Texas Spice..Thank you

Today is my last day at a place I never thought I would be part of.

I started thinking about it a few days ago and all the things I have been part of and created. It has been a roller coaster ride indeed with many ups and a fair share of downs.

I have been able to create something bigger than me here ..an identity for the restaurant and a local loyal following…how cool is that?.

I have made so many friends that I know will be my friends for life. I have so many memories that I would have to sit down for years to write them all down, a few really stick out. Like the day we received a 220# Warsaw grouper, it was tough as boots but holy cow it was big. Or the day we received our first quarter cow,that was painful and heavy. I will never forget the Barracudas we purchased, or the day I sous vide cow tongue and it tasted magnificent. Texas Spice has been a place of many firsts for me, first time pickling water melon, breaking down whole pigs , trying to hang 300# quarter cow in the cooler, fish I have never heard of or seen, pickling more vegetables and fermenting them , making hot sauces ( I don’t even eat hot sauce) simply amazing produce, smoking salmon and making that really good, develop my own recipes for chorizo and summer sausages. On one of my very first days of working in Texas Spice my good friend Jason Weaver who was the Executive Chef at the time passed a very very hot skillet to me and forgot to tell me it was just out of the oven, I grabbed it and immediately dropped it saying a few choice words quietly. To make it even more memorable Jason was standing next to the GM at the time and they both had a good laugh about it and still do I am sure. I laugh at it as well…now. Or the time when we were supposed to be very slow over the 4th of July weekend and we were not and we sank faster than the titanic, we had VIP tables requesting special menus and a full restaurant that just filled up out of nowhere and my restaurant manager , Teddy James , became everything that evening ,server food runner expo , while I tended to the VIP table meaning I became a server order taker and food runner as well. But we made it happen and now it is a distant fun memory. We opened the restaurant the next day as if nothing happened. Texas Spice is now humming along and no matter what happens it will open at 0600 for breakfast. Or the very first new years in 2011/2012 where I opened and worked until 8 pm and went home only to come back at 3 am new years day and just get buried in pre orders from room service all day long. I have never seen anything like that before ..now I have and I am a better Chef for it and not afraid of that volume of business.

But at the end of it all the staff is what I will always remember most , with out the people I worked with be it in front of house , back of house, different departments irrelevant where they worked and to many to mention by name, with them it is just an empty building with stuff in it. It is the people that matter they all have help-ed shape me in to the chef I am today. Jason Weaver,Donald Chalko, Enrique Chavez , Eddie Springfield , Dimitris Vagenas, Cory Garrison, Carolyn Dent,Otto & Leslie Reynolds. I can go on and on but they have made me better at what I do . You will all be missed!!

I am truly humbled to have been part of something so big and extraordinary like Texas Spice . To think I had a part in creating what it is today makes me proud and humbled.

Texas Spice…you will be missed!

Thank you for everything.

 

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The thrill of creating

As many chef would agree the one thing that is the absolute best is the creativity part. I know no other business that allows for so much creativity as the culinary world. The creations impacts so many people on every level from the chef making it , the sous or cook watching and learning and of course the guest. The thrill that comes with a creation is refreshing ,inspiring and wants you to create more and not stop. I love when an idea works and even if it is just one out of a hundred it is still a win in my book.

I had 3 pounds of fresh cayenne peppers in my cooler that were delivered from my friends at Red moon farm, all organic and really nice looking. So I have been on a kick of pickling and preserving and making hot sauces so naturally when I see peppers like this my first thoughts were …lets make hot sauce. So I did. I always make a very basic recipe first and try to see how it works and then expand on it. I have several basic hot sauces I have made previously and they worked really well so I was thinking of making smoked fermented cayenne pepper hot sauce. Letting it ferment for 90 days in the dark should do it.

This is how I made this one

3# cayenne peppers

1 ounce sea salt

1 can chipotle peppers in adobo

0.5 # guajillo peppers

2 cups of water from soaking the guajillo peppers

Pull the top part of the guajillo pepper off and remove seeds as may as possible , does not have to be all of them. Place t hem in a container and pour boiling hot water over and let soak for twenty minutes.

In a high speed blender purée the cayenne peppers with salt and the can of chipotle and pour in to a separate container until all peppers have been puréed. After the guajillo have soaked for twenty minutes they should be limp as wet paper and soft ,purée them as well using two cups of liquid from soaking …just make sure they are at room temperature .

