Band of brothers..

Chefs are a band of brothers on many levels.
We are in the same trade for the same reason. The love of food!

a bad joke I heard which is sort kind of true is
Q” how many chefs to unscrew a light bulb?
A:”six.One to unscrew the light bulb and five to tell him how they did it at their other job!.”
That is so lame but at the same time so true. Get a group of Chefs around a table and you will hear stories about what ,how, when ,who ,where, why and so on. They will think the stories they tell are immensely funny and hilarious ,so do I , because we understand each other and that’s what creates a bond faster than in any other trade I know of.

We all go thru the same coming of age going up in the ranks and growing as a chef. We all had the hardest meanest, baddest, chef ever to walk this earth ..of course. So did I ,not only once but several times ….of course…
We care for one another in a way that it very hard to find in any other profession , that is partly because we see each other more sometimes than we do our spouses and family..chefs become your family, and as with any family there are fights but in this kind of family the language will put a pirate to shame and he would leave quiet.
Chefs will do anything to help each other out even if it is for the competition, we all know the pain of not having everything or needing something special or just needing to talk about food for an idea. We are their to help each other all the time.
Friendly competition at its best!
The camaraderie that exists among chefs are one of the most enduring and loving in a carefree way.
To be a part of al that is truly an amazing experience that has to be felt in order to fully understand.

The one thing that is always around is the ego, usually the ones who are a little bit insecure or new to the business will always try and show in what ever way they can that in fact they are the best. Seasoned chefs will see that and play along for a while and then let them know that NO they are not the best at what they do… Their ego is writing checks their culinary skills cant cash in. That person is quickly relegated to the bottom of the totem pole. However still part of the brotherhood of chefs.

Chefs thrive under pressure and the pressure is brought on to being the best in the brotherhood at cooking the best out of all…

Pumpkin and gourd season

Lord help me.
We will now be inundated with all things pumpkin and gourds.
Problem is very few people know why we actually have them as celebratory decorative up edible table decorations.
I can’t say that I am thrilled to have the festive celebrations of gourds and pumpkins!
Gonna be a long season!

The chef coat

When I put on my chef coat in the morning I do so with immense pride and satisfaction. Why?
Because it looks good? Yes that is true but that’s not the reason.
The chef coat means something, it stands for something.
It means I have a trade , a craft , a skill in an art form. A trade a lot of people look up to and admire , I most certainly do.

The top chefs in the world are some of the most gifted people you will ever meet. As a matter of fact any executive chef have skills that are envied by many , wanted by many and has taken years to achieve .

Not just anyone can be a true executive chef a lot of people claim the title but does not live up to it , they just have a name on a coat and some fancy colors and have seen a lot of cooking shows.

When the chef coat comes on the person in it changes, he is now not one of many but rather one who is admired and respected , he has worked the long hard hours and learned the skills needed to get to wear the coat with pride!.

I don’t expect respect because of my coat , I earn respect by working at my craft in my chef coat , yes it has my name on it and yes it is made of Egyptian cotton ( it is really comfortable by the way) while wearing it I am somebody completely different then when I am not , I am someone who is respected for my skills and someone who has to make the decisions needed ,someone who becomes a confidant ,a leader ,a mentor ,a helper , a fixer of a lot of things, a mender , a doctor , a psychologist and so on.

It pains me when I see some of our newer cooks treat their cooks coats as if it is a cleaning apparel for hands , knives ,or as a towel to wipe whatever is in front of them ” gotta show I work hard!” No it only shows they are working dirty and no I do not want you to cook my food looking like that, covered from head to toe in s$&t.

I wish for all new culinarians to learn to respect the cooks coat they wear from the get go. After all they have spent a lot of time , effort and money to wear it. It is not a fashionable apparel at all it is a Chef coat!!

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The ceviche

Freshly caught and special delivery to me from my fish monger down in Houston (thanks Billy) ..allow me to present to you one of my absolute favorite fishes of all time..the hog snapper!!To make ceviche the main ingredient needs to be the freshest fish possible..no fresh no good..generally a good rule of thumb.

Start by filleting the fish ,cut from the back and “over” the back bone. First one side …….then the other…
Now skin the filets by getting a firm grip on the tail and cut down to the skin ,have the blade of the knife horizontal with the skin and wiggle the skin against the blade of the knife.

Next cut the skinless filets in strips as seen in the picture …then across into dices…put the fish in a cold metal bowl….

Next you will need three lemons and one lime a zester and a fine mesh chinoise roll the two lemons on the table in the palm of your hand a few times back and forth then cut in half and squeeze the lemons and lime juice in to the chinoise.

Next you will need to zest the last lemon over the diced fish and then cut in half and squeeze the juice as done with the other lemons…. Now the foundation of any cuisine ….salt and pepper…needless to say fresh cracked black pepper is better than anything you buy at the store already ground….

Place the bowl in your fridge for about 40 -45 minutes ..not more than that or it will “over cook”…Now for the garnishes for this ceviche I use julienne carrot, julienne chayote,fine diced red onion, julienne cucumber and avocado for garnish…I use a mandolin for julienne the vegetable..end result is so good and exact and saves a lot of time …just watch your finger tips…I really like to use different vessels for serving my ceviche to give it a more authentic look and feel to it…so a table of four can order it and receive the same amount of ceviche in four different vessels..the coolness factor is sky high…me thinks!

