Monday, June 18, 2012

The Adventure

This adventure ended as it began.  Alone in an apartment in NYC - wondering what all this effort will bring forth.  Somewhat bittersweet, the answers to the perennial questions around 'The Need to Feed' always come later in my discourse.  I've had a week to ruminate on it and I what I get is more questions, more thoughts, more to say. 

Sometimes the answers and the questions come from other sources.  I found a statement from a JWU student on FB... '415 covers and the next shift in 6 hours.  Why did I want to become a chef?' 

It isn't so much 'why' but 'will you love it when it sucks'...  How strong is the passion and the dedication when you are in the weeds so bad that you feel helpless to move forward..  Sometimes the mind just goes blank.  When that happened to me - I cleaned.  I got myself back into the game.  Regained my mind.  Sometimes you have to find your place.  5 minutes can save you.  Make it right because if your food is slow - it better taste good...

'The Need to Feed'...  Why does anyone do what they do.  I feel at home in the professional kitchen.  I love the early morning quiet of the kitchen.  Perhaps the bakers have started their mastery.  Often, as the opening chef and I have had the place all to myself.  I remember opening at The Stanley Hotel for Christmas morning in 1987.  The temperature at the bank on deserted Elkhorn Avenue registered -25 degrees F. as the stars twinkled in the jet-black night.  My breathe hung in the air inside the kitchen.  The ovens were all fired up and the doors left open on purpose so I could warm the kitchen up to a workable temperature.  Several hundred guests and a dozen plus hours later we were congratulating each other on a remarkable event for the townspeople of the mountain community of Estes Park.  A week later it was repeated with New Year's Eve festivities.  Seven months later we were planning multiple weddings, theatre banquets and 4th of July Celebrations.  So, really the only thing that changes are the seasons.  We keep going throughout the day and throughout the year.  Working hard, playing hard, living hard.  The life of the restaurant chef and cook is equal to the life of no other that I know.  I'm sure the underground, soot-covered coal miners, the fighters of forest fires in the heat of summer and the men and women who build skycrapers in the canyons of great cities know the effort I speak of.  Why do they do what they do?  Do they love it?  Do they thrive on it?  Do they crave it....?  I imagine all Chefs crave and are addicted working with food, to cooking on the line for hours and making people happy.

Entering a new kitchen for the first time is like going on stage.  As an actor my last thoughts behind the curtain could not be found in the script...  It was 'will I remember my first line'!  The horrible, panicked thought right before your cue is uttered...  The unknown environment of a foreign kitchen is eerily comforting and familiar and at the same time foreign, alien and potentially hostile...  The stage in a new restaurant kitchen is partly about adaptation.  Like humans who have adapted to all climates and geographic locales I thrive in the learning and lessons that are garnered in the environs of The French Laundry, Restaurant Daniel, LeBernardin and WD~50.  More lessons, experiences and knowledge are to come later in the summer of 2012...

The thirty days since arriving in Wisconsin to learn of cheese are a blur of hot & humid NYC days and nights, the wonder of WD~50, Restaurant Daniel and the eventual return to placid and fire charred Colorado...  That time (in Wisconsin) has been sequestered into the far corner of my brain.  I have yet to release those thoughts and enjoy the time spent with chefs and educators in cheese heaven.  I'll need to bring out the pictures to jar some memories onto the keyboard.  What is their 'Need to Feed'...?  A whole different set of circumstances are involved out in the pastures, the milk shed, the creamery, the cheese house and in the caves of Wisconsin.  Their 'Need' stems, in part, from an ancestral bond.  They cling to the methods of cheesemaking brought to this country in the mid-19th century.  A long way to travel to find a second home for the men and womens of Switzerland, Germany, Scandanavia and Italy...  I did pick up my cultures and rennet from the refrigerator in my office tonight so, soon - there will be cheese!!!

