My Creations, Places I like

Monday, April 30, 2012

"Happy Place"

    In my humble opinion, one of the perks about living in the Rosental dorms (along with other benefits...nope, never mind this is the only one) is that you have the beautiful, pristine, Hudson River flowing right behind the building. Behind my dorm is a quad area for tossing the B around, and a few picnic tables underneath some trees. Moving your way up the hill a few feet and there is a nice assortment of small boulders to sit on atop the cliff to lookout across the river and the line of trains running directly below the cliff, and another across the river.
    The block I'm finishing up right now has proven to be the toughest, and most grueling time I have experienced here at the CIA thus far. My A la Carte kitchen class is in its final stages culminating in a 2 day practical examination. A 100 question multiple choice exam and a 2.5 hour cooking exam at the end of my class this week determine who gets to move on to K-16 (high volume production) before departing for externships. If you fail, you have to reschedule a do-over in order to advance to the final pre-extern class aka K-16 aka "the exgirlfriend" (see exgirlfriend post for more on that...seriously, check it out. Its pretty funny).
    In addition to preparing extensive timelines/game plans for the cooking portion of the exam, and reviewing study questions for the written portion, I also had other things on my to speak. Externship is a major deal at the CIA and our school takes pride in offering an exhaustive list of pre-approved externship sites. Locking up a site proves to be much more difficult than you would imagine. Getting in contact, talking to the chef, owner, or what have you, doing a stage/trail in the kitchen, etc all takes time. I am fortunate enough that Chef Miller, Certified Master Chef and Chairman of the Alumni Council for the CIA replied to my email in a swift and decisive fashion. (There will be a whole post on Sperry's in the near future so stay tuned for that).
    Individually, each of these events are merely minor speed bumps, but when they are all peaking at the same time things can get crazy. Couple all that with the usual daily group meetings, 3+ hours of nightly homework, class from 6-2pm, midterms, quizzes, special project assignments, and you got yourself a twister even Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt couldn't run from...
"Its the perfect shit storm!"
I look at this now and think: "what a waste of beef"
    Everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress, and for some it can be too difficult to bare. Recently I have been hearing a lot of chatter about students buckling under pressure and jumping ship to community colleges and other career options. This isn't for everyone, and that's something you wont learn from watching the Food Network (I still love that channel I have to admit). The point is, in order to survive you have to find ways to cope with the highs and lows of the culinary world, and school in general. Usually I workout or play music but time has not permitted me to get a solid 60 minutes of sweat in so I had to resort to other measures...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Federal Offense Part II: New Blood

    (Play for background music)

2010: The mystery of which college roommate put peanut butter in the refrigerator goes unsolved (see Federal Offense post to read all about it...its probably my greatest post to date just so you know).

2012: A new crime is committed. One far more sadistic and diabolical than the original. And the culprit is still at large.

April 25, 2012: The league of crime stoppers are called back to solve the case....

    A couple of months ago I noticed a side towel missing from my laundry. Whenever you put laundry in the wash someone will inevitably take it and put it in the dryer for you because everyone is vying for the washer spots. A kind gesture, until one of my side towels went missing (they're like gold around here). I assumed it got mixed in with someone's pile of laundry by mistake, which happens from time to time. There was a time when I was folding laundry and found a red laced thong amongst my clothing. Oops? Clothing stuck in the washer or dryer can cling to your laundry everybody knows that, so I didn't think a missing side towel was devious in nature until it happened again...
    Last week I put a load of my chef uniforms in the wash late at night because I had run out and needed a clean uniform for class at 5am the next morning. I put my wash in the dryer and planned to pick it up right before bed. I grabbed my laundry and brought it back to my room to begin laying out my uniform for the next morning. I noticed another side towel missing and thought it simply got mixed with another load of laundry. Then I noticed that more things were missing. The joker also took my ONLY apron and neckerchief. To make matters worse they took my GOOD side towel and left behind the one that was burned with a giant hole in the middle. They were toying with me...

Wait...someone steals...laundry?

    Here it is, past midnight and I had one burned side towel and no apron or neckerchief for class less than six hours away. Fuck this guy. Luckily my roommate was still awake and let me borrow his apron and neckerchief until I could go buy new ones. The following afternoon after class I walked into the bookstore to purchase my stolen goods. The neckerchief was bulky and difficult to tie, and the apron had strings that weren't long enough to tie in the front; forcing me each day to ask someone to tie my apron for me (I can't tie a loop behind my back tight enough). Everyday I am forced to wear my thick neckerchief and untieable apron, and everyday I am forced to remember that some Jabroni stole my shit. "They didn't just take my things...what they took was my piece of mind!"

I wouldn't even steal laundry...

    If anyone has any information on this laundry bandit, or know who it is, I don't want my stuff back. I just want you to punch them in the face for me...and then stub their toe because, I mean WHO DOES THAT? My old college roommates and I were robbed twice in Buffalo while we were home for break and those robbers actually took real things (except for paint supplies and a carpet washer...I still donno what that was about?) They took TVs, a tool set, my boss speakers + subwoorfer , printer, my expensive watch, etc. Although we were all pissed at the time, those were REAL things you steal. You don't steal LAUNDRY! That's just evil...

