Hits and Misses ….Lessons from 2011

New Kitchen. New Crew. New Rules.  New Life.

I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss Christmas and New Years and Baptisms and Birthdays and weddings and cruises.

I miss being a good friend, a sister, a cousin, a daughter, an aunt. I miss being in the pictures, and being able to tell the “I was there” stories.

Now, I get to tell different “I was there stories”. Cochon, F&W, photo shoots, Parties (working them, not attending them), Events,  busy nights, busy days, New Dishes, New menus, Staiges,

New and exciting, scary and difficult. Challenges at every bend. Life lessons all the time, every day if you pay attention to them. You can’t hide who you are in the kitchen. I’m learning that I actually quite like myself. I like the cook I’m becoming.

So many changes, The seasons turn, swimsuits to sweaters. So many things that once were, but they are no longer…

Ever feel like all those things that you went through in your life, the trials, the hard times- they all mattered? they all helped train you for this exact moment? That you wouldn’t know how to pull together as a team if you didn’t spend 12 years on softball field? that you wouldn’t be able to navigate the kitchen as quickly and dance around people if you hadn’t been a majorette? That all that sight reading in band helped you to be able to memorize a dish immediately? ROTC in college helped you to swallow your pride and take responsibility for yourself?

Gifts  disguised as something undesirable turn out to be the best presents ever. Inherent truths confirmed. Truths you doubted because of a million different reasons.

Humility is one of those gifts, and a little goes a long way. It seemed like such an unwanted attribute for so long. It took me 30 years to finally embrace this character trait. Keep your mouth shut, and your eyes and ears open. Be grateful. Be light. Be honest.Be Ruthless. Smile. You can still smile, be dead serious and determinedly focused. and It gives you less wrinkles anyway.

Remember that It matters, all of It. Everything you do, everything you say. How you treat people, In the kitchen and out of the kitchen. And forgive yourself when you feel you’ve erred. ask forgiveness when necessary. You’ll know when you need to do it.  Do it quickly.

We roll with the punches, because its really the only way- at least its the only way  Iknow.

You’re mad? Go in the cooler and pound some butter. Literally. Beat it the giant sticks together like you’re a mad clapping monkey. Then, smooth on your lipgloss, and walk back to your station.

Or, Perhaps another way,  breathe… keep your poker face, your composure and don’t let them see you sweat. If you can help it.

Don’t complain. There is way to much to be grateful for to allow yourself to fall into the pit of self pity.

Don’t put people on pedestals. Its too much pressure for them, and you will inevitably be disappointed as they are alas, human. But respect them for the skills they have and the lessons they can teach.

Pay attention.

As it turns out, kitchens can be run successfully, ruthlessly, respectfully, and compassionately. So can your life. Just own it. Be intentional.

and eat more greens 🙂 they are in season now!

 

 

 

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One Lucky Ducky

I am one LUCKY Duck! Even though my friends barely know I’m alive, I never see my real family, I haven’t put a lick of Make-up on in over a month, and I’ve got a few fresh burns on my arm-

I couldn’t be more grateful for this life! I’ll give a few reasons.

1. I loved it, I hated it, now I love it again. Social Media-Facebook, twitter, Email, Skype-Without these things (and an enormous text plan courtesy of AT&T) I would be even MORE out of touch with those people that I care about.

That and my Iphone 4. Yes, I’m a Mac girl, forever and ever Amen.

Only a v-chat away. The next best thing to real Face time.

Only a v-chat away. The next best thing to real Face time!

2. Bad Days- Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But a wise friend once told me that “all Sunshine makes a desert.”  Verite! How else would we learn or prove to ourselves that we are bigger and better than our circumstances? That we can turn something absolutely AWFUL into something good, and another thing we were able to accomplish? Hmm?

I.E- getting put back on an old station bc someone calls out, not knowing the dishes because you haven’t worked it in 2 months, and STILL being a beast-ette, tearing it up, and putting out fantastic plates. Its nice to you still have it 🙂

3. FAMILY MEALS (ninja Style)- For some reason, our GM doesn’t want us to have them. Ridiculous I say. So what do we do? Save the scraps from everything and come up with our own creations  after hours-cost to restaurant= nothing.

At 2 in the morning. Frigging delicious and its worth it. We need the downtime with each other.

The head from THIS...!

With a little TLC

Becomes THIS!!!

Who know that Snapper heads had so much meat!

4. Taking a chance on a dream- I’m glad I had the guts to do it. Its scary, and challenging, and frustrating mostly all of the time, but its all worth it to have those moments of clarity, of knowing THIS is my gift.

THIS is my purpose, and THIS is what I love to do.

5. And to lighten it up a bit (literally 🙂

New Hair! It was worth the wait. I think I’ll keep this one for awhile.

