Thursday, September 30, 2010

Crazy chefs

I am working on a couple blogs that require a bit more thought so for a week or so I will stick to some shorter blogs and recipes and so forth. With all these reality shows on TV you can see what it is like behind the scenes in many professions, including kitchens. 

I have had a number of people who watch Gordon Ramsay's TV shows ask me if working in a kitchen, getting ripped apart by the chef is how it really is and it is, although not like it used to be.  America and UK are very litigious societies so you can't treat people like that anymore although it does happen, just not as often.  In corporations you can't get away with that for sure.

When I watch some of those TV shows it reminds me of some crazy chefs I have worked for and I remember one of my culinary instructors from the culinary college I went to in Baltimore, Maryland.  
This instructor's name was chef Keeney.  He looked crazy, had crazy teaching techniques, acted crazy but everyone respected him because he was good at what he did.  

There are two things I remember most about him.
One was a game he had us play called "baseball."  He would blindfold you and then hold a small bowl of some random spice under your nose and you had to smell it and guess what it was.  The game was called "baseball" because you got three strikes and then you were out.
The other was how he punished one of the students who tried to deceive him.  I don't remember this particular student's name but he was one of those guys who was always screwing up and always thought he could get one over on the teacher.  We all know that normally doesn't work.
One day this student had to make quiche as part of his lesson but he burned it.  He thought the smart thing to do was to hide it in the trash. He then made another one but the problem was the class was about to end and his quiche wasn't quite done cooking.  When the instructor came to check on everyone before class ended he asked this student why it took so long for him to make one quiche.  The student started making excuses but you could see he was tripping over his own words.  It reminded me of watching "Cops" where you see some idiot getting pulled over for suspected drunk driving and the person can't get a sentence out properly.
The instructor, not only knowing this student's track record of being a screw up and not being forthcoming, knew something was "not Kosher in Denmark."  The instructor started searching the trash and found the burnt quiche. How did he teach this student his lesson about not only paying attention to what you are doing but to be honest?
He got some butcher twine, poked a hole through a piece of quiche and made a necklace out of it and told the student he had to wear that fucking quiche necklace for a week.  
Hilarious. We all nicknamed that student "Lorraine," after quiche Lorraine........  Classic

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to make a roast chicken a little bit better

Here is a neat and inexpensive way to not only add a twist to a whole roasted chicken but to add some crispiness.

Truss your chicken, rub it with oil and seasoning and then cover the entire chicken with cornmeal.  Make sure it is covered completely.
Then roast it as you normally would.

Oh, do you guys know how to truss a chicken?  This is one of those where I would need to show you.  Here is a trick though.  Put the chicken on a tray in front of you with the back of the bird facing you.  Do you see that flap of fat at the tip that hangs over the opening of the cavity?  Carefully cut a whole in it large enough to put your thumb through.  Now carefully put the end of one leg through it and then even more carefully put the end of the other leg through it.
The reason you truss a bird is to bring the legs tightly against the sides of the bird to aid in more even cooking.

If you don't want to truss a bird you can always cook it in pieces.  It is quicker too.  You can still use the cornmeal for this as well.

Happy cooking

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recipe: Tear gas

I assume most of you don't know how to make tear gas out of a few basic kitchen ingredients so that will be our lesson today.

Here is what you need.

Crushed chili know the ones you put on your pizza?
Some fresh, sliced chilis like jalapenos, serrano or any fresh chili will do
A bit of oil

Put a pan on high heat and let it get smoking hot.  When I say hot, I mean HOT!!
Add your chili flakes and some sliced chilis then add just a little bit of oil.  It is important you don't put too much oil or this won't work.  Once you add the oil it will smoke like crazy and anyone within a close distance will be gagging and coughing. 

Before I proceed let me tell you life in a kitchen is full of practical jokes.  People are always messing around with each other.  In some places I have worked it was so bad that I was afraid to go home sometimes because I knew some smart ass was going to do something to my locker, tool box, station or whatever.  Of course, they had to worry about what I was going to do as well.

I first learned this trick in 1997 when I was working at a Spanish restaurant.  One of the Spanish guys I worked with taught me.  What we used to do is just make a very little then put the pan in front of someone's face so they start gagging.  If you only do a little bit it isn't that bad.