Look for more thoughts and observations in the coming hours, days, weeks and months, all provoked by my Need to ............Feed my thoughts to you, whoever and wherever you are.  Peace.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Restaurant Daniel - Notes & Observations - Part 3

My notes & observations on menu items I particularly enjoyed:

Le Menu

Cedar-Wrapped Red King Salmon with Stuffed Morels
I saw these cedar wraps in Chelsea market and also on other restaurant menus.  The salmon was wrapped in the cedat paper, charred and served in a large, square stone tablet-plate with hot stone-charcoal.  Pretty interesting for a French place...

Pan-Seared Black Cod
The black cod was cooked in a water bath and then sliced and pan-seared.  Not a lot of modernist gastronomy but a little to make it interesting....

Tasting of Rabbitt
The rabbitt was butchered with the saddle and flaptogether and the tenderloin and rack.  I liked how the addle was wrapped with the asparagus fricassee and then held inside aluminum foil and cooked in a cast iron pan.  Very moist and tender, retained all it's natural jus...

Roasted Liberty Farms Duck Breast, Poached Rhubarb, Spring Radishes, Glazed Turnips, Szechuan Pepper Jus
This was especially good, showing the understanding of Asian flavors in a classical kitchen.  The meat was especially moist, having been seared and pressed as a whole breast (both lobes, with the breast bone for flavor and cooked skin side down) in a cast iron pan.  Beautifully golden brown and the fat having fully rendered and flavored the meat...

Florida Frog Leg Fricassee with Asparagus
Crispy fried Frog Leg Lollipops....not really a fricassee in the classical sense, but incredibly tasty, those Grenouille.  Loved the Nettle-Green Peppercorn Jus....served with classically cut lemons!

Duck Terrine
I am a sucker for anything in aspic and this was stunning.  Great lines and colors, tasted great..

Maine Peekytoe Crab Salad
A stunning presentation utilizing a sand/daube crab...

Golden Ossetra Caviar
50g for $470.00 supplement....silver bowl in ice with wonderful carved Mother of Pearl spoons and Warm Blini Cakes.  There is a God...

Celebration of White Asparagus from Provence (actually from Austria)
Yeah, man...this rocked.  Pungent, warm Egg Dressing with Iberico Jamon and the sweet and bitter tones of the jumboroni asparagus spears....  Simple, elegant, delicious, sexy, classical.  Mmmm.

French Fries
Served in a fresh, white linen beggar's purse, as are the warm and fresh baked madeleines...

Saint Joseph - Rhone Valley
100% Syrah.  It appeared.  I enjoyed it.  And, another....

Goat, Brie, St. Andre, Gruyere, Epoisse.  Fresh baked Epi Breads, Jam and Creamery Butter.  Really....?  I can't believe I ate the whole thing.  Of course, I did....

The Espresso
     Golden demi-tasse.  Crema.  1 lump.  Aromatic bliss in a cup....
Chefs Daniel Boulud, Jean Francoise Bruel, Eddy Leroux and the entire staff did not disappoint from my vantage point at The Passe, in the kitchen, @ Restaurant Daniel in the heart of NYC....  Peace.


     It was particularly interesting that the Michelin Guide inspector was having dinner at Daniel on 8 June.  There was much running to and fro in the effort to please 'the man'.  There was also some discussion whether that actually was the inspector.  Was he, or wasn't he....?

Restaurant Daniel - Notes and Observations - Part 2

Returning to Restaurant Daniel... 

As I worked at The Passe I wrote notes to myself on various things that I saw, heard, felt, expected, questioned, etc. These are those notes & observations:

I watched Chef de Cuisine Chef Eddy Leroux working at The Passe.  His afternoon was spent between telephone conversations to purveyors, visits from foragers to the kitchen bringing local, seasonal product (some rejected and some packed away quickly), preparing mise en place for service and writing copious notes in his notebooks...  Yes, notebooks.  A stack of them on the top shelf of The Passe with neat, cursive notes to himself, telephone numbers for salespeople, ideas for plating, diagrams of ideas, lists of lists....  I don't know exactly what was on the those pages so I'm elaborating.  That's what I have in my notebooks, though....

