My Creations, Places I like

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adventures of Detective Hahm, Part II: Tread Lightly

(It is very important that you read part I of this post if you want to have any idea what is going on in this one)

    The barely lit cigarette falls from my mouth as I sprint down the street back to the station, stopping every few hundred feet to catch watch my breath. *Wheezing* "it'll take forever to get a cab all the way out here" I thought. 20 minutes later I arrive at the station. Joyce, with her back turned is locking up the building. She turns, looks at me, out of breath and sweating profusely. Horrified she says, "I thought you went home to rest...did you just run here detective?" "Joyce...we got Mr. Gray.." *out of breath* "...its...all connected...him...Global Pala..." "who's Mr. Gray? Detective you really should lie down, you look like hell. When was the last time you slept?" "There's no time to explain, I need to get back into the office". Joyce lets out a subtle gown. "I'll put a pot on for ya" she says while shaking her head. "No you go home Joyce. It's late, I can make the coffee myself". "I'm not THAT old, detective" she replies sheepishly. "Besides, you keep smoking and not resting the way you do and in a couple years you'll look older than me!" I force a smile as she lets me into the building.
    Rushing into my office I sift through the files I collected on Global Palate after meeting the mysterious woman while hiking a few months back. Suddenly it hits me, the strange woman  was trying to warn us about something. She wanted us to find out about Global palate. *talking out loud to myself* "Where is it? Ah-ha! Here we go, global palate." *skims file out loud* "global palate, farm-to-table...does not use purveyors blah blah blah, grows own livestock and produce for the restaurant. That's how they do it! They skip the middle man and use the meat Mr. Gray was stealing from the grocery store. By getting the meat free global palate keeps labor and overhead low, turning everything into profit!" Joyce returns with a cup of piping hot black coffee. "This goes against my better judgment giving you coffee at this hour because you really need to rest, detective". "I appreciate the concern Joyce, but I'm fine." "Well I won't disturb you", she says before closing the door behind her. *picks up the phone and dials* "Stonewall, were going to dinner undercover tomorrow don't ask questions. I got a big break in the grocery store case. I'm gonna bust this thing wide open and your going to help me". A half hour later Joyce finds me asleep at my desk with an unlit cigarette in my mouth.
    In the morning I am startled awake by a hand on my shoulder. It was Leah, a junior detective I recruited last night for the global palate dinner. "What were you talking about last night? Something about an undercover dinner?" "Close the door, I'll fill you in..." *The rest of the station goes about their daily business and I breakdown the case to Stonewall*

    That night Stonewall and I drive to Global Palate to check things out. "I'm checking to see if we're being followed. I think we're good for now" I say before sitting back in the passenger seat. "The part that I don't understand is, why Global Palate? They've been doing good business for years" Leah questions. "Yeah...dirty business. Mr. Gray was stealing prime cuts of meat for the restaurant so they could get it for free and sell it all for profit." *Perplexed* "But why?" "That's what we're going to find out..." We drove down a dark, narrow road until Leah spots the sign for the restaurant. "Look! There it is". We pull into a small drive way with a garage and a backyard. "You sure this is the place?", she asks. "It looks more like someone's house than a restaurant." The porch was decorated with white Christmas lights and the main entrance had a red velvet curtain that gave way to the main dining room and bar area. A server approaches and asks if she can help us. "Reservation for two, its under the name Stevenson" "right this way Mr. Stevenson".
    After our server discussed the evening specials she handed us a menu before tending to other guests. "Refer to me as Mitch while we're here, ok?", I whisper to Leah. "Mitch Stevenson? That's your cover? You might as well said 'cop' when they asked for a name..." "I don't have all the time in the world to come up with clever undercover reservation names, Leah. Just roll with it! Now order something before we draw attention." *Our server returns* "Have you had a moment to look over the menu?" "Yes we have." I ordered a turkey pot pie and Stonewall ordered a baked ham with potatoes. We agreed to make it look more real.
    During the meal I observed the servers and bartender go through a swinging door that lead to the kitchen. Briefly, while the swinging door was open, I caught a glimpse of the owner, Kelly Banks, shaking hands with Tim Ryan--the president of the Culinary Institute of America down the road. "Oh my God. Leah, she's shaking hands with Tim Ryan!" "What?!? Do you think he's involved? What if its just a coincidence? He may not know what's going on" "Oh he knows, he's a part of it all." "How can you be so sure?" she questions. "I just know. Call it a hunch, call it a cop's intuition, call it whatever you like. He's involved."
    After we finished eating Leah lowers her head so others won't hear our discussion. *Whispering* "Alright, so he's involved, maybe not. But SHE IS. Lets take this place while Tim Ryan is here!" Leah cocks back the hammer of her gun under the table,  "If he's clean he'll see who he's really doing business with; and if he is involved...well that's killing two birds with one stone. Its a win, win!" "Leah, we must be patient, and for chris'sake put that gun away! This thing is bigger than we could have ever imagined. We have to start building a case now. We're only going to get one shot at this thing so we have to make it stick." "If we come out, guns blazing yeah well stir things up, but how long can we hold them? We got nothing on them! They'll walk the next day. Its a chess game Leah" "I don't play, CHESS", she replies sharply. "Alright, its a game of cards. We have the king, but we don't know what they're holding. They could have an ace in the hole." *Confused* "So how do we find out what they have?", Leah asks. "We check, and check, and check, and let them throw all the money in the pot. When its the right time we raise and take the pot!", banging my hands on the table. *Guests look in our direction and our server returns* "Have you decided on dessert?" "We'll just take the check" I reply. "Sure thing, Mr. Hah...Mr. Stevenson. I'm sorry, I must have confused you with someone else..." We pay the bill and I turn the receipt over. *Writes: "Keep up the good work..."* "What are you doing? I thought we were undercover?", Leah inquires. "Did you miss that back there? 'Sure thing Mr. Hahm'? They already know who we are. Ya see? They're starting to reveal their cards already..."