Well, me being me I figured if a little bit did the trick then a lot will be even better.  It was about 6:00pm, right as dinner service was starting.  I took a large pan and left it on a high, open flame for like 30 minutes.  It got hot to the point where the bottom was starting to warp and the handle was beginning to glow red at the point of attachment to the pan.  I remember thinking I was going to get that sucker hot as hell.

So the pan is hot as hell and I put a huge handful of those dried chili flakes in there along with about six sliced up serrano chilis.  I then put a bit of oil and that thing smoked like nothing I have ever seen.  Smoke came out of that pan the way a forest fire smokes.  That "culinary tear gas" spread through a kitchen that was about 20 feet by 30 feet in size within about 30 seconds. I had the everyone in the kitchen gagging and coughing and their eyes watering. Once I added the oil I thought, "oh shit, this is going to be bad" and I bolted out of the kitchen leaving the smoking pan on the fire for someone else to deal with.

To help you understand how strong this was, only a little bit will have you coughing an gagging if you inhale it and I had put about 20 times as much this time.  It was so bad that everyone had to leave the kitchen. Trust me, this stuff is just like tear gas.

The problem was that wasn't the worst of it.  This restaurant had an open kitchen so some of the guests started gagging and coughing as well and this stuff permeated the air in the entire restaurant. We couldn't cook orders for the guests because nobody could work in the kitchen until that shit dissipated. We couldn't go back into the kitchen for at least ten minutes. The restaurant manager had to give the guests some kind of lame excuse to explain the delay in their food and what the hell that stuff was in the air.  He certainly couldn't tell them that one of the kitchen guys has a horrible sense of timing when it comes to kitchen jokes.  All the kitchen staff was laughing their asses off.   That stuff was lingering for the rest of the night.  Coughs and gagging provided the soundtrack in the kitchen for the rest of the night as every minute or so someone would cough just like hearing horns in traffic.

Looking back I really don't know why I didn't get fired.  The chef was really pissed off.  Oh yeah, I remember why I didn't get fired, because the chef had no balls.  For the rest of the night I just kept my head down while I worked, looking over at my colleagues, laughing under my breath like a school student who has been scolded by the teacher,  giggling quietly with his classmates.

So now you know how to make tear gas from just a few kitchen ingredients.

Enjoy and don't inhale when you make this


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Executive chefs and football coaches

I am going to share the similarities in a hotel executive chef and American football head coach.
I have used American football here because: a) I like it, b) I understand it more than any other sport, c) it works for this example, d) it is the only sport that exists in my universe, and, e) to all my international friends out there, soccer and rugby is for girls :)

Below is the hierarchy for football and hotels.  I have then explained each position and the similarities among those positions within the two professions.

American football hierarchy from top to bottom.
-General manager
-Head coach
-Offensive or defensive coordinator
-Assistant coaches-coaches who specialize in one area such as a quarterbacks, receivers and so on
-The players

Hotel hierarchy from top to bottom as it pertains to the kitchen.
-General manager
-Executive chef
-Executive sous chef
-Chef de cuisine
-Sous chef

Please note that when I use the term "team," I am referring to both, the football team and the kitchen  staff because at the end of the day, in both cases they are a team.

Owner.  Do I need to explain that?

General manager (GM)-The top guy in both professions, under the owner. It is a more administrative position and he is ultimately responsible for the team and operation.  He sets the goals, does the hiring and firing of the head coach/ executive chef and has the final say over salaries.

Head coach/executive chef- Responsible for creating, hiring and firing of their teams. They create, implement and enforce the vision and goals for their teams in accordance with the GM's. They run their operation as they see fit although the amount of freedom they have depends on the relationship they have with the GM.  These positions report directly to the GM.

Offensive and defensive coordinator/executive sous chef- Assistants to the head coach and executive chef, respectively. Just as the offensive or defensive coordinator has specialty coaches he is in charge of, the executive sous chef has specialty chefs he is charge of. The executive sous chef is in charge while the executive chef is absent. The offensive and defensive coordinators report directly to the head coach and the executive sous chef reports directly to the executive chef.

Assistant coaches/specialty coaches and chef de cuisines-These positions focus on a specialty.
In football these coaches would be, for example, quarterbacks coach, receivers coach, defensive backs coach and so on.  In a hotel, the executive chef and executive sous chef oversee the entire kitchen operation while the chef de cuisine is in charge of only one kitchen that focuses on one specialty.
In my previous hotel I had an Indian chef running my Indian restaurant, an Italian chef running my Italian restaurant, an American chef running my grill, an Indian chef running the banquet operation and another chef running my all day restaurant. Assistant coaches report directly to the offensive or defensive coordinator and the chef de cuisines reports directly to the executive sous chef.

