In the end, it’s still chocolate… even if it is a little burned and dry. Oh well, try again tomorrow!
Do you ever feel like you’re waiting for something big/ magnanimous/ life-altering to happen? Like there’s some single clue out there in the universe that will suddenly bring all of the blurry attempts to find a purpose and direction into focus and show you the one thing that you are meant to do; or at least provide a clear direction?
I feel like I am constantly searching for that clue. As if it was hidden beneath a messy bed that I’ve turned over several times and just keep missing. I know that it’s not there, but for some reason cannot stop myself from looking. It drives me into a frenzy- and distracts me from noticing my current life in the process, where, it’s my guess , that this illusive “clue” lies. Hidden in plain sight between the subtle interactions with co-workers, small bits of information learned throughout the day, exchanges of laughter over a bad joke. But how do they all fit together to show me something meaningful?!
I am in a constant feeling of being on the brink of something great. But the older I get, the less confidence I have in this thought… maybe the something great is already here. Maybe I’m missing it in the search for something great. I always thought that I had to define myself by my work. As if all of my projects would somehow tell people who I am. Being a cook just makes me a cook. Being a wine educator just makes me a wine educator. All it says about me is that I like food and wine and that’s not something that I need a professional title to show people… it’s always been part of my interests. But there’s more, isn’t there? I used to write and play music and draw and paint and design clothes and sew and hike and climb and kayak. I used to be… more. More than what I’ve become.
I became so obsessed with becoming a cook and fitting the idea of what a cook is, that I forgot to take my love for cooking along with me. My work became a challenge to show people how well I could cook, not a joy to share with people. When I lost that joy, it showed. My work became a burden and the people around me knew it. I wanted to love it! I wanted to feel the way I used to before ever becoming a professional… Why had I lost that? Where did it go?
I want it back!
I want it back!
I don’t know how to get there.
Did I mess it all up? Did I blow my chance?
Maybe it’s a good thing that this happened. Maybe this is my clue hiding in plain sight. Maybe I needed to have to fight my way back to find my love for it. Maybe I’ll come out of this better on the other side! Here’s to optimism and keeping my eyes open on what’s in front of me!
Before attending the CIA, my thoughts and daydreams were obsessed with the romanticism of every detail surrounding food. From the intoxicating aromas that leap out of the steam, to the vibrant colors and textures that dazzle the plate, and most importantly, the flavors that envelope every sense into a deep meditation with the one focus on that soul-satisfying bite. Somewhere along the road, I have lost that obsession… or rather it has been transformed from one of daydream to one of work. My thoughts have drifted from swirling tales of flavors and faraway lands to rigid scrutiny on technique and timelines. I lay awake at night, taunted by the innumerable ways to utilize today’s fava purée into tomorrow’s something spectacular- the frenzied thoughts hang around me like heavy cloak that I cannot shirk.
Like a writer without a story, I am a cook without her kitchen. A wandering vagrant ever searching for a spark of inspiration… a muse… a choice to have to make. I find myself longing for the days when I drew such pleasure from reading foodie publications and living in the daydream. But those days have long since gone and I am no longer the cook I was. I am no longer the woman I was. I guess it’s hard to accept change, especially within one’s own self… maybe it’s not such a terrible thing that I live in the reality of being a cook, rather than the fantasy. After all, I do love timelines! Is that wrong? Perhaps it’s possible that I’ve traded in my fantasies of cooking amid gorgeous produce in a 700 year old Tuscan stone and brass kitchen with a glass of wine and an old gentleman playing his mandolin on the terrace for a different kind of fantasy. Maybe now I prefer the quiet clanking of spoons on skillets, the quick bruuuhhh of the stove top coming alight with flame, and the steady call-backs between cooks and chef.
Maybe this is just a journey and there’s no one way to be… just as there is no one way to cook, there is no one way to be a cook. Maybe I can find a way to hold onto the romanticism and still make room for the timelines.
