Thursday, September 27, 2012

IS IT GOOD? when you grow up on burger king, you might not like foie gras

             I've just come out of the kitchen, slowing down for the evening, giving the reigns to my END ALL, NUMBER ONE, NUMERO UNO SOUS CHEF IN HISTORY. Mario Gonzalo Cuenca from Cuenca Ecuador, but we all called him Cuenca. Now I've spent my life working with Latino cooks, mostly Mexican, but a wide mix of nationalities. Each one proud and reverent about their culture. Ecuadorians absolutely have an advantage, they are taught English in school. Cuenca not only had great communication skills but amazing chops (kitchen skills) and the whole staff including myself, respected this guy like a demi-god. SO, ANYWAY (sorry ADD) I am perusing around the dining room asking my guests if everything is ok, and I see a new table sit down. It’s a party of 5 and they are well dressed and look like they might enjoy something other than a burger. So I make my way over to the table and say hello, and go into specific detail about one of my specials. I explain how I went to the fish market at 3 am and picked out the nicest fish in the entire seaport myself. then spent the afternoon at the farmers market to select by hand the beautiful vegetables that will accompany this glorious piece of fish, and yet another two hours making the perfect sauce and hand shaving the lemon peel and part of my knuckle for the candied lemon garnish. So after that whole shpeal about how much effort went into it and the care I took to make it perfect, and the sleep I missed to make sure you had an amazing dinner, you look at me with a crinkled up nose and say “is it good?”  
did someone drop you on your head?  
…there’s a reason my sous chef won’t let me bring knives into the dining room… 

thanks Cuenca!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

uh, waiter, uh, get off of the phone!

Service personnel; Waiters, barkeeps, and bussers – for the most part I hate them all, but there are a few I must thank publically, for without them I would have never made it. Sammy (hands down #1 what she did to help me was not only life saving but completely selfless), Noelle (sunshine face), Alice (pastry extraordinaire) Kermet (spent 3 days unpaid painting and readying bluestar, I bought beer and pizza and we worked for 70 straight hours), Lindsay G. (what an amazing woman), D.J., Dan, Subic, Arielle, Shana, Guia twins (RIP Vicky), Weiner (my rock), English Jill, Haley, Melissa, Heather Who Dat, Van the incredible, Jake, Noel, Haley, Matt, Kelso, Weber, and both McElroys and along with this motley crew there are a handful of others that are great. With this I must mention a few that were less than fantastic servers but more than made up for it with attitude, drive, and trying really hard to get better. Lydia Popper, Stacy Ullman and J Flo (Jessica Flores) thanks for the great effort. Lydia went away on a soccer scholarship, stacy went away to school too and J Flo Runs cobble hill Brooklyn.
But for the most part, they suck, and they don’t have to. The problem is they don’t know their menu, because facebook is more important. You have worked here for 2 months and you don’t know what the seafood is in the chowder? REALLY??
I don’t just hire people and throw them into the fire, they train for 4-5 shifts and then get the annotated menu breakdown verbally from me of every single ingredient and technique, with a copy in front of them to follow along and take notes. 1-2 shifts helping me expedite while looking at the plates and a shift behind the bar, running ice and chilling beer. So by the time they get to you hopefully they have some idea what the spicy is in the jalapeno chorizo tater-tots. Or what makes the miso-honey sauce sweet. If you learn the menu and sell my food.... me love you long time. 
”you guys ready to get excited about some great food”  or “ive got some ridiculous specials tonight, chef worked on ‘em all day” (Melissa Klein would say that, she is a star)  that’s what I wanna hear my servers say, not “ready to order?” I work hard, I make this stuff so someone will buy it, so I can pay my bills allowing me to stay open and for you to have a job and pay your bills. YOU’RE AN ACTOR, RIGHT??  LETS SEE IT!! Act like you give a FUCK please. All in all, as a whole, I pity their job because they have to deal with YOU!  I choose to, they have to! WORSE THAN THAT, THEY DEAL WITH ME!  


Before I continue on my rant, get this straight, the perspective from where this comes is a frustrated sometimes angry one. But in hind sight I find a lot of humor in my stories, they just weren't so funny at the time. As I've assimilated into this world, I've learned to take myself a little less seriously.  The point isn't to upset anyone just to open their eyes. so let us continue.

from the book: you are fucking joking right?

            Bring in food to a restaurant – some kinda chutzpah it takes to bring in your own food to save money.. a ham sandwich wrapped in foil? REALLY??  
ME:“excuse me miss, you cant bring in outside food, im sorry”  
HER: “I keep kosher and cant eat from your kitchen, but my friend im meeting loves this place”
ME: “now im not the Lubavitch Rebbe, but im pretty sure that ham isn’t kosher” 
HER: “ok ill eat it fast”
ME:”can I at least get you a cocktail or a glass of wine?” 
HER: “no, but you can bring me a warmed mug that I can pour my starbucks into?” are you joking?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

im not your grandma

            Grandmas house – I appreciate your business and need your money to stay afloat, but lets get this straight, I’m not your grandma, I won’t stop what I’m doing and make u a grilled cheese in the middle of dinner service on a packed Friday night, because that’s what you want. I start writing my fall menu on the debut day the summer menu, so you see about 3 months of tasting, building and testing go into every dish I serve. I care, and I put every ounce of effort I have into making sure every bite is amazing. If you fancy yourself as the next Bobby Flay, go buy 2 squeeze bottles and go make a mess in your own kitchen. Until then, order what I’m serving, how it comes, how I’ve designed it, how hundreds of people have had it and loved it.  Or, go to your grandma’s house.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

from the stupid are you?? can u cross the street by yourself????

