My Creations, Places I like

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Silence Is Golden

    Today was one of those days where everyone was moving kinda haphazardly. Its the first day on a new station, we have a new sous chef for the class, and we just came off our best day in K-16. Chef McCue runs his K-16 kitchen like a brigade system (how most kitchens in the real world run) in that each team is responsible for one area of cooking. Every station has a fancy name but basically one team is responsible for all grill items, one station is responsible for all sauces, one for all sauteed items, and so on and so forth. A brigade is a highly effective system if everyone knows what they're doing, the problem is, however, you have to rely on your classmates a lot more than any other class we have had here. Allow me to explain. Say your team is plating the grilled chicken Cesar salad today. Your chicken will be grilled by the grill team, and your salad will be prepped by Garde Manger. You have no control over how well the grill team grills your chicken so you have to trust that they do it right. Well every 2-3 days the teams rotate to a new station so everyone gets a grasp of each station. Days on new stations tend to be a little more chaotic than usual since everyone is doing something new. After a day or 2 on a station you can iron out the wrinkles and everything runs a bit smoother. 

    Today was one of those days on a new station. I switched from Tournot (a fill in for any station that is in the weeds, and overall assistant to the sous chef) to grill and now am responsible for grilling off the burgers for service..all 100+ of them. They sell like crazy. Its not a difficult station by any means but nonetheless you get tripped up by the uncertainties of a new station. As I previously mentioned, our class just came off our best day in K-16 so the bar was set high to repeat our success. We as a class have had partially great days in that some days we will have a great prep day but our service will be lacking, other days we will have a killer service because we got behind on our prep, and other days we did a tremendous job on breakdown/post service clean up; but we were longing for that complete day. Well yesterday was that day. From prep to cleanup we were on the ball. Chef didn't have to yell or interfere with was kinda weird. I even mentioned in my game plan for yesterday that our class was poised for a good day an that there are 4 quarters in a game not 3 (followed by an inspiration quote from Michael Jordan as icing on the cake). Our Chef has told us throughout the course of the class that we are a great class, and that we can cook our hearts out. He goes on to explain that that's our downfall as well. We can cook really well and it gets to our heads at times, making us cocky, and at times...lethargic. We had a somewhat easy menu today, communicated extremely well in our class meeting the night before and were prepared to follow up our great day with yet another great day. If you watch sports you know full well that it is difficult to repeat as champions. Even great teams who won the year before unravel and fall apart the year after. Sometimes things just come together and fall into place the right way. Luck plays a part in your success whether you think so or not, so it can be next to impossible to try and replicate past success in the same fashion. Only the best teams of all time can go back to back...

    Well today things got a little sloppy and Chef McCue was visually displeased. We reverted back to our lazy tendencies and it was a wild ride to service. After class (we do a daily wrap up to see how the day went overall) we hashed out some of the daily problems, discussed what we did well and what went wrong. At one point someone from the class voiced their opinion that our new sous chef, Zeth (we switch sous chefs every few days to mix it up...chef's idea not ours) needed to be more vocal in the kitchen because it was difficult to here him speak sometimes. "You know what your problem is?", Chef asked the class during our post service wrap up. "You guys talk too much. There is too much side chatter going on. Tomorrow the only voice I want to hear in the kitchen is that of my sous chef. We are going to have a 'silent service' tomorrow so I want to hear absolutely no talking from any person except Zeth. You all better know what you are doing because you are not allowed to communicate with one another..." A bomb was dropped...

    We are a really responsive team in that whatever mistakes we make the day before we are quick to fix, but the way we do that is by communicating effectively with one another. Now we are not allowed to speak what so ever. Chef McCue went on to explain that this will be a wake up call for some of us, and that those who have been slipping through the cracks will be exposed. He's right. Now most people would think that chef is just being a dick but he does this because he knows we are a good class (he has told us many times) and is trying to push us back to the level of greatness we all know we are capable of.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lose Yourself

    Its 85 degrees outside and I want to get my tan on so I am going to try and make this post as short as possible. I have had to face a few road blocks at school the past few months as any student would. Externship, cooking practicals, the intensity of the curriculum itself, being broke, etc. I have talked in recent posts about how different people have different ways to deal with the pressures of life, and how important it is (I think) to take time to step away from it and clear your mind and body. Whether it be listening to music, exercising, recreational drug use (I'm not going to get into the debate of illegal drugs...not here anyway), or what have you, its vital that you do what you love to let yourself recharge. 
    The busier the schedule the less time people have for the much needed "me time" I am very much aware of this. I talked about how during a busy week I would take 10 minutes out of my day an go to a Happy Place, or sit outside on a nice day. I think I get this from my dad, the master in relaxation. I can picture him, on his days off with his straw hat, skimming the leaves off the pool surface (he always complains about no one being around to help him open it...but you know he loves the end product)

    Sometimes, however, a few minutes here and there is not enough. The bigger the wall you put up from stress and pressure the bigger the wrecking ball you will need to bring it all down, you catch my drift? The past few weeks for me just blew hard. Usually I'll resort to hiking to sweat it all out. I don't just leisurely stroll up the mountain, I push myself hard. Its challenging, its raw, its visceral and new. I wipe the canvas clean and start fresh. Here is an excerpt from the movie Black Swan that kinda sorta shows what I mean: 

