Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hello Old Friend....

It has been a while.  I truly don't know where the times goes.  A lot has happened since I have last posted here... I am not even going to try and put down all that happened the last three years.  I can only say it has been a wild and crazy ride. 

I am once again  in the mood to document things that are going on with me and my life in and out of the kitchen and soooo as I sit here punching away on the keyboard, I can honestly say that I have every intention of posting here at least once a week.  But I will not beat myself up if i don't. 

I will also try to get Rupert to become active again and have him share what is going on in his world as as well. 

Yes I know that this post is short, but at least I got something posted

so from my kitchen to yours.....

Eat well... Be well

Sunday, February 14, 2010


A friend of mine told me about a very unpleasant dining experience she had a few weeks ago...
A little back-round of this friend of mine:... she is a meat eater, knows how to order her steaks (the differences between rare, well done and everything in between), she doesn’t like to draw attention or make a scene ...

Her dining experience: She went out to dinner with a friend and ordered a med-rare steak... the steak came to the table and she began to eat... the server came to the table, asked how everything was, my friend told the server that her steak was over cooked, the server took the steak back to the kitchen and a few minutes later brought out a new steak... my friend cut into the new steak and it was raw... she was so irritated with the experience that she waited for her friend to finish, paid the bill and left, didn’t say anything to the server or management, but is now telling other friends about the negative experience...
Her words to me were “ I just had to deal with this horrible dining experience, I just wanted to leave... I didn’t want to draw attention, or have to deal with a manager who clearly doesn’t care, I just wanted to leave”

As chefs, do we have a responsibility to report our experiences?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


this post started as my response to Rupert's latest...i've been thinking some of these very thoughts lately and just haven't been writing....

we, as chefs, tend to take our customers for granted, whether because we don't see them or have been in the kitchen for 16 hrs a day 6 days a week for the last 6 years...(don't take all those 6's the wrong way, its just a coincidence) we want our customers to eat our food the way we make it and like it!... we forget that the dining experience is about enjoying yourself, and that if someone needs to modify their food to have a better experience, so be it. I know we talked the last time i was down for a podcast about what our goals as chefs are as opposed to what they were when we were "just line cooks or prep cooks" and that experience we want our customers to have becomes more of a reality ... we want our guests to have such a great time that they think of us the next time they want to go out to dinner, or when they make a recommendation to friends... we put that goal of the 'experience' above most others... not to say that our old goals aren't still relevant ... of course we want to continue learning our craft, refining our skills and moving up (or forward)... but all of those 'old' goals are now support goals for that experience... we want our teams to understand that goal of the experience and to do that we must set the example, leave the negativity out of the kitchen (out of our lives) and put our teams in the right mindset... this doesn't mean you can't have a good time.. in fact it means quite the opposite.

i often think of the restaurants i've come from (particularly the one we all worked at) with a bit of regret... regret for not being more composed or tactful, regret for allowing myself to participate in the negativity and regret for not having this understanding of the 'experience'... i don't see these regrets as a bad thing,.. i was young (still am damn it!), trigger happy and foolish... i've also realized in looking back that the restaurant i (we) came from has a long way to go to even come close to that point, some of the guests there will receive that experience and some have, but most will walk away talking about the beer or the gardens...

this understanding of the whole dining experience takes our careers to a whole new level... for me it has turned me into a new chef... the chef who understands what it is going to take to create that experience and the chef who wants to cater to my guests as if they were (like Rupert said) in my home

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Heart of an Industry, or, What I've Learned from Mr. Rogers

You walk through the front door and are greeted by the widest of smiles and a very genuine, "Hello! Welcome in!". As you are being led to your table, you begin to notice the glow from all of the diners sitting at their tables; Come to think of it, you can't recall a single time that you have seen anybody enjoying themselves so thoroughly that they seem completely oblivious to the rest of the world.

You sit down and, shortly after, your server arrives and begins to thank you gratuitously for deciding to choose their restaurant. He, as well as the host, appear to genuinely mean what they say in their respective greetings. Its almost eerie how sincere and kind they are. He begins to take your order and addresses questions you have by noticing a facial tick that you were unaware of making. He is unassuming and yet retains an air of great knowledge and professionalism. He assists you in choosing the perfect meal for that moment.

While you are waiting for your food and enjoying your suitably picked drinks, you see a great deal of camaraderie and teamwork as a party of eight departs and no more than a minute and a half later, the table is bussed, cleaned, set up, and another eight-top is sat by the same smiling face you received. Your meal arrives and you are thrilled, because, as promised, it is perfect for how you are feeling, the weather, etc.; Your intuitive server really came through for you.

Throughout your meal, you can hear ruminations from the tables on either side of you regarding the utter disbelief at the caliber of service they were receiving. They, too, weren't sure it even existed. You are greeted by members of the management to see if everything is to your liking, and even once to see how your day is going. It is never intrusive or bothersome, but rather, you get the sense that they really care.

Have you ever been to a restaurant like this? Or, perhaps, is it only a place that you dreamed could exist in a utopian world? I had been a member of the latter camp–only hoping that one day I could go to a place wherein existed such passion, kindness, warmth, and generosity it made you feel as if you were truly being welcome into somebody's home. I had been a member, up until recently, that is.

The aforementioned experience was one that I had recently at the wonderful Urban Solace restaurant, located in the lively North Park area of San Diego. The staff there is just absolutely so giving and attentive. This was, hands down, the best dining experience I have ever had. Everybody involved in my time there was tremendously helpful and kind. And, to boot, the food was stellar–believe everything you hear about the buttermilk cinnamon rolls at brunch... betcha can't eat just one... At Urban Solace, they verily accomplish what their name states: they are a haven for you in the middle of a great city. They let you know, from time to time, that you are still dining in a restaurant, but, mostly, you are transported outside of the menial for a short time. They truly make you feel as if they are old friends who have invited you over to their house for a night free from stress.