    Back at my apartment I start to feel dizzy so I sit in front of the television to clear my head. The room starts spinning, and everything becomes blurry. "They put something in the food" I say to myself. I could just make out a dark figure standing in the doorway before everything went dark....

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Adventures of Detective Hahm, Part I: High Regard

   I started this post back in November after a hike with my buddy Zeth (read Sympathy For the Devil post to here all about it). We met a woman towards the summit with 3 dogs, and stopped to chat. We told her we were CIA students so she talked to us about a farm-to-table restaurant operated by a CIA grad called Global Palate. I began the post later that day saying I wanted to see how long it would take to finally eat there and finish the post. Last night I finally ate at Global Palate with Leah aka "Stonewall Jackson" so I was going to go into detail about my failed attempts to eat there (some days they were closed, others they were doing renovations on the place) and the meal we had, but decided to scrap the whole thing and switch things up a bit. I wrote a short story (fiction of course) about me being a detective instead. It deviates from my usual postings in a big way but I'll still describe the restaurant and meal in detail so read this segment and Part II for full analysis. Hope You enjoy....

Cool view from atop our hike. What a day...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pleased to "Meat" You, Part IX--Sudden Death

    I have gathered the world's most elite squadron of game show hosts for our meat class's epic game show showdown with the PM class (try saying that 5 times fast). It's day 9 and today we had a review day in one of the classrooms instead of our usual meeting place--the meat room. Chef Elia told us we would be playing a review game against his PM class (I call them PeeMer's) so it would mean bragging rights against our fellow friends and foes. Chef asked us if we have ever played a game where you ask questions and choose someone from the opposing team to answer it (you obviously go for the weakest links here). He continued on, explaining that it was a new game he just learned from another teacher so when he asked me if I've ever herd of it I smartly replied "yeah we played it in high school" rather than taking the wind out of his sails by telling him it has been around since I was a small child...
    The night before our group had to come up with 2 questions each, which we posted to the group's Facebook page to prevent everyone from asking the same question. Since it was review we had to keep the answers somewhat easy but you'd have to be an idiot to assume the PM class was not conjuring up impossible questions. We came up with a few 4th quarter stumpers as ammunition because we were going to war dammit!
     The game gets underway with each team racking up points off of the easy questions. Then they started getting hard. Chef Elia waited patiently while each person answered and if they got it wrong he would fling a tied green side towel at them like a grenade. It started off as a quiet friendly review game but as the clock ticked away things started to heat up. My friend Brad from the PM class chose me for his impossible 9 step question on the entire sausage filling process. Chef Elia sits down next to me duel-wielding 2 green side towels and says to me in a calm voice: "if you really wanna be my pal, you'll get this one right" I don't know this! There's 9 steps!! I give my first answer, "ANNTTT, wrong!" and am hit over the head with side towels in a drum-like fashion. Touche Bradley...
    Towards the end, the PeeMer's begun to pull away, taking advantage of our every missed opportunity. Green side towels were hurled throughout the room as students banged on their desks and roared over the other team's missed question. Every point was crucial. One kid from the PeeMer class uttered amongst the commotion "this is supposed to be review, not who can stump who" but it only fueled the chaos. Time was running out and we were down by 3 big points. Every possession, and every turnover needed to be manufactured into points for our team. If a question was answered incorrectly it could be saved to be asked again. Although no one was supposed to help each other, everyone sneakily discussed the wrong ones so they could become automatic points in the future. 
    The end was near and we had just gained momentum from Eric's epic dominance over Brad's impossible 9 step sausage question. This was it, we were now down by one. The next few rounds would go back and forth with neither team gaining points. One of my questions from earlier came up again and I had to choose who was going to answer. Everyone had discussed this one on the other team so I was basically laying it up for them to dunk in my face...I picked a kid who was looking straight at me, "LETS DO THIS!". With no hesitation the kid said, #109B (it was #109D) and the class erupted! This was the game saving block our team needed! The tables turn to us and we convert, tying the game with a buzzer beater...SUDDEN DEATH.

    The class left the room while Chef Elia conjured up the final question. Upon returning he told us to choose one representative from each team, and whoever got it right would be the winner. We elected Stonewall Jackson (Leah, one of my fellow Dream Team members) to take the final shot. Chef flipped a coin and we got to go first. It was do or die. Chef asks the question and Leah answers to the best of her ability...dead silence blanketed the room. "That's correct".

 Sorry PeeMers...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pleased to "Meat" You, Part VIII--Abe Froman

"My how the turn tables"
    If this series were a horror movie usually this is were it starts to get too absurd and loses much of its fan base except for 80's movie buffs, and stoner college kids (woahhhh its like the killer is a metaphor for how as a society we are killing the economy...that's trippy man!), but I know my loyal fan base will stick it out till the end (I always have to watch till the end to see how it all unfolds, no matter how intolerable). We had a pretty awesome class today because we got to make sausage!!
My mom is going to make an "Osborne Cox" joke in the comment section I just know it...

