Friday, December 28, 2012

Part I of My Trilogy : The Need to Feed - My Sabbatical Journey


This is the blog that started it all for me.  Check.  It.  Out.

Actually...the work I did at The French Laundry subsequently started the blog.... That's more accurate.  The blog written in California in 2009, once cleaned up, will be the 1st book in my 'Trilogy':

#1 - 'The Chef Apprentice - Epiphany and Perfection.'  The 67 blogs I created while a stagiere at The French Laundry.  I was on Sabbatical from The Art Institute of Colorado and these are my observations and thoughts as a 50-year old apprentice in, arguably, the finest restaurant in the world....

#2 - 'The Need to Feed - A Chef's Tale of Inspiration, Education & Dedication.'  The current blog which will surface as the second part of the 'Trilogy' which focuses on what a student of the culinary arts needs to know, what a Chef-in-Training better know and what all Chefs hope to know...  This is a more in-depth product from The Chef's Manual, written in 2008-2010...

#3 - 'Paths to The French Manner - Parties, Recipes and Culinary Adventures (1988 - 2012)'.  My life as it lead to the formation of The French Manner, a Personal Chef and Sommelier Service (with a name change to 12Seasons in 2008), and the people/recipes/food that I have cooked and created over the past 34 years - with updated flavor profiles and cooking techniques to bring my food into the 21st Century....

If you missed the original - here is one of my favorite entires...

#61 - 16 March - "In The Garden"

Monday was my scheduled day in the garden...

Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration. ~ Lou Erickson

My Sunday evening ended on Monday morning at 1:30 a.m.. One hour drive to Santa Rosa in the rain, fog and dark. I realized then, at 2:30 a.m., that I wasn't going to make a scheduled 7:30 a.m. or even 8:00 a.m. shift in 
The French Laundry garden. I called and left messages to say that I would be late... In bed at 3:00, I "slept" (?) until 7:45 a.m.. Refreshed (!) from my 4 1/2 hours of REM-deprived horizontal-ness, I showered, packed for my weekend (Angel's Camp, California - home to the "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Samuel L. Clemens - with my mother, brother and sister-in-law) trip and hustled into Napa Valley, arriving at TFL at 9:00 a.m.. Yes, I was late. I knew I had to atone for my belated start. As much as the schedule said I was to be there earlier, I didn't think that a 6 1/2 hour turn-around was really appropriate...or, possible. My apologies were accepted and I went to work. My day consisted of: trimming and scissor-snipping the green onions, removing the brown withered tops and giving them a "spikey-funky" haircut...; weed all the newly-sprouted fennel seedlings; tend the beds of micro-greens and weed them accordingly; spread the thyme, cabbage and greens beds with new straw bale for the expected weekend crowds during the Taste of Yountville; rake and keep the grassy areas between the plots clean and orderly; tend, hoe and weed the Spring Onion bed...

What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it.  ~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871

Ouch. I begrugingly tended gardens as a child in Sutton, Massachusetts and have home-gardened at various places that the Corey's have lived. The difference is - now I'm 50... however, I went at my tasks with new-found excitement. I really enjoyed the elements and the work. The stretching every 15 minutes or so was necessary, and saw others doing the same... "Tonight is going to be a
four-Ibuprophen night", I remember thinking...and, it was. Especially after the five hours I spent night-driving south to Angels' Camp, CA. That's another story...

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.  ~Mirabel Osler

I found myself outdoors for more than eight hours. Eight hours of driving rain, sunshine, wind, drizzle and a continous flow of passers-by who were eager to walk among the well-manicured plots and stop to, like Ferdinarnd The Bull, "smell the flowers (or herbs)", take pictures of their loved ones or aimlessly stroll from one end of the garden to the other - all with smiles on their faces. I smiled, too.

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it. ~Author Unknown

I respect those that grow things. It fulfills their soul and takes all their time. Time to do it well. It takes passion. Think of the possibilities. Heirlooms. Flowers. Seeds. Earth and soil. Water. Sun and natural fertilizers. Earthworms, ladybugs and the micro-geography of the garden. The quiet solitude in the garden belies the physical effort it takes to till the earth with bare or gloved hands and toil under sun or clouds to grow the flowers, herbs and plants that we use as food. My day was just a small contribution to the efforts that are put forth by 
TFL Head Gardener and staff. Lovely to look at, the sundry plots of vegetables and herbs are a necessary part-of-the-whole-experience that is, The French Laundry.

It was, in spite of my back - a great day. 




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Paths to The French Manner - Parties, Recipes and Culinary Adventures

'I learned about food in my mother's kitchen.'

Gotta start someplace....  More to come so, stay tuned.  Peace.


Going out quietly after 24 years... R.I.P.