After the assistant coach you have the players but in the kitchen hierarchy there are a few more layers which we won't go into in much detail as you probably get the picture now.
The next position under the chef de cuisine is the sous chef. The word "sous" is French for "under" so literally translated it means "under chef."
For those of you who don't know, chef just means "boss" in French.  Many people think chef is specific to the kitchen but it is not.  Chef de cuisine is specific to the kitchen with the key word being "cuisine."

Just as a football coach cannot be expect to be equally strong in all positions on a team, an executive chef cannot know every single cuisine.  A head coach cannot kick the ball better than the kicker or run better than his running back and I can't cook Italian food better than my Italian chef or Indonesian food better than my Indonesian chef.  What I can do is make them better chefs just as a head coach can make his players better at their jobs. A chef or head coach is like the director of a play; teaching, training, coordinating, supervising and ensuring each player does their part. In either case success isn't based on one person, it is the individual parts that make up the whole and each part must work together in unison in order for it to work.

A head coach knows what to look for in his players and can recognize talent.  As a hotel chef who has overseen many different restaurants featuring different cuisines, one question I am often asked is "how I can know all those cuisines and oversee them?" I am not an expert on all the cuisines I oversaw but I know quality and have the experience and knowledge to know what to look for in a chef and in food much like a coach does with his players.

Until next time

Burnt toast and dry eggs,


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Update and kitchen practical jokes

I have been working on a blog but after I started I realized I opened a can of worms so I have spent an hour per day working on it but it is not ready yet so I at least wanted to leave my many (maybe 10 is more realistic) followers with a little kitchen humor

I assume you all know what Jello is right?  While all of you think of Jello as a squishy, jiggly, colorful, sugar-laden dessert, those of us with a twisted sense of humor think of other things.

I assume you all know what a tool box looks like so I don't need to explain.  In most kitchens you need to provide your own kitchen knives an some other tools so any professional cook will acquire quite a collection of kitchen tools after some time.  Most chefs use a tool box to carry all their knives and utensils.  Well, those tool boxes also provide the base for a wonderful practical joke.
Are you putting the pieces together yet?  Jello and tool boxes......

One time a cook I worked with got me good with a practical joke so I needed to "up him" one.  As a man of integrity and sick humor I just couldn't allow anyone to get the better of me so one night I stayed a bit later than the other guys.  They were all asking me to go with them to partake in our nightly alcohol-fueled activities but I lied and said I had bit of prep to do and I would catch up in a bit.

I melted some gelatin in water but I made it like 20 times stronger than necessary.  I went in the walk in cooler (where we all kept our tool boxes) with my pot of super- strength gelatin (cement is more accurate) and proceeded to fill up that dude's tool box with tools and all in there with gelatin.

The next day when he came to work I couldn't stop smiling.  He asked "what did you do?" I didn't say anything.  For some reason he didn't get his tool box right away so he was looking everywhere but couldn't find anything wrong.  I could tell he was frustrated so I just kept grinning.  Now I was prepping in the back part of the kitchen on a table that was located about 10 feet from the walk because I wanted to see him pull his toll box out and enjoy that moment.  I told my boss what I had done and he was back there waiting as well.  That cook gave up looking so he went into the walk in to get his tool box.  He must have known something was up because his tool box was much heavier than normal with all that gelatin in there.  Then I heard this muffled scream from inside the walk in...."Curt you mother f@$&#R!"  He came out, face red, pissed off and bitching me out.  What I didn't realize is that I had made the gelatin so strong and concentrated that he had to start cutting it away.  It was like plexiglass.  That shit wouldn't just melt so easily with hot water.  Luckily for him his tool box was metal so he put the whole thing in the over for a few minutes and it made a friggin mess from hell.  And so goes on the never ending circle of practical jokes.

aaaahhhh the beauty of working in kitchens.

I made som

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trouble on the grill?

So here you are cooking steaks for your dinner guests.  Everyone wants their steak cooked to a different temperature and you are wondering how you are going to accomplish this while serving everyone at the same time.  Does this scenario sound familiar?  Don't worry your culinary supreme architect is here.