    I started off the day with slicing open vacuum sealed bags with Anthony at the purge sink (purge is the blood/juices in the bag) before our class fabricated the scraps to obtain the proper fat to lean ratio needed for our breakfast sausage production (the ratio is 70% lean meat to 30% fat by the way). After we were done, Chef Elia gave a quick demonstration on how to use the sausage machine and the proper method for feeding the sausage into the casing. When he demoed the breakfast sausage he made it look ridiculously easy. Once the long 20 foot casing was filled with sausage meat, Chef Elia pinched, twisted, and spun the long sausage into a chain of link sausage like he was under a time constraint for Iron Chef. The man could move. Each sausage was linked off perfectly giving way to a long linkage of uniform sausages. "I love this shit" Elia proclaimed while masterfully linking the sausages. "Somewhere between heaven and here there's a layer of this stuff" he said with a fat grin on his face. Now it was our turn...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pleased to "Meat" You, Part VII--"Viva la Dream Team!"

"Come at me bro!"
    Ahh day 7, the half way mark, and the last day of swine. In class today Chef Elia broke down a primal pig loin into various parts--the tenderloin, and boneless centercut loin. Chef showed us how to remove the spine section of the loin (includes the chine bone, and feather bones...BUT YOU ALREADY KNEW THAT!!). After fabricating and denuting (removing the fat and silver skin), chef showed us how to remove the spine and ribs from the loin before tying a roast and slicing loin chops. Our production for the day was to do exactly that. We took a 15 question quiz (I only got 2 wrong), and before we begun fabricating chef came around and felt everyone's boning knives. He grabbed my friend Leah's (his favorite student by far) knife before grabbing mine. No one knew what that meant so I assumed it meant he wanted to show the class what a sharp boning knife looked like (I sharpened my knife the night before). He grabbed 5 knives in total, took a picture of them on his station and told the class to listen up. This was my moment to shine I thought. "These are 5 of the worst boning knives I have seen. If they're not sharpened properly tomorrow I am deducting points!" Well that sucks, because I JUST SHARPENED THEM 5 HOURS AGO!!! I talked to him after class and explained to him that I just sharpened my boning knife so I was unsure why he picked mine to include on his shit list. Turns out I wasn't sharpening the knife at the right angle on the stone which caused it to feel duller on one side. Being proactive, Leah and I took our knives back to the meat room after class and had Lena (the MIT for the class) demonstrate the proper technique on an oiled stone. We watched her do it, and duplicated her sharpening motion. The finished product was much superior to the knife chef looked at in class. Its crazy that I have to sharpen a factory sharpened knife after a week of use but that's the breaks.
    While Chef Elia lectured he brought up a slide of an absolutely butchered pig loin after the spine was removed. He looks at everyone and goes, "if anyone presents me a loin like this, just get out and don't come back again. If we are this far into the class and you cannot do what I show you then you don't deserve to be here, and you should reconsider your career choice all together..." Everyone was on high alert after that.
"Don't F it up, children!"
    My station partner, Zeth and I grab a centercut pork loin (the ends are removed which makes it different from the primal loin if you were wondering...hence "centercut"). We took turns breaking down the loin into the usable parts and setting aside. I removed the tenderloin, he worked the spine to free the chine bone, and I finished it by removing the feather bones before we pulled the whole spine free. Next we cut the boneless loin in half vertically to yield 2 equal pieces. Zeth's job was to fabricate and tie a roast, mine was to fabricate, denute and get the loin ready to be sliced into chops. Your station partner is crucial because you get graded as a team. If you have a slacker you are going to suffer big time. Luckily Zeth and I are a part of the "Dream Team" with Leah aka stonewall and Tim. Usually our group leader Eric makes the teams balanced with 1 or 2 strong students paired with 2 students who are not doing as well. In meat class, however, the teams were formed alphabetically so it was by accident that the "Dream Team" was formed. My team is stacked because we all work well together and can kick ass individually.

Were taking home Gold, Silver, and Bronze...if they made a diamond metal we'd take that too
2012 Dream Team: Leah aka "Stonewall Jackson", Zeth, Timothy aka "Mr. Bay Area" (yeah brahh), myself, MJ (he had a 5 day tryout to get on). If you ever wonder why they call Leah stonewall then your already dead...

     Zeth and I finish our production early and present for grading. Overall we did extremely well until he looked at our chops. The chops were supposed to be in the 3-4oz range and a few of are's were just under 3oz. I thought they were still fine but chef gave us a lecture on skimping the customer so he was hard on us. Its tough ya know? To slice off that many cutlets by hand and have them all weigh the same. We're new at this, naturally a few are gonna be a tad under (it could have been worse from what I saw in class). He seemed to be tough on everyone in that department so we were ok. In fact, I would go as far as to say we were one of the better teams in the class today. Zeth, we killed it today buddy! 