The French Manner was born in Estes Park, Colorado in February of 1988.  Even with a name change in 2008 to 12Seasons, this was always my baby...  Now, I just completed the last event for guests this past Saturday, 22 December 2012.  Time to put it to bed, pass the torch to a younger generation, write TFM Memoir Cookbook and dedicate myself to teaching the next generation about passion, dedication and the pursuit of perfection...

Need to thank everyone who ever worked with me.  I'll send out a listing someday, call it The French Manner Hall of Fame!

Here lies the last menu.  R.I.P.


Lobster Bisque Shooters / Sage & Lemon Ricotta Fritters / Butter Poached Lobster
Caesar Salad Lettuce Fingers / Parmigiano Reggiano / Croutons / Herb Oil / Anchovy Dressing
Potstickers & Gyoza  / XO Sauce / Scallions / Cilantro
Poached Chicken Mousse Quenelles / Peanut Sauce / Toasted Sesame Seeds / Chives
Thai Tuna Ceviche / Avocado Foam / Twice-Fried Plantain Crumble / Pickled Onions
Pork, Lamb & Beef Albondigas / Chipotle BBQ / Fried Onions
Grilled Quesadilla / Jack / Goat Cheese / Poblano Peppers / Ranchero Sauce
Belgian French Fries / Curried Mayonnaise

The French Manner Beignets / Powdered Sugar / Coffee Gelato
Petite Molten Chocolate Cakes / Sea Salt / Peanut Butter Powder ('Adult Reeses')
2-Bite Eclairs / Pastry Cream / Chocolate Ganache
Christmas Swans / Chocolate Mousse / Nutella Snow 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

God Yul, y'all

From my crazy household to yours...  Christmas 2012.  On our way to 2013, and beyond...!  Peace.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

How To Be a Chef - Part 1,873

I love when someone else presents the same thoughts that I have espoused for years.  This post is from Amanda Cohen, which I received from Mark DeNettis via the Facebook telegraph...  Cohen is Chef @ Dirt Candy in NYC, which received 2* from the New York Times in 2012.  This is the life we have led, we being Chefs that made their way from dish to prep to cold station to line to Sous to Chef to Exec to Corporate Chef to Culinary University.....  Those near 30 words spanned my 38 years in the industry.

