crazy Polish chef and a rediculously huge and cool wedding reception prep, but instead my weekend was just relaxing and easy. So those are the kind of pictures and stories you get. Next time I'll work the dang reception.