Nina: I came to ask for the part.
Thomas Leroy: The truth is when I look at you all I see is the white swan. Yes you're beautiful, fearful, and fragile. Ideal casting. But the black swan? It's a hard fucking job to dance both.
Nina: I can dance the black swan, too.
Thomas Leroy: Really? In four years every time you dance I see you obsessed getting each and every move perfectly right but I never see you lose yourself. Ever! All that discipline for what?
Nina: [whispers] I just want to be perfect.
Thomas Leroy: What?
Nina: I want to be perfect.
Thomas Leroy: [scoffs] Perfection is not just about control. It's also about letting go. Surprise yourself so you can surprise the audience. Transcendence! Very few have it in them.
    Last Sunday the universe came together and gave me a once in a lifetime opportunity to let go and surprise myself. I went skydiving...and my number one fear is heights. I mean really, If I'm on a ladder putting the star on our Christmas tree I'm like "Man, I'm kinda high off the ground right now..." Its bad I know. Somehow someone special in my life convinced me to buy a Groupon for skydiving and after a summer of failed attempts due to weather, Sunday would be our chance. I don't have too much time to get into the logistics of it all so I'll just fast forward to the good part...

    We all assemble into a tiny plane, and I am talking to the jump master strapped to me, Alex (awesome dude). He reassures me there is a big difference between a ladder and jumping out of a plane. "its different" he says. "There is a difference between a ladder where you can count the rungs to the ground, and a plane where you just free fall". The plane takes an almost vertical climb into the sky, I look over at a bright red faced Katie and tell her everything will be alright. I was amazed at how uncharacteristically calm I was in the plane. It was supposed to be HER telling ME everything will be alright. Not the other way around. The plane levels off at 10,000 feet and the door opens. The wind barrels in and I look on as groups of two crawl and shimmy to the door before vanishing into the sky. Now its my turn. All I had to do was walk to the door, put my toes on the edge, count to 3 and fall. I get to the door, look out and see the world below. I wasn't even scared for some reason...heights didn't even factor into the equation when you can see the outline of whole towns and cities. There was no time to be scared. I count to 3, rocking back and forth and before I knew it I was falling. Our bodies flipped around 3 or 4 times and when I finally realized which way was up and which way was down I leveled out my body and assumed the flying squirrel position like I was told. Alex and I fall for over a minute at speeds exceeding 120 MPH. I screamed with joy, rocking my fists into the air. I was freaking flying! 

    The chute deploys and we are jolted up into the air (a poorly packed parachute has left some knarly bruises on my inner thighs), we sail through the sky for a few minutes, and I crack jokes about landing in a neighbors pool in the next town over. "Your pretty relaxed for someone who is scared on a ladder, you know..." Alex laughs. I donno, it was something different, there was no fear, just falling, just...being free I guess. It was exactly what I needed to get my head back to normal. I think about that moment every single day.
    Basically what this whole post is about is exactly like the Black Swan quote. You have to lose yourself, you have to let go and be free at points in your life. Even if your scared, you have to remember that it is only for a brief moment. Skydiving was just that. I surrendered myself to something greater than myself and just let go. It was the greatest moment of my life. I smile even now, a week later, because it gave me a feeling I never knew could exist. Every happy feeling came together in 60 seconds and I got to experience it with someone really special. It was remarkable. Who knows, maybe a few more tries and I'll be like this guy:

    Have a great week everyone. Cheers!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why We Do It

    Tomorrow (technically today but who's counting?) kicks off our Diversity Weekend Festival, created by an ex marine, and former K-16 student. The day will start bright and early in the Colavita garden where chosen students will compete in an Iron Chef-style elimination cook off. After the competition, street food made by our very own student body will be served in Anton Plaza overlooking the beautiful, pristine (and hopefully PCB free...thanks GE) flowing Hudson River. Pay $5 and you get an "all you can eat wrist band" good for chowing down throughout the entire weekend. Fill up, grab a brew, and make your way back to the Colavita learning center (the award winning Italian restaurant we have on campus) for stage II of the cook off.

    Tomorrow the final round of students will draw from a hat 2 regions of the world. Drawing inspiration from the cuisine of those 2 regions, the students must create a meal fusing the two together...imagine grabbing Alaska and Zimbabwe?? Yesterday Chef McCue was talking to our class about it during his usual off topic rants in lecture, and he had this to say about the final round: "the students have no idea what regions are in the hat so they have no way to plan what they wanna do. They just draw two areas and have to go with whatever they draw. It can come out beautiful, or it could be a pile of shit on a plate, we have no idea....its going to be EFFing AWESOME!"
*Ponders in head* "Alaska?? Zimbabwe??....wha...huh?"
    The weather is supposed to be freaking awesome and there will undoubtedly be about 8 tour busses of church groups and old folks so needless to say this weekend will be pretty busy. Now that the weather is starting to get real nice, our campus has been inundated with guests, potential students, families of potential students, etc etc (we have half a million visitors a year, FACT). When your running down the hall with a tray of beef tenderloin that your chef needs 5 minutes ago it can be difficult navigating through the sea of visitors who do not know how to walk and mingle on the sides of the hallway rather than right in the center. 

