Proper Training

If given free rein to change something at a previous job, I would insist that all employees be trained properly. At most of my jobs, I was trained like a monkey, to just do the job and not to strive for anything greater. There was no learning other than how to make one version of one singular recipe. I feel like this is an easy change to make, but most chefs don’t have the time or energy (understandably) to train their employees in this manner. However, when they also tell me that culinary school is unnecessary because you can learn it all on the job, I feel this is misrepresenting the facts. Not all cooks have the drive (or at least know where to begin) to learn everything they need on their own, even if they know what they want.
To check if the chefs are training their hires properly, I would ask the cooks to make me something of their own, to riff on an existing recipe at that restaurant or think of and execute a recipe for a component that would complement a current on-menu dish. I believe Michael Ruhlman was correct in that chefs need to know the appropriate ratios, not just one recipe. This is something I have struggled with in the industry because I learned it this year instead of three years ago when I started out.

Random Thoughts on My Career Path

I sense a lack of passion in my life, which I am desperate to feel. Maybe I do have a passion, I suppose, which isn’t necessarily food, but people. I also still really would love to attend culinary school.

I like food television, seeing the passion on which other cooks thrive. I sense a lack of passion in my life, which I am desperate to feel. I know i’m looking for it in the wrong places. I love learning and reading and singing. I realize the third isn’t applicable to the work environment I love so dearly.  Maybe  I do have a work-related passion, I suppose, which isn’t necessarily food, but people. I crave interpersonal interaction. In restaurants, I get that, but I also get to work with food and the brilliant minds that create it. I think what I love is doing prep work because I feel like i’m supporting the team. At least I don’t like being on the line at my current pastry job, which may have more to do with my environment and not the actual job. At the Cliff House, I liked plating food. However, I also loved helping the men on the line, getting things from the walk-in refrigerator, or helping them with their prep work. I don’t know if this was simply a default because I loved the guys like family or because I wasn’t being trained to actually do the pastry prep work (I tended to get pushed aside by the tiny Asian women who didn’t have the time or patience for my inexperience).
I love acquiring new knowledge/information and I think I would love to involve traveling in my future job tasks. Trying new foods that could blow my mind would be amazing. Writing about food in some aspect, or researching stuff about food might allow me this luxury of travel. Otherwise, I’d love to help a restaurant thrive by maintaining a blog related to the daily goings-on of the restaurant, like whether there is a special du jour, direct from the kitchen. S0, I guess essentially working as a restaurant’s Director of Public Relations would be awesome.
I also still really would love to attend culinary school. I want someone to teach me how to be more efficient–faster, focused and engaged in what I am actually doing. I’m well aware that efficiency can be learned on the job, but I’ve yet to find someone willing to work with me, other than the wonderful Lauren at Seaglass. I stupidly left her to work in a fancier place for which I was yet again unprepared. I’m impatient to learn everything kitchens want me to know in the time it would take me to learn on the job. I made many mistakes in my life, but I don’t want to make the big one again. I didn’t go to culinary school after college; I went to graduate school. Sometimes I feel that I wasted the loan I took out for it because I did nothing with it and I withdrew from the university rather than completing my master’s program.

Job Update

Since my last post was a long time ago, I know that there is a lot I have not written about… I have been working at a Michelin-starred restaurant since early January. I am proud of where my journey has taken me in such a short time! I feel I haven’t entirely earned working in a Michelin-starred restaurant by any merit, since I am currently doing a job (for essentially the first time) which I would not ever have expected myself to be doing; I have been a food runner at Aziza! It is a wholly different experience to not be cooking or baking but still working in a restaurant. It has been a relief not to have to worry as much about the plating or getting in trouble for not being an experienced enough cook. All that I have had to do is be nice, eloquent and have the menu and all its ingredients memorized.
The only bad thing about working in a restaurant as a food runner is that I still want to go to culinary school. I am learning a lot about ingredients and sourcing and guest relations, but it is not hands on cooking. However, I still have too much debt even to consider attending culinary school. With some credit card bills from when I was in a transitional period called college, to the student loan I took out for two semesters of graduate school, I am afraid to take on more debt right now to get schooling for a career that just is not very lucrative. Consequently, I simply have to continue working as hard as I can and I am going to continue to work two jobs if that is what it takes. Of course, I do not want to entirely give up working in the back of house anyway. so, even if I’m at One Market Restaurant only a few days a month, continuing with two jobs makes more sense, unless I could work for a restaurant like Lazy Bear where the cooks are the servers.