So, kids....forget trying to be different because of your looks, your attitude, your personal thoughts, your sexuality - get f****** dirty, cut your self, burn yourself, move fast, sweat all day, work your body harder than any of your friends will ever do and love every minute of it (ok, nearly every minute of it).  If this was easy, everyone would be a Chef.
Here are Chef Cohen's words.  Man, I got excited reading this!  For more of my words and experiences read me at theneedtofeed - or here at The Need to Feed.  Peace.
"One thing I get asked a lot is how to become a chef, so I figured that I'd save everyone (and me!) time by putting my advice up here for the world to see. It all boils down to one word: don't.
It never ends well.
If that doesn't discourage you, then here's my advice on what you need to do. This isn't the only way, and it's maybe not the best way, but I don't know any other way. Like most people who own restaurants, I have tunnel vision and can only imagine doing things the way I did it.
First, go into your kitchen. Put a giant pot of boiling water on the stove and stand in front of it for eight hours. Occasionally stab yourself in the hand with a sharp knife. Find a right-wing radio show, the more rabid the better, and turn it up to ear-splitting volume. Pretend that when they are yelling at the president they are actually yelling at you. Imagine that each insult is very personally directed at your stupid face. Try not to cry. When the eight hours are up, imagine that this is every day of your life and ask yourself if you still want to be a chef. Yes? Then congratulations! You are exactly the kind of masochist who is ready to cook in a professional kitchen!
The next thing you need to do is forget about becoming a chef. For years, I've interviewed, hired, and usually fired, people who wanted to be chefs. They've seen it on TV! They've read about it in books! It looks exciting! They have no idea what it means! Being a chef isn't a goal, it's something that happens to you as you cook for a living. You need to love cooking, and give yourself over to it, and along the way you'll discover what it is you're going to become. Some people are great at managing a kitchen, but bad at cooking, but good at working a line. Other people are great on the line, but terrible at managing a kitchen, and only okay at cooking. This is your skill set and it'll develop over time. That's what determines what you wind up doing, not your vague desire to be a chef.
The point is, it's the journey, not the destination.
I know this because my spirit animal told me so.
It's natural to want to skip to the finish line and declare yourself a chef, but you have to put in the time. For me, it was 10 years before I was really ready to run a kitchen, and when I look at how much better I am now than I was even four years ago, I'm embarrassed that I was stupid enough to cook in public back then. To have anything worth sharing, to have any skills worthy of their name, you've got to get in the grind and that takes time. By the time people are saying, "Yes, chef," you should have forgotten why that was important to you in the first place.
Quick sidenote: One of my first jobs was working in a very famous restaurant's pastry kitchen. The guy supervising me used to delight in running me down. He would tell me how much I sucked, take me aside and encourage me to quit, he'd go out of his way to be as abusive as possible. If he got me to cry then the rest of his day was all ice cream and cake. Did this make me tough? No. But it made me swear I would never be this kind of jerk, and that I would never hire anyone who acted like this. I've had a few people like that in my kitchens and I love firing them. Kitchens attract bullies because they've read Kitchen Confidential too many times or they think the Gordon Ramsay they see on TV is the real Gordon Ramsay. It's a joy to weed them out. Because bullies are wimps. I've been in this business for long enough to see most of them burn out over and over and over again. A sure sign that someone can't hack it? They're a bully.
So you're ready to take a shot? Then you need to realize: cooking and working in a professional kitchen are very, very different. Even if you love cooking at home and host dinner parties all the time, or you really know a lot about food, or you catered some events, you aren't prepared for a professional kitchen. I definitely wasn't. Everything you know about cooking, everything you learned from your mom, everything people say you do that's awesome, is useless. I know someone who cooks at pop-ups, she's got good skills, knows a lot about food, and has staged at a bunch of places, but she will never be a full-time chef. She gets bored too easily, and has a hard time with hierarchy. The idea of working in the same place, on the same station, month after month after month is something she just can't do, and to get good enough to make it in this line of work, she needs to do that. So forget every compliment you ever got for your cooking. I cooked for years before I went to cooking school and none of it helps. The only way to learn how to work in a professional kitchen is to work in a professional kitchen, not visit a professional kitchen, not stand in one and watch, not know a lot of people who work in them.
Still not deterred? Still want to try? Great! Go to cooking school, or do some internships, or whatever it is that will get you your basic skills. (There's another post coming up this week about cooking school) The basic skills you learn in cooking school -- knife skills, basic cooking techniques -- are going to be useless in real life, but you have to understand the vocabulary before you can speak the language. That's what your training is, learning your basic vocabulary.
Then, for the next several years, work on your technique, work on your technique, work on your technique. Find the toughest, busiest restaurant you can and get a job on their line. Stay for at least a year. Even if you're a vegetarian and it's not a vegetarian restaurant, that's okay. This is professional training and your personal politics need to take a back seat to getting rock solid skills. By the time your year is up you'll either realize working in a professional kitchen isn't for you and you'll move on to something that makes you happier, or you'll be on your way to having an indestructible technique that'll make you a ninja master in the kitchens you move on to. The first few years of working in a professional kitchen are going to shape the rest of your life, so don't slack. Don't call in sick, don't show up late, don't screw off. Realize you're not there to socialize, you're there to work. The friendships will appear, you don't need to chase after them. Just get on that line every day and work, no matter what, and realize that for that year your best will never be good enough. You will have to get better every day, or you will crash and burn. But if you put in the work now, your technique will support you for the rest of your life.
After that year in a professional kitchen, it's all just life experience. Work in as many restaurants as you can, and never do less than six months in any of them. Even six months might not be enough time to learn what you want to know, and if that's the case then don't be a chicken: stay as long as it takes. Don't be scared. Try everything, even if you think you can't do it. You'll never learn your limits if you don't get pushed past them on a regular basis.
One of the most important lessons I learned was when I worked at Diner Bar in Spanish Harlem. This was a really busy, upscale diner, and while I didn't eat meat I was cooking burgers, buffalo wings, all kinds of stuff I wasn't familiar with. They kept cutting staff until literally there was just an angry Rastafarian and myself on the line, doing between 80 and 200 covers every night. And one night, when I thought I was going to die, I realized I had a choice: either quit or work harder. No one cared if I quit except me, but I cared a lot. So I worked harder, and Diner Bar taught me that no matter how bad things got I could handle them. You can't succeed in a kitchen until you've been really and sincerely over your head and survived. You can't search out that situation, it just happens to you and you have to embrace it when it occurs.
Your life will be full of lessons like this. There are no classes that can teach them. If you want to cook in a restaurant for a living, you need to immerse yourself in this world and it will teach you everything you need to know through scars, bruises, friendships, and burns. The first year of this job is the hardest, but don't cheat, don't take shortcuts, and if you make it through you're going to be a different person."

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Truth About Passion & Finding Yourself

Passion =  Want + Desire x Dedication  = $ucce$$
                        The Need to Feed

Not exactly E=MC2...  Still, I like how it looks, sounds and reads.  Find your need.  It is the reason your passion makes you want something so bad you'll dedicate everything towards making IT happen.  And, if you can't find it or do it than look somewhere else...  The only prerequisite to passion is an epiphany.