    Don't get me wrong I love when our school gets a whole bunch of visitors because it can only do good things for our school, but the one thing I do not enjoy that I've noticed today is the way they perceive us as culinarians. Most of the people who visit don't treat you like a human being, they treat you like your some sort of novelty item, like your an animal at the zoo. If it pleases the court, allow me to show exhibit A, your honor. One of the downfalls of working on the left side prep tables in K-16 is that you are exposed. What I mean by this is that you are constantly being watched by visitors, students, etc via the huge window in the hallway. Chef McCue tells us to look up, smile, and wave periodically but there is something about it that just rubs me the wrong way. You should see the way people look at you from behind the window. They ooo and ahhh, point at you with wide eyes and open mouth while they whisper to one another. I was leaving the building the other day and an older woman stopped me to ask for directions. It was the end of a long and demanding day but of course I was happy to help. She looked at me and said, "HI!...DO...YOU...KNOW...WHERE..I CAN FIND...THE AMERICAN BOUNTY?" Jesus lady, were indoors, why are you yelling? She talked to me the way you would talk to a small child or someone who doesn't speak English. It blew my mind. It got me thinking, these people are not here to see us. They're here to see our beautiful school. They're here to dine in our restaurants, and walk along the river. They don't see us as students, no, they see us objects in a window "look Mommy the thing behind the window has whipped cream!"
    That is just the nature of the job I suppose. No matter what you do, some people will just see you as "the person who made my food". I doesn't affect me, I was just tired and cranky that day the lady talked to me like an Asian 4-year old. I love what I do, and you have to. You have to be obsessed with it. You have to think about it everyday because at the end of the day, you are sacrificing so much (mentally, physically, emotionally, socially) for something that will often times give you nothing in return (low pay, dangerous environment, long grueling hours on your feet). 
    A lot of times people will ask me why I want to cook, why I want to be a chef, and I always have a tough time answering because for me there is no one definitive reason why I chose to do what I do. I just sort of fell into it naturally. I took a job as a dishwasher one summer when I was an unmotivated teenager. It was right around the time when I started to really get into food. I was watching the Food Network a lot and learning how to work with all sorts of foods. So I asked my boss the following summer if I could start cooking and he started me out making continental breakfast platters and flipping omelets. The rest is history. I donno...I guess I can say the way I know this is for me is because when I started it just felt right, and it hasn't felt wrong yet. Its the only thing I took to really. Its the only thing I was motivated to try and be great at. I know that's not the "I ate a chanterelle mushroom and ever since that day I knew I wanted to cook" type response but that's really it. I guess it just happened in the right place at the right time...

    I finally found the clip I recorded on my camera phone from the NYC food documentary, Eat This New York! The clip is of Daniel Boulud, owner of Daniel (3 Michelin Stars), Cafe Boulud, etc where he talks about how he became a chef and what it has been like for him. Towards the end of his speech he sort of embodies everything I want to say when people ask me why I chose this field but never found the right words to say it. If you have 5 minutes to spare watch the entire thing you will not be disappointed. That's all folks, check back in tomorrow night for all the diversity weekend updates!

P.S. sorry for my spotty camera work...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Laundry Thief

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...go fuck yourself! As you all know, I recently wrote a post complaining about someone jacking my laundry. I knew it was being taken and not just getting mixed with others' because only the prized items would go missing. Side towels, aprons, etc. The things a student is always in short of (seriously, side towels are the currency that run this school), and what better way to add a few extra uniform accessories than to shop at Pete's free laundry. At the time I was pissed for a brief moment because it was the night before my AM class leaving me little time to plan accordingly. After a while it became almost comical. Hysterical even, that someone was so desperate for aprons and side towels that they had to keep taking them from my laundry rather than pay the measly $6/per. But why me? I haven't heard any chatter about other things getting stolen, just my shit. I made the post, laughed about it and breathed a sigh of relief because I thought the bandit made his final mark. Apparently the madman has a taste for blood now. At first his methods were sloppy, but now hes changing his pattern. Hes getting better...hes....evolving....

    All jokes aside, this is just getting ridiculous! I ran a load of my sheets, pillow cases, and workout gear in one washer, and my chef whites, aprons, side towels, and such in the other. When the half hour was up, I walked down to the laundry room and switched them to the dryer instead of leaving them in there for someone else to do it for me (I forget sometimes...shit happens). This was late at night, my usual laundry time (who wants to do laundry immediately following 8+ hours on their feet. Not to mention my class only starts at 1am) and I planned on drying them to be picked up in the morning when I was done with class. I get back to the laundry room and my stuff is sitting on the table next to the dryers (people always move your stuff so they can use the machines). I carry my laundry back to my room thinking "there is no way someone took my stuff AGAIN" Sure enough I'm folding laundry like a crazy person so I can dive into my bed and sleep the day away. Looking through my pile there is no neckerchief to be found...I had just bought a new one because someone jacked it last time. "C'monnnn" I say to myself too tired to dwell on it. "Screw it" I continue folding my stuff and am all set to put the fresh sheets on my bed...."wait, where the fuck is my bed sheet??" It wasn't there. Running back to the laundry room I checked the washer again to see if it was stuck to the walls of the machine. Nope, not there. "Ok, it's probably still in the dryer. I stop the dryer my stuff was in the night before and check for it. Not there either. Doubling back to my room I check my pile again. No sheet. I have been up for 24 hours straight, on a new sleep schedule, and someone jacked my fucking bed sheet? what the FUCK!?! Yeah, take my side towels, take my aprons, take my neckerchiefs to add to your stack for kitchen class. But my fucking bed sheet? This has gone toooo far. This thief has crossed the line. I thought there was an unwritten code of man that you don't mess with another man's bed garments. Isn't that the 11th commandment or something?? 

