Past Thought Snippets

Generally these snippet posts are a collection of thoughts and adventures over a couple of week period that I write down in the memo app on my phone.  When I get at least 500 words worth of this junk I pass them along to you so you can waste time on them as I do.

The advantage of writing in snippet style is that I don’t always have to make sense.

I have a new dish on the Spring menu.  Hand made squid ink linguine in uni broth with New Zealand mussels and shaved bottarga.  Someone asked me if we would offer a gluten-free version.  I said absolutely.  It’s a soup of uni broth with New Zealand mussels and shaved bottarga.

I googled my symptoms.  It appears that all I need is for people to stop being so damn stupid.

We all do stupid things.  Sometimes. That does not make us stupid.

Human beings have a difficult time accepting finality.  I helps to invent a place where we go for eternal bliss so we feel better about death.  More about this in a future post.

Please stop making sriracha aioli. Mixing hot sauce with mayonnaise is not cooking, it’s not creative, and it’s not aioli.  They have it at Taco Bell.

Tacos and pizzas are two different dishes.  Instead of trying to combine the two why not focus your efforts on making a good pizza or a good taco?

Who do I believe, the man who has dedicated his career to law enforcement or the man who paid off a porn star to cover up an affair?

I wrote a song called She’s Got Marty Feldman Eyes.

After taking Stella’s order for a bacon and egg sandwich without cheese because of a dairy allergy, the girl at Dunkin Donuts informed us that Stella could not have egg because that’s dairy.

When a car parks in the handicapped spot and the handicapped person stays in the car while the driver runs into the store.

When the cashier, I mean service associate asks if you want the candy bar left out assuming the purchaser just cannot wait until they get to the car to eat it.  I will sometimes say “no, just the pork roast.”

Go to the Walmart’s and buy a plunger.  Ask the cashier, I mean service associate if this will clear a small cat out of the drain.

I’m going to stand out at the exit of the Wilton Mall with sign that reads I’ve got 3 kids to feed, a mortgage, and medical insurance is expensive. I work full-time.  Please give what you can.

The people who actually need help are hindered by lazy scamming bastards because they cause us to distrust people truly in need.  Standing out with a sign is not a job, it’s a growing scam.

When you make grown up decisions you have to live with grown up consequences.

I often hear from old folks like myself that young people have no work ethic and lack motivation to succeed.  They’re wrong.  I was reminded this past week that it’s the lazy people who have no get-up-and-go and age has nothing to do with it.  I just promoted a dishwasher to garde mager out of necessity and quite frankly it was a great move for everyone. She’s quite young with a very good work ethic.

I also hired a new sous chef who is also young.  He too has a strong work ethic and a clear understanding of what is required of him.

A sous chef is like your understudy.  If you cannot make a performance they should be able to step in and know all the lines and be able to  deliver them as you would.  Perhaps the performance won’t be quite as exciting, but it should still be enjoyable.  Ad libbing is not part of the program.

Don’t give instructions until you’ve learned to follow instructions.

“The harder you work the better luck you’ll have.”  Gary Player

It doesn’t always pour when it rains.  Sometimes it just sprinkles a bit and you don’t really get that wet.  Sometimes it’s just a quick sun shower.  Keep an umbrella just in case however.

I’m really happy at my job.  Being in the kitchen at the Wine Bar is so comfortable, and when chefs are comfortable and happy the food shows it.

I’m happy in general.

Thanks to those who helped get me here.

 

 

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What About Dominic The Chef?

Life in the restaurant business in rarely without drama.  No matter how hard you try to minimize it, it flares up at varied times for various reasons.  It’s often easy to deal with, but sometimes there are conflicting solutions within your own head.  We are not always one person with one view of a situation.

Is there a difference between Dominic the chef and the Dominic the person?

I know the answer. Well, I sort of know the answer.  It’s impossible to separate yourself from your occupation and think only as one or the other.  I wish I could sometimes.  What’s best for Dominic the chef is not always what I as a person would like to be able to do.

As a person I would like to like everybody, like to accept everybody, and like to help everybody.  The problem is Dominic the Chef has requirements and responsibilities.

Over the years I have had an awful lot of people working under me in a lot of kitchens.  It’s true that our workforce predominantly people with few marketable skills outside the kitchen.  There’s nowhere I could work at my salary level with my skill set.  All I know how to do is cook and manage a kitchen.