 Waiter: “hey chef, the guest says the tuna tartare’ is too rare ”
me: “Cuenca, gimme my knife…what table?”
Cuenca: “no way chef”
waiter: “table 31 chef”
 so I leave the kitchen with 28 tickets on order and one cook short for service (Jose Luis was on a plane to Guadalajara to attend his abuelitas funeral, I bought his tickets, he was one of my best guys and I loved that kid like my own son), I make my way to table 31..
And with a fake smile I say: “yes ma’am is everything ok?”
her: “ the tartare is too rare can you make me another one medium?”
me: “uh.. yea, uh tartare means raw, why didn’t you inquire with your server about the dish?”
her: ”well my friend ordered it and said it was really good, so I did too”
me: “did you taste it?”
her: “no, humans aren’t supposed to eat raw fish” 
me: “oh maybe Japan didn’t get that memo, you do understand that people were eating meat and fish for thousands of years before they discovered FIRE… DON’T YOU?????”
her: “what are you going to do?”
me: ”im going to go back to my now SLAMMED kitchen and help my guys get out of the weeds you put us in, while I enjoy eating your delicious tartare’ with a glass of Muscadet” …
her: ”what about me?” 
Me: “you? Oh, you mean your tuna?  I’m pretty sure the tuna you are looking for is made by Starkist, its good with a little celery and mayo!!!!” BYE!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

on the side part II

 continued..... But more frustrating than that is the fact that the sauce on the plate is part of the design of the dish and a well thought out component that ties all the other menagerie of ingredients together. In most cases the artistic placement of the sauce is the beauty and highlight of the chef’s creation. Get a clue!
Switching the starches and vegetables also should be done at your own risk. AGAIN, these plates are built with a certain direction in mind in cuisine, in texture, in flavors. For the most part speaking for myself and most chefs I know, they are complete.
 There are a few necessities every plate needs. Called the 5 Ss

1.     SALT: first and foremost. It’s the end all seasoning, it’s a science. People often ask me what is the difference between a chef and a cook. For many years I would answer with a cocky self important answer like “chef’s don’t do dishes” which I realized was WRONG when I opened my first restaurant. But now after many decades of thought, I say, if you “understand” salt and use it properly you are a chef. Even if you work in a cubicle for a living and cook only for yourself, if you understand salt you are a chef.
I can’t stress this enough,
SALT CONTENT IS NOT A FUCKING OPINION, IT HAS ENOUGH OR IT DOESN’T.  I cook with salt, lots of it. I can’t cook without it. Salt is the color of food, even Rembrandt cant make a masterpiece if you take the color out of his paint. Low salt diet? Awesome, check out the cafeteria at the hospital.
I use salt to the edge, perfectly seasoned is over salted with the addition of one grain of salt. I don’t put salt shakers on my tables, salting your food is my job. Most people had moms that cant season and its habit to grab the salt and douse their food without tasting it. If u do that to my food it will be inedible.
If you want to base a statement on your opinion make sure to end the sentence with “FOR ME”. “this is too salty” is saying I don’t know what I’m doing, which clearly isn’t the case since were full at 6:30.
Man has been eating salt since before we knew what it was, its history is older than life on earth. It is also proof of evolution, you see ocean water and human blood have exactly the same salt content (500ppm) which proves we came from the sea.
Early coast dwelling humans dipped raw potatoes in the ocean after each bite.
The words salary, salutation, salvation and soldier all are routed from the word salt.    Kurlansky “salt” buy it, read it, its life changing.

2.     SWEET: whether it’s the raisins in a salad or the lactose in reduced cream sauce or the crisp edges of a roasted carrot every plate has sweet. To get it in there and not overdo it is the trick, its very easy to over sweeten savory food and even sometimes desserts. its BFF is salt, the recent mainstream discovery of this has changed the food world for the best. Chocolate covered bacon, caramel jerky, bacon glazed donuts.

3.     SPICE: the heat of a small piece of ginger or the tangy spice of some well placed mustard or the fire or a bright red radish in your salad

4.     SUCCULENCE: FAT, that perfectly placed butter on your toasted bun, that crisp lardon on your pear salad, that chunk of crispy skin on that fried chicken thigh, that avocado on your toast, the filling of a twinkie. We crave it, we need it, we love it

5.     SOUR: acidity, that light lemon squeeze on your watermelon slice, that tang of the vinegar in your dressing, that wine reduced intou your chicken sauce

So moving starches and veggies from plate to plate aint gonna happen.
I realize that you don’t like corn but I refuse to change it to the lemongrass ginger broccoli coming with the grouper special and put it on a plate with BBQ ribs and baked beans for you.
The wasabi slaw is great but it won’t work well with the truffle glazed duck breast, have it with the mushroom risotto and saffron string beans. 