With the dawn of our new year, I thought it fitting to challenge myself and stage at one of my favorite restaurants in the Valley: REDD. The food here is so unforgettable, that I often find my thoughts drifting back to a warm summer’s eve and a crispy sweetbread and stonefruit panzanella salad. REDD’s stellar reputation and Michelin Star make the prospect of working in the kitchen a daunting excitement, but on went my big girl pants and into the kitchen door I went. The tiny kitchen was bustling with cooks, prepping on every surface they could find, and I awkwardly introduced myself to one of them, Jonathan,- who luckily knew that I would be arriving- and gave me the grande tour. Within a few minutes, I was donning my white chef’s coat and apron and cozily installed on a tiny part of the back table with my knives and a fair amount of apples to tourner (cutting a wedge into a football shape). Tourner-ing has got to be my very least favorite cut and also the one at which I suck the most- but after an embarrassingly long hour, I had them all done and was on to my next task: the citrus supreme (peeled and membrane-free citrus segment wedges), which is luckily not terribly challenging and fairly quick to execute. Next, I moved onto the apple mustard, which is a spicy-citrusy sauce that goes into the tuna tartar made from onion, ginger, yuzu juice, apples, mustard, and soy sauce and finally peeled, separated, and removed all the white stringy pith bits from the segments of mandarins.
As the hustle of service began, I was keenly paying attention to all of the dishes and which components went into each- I was working Garde Manger with a friendly cook, Kaleb, and eventually, I was able to jump in and help. We made chestnut soup with brown butter and caramelized apples; bitter green salad with dungeness crab and citrus; fried skate fish tacos; steamed pork buns; fried oysters in a heavenly matsutake bouillon with cabbage and daikon; gooey and succulent hoisin chicken wings; lettuce cups with browned spicy chicken thigh meat and glistening scallions; tossed greens with pear, walnuts, and a pear vinaigrette; apple mustard tuna tartar with asian pear, avocado, and fried rice puffs;and beautiful hamachi sashimi with avocado and toasted sesame. At the end of service, Chef treated me to a 5 course tasting in the back of the kitchen- I felt so spoiled and it was absolutely amazing! Staging is a bit like extemporaneous speech at debate tournaments- you have nothing but your own knowledge and wit to lean upon as you are thrust into a world that is busily whirling around you with little time to check-in and make sure that you’re whirling right in step with them- but I always loved Extemp, and so it seems no surprise that I should love staging as well. It’s often those steps into the unknown and the intimidating that help us to learn more about ourselves and in 2013, I expect to take more than a step- I intend to make an odyssey!
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One of my favorite TED Talks about different orchestral conductor styles- for any of you whom have ever worked in a kitchen, the comparison between an orchestra conductor and a chef/ expeditor will not seem like such a stretch. Hope you enjoy!
Crispy-Skin Salmon atop Creamy Forbidden Rice Napa Fruits and Vegetables, Garden Greens and Blooms, Crispy Serrano Twist, and Spicy Cider Gastrique The story of this dish, is the story of me. The flavors and ingredients have been adopted along my many journeys … Continue reading
I remember the day that our library at the CIA Gresytone got the full volume set of Modernist Cuisine- a slew of my classmates each grabbing a volume and gawking over the pages as if we had never before seen a book; and to be fair, we’d never before seen a cookbook like this. The images vibrantly leaped off of the pages and into our hungry minds- we carefully turned each page with wonder, impatient to see what the next had to offer. We left the library that day talking about all of the new techniques and ideas learned from spending time with those books and to hear the story today behind this important work from the man himself, Nathan Myhrvold, gives me the urge to visit that set and learn in awe again.
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As some of you may know, I, along with 29 fellow hopefuls, have been selected out of 160 candidates to apply for two BasqueStage Scholarships sponsored by Sammic. My BasqueStage Candidate Video is the first step in a series of application procedures resulting in a final decision to be announced this November- the winners will spend 3-6 months working with some of the Basque areas top Chefs in Spain. It is an absolutely incredible opportunity and an excellent challenge, to boot! So…. for those of you who may not know me… here I am! So happy to “meet” you! Hope you enjoy, and have a lovely day!