Using a spoon mix everything together and pour mixture in to a glass jar and using a large ziplock bag that’s placed on top of mixture filled with a little bit of water to act as a lid . Place the jar in a dark area on a tray and in room temperature and wait for 90 days for the ferment to really work.

After 90 days this is what I will do.

Place the pepper mix in high speed blender and blend for 5 minutes or so. The sauce should now be ready for use and have a wonderful tangy smoky flavor…but I have to wait for 90 days….I will update in November at some point…

Cooking food…I really like it

I have been working in kitchens since I was 15 and thats when I started culinary school.

I had no idea it would take me to where I have been and what I have been doing all this time. I used to be a very quiet and cautious when I was living in Sweden, then something happened and I got all grown up real fast. For good and bad. I personally have no regrets at all but my career and  the choices I have made along the way is one helluva ride, and it is still going. I am very proud of my achievements.

I meet young cooks who wants to travel and learn and see more of the world. I got only one thing to say …just do it. There is nothing to loose by letting go of where you are now and move somewhere else be it across the country or across the globe.

I have met so many wonderful people and some of which I am still in contact with today ,thanks to facebook and other social media outlets. Moving from city to city and country to country has made me stronger mentally , tougher and not afraid, I don’t have to be now. I used to be petrified of making mistakes and messing up food in front of my chefs and coworkers but not any more. I am at a place cooking wise where I am comfortable in creating something new different and to me very unique foods ,some good and some not so good.

I had some very dear friends of mine come in for dinner with some family members of theirs and they put the trust in me to cook and create fro them. I take pride in the fact that they trust my skills and abilities to cook not only for them but for the extended family as well.

They have some specific needs but nothing complicated and it gave me an opportunity to create some very nice dishes .

I had just received some extraordinary good looking hog snapper out of the gun which I paired with jicama, cilantro and fennel slaw I added some house made Fresno tabasco for pop ,color and power on the plate. The result was spectacular.

Then I had some beef tenderloins and some brisket just out of the smoker that I chopped up and sautéed with some caramelized red onions, shrimp and fresh made chimmichurri.  Instead of potatoes .I added some fresh organic egg plant which was roasted with some balsamic vinegar. The result was in my opinion very memorable.

To be able to create and make these kind of dishes is for me what it is all about and I am proud of what I have achieved and thank my friends for allowing me to do just that…cook good food ..I really like that.

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Hog snapper

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Roasted hog snapper, jicama, cilantro fennel slaw

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Beef tenderloin, smoked brisket hash,roasted egg plant,chimmichurri

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Organic eggplant, to bad the colors disappear when you cook it..

 

 

 

About working ….

I have noticed recently that a lot of cooks/chefs and everything else in between are writing so called open letters to ….I don’t know who ,in regards to working in a kitchen.

Lets get one thing straightened out and made very clear from the very beginning…it is hard work and dedication that will dictate how far a newborn cook will go in the culinary field. Nothing else.

Working in a kitchen is hard physically and mentally and it gets harder as you get older. It is hot , stressful and sometimes ridiculously monotonous . It is not a place where someone can walk in and demand something from seasoned cooks, cry a river when things don’t go their way and have an attitude that says “look at my degree and I should be in charge”. No it is quite the opposite ,starting from the bottom in a kitchen and doing the chores that are assigned to you is a must and has to be done. So if you don’t like peeling potatoes or onions or just don’t like being told what to do you will not last very long and eventually hate everything in a kitchen. Showing an attitude of entitlement will only last until your first paycheck and that will probably be your only one as well.

But …if you put your head down, listen to senior members or the Chef of the kitchen brigade and follow their instructions there is a chance you can succeed. Doing what is asked and not argue will ensure your learning curve stays on the up and up. Walking in to a kitchen and stating I am not doing this or that because it is beneath me and I have a degree will almost certainly guarantee a miserable existence. Working hard , wanting to learn and just paying attention , never saying no will get you so much further and eventually to where you want to be.

It is not an easy job , but nothing is easy if it was easy then it would be no fun.

So my advice to young cooks wanting to succeed in a kitchen and move up the ranks is quite simple..

-you are not entitled to anything ,remember that.

-work hard

-be dedicated

-stay focused

-stay energetic

-never say no

-don’t limit your self “saying I cant work this day or that ” will make sure you become the last person to move up.

If this seems impossible then a kitchen is not a work place for you , if any of it seems unreasonable working anywhere will become very hard.

Remember you have to start with something somewhere .

Work hard, be dedicated and success follows .

 

Ohhh please stop…

I just finished reading yet another article or open letter explaining to the uninitiated about the dangers and the hard work that goes into being a chef or a cook.