Pleased to "Meat" You, Part VI

War pig: "Dibs winner"
   It is going to be difficult to write anything that can live up to the picture above. I don't wanna say that I am a Microsoft Paint guru, but its pretty darn close. Day six was significantly better than the day before (see part V of the series to find out why). I'm always a bit weary when I say I have a good day because the next day I could go right back to being the mayor of shitsville. In kitchen class, like sports, or anything for that matter, you have to find a groove. You have to hit your stride at the right moment to carry you through to the next class. I can fabricate and tie a roast beautifully but my slicing and cubes still need improvement. I asked my chef today if I could get in the meat room sometime this week after class for some additional practice and he said absolutely. The key is practice of course, which can be difficult because its not like I can just go to the grocery store and pick up a huge pork butt and break it down in my dorm kitchen. I mean its possible, but not really practical since I have no pots or anything to cook with...
    We had to breakdown a Boston butt aka pork butt today and bring up a tied roast for chef to grade before we diced the scraps into 1 inch cubes. He was really happy with my roast and the tie job I did (much needed improvement from yesterday). My meat cubes were meh, nothing bad, but not standing out either. I try to gauge how I am doing in the class compared to my classmates everyday.I can say that I am happy where I think I stand amongst my peers. There's a lot of really great cooks in my class so I have to remain on this level and hit my stride at the right moment. Its a mental game as much as it is a physical one. You cant get too down on yourself if you have a bad day. Just keep the pace and when you see the right opportunity, make a break for the lead. Think of it like horse racing: the horse that breaks out in front right away seldom finishes the race first. Its the horse, an rider who sits patiently with the pack before exploding out in front right before the finish. Textbook move right there.
    Now I am full aware that its a team effort, because part of our grade is a group grade, so if people mess up its on all our asses. There are stronger cooks in the class who consistently do good work and there are the less fortunate. I come off as a funny, laid back person but if your the person standing between me and the finish line I will eat you alive...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Business McBusiness"

    This post isn't really that funny nor does it pertain to food but since its Culinary Institute related I am going to post it anyway. When I said this post wasn't going to be funny it was after a minute or two of laughing out loud to myself in my dorm room about the name of this post. I won't name who said it, but basically this person was super drunk and when asked what he majors in, he replied with "Business McBusiness". I guess its an inside joke and normally I hate inside jokes when I am the outsider but you can appreciate the comedic value. For the record, I am not friends with this person, its just someone I went to High School with (why am I explaining this to you? I don't care...)
    The title is relevant to what I am writing about because I finally got my shipment of culinary business cards in the mail. I even went as far as to buy a metal business card holder for when I go out to dinner or meet a professional I think will help at some point along the way. I know I know, I am a college kid who is unemployed so a business card means next to nothing. So what, I ordered 250 of em. I figure, worst case scenario I can make it rain in the quad and hopefully 1 or 2 important people will pick one up; most likely a cop, on his way to issue me a ticket for littering...

"The perp was picked up for litterin'. I checked out his alibi an it dont stick"

I wasn't kidding when I said I ordered 250 of em...

"I'm not a businessman, I'm a!"

"Peter Hahm? The Culinary Institute?"

Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark...
    As useless as it sounds for a college kid to have a business card, here at the CIA you never know who your going to bump into and strike up a conversation. It's not odd to spot Emeril Lagasse roaming around our plaza, or other important people walking the halls of Roth. Its good to be ready. I'm promoting a brand now. Peter Hahm, Inc. Pleased to meat you...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pleased to "Meat" You, Part V

       Today isn't the best of days for me in class or for this blog. For starters my phone didn't save any of the pictures or the 30 second clip I took capturing the vacuum sealing process in action so I hope the picture above holds you over for a while. I also had an EPIC 4th of July fireworks video on my phone from my summer excursion with the home posse to my friend Jaime's lake house (aka Jon the RA's girlfriend). The video captured fireworks exploding directly over head while my friend's and I went bonkers, which I was going to infuse into my 100th post but somehow it got deleted as well...
    Class was so-so for me today as well. We started Veal and after a demo everyone in the class grabbed a chunk of meat to fabricate before demonstrating individually how to slice cutlets in front of our chef. I brought up my fabricated veal sub-primal and chef said it was "beautiful". That would, however, drastically change when he watched me slice cutlets...
    Chef Elia slices the first piece on a bias (at an angle) to get you started and then he watches you slice a few cutlets for a grade. I begin with the first cutlet (a tad too thick), chef looks at me and goes, "what am I supposed to do with this?" Clearly hinting that my cutlet was improper size. I slice another cutlet off and he likes it, so he has me keep going. Ok, I got this now, I thought. I slice another one off and completely botch it. "This is fucking horrible" Elia roars, and tells me I'm done and need work. That's it. I got less than 2 minutes to demonstrate that I know how to slice a proper cutlet (I mean this should be a cake walk for me...I KNOW HOW TO MAKE CUTLETS DAMN IT!) but I got a "this is FUCKING HORRIBLE" instead. I go back to my table a bit defeated, shake it off and clean up.
     You only get a few chances one-on-one with the chef to standout from everyone else and I missed the dunk...stuffed by the rim. What can ya do? It's not the end of the world, but messing up like that erks me. Others are fine with messing up, and go back to joking around, but for me I want to be perfect. When the starter goes down and you get called from the bench, you only get one chance to show what you can do if you want the job. You have to be great (just ask Tom Brady or Jeremy Lin). I'm not worried though, I'll pick it up, it was just a minor speed bump in the road...I'm a HAHM, all we do is win!

Its all about the comeback, baby!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Walking With Giants: Daniel Humm, Daniel Boulud

The Macdaddy himself: Daniel Boulud

    I won't discuss Daniel Humm with the same depth and dynamism that I am famous for because he will be thoroughly personified in my detailed Eleven Madison Park post coming soon (its going to be broken down into multiple posts due to epicness). That leaves ample space to talk about the other Daniel--Daniel Boulud (pronounced "Danelle" not "Daniel" due to Frenchness).