Uber Blonde...and I like it!

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Kids CAN cook, Venison Chili with Parsley Gremolata and Queso Fresco

With adult supervision, of course. Quick Story in Pictures.

He.....

made this.....

WE had a great time-

Learning to Season

Safety in the kitchen. Kids can hold a knife as long as you teach them the right way!

Knife skills- Remember, dull knives are the dangerous ones!

working on a brunoise

Look at those cuts!

Recipe to follow!

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I am Woman…Hear me Roar…

Or not.

It’s foolish for me to pretend that being a woman in the kitchen isn’t a challenge. Its a dichotomy, a struggle to balance. Sometimes I hate that it is still an issue. Sometimes, I love that it is still an issue-in that it gives me an opportunity to prove everyone wrong.

How do you know when to put down your guard and when to Put up your Dukes?

I can throw out nasty one liners and curse like a pirate too, but I choose not to. To be honest I have caught myself participating in this on more than one occasion and it just sounds tacky out of my mouth-vulgar. I decided that on this level, I am NOT one of the guys, nor do I yearn to be and I have finally learned to stop trying. I was told 3 times this week that I’m”already one of the guys”- which felt like a big “attaboy”. Silly, yes.

Growing up Circa mid-80’s early 90’s  America, we were taught we could become anything we wanted as long as we tried hard enough. I never wanted to let my Bra-burning women’s right’s activist aunts, mothers and grandmothers down. Hence my 8 year stint trying to fit into a “young ball busting female corporate professional” mold in which I didn’t belong. Shoulder pads, Big Hair, Baby Boom, 9-5, stilettos on the feet, tennis shoes in the bag, Jane Fonda, doing it all, kicking butt and taking names, these are the images I grew up with, they shaped who I am.

Now, I’ve chosen a profession in which I am greatly outnumbered by my XY counterparts. It doesn’t scare me, and usually doesn’t bother me. I can lug around 2- 60 lb stock pots, clean the deep fryer, and lift the 50 lb box of veal bones above my head in the cooler along with the rest of them. (Thank you Zuzana  bodyrock.tv )All with a french braid and lipstick. My dad taught me that regardless of sex, one should always have a firm handshake.  He showed my sister and I that we should be just as physically strong as our counterparts (or my brother), I think this was based more on learning self sufficiency than anything else.  But we also learned that we should be comfortable to have doors opened, to have chairs pulled out, and to cross our legs when we sit.

Call me old fashioned, but most of the time I miss chivalry- as long as it is outside the kitchen. That doesn’t make me any less strong, less female protagonist or appreciative of everything our ancestors have done for us.

My biggest fear is putting of an image of being delicate or not working just as hard as one of these guys, so while in my REAL life I appreciate Chivalry (Yes, please open my doors and take my coat.) I don’t appreciate it in the kitchen unless I am in dire straits- I can do it all by myself, Thank-you-very-much.  So, it might seem silly to insist on doing these menial tasks all by myself, like lifting the stock pot onto the burner on my own.  If I slip just once, if I allow the possibility of a perception in that I can’t do the dirty work on my own, then I feed into the stereotype that I am struggling so hard with everyday. Every move matters,  and the buck stops here, dammit.

So, I’ll continue to put up my dukes and keep the roaring to a minimum…. we don’t want to scare anyone, now do we?

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What to eat…

One would think, based on my chosen profession , eating would not be a problem. However, one would be sorely mistaken. I am surrounded by Heavy Cream, Deep Fryers, Butter, all sorts of Animal Fats, Dairy, and thank god because I work in a 4 Diamond Fine dining establishment, all sorts of Veg.

guess What, I HAVE to eat it all, or at least constantly taste it.

Every day. Its my job to make sure this stuff tastes good before I send it out to a guest. So, To keep my waistline in check and to avoid packing on an extra few LB’s- I am strictly Pescatarian when I’m not at work. I hate labels, but this is one I’ve had to brand myself with for now. (unless of course, someone has decided to cook for me, and my rules fly out the window.)

It works for me.

I am old enough now (ahem)  to know my body’s needs and wants. This Doesn’t always coincide with my schedule or habits. But, I’m figuring out how to make it work.My body needs to workout and be active. My body NEEDS Greens. Sounds crazy, but my SOUL and my BODY need Beans on a daily basis. So, this is how I feed myself when I’m not running around the kitchen like a crazy person. Before shift and on my days off.

I thought it would be fun to give you an example of a cooks Daily eats-First, I should share with you that we NEVER get to eat off plates. No time. We eat off tasting spoons (plastic spoons randomly stored throughout kitchen),Plastic Deli cups, (kind of like cheap tupperware) or Metal bowls that we are about to throw the scraps out of.