This is my mathematical understanding of $ucce$$.  However, the end result of $ucce$$ implies some talent.  Passion by itself will not make you $ucce$$ful.  Wanting just makes you pathetic.  Desire is empty all by itself.  Dedication is the most active of the equation parts.  There is a lot of random want in the world and there is a lot of misused desire in the world.  It helps if you are actually good at what you do.  How do you get good?  How do you get better?  By repetition and concentration.  There are thousands and thousands of cooks ready to take your job if you fail.  Actually, not take.  That's too light in the adjective department.  Devour you.  Pillage your career.  Cast you aside and trample your fantasy...  That should push you...  It sounds trite, but there will always be someone better than you, and perhaps they are close at hand.  Push thyself.  Find thyself.

The key is sometime, anytime, put in the effort towards finding yourself.  It's not easy and everyone's  journey is different but they are all difficult.  A singular journey that only those committed to a greater good feel compelled to go through.  Monks, castaways, Crusaders, writers, chefs - all have at least one thing in common.  A reason to find themselves.  A greater purpose and a greater good.  It matters not that one may be more eloquent or more brave or more secluded than the others - what matters is that which lies beating within the breast of someone who is truly alive.  Alive with determination and passionate existence.

The preamble to all this is epiphany.  You can't get to any level of professionalism and technique without tasting it somewhere or realizing it somehow or just being in IT'S presence.  A epiphany is not a planned event.  You'll know when it hits you.  The skies may not part, the angels may have fallen silent and the trumpets could blare sharp - the sound effects don't matter.  What do you feel in your heart...?

I remember my epiphanies....  I'm still having them because I'm putting myself at risk all the time.  Learning and stretching the boundaries of my abilities, sometimes failing but always adjusting as I go so as to make my failures seem like progress.  'Sometimes you have to fake it in order to make it'.  A man named Les Moore told me that years ago.  Faking it means having a little experience in something and getting more out of a little than most people could ever manage from a lot.  I'm to the point that I can make things happen.  A lot of repetition.  Much experience.  Some ingenuity.  Total belief and concentration. Not letting others derail your locomotive.  Doing thing the right way because it's the right way...

Looking back on my career I wouldn't have done it any differently.  I'm where I need to be.  I have my need - the need to feed - my passion, wants and desires.  My dedication is a result of those actions.  Success, by all human nature, is measured in how you affect people and create your legacy.  Will what you believe in carry on even if you can't carry on, anymore?

Go forth, find yourself - and conquer the world.  Peace.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Soft Food, A Big Chicken and Traditions

The onslaught begins.  I picked my mother up at Denver International Airport this afternoon.  She loves coming to Colorado and has made as many trips to the Rockies as prairie schooners sailed into the region in the 19th century.  Ok, maybe not but it made for good visualization and I needed an historical segue...

There will be a number of visitors to my table this Thursday as well as thousands of other friends and family members, intruders and infiltrators of nearly every nationality flooding into the state and to the other 49, all in the name of the sacred North American Turkey and the holiday we know as Thanksgiving Day.  They come in the name of soft food.  Soft food like mashed potatoes, pureed squash, gravies, pumpkin pie and the staple of the 50's table - canned cranberry sauce.  They may also come in the name of turkey, a curious bird that is two birds in one - dark and white meat - and in reality is just a really big chicken.  They most assuredly come in the name of family traditions and to recreate the myths of our early colonial national history.  Yikes.

Regional variations aside,  all Thanksgiving participants are food crazed.  From 'traditional' menus to Gumbo variants in New Orleans to Turkey & Grits in the Atlantic Lowlands to Turkey Posole with Hatch Chilies in New Mexico.  What matters if the meal is centered around turkey or not?  The 53 English natives in the New World and the 90 Native Massasoits certainly had no turkey at their table in 1621.  There was, however, a local, healthy, and organic menu of clams, venison, ducks, geese, swan, lobsters, mussels supplanted with a cornucopia of vegetables, beach plums, nuts and berries (but no cranberries, at that time).  They gathered to say thanks.  Thanks to their God for surviving another year in the sandy, wind-swept inner bay known to them as Plimoth Colony.  The natives were there because the Pilgrims of England knew they couldn't have survived in New England without their local knowledge and humanity.  They said 'thanks, ye'.  It's a shame and a sham that the bonds of friendship were cruelly and eternally severed just years later when every treaty entered into ended badly for the home team.  But, I digress.

In '21, the first three-day tradition in Plimoth was a godly need.  In 1623 the visitors celebrated a substantial harvest with another feastation.  The 18th century brought our traditions into sharper focus with 'the big meal'.  Lincoln told us to celebrate in 1863 with a national Thanksgiving Day which he only saw to eat but once in his remaining years of life and FDRoosevelt made it officially official in 1941...Pearl Harbor being just two weeks away at that time.  You never know when you need to say thanks...  So, 391 years after the first sit down our traditions are family, chardonnay and gluttony.  So, is that why we celebrate Thanksgiving...?