Now, I could sit here for hours and spew superlatives about Urban Solace and its crew (and they would be well deserving of it!), but at the heart of it, I realized something there, and my meaning is twofold: I not only realized that it is very possible to provide stellar service, be extremely friendly and warm, and still be a kick-ass restaurant, but also, I had it realized to me.

The Hospitality Industry. The Service Industry. The Restaurant Industry. I have always known that the former two are perhaps better descriptions of what we in 'the business' do, but lately I have only been referring to the profession I am in by the latter name. "The Restaurant Industry," it sounds so concise. It takes away from the heart of what we do as industry professionals. "The cuisinier (server, host, floor manager, cook, etc...) loses his reputation when he becomes indifferent to his work." Fernand Point reminds us as cooks that we must always be mindful of what it is that our job entails. I have added, in parentheicals, my own observations which were reinforced during my dining experience the other day. It is so important for us to make every effort to make our guests feel welcome and comfortable in our establishments. It should be our main focus.

Being in the kitchen all the time, I tend to lose sight of that goal so often because I am not involved in the FOH efforts. Nevertheless, its even in the way that I speak about diners sometime, "WTF?!?! They are subbing that out? Chef, can I go kick their ass? I'm gonna go kick their ass!" Providing that kind of environment for myself and those around me is cancerous. It spreads so quickly and will only do harm to everyone, including our customers.

Corny as it may be, Mr. Rogers said it so well, "Won't you be my neighbor?" He preached the kind of generosity that we should be exuding every day. He was all about being wholly welcoming of everyone, loving everyone, being kind to everyone. Why can't this philosophy permeate more of our restaurants? More of our society?

Hospitality? Service? Yes, Please! Thank you very much! If we made it our sole purpose to really, and I mean really serve the people that walk through our doors every day, I am certain that there would be many more people gushing about our restaurants the way that I was about Urban Solace before. Its not that hard. We just have to do it. And I am not saying that the food should come second, but we need to put equal emphasis on both aspects of the business.

I had a paradigm shift and I would like to thank Chef Matt and his crew at Urban Solace, not for flipping on the light in my head, but rather, for changing the bulb by which my perspective has been lit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

is bourdain still required reading?

As the current culinary climate keeps shifting toward the young, passionate cooks, eager to progress and re-imagine what their mentors have taught them by being respectful of others, focused on a common goal and mindful of their behavior, there seems to be no room (successfully) for the characters whom are venerated by Anthony Bourdain in his seminal book, Kitchen Confidential.

As a dishwasher, when I began thinking that cooking might be the profession for me, I was urged by the chef to pick up Kitchen Confidential; sort of a non-buffer to the kitchen life to prepare me for the never ending journey that cooking is. I was instantly fascinated because I was seeing that I was working alongside some of the same people described in the book. I wanted to be like them; I wanted to talk like them, act like them, cook like them... I had every desire to work for the tyrannical chef who would throw a pan and threaten my life if I did something wrong.

I idolized that lifestyle and I believed that that is what cooking was, not only because that was what I was reading, but because that was the example being set by some of my fellow cooks–The guy that would smoke and sell weed any chance he got (who, to this day, is the best pantry cook I've met) or the 'secret' couple that would bang in the walk-in with a bottle of tequila tucked neatly away behind the saute meez (don't forget the rum behind the croutons). I was in the story and I relished in it.

But after a while it started getting old. Soon I lost interest in getting drunk and found that there was much more enjoyment in creating or in making sure that every plate went out exactly the same. I had found my sense of place and purpose, and it wasn't with the scene I was in. Prep became less tedious and transformed into a calming repetition. I focused my energy on consistency and worked on my knife skills until I couldn't see straight. I realized what I really wanted out of this. I found out what cooking is.

I don't tell this story because I think my life is important, but rather because I sense that there are more and more cooks out there who have either underwent similar changes, or just grew up under the new regime. The world of Bourdain is not dead, nor do I think that it ever will be. It certainly makes up a large part of the food world and some restaurants would not survive without the people described in his book. However, the restaurants at which I want to work, the ones who are innovating, creating, changing, progressing, these are the places where characters are less likely to be found. There is simply too much at stake for cooks to be drunk or drugged up to function at the level required of them at the Alineas or the L2Os.

Whereas Kitchen Confidential used to be a book I would recommend to young cooks, now I question whether or not I should. While there still is useful information in that book about some of the kitchen life, I don't think I want to nurture young cooks by inviting them to idolize the underbelly, but perhaps to proselytize them to believe in the new era that we are working hard to conceive.

Monday, October 12, 2009


first it was the bacon maple ice cream (on top of french toast!..yum) inspired and concocted at non-other than the PBR project..... now... wasabi pea tuille with green tea and candied ginger chip ice cream sandwiches... inspired by me eating wasabi peas....

Monday, September 21, 2009


life continues to give me little business lessons and insights into the "real" world.... whatever that means....
... it's not about you
... take care of people
... enjoy what you do every day, or don't do it
.... have uncompromising standards
... did i mention, take care of people?... all of the people involved in your life
.. smile :)
... a little air guitar never hurt anyone
... take risks
... it's not about you... all the time....

i'll elaborate soon!

peace, love and foie gras!

(That's a "wild" oyster btw)

(brian... ya like the labeling? HA!)