I loved the little garnishes of diakon barrels with herbs stuck in them like 'pots of flowers in Granny's front window' (that's an actual note in my book).

When working in the kitchen, any kitchen, we all need to be aware - aware of what is going on around us.  Aware of who is walking behind you or coming around the corner ('corner!').  Know your work space.  Look before you make the move.  Learn to dance.  Make sure no one is there and for God's sake move fast!

Remember to work in grams (g).  If English is the language of business and French the language of love and Spanish the language to 'speak to the gods', then metrics needs to be the language of precision in the kitchen.  Gone, soon, will be avoirdupois, which is the traditional American and English system of weights based on a pound of 16 ounces. It is still the everyday system of weight used in the United States and is still widely used in everyday life in the UK, Canada and Australia.  Fanny Farmer improved on the old-fashioned handful and thimbleful measurements of the 18th and early 19th century but nowadays we need metrics.  So, remember, 1 ounce = 28.3495231 grams.

'Parlez-vous Francaise?'  'Je ne parle pas Francaise. Une petite peu.'  'C'est dommage'.  From exacting French dialects to perfect coloquial English.  Some whom I thought were French simply spoke perfect French and were entirely American...  I;m a francophile and I need to be more bilingual!

The aforementioned forager came unannounced to the kitchen.  He had apparently been integral to the success of Restauarnt Daniel in the past, yet had somehow been cast off or was away from the kitchen for some time.  It seemed that his appearance was a surprise.  He introduced himself to me, as I was standing at The Passe.  The obligitory 'Bonjour,  Ca va?'  His produce that afternoon came from a New Jersey Farmer's Market: fresh camomile, cantaloupe (deemed 'not ready' - it wasn't), peanuts (chef wanted green), rambutan (went to the staff for snacks), cilantro from his home garden and purslane...

Ladle on the floor.  It clanged from somewhere behind The Passe.  Executive Chef Jean Francois Bruel never looked up but, just quietly said to whomever was listening, 'check that it is washed'.  'Oui, Chef'.  Dropped.  Washed.  Confirmed.  2 seconds.  Back to work.  It's just so damned professional... :)
Mise en place.  The folding of towels.  Setting the station.  It's 5:00 p.m.  Making last minute adjustments.  As I worked at The Passe I was treated to a tasting of dishes that simply appeared in front of me.  Chef would say to me 'that is for you', then look down and get back to work.  Really?  Unbelieveable hospitality.  I fell in love with the kitchen and their demeanor...  First, a lovely bowl of cucumber veloute (as previously mentioned in the first Daniel blog), then a beautiful, tiny poreclin canape bowl prepared with carrot puree, roasted carrot, split peas & pickled mushrooms.  The tasting continued with sauces, soupes & salades.  The adjectives of freshness and flavor embodied the tastes afforded me. 

As I ruminated on the tasting, The Passe began to be transformed from prep to service.   The service areas are wiped down and then washed and dried.  The linen on The Passe stretches tight as the clear packing tape anchors it to the marble and stainless steel work spaces.  I love it when floors are cleaned...the cleaning staff appears, takes care of business and vanishes.  Efficiency rules.   The menus are taped to The Passe shelves and the 'sauce sheet' (a place for goose necks of sauce to be set in a particlar column labled 'squab, duck, veal and beef') is set on the shelf and taped over.  I am provided with all the a la carte and tasting menus, including dessert so that I may keep up during the 6 1/2 hour service window.

