Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kitchen stories-Indian wedding part one

I have received some very positive feedback about my kitchen stories so I will give you guys more of those.

In January 2004 I was living in Bombay, India.  Yes, I know it is called Mumbai now but Bombay just sounds classier in my opinion.  The owner of the hotel I worked in had a cousin getting married in Kolkatta and they wanted a five course vegetarian menu of Western food for 500 people.  In India they also call it Continental food.    Western food is basically American or European food.  This wedding was going to take place at the Hyatt Regency Kolkatta and since they didn't have any Western chefs working there, the owner asked me and my chef, who was French, to create the menu, order the food and ultimately fly to Kolkatta and handle the event.

So we began creating the menu.  The challenge of creating a Western menu in India is there are not many ingredients to choose from. To make it even more challenging, we had to create a Western vegetarian menu. When it comes to vegetables there are approximately 20 different varieties.  There isn't a strong enough demand to have a large supply and variety of Western ingredients in India so until that day comes there isn't much one can do.

After we created the menu the owner wanted to taste everything.  For those of you who don't work in a kitchen, let me tell you tastings are a royal pain in the ass.  There is nothing worse than preparing one dish of everything.  I do not know one chef who doesn't cringe at the thought of doing a tasting. When you have to do all that work it is just as easy to prepare food for 10 or 20 people.
Well, after he tasted everything he wanted some changes done and of course we had to do another tasting. That just makes my decade!!
Oh, by the way, did I tell you tastings are a royal pain in the ass?

One of the courses that the owner liked had baby artichokes in it. I had my vegetable supplier send me about a dozen pieces to use for the tasting.  After all that the owner was happy with everything, the menu was decided and now I had to work on quantities needed for the wedding and get all that food ordered.
When I called my supplier and told him I needed 15 kilos he told me, "I don't have baby artichokes."
"What do you mean you don't have baby artichokes? You sent me a sample for Christ sake!"
As pissed off as I was I have say I did like his response.  "Oh, I didn't know you wanted to use baby artichokes, I just thought you wanted to see what they look like."
"Shit man, I am a chef, you think I have never seen a baby artichoke before dude? Why on earth would any chef ask to see samples of something?  It is because he wants to use it somewhere!"
I then had to go back to the owner and tell him the artichoke dilemma I was in.
From what I recall he took it quite well.  He said something along the lines of, "Curt, you are learning how things work here.  Welcome to India." At that point I had been in India for about four months so I was still green when it came to how things worked.

Part two coming