It’s not that kitchen people aren’t smart, it’s that so many of us commit to the restaurant life early and never develop other skills.  One of the reasons however that so many people commit early is that it’s a place where people who drink hard, use drugs, may have dropped out of school, and are occasionally acquainted with law enforcement personnel.  There’s a bond among that group, a group too often straddled with difficult upbringings, broken homes, low-income families, and/or a series of emotional problems.

Within that group I’ve continued to employ a lot of people who would otherwise be fired from any other job.  It’s hard getting a solid and reliable dishwasher or line cook.  So, rather than churn through cooks and dishdogs I’ve often put up with some crap.

The other reason Dominic the chef often put up with the misgivings of many dishwashers, cooks, and even sous chefs is that Dominic the person is a human being with feelings for others.  I’ve often tried to accommodate the shortcomings of employees because I’ve looked at their lives with empathy and perhaps a bit of sympathy.  I’ve always looked at others and been able to put myself in their shoes either through imagination or even through experience.

It’s difficult when you have control over whether someone has a job or not.  Knowing that putting someone out of work may cause hardship on top of an already difficult life just ain’t easy.  I’ve always considered the person’s life I’m dealing with when making decisions at work as it relates to my subordinates.

Writing on this subject was prompted by a dilemma I have been wrestling with.  See, I have been wanting to replace one of my kitchen staff.  The problem was that another employee depended on him for a ride to work.  So, my quandary was do I put up with someone who didn’t meld with my style in order to keep a guy I liked or do I risk losing him if I let the other person go.  The guy I didn’t want to lose necessarily would find a bit of hardship in unemployment.  Dominic the person was being patient while Dominic the Chef knew what was best.  The bottom line is that my loyalty is to my employer, to myself, to my coworkers, and to our customers.  I try to provide a great work environment and treat my crew with respect and understanding, but was recently reminded that how everyone gets to work in the long-term is not my responsibility.

As it turned out, the individual who need to go decided that Monday would be his last shift and the time to leave was as service was beginning. Unfortunately, or so I thought it was unfortunate at the time, the other individual decided he should go with him for the ride.  My advice is that if you’re going to follow someone, make sure it’s someone on the right path before you set out.  Your mentor should have a record of success that you’d like to mimic in your own style.  Best wishes, and I sincerely hope both of you find your way in life.

Yesterday I started training my new sous chef, a quality individual that I’ve worked with before.  Also my new garde manger, who has tons of promise and an actual desire to work.  She’s going to be a star.

I typically have plan B in place for most situations.

Such is life in the restaurant business.

Have a great day.  Both Dominics are looking forward to a quiet, neat, and professional kitchen.

 

I Sometimes Wish We Chefs Weren’t So Cool

If chefs weren’t so cool, we’d have better food.

When I was eight years old I got cooking equipment for Christmas.  Not kid’s toys, but real kitchen utensils, pots, and pans.  I had decided very early in life that I wanted to be a chef and  decided late in life that I would actually be a chef.

When I was eight I had no idea what becoming a chef meant, what it entailed, and how to perform as a chef.  Of course, there aren’t too many eight-year-olds with dreams of becoming something who have much of a clue what’s involved with getting to their goal.

I really didn’t find out what becoming a chef required until I was 35.  No, it didn’t take me that long in the business to finally figure it out.  Aside from a spring semester and summer away from school working at Mike’s Pizza Adobe in Schenectady, I did not work in a restaurant until my mid-thirties.

When I was eight, when I was getting to the end of high school, or even when I was working my first kitchen job with the strong encouragement from the Dean of Academic Affairs at Siena, becoming a chef was not only misunderstood, it was seen as a waste life of by some people very close to me.  I returned to Siena for the my junior year of cross country with some “administrative help” and immediately decided I wanted to go to The Culinary Institute instead.  I was discouraged from throwing away my education to go sling hash.  That was the climate in the early eighties.  Being a cook just wasn’t cool back then.

I wanted to be a chef for the right reasons.  I had a real curiosity and love for food and really liked cooking despite not being exposed to the culinary world and its treasures as a kid.

Today it seems that too many cooks who consider themselves chefs want to be chefs for the wrong reasons.  Thanks to the Food Network and other entertainment and social media outlets that followed, we’re now in an era where too many young men and women want to be chefs as an easy way to become stars.