    Although I didn't do the book signing for Boulud because I didn't have one of his books, and also because I was in the Daniel Humm line stuck in an Eleven Madison Park trance, I did have a rather interesting encounter with the guy...
    I am in line to have my beautiful and life changing EMP book signed by Daniel Humm, when someone gets the idea to have a group photo with Humm instead of he individual photos. We ask him if after he signs our books and totes if he could take a group photo with us because we all went to Eleven Madison Park together for dinner. He was happy to accommodate our special request. A lady comes around and tells everyone to write their name and anything special you want written in your book when Humm does his signing. Taking full advantage of the situation I decide to improvise a little bit. I grabbed a sticky note and wrote: " Peter, (the secret to your veloute)" before sliding it into my EMP cookbook. When it is my turn for the signing he looks at the sticky note and laughs softly. "You want the recipe from the book?" he says to me. I looked at him smiling and told him there had to be a secret he wasn't sharing in the book because the veloute (a creamy chicken based soup, nothing out of the ordinary) we had at EMP was far far far superior to any veloute we made in class. (again laughing) Humm replies: "well you should try the recipe in the book, trust me" and gives me a subtle wink. I'll talk about my obsession with this veloute in the EMP post so it doesn't stop here.
    It comes time for our group photo and noticing that Humm is getting all the attention from the six of us, Daniel Boulud looks over and says "Daniel your getting all the attention today!" Humm looks over to Boulud and tells him to get in the picture. Boulud hops into the picture with us and at this point I think its absolutely BONKERS that both Daniel Humm and Daniel Boulud are in a picture with me. Magic was born.

Back Left: Eric, Daniel Hum, Jarrod
Middle Left: Zeth, James Kent (Chef de Cuisine of EMP and Bocuse d'Or USA team the last go around), Anthony aka "the Swan", Me (Commander an Chief)
Front Left: Leah aka "Stonewall Jackson", Daniel Boulud
Back Back Left: Daniel Humm's baby daughter

    Side note: When Daniel Humm walked into the building he was holding hands with his 2 year old daughter. Complete baller-status. At the signing I told him she could sign my book with a crayon if she wanted to. Jokes of course...but seriously, she's a Humm, Id let her sign my forehead with finger paint. Was that weird?

    Daniel Boulud was hilarious, and super engaging with all the people who had their books signed. Again, as with Keller, Bould gets a lot of negative chatter among students because he doesn't pay externs at his restaurants and expects a hell of a lot in return. A friend, Sara just accepted an externship at Bar Boulud, his French bistro and they pay her 40 hours of minimum wage for 80 hours of work. I'm not going to debate the ethics of paid vs unpaid extern labor here but a lot of people get turned off by the idea. I mean, you have to remember your working at one of the finest restaurants in the world. I don't know I can see both sides of the argument. Clearly I need a paid externship because I'm a few B292 outings from making a "will work for food" cardboard sign...
    A few things I have herd about Daniel Boulud (true or not they're pretty funny).
1.) My Freshman Seminar professor from last block told us Boulud makes his entire staff refer to him as "daddy"...which is a bit strange, boarder line creepy behavior. DID YOU PLATE ZE RISOTTO? "...Yes daddy"
2.) Eric says Boulud parties with the rest of them. Working in restaurants since he was 13, Boulud was stripped of a normal childhood and all the mischief that comes along with it (my mom used to try an trick my brother and I with a hug, aka smell our breath and clothes). To make up for it, he parties like an 18 year old whenever he can apparently.

I was going to try and upload a segment from the documentary, Eat This New York! I recoded off of Netflix but Youtube was being weird. I spent all this time getting the movie on Netflix to the right part where Daniel Boulud talks about his childhood growing up on a farm and how he came to be a chef in New York. I recorded the segment on my video recorder and was going to post it here for your entertainment but alas, it did not work. I'll give you the text from my favorite part instead. Boulud talks about the difference between chefs and artists because a lot of times chefs get lumped into the artist category because much of what we do can be classified as art. He says the difference is that chefs are more craftsman. Here's the excerpt:

"We often think then chefs are artist. Umm, but I think for me, we are just good craftsman. Of course at times we can be very artistic but not for the sake of what it looks like…I believe then, it’s easier to be an artist and be able to for example a real artist don’t really, um...he create once and he pass on to the next thing. I think for us we constantly perpetually recreate what we do. Sometimes we create something and it never comes back, but when we do a new dish and its perfect, we want to do it over again and over again and I don’t think any of us would be too happy to paint the same painting a thousand times"

    I have a word document with famous quotes about anything I find interesting and this one is the most recent addition. Hope you enjoyed. I'll have the EMP first section post up tomorrow or the next so keep a look out. Be good, world.

Walking With Giants: Thomas Keller

    This is an extension from by Bocuse d'Or USA weekend a few weeks back (see Bocuse is Loose for the first part), and as promised I'm going to share with you some of the highlights of the various book signings I got to partake in.

    Our rec center (where everything was held) was packed that day with famous chefs, culinary students, professors, press, Bocuse competitors, and the mass public. Cookbook in hand, my friends and I anxiously awaited in our cleaned/pressed chef whites for our first book signing of the day--Thomas Keller. Arguable one of the country's best chefs for the past 10 years or so. No big. Even people who don't know food know who Thomas Keller is. He's just that mega famous. Keller has been the mastermind behind establishments such as Per Se, The French Laundry (both 3 Michelin Stars and the only American chef to have 3 at two restaurants simultaneously ), Ad Hoc, Bouchon, and Bouchon Bakery. Along with having two 3-Michelin Star restaurants, Keller is also the President of the Bocuse d'Or USA team which selects a team to represent The United States in the Bocuse d'Or competition in Lion, France every 2 years. Here is his wikipedia page if you would like to learn more. I simply don't have the capacity to discuss all his accomplishments.