Plates are wiped with paper napkins cut by the service staff, into small squares.  Stacks of them are in boxes at every station.  I looked around the kitchen and noted the glass-fronted cases on the walls holding pictures of chefs, pictures of Chef Boulud, small little tin and silver molds, tiny glass bowls, gold-rimmed plates, silver services, glass cloches and copper everywhere...  On the line the prep continued as the clock ticked toward 5:30, the appointed service time.  Uber-sharp knives clicked on cutting boards, ducks were being scored and seared, plastic bottles are filled with flavored oils and veal roasts seared and cooked...  Water bottles are filled in hopes that the contents will last throught the first seating (5:30 to 7-ish - 2 1/2 hours).  I wrote that 'it's like getting ready for surgery'...  Funny that cooks, chefs, doctors and nurses all wear clogs during their time on the tile or in the O.R..


Canard a la Presse was served thrice to private parties.  One party was served in the PDR - the guests walked through the kitchen and up the back stairs (gawking and snapping pics the whole way) - which overlooked the kitchen.  Great spot to wine and dine.  Whole ducks were scored on the breasts, seared, roasted to MR and sent to the table on silver platters atop a diagonaly cut loaf of brioche and garnished with singed pine needles on the bough.  The breasts and legs are carved tableside, the meat returned to the kitchen to be trimmed and plated while the sauce is prepared in the DR.  Bones and duck jus are pressed and cooked tableside with cherry liqueur and dijon mustard.  'C'est mervilleux'...

I have a note about a conversation I had with a Johnson & Wales graduate from the Providence Campus.  He was the p.m. Expeditor and did a fine job with all the pressure, chefs, maitre d's and service staff clammoring for his attention with particular guest needs and wants.  He mentioned that he wished his instructors pushed him more.  He seemed very competent - he had set his standards high and needed more, always more.  He wanted to know why we (Chef/Instructors) spend so much time with the needy students who 'obviously' wouldn't get anywhere...  Everyone pays for their education.  I teach, but cannot make anyone learn... 

The long-term chefs de parties in the Daniel kitchen, who are devoted to their Chef and the kitchen, spend three years rotating through all the stations.  At that time they must decide if they are truly long-time Daniel employees or on their way to learn and apprentice somewhere else in the fine-dining fraternity. 

The next Restaurant Daniel blog will be about the food.  Remembering that there are no pictures allowed in the kitchen I'll deliver my best attempt at describing the cuisine at one of the finest restaurants in the world.  Peace.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Pact

Observing and working within the kitchen brigades of Michelin-starred restaurants can be eye-opening experiences.  My expectations of each of them have been titanic.  They reside in the glorified pantheon of great restaurants in history.  From La Pyramid to elBulli each house has similarities and differences.  The great restaurants of today, in the 21st C., have more in common, than not.  Especially in America.  Thirty-five years ago there were some good restaurants in America but the world gave us a dismissive nod.  That is not true today.  The world now looks up to American Chefs and Restauranteurs.  There are more fantastic journeys in American restaurants than anywhere else in the culinary world. 

With that new expectation comes 'A New Pact'.  I've worked firsthand within the rigors of great cuisine.  I've seen respect and indignation.  I've heard and felt rage and thanks.  There are some things that we need to get straight.  There will always be hard work.  Always long hours.  There will be decisions made.  Especially the decision to be determined and to fulfill your personal destinty.  This will be your choice - to work hard and long hours and feel good about what you do, to the best of your ability, and to never deviate from those goals...  Now, The Pact.

The Pact is all about working together, not seperately.  On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln spoke to the Republican delegates of Illinois and delivered his 'A house divided among itself cannot stand' speech.  Prophetic and visionary words that I am borrowing for this reasoning...  The chef, restaurant and individuals in the kitchen and front of the house must set standards.  Aim high in your decisions!  Those standards need to be set down, like laws, for all to see, know and understand.  All parties must buy in.  That is a key to unlocking the simple mystery of a great brigade.  If you are a rouge warrior, a divider of attitudes, you will be taken down.  You'll need to be taken down for the good of the establishment, the house.  Adapt or die.  Conform before you can reform...  Check those egos at the door.  There will be no place for them on your cutting board.