Trestle Menu
Trestle’s Menu during my visit

Regardless of culinary school pipe dreams, I have been to some lovely restaurants lately, including Spruce, Trestle and Nopa; all three of which I was very impressed with. I think Trestle, being that it is so inexpensive and has just as good food as the other two, and therefore is a great value, takes the proverbial cake. All three were wonderful experiences, however, and entirely different anyway. I don’t have time before work to go into detail about them, but comment below if you’d like to see a follow-up blog about these restaurants.

The Hundred Foot Journey

In The Hundred Foot Journey, a young chef gets the opportunity to help a restaurant get its second Michelin star. The end left me a) wanting to move to France, b) wanting to cook. Of course, I was feeling sick so I did not do either of those things, but I wanted to! I had my emotions torn between food and France as I do every time I see a movie about food. Food-themed movies are typically about French food because French food is THE classic, quintessential cuisine. It is dependent on the careful techniques developed to make food look AND taste amazing.

Although the father in The Hundred-Foot Journey argued that there is a classic aspect to all cuisines, French cuisine is definitely the one that chefs developed into a higher art form first. France is where the restaurant industry began although, the label of first restaurateur is apparently up for debate. Nevertheless, the technique of French cooking: knife skills, the feeling of when different meats are cooked properly, the balance, and sometimes, delicacy of the flavors is what makes the difference.

Food is Love

I’m not going to talk about anything I don’t know about because then I’d just be letting gas escape and I’m better at doing that through my ass, than through my mouth. And it’s funnier when I do it that way.

I do plan to cook my way through Julia Child’s cookbooks one of these days; I just need to deal with the multitude of things that are on my figurative plate right now, first. I realized today that I had not even renewed my car registration. I was almost a month late doing it, and the DMV sure penalized me for that mistake. Although, of course, had the lateness been on their part, they wouldn’t have given me a discount or anything like that.

I keep seeing all of these food-themed movies coming out in theaters lately and I’m so happy that people are getting into the slow food movement. And they all have romance tied in somehow because food is love, as most cultures will tell you. For example, my boyfriend’s mother is greek-american and she is always trying to feed everyone, including me. She taught her children that food is love too, so my boyfriend is also always trying to feed me. Food is love because it gives us the nutrients necessary for living but also it gives us mental sustenance, which comes from the flavors of our food. So when a food reminds you of your grandmother or your first love because of a spice or something, it’s echoing the love you feel and it becomes comfort food. Food that makes you feel really good even though those people may not be with you at the time.

Cooking itself is romantic, though, don’t you think? The act of preparing food for your loved ones is special because you know you’re treating them to really great food to show them that you care about them and about what they put into their bodies. Foods can literally be made with love.

Even when you are cooking for hundreds of strangers every day and being paid to do it, it still feels romantic, even though there may be a paradigm shift where the romance is with the food itself since you don’t know who is going to consume it. You really have to love slicing up hundreds of onions and julienning carrots to do this for your living.

I feel like I could write entire essays on the different topics I touched on in this entry, so if you want more on anything specific, please comment below. Be sure to subscribe!

Vertigo and New Jobs

So it’s been quite a while since my last blog. Haven’t actually written anything except a few recipes and a two-weeks notice. Yep. I have already found another new job, so now instead of working at Seaglass and Inner Fog, I’ll be at Inner Fog and One Market! I’m extremely excited for this new job. I’m going to learn a lot and be back in a fine dining establishment. Although I will definitely miss my Seaglass coworkers, I’m excited for this new step.
I’m still thinking about culinary school though…I think it will always be in my mind. Whenever I’m ready I guess I’ll just go.
Sorry for the shortness of this blurb, but I’m ready to go sleep off the vertigo I’ve been suffering for a week.
I wish you good food and sweet dreams.

Julia, My New Guide

So, I just got one of the best gifts of my life. Nothing extravagant or expensive….Well relatively speaking it’s exorbitant, I usually spend only a few dollars on a book. This one is quite a bit more costly than that. But this book, this book is special. My boyfriend just gave me the two-volume set of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You may be able to imagine my excitement on receiving this gift, or maybe not. But if you have read my blog or know me personally (shout out to mom, haha), you know how excited I am. I’ve often said I wanted to be like Julia, dedicated to the art of cooking. My blog is even named for her most famous ingredient, butter.

But I’ve never allowed anyone to buy this set for me, and I wasn’t ready to purchase it for myself, for many reasons first and foremost, the price tag and my fear. I am terrible at following through on things, just like Julie from Julie and Julia, but I plan on being accountable for reading through the two volumes. I even intend to cook as many recipes as possible for the practice and to feed my boyfriend and roommates.

The big question is… Should I try to make every recipe in one year or less? Would anyone be interested in reading about that kind of travail?