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

inspiration

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!
sara

(That's a "wild" oyster btw)

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

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A reunion of sorts....


It started with a chat on Facebook.

Sara stated that she was going to be in San Diego and she wanted to get together and podcast. I was excited to once again to be sitting in the studio with all three members of the "PBR Project." It was a good time sharing thoughts, ideas and just general conversation with Sara and Brain. The result of our time together that day can be found HERE.

Sara, we (Brian and I ) wish you nothing but continued success and good times on your adventure....

So the new season of "The PBR Project" is here. Stay tuned and as always thanks for listening.....
jdm

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Iiiiiiiiiit's Back


Podcast Ten that is. After a long delay the podcast is back and posted and ready to go. Sorry about the delay... but you know what they say... good things come to those who wait....

This one is our longest podcast at 1 hour and 25 minutes. So grab a cold one or two (you know we did while recording .... :) ) and enjoy. Topics include but not limited to: Rupert explaining is lack-o-job, picking the right fish, a recap of our first nine podcast.... just to name a few.

Enjoy...

and as always thanks for listening.....
jdm










Sunday, June 14, 2009

super fresh!








There's something to be said about freshness, and when you're catching, gathering or picking your products yourself it doesn't get any fresher.  This trip is deepening my appreciation for fresh, quality products and maintaining simple cooking techniques as to not hide the flavor of the product.  

Friday, May 29, 2009

Podcast Nine...


Podcast Nine is now published and ready to go.  The topic this week is all about passion... can it be taught... or is it that you either have it or you don't... 

Thanks for listening... 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Podcast Eight


Well Podcast Eight is up and ready to go... Thanks for listening and for your support... topics this week: Fine Dinning,  At home in a kitchen, SNL, Green Day and Sea Winch... enjoy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Challenges!

I'm off to Alaska and B.C. via Oregon... on a yacht.  The challenge... cooking breakfast lunch and dinner for 7 people.... for 3 months.... and not repeating... too much....
I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Podcast Seven


Well the podcast seven is up and ready.  This week was all over the place but we had a lot of fun and the topics include: Inspiration, Keeping a journal, Food Magazines, and some questions for the cast... all in all it was a good way to spend the afternoon... cooking, having a few ice cold brews and podcasting.... enjoy

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Never Trust....


“Never trust a skinny chef, or one with a tan”  was the tag line of an add I once saw  in a industry  magazine.  I thought that it was a neat little catch phrase but lately I  have been thinking who should we trust more: a over weight, fish-belly white chef who has never seen the outdoors, much less a garden or a farm where animals are raised humanely?  Or one that cares about their health and fitness and the health of their patrons? One who cares about what they eat and cares about the food that they prepare?  A chef who visits farms, who goes to farmers markets, one who grows a garden and who spends time outside of the kitchen... 


The days of the chef spending every waking hour in the kitchen are a thing of the past.  Chefs need to be out there where the product is growing and talking to farmers.  A chef needs to know how and where the meat, poultry, fish, and any other proteins/produce that are being served his restaurant are raised/grown.  Don’t get me wrong a chef still needs to spend the hours in the kitchen, but the “modern” chef must be able to balance the time spent in and out of the kitchen...  


To truly understand what is fresh and in season the chef must spend time in the fields and have a relationship with the local framers, fishermen, cattlemen etc.  I know that being able to spend time with cattlemen and fishermen might be a very difficult task,  but chef’s need to know as much about the product they are serving as they can.  And that knowledge is not learned by spending every waking hour in the artificial lights of a kitchen... 


So who would you trust?


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Podcast Six


Podcast Six is now published and ready to go.  This week topic's include Sara's Pass Over with her family,  Jeff's trip to KC.  There is a discussion on KC BBQ and importance of twitter and complacency in the kitchen and how to deal with that. We also talk about food blogs and you know just general kitchen life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

the catastrophe of complacency



I have found that as of late you are becoming more relaxed and, yes, even lazy in your duties at the restaurant. Anybody who knows you would most likely tell me that when it comes to work, you don’t like excuses; and its true, you really can’t stand them. And yet, I see that you are giving more and more of them to yourself and everyone else as the days of poor leadership and management at what could be a very, very good restaurant continue.