    Our dorm mattresses are not made of cotton like the one I have at home where it would be easy to sleep straight on the mattress, no, these mattresses are made of a cold plastic material. Today I was forced to roll myself up in my blanket like the burritos I made for breakfast. I hate this fucking kid...I promised my dad I would keep the profanity on this blog to a minimum because he feels it doesn't add anything to the subject material. I can agree with that. I think we all can agree, however, that there are times in life when swearing is completely warranted; and this is one of those times. This kid is a fucking ass clown, and needs to be stopped! Tomorrow, I will have to make time to go to Target to buy new sheets...

   These events have inspired me to create another installment of the "detective Haham" series, a fictional story I created one day when I was bored ( Part I & Part II ) so all is not lost I guess...look for Part III of the saga later next week...that is all.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Final Boss: Chef McCue


    Here at the CIA, like any other small college you hear a lot of talk about almost anything. Word travels fast on this small but beautiful campus. The thing that people seem to talk about the most is other chefs. When you talk to someone about a new class the question they will undoubtedly ask is, "WHO DO YOU HAVE?". You always want to try and obtain as much information on your upcoming chef as possible. If you think having the inside scoop isn't to your advantage your dead wrong. Some chefs, the infamous ones, you here about from the beginning. Chef, Clark, Chef Roe, Chef McCue, all these chefs are notorious around here for varying reasons so its always a good idea to talk to people who have survived their classes. Dating all the way back to my very first skills class I have heard side chatter about Chef McCue, the K-16 lunch/dinner chef. From what I have gathered about Chef McCue I can confidently say that the man is NUTS! Outside the kitchen he is engaging, friendly, and hilarious (he's hilarious in the kitchen as well). Inside the kitchen, however, I have heard stories about him that will make the hairs on your arms stand up. With most chefs, if you have a great day in class your fine. McCue on the other hand will mess with your head whether you have a good day or not. He is, what Eric and I like to call "the final boss"...

    You don't need to be a lover of video games to understand what a "final boss" means but basically a final boss can come at the end of a level or game who must be defeated in order to progress to the next level or beat the game. Even movies have a final boss. You know the evil bad guy at the end that the good guy has to defeat to get the girl at the end. Bowser from Super Mario, Jaws from Goldeneye, or any bad guy from James Bond for that matter ("Do you expect me to escape?" "No Meester Bond...I expect you to die!"), Mr. Sandman from Mike Tyson's Punchout, Hitler from Wolfenstein 3D (from which this picture was doctored) are all infamous final bosses. I can remember as a kid spending hours trying to defeat these bosses, screaming and throwing a controller in frustration with my mom in the background telling me to take a break. Defeating a final boss isn't just to beat the game, its a right of passage. If I never beat those bosses I would like to think my life would be filled with fear and self-doubt rather than confidence and self-worth...


   Some of the stories you hear about Chef McCue are pretty funny because they were at the expense of somebody else, but when our class enters K-16 I am sure he will have a whole new batch of tricks up his sleeve. here are the stories about Chef McCue I have heard thus far:

  1. A student once stupidly took one of Chef McCue's side towels during a busy lunch service. When McCue noticed he made the kid wear a roll of paper towels around his apron strings. Every couple of minutes he would call the student off the line (when they were in the weeds) and ask for paper towels. When the student would approach Chef McCue he would take ONE paper towel and tell him to get back to work. This transpired though the entirety of service. 
  2.  Before a class started one time he made the entire class stand in a line outside the kitchen, and asked each student a question pertaining to something we have learned at the CIA. Get it right and your granted access to the kitchen. Get it wrong and its back of the line. I saw a student get a question wrong 3 times when I was walking by the other day. 
  3. My friend Matt and his class were slow one day so McCue told everyone to stop and come to the front of the class. He told them for family meal they had to take a banana out to the baseball fields (other end of campus) and take a picture of someone eating it at home plate then return with the banana peel. 
  4. One day Chef McCue kept noticing gloves in the compost bin (we have separate trash bins for trash, compost, and recycling...word to the wise, don't confuse the three!) so he dumped the compost bin out onto the floor and told the class to dig through it until they found the gloves. After digging through the pile of compost McCue said to them, "I was just kidding, there are no gloves in the compost bin. I already took them out." 
  5. Right before lunch service Chef McCue walked up to a student who had just finished making Hollandaise. He tasted the Hollandaise and said it was perfect. Then dumped a ladle of hot water into the bain marie of Hollandaise and told the student to fix it...THREE MINUTES BEFORE SERVICE. See, you don't need to make a mistake for McCue to mess with you.
  6. Last but not least, my personal favorite. Chef McCue used to have a case called the "Burnt Food Museum" where he stored all the food students badly burnt. Since they were so badly burned they were preserved for years. 
    If you don't believe me about that last point check this link out. Its taken directly from his Facebook page: Chef McCue's Burnt Food Museum


    I'm not making this stuff up, the man is crazy! It used to be that with other chefs, if you had a good day and kept your head down you would go virtually unnoticed. With Chef McCue, even if your doing great he will find a way to throw you off your game. He is awesome though. I like that he screws with people. I like that he tries to throw you off your game because it will only make you stronger in the end. Students always say to me, "Don't take him seriously. When he calls you over if your real serious he is going to mess with you even more. Unless he is crazy pissed. Then be serious." I think I am going to have a blast in his class. I can't wait. Chef McCue, if you ever happen to read this...bring it on!!!