Next assembly of the dish…start with cucumber then chayote then onion and then fish and repeat..slice avocado really thin and place on top with some cilantro as garnish and serve it as is ……..or with some chips and salsa …Simplicity and freshness archived with a few top notch ingredients and using them to highlight the beautiful elegant sweetness of the snapper …

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Farm to table…

We are a farm to table restaurant ,we grow our own tomato and lots of fresh basil.So this year we have so much fresh herbs and the love between basil and tomato is timeless and needs no introduction…Add mozzarella to the mix and you know it is summer…When we have a lot of vegetables , what better way to save the summer than to pickle.

Pickling of cucumbers is a must…these are simple salt brine cucumber with dill…dill just brings summer out so much more in food,garnish with fresh basil,simple and easy on the eye.
We also pickle cauliflower ,okra and asparagus and show them all off at once.We have so much basil that this summer will last for a long time…we made basil oil.Our farm to table setting and decor..all is edible ,does not get more farm to table than that!

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The perfect employee

Does this person even exist ? Who is this elusive charachter and why is it so hard to find them?
The simple answer would be that they dont exist…and that’s why it is so hard to find them.

I personally think it would be quite bizarre if they did exist. Ask anyone if they have the perfect employee and they probably would say no …but I have this one person that comes close!. I have that too in my kitchen where I work. This brings me to the dynamics of any team working together and even more so in a kitchen where literally you have to work next to someone more than you see your significant other.

What I have learned is that you are only as good as your weakest link and there is no such thing as the perfect cook/chef/souschef/Executive chef etc..but there are some that come pretty darn close see even me admit that too. We are always told that in order to get better you have to train train train and hopefully your associates will become better at what they do but that only works if they are a good fit for your team and that will only make your team close to perfect.
If the new associate is not a good fit it does not matter how much you train train train it will not get better or any closer to creating the perfect employee or team.

I have many different personalities to deal with on a daily basis and they all have different needs and wishes and they all they think they are the perfect employee and why would they not think so? They might think so because the team is working as one and remove one associate and it becomes so much harder for the other ones hence that associate would think that they are the perfect one completeing that team when in actual fact it is a great personality fit for that particular team.

So when you think you have the one associate you think is the perfect employee you dont know it. It is that simple because it is noticed when a group is working together and everything goes like clockwork life is good. Life becomes really hard when one associate is missing or not working as they should because their job and duties is now placed on the others who for sure will say that the missing employee is far from perfect. As a matter of fact the team will let that person know exactly how they feel upon their return and that is far from perfect!

So it is entirely up to the manager to make sure that all the associates become the best they can be by positive encouragement and be a driving force by keeping everything in a positive environment that foster learning and creativity towards becoming the perfect employees. Sounds simple enough but sometimes it sounds simple to climb Mount Everest too.

So to answer my own question , no the perfect employee does not exist and if they did it would not be interesting to work because everything would be ,well perfect and if it always was perfect there would be no challenge , no new improvements that can be made and as a matter of fact if you think you have a perfect employee , you probably missed something somewhere in the hiring process.
We should always strive to find that perfect employee … Who knows you might succeed !! And when I do I will be sure to let all of you know and I will stand on top of mount Everest and let the whole world know as well , I will probably never succeed with either but that does not mean I will stop trying…..and by the way I am a little bit scared of heights so Mount Everest is ruled out… So the search goes on and on and on and on…..

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The chef widow

If there is one person that gets forgotten all about in the wonderful world of cut throat culinary professionalism ,is the wife of the Chef.

They all probably have missed as many birthdays , weddings, parties and other social family gatherings as the chef him/herself. As a matter of fact they have since the chef more than likely had to work all the major and minor holidays and any other family related celebration of sorts, and who really wants to go a to party when you are married and you were invited as couple but unfortunatly your spouse has to work…

The culinary world could easily be called the widow maker because of the demands of the chef , it is a constant demand of the chef since the guest come to restaurant for an experience and to experience new and exciting foods or just having a delicious tasty meal.

So next time you go out for a meal at your favorite restaurant send a happy thought the the chefs wife as she is at home patiently waiting for his shift to be done. The chef knows and appreciates,or at least he should, the sacrifice that his wife is making daily as he works all day and night . But it is understandably very hard for the wife,it has to be. The chef sometimes takes it all for granted which he shouldnt but still does…every now and then a swift reminder about taking things for granted is delivered and it all changes. Taking the spouse for granted is never a good thing and we all need to be reminded of that, sometimes more than once a day.

I love my wife with all my heart and always will. I try not to take her for granted at all but I know that sometimes thats how she feels. Being a chef is a very demanding job albeit a satisfying job for me ..I treasure every minute we have together before and after work and the days off we get..when we get them. We both understand the demands of the business and that we chose to join it all those years ago..still loving it that will never change any way no way.

But as in anything that we chose to do some sacrifice comes with it , some are greater than others.
I also know that for me to work a “regular” monday to Friday job nine to five would not work and it would drive me to an early grave of boredom.
So I truly appreciate my wife making the sacrifices she does for me in order for me to be the best I can be at what I do…cook great awesome tasting food.
So the saying behind every strong man is an ever stronger woman is so true for me since I know I would not have the successes I have achieved so far without my wife by my side…
Like I mentioned earlier next time you are out eating that crazy good meal at your favourite restaurant send a happy thought for the chef widow waiting patiently for Chef to come home….