I know that it is tough job and like President Kennedy said “we don’t do it because it is easy …we do it because it is hard”.

I just wish that the people writing these open letters and articles about how hard it is to be a chef should just plain stop and stop having the poor me syndrome. I have yet to find an open letter from a fireman or police office or soldier that writes about how hard their job is.

Cooking food in a hectic environment is hard and there is not enough coffee to go around to sustain this lifestyle for a lifetime of working in this industry. I just think that the “rock n roll” stamp that Chefs have nowadays has gone a bit too far and personally believe we are just a hardworking bunch of people who don’t want your sympathy for doing what we do. I mean I have cut my self and burned my self so bad that I needed hospital visits for that ..I don’t want sympathy for that. I get the idea that we should shine a light on an industry that touches everybody in some way daily and the people working in it. Just drop the poor me syndrome and just respect the job for what it is …back breaking and sometimes downright dangerous.

When I read the open letter written by a supposedly famous Chef my stomach turned. How desperate does one have to be for attention? It is just a job, a highly satisfactory job , but in the end I go home just like everybody else who is working. I know I will never be a millionaire by working as a chef and  never set out to become one either but I will never seek your sympathy for working hard or working on your birthday, Christmas, new years ,thanks giving  or any other major personal event that is a choice I made and one that I am happy with.

So please stop with the poor me syndrome and ragging that stuf on everybody else,just respect what we do daily and move on. We as chefs are no better than any other manual labor job out there and I despise those who seek fame based on a profession that simply just deserves respect..I don’t care about how hard or how long or how many burns, cuts or bruises you have as a chef..you can always leave the business.

However if you are unsure about what to do I would not recommend working in a kitchen because it is hard work and very stressful and that’s the truth. You have to work many years in order to progress but that same idea applies to any job you do.

Stop romanticizing the Chef profession, just respect it and stop writing articles about how hard it is to do…we all know it is.

A new year

With the end of 2015 that came to fast here is to a great new year with fresh insights and some recipes and predictions..

I really do hope that the next diet fad that comes along is a reasonable one and one that works without making it really hard for “normal” people to have the diet they need. I am of course referring to the gluten free craze that dominated a lot of diets in 2015 and ruined it for people with celiac disease. All the ignorance the it brought and the sometimes lackadaisical attitude towards a gluten free diet made it very hard for a chef to work and serve gluten free food. Very hard. Now some will say we have to serve what the guest wants/needs and that is true but if you go to a pizza place and expect to have a 100% gluten free pizza/meal..are you kidding me. This has made it so hard for people who have gluten intolerance since a lot of kitchens have become less “gluten free” clean. It is really hard ,doable but hard and not a fair expectation from the guests. I have learned to read labels ..and that’s good.

I have promised my self to write more on this site and learn to write better blogs. I do like to write and share my opinions of which I have many.

I am going to expand my social media reach and publish more.

Exercise. We all say it, we all mean it, few are still doing at the end of January…I intend to be doing it for my health. I will succeed.

As some might know I write for a site in Sweden http://www.dinvinguide.se and I intend to keep writing there as well and I enjoy doing that as well. Great site run by some really great people whats not to like about that.

I have a few plans that I want to achieve and accomplish for the restaurant where I work. Tighten my connections with all my vendors. Work more closely with all my farmers who deliver products to me. I want to create more breakfast, lunch and dinner specials and align the restaurant to its true roots which is farm to table . Making sure each and everyone of my guests are aware of what we are and do as a restaurant.

It is going to be a great year , an interesting year , a productive year and last but not least a very fun and exciting year.

I cant wait to get started…

 

 

 

The change

It has always been said that change is good and yes it is true…to a certain degree..for some it is the most gratifying thing that could possibly happen and for some the most devastating thing that could happen. We can all relate and I am sure that you all agree.

I think changes are a necessity for growth and if you go with it life becomes easier ,accept it and embrace it ,but fight it and life becomes misery and for what it is worth you could loose everything you have been working for your whole career .

I have experienced many changes in my life and I am positive there will be many more and I have learned the hard way to go with the flow,in the end I am not always right and I have to learn just that in order to progress not only in my chosen field of culinary but also in my private life.

Change is inevitable, change will always be there and change will always happen. It is how you deal with it that will shape who you are and what you do with the rest of the day ,week,month and years.

I hope you all agree, change is good, change is for the better, change will drive success ,change will make you better..but you have to be willing to change your ways as well.