    After about an hour waiting in line, I am three back from the front. I start to notice my hands getting all sweaty, and I feel butterflies in my stomach. "WHAT IS THIS THE THIRD GRADE??" I keep telling myself in my head to calm myself down. Now I'm next. I open his Ad Hoc cookbook (a cookbook for home cooking without he use of an immersion circulator or other fancy equipment) to the page he wishes to sign and try my best not to pee my pants.

    I get called up, he says hello, I say hello, I ask him how his day is going. While he signs my book I say to him, "It's tough making your dishes look as good as you do..." What?? What the hell am I doing? Why do I have to be so awkward? He's just a guy! He pees and drinks coffee just like the rest of us (I bet he pees gold though). Without looking up he replies, "ohh no its not so hard, you just have to practice. Practice practice. Practice every day and you'll get it." Keller looks up after signing, or looked like doodling, on my book and smiles. "How bout a photo", he says noticing my stupid light blue Cannon Powershot (I kid you not, its a cannon powershot...why am I such a dork?) dangling from my wrist. I was so nervous I didn't even remember I had it...Talk about herp derp!

My book

" Peter: It's all about family. ~ Thomas Keller"
     He wrote something different depending on which book you presented him with. He wrote, "It's all about family" in the Ad Hoc cookbook because its designed for the home cook and sharing food with family; and wrote, "Its all about technique" in the French Laundry cookbook because that cookbook is geared towards the modern techniques used in his restaurant. I thought that was pretty cool.
Roasted beet and potato salad with soft boiled egg from his book. I WANT THIS IN MY MOUTH

    The man is intimidating, I met other chefs that day and I was fine, for some reason TK will make you feel small. Not that he's a shit-head, he is just mysterious and displays a very serious face most of the time. My friend Eric (our group leader) was introduced to TK when he walked in the door prior to the book signing and said he froze, couldn't think of a thing to say. For our vocal Asian group leader who has eaten at almost every restaurant worth eating at in New York, to say nothing, you knew you were in for it. "Hookay, sankyuu!"
    You hear a lot of negative things about Keller from other people but most of it isn't very accurate. Being the best, and being notorious for having next to impossible standards in the kitchen, its no surprise people will be scared and say negative things. When he had to cut the cook signing short to sit at the judges panel for the competition there was still a line of over 100 people who did not get to have their books signed. After the 4 hour competition, Keller personally signed every single one. That's gotta say something about the guy, right? If not, here's a few other examples of why he's not such a madman after all:
TK being weird
    It's funny to see such a serious man act so goofy in his book. There's a few other gems in this book of Keller cooking with a crazy smile on his face or other acts of weirdness. I'll end with a quote by Grant Achatz from his biography, Life, On the Line: A chef's story of chasing greatness, facing death, and redefining the way we eat (fantastic read for anyone) that helps portray what Thomas Keller is all about:

"I entered the French Laundry kitchen and saw a tall lanky man sweeping the floor. His back was toward me and he didn’t hear me enter, so he kept doing his job for a few seconds. I peered past him looking for chef Keller, waited a few seconds for the sweeper to notice me, and when he didn’t, approached him. 'I’m Grant Achatz, here for a tryout. Is chef Keller in?'
'Yeah. That’s me,' he said, letting out a laugh. 'You’re early, Grant.'
He stuck out his hand and shook mine vigorously with an exaggerated up and down motion.
I thought to myself, 'Holy shit. He’s the first one here, and he’s sweeping the floor. What kind of restaurant is this?'"
     Grant's book is filled with all sorts of great stories about Keller. Another favorite of mine talks about when Grant landed a job with Keller as a commis (basically an extern) and called Keller a few days before his first day of work to ask if he could somehow get a table for him and his father. His father was driving out to California to see his son and what the restaurant where he would work was all about. As the owner of a world renowned restaurant, your not really supposed to give a shit about the bottom rung new employee, especially when you know next to nothing about said employee. Sure enough, Achatz and his father show up at the restaurant with a specially reserved table and fully comped dinner. Grant to this day says he has no idea why Keller did that for him. It just shows Keller's true side: that's how you take care of your staff from the top employees all the way to the shit taking newbies... 

Notes From the Editor

Myah see?
     Myah see? So you think your the cats meow around here, eh? Well lissen' here bucko, an lissen' good. There's a new sheriff in town ya see? So there's gonna be some changes around here, see? Myah!

     I have no clue why I added that segment in, but I did so lets just go with it. First off, this site is now officially mobile friendly; so all you smart phone users out there, feel free to scroll as you go. I downloaded the "blogger app" on my droid, which is something anyone with a droid or iphone can do as well, for a smoother layout than the web-to-mobile conversion. Here are a few other things I've been thinking about lately:
  •     I'm in the process of fooling around with the layout here and there. I changed the little objective section below the title and moved a few things around. I'm not sure if I want to alter the layout a little bit or leave it the way it is, so well see about that. 
  • Soon you'll see a poll section so those who follow can get more involved if they feel like it (besides my mom)
  • Along those same lines does anyone have any suggestions or things they would like to see posted to this blog? Anything food related, anything at all and I will try my best to squeeze more of it in.
  •  This one is semi important: anyone who comments on posts with the name "anonymous" please say who you are, or give your first name so if I or others respond we at least know your name.  
  • Lastly, I have a few videos on my phone taken in class and I am trying to figure out how to get them from my phone to this blog so look for some homemade videos by yours truly
  • Also, look for posts about Eleven Madison Park and my book signings with some of the world's greatest chefs. 