"Steve Jobs"

    See I have this blog. And every so often I like to post funny things on it. Well one day a while back I posted something about my then Product Knowledge Chef--Freddy B, looking identical to Steve Jobs. In class I leaned over to my friend Eric and had a little side conversation.
Me: "Who does Freddy B look like?"
Eric: "I donno, who?"
Me:  "C'mon, think. Someone famous."
Eric: "Uhhh I can't really think of anyone."
Me: "Doesn't he look like Steve Jobs?"
Eric: (*Stares at Freddy B for a while*) *Realization face* "OH MY GOD!" *turns to person next to him and whispers the same thing* "This is one of those things that now that you've mentioned it, I can't NOT see him as Steve Jobs...what have you done!"


    From there the legend of Steve Jobs was born. Fast forward to present day and I had just finished up my post about the "laundry thief" (seriously screw who ever did that). I was making my way over to the rec center to grab some Courtside to go when I bumped into Freddy B himself leaving the building. I said hello, but didn't want to disrupt his conversation with another student. Walking into the building I hear his voice from outside, "Peter, hold up a second!" Here is the ensuing conversation:

Me: "Hey Freddy B, what's goin' on?"
FB: "I wanted to tell you, the weirdest thing happened to me the other day"
Me: *Perplexed* "Oh yeah?"
FB: "Yeah. I was surfing the internet the other day, and don't ask me how, but somehow I think I stumbled upon your blog!"
Me: "Hahaha....wait, really?"
FB: Yeahh I don't know how I found it, but I saw your post about me"
Me: *realizing he's talking about the Steve Jobs comparison* "Chef Brash, I meant nothing by it. It was just a joke I wasn't trying to make fun of you or anyth.."
FB: Nooo I thought it was hilarious. I was reading it and I called my wife Chaun over and said, 'Chaun, do I look like Steve Jobs??' She said I did, and we both started laughing. It was histerical!"

    Breathing a sign of relief that he was not offended (he's a pretty laid back and comedic person but still, ya never know right?) I told him I had literally just finished up a new post. He was interested to see more, but had absolutely no idea how he stumbled upon my blog. I asked him if he had a pen and paper (he did), and I wrote down the link and we both went our separate ways.

    That was last week, and I have been thinking about it ever since. How did he find me? I mean, there are literally hundreds of blogs and articles named "Food for thought" (I created the name realizing that. I thought it would be funny, almost poking fun of myself because that's what my blog would represent). And its not like I have a million followers so my blog would be the first one to pop up on a Google search or anything. No you would either have to get my blog link from someone who has it or you would have to do some SERIOUS digging to find it. To put it this way, if I started ranting about terrorism, bad mouthing the present, and death to the infidels it would take the FBI weeeeeks to find me. People living off the grid have a bigger footprint than this blog...
"Come find me, bro!"

    So how the hell did Freddy B find me?? I love that he saw it and that he might read more, but how did he stumble across this blog? Is this my ticket? Is this the big moment I've been waiting for all along? Is this my ticket to fame and stardom? If it is, I promise I won't forget you. I know what your thinking. "But Pete, what if you get all rich and famous? What if the money changes you?" Well rest assured if that does happen, it will. I'm headed straight for Hollywood babayy!! *shoots pistols into the air* *dismissive wink* "Up top!" *pulls hand away* "TOO SLOW! 

Night Owl

    Its half past Midnight now so I thought why not a post to keep me up, eh? This upcoming week I will be starting breakfast in the infamous K-16 (high volume production kitchen) before moving to lunch as my last class before leaving for externship. I'm forcing myself to stay up because my breakfast class STARTS at 1am and ends at 9 so I need to try and get on that sleep schedule so I am not in zombie mode for class. They say it takes a week or two to get used to a new sleeping schedule, but here at the CIA we get a weekend...

What was I doing...oh yeah, breakfast burritos.

When we met with Chef McCue (he's so crazy he has to have his own post) he stressed to us the importance of making coffee. We took notes while he discussed the ins and outs of the class, how he wants the homework done, job responsibilities, etc. Right in the middle of his lecture he says, "Oh yeah, and make F-ing coffee! Seriously you'll piss everyone off if you don't. I want you to write that down in your little notepads...'make F-ing coffee!'" For your information I did not edit the quote to say "F-ing" he actually said "F-ing"...Anyway so that will be my next week and a half with the "ex girlfriend".

    I did a Google search for: ex girlfriend Memes and GIFs so I could have something clever to add and this is what came up...

   I thought that was genius and awesome. On a sidenote: in high School when my home was calling the ringtone used to be the theme from Jaws. *Donit...donit...donit...donit donit donit donit...donit* "Pete, your Mom is calling!!!" To be fair, when I was a teenage my Mom was a HAWK! She always tried to catch my brother and I doing bad, so we had to come up with clever ways to elude our secret agent mother. Through creativity the jaws theme ringtone was born. Love you mom!