Once standards have been set, it will be time for the staff to begin policing each other.  This is the crux of 'The Pact'.  Policing each other.  In restaurants and in culinary, pay attention ye rouge student chefs.  Start by treating each other with respect and dignity.  I had two recent and seperate conversations outside of the restaurants I was staging in: one with a server (her name was Leyla) in a French bistro on St. Martin's in NYC and the other was with a Punjabi taxi driver (a very well-dressed, educated and well-spoken man, incidently) on my way to JFK airport on Long Island.  Both spoke of being treated well in their current positions.  Both seemed happy.  Both worked hard, long hours.  Neither was going to make a lot of money.  Both seemed to like what they did.  Isn't that what we are supposed to feel? 

As a Chef/Instructor it is my job to tell a student when they are doing something right or wrong.  Often this can be a firm critique.  Sometimes it is a soft comment.  There have been times when voices rise and empahsis is made...  Regardless of the delivery, it is not personal - it's business.  The Pact states that if there is something being done that is not up to standard it is our job, all of us, to make the correction.  'That's is not up to our standard,  I will help you correct it.'  That's all.  Nothing punative.  No redemption.  Nothing derogatory.  It is for the good of the restaurant.  It is the central point of 'The Need to Feed'.  Not personal glory but service to our guests.  If you cannot serve others, this business should, and will, eat you up (no pun intended). 

Here's the caveat - if you are not comfortable in a kitchen, get out.  The work opportunity is a two-way street, so to speak...  It has to be good for both parties.  I've been there, on both side of the management/employee dynamic, and have even witnessed it as a stagiaire - some places I would work at forever and others I would never feel comfortable in ever again.
So - I'm taking names for those who want to sign The Pact.  My signature is Hancockian - large enough for everyone to see that I'm serious about this aspect of The Need to Feed.  Who is with me...?  Peace.


Pairsine Food & Beer Competition - 'Flavor is King'

I have competed for many 'titles' over the years and in several of the Pairsine - Taste of Elegance competitions I have earned titles in Wine and Food as Best Chef and Most Creative Chef.  Last evening I had the privilage to judge the chefs who were after my last title, that of Best Chef in 2011 for Beer & Food.  As the defending champion I had a say in who succeeded me only not with my own plates and pairings but in tasting and reviewing the 16 beer and food pairings delivered by the competing chefs.

The competitiors:
Chef Mario Clapes - Omni Interlocken Resort
Chef David Harker & Chef Troy Micheletti - Omni Interlocken Resort
Chef Charles MacDonald - Omni Interlocken Resort
Chef Sergio Romero - Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar
Chef Jessica Bains - Bridgewater Grille, The Golden Hotel
Chef Patrick Hartnett - Kachina Southwest Grille @ Westin Westminster Hotel
Chef Todd Adkins - Hideaway Steakhouse
Chef Jensen Cummings - Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar
Chef Michael Long - Fantastic to Fantasy

The Judging:
Taste, Presentation, Creativity & Pairing.  Each category has a potential 5 points. 

Most Creative:
Chef Patrick Hartnett for his "Blue Corn 'Sheepdog' with Polenta Fries, and Achiote-Buttermilk Dipping Sauce" paired with Tommyknocker Brewery Butt Head Bock


"Sweet Corn Ice Cream Blue Corn Pizzelle Cone with Salt & Pepper Brittle" paired with Tommyknocker Brewery Pick Axe IPA

Best Chef:
Jensen Cummings for his "Tender Belly Pork Belly, Pickled Papaya, Smoked Oyster Mushrooms, Leek & Edamame Puree, with House-made Sriracha" paired with Deschutes Brewery Mirror Mirror


"Braised Superior Farms Lamb, Compressed Watermelon, Haystack Chevre, Sunflower Seeds and Green Goddess" paired with Deschutes Brewery Jubel