You work in an environment that breeds conformity to a very low set of standards. A very low set of standards that I try to break for myself and, more importantly, for you. For the longest time I have seen nothing but struggle in my kitchen. I am at a loss as to how in the world I can make things more manageable for my crew, but I have come to realize that, despite your abhorrent protests to management changes, procedures, and even product received, you are very content in staying right where you are. My wanting something cleaned more or more efficiently is always met with the ubiquitous rolling of the eyes, so common of a teenager being told that they need to clean their room before going to that movie. “Hey, lets keep the chatter down and focus our attention on making this food great” is countered by, “I’d rather keep my balls down and in your mouth.” I get it. Its good for a laugh. Hell, I even chuckle sometimes. But recently it occurs to me that I am starting to respond in the same way. And I can’t stand it. I hate to put the blame on my environment, but people really do take on the characteristics of those they hang out with–especially when they hang out with those people for 15 hours a day…


Is it really that shitty of an economy that you must be completely miserable where you work? I know that there might not be many cooking jobs out there and that cooking might be your only interest, but what about taking a job at the local butcher to learn how to better fabricate your meat since we can’t order primals anymore? What about going to the local salumi shop and learning the wonderful craft of charcuterie, since we are not able to “waste” any product on frivolous passings of time like education? Take a part-time at the bakery and learn what fresh bread looks, smells, and tastes like–learn how to make it! Work on a farm and find out what grows in summer and what tastes better in the fall. Like Gandhi said, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Whether it is cleaning harder or faster, or reading more books, or staging, or moving to another fucking city to work under a better chef who can actually teach you something–who actually gives a shit about his employees–in order to succeed or to fail, first you have to actually try. You have to actually do something to fix your situation. 


If you can’t find a way to fix your situation, or at least to try and make it better, then shut the fuck up about your so-called professionalism because your attitude is wearing very thin.


But know this: I am not just speaking from the heart, but to mine, as well...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

what's all the hype really for?

I spent this past weekend in Beverly Hills, Ca with a bunch of my girlfriends for a bachelorette soirĂ©e and had a blast!  We walked around Rodeo drive, danced on the street with a crazy street performer,  took a pole dancing class(which was loads of fun and now my body is in pain) and we went to several restaurants, among them the famous Ivy on Robertson (apparently all the celebs go there... whatever) the food was ok... however the service was excellent and the setting is beautiful.  So what is all the hype?  This "hot spot" cannot be so popular just because the service is good... the food would have to be superb... right?.... The meal was nothing get excited about.  The scallops in the seafood risotto were way overcooked, the "homemade" tortillas were not, a T.V. dinner version of the mushroom pasta would have been more flavorful... so why is this place so damn popular... ?
I was very impressed(perhaps because the service in San Diego is less than stellar) by the overall service of the hospitality industry during our stay in Beverly Hills.  Everyone was very accommodating, friendly, polite, ... everything one would expect when being provided a service.


Friday, April 10, 2009

ratio and scale giveaway



JSB Project friend (well, not really, but sometimes its fun to pretend!) Michael Ruhlman is offering a everybody a chance to benefit those in need and possibly get something really cool in return. the benefit is for Share Our Strength, which is a national organization that works hard to make sure no kid in america grows up hungry. 

lets face it, even if we dont win the contest, helping those who are unable to help themselves is a good and a wonderful thing. even if we cant give but a few dollars, it is still a few dollars that will help feed those who, i am sure, need to eat a lot more than we do.

thanks for the time

Thursday, April 9, 2009

If the food comes out slow



It’s not always the kitchens fault...


There seems to be a lot of blogs lately about poor service and how to deal with it.

 Andrew Knowilton posted recently with “5 tips for handling a Bad Waiter.”  


I want to address one statement that was made.  “The long wait for food is most likely the kitchens responsibility”....  


Now don't get me wrong there are times when the kitchen is at fault and when I am running the line I take full responsibility for the error and or mistake and my Sous Chefs do the same.  I only wish the the waiter (server ) would  explain rather then play the blame game. (But if that were to happen it might result in a smaller tip.  I feel that honesty is the best policy and who knows being honest might even enhance the tip)  But just to assume and automatically find and place fault with the kitchen is just not fair.