    I am semi on track for my new sleep schedule partly because Friday after my cooking practical I was so exhausted I immediately crashed in my bed for several hours...ok so it was 6 hours. Apparently I said goodbye to my roommate but have no recollection of the talk (he left for externship). Hours into my epic slumber my RA came into the room to tell me I had to clean the room because a new roommate would be coming soon. Half awake I asked her if I could do it tomorrow and she told me I could have a new roommate as early as that night. She left. I slept. When I woke up a Korean kid was in my room unpacking his stuff. I forgot to clean. Jumping out of bed, I said hello in my boxer briefs and apologized for the mess (it was just a butt load of laundry on the floor, nothing crazy). Great first impression he must have. I folded my laundry while he was out and emptied the trash so he didn't think I was a slobby bottom dweller. Later that night Bum Seung and I talked for a while and I told him a little bit about his upcoming classes. He moved from a different dorm (for what reason I did not ask) so he's not new new, but he is still in his first skills class. Coming from Korea Bum Seung's English is pretty broken so my job is to make him as comfortable as I can while I am here before I leave for extern. I wasn't sure how long it would be until I received a new roommate, if at all before I left. Needless to say, you know you've taken an epic nap when you go to bed while your old roommate is packing, and wake up when your new roommate is unpacking. "Where am I? What Year is it?"

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Real Men of Genius!

    I remember those old Budlight radio ads that swept the nation a while back called, Real Men of Genius. The announcer came on the commercial began with the annoucer saying something like: "BUDLIGHT PRESENTS: REAL. MEN. OF. GENIUS. Today we salute YOU! Mr. driving range golf ball picker-upper." and a background singer adlibbing the narration "(YEAHHH you pick up those ballls!)"My neighborhood friend Todd Meyer and I would make a cd with a bunch of them on it and play it in the car. If your not familiar with the commercials take a ganders:

    Anyway, today some friends and I went to Warrens Kitchen & Cutlery after our practical to sharpen our knives for our cooking portion of the practical tomorrow morning. I grabbed a fish spatula and a tin box of tea. An avid coffee drinker I like to drink tea and switch it up from time to time so I bought some Black Current tea by Harney & Sons Fine Teas. It was 7 bucks but well worth it if you want something more than liptons teabags. The tea leaves come in a little sachet pouch but I realized when I got back to my room that my roommate already took his microwave home (I dont't have access to boiling water so I usually resort to his micowave...such is dorm life). Thinking of ways to make tea I noticed my Keurig coffee maker and remembered that a girl used to make tea with it.
    Instead of putting a coffee pod in the lever, you simply run the machine with no pod and you will have piping hot coffee at your finger tips. Brilliant. The problem, however, was that since I've brewed coffee with it so many times there was old coffee grinds from the pods in the filter. When I ran it to get hot water it came out yellow with specks of grind in it. Whats a kid gonna do? I want my tea (it smells devine). Again having to think on my feet, I wondered if my Brita filter would turn it to clear hot water so I tried it. I poured the gross pond-like water into my Brita and VOILA, crystal clear hot water. Its no significant moment of insight but I was pretty impressed with my decision making skills...

Coffee water...

The magic of Brita!

Crystal clear

Getting there...

Tea time!
    I must admit I was pretty impressed with the Brita filter. I usually use it for tap water but I have never tried yellow scummy coffee water before. I never thought in a million years it would come out perfectly clear. So if you want to take the unconventional route for making tea all you need is a Keurig machine and a Brita filter.

"BUDLIGHT PRESENTS: REAL. MEN. OF. GENIUS! Today we salute YOU! Mr. Unconventional tea brewer guy (Mr. Unconventional tea brewwwerr guuyyyy!!) When others said you couldn't make tea. You...made...tea. (Your a master tea makerrrr!!!) Living in a dorm, armed only with a Keurig machine you brewed that golden tea...HAR-MONIOUSLY (You got harmony in thatttt cuppp yeaahhhh!!!) When life gave you hot coffee water you said, 'WAIT....I'll just filter it!' (That's the power of Britaaaa!!!) So crack open an ice cold Budlight sorcerer of gastronomy (he thinks he's a scientisttttt!!!) because we'll be teabagging ALL NIGHT!" 

Final Assessments, Part I

    If this post goes off trail more than usual I apologize in advance. I've been up since 3am this morning cross-training in K-16 (my next class) or as many of you already know, "the exgirlfriend". We will be starting the breakfast rotation in K-16 on Monday which means my sleeping schedule is screwed. For 7 class days I will be going to class at around midnight and wont leave until 9am or so. This is our high volume production kitchen which means they can pump out some serious plates during a service (especially lunch). In order to know your station and get to know what needs to be done for day 1 you need to trail in the kitchen for a breakfast service. I don't want to get to deep into it, otherwise this post will carry on forever. I will have a post all about my K-16 stage in the near future.

    What I really wanted to talk about was part I of my 2nd term practical. An all encompassing exam to test your knowledge on everything you have learned up to this point. To review, part one is a 100 question multiple choice examination. You are allotted 1.5 hours for the exam, which is more than generous...even for my characteristically slow test taking. Really slow. I never was the guy who finished first, in fact I am usually one of the last ones along with the girl who speaks English as a second language.