"The First Thanksgiving" by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
No, we say thanks for life, love and liberty.  Knowing that not all of us have any of that.  It's not about fairness and equality at this juncture.  It's a holiday to celebrate the memory of what happened in a cold and wet beach forest between two diverse groups thrust together by happenstance and poor ocean navigation.  The exchange of beliefs and cultures between Pilgrims and Native Americans is historical beyond understanding in the 21st century.  Thanksgiving doesn't need the trickery of presents or gifts.  The fourth Thursday in November isn't about green beer and shots of whiskey, although it may be present next to the turkey...  Our history in Plymouth isn't subject to candy, cards, dinner dates, fancy ball gowns or Apple Pie and Chevrolet.  It's about giving thanks.  Period.

Your plate that begs to be heavily laden with 'the dinner' is emblematic of the glue that holds us together as a society, a culture (for good or bad), as survivors of every type of calamity and struggle, and of family.  Family from all parts of the globe.  Be we Polish, Swedish, Lithuanian or Bolivian.  I've heard that Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday of many... for all good reasons.  I consider my contribution as a chef to be the glue to give family and friends their belief systems validity and credibility.  I cook so that others may give thanks.  It's time to get cooking...  Peace.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Good-bye, my old friend... Weighing in on Twinkies and stuff...

To Twinkie, or not...that isn't an option anymore.

I will not miss the sweet-cream-stuffed-yellow-cake-logs of long ago.  I'm pretty sure my adolescent love of, and ability to devour said Twinkies as well as Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, McDonald's Apple Pie, Sasparilla, Good 'n Plenty, Bubble Gum (with the baseball cards attached) and a number of lesser known treasures from the 60's and 70's has put me into this diabetic lifestyle that I endure everyday.  Although not insulin dependent I do work on lessening my white sugar intake, high-fructose corn syrup, white flour, pasta, bread & complex carbohydrates and rice dishes.  I glean the nutritive splash of fresh apples, greek yoghurt, berries, peanuts and nut varieties, veggies galore and my staple proteins of chicken and fish.  Admittedly, I have snuck the impromptu candy bar, cookie and shot of orange juice - and always suffer for it.

My sweet tooth was well established by the time I entered grade school.  If it was available, I made sure I got my just desserts (pun intended).  My Mom was a prolific baker, so it seemed.  There is no blame being put here for I was never put into candy and cake 'gravage', a la duck and geese being engourged for foie gras, but thank you anyways, Mom, for wonderful memories and midnight mouthfuls of Danish Puff, Coffee Braid, Chocolate Devil Dogs (so much better than store bought), Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake, Brownies, Hermits, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Tea Cakes, and more.  Closing my eyes and mouth I can taste them all now, in between my hacking on the keyboard and the saliva welling up in my jowls!

The culmination of a meal in America ends with a sweet, the anthesis of fruit and cheese across the pond.  Sometimes the meal itself pre-empts the dessert by already being sweet... That may be finally changing, however.  Maybe at least one reason that Hostess is in it's second bankruptcy in this calendar year is our changing dietary awareness.  I'm not here to bash the Twinkie business but we Americans have problems with our diet.  Salty or sweet, our chosen tastes are both deadly in large and sustained amounts and so far from what food can be that we may already have gone over the caloric cliff and are left dangling above a nutritional abyss.  

Portion sizes being what they are and general lack of nutritional knowledge from our cities to the countryside is proof positive that there is much work to de done in the American school system and in the American psyche.  We are so big and prosperous that we are an anomaly...we probably get less nutrition from our food than most smaller and less-technical societies and cultures.  That's not scientifically based but I don't think I'm too far off.

So, here's the rub.  Chefs...cooks...foodies...let's start at home.  Prepare and dine on smaller meals more often.  Eat fresh and eat local if what they are doing on the farms is good.  Eat organic if what is delivered and purchased is sound and healthy.  Cook at home when you can and eat with your loved ones.  Ok, maybe still in front of the TV but at least eat together.  Don't eat from boxes, eat closer to the earth and don't ingest anything you can't pronounce in English.  And, most importantly, teach your kids to cook in that way, too.

Cook it forward.  Peace.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Letter

Wednesday, 13 November 2012.  This is an open letter dedicated to the culinary students of Johnson & Wales University, my former students still connected to me, my ‘Need to Feed’ blog readers, and anyone in the electronic world that is still listening…

Just words.