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Friday Night Eats: Brasserie 292

    Ahhh it has been a while since a, Friday Night Lights Eats post hasn't it? For those of you who are unfamiliar to how this segment works, allow me to give a quick refresher course to cleanse the palate. Every Friday night a few friends and I go out to dinner to a different place to get a taste of Hudson Valley. The night is usually spent over a few cocktails (all in moderation of course...mother), some good food, recapping the week of class, our Chef, rumors about upcoming classes--who's good who's bad, raunchy jokes, etc etc. Generally, hoopla is involved. For the record, I love that word, hoopla--"bustling excitement or activity; commotion; hullabaloo". Have you ever noticed that really awesome words also happen to have equally as awesome definitions? I sense I'm venturing off topic here...
    Right, so basically Friday night "family meal" if you will is a way to relax and have a good time before we go out (if we go out, I'm getting too old for this shit). We've been going to B292 for a while now so I figured it was about time I write about it. Usually we have a larger group so we get to sit in the back room; I like to think of it as the V.I.P. lounge. The place is decorated with old school brasserie black and white tiles and the back room is a quiet getaway from the otherwise crowded and vivacious dining room. Plus we get to laugh and talk about inappropriate things as loud as we want...try being a fly on that wall.
Our VIP lounge
      Last night I had an Old Fashioned and ordered seared diver scallops. The scallops were seared perfectly on the top but not on the bottom, which I love. Usually with steaks an such you sear both sides but since scallops are only so big its nice to only have the top seared. It allows you to appreciate the soft velvety texture of the scallop. The last time we were there, six of us said the hell with this menu and went for the giant raw tower--a 3-tiered tower of raw clams, mussels, cocktail shrimp, oysters, cheviche, and crab salad. Every time we go to B292 I am thoroughly impressed with the food. The place has this swagger about it that I cannot really describe in words. It almost feels out of place (I wouldn't leave your car in that neighborhood too long if you know what I mean) like it would be better suited in Manhattan or something. Yet it is always chalk full of regulars, hip college students, and Hyde Park socialites (I donno if Hyde Park really has "socialites" but for the sake of argument lets roll with it). It just feels right every time I go there. Its a place I can easily see becoming my go to restaurant.

    Speaking of Friday night eats, I am currently in the process of writing about the holy grail of restaurants: Eleven Madison Park, so look for a lengthy next edition of Friday Night Lights Eats.

Pleased to "Meat" You, Part IV

    Before we get started I would like to take this opportunity to discuss one of my finest achievements...dominating the competition for cow pictures in Google Image Search. Under images if you Google search the word "cow", the first 3 search results are doctored cow pictures I have created in Paint specifically for this blog. So I say this to the future searchers of cow images: "Your bloody welcome."
    Its an exciting time here at the Blog Center of America; not only is it Friday, but its day 4 of my critically acclaimed, Pleased to "Meat" You series (or at least I like to think so). We were supposed to have a quiz today but since we ran out of time I can move right into the real meaty sections of my day (see what I did there?) Chef Elia began demo by breaking down a top sirloin butt into various cuts of meat before moving into another demo of a beautifully fabricated beef tenderloin. While he demoed the sirloin butt, he ran the numbers to show the class the profit margin on what he called "the money maker". The numbers are staggering. Just off the one piece of meat alone he was able to generate over $450 dollars gross profit using hypothetical costs of each steak for a lunch and dinner service. Word to the wise: put sirloin on your menu if you want to rake in the cheddar...

Clearly we know who's willing to go the extra mile in the class--JCVD
    Chef Elia's fabrication so far has been savant-like (but without the mental disability that usually plagues savants). Even when we're pressed for time, he possesses a calmness that you don't see too often. As he puts it, he's not just teaching us in class how to fabricate cuts of meat, he's living it day in and day out. After class he goes to his shop, where he runs a catering business and does, well more meat fabrication. Some chefs and professors can loose touch with new advances in the industry after years of teaching, but Elia knows the trends better than hipsters on Twitter (that makes me laugh for some reason).

Simon Says: GO F--K YOURSELF!

     So its Friday, the last cycling class of the week and I was so close to giving in to the sweet sweet desire to not go at all seeing as how I am sore as a "Tyranasoreous" (yeah that just happened). Being the mentally ill person that I am, I decide to go. I'm new to this whole cycling class thing and I thought it was just standard intense cycling...dead wrong. Mike, our fitness instructor...or guide if you will is a crazy man. He had us doing push ups on our handle bars while we peddled on high resistance, he had us doing circuits, and towards the end incorporated a grueling game of "Simon Says".
Its seriously sheer luck that I stumble upon the things that i do...
    The evil process begins with a series of "up, downs"--alternating b/t sitting and racing positions. If Mike says up or down without doing it and one of us follows his order we all have to do a full sprint on the bike for a minute. Doesn't seem too bad right? Well after 50 nonstop minutes of challenging, muscle isolating workouts, sprinting is veal parmesan for vegans--get that shit away! We had to do two of em, followed immediately by cycling with one foot to strengthen each leg individually. Talk about being the mayor of "sucksville"....Its both physically and mentally taxing because the whole time I am saying to myself "screw this, screw this, screw this" but somehow my legs keep chugging away, conquering anything and everything instructor Mike throws my way. All the suffering from cycling and lifting each day is helping me develop that killer instinct I need both inside the kitchen and out. Life is not a sprint, its a mother f--king marathon, baby!