There are so many things that can slow down your food coming out in a quick manner,  Lets start with the server and their many mistakes on the ticket.  How about they told us the wrong temp for the steak, or how about don’t put the mushrooms on that dish the person is allergic... of course this information gets to the kitchen just as the table is about to be plated, now we have to star over.  Does that information get to the table... probably not and if it does  the blame is placed on the kitchen.


Andrew brings up another point, but only in regards to getting drinks.. how about the “cute” (after all is that not the reason she was hired) little hostess who just triple sat about six servers and for some reason ALL the orders come to the kitchen at the EXCAT same time. (I know servers never hold tickets...) now the kitchen is buried  (fucked) and they are doing everything they can to get themselves un-fucked.  Because we know that when the kitchen is fucked it will definitely spill out into the table.  And trust me ( someone who has spent a  few nights fucked in the kitchen) I as well as the rest of the kitchen staff don’t want you the customer to be fucked. Yes the kitchen staff cares about your dinning experience.


You know most of the time all the cogs work together nicely and the whole experience is a pleasant one for all involved.  But just remember in the rare times when it does not, the kitchen should not be the first place you look to as the cause of the problem. 



Things to ponder:

  • A line cook barely makes enough money to stock his/her fridge, but will have in their possession about $1000 dollars or more worth of knives..
  • The average temperature on  the grill station is about 120 degrees on a slow night...
  • There is nothing more beautiful then a fully synced line on busy Saturday night...let the good times roll..
  • Local and Organic is truly better...
  • Water rationing can’t be a good thing...
  • Wow over five hundred words...



Veal Stock....




Monday, April 6, 2009

Consistency

Why is it so fucking hard to find a bakery in San Diego that delivers a consistent product?!?   I currently work at a sandwich shop in Pacific Beach (we serve ridiculously tasty sandwiches by the way) and we've 'fired' several bakeries since we've opened... and all for the same issues.  When the sales rep comes by and shows us their product it is perfect.  The taste is right on, the size and shape are exactly what we are looking for... however, once we start receiving the product on a regular basis the quality and consistency are lost.  Some bread is lopsided, has flour pockets, is 2oz instead of 4oz... (over half of today's order, in fact, was way too small for me to use).  And then when you try to get things fixed and get the product you expected to get in the first place you get excuses... "the delivery guy must have given you the wrong order?...", "well, they must be packaging it wrong..."  I don't want or need to hear the excuses, or the guy trying to "explain"  why it is so fucking hard to deliver the bread I sampled in the first place.  I just want it fixed.  I want the bread I ordered, sampled, approved of...  I know that there are thousands of variables in this business, but if you are going to provide a product or service, make sure it is what you said it would be every time.  Train your people to have pride in what they do.  Train them to understand that your customers expect consistency (if that doesn't work make them understand that their paycheck depends it)....  maybe it's the beach, or the sun...  who knows... just give me what i ordered!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Podcast Four





Podcast Four is up and ready to go... Topics include poor service, VIPs, emotions in the kitchen, We also interviewed (more chatted with then interview) Robert Farmer, a local produce purveyor, about the local farming scene here in San Diego and the water shortage...











Saturday, March 28, 2009

aargh!

in order for multitasking to be effective one should be completing tasks not just starting them!.... just throwing that out there

Podcast Three



Podcast Three is now posted and ready.  Topics include Kitchen gadgets, Line Cook training and a little of this and a little of that... just to name a few... enjoy



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Training

So, you've made the decision to hire someone.  Whether you hired them based on an excellent resume, a favor for a friend, or a brand new person with no work experience there will be some training involved.  Now, hopefully you've done a thorough job of interviewing this person and have an idea of what you can expect of them.  If their resume says line cook, or sous chef  it would be reasonable to expect that the only training you have to give them is how thing operate at this restaurant, it is reasonable to expect that they have knife skills, know how to work any part of the line with some level of confidence.  However, if the resume is blank, you have your work cut out for you.  You have to train yourself to be patient and understand that the kitchen common sense we all operate with is not common to the fng, so explain everything in great detail, and slowly.  Tell the new guy what you expect of them, and most importantly make sure they know to have a thick skin.  It's not personal its business, kitchen life is face paced, hectic, has a beautiful, stressful rhythm about it, insults fly left and right and if you take them all personally, don't learn from your mistakes or the mistakes of others you will never make it.  So be patient, give the new guy tasks and time frames, give him feedback and direction.  Because, lets be honest the new guy is going to get sent on wild goose chases for the entertainment of us old time kitchen folk... finding the bucket of steam... asking everyone where the salmon stretcher is, getting sent back with the question of "left handed or right handed" and "how soon do they need it?"... and so on and so on.  I'm not saying not to give the fng shit for being new... i'm saying make sure that when you are doing actual training that there are boundaries, expectations and a specified outcome.... the rest of the time is fair game! 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Podcast Two....