Public's Favorite:
Chef Sergio Romero for his "Red Bird Chicken Liver Mousse with Pink Peppercorn, Colorado Honey, AC Golden Herman Joseph Aspic on French Bread Crostini" paired with AC Golden Herman Joseph Private Reserve


"Colorado Lamb Ribs Braised in Beet Wort, Pomegranate and Clementine Bordelaise, Roasted Plantain Puree and Candied Walnuts" paired with Deschutes 'The Stoic'

Flavor is King.  The winners exhibited the best flavor (taste and aromas) in their food.  The tie-breakers became the ability to pair the food with the beer, and then the presentation of the chef's food.
As a judge I was completely impartial.  As a chef I wanted more.  More creativity, more flavor and better presentations... 

I will compete again on November 8th in the Wine and Food competition of Pairsine.  Get your game on, chefs - I'm coming back....  Peace.


Raising The Standards of Our Profession

The last words in this stoic, yet revealing, interview resonate deep within my soul.  My own Need to Feed entertains a great many reasons and activities.  Thomas Keller speaks clearly to that Need and to all of us who have, or will, toil in the kitchen and on the line...  Peace.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Restaurant Daniel - Notes and Observations - Part 1

Notes and Observations @ Restaurant Daniel:

Pictures are not allowed in the kitchens....

Welcoming attitudes - very courteous...
A Sense of Urgency
Well Organized
Clean Floors
Staff appears from everywhere, like ants
45 on staff
Menu pricing - $225/person
Averages 230-280 covers per night
First items seen are Rabbit Saddles and Racks, Sea Bass Roulades, Halibut being portioned, Hamachi and Salmon on ice, Veal being trussed...then borage, morels, pasta sheets, chocolates, white asparagus (Austrian, the French asparagus is no longer available), lobster raviolis.  My first taste is a velvety Cucumber Soupe with Horseradish Foam, Dill Croutons, Dill and Radish - in a golden rimmed bowl with serviette and silver spoon....

Banquet kitchen
a la carte
     garde manger, canape, hot apps, soupe, rotisseur, fish, meat, vegetable, pastry, The Passe, wine
     service, bar operations, offices, private dining room
pastry/chocolates/sugar sculptures
bread made off-site in seperate operation for all restaurants in the Boulud group

Executive Chef Jean Francois Bruel - Students lack confidence and experience. Need real time under the gun. Attention to detail
Chef de Cuisine Eddy Leroux - 'Learn the basics.  Know the Cuisine Classique'.
Wrote 'Foraged Flavors' by Tama Matsuoka Wang & Eddy Leroux.  Not released for the public yet.  Only 15 copies.  Foraging for wild edibles (sans mushrooms) and then relizing a recipe in 15 minutes from a foraged item.
Daniel is 70% Classique/30% Modernist (only sous vide, soy lecithin, agar).

Classical Presentations/Ideas:
Potato Croustade, baked, for Holding Vegetables
Use the center turned stems of peeled vegetables (turnips and carrots) cut into oblique.
Sea Bass Roulade @ 56 degrees C.
French is the language in this kitchen.
What strikes me is the love of this food, of this really good food.  The culture of cuisine in France is astounding.
Everyone seems to get along.  Chef LeRoux said 'service has yet to start'....
Very thin and tiny lardons, cooked between parchment paper and sheet pans for garnishes.
Everyone beckons to the chef.
All the copper is immaculate.  All the silver shines.  There is a lot of use and on display along with the pictures of chef-friends to Daniel Boulud.
Hustle and bustle. 
The sounds of the kitchen...
Mise en place containers are black plastic to-go containers, with plastic lids.  They fit inside half hotel pans, on ice.
Induction heat for soups and hot apps.  Gas on meat and fish line.
Must learn French (again).