I cook everyday so I can tell how a steak is cooked simply by touching it but to learn that takes much time and practice so here is a crash course on the subject. Learning cooking is like learning a musical instrument; you will benefit more by taking lessons from someone but you can learn on your own, though there will be more trial and error.

The best way for you to learn anything is by repetition so here is what you need to do.  Buy about 3 steaks, or more if you can afford it, and choose steaks you would normally cook.  Cut each steak in half.   Don't worry about leftovers, you can freeze them or use them for a stir fry or stew or something.

I have read lessons that tell you how a steak should feel for each level of doneness and how long a steak should take to cook for every inch of thickness but there are flaws with tips like that.  For the first point, simply telling someone how a steak should feel when cooked a certain way is flawed because everybody perceives things differently. For the second point, telling someone how long to cook something based on the thickness is flawed because everyone is not using the same oven or grill.  Every oven or grill has hot spots and how do we know if your oven or grill is calibrated properly.

The following lesson is exactly how I have trained my cooks in the many professional kitchens I have worked.

Take all your steaks and divide them up evenly to practice cooking rare, medium rare, medium and well done.  This will give you reference points of doneness for the entire spectrum.  Of course, if you never plan on eating a steak well done and only want to learn how to cook medium rare that is fine; do what serves your purpose.
For this lesson let's assume you are using average-sized steaks that you would buy at the supermarket.
I wouldn't recommend using a thermometer for many of the average cut steaks you find at the supermarket as they are not thick enough.

Here are a few points to remember.  While you are cooking the meat stand there and watch how the appearance changes as it cooks.  Time the cooking on each side. After the meat is turned feel it every 30 seconds to see how it feels as it cooks.  If you are like me you like to touch your meat.  :)  You will notice that rare and medium rare steaks feel more like a pillow compared to more well cooked ones.

First get your grill or pan on high heat.
I tried to copy and past photos of what the meat should look like for each doneness but the resolution was poor.  I assume most of you have a good idea but if necessary just go on the internet and type in medium rare or medium or whatever doneness you want to see pictures.

For rare:
Put one steak in the pan or on the grill and cook it for about 2 minutes on each side.
NOTE: if you are using a pan make sure you put a little oil in it. ( I hope you already knew that)
Take it out of the pan and cut it in half.  Remember rare should be very red inside, not bloody.
If your steak is undercooked, take the other piece and cook it for an additional half minute more on each side, then cut it to see how it looks.
If your steak is overcooked, cook another piece for a half minute less on each side.
By adjusting the cooking time in small intervals you should have no problem achieving the correct doneness and by cutting the steak open there is no guesswork.

For medium rare:
Follow the same procedure but cook the steak an additional minute on each side.  Cut it open.  It should be red and bloody.

For medium:
Cook the steak an additional minute more than you would for medium rare.  A medium steak should be pink inside with a little blood.  The center of the meat should NOT be the color of red wine like rare and medium rare should be.
One thing you should notice is the more cooked meat is the more the texture is similar to wood.  If you can, cut open a rare steak and a medium steak and look at them side by side.
One thing you should notice is as meat approaches medium the blood will start to come out of the top of the steak.  That is a sure fire way to tell you are close or already there.  That is why I suggested watching the meat as it cooks because you will see it change as it cooks and know what to look for.

For medium well and well done
If you are going to destroy meat by cooking it to this point you can just microwave it from here on out.  All kidding aside, cook the meat for another couple of minutes on each side.  For medium well the meat should be pink with no blood an for well done there should be no pink at all.

Now I still haven't answered how you can have differently cooked steaks ready at the same time so here you go.  Hopefully you have practiced all the temperatures, monitored and felt the meat as it cooks and took notes of the cooking times because this is where you will need them.
Now that you know the cooking times start cooking the more well done steaks first and as they cook, add the ones to be cooked less.
For example, if a well done steak takes 10 minutes to cook and a medium rare steak takes five minutes, put the steak(s) to be well done on the grill and cook for five minutes, then add the steak(s) to be medium rare and cook for five minutes and they should be ready at the same time.