The problem is they’re not learning how to cook at a fundamental level.  Learning to cook is not their main concern.  Learning to cook cool dishes with cool ingredients is their main concern.

Some cooks know how to cook.  Some cooks know how to cook what they know how to cook.

What’s the difference?  Well, once you develop good cooking techniques and habits, the ingredients become almost irrelevant.  What I mean by that is that a good cook should be able to switch ingredients in and out of one technique without relearning a new cooking method.

In recent years I’ve run into too many cooks who learn to make specific dishes in various restaurants or they develop dishes on their own and stick with them because they know how to make them.  Ask them to make a different dish using the same techniques and it’s like starting from scratch.  Why?  Because cooks aren’t learning basic cooking methods first.

If I teach a cook how to pan roast an airline chicken breast, he or she should then have a pretty good idea how to pan roast a lamb rack or veal chop.  The method is the same even as we switch out the protein and spice profile.

I don’t know why culinary programs or chefs with new cooks aren’t teaching this, but it’s time they started.  Better yet, it’s time many young (and not so young) cooks stop trying to be cool, stop trying to get on Chopped, and stop trying to become social media stars.  Learn to cook first, learn to work in a professional kitchen, and pay attention to your profession rather than wanting the profession to pay attention to you.

Allergies

This is a quick word or two prompted by this morning’s post on Daniel Berman’s excellent FUSSYlittleBLOG where he talks about food allergies and restaurants.  I’m always happy to see someone other than myself tackle the issue because it’s a real concern of mine on several levels.

I know I’ve talked about allergies on chefsday but I have not done a post dedicated to them.

Here is the comment I left on Daniel’s blog post: “This is an important subject to me for two reasons. First and foremost is that my seven-year-old daughter has a severe dairy allergy that is life-threatening. She had to have an Epipen once when an apple orchard made it very clear that their “homemade” cider donuts were dairy-free. Since they were apparently homemade we trusted them. The day after the incident my wife called to report the issue and they in fact were made with a mix that contains whey. This is a case when the customer was honest and the vendor was not.”
“As a chef who has had to deal with a real allergy I know what can happen when someone ingests something they shouldn’t. In my kitchen we take allergies very seriously and do everything we can to accommodate them. We change utensils, we are careful in our methods, and in our plating. It’s disheartening when a server reports back that the same customer with the allergy is sharing food with dining companions that contains the reported allergen. It happens more often than you’d think.
These scenarios have caused me to be skeptical. My wife and I don’t trust food vendors, and I don’t trust customers. While honesty may be the best policy, it’s not the common policy. It’s too bad because someones life could depend on it.”

Don’t stop here, read his post as well.  It’s good and it’s important.

If you have an allergy tell me, I’ll make sure you’re safe.  If you don’t like something, tell me, I’ll eliminate it as best I can without having to bring the kitchen to a halt.  Remember, we want to cater to your likes and dislikes.  Also remember, there are other customers who need to be served and the attention needlessly focused on you can take away from their experience.

Have some dignity, don’t be selfish, and be honest.

We’re Different Than Nine To Fivers

For those of you who may be confused:  This is not a food blog.  This blog is about the thoughts, experiences, memories, victories and failures, and world view of an irrational, recovering depressive chef with a fair amount of anxiety that battles alcohol misuse and demons while trying to maintain a family and restaurant kitchen.  While I mostly talk about food, restaurants and kitchen life I also talk about my life which is often affected by working in an industry full of misfits and socially unacceptable individuals.

I have little interest in food blogging.  I thought I did once, but I don’t.  Sharing recipes is not my thing.  I work hard to develop recipes and plates so I’m not about to give them away. Perhaps it’s time for this old dog to get paid. You want a recipe? Google it.

I could try to add reviews to this goofy little blog, but I actually work in the restaurant business and don’t get to go out to dinner that often. It would be refreshing to have more actual culinary-minded writers doing reviews however.

This is a great commentary on on food blogger, The Food Babe.  Just because someone writes about a subject doesn’t mean they know what the Hell they’re talking about.  Heck, I’m not even sure I know what I’m talking about half the time and I know what I’m talking about.

Life in the restaurant business, especially for those of us who work for the dinner crowd is a life that many nine-to-fivers simply do not understand nor do many empathise with.  Our world is on a schedule that often conflicts with the real world and the people we associate with are either the other square pegs or those who don’t realize it’s time to go home.