"But he stole my LAUNDRY!"

Notes From the Editor: "Things Done Changed"

    By now you are all well aware that every few weeks or so I take a prolonged hiatus from this blog. I am sure the rumor mill has been churning amongst my fellow readers; who, out of desperation conjure up elaborate explanations in order to rationalize the mysterious disappearance of their king...

"I herd he couldn't handle the pressures of constantly producing funny, relevant material so he fled to Africa...or was that Dave Chappelle?"

"Well I herd he was in jail for liberating the tigers from the zoo because voices in his head said so..."

"You guys are so STUPID! He's clearly in the wildernesses of Australia on a personal 'walkabout' in order to find himself!" *sucks inhaler*

(Collectively): "Yeah that's probably what he's been doing..." 

    The truth is, I'm not gonna try and force new posts on you everyday just because. Sometimes my life becomes more hectic and busy and my blog is going to reflect that. Sometimes I don't have enough material or much to talk about and don't want to force it. Sometimes I'm tired, and just don't feel like putting in the time it takes for me to create these posts (I spend hours on some of these).

    When I started this food blog over a year ago the goal was to capture my ever growing curiosity and love for food. But it has become so much more than that. This blog has become an extension of myself. An extension of who I am. I want people to read these things and if they get nothing out of it other than "Yep. That's him alright", then I'm fine with that. But I'm not just going to force something everyday just to keep it going. Sometimes I just need to take a step back, reflect, gather new material and then bring it again. Always changing. That's how I want to run this blog, because that's how I run my life.
   With that being said, I am back from my sacred Hajj to Mecca, and poised to share with you stories from my travels. Stay tuned! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Laugh It Up, Jabroni

    Chef Riley is thankfully not as scary as our initial impression made him seem.  Chef Riley has a very calm voice when he gives each team their directions. Even when something goes wrong, he does not scream, yell, or tell you "your a screw up" (censored version) the way other chefs do. This is not to say, however, that he does not thoroughly enjoy messing with us. He has a way of making up elaborate lies and gets us to agree with him unquestionably. When he messes with you his face exhibits that same calm, collected demeanor. That's how he lures you in. You cannot distinguish between his serious face and his "I'll get you to believe whatever I say" face. 
"Go aheed an tri tu reeed my pokair face comrade"
EXAMPLE 1: Chef Riley gathered me and the rest of the protein/sauce team and began explaining how he wanted us to clean mushrooms.

Chef Riley: "Ok so I want you to fill up a sink and add enough flour to the water until it becomes milky, then add the mushrooms and let them sit. The dirt will sink to the bottom and you will pick up the clean mushrooms with a spider strainer. Now, why do we add flour to the water chefs?"
                       (looking straight at us)
Team: "Uhhhhhh..."
Chef Riley: "Well the process is very interesting actually. The CIA has very special sinks with thick bottoms. The flour reacts with the metal in the sink to create a magnetic pull. This process physically pulls the dirt off the mushrooms and when the dirt sinks to the bottom is is magnetically stuck there. Whats even more interesting is that this magnetic force makes the water circle around in a clockwise motion almost like a mini tornado."
Team: "Woahhhh"
Me: "THAT'S INCREDIBLE CHEF!!! Is there a name for this process??"
Chef Riley: "Yeah...its called, your all idiots for believing every word I say. I cant believe the four of you actually believed all that"

    He continued on to explain that the real reason why the flour is used is because it acts as an abrasion which subtly scrubs the dirt off the mushrooms (still kinda cool). Riley told us that the reason why he made up the story was because simply telling us how to do it would only give us one way of looking at things--the correct way. The purpose of the whole thing was to get us to try and look at things from different angles. To see why some things work and why other things do not work. Chef Riley: 1, Team: 0
"I can't believe you fell for that"
EXAMPLE 2: So I am searing off giant boneless pork loins (which we fabricated) in an even larger machine called a "tilt skillet" (a massive flattop that tilts to drain off all the oil and such) just as chef directed when he walks over to me.
Me: "Because that's how your supposed to do it chef?"
CR: "What would make you think that??"
Me: "I donno, I guess I was misinformed chef...I won't happen again" (its best not to give excuses to your chef, just admit you made a mistake and move on)
CR: "No, explain it to me. I want to know why you chose to do something like this!"
Me: (clearly wetting my pants now) Well you always sear the fat side down first chef. You want to render the fat first so when you flip it over you get all that flavor and rendered fat to help sear better...right?"
CR: "Your sure that's what your supposed to do?"
Me: "I thought that's how you do it chef. I thought that's how they taught us. I am wrong. I'll fix it next time chef."
CR: "No you were right, but by prodding you a little bit I was able to get you to change your answer, even though you were correct. Be confident in your explanations."
 Chef Riley: 2, Me: 0

    Although I was right the first time chef decided to mess with me. I gave a good explanation but his relentless poker face made me change my mind and make me think I was wrong. Riley doesn't just mess with you for the sake of messing with you. He messes with you so you understand why you do things. Every story he makes up, everything he does to try and throw you off your groove is so that you learn something in the process. He is not just doing these things for "shits and giggles". I really value that about him. Still, between the mushroom fiasco and the proper meat searing he made us look like a bunch of jabronies...

