Saturday, June 2, 2012

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.



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