    That clip was from one of my favorite movies: Real Genius with Val Kilmer. I was, and still am not that guy. This is not to say that I am a bad test taker I just take my time. I do the test, mark any questions I don't know or hesitate on. When I am finished I go back and review the questions I was unsure about. Once I do that I skim the test to check for stupid miscalculations and what have you then tally up my scantron to make sure I didn't mistakenly skip a question (my 8th grade teacher once told me that a student missed question 29 on his scantron and did not notice. Every question on his 100 Q test was one question off so he failed his final. Ever since then I double check. Every. Single. Time.). This used to drive my UB buddies nuts! Most of the time we would carpool to exams and they would have to wait around an extra hour for me to finish. What can I say? I'm a thorough test taker.... 

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." ~ Abe Lincoln
    I finished the exam and felt pretty good about it overall. The proctor told the class we could come back in an hour for the results. We all went to farq and discussed questions we were unsure of. Most of the Qs people were unsure of I knew I got right so my confidence was building. An hour later we all walked back up to the 4th floor to see our scores. Its on a pass/fail basis with an extra category for high passes (95% or above). Chef Jones, a quirky British guy (hes the dean of the Culinary, not the CIA but the cooking hes a pretty big deal) came in with our scantrons to give us the results. "Well we certainly have an interesting group on our hands" Chef Jones said in his awesome British accent. "We must have the Harvard group today. Everyone passed the exam and the lowest grade was a 71". Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but I already knew I at least passed it. I wanted that high pass. "alright chaps, how do you wanna do this? We can do this one at a time privately or I can just say your name and your score out loud. Since you all did well I think the second option will be a lot faster. Dontcha think?" Sure. Lets do this!
    He starts calling out names one by one and their respective score. A couple mid 80s to start with a few near high passes. "Peter...ham? Hahm?....97." The first high pass of the day, YES! "Great job chap! Now I want you to do the same tomorrow to get a high pass on the entire practical" "Yes Chef." He continues down the names, and my friend Eric (our group leader) also got a 97! We were the top scores until the last girl beat us out with a 99....

    Weeks of everyone worrying and frantically telling stories they heard about the practical was finally almost over. I got the high pass I wanted and a tremendous weight is now off my shoulders. It feels pretty damn good. I was talking to Eric after the scores were given and we both agreed that although we did extremely well we wish we could've seen the Qs we got wrong. Here we are, second highest grades in the class, high pass and everything, and we still want to know more. I am not an overachieving snob, I just love this stuff so much. I want to know what I missed. I think that's where passion comes into play. Any other test I would take the grade and not ask questions. I love and respect what I do so much that I want to be the best at it.   
    When Chef Jones rifled off the scores I would not be lying if I said I didn't want anyone to beat my 97. Now I am not the overachieving type who is pissed if they don't get a 100, I just want to be the best, and I think you need that drive, that passion to carry you through.

 "The game is my wife. It demands loyalty and responsibility, and it gives me back fulfillment and peace." ~ Michael Jordan

    The success I have achieved from this test and finding an externship location in the same week is exactly what I needed now that things are coming down to the wire. In one of my previous posts I talked a little bit about momentum. I said that as is in sports, you need to hit your stride at the right time. Plenty of people do great 90% of the time but struggle to close it out (i.e. Lebron James). Others sit middle of the pack and then explode at the finish. If you love playoff sports you know as much as I do that you have to be like the second type. I knew that my work in class was slumping a tad so a perfect finish would be needed to carry me through to the next stage. I am a firm believer in the powers of momentum. I saw a Nike commercial one time (and I'm sorry for the abundance of sports related analogies for those of you who aren't sports fans) promoting their "Elevate your game" campaign, where a then young Carmelo Anthony went through practices and a rigorous training sequence. The commercial showed Anthony practicing one-on-one with his personal trainer/ball coach against scenes of him signing autographs for fans and attending meetings for a project he was working on with the community. Back and forth the commercial went, showing Anthony going through plays with his ball coach in the gym. The last play in the gym he practices a move and shot before the commercial transitions to the final seconds of a close NBA game. The coach calls a time out to draw up the final play. The young Anthony looks on as the coach draws up the same play he did in practice. The commercial ends with Melo walking onto the court as his words echo in the background: "why wouldn't I want the last shot? When I know I've already made it..."

    That commercial aired in 2006 and I still think about it to this day. I donno why I love it so much. I guess its because I think that sometimes everything you have done could be for nothing if you do not make the right choices down the stretch. I believe in this not just in sports, not just in cooking, but in life! When things are close you have to possess the ball and make the right choices. Some of the greatest athletes were born under moments like this. So for me this practical exam is more than just a test. Its an opportunity to do as Carmelo did. Its a chance to stand amongst greatness, even if for a brief moment in time...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