11:30 a.m. - Arrival (early, of course).  Staff lunch.  Everyone is welcoming.  I'm called 'Chef', which is awesome.  Chef is on the phone.  Chefs de partie are at stations.  Prep is going on in the basement kitchen. 
12:15 p.m. - Tour of the kitchen by Chef de Cuisine Eddy Leroux.  Converstaions about Cuisine Classique, chefs, students, business and the restaurant.
1:00 p.m. - Special presentation on Jamon.
1:45 p.m. - On the line.  Prep @ The Passe with Chefs Leroux and Bruel.
2:30 p.m. - Discussion and insight with Chefs about students.
4:00 p.m. Staff meal.  The aromas begin to permeate the air...  The pace quickens.  Service staff begins to arrive.
4:30 p.m. - Final mise en place begins, The Passe and other plating stations are covered with linen, stretched and taped down with clear plastic tape.  Very sexy. 
5:00 p.m. 'Changes' by David Bowie plating on the radio (very low volume, but audible).
5:15 p.m. - The service staff is in uniform.  Coats and ties.  Black and grey.  They are everywhere, like ants...
5:30 p.m. - The first orders arrive.  2 to-go orders.  One lady who is here 250 days a year orders he take-out.  Go...  Service lasts for 6 hours.

The mise en place:
Crayfish, split peas, lardons, veal-based jus for squab, duck, beef and veal in pans on the meat station, smokers, garnishes, pastas, butter everywhere, FOH preparations, wine glasses being steamed and buffed, silver polished, herbs picked and iced, black bass roulades in water baths, visible traditional methods of French cookery, copper pots in use and hanging at all stations, the 'Beatles' playing 'Come Together'...Black Cod being blocked, salmon and veal tied in neat packages, loading fish station with mounds of portioned fish, laying out hte linens and wrapping cutting boards, selecting the cheeses for the evening with pascal and Chefs (yes, Wisconsin Cheese as well as French - Pleasant Ridge Aged Cheddar).

At 1:00 p.m. everything stops in the kitchen to attend a special opportunity....!
Jamon - 5J:

Special demonstration and cutting of pata negra (black foot pig)
Paco - head chef and ham master
$1200 for 14# ham
3 regions
average employee spends 40-50 years with company
5J company started in 1879
artisanal pure ham - owned by Osbourne, Ltd. (est. 1772 by Thomas Osbourne, who settle in Cadiz, as a Port exporter), the 97th oldest compant in the world
1. pure animals
2. diet (strictly acorns and grass)
Types of Spanish Jamon:
Serrano - entry level ham, white pigs eat cereal grains, lots of quantity, pink color to ham
Iberico - good quality
Belotta - eats only acorns, can be whote and black pigs
Jamon - black pigs only, 100% acorns, free range (5 acres per animal), three different varieties of acorn trees, happy animals, made to run to water, lean meat, muscular ham, the shins are longer, less than 1% of pigs in Spain are pure bred.

Notes:  The animals consume 20-21# of acorns each day.  The Spanish eat 175 oz. of Jamon each year.  The slaughter of the pigs begins at 17 months.  The legs are cooled, shaped and the blood degourged by hand, nine times, by seperate workers who push the blood out of the ham.  The fat is the secret...  The hams are salted with Atlantic sea salt.  They are put on a palette of salt and then covered.  5 layers of ham and salt.  They hams are cured 1 day per pound of the ham.  Then the hams are washed.  They spend two months cellered at 50 -55 degrees F.  The hams then hang in cellars for up to 3 years.  Less time for the front legs ('paletta').  Back legs are 'jamon'.  Front legs are more slaty, more assertive, different texture.  The hams are tested with bone three places on the meat for off/pleasant aroma.  77 degrees F. is the correct temperature for bone-in hams, covered with fat and wrapped in linen.  Boneless must be refrigerated @ 50-55 degree F.  Render the fat for oil.  Use the bone for soup.  the meat is loaded with B vitamins and omega fats. 14# average for jamon.  Serve several muscles from the am for a variety of flavors.  Slice short, thin and translucent pieces of jamon, get a mix of the fat and lean.  Embraces the concept of tapas, served with Sherry.  $150/# average.  @1200 per ham (retail).  $9.00 per serving (1 1/2 oz.).  Denomination de Originaztion.