If you are using a pan on the oven here is something else you can do especially if your pan is not large enough.
Turn on your oven to about 425F or 200C. Cook all your steaks so they are undercooked by two minutes. Put them on a baking tray an set aside until you are ready for them.  You can either arrange them in order to remember which steaks are which or use a permanent marker to mark the doneness on the tray next to the steak as it will wash off.
You can then get the rest of your dinner ready and when you are a few minutes away from serving, put the pan of steaks in the oven to finish cooking them.  Make sure you watch the time and once ready, serve.

Hope this helps.

Culinary greetings from the final frontier,

William Shatner

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oregano and marijuana

Ok I am still working on the draft to my meat cookery blog so until I get that ready to post I wanted to leave you with a quick joke.

Put a pan on high heat and leave it dry.  Do not put oil or water.  Get it very hot.  Now, add some dried oregano.  What do you smell?  It should smell like marijuana.  This would be hilarious if you were planning to have some friends over for dinner.  Have the pan hot and waiting until your guests ring the doorbell and then add the dried oregano to add a nice aroma to your house.

Until next time
your Supreme Culinary Architect

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kitchen tip-spices

Q: What do spices an wine have in common?

A:  Keep them both out of the heat and light.

It is funny how many people keep spice racks right above their stove.  That is the worst place you can keep them.  Keep your spices in a cupboard that is away from the stove.

Here is another tip.  Buy yourself a coffee grinder or spice grinder and grind your own spices as opposed to buying spices already ground.

When I need ground spices at work I grind whole seeds  when I need them.  I toast the whole spices in a dry pan over medium heat for a couple minutes (don't burn them) until their fragrance is released and then put them in the coffee or spice grinder and use them.

Remember when spices are ground they will lose some of their flavor over time.  I am not saying pre-ground spices are bad but grinding them yourself when you need them is better.  Or, if grinding them each time you need them is not feasible then grind in small amounts so you don't have a container sitting around for a year.

Black pepper is a good example of something that can be ground to order.  Make sure you have a pepper grinder in your kitchen and only use that when you need it.  That is what I use in my kitchen.

Here is another thing that is fun to experiment with.  Buy some dried chilies and grind them.  Whenever you see a recipe calling for cayenne or red pepper try using that ground chili mix you made as a substitute.  Dried chilies have wonderful flavor.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Healthy cooking tips

My mignons

The most common request I get are healthy cooking tips so here are some suggestions to keep you occupied.

-Instead of butter use olive oil (I assume you all know that)
-Focus on spice rubs and mixes for your flavoring as opposed to butter and cream or fattening alternatives
-There are many flavorful pastes one can use to rub on meat or vegetables or use as a dip.  For example, check the recipe for chermoula in my blog under the 'recipe' label.  That is wonderful with a number of items.  I will also be posting more healthy dips and marinades like that.
-I have found the reason that some or many people don't like eating healthy is because of poor food preparation.  If you overcook your vegetables, chicken or fish, of course no one will like it.  Focus on the basic cooking techniques because it doesn't matter what kind of sauce or accompaniment you use, nothing will hide poor preparation.
-Avoid processed foods.  This is hard because in any supermarket it is filled with processed foods but you can avoid it.  When I was staying in a small town in France I saw people eating anything and everything.  Wine, cheese, cure meats, fattening food, desserts, you name it.  What I didn't see was a bunch of fat or obese people like we have in America.  There were no fast food restaurants and while processed and convenience food was available in this town it didn't play a dominant role in people's eating habits.  A majority of what people ate was prepared fresh.
So what I am getting at is if you want to eat apple pie or chocolate cake, eat it; just don't buy it.
-Focus on more raw foods.  I will do a blog on just this later on

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


To all
Unfortunately I have limited access to the internet right now so you may see fewer, if any posts at all for the next few days or so but I will keep you posted.

Culinary regards,


Sunday, September 5, 2010


I have been getting some requests for healthy recipes so here is a very versatile condiment that can be used as a salad dressing, marinade, hot sauce, cold sauce, accompaniment or whatever you want.  It works well with fish, meat chicken, lamb, potatoes, pretty much everything.

This is an olive oil based recipe and olive oil is a mono unsaturated fat which is healthier than saturated fats so this is good to eat.  It will keep for about a week or more in the refrigerator.