 Jabroni: (noun) Made famous by the wrestler/actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

1.  One who is not good at his chosen profession or current task.
2. a wrestler with no shtick, no costume, and a lame name like "john evans", going up against a real wrestler lkie "hulk hogan" or "the rock". a jabroni may get in a couple good moves, may even get into a 'near-pin' situation, but will ultimately lose. why? he's a fuckin' jabroni!
3. a poser, one without an identity.
4. fodder for the ring. see 'dead meat'
                             (Thanks to for the official definition)

    During service Chef overheard Eric and I talking about hooping it up after class and he inquired if we would like to challenge him to a friendly game of basketball. We happily accepted. "Alright, I put you in my planner for Wednesday 3 O'clock. You guys better show up now", Riley boasted before going to mess with someone else.
     The way I see it, how he would perceive us in class from here on out heavily weighs on how well we handle ourselves on the court. If we show some swagger on the court he will know we are coordinated in the kitchen and in turn view us as better cooks. If we loose, well we're just a bunch of Jabronies after all..."Friendly game" my ass. There is just too much at stake here! We'll see who gets the last laugh Chef Riley... 

"Chef, your so screwed"


Tighten Up!

    This week I started a new class: Modern Banquets. Our class has gotten to the point in the curriculum now where they don't fool around. It has been six weeks since I have been able to actually cook anything (3 weeks of meat and fish fabrication each) and I can't tell you how good it feels to be back in a full kitchen again. The primary reason why things become serious now is because our class is now cooking for the school. No not the part of the school where old women get all dressed up and take a tour bus to our campus to dine in any of the 4 critically acclaimed restaurants plus the cafe--Apple Pie. I won't be cooking in those restaurants until the end of my time here at the CIA. No, what my class and I are doing right now is preparing buffet-style lunch for the students and facility.
The last time our class was actually cooking together was Skills I aka Culinary Fundamentals with Chef Speckamp!!! Love that guy! So old school, so German. He always has a witty come back no matter what you say. For example, I was chosen to serve the Yankee Pot Roast out of one of the chaffing dishes during service on Monday and Speckamp rolls through. He walks over to our current chef (I'll get to him in a minute), and they converse to each other in German, laughing in tongues I could not understand. I just assume they were singing our praises (but probably not). Chef gets to my section, the last on the line and I whisper to him in a joking manner, "hey chef I gave you a few extra pieces...but don't tell any of the other chefs or they'll all want extras" he smiles and quickly replies "Yes Peter, this will be our little secret" and winks before vanishing out of the kitchen. BOSS.
     As I was saying, the last time we cooked together as a class we were just preparing dishes for Chef Speckamp to taste and grade. Now students are using their meal swipes to eat my food. Its a big step. In skills, you could have a sub-par dish and only one person would taste it--Chef Speckamp; who would simply give you a lower grade. In banquets, however, if you make a sub-par dish you have to serve that to hundreds of hungry culinarians. This is there lunch!
    Each week the class is divided into 4 stations: soups/apps, veg/starch I, veg/starch II, and protein/sauce. My team was chosen for protein/sauce this week (easily the hardest station in the kitchen because of all the things you have to get done before service). At the CIA you always hear rumors about your next chef, and all the horror stories that go along with the next class. Every chef tries to intimidate the students the first day, and Chef Riley did so to perfection. We're all waiting outside of the kitchen when Chef Riley shows up. We all say "good morning, chef!" in our enthusiastic culinary student voices but Riley says nothing. He just walks past everyone, unlocks the door to the kitchen and slams it behind him. Everyone went dead silent and I thought to myself "Oh f_ _k!, hommie don't play..."

    If first impressions are everything, then the first impression my class had of Chef Riley is that he is going to eat us ALIVE! Its the first time our class would be cooking together in six weeks. Naturally we're all going to be a bit rusty when it comes to cooking. Couple that with the fact that our class has had some bumps in the road in terms of getting along, and you got yourself one recipe for disaster soup...Time to "tighten up!" The phrase tighten up has been universally adopted by almost everyone in our class to basically say to people, "get your shit together". If everyone is laughing and chatting loudly in the hallway before class and our lookout sees our chef approaching, typically "HEY, TIGHTEN UP!" will be uttered amongst the ranks.

Note from the Editor:
  • I want to continue to talk about my new class, but I figured if I dragged this post out any longer that my readers would loose interest so I will cut this post off here and continue on in the next few posts. Consider this post the refresher course for what is to come. 
  • I have chosen not to make this class a multi-part "series" the way I did with meat fabrication (and failed to do for fish) because I did not want to force myself to write something about the class for every single day; but mainly because I could not come up with a clever title for a series involving banquets...