There is more.  Much more...  Time to head uptown.  Peace.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

On the Line, @ WD~50

I have, thus far, been privilaged to work on Garde Manger and Pastry in the service kitchen @ WD~50.  Plating the menu items using the prepared mise en place from the prep kitchens is an opportunity to contribute to the daily success of the restaurant and to 'see' it all come together...  I took a couple of photographs while on the line.  Enjoy. 

There is a story behind this sign, I'm told...

Chef Malcolm's miniature Micro-Basil bush.

Liquid nitrogen being delivered to the front door of the restauarnt.

Pre-plating 'S'Mores'.


The Passe.

Pre-plating 'Yuzu Ice Milk'



Walking in the rain...

On a daily basis, anywhere in the world, rains bring life giving water back to earth.  The waters refresh and rejuvenate.  Sometimes just the sound of rain on rooftops or through the trees is melancoly and makes for deep thoughts...  The rain falling through the New York City sky and hitting the pavement around me reminded me of just such a night in California three years ago at The French Laundry.  A satisfying end to a great night.  Such was my mindset early this morning at 1:30 a.m. when I walked out the front door of WD-50 onto the Clinton Street sidewalk....thirteen hours after I walked in the same door.

Many people do not understand that.  13 hours.  Non-stop.  Save for a half hour for family meal.  Walking in the rain I thought about why I entered into this life those many years ago.  At first it was the people.  The kitchen staff at Pleasant Valley Country Club was the most interesting group that I had encountered to that time in my young life.  Close knit and hard at work during the mornings, afternoons and evenings - and then wildly crazy and fun in the bewitching hours.  The WD~50 crew is no different.  The common denominator in all the restaurants I have worked in, opened and staged at in the past 38 years has been the camraderie of the staff.  Each restaurant/hotel/inn/country club/resort has it's own lifeblood and dynamic.  But the people are there for one reason and that is the mantra from which I teach: we aim to serve and to please.  Making people happy.  'How was dinner?' is the oft asked question...  Or, 'Did you enjoy yourself?'  Perhaps it is 'What did you like the most?'  Whatever the question the aim to please is the focus.  Of course, we want to hear people rave and cast blessing upon us.  Our egos are also involved.

Walking in the rain allows me to dwell on cooking history.  For me, at this time in my life standing on the corner of Clinton and Stanton in the rain, it (my current summer of 2012) is about the learning of new/different techniques and methods of food preparation.  Cooking is historicaly non-static.  Technology has always driven food production.  From reliable refrigeration in the 1920's to the food processor in 1975 to liquid nitrogen and complex binding ingredients in the 21st C., our imagination and ingenuity in the production and service of cuisine is founded in what our abilities can be because of tools and science.  Always has been and always will be.  From that first moment when lightning struck a carcass of an animal and man devoured a hot, cooked dinner our food has constantly changed throughout our human existance.

So, walking in the is these moments that bring my own existance into sharp focus.  There are many things I do well and some not so well.  I still have troubles fixing a faucet or re-attaching a door, although I can screw in a lightbulb...  What I do extremely well is work and cook in a kitchen for friends and/or guests.  I work hard.  I work fast.  I work clean.  I work well within a team.  I can work delicately.  I can still work long, arduous days....  These abilities come with time and repetition but they also come with dedication and concentration.  If the team doesn't act like a professional brigade then it will never gel into a cohesive and productive unit...  Never. 

'You must be the change you wish to see in the world'.  Never thought that Ghandi would come up in a food blog, eh?  That's what happens when you walk in the rain.