Recipe Chermoula

Ingredients Amount Unit cost/Measure US$ Recipe cost US$

Olive oil 530gr 265 gr

Garlic, peeled, chopped 95gr 47 gr

Red onion, peeled, chopped 100gr 50 gr

Lemon juice 40gr 20 gr

Coriander leaves 45gr 22 gr

Italian parsley 50gr 25 gr

Green onion, chopped 45gr 22 gr

Cumin ground 7gr 3 gr

Paprika 35gr 17 gr

Smoked paprika 30gr 15 gr

Chili flakes pinch

Salt to taste

Ground black pepper to taste


Add 10%

New cost

Yield 1 kg

Cost per portion


Roughly chop any vegetables and herbs

Place all ingredients in food processor and puree until thick paste

Use on shrimp, chicken, beef, lamb, red snapper, etc.

Use as a marinade for grilling, side sauce, thin down for a salad dressing, etc.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Indian wedding-conclusion

We are getting all the food heated up for the plating and getting the two plating lines organized for executing the banquet.  For those of you who don't work in a kitchen, food is plated 'assembly line' style for banquets. You have long tables with stacks of plates on one end and the pans of food on the side of the table opposite the chefs who are plating. You usually have one person for each food item on the plate.  The chef at the end of the table with the stacks of plates will put a plate down, the next chef will put his food item on the plate and push the plate to the next chef, that chef will put his item on the plate and push it to the next chef and so on until the plate is completed.  The chef at the end wipes the plates and hands them to the servers.  When you are plating something like a five course meal for large numbers like 500 people you are basically standing there looking down for 30-45 minutes or more depending on the until the entire banquet is completed.

In the case of this wedding, there were not enough hot boxes to put the food in so we had to have a couple guys heat things in the oven and bring it to the plating line as we needed it.  An inconvenience but it can be done as the people plating cannot leave what they are doing.  Oh, for those of you who do not know what a hotbox is, it is what its name says it is.  It is a mobile or stationary box that plugs into the wall and you set it to the temperature you desire.  When you are plating a banquet simply cook your food and put it in the hot box and it keeps the food hot without cooking it like an oven would.  They also have cold boxes even though they are not called that and they keep the food........well, cold.

I already knew the chef of this hotel was a shoemaker but what really confirmed it was when we were plating the banquet.  On my plating line I had the Italian chef and the hotel chef (the shoemaker) working with me.  Here we are in the middle of plating this dinner, pumping out food and the chef takes a phone call on his cell phone.  He was talking on his phone with one hand and plating food with the other.  The Italian chef looked at me and said something in Italian (even though I couldn't understand it) that I could tell it was something bad regarding the chef's lack of professionalism and we both just started grinning.  I mean who the hell would take a phone call in the middle of plating a banquet? Idiot!

We finished plating the banquet which turned out to be a success.  It is kind of funny that everyone loved the food. That food was by no means what I would call great food (I know I wasn't very proud of it) because we didn't have the tools, or anything for that matter to do our job properly.  The guests of the wedding were all Indians, as you may have figured since I was in India and many of them don't know Western food as well as they know their own food so we were lucky.

We started to clean up but there was no soap, towels or anything to clean with and after the past few days of working in the most unhygienic and unsanitary conditions imaginable nobody was in the mood to deal with that shit anymore so we said "screw it" and left.  We had enough. Let those guys clean up.  If they want to work like pigs that is fine but I don't want to clean up after them.

After working in those conditions I felt a bit dirty, maybe even contaminated and I thought about that movie "Silkwood" with Meryl Streep as the main character who worked in a plutonium plant.  There is one scene where she is contaminated by radiation and they have to scrub her down with these harsh brushes and soap to remove any contaminants but it basically scrubbed her raw.  I though I may have to do the same to feel 'clean' again.

We finished our night in normal fashion in the bar with Black Label and cigars. While it felt good to be able to put out a banquet under those conditions and make everyone happy, we were looking forward to leaving.

I hope you enjoyed this story.  I will be putting more kitchen stories as well as recipes and please get your friends to add themselves as followers.