2:00 PM-a piece of Leftover Biscotti from the night before- you know where pastry hides it 2:15-a taste of caviar creme fraiche, Wasabi Mousseline, Queso Fresco, avocado puree, and a shortbread crumble. have to make sure these are still good so you don’t need to make more.

2:30- Ciabatta Croutons. You steal a piece of stale brioche from the next station.

4:00- a Piece of Lardon and your finished crouton. an heirloom Tomato you just peeled and skinned.

5:00-a spoonful of potato from sautee station. some dried cherries that you know are leftover on your station from an old salad.

5:45- Tempura fried tomato. Ceaser dressing bc you forgot to taste it at 2:00. Frisee. F(*&ing Frisee. I hate Frisee.

6:00 on- every thing you make- a taste from a tasting spoon. Salad, tomato, veg. You have to trust that your proteins are correct. Soup, etc.

9:00- some Tuna Tartare that was leftover. a Stolen piece of Ciabatta.

1:30- Arepas from the local stand on I Drive. A beer or two. Or just some sparking water you threw in a deli to take with you from work because you’re addicted to it.

Sound appetizing, Eh? Its all for the love of the game. 🙂

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Grapefruit Zinfandel Marmalade and Rhubarb Jam

SO.. Lets say you’ve got some old ugly fruit that isn’t Quite suitable for tableside service, and you Loathe waste.
Well, my friends, Have I got a solution for you!!

Preserves, Jam, Marmalade! As long as you store it in the fridge and use it in a reasonable amount of time (which- You will. Trust me, this beats those store bought jams every day of the week) there is no canning necessary

What else can one do with these refrigerator preserves? Why not have a Gin and Jam a La Madame Geneva– Put it on some toast! Eat it with a spoon for a quick pick me up before a run, use it as a base for a fruity vinaigrette!

Or just sit in corner jar and spoon in hand, smile on face, looking out the window at the flowers and the butterflies listening to Mumford and Sons.  Just Saying….

You might have a question about using pectin or Gelatin- I didn’t use any and my jams held together quite nicely.  Of course, feel free, but I didn’t have any on hand. Mine were a bit Looser than commercial versions but when stirred into my Gin, who cares!

On the fly throw in lemon juice or Apples which have quite a bit of natural pectin in them and your jam will come together with enough reduction. I used lemon juice for both recipes.

Grapefruit Zinfandel Honey Marmalade

1/4 Cup Julienned Grapefuit Zest

2 cups Grapefruit Juice

.5 Cup White Zinfandel

1/4 Cup Honey

1.5 Cup Sugar

Juice from 1 Lemon

Combine all Ingredients in a heavy bottom Saucepan, Bring to a Boil and keep on a light boil. Let ingredients Reduce to desired consistency. Taste for Sweetness. To check if it is done, Dip a spoon in the Marmalade and submerge in a glass of Ice water, or put on a plate and put in freezer for a minute or two.

When finished, put in jar and cool down in an icebath to use immediately.

Rhubarb Jam-

There is nothing like the sweet springy Tartness of Rhubarb. In  jam, it is divine, throw in some Sorrel or other herbs for a little twist!

4 Stalks of cleaned rubarb, chopped (it will fall apart anyhow)

2 Cups of  sugar

Juice of 1 Lemon

Combine all ingredients in heavy bottom saucepot. The rhubarb will start to cook down, you don’t have to babysit this, but make sure to keep an eye on it so the sugar doesn’t burn. Cook until Rhubarb Breaks down and Jam passes your Spoon test.

Enjoy!!!

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What the H(*&

Holy lack of time managment skills, Batman. Or rather, Holy lack of time.
Miss my friends miss my family miss my life miss my cat miss capoeira …just miss.
Life these days consists of 12 hour shifts..coming in 3 hours early so I can set up my station on my own. Staying longer than I have to in order to ensure that the coolers are done properly. Because it matters.
I come in early

So I can learn to butcher.
So I can prove that I am a worthy cook,
a worthy student,
worthy of receiving the knowledge that has been passed down for centuries so that I too, will be able to pick a worthy apprentice to pass down mine .

I spend more time on I4 and at the “Shmitz Smarlton” than at my own house.
I have a new family, and I like them. They annoy me, push me, bug the Sh&* out of me-

 I’m positive that if you found this crew and bunch of pirates,  one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them (minus the lack of a cockney accent and eye patches.)

when I’m not working, I miss them.

When I’m not working, I miss the kitchen.

Its crazy, I don’t expect anyone to understand it. I dont care if they understand it. I still love it.  

I wouldn’t change a thing.

I am eternally grateful that I have been blessed with a craft- a trade that is milennia old. I’ve been searching my whole life for this thing, and it found me. Its up to me to prove I’m worthy of it.

What the Hell

(a friend shared this cover with me- its fantastic,appropro on some levels and I can’t stop listening to it.)

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