As promised the podcast is now published and ready for your listening pleasure...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Podcasting Publishing Blues...

Well the podcast is finished and ready to publish... unfortunately I am having major problem with the site and unable to publish it at this time.  I have a trouble call (e-mail) in and hopefully I will be able to publish it sometime tomorrow... The picture has nothing to do with the podcast or any thing in particular... I just happen to like it.  It is one that Rupert took at work...




Monday, March 16, 2009

Be true to you.... always

Whatever field you are  in; art, science, media, legal, real estate...; you need to figure out what your personal goals are and how you are going to achieve them.  I don't mean a detailed, step by step plan of how you are going to achieve your goals (although that couldn't hurt i suppose) but rather a personal philosophy or set of standards. Figure out where you currently stand in your career, what things you would do different now if given the chance? (and why), what areas need improving? (knife skills?, people skills?,....) how do you want to be viewed by your colleagues, customers, yourself? where are you willing to compromise? Are you willing to compromise (your standards)?... Write out a personal mission statement, list your goals, standards, beliefs as they pertain to your profession.... be aware that you are constantly changing, receiving new information and leave room to change and grow, but develop a strong sense of the professional you.

Eating Out...


During these tough economic times we must be careful how we spend our money and tough choices must be made.  I know that here lately I (my wife and I) think twice about going out to eat, as I am sure most everyone does.  But when the the decision  has been made where do you go... Local chef/owner place or a big ole' chain?  Well the choice for me and EASY... the local chef/owner place.  I almost never go to a chain restaurant, never have and definitely not now.  Why?  Well I want to spend my money where I know the people.  There are only a few places that I go when I go out and I know the owners/chefs and most of their staff.  I know how they operate and their food philosophy and want to support what are trying to do.  And the food is ALWAYS better.

If I am going to spend money I want to know that is going to be spent on something truly great. I mean isn't that what its all about... the food and then how you are  treated while there.  I know for me it is.  Chains just cannot compare.  Don't get me wrong there are a few (very few) chains that do some of the things right. But why take a chance?  Go to where you know you will have a good experience and the food will be amazing.  After all money does not grow on trees and if you are going to spend it, spend it wisely. 

So get out there and do your research and get to know the owners and the chef's of the local places and spend your money where you will feel good about it and not regret the decision afterwards.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Whatever you do, wrap it in bacon!

Barding: tying fat over meats or poultry to protect and moisten during roasting.

Typically this technique is used on lean meats/poultry that have tendencies to dry out during the cooking process (and bacon is not the only option), however it is a great technique to use on pretty much any cut... or for that matter product... last night I took my mothers meatloaf recipe and made it completely un-kosher (sorry mom, but bacon makes it better!)... the result, a super-moist, smokey slice of heaven!

 

Gardens



Let me just say that having a garden is a butt load of work.  It truly makes you appreciate what Farmers and most notably  Organic Farmers do.  First there is getting the soil and plot ready and then there is the planting and starting of plants.  All very labor intensive work.  You have to water it everyday and do weed abatement by hand (no chemicals allowed).  It is truly back breaking work I tell you and keep this in mind my little garden is only 10'x12'.  I cannot even begin to comprehend the work that goes into a organic farm that produces enough stuff to sell to a) a farmer's market b) restaurants or both.  There is a shit ton of planning and organization involved I am sure.  Hell my little garden spot took about a week of planning and figuring out what to grow and when to plant. And then there is trying to figure out which are good bugs and bad bugs and what bugs eat what bugs... man-o-man.  Maybe it is just easier for me to  go to the farmer market and get what I want but then who said that life is suppose to be easy..