"This is no time for ease and comfort. It is the time to dare and endure" ~ Winston Churchhill

Thursday, February 16, 2012


The best movie of all time: Bloodsport  with Van Damme
    Since I only have class till 9:30 every morning I decided to get back on track with eating right, and worst of all...adopting a rigorous workout plan. There is a cycling class 4 days a week I started going to, and some how I said "yes" to lifting everyday with my friend Brad (I know, what was I thinking, right?) Now, I haven't lifted weights in probably 4 years but I said enough is enough. Its been 3 days of lifting so far and I can barely lift my arms above my head--I'll have "T-rex arms" the rest of the week no doubt. Everyday in the workout room I constantly remind Brad that "he's a piece of shit, and that I hate him" for making me go through this shit. The hardest part about getting past the initial 2 weeks for me is not the weights, or the debilitating soreness; its getting over that mental barrier. That's the hardest part, telling that evil voice in your head to "cram it up his cram hole"...Somehow in the process of writing this post, the movie Bloodsport came to mind, easily one of the best movies ever filmed to this day (I'm still trying to find out what the hell a "demmack" is) so I decided to incorporate a few of the many gems this movie has to offer.

    That gif shows how I feel after a day of lifting and fighting the lazy guy in my head. Enjoying the bloodsport theme? Good. Its a reality that not just here at culinary school, but out in the industry I will be exposed to food all day everyday. For a lot of chefs pulling in 80+ hours its easy to chow down on garbage and nearly impossible to find time to exercise. If I can adopt a solid foundation now, while I have ample time, I know I'll stick with it through the program. I just gotta get past these bastardly first 2 weeks. Not just with exercise or being healthy, but in all facets of life its important to find balance. With that being said, Brad, I hate you so much...


The Death of Sunshine


     This post is titled so because it discusses the slow breakdown of my friend Kaitlin Hill, in our Meat Fabrication class. Kaitlin is a small blond-haired girl from Fairfax, Virginia who loves to bake. She entered the culinary program so she could obtain a better understanding of the culinary side of running her own business one day. I have tremendous respect for her because of that, and even more now for what she has to witness in meat class.
At one point today Chef Elia is sawing off the chine bone (part of the backbone) with a hacksaw, and cutting it off at the seam with a sharp knife. You can here the sound of bone being cut, and even worse, the sound of flesh tearing as he pry's off the "deckle" with his hands. I immediately glance in Kaitlin's direction who at this point is bug-eyed with both hands covering her mouth. Being 90% vegetarian like lots of girls are(will eat deli turkey sandwiches) it can be a horrific site to see bloody red meat hacked with a saw. There are definitely a few times this week where I thought for sure Kaitlin was going to faint in class, but she powered through it. 
    Day 2 she was cleaning up her station with a sanitation rag after we cut a large piece of meat into cubes. I walked by to see if she was okay only to find her with a blank emotionless face staring off into space as she mopped up pools of blood and meat fragments with a bloodied sanitation rag. She looked like she was in a daze similar to Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan when an explosion on the beach leaves him in a momentary daze while a soldier is looking to him for orders. He picks up his blood-filled helmet, shakes himself off and presses on. That is in essence, what Kaitlin looked like on that day.
    Its a day-by-day process for her, being exposed to some of the horrors of meat fabrication but she is still showing up each day. Something I know she will continue to do for the duration of this class and in our eventual transition into fish fabrication (even more gruesome since we will be gutting some of the fish we fabricate). I tease her from time to time...ok a lot because this class is a complete 180 from her always sunny outlook on life. Kaitlin acquired the nickname "sunshine" for a reason, and I can tell meat fabrication is her krytonite, but I know she will prevail with the rest of us, and become a stronger person because of it. So Kaitlin, don't say you never got your own post, girl. Be good people.  

Pleased to "Meat" You, Part III

    First off, I don't wanna toot my horn or anything, but clearly I am doing God's work when it comes to my wizardry with Microsoft Paint...or as I like to call it, "the poor man's photoshop" its day three of my 14 day Meat Fabrication class, and although we didn't get to break anything down per say, we did watch a bunch of demos by Chef Elia. Today, Chef demoed how to breakdown a primal rib, with the plate still attached to it (a major and minor primal respectively). 
Leah is hungry

     Chef talks to the class about the Orange muscle on top called: "the twitch muscle". Its a muscle that twitches without the cow having to move to get the flies off its body/
I could probably drive my car under there...

     Chef broke down this hunk-o-meat into export style ribs (used for prime rib/beef back ribs), shortribs, and the plate section, which is ground for burgers.

removing the "deckle"--can be used for slicing steaks in stir fries, fajitas, etc

the removed "deckle"


side view of the short ribs

"Plate"--minor primal section fabricated to make burger meat.
     The next chunk of meat Chef demoed was the drop loin which includes the primal loin, flank/sirloin steaks, and the tenderloin
drop loin with backbone view
all the fat trimmings
     Ladies, if you ever wondered where your makeup, eye shadow, lip stick, and soap comes from...

primal loin with 13th rib exposed