What seems to be a productive time for many nine to five conformists is the part of the day when we can fit in our leisure time, enjoyable activities, or hobbies since our evenings are spent at our jobs. When most people are enjoying themselves we’re working, so don’t judge us if we spend time enjoying ourselves when you’re working.

Of course, I use conformist in the most affectionate way possible.  Many of us want to be regular people.

If you call in sick to many jobs not much changes. If you call in sick from your kitchen job your co-workers will have to work much harder.

Nine to Fivers sit at their desks and buy tickets to plays. concerts, and ballgames without much regard for their jobs.  We see events and often wish we could go.

Kitchen jobs attract people who cannot sit in chairs (bar stools excluded) for too long, cannot be confined to a desk, and often lack the attention span to do jobs that take all day.

People are often jealous of my wife because she’s married to a chef and must eat great meals all the time.  Uummm, where do you think her husband is at dinner time?

Chefs are plumbers, dishwashers, carpenters, therapists, bail bondsman, taxi services, janitors, career counselors, first aid specialists, customer relations experts, financial planners, students, teachers, human resource managers, referees, scavengers, party planners, delivery drivers, surrogate parents, and anything else that needs doing.

There are three seats in a row open at a bar.  A guy comes in alone and sits in the middle seat pretty much rendering the other two seats useless.  Is he?  (a) clueless  (b) socially awkward (c) a self-absorbed asshole

You need just the right mix of fear and bravery to survive.

I often hold grudges too long.

Don’t get ruffled when we don’t answer your 7 pm text until 9:30.

Turnt, dank, and bae, are understood while they’re, their and there are not.

The cashier, I’m sorry. The customer service representative at the  Hannaford’s after a slightly difficult customer transaction confided to me that she hates her job.

All purpose flour isn’t.

I was thinking of opening a cakery but then I realized that cakery isn’t a word.

The list of people you judge should include yourself.

Here’s the scene:  Tate’s sitting on the toilet, and Stella locks the door and closes it on him.  Enter Dad:

“Tate, can you wipe your tush and unlock the door?”

“No, there’s no more toilet paper.”

Kids.

It’s more difficult to install a door knob assembly than it is to remove one.

Blamestorming:  Time figuring out who to blame for a problem rather than finding a solution.

I certainly don’t begrudge day people their life-style, but I wish you could all understand us a little more.  We cannot make social plans easily, we miss many events, we are tired all the time, we don’t always eat well, and we tend to socialize after-hours when bars are the only thing open.  We don’t live on a predictable, easy to manage schedule. Bear with us, and we’ll bear with you.

 

Going To California

Jenn and I weren’t sure of anything until late Friday night so we kept things mum on a very important decision we’ve had to make.  Jenn recently got a contract offer to be The Chief Administrator for the OB/GYN Department at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, California.  The position carries with it a seat on the Board of Directors.  We were quite settled on our resolution until the concrete offer came and we opted to revisit the decision  process with an actual sense of reality.

It’s a life-changing move, and making the decision to haul your family across the country should not be taken lightly.  We had decided prior to the offer that we would go since it’s not only an enormous career opportunity for Jenn, but without a doubt I would love cooking in the Napa Valley.  When the moment of truth came however it was far more difficult to imagine such a titanic move.  We came to the reailization that we would have to leave everything behind that we as a family have come to know and love.  Facing saying good-by to our jobs, school, friends, and our home made us take a second look at what we thought was a done deal.

After further discussion we concluded that this is a once in a lifetime career move for Jenn, and a chance for me to head to one of the  foremost culinary meccas in the country and bring my Mediterranean approach to cooking to its fullest potential.  The kids are still young and Theresa could use a change of scenery.  It’s settled, we’re going to California to start a new chapter in our lives with hearts full of expectation for fuller and more meaningful lives.

I’ve always thought that it’s important to expose your children to as many adventures and experiences as possible.  This move will not only make us more financially capable of doing that, it will put us in a part of the country that we think will lead to the kind of lifestyle we want.

Jenn will be heading out in late May to have an orientation period while I stay here with the kids to pack for the move, get the house on the market, finish the school year, and tie up all the loose ends that come with such an endeavor.  She will head back briefly in late June and we should all be on a plane for good in early July.

We haven’t told the kids yet but I think they will show a mixture of sadness, and excitement.  We will assure them that we’ll come back and visit as often as possible to celebrate holidays like April Fools Day.