Uttered in class, under the assumption that students are alert and attentive to the message, they are just words.  When taken to heart those words can be put into action and are the next steps towards a learned behavior.  I question why the actions are neglected and do not appear after the affirmation in class?  Everyone nods their head and says ‘Yes, Chef’ when questioned about passion, dedication, effort, understanding.  As much as it drives me crazy, I respect the student who says they do not understand something which causes me to slow down and be more precise and patient.

I awoke at 2:39 a.m. to think on this….  It bothers me to no end.  Now, all generations bemoan the youth that comes after them.  Those reading this will do the same.  Here and now I believe our society and our culinary culture is at a critical point. The culture in a culinary school is one of absolute immersion not casual interest.  Your epiphany brought you to the University’s doors and we opened them, welcoming you in.  We, chefs and instructors and professors, are charged to teach you.  Your stake in the agreement is to learn.  That takes dedication.  It take a selfishness to put off everything else and commit yourself to the dream that you had a year ago, or two years ago or another lifetime ago when you had a different career. Of course this is hard!  There’s no easy way to be really good at what you do.  There will be struggles, consternation, failures and despondency.  There can be, and this is up to you, joy, fulfillment, wonder, awe, celebration, magic, satisfaction and a plethora of other emotions that are the result of hard work. 

Your passion got you here.  When school or life gets difficult because you aren’t sleeping, there is a major test to study for, the friends down the hall want to party, you had a bad day – whatever it is -  you’ll be judged by how you react.  Your attitude is everything.  The Japanese have a saying that goes something like this; ‘If you fall off a horse six times make sure to get back on it a seventh time’.  You, the young or older student reading this, aren’t alone.  I went through it and still have to remind myself of the concept…  Anything worth having is going to be full of hardships.  Dedicating yourself to the end goal is what will get you through.   It’s easy to fall in love with what we do it’s much harder to stay in love with it.

Some of you have quit.  Some of you have changed.  Some attitudes have morphed into an evil self-righteousness that is hard to bear from my viewpoint.  You haven’t earned anything yet except the opportunity to learn more.  Your ’rights’ are two - to pass or fail.  That is up to you.  Learned behaviors need to be accepted.  No cell phones in our culinary building.  Just do it.  No attitudes necessary, just acceptance. One must ‘conform’ before they may ‘reform’.  Students need to get that right. – just conform to the rules and accept the fact that you are not ready yet to reform anything.  Learn the basics. Develop the techniques.  The methods are tried and true.  Put your head down – and just do it. 

Everything I have to offer I offer up willingly to you…  I tell you things because I know that they will be good for you to do!  I’ve seen the best there is to offer in our industry – damn it, I’m letting you into the fraternity of chefs and some of you roll your eyes at it….

So, why are you here.  Here, being at an institution dedicated to your future.  Even if this letter is not meant for you, you can still get better at what you do and more attentive to detail.  The staff, faculty and university at large wants you, and needs you, to be successful.  I CHALLENGE YOU ALL to finish what you recently started with aplomb and ultimate effort. You are judged not by what you start but what you finish…  Remembering that you are what you do, look in the mirror and ask your self what you need to do. 

There are wonderful success stories within our halls and culinary labs.  Students are finding their way amidst the cacophony of chopping knives and pots banging and orders resounding.  Jobs are being offered and accepted all around you.  My dream is that our faculty and student body work together to create a singularly perfect concept - knowledge.  Knowledge is power.  Knowledge is the confluence of teaching and learning.  Knowledge is a two-way street.  Knowledge is the first step towards independence.  Knowledge is what you came here for.  Knowing that, find it.  It’s all around you.  You need to get your head right, first. 

I just now walked into the cold biting November morning.  The eastern sky is aflame with the sun’s rays, the leftover stars and moon from nighttime, the cry of geese on the wing overhead.  The magic of the new day is upon us all.  I know now that what I just wrote is right.  Peace.

Much of what precipitated this letter comes from other instructor’s observations, conversations with select students, and my experiences both past and present in culinary education.  You can read much more of my thoughts and ideas in ‘The Need to Feed’ at  Peace, again…

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Future Pages

Hello, World~

Absence from the pages of my blog doesn't mean I have nothing left to say...  I've been devoted to education and inspiration for the past three weeks and now my time is starting to free up. 

I have plans to write about Marco Pierre White, 'The Essence of Cooking', The 'Mmmmmmmmmm in Umami', My Top 100 Restaurants, A 'Life of Food and The Mayan Calender', 'Why Eat Vegetables When You Can Have The Whole Hog', Staging and 'Guarding The Kitchen Mysteries'.... 

All of the above soon to be chapters in the Need to Feed.



Monday, September 3, 2012

The Words, The Risk & The Reward.

Words. Just Words. Out of the mouths of people who know the meaning of the words and understand the correlation between the words and the meaning!