Look around, ask your fellow diners what’s good, observe what people are eating and order that. People specialize in some things and not in others. Chefs and owners alike are forced to sell things they dislike, I choose to embrace those items and make the best version ever. Others choose to buy frozen and fry it up, either way pay attention

Friday, September 21, 2012


Heres how it goes in the kitchen…
ME “order fire, table 58, 5 cobb salads, one dressing on the side” …
PANTRY COOK “oui chef, 5 cobbs, one DOS”
ME ”where’s the one dressing on the side?”
PANTRY COOK “damn, sorry chef, I dressed them all, ill make another one”…
ME “ok quickly”
PANTRY COOK “awe crap I dressed it again chef”
ME: SHIT, BRANDON! Stop smoking weed before work
ME to a waiter “hey, sell 2 cobb salads fast, I have two extras we dressed them by accident for table 58 ”
WAITER “ok chef, ill try”
WAITER “sorry chef, everyone in my station is already eating”
And as my absent minded pantry cook makes the 8th cobb salad with the dressing ON THE SIDE, and slides it through the window into the waiters hand, I watch the waiter hurry it over to table 58 (everyone is almost done eating, because you had to be special). He puts it down in front of you and apologizes, and with a gaping maw and steam spurting from my ears I watch you DUMP THE DRESSING OVER THE TOP and mix it up.  FUCKING ASSHOLE. ]

Look, we know how much dressing your salad should have, it should be tossed in the kitchen where we season it with salt and pepper and served to you ready to eat. Mostly to prevent you from tossing it all over my hard wood floor and my leather booths. Also because dressing helps keep things like seeds, dried fruit, and nuts mixed throughout and not on the bottom of the salad, where they would end up in a dry salad. But you didn’t know that, what you know doesn’t make it out of the hamburger helper isle at the grocery store. You just have to be different.  so why dont u shut the fuck up and let us do what we do???  Do you think we are taking dressed salad off of used plates from the bus tub and sending it back out to you? 

food tip of the day: when making homemade BBQ sauce, here are a few subs for water to thin out your sauce (remember that viscosity is temperature regulated, meaning as your sauce cools it will thicken, and we normally aren't using it when its boiling hot) try coffee, cola, root beer, dr pepper, iced tea. all of which have more flavor than water. i like to use coffee for the smokey flavor. 

cook with love!!

more from the book!    enjoy!!! 

They say medium rare while wanting a little pink inside. They order medium thinking its grey inside.
Let’s go thru this so you get it. Usually judging by the creativity of menu items and small details that you notice, you can tell if the chef has a clue or not.  If he does this is how he cooks
BLUE: super hot sear for 20 seconds a side, completely raw otherwise. ITS BLUE, NOT BLACK AND BLUE. Black and blue is used to describe meat that is “blackened” with spice in an iron skillet and served blue in temperature. So its blackened blue.
RARE: seared and cold inside.
MED-RARE: heavy sear and warm RED center.
 MEDIUM: hot REDISH PINK center. 
MED-WELL: equal thirds GREY-PINK-GREY.
WELL: grey throughout, not burned.
 For your own personal benefit and my sanity please inquire about your dish. Try to understand how something is prepared before you make an ass out of yourself in front of your new girlfriend’s parents during your first meeting. I promise if you order the lamb shank osso bucco rare or order the stuffed quail rare or God forbid the Yellowfin Tuna well done it will be your last date with her. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

food tip of the day:

for a dish calling for carrots and all you have is a bag of mixed peas and carrots in the freezer, dump the bag into a bowl of cold water. Peas will float while the carrots will sink, skim the peas off of the top    

cook with love!!

Please wait for a table to be cleared and bussed before you sit. WHY? Because its tacky and obnoxious. We clean and present these tables to you to start from scratch. To create a mess of your own, however you desire, and you might put your white sleeved shirt down in some beet juice and blame me because you have the patience of a 3 year old. 

CHOOSE A TABLE and stick with your decision, if you’re not sure take a minute and pick one. Look, you are not choosing a beach house in Saint Tropez, it’s just a table for lunch.  Just pick one, which you will destroy and vacate within an hour. Ok, so you don’t wanna sit by the kitchen or by the bathroom. Why wasn’t that an issue when you sat down? Why did you find it necessary to unfold the napkin, move the silverware, and spill your water all over the place AT 3 DIFFERENT TABLES???? 

cook with love!~! more to come... 


woke up this morning and my clothes didn't fit.
..... i had to call in FAT

food tip: left over stock

food tip of the day: ever make a pot of soup or stew and you eat all of the "good stuff" and are left with a half a pot of broth? pour it into an ice cube tray, freeze it and pop out the cubes and store them in a ziplock. the next time you make a steak or a piece of chicken and want to make a sauce, toss in a cube... instant sauce! please remember to wash the cube trays well before using them for ice again or your iced tea will taste like chicken soup. 
cook with love!!