    I have had this post in my draft bank for a while now, and talking to Chef Reilly the other day made me remember it. My previous class--Modern Banquets was a fun class thanks in part to Chef Reilly (see Tighten Up! and Laugh It Up, Jabroni for more on the class and Chef Reilly). Every chef I've had the pleasure to learn from here at the CIA has approached the class with their own unique flare.
    Speckamp was our first chef and resembled that tough father figure you spend your whole life trying to impress because he graded so hard (my friends and I have a running joke called the "Speckamp 85" its a perfect score since he didn't give out 100s. "Hmmm good consistency, good flavor, its seasoned properly, its hot, overall its perfect...85!). Chef Brash aka Freddy B aka "Steve Jobs" (they are twins I swear) was the passionate and energetic Uncle because he showed a love for produce that I've never seen before. "Now chefs chefs chefs, chefs of the future! (petting a head of Chinese cabbage ever so gently) Why as chefs do we love to use this cabbage on our menus!" Chef Elia was the blue collar brother-in law because he is one of the few remaining butchers in the world so we learned a lot from him on not only how to breakdown meat carcasses but to use the most profitable cuts of meat. His passion for sausage making is something to be admired. Chef Clark is by far the grumpy grandfather. I say that with a smile on my face because I can recall his numerous rants in class about why Ford is better than Toyota (he bleeds red, white, and blue). Chef Reilly was like a brother figure. Always trying to mess with you but at the same time showed a side of protection and compassion you only get from a brother or immediate family member. We even got to play basketball with him, it was a blast (mainly because we got to see him go from all high and mighty to huffing and puffing on the court). Chef Kief is the nagging cousin. When you make a mistake during class he has a tenancy to never let it go. In his defense his class is the "boys from the men" type of class because it is a significant increase in difficulty from the classes we have had thus far.
    My point is not to bash any of my previous chefs or make fun of them, my humorous observations come from the utmost respect for each one of them and what they do on a daily basis. It is merely a joke on how I depict them in this post and in no way reflects who they are as Chefs. With that being said, lets dive into what this post is actually about: the Continuing Education (CE) class Tim and I helped Chef Reilly with a few weeks back.

Marshmallow Wonderland

    Okay, this is my third post of the night and I am in a groove so why stop now? This will be a short post that has almost nothing to do with anything other than that its hilarious.
    My roommate, Ethan, a product of a small town in Pennsylvania walked into the room tonight and asked me what I like to think is the greatest question ever asked...He's folding laundry and looks over at me and asks, "Pete, where do Marshmallows come from?" Ethan asked the world's greatest question with the same wonder, and delivery that a small child has then they ask "what the sky is made out of". The conversation we had was brilliant...

    I look at Ethan, puzzled at first and say, "what do you mean?" His response goes down in history:

Ethan: "I was talking to this girl in class the other day about marshmallows and for some reason I always thought they grew on trees."
Me: "What..."
Ethan: (laughing) "Yeah I thought marshmallows grew in nature. Like from a tree or something and this girl just started laughing"
Me: "HAHAHAHAH Ethan that's the greatest thing you've ever said!"
(Both laughing hysterically now)
Me: "Marshmallows are man made. They're basically sugar and air. They're probably made in a factory somewhere" (now pondering where marshmallows are actually made)

    Long story short it was an epic question and we both had a good laugh over it. The end.

Please laugh at took me 14 minutes to make.


"Happy Place" Part II

 Right when I submitted the first part of this post I thought of a few more things to add so I had to make a sequel. I friggin' love sequels! Terminator 2? Aliens? Ghostbusters II? Look Who's Talking 2? Caddy Shack II? I mean c'mon! (that last one was a joke, don't see Caddy Shack II...)
    A couple of days during this stress filled block I noticed my performance in the kitchen was starting to dip below the high standards I set for myself so I found little ways here and there to motivate myself to pick it back up. I watched the sunset a few times as I described in part I, and something I started doing recently was add a quote at the bottom of my timeline in the kitchen. Each day everyone has to fill out a game plan or "timeline" for class that outlines everything you have to do for that day. These timelines include a full ingredient list, equipment list, recipes, methods, diagrams of plating and service setup, etc. Chef's at the CIA are keen on these timelines because they are the foundation for being prepared each and every day in the kitchen. If you are unsure on a recipe, or are doing poorly the Chef will most likely ask to see your timeline. Think you can take a short cut and not write out the full recipe? Guess what? Your kicked out of class until you can complete it in its entirety ( I have not been kicked out of class or had an incomplete timeline for those of you at home). We used to have then folded and kept in our front pockets of our chef coats but Chef Keif decided to create a new timeline which we tape to the wall in front of our stations. This makes it easier for us to see what we have to do, and easier for Chef to walk by to see who is prepared and who is running back to their room...
    One day I decided to write "Kill it" in big red sharpie letters at the bottom of my timeline as a little extra encouragement to get things done and have a good day. Chef saw it and thought it was funny so I took it a step further. I have a famous quotes app on my phone and wanted to include some of my favorite random quotes on my timeline to give me a boost in class. I don't do it to get attention from my chef, I do it just so that I can see it and know I have to pick it up if I am slumping. Here are my timeline quotes I've used thus far:

  • "No man ever achieved worthwhile success who did not, at one time or other, find himself with at least one foot hanging well over the brink of failure." ~ Napoleon Hill
  • "The errors of great men are vulnerable because they are more fruitful than the truths of little men." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche  
  • "In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins. Not through strength, but through persistence."  

This is the one I have for tomorrow:

"I'm not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat..." ~ Michael Jordan

    I try to pick a quote that symbolizes how I am feeling at that particular time. Sometimes I have a bad day so I'll use a quote about failure or overcoming obstacles. If I had a good day the next day I'll have a quote about persistence, drive, success, etc. To most its corny, but for me, its just a little added boost at six O'clock in the morning...