Take a risk. Not a teen risk but a professional risk. Reap the rewards - they are far down the knowledge path. Just knowing the words and the meanings will not guarantee anything. 

What you want is what you earn. 'You CAN always get what you want', Mick Jagger.  Dedication, baby. Just do it...

Convocation & Orientation 2012. New students begin the journey down the unknown.  Finally, the abyss of ignorance is forded with learning and bound with knowledge. A life of expectations to conquer. There is no going back....

This is how life starts in Denver at JWU for nearly five hundred future Chefs, business leaders, innovators and Captains of industry.  At least those words are their hope...

Faculty begin the Convocation - a 'Calling Together'.  We've been convoked....
Excited Faculty...
The Parade of Knowledge.
 Families waiting for their children's mentors, leaders and Chefs.
 Through then portals into a new dimension...
 The Convocation.
 Faculty & Chefs.
 Freshmen.  The Class of 2016.
 Deans.  President Krakowsky.  Vice-President, Dean Wiscott
 Dean DelaTorre and the assembledge of Culinary, Nutrition and Baking & Pastry students...
 The view from the rafters.
 The first day of the rest of their lives....
'Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.' - Sir Winston Churchill, 1942

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Boulder Country Dinner - Autumnal Equinox Feast

The Boulder Country Dinner returns to the country on 22 September 2012...

‘The devil is in the details! Chef Robert Corey¹s Boulder Country Dinner series is the equivalent of having your bucket list meal – and best of all you get to repeat the experience every month! Guitarists call Hendrix a guitar player's guitarist. Chefs call Robert Corey a Chef's Chef! What else can be said about gourmet cuisine, wine and fellowship in this bucolic country setting? Jump on it, you will be happy you did!’ ~Christopher J. Davies, Co-Founder, Editor & Publisher - Wine Country International® Magazine & Vino Tasting

The Boulder Country Dinner series continues with a Food & Wine pairing on Saturday, the 22nd of September, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. Once again we will be at the ‘Country House’ in Niwot, Colorado.

I invite you to come to our table to dine with us in the country!!! We will set a table for 20 guests. Seated together you will dine communally, outdoors or indoors as the weather permits. The fashionable concepts of a Slow Food, Seasonal Menu of Farm-to-Table, Local and Organic Foods are integrated within one vision – my food is carefully and caringly sourced, prepared and served to you, usually with a French accent!

The Dinner will be composed of seven-courses of my ‘Nouvelle Classics’ paired with wines – all with seasonal tones. My menu vision comes from the Autumnal produce of Munson Farms in Boulder, Colorado.

I will have some very special chefs in the kitchen with me on this go ‘round… The wine service will be a tasting of novel and boutique wineries that deserve our attention. My plates and bowls are small, multiple course creations - it will not be fine dining, but the dining will be fine.

Please advise us of any special seating needs or dietary requirements. The cost is $125.00 per person (including wine service), paid in advance to secure your place at the table. So…who’s coming to dinner?

The Boulder Country Dinner Menu.

Hors d'Oeuvres - Blini & Gravlax/Champagne.

1st Course -‘Rubik’s Magic Cube’ Soup - Butternut Squash Soup, Apples, Cranberries.

2nd Course - Seared Smoked Sea Scallop, Red Grapefruit, Basil, Pimenton Oil.

3rd Course - ‘Valpolipitaya’ (Toast, Smoked Salmon, Shrimp Salad, Crème Fraiche, Dill, Cucumbers, Butter Lettuce, Caviar, Pear Tomatoes, Chopped Egg).

4th Course - Roasted Corn, Husk, Cheesy Grits, Braised Green Chile & Pork, Poached Egg, Pickled Red Onion.

5th Course - Grilled Pizzaof Bechamel, Gruyere, Asparagus, Mushrooms, Egg & Prosciutto.

6th Course - Slow-Smoked Pork Ribs, Peach Chutney, Chokecherry Cider BBQ, Perfect Fries.

7th Course - Crostata, Grilled Peaches, Golden Delicious Apple, Cinnamon Tuile, Lemoncello Zabaglione and Warm Madeleines.

Wine pairings to follow…

Let me know if you have any specific food allergies or dislikes… Call for additional information @ 303.667.3768 or e-mail me at

Send your remittance/check to: Chef Robert N. Corey P.O. Box 270487 Louisville, Colorado 80027. Upon receipt of payment, I will send you confirmation of your reservation and directions to the ‘Country House’.

See you in the Country! Peace.