Culinary regards

Friday, September 3, 2010

Indian wedding part six

So here we are, the day of the wedding has arrived. My boss, the Italian chef, the Indian sous chef and I all had our morning coffee in the lounge sitting by the massive windows that reveal the stunning landscape outside.  It was still funny sitting in those beautiful surroundings knowing full well there was a disaster in waiting behind the scenes.  While we were sitting there one of the guys at our table went to the breakfast buffet to get some food.  He returned with a huge plate with everything from eggs to Indian specialties.  I looked at him in disbelief and asked, "are you nuts man?"
"What do you mean?" He replied puzzled.
"Dude do you really want to eat anything that came from that nasty kitchen?" I exclaimed.
"I have to eat, what are you doing for food?" He said.
"I have been eating packaged things like cookies and crackers."
He continued to eat and I looked at him like he was nuts.
For the past two days I have been thinking about having a HUGE meal when I return to Bombay because if I see one more damn cookie or cracker I will go postal!  Most people count sheep in their sleep, but for me during those nights I was counting pizzas.

We went to the kitchen and surprisingly everything was moving along fine.  There were still the occasional obscenities being blurted out and while we humored ourselves by making fun of that shoemaker chef.  Chefs always dog other chefs, it is our nature, but this guy really deserved it.  I mean you maintain a kitchen like this, what do you expect?

We were trying to figure out how to execute plating for 500 people because the jackasses who designed the kitchen obviously didn't consider many things like. Part of being a chef is taking a kitchen or system that doesn't work and making it work which is what we were doing here.  I brainstormed with my boss and we decided to make two plating lines so each line would only have to plate 250 plates.  We decided to plate the desserts in the hallway by setting up tables along the wall.  The hallways were so narrow I was a bit worried some server would walk by and unintentionally knock a plate(s) over.  We got the food heated up and because there were not enough hot boxes we had to use the ovens to keep food hot as well.

Until next time..........................................

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Indian wedding part five

So it is the day before the wedding and we have a lot of prep to do.  The reinforcements arrived (my boss, the F&B and an Italian chef from another Hyatt) and I greeted them in the lobby to take them to the kitchen and show them around.  I have been anticipating the look on their faces when they see this god awful, disgusting operation much like you are looking forward to seeing someone's expression when you buy them a really nice birthday gift they would not expect.  They just have no idea what they are in store for.  As I was walking them through the kitchen they were dumbfounded and I was enjoying watching the look on their faces.  My boss told me that even though I texted him to tell him how bad it was he had no idea it would be like this.

After their shock had worn off we all took duties and started prepping.  The Italian chef took the risotto course, my sous chef took one course, I took one course and my boss helped where needed.  We quickly learned that if we were going to get our work done we had better hoard all the containers, knives, cutting boards and whatever else we could find.  In any kitchen cooks hoard and hide kitchen towels.  I think I have only worked in one or two kitchens in my career where we always had enough of them.  You can't pick up hot pans with your bare hands and can't clean without a towel.  Give a cook nice kitchen towels and it will always put a smile on their face.  Since that chef wasn't being supportive and we couldn't get any towels I went up to my room and took my bath towels and cut them up so we all had nice, new, clean towels to work with.  You should have seen the smiles on their faces. My boss asked me where I got the towels and when I told him my room he simply said, "well, I don't like the idea of cutting up guest towels but bearing in mind the circumstances, you gotta do what you gotta do."

While we were all working, the disgusting kitchen was naturally the topic of conversation.  "Curt, have you ever seen a kitchen like this?  What kind of chef allows this?  He is no fucking chef!" The Italian chef exclaimed.
I told him after a day I am just now coming out of shock so he should give it a day as well.

Every now and again someone, somewhere in the kitchen would yell some obscenities.
"Crap man!"
"Jesus Christ!"
"What the hell is this shit?"

Even the simplest thing like finding a towel or spoon was like pulling teeth.  There was not a shortage of profanity during those couple of days.  I think we even created some new words. It is enough of a challenge going to work in someone else's kitchen that you are not familiar with, not knowing the hot spots in the ovens, idiosyncrasies of that kitchen, where things are kept and so on, but worse is not knowing what state the kitchen will be in.

As I said previously, things always seem to work out but this time I was rightly concerned as to how on earth we were going to get this party out.  We were storing food in whatever we could find.   Large bowls, small bowls, water pitchers, sheet pans, trash cans that had new liners in them and so on.  What happens in situations like this is you basically have to compromise your standards big time.  We didn't have enough big pots for me to saute the onions properly so I put all the chopped onions on sheet pans and baked them in the oven.  Do what you have to and make sure the party goes out.

So the day has progressed and most of the prep is done.  Somebody mentioned aloud the thought of going to the bar and getting a drink and we all just nodded our heads with the utmost approval and called it a day.