I  like working in my garden (it is somewhat therapeutic)  and got super excited when  my Mesclun (gourmet green mixture) started poking through the soil.  (soil is what you pant and grow stuff in, dirt is what gets under your finger nails)  It fills you with a sense of accomplishment .  I can only guess as to  how I will feel when I start picking the  produce and actually eating what I have grown.

So to all you farmers out there I raise a toast to you and all that you do... remember without farmers there would not be any food.

So get out there and plant a garden so you can eat fresh local produce and  if you can't do that then support your local farmers and Farmer's Market.




Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Safe Seafood



 I found this guide for buying sustainable seafood at Gourmet.com.  It is pretty good read.

 We will be talking about Sustainability in our next podcast... stay tuned

jdm

life gras on...




i found this article today regarding the production of foie gras in america.

it provides a great deal of insight into what many activists (read: maniacal terrorists) claim to be extremely inhumane. 

more on this from me, later...



***UPDATE***

Youve seen it all over the news, read about it in the paper, the internet, heard about it on radio talk shows: foie gras = cruelty. Ducks/geese are held in industrial cages, not free to roam and are plagued by disease, wallowing in their own filth. The force-feeding, or gavage (a process wherein a large tube is shoved down the ducks throat and a small amount or corn/grain based feed is milled through), causes the animals great discomfort and tears their esophagus. It causes immense stress on the beaks causing them to break, the ducks and geese become so engorged that they can no longer stand or walk, vomiting all over themselves. Their diseased bodies give out on them and they die.

Yes, that does sound cruel. And hell, if it happened on every foie farm I might join the fight as well. The fact of the matter is, there are plenty of farms that do not practice their husbandry this way. There have even been veterinarians who have visited Hudson Valley and Sonoma Farms (one of which even wrote a letter to the CA senate regarding the ban on foie gras and her visit to Sonoma) and have found nothing inhumane about them. The owners of the farms even welcome chefs and reporters to come and take pictures UNANNOUNCED!!! If there was something to hide, I think that they would be the biggest fools of all to be opening themselves up like that.

Don’t mince my words, now, as there are plenty of farms that are treating their animals extremely cruelly: These are the farms that need to be dealt with. There should be a radical adjustment to the way that these farms do business. This is where people should be protesting and government stepping in, not ruining it for those who are doing it right.

Animal rights extremists terrorizing restaurants and their patrons, chefs and their families (forcing some of them to go into hiding because of threats that have been made on their lives). I think that these people are the people who should be fought against. These are the people against whom war needs to be waged. Its funny to me the stereotypes of the two classes: the weak, pallid vegetarians and the strong, burly carnivores. Funny because those that some perceive to be almost immobile due to malnutrition are the ones who are out fighting and creating chaos for those who are doing nothing more than providing a service for people to enjoy something delicious.

I have never once heard of a meat-eater video taping people in their homes and threatening their families, or throwing buckets of rotten vegetation through the windows of raw bars or vegetarian friendly restaurants. So why is the opposite true? I saw another post on the site of the SF based restaurant Incanto, where they were recently told that they had to take the foie gras off of their menu. The response is half plea, and half come-and-get-us. A very well-informed letter that, at once, takes a calm, eloquent, and fired-up approach to those out there who would rather make people suffer for something that they think is right.

As for me, until I hear word of Goventator Swarzenweizenheimer lifting the upcoming ban, I am going to be buying the shit out of that stuff...

Podcast

Our first Podcast is now available.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

an Introduction...

This is who we are:

a group of chefs with ideas and ruminations on food and all things related.

This is what we do:

get together at least once a week to discuss various projects that we are each working on in our respective kitchens/ideas about food in general, musings on current food trends, and un-ironically embrace the celebration of PBR Tuesdays (if we have to explain, you wouldn't understand!).

This is why we do:

we used to work together, but no longer do. in an effort to keep in touch with one another and to facilitate a more intellectual forum apart from our kitchens (because lets face it–dick jokes are good, but you can't survive on dick alone...) we decided that we would start this up so we can share with each other more than once a week and hopefully add some insight for anybody else who is interested in this profession.