Life Lessons from Jiro's Life - A Primer for Cooks Across the Globe

Jiro Ono is 85 years old. He has been working with and serving Sushi since he was a young man, maybe 8 years old.  He is now preparing minimalist, completely simple, perfect sushi. A 20-course sushi tasting at his 10-seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway stop will cost you 30,000 yen. That's about $400 USD and you might be able to devour that menu in 15 minutes making your subway stop much more expensive than you may have been prepared for. The following are the highlights from the cult movie 'Jiro dreams of Sushi' now available to view On Demand if you have Comcast Cable TV.

It's humorous to me that I am writing early morning thoughts about a man who dreams of preparing only sushi. I awoke @ 1:15 a.m. thinking about a lecture and presentation that I am doing on 'Umami - The Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm of Deliciousness' for JWU and @ Metro University later in September. Thus, 'I Dreamt of Umami' and 'Jiro Dreamed of Sushi.'

Repetition - Jiro's mantra is a quest to improve and make better sushi, everyday. Simple. Exact. Powerful. How can something so simple have so much depth of flavor? Uber-high quality of tuna, sea urchins and rice and the exacting detail of a life spent doing the same repetitive things... Jiro says in his Japanese sushi-warrior way that 'ultimate simplicity leads to purity'. It comes down to effort and repeating the same thing everyday. There are no secrets in the methods and techniques required here. Jiro speaks about his cooks and states that 'some are born with a natural gift. Some have a sensitive palate and sense of smell. In this business, if you work hard you'll get good over time. But, if you want to reach the next level, you'll need talent.'   You'll NEED talent.  Much of the philosophy behind these words is directly relevant to students of the culinary arts. Man, it's not easy - but it's easier if you dedicate yourself.

Flavor - 'If it doesn't taste good, you can't serve it'. Regardless of the language of origination these words speak to 'The Need to Feed.' Again, if it doesn't taste good you can't serve it. Simple. Start by purchasing the best products available. Use your first choice of product or use nothing. Jiro's menu is rewritten every day based on product availability, or - more succinctly - based on the quality of available products... Flavor is all that matters. If you read F. Point you get the same parable.

Jiro makes this ultimate point when speaking about delicious food. 'In order to make delicious food you must eat delicious food. A cook needs to develop a palate capable of discerning good from bad.'
This should be required knowledge because I DESPISE paying for sub-par food, especially when the sign in the window says 'Incredible Italian' or 'The Most Delicious' or 'Better Than Grandma Used to Make'...

The concept of 'a point' in French cooking is that everything has a perfect point at which it is cooked. Jiro speaks about 'every ingredient has an ideal moment of deliciousness.' His understanding about umami is that it comes out through a balance of flavors. Jiro's umami is the 'ahhhhhhh' when you eat or drink, the satisfaction that your body has reacted to what you've put in your mouth. Umami is a physical response. I find that this tacit knowledge is cerebral and mystical at the same time. However, with food, you'll know when you know you've got something good going on on your plate.

Think about that last concept. Without having good taste how can you prepare good food? Perhaps you might sell it, but will your guests return for more? If your sense of taste is less than the people you are cooking for you will never be able to impress anyone...

On Jiro - According to Jiro's eldest son, and one can't argue much on these qualities, the following are the best qualities of Jiro who dreams of sushi:

1. He sets a standard for self-discipline

2. He is never satisfied with his work

3. He is always looking ahead

4. Jiro is self-critical

5. He is always looking to improve his skills

On Work - 'Once you decide on your occupation, immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That is the secret to success and the key to being regarded honorably.' It is readily apparent that most people can't keep up with the hard work of the kitchen. Be it Sushi or Thai, BBQ or Haute Cuisine - there is NO EASY OR FAST ROAD. As a cook, and then a chef, we must always try to improve upon ourselves. Jiro 'looks ahead'. He's 85 and he has something everyday to look forward to, even though he's been doing the same thing everyday, all his life. Oliver Cromwell said the same thing 350 years ago when he wrote 'He who stops being better stops being good.'

The Chef - Jiro believes that the following 5 attributes are necessry for a cook to be a Chef, a good Chef. Heed these sage words, grasshoppers....:

1. They ('good Chefs') take their work very seriously and consistently perform on the highest level

2. They aspire to improve their skills

3. Cleanliness. They work clean. ('THANK YOU, Jiro!!!!!!!!!!')

4. They have impatience and are better Leaders than Collaborators... and lastly,

5. A great chef is passionate.

Sit back and read those attibutes again and measure yourself, honestly, against the power of that advice... Get to work and work hard.

Details - It is essential in Jiro's world (not his dreams) to check every detail. Everyday he stamps his name and his life on the sushi served to his guests across the counter in a Tokyo subway stop. He gives detailed instructions and requires detailed effort in return. Students often ask me 'How do I get better?' Once again it comes back to repetition - perfectly repeat the same perfect things everyday. 'Perfect practice makes perfect...'

4:01 a.m. Time to dream... Peace.