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line cook.



cooking restaurants life



Updated: 2017-11-29T04:34:18.658-08:00

 



Our Kickstarter Update

2012-07-22T12:04:42.688-07:00

10 Days to go on our project and we're 25% funded.  This project has been a rewarding collaboration between friends and its been amazing to see who has made videos, pledged, and helped spread the word.  We still have a ways to go, but the experience thus far has been...fulfilling. 

Everyday we're updating the project with new videos from friends and our extended family talking about why theyre backing our project.  In some cases its a famous chef, in other cases its a farmer, or just a regular customer.  Today's video features Victor Alvarado.

Vic and I used to be Hapa Ramen.  2 of us.  We had no idea what we were doing, We worked 16 hour days 7 days a week for months.  He was a brand new cook back then, and I raked him over the coals every day.  He was tenacious, exceedingly positive, and turned into a different person during the course of that first year.  Then he headed off to my alma mater, Nopa to work the grill, slug out 500 cover services, and be a part of one of the greatest kitchens in San Francisco. 

And now he's coming back to us to help open Hapa. 

Check out his video and the others, spread the word, and pledge if you can.  Every dollar counts.

Also, he can skate like a maniac. 
allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/23251330" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500">




Hapa's Kickstarter Campaign

2012-07-17T10:14:39.952-07:00

Two years and change into the life of Hapa Ramen, and we are nearing completion on our tiny little noodle shop. My first restaurant. The culmination of all those days of slinging noodles in the rain, hauling stoves and stock pots around, and hustling as hard as we could to feed the masses. Hapa has been without a doubt the most difficult thing that I've ever done in my life. But with all of the trials and tribulations has come some of the greatest rewards. The people I've met and worked with, the guests that we have fed...it's been life changing. So now linecook reader, I ask for your support. If this blog has meant anything to you, or helped you along the way, then please share the link or support our kick starter campaign to help us make our restaurants kitchen come alive. The past two years have been murder on our equipment, and with your support we can upgrade and start phase 2 of Hapa's young life. Any little bit helps, be it a retweet, or a pledge. Thanks. Richie Nakano



Chaos.

2012-01-03T22:14:42.166-08:00

I'm standing in the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park, and I should be paying attention to the cook carefully pouring liquid nitrogen into my cocktail.  She's explaining the entire process and ingredients, and i'm pretty sure there is some clever allusion to a digestif or something, but I dont hear any of it.  It's not because im disinterested, or because I have had a dozen glasses of wine. (OK, that may have had a little to do with it.)  It's because it is SO FUCKING NOISY IN THERE.  And I feel completely at home.  Whenever I have been fortunate enough to have been invited into a fine dining kitchen it has always been whispery quiet.  They usher you in, everyone sort of looks up at you and half smiles, and you more or less skulk around in the bitch corner until your time is up, and they show you to the door.  EMP however is a mosh pit;  It's fast and loud and crowded and for fucks sake I just want to jump in there right now and cook.  The composed chaos of it all sends shivers down my spine.  Fine dining is so much sexier when it's humanized like this.

I haven't written here in a long time.  And as much as I would like to blame that on being too busy with maintaining the business and fatherhood, the truth is that I haven't had anything to say.  Linecook had its run and served (and still to some extent, serves) its purpose.  I'm proud of it and thankful for everything it has brought me.  But the truth is that I look at the person that wrote it and he is not here.  I do not recognize him anymore.

In the past year my career has reached a point where things started to settle down a bit.  Hapa found its groove, I added two amazing chefs to my team, and the food started to really reach people.  It seemed like a good time to step back and take stock of where we had been, where we would be going.  A time to focus in on everything that had slipped through my fingers during that first difficult year.  Instead I wanted things to be hard again.  I craved the struggle.  The person who started this blog at one point found refuge in cooking.  It was a place to find peace.  Then somewhere along the way the stress fractures started to give way and a volatile mix of worry, self doubt, and anger...and for fucks sake it felt glorious.  There was no more potent cocktail that could make my adrenaline flow and force me to focus in.

Fiending for chaos is not a sustainable option for healthy living.  When things are good you're on edge.  When service is going smoothly you become irrational, irritated.  Instead of bearing hardship through the beauty and intensity life offers you, instead you face it alone.  You mistake your anger for quiet stoicism...dignity.  Poor choices are made...professional and personal.  Nothing will ever be good enough ever again--only youre too blind to see it.

What is a life well spent? Is it cooking and stars?  Is it accolades and endorsement deals and making a buck?  Is it a million followers or facebook friends?  What the fuck is the point if the pleasure is only coming from the difficult parts? 


notes
  • i just realized last week--almost all of the people in my life currently are people that create/make things...
  • new york.  different this last time around
  • dj shadows the less you know, the better is brilliant
  • im deeply grateful for Coi, because I cant really see it existing in any other city besides SF
  • Svet thinks we should do a podcast
  • Mostly this felt incoherent, but like Violet says, sometimes you have to write
  • Kids crying.  Gotta go.





What happened, part 1.

2011-05-25T00:24:24.691-07:00

8/25/08Im standing at the expo station as the clock nears 1am at Nopa. Corey is crouched eating a burger quietly, and Paulie and Ponder are starting to break down their mise. Paulie shoots me a look with his eyebrows raised--the kind of look that says "Fuck dude. That was a rough one." Ponder's usual jubilance is absent...possibly being weighed down by his soaked through chef coat and bandanna. Corey throws his arm around Ponder and shakes him, shouting "FUCK YEAH, DUDE! 500 COVERS!" not sounding completely convinced that hes actually excited about it. I turn to Paulie. "When we leave here Paulie, nothing will be hard ever again. There is nothing that any kitchen can throw at us after we've been through this. It almost makes me worried that anything we do after this will be too easy. We might get bored. We should quit now while we're ahead." This will wind up being the dumbest thing I have ever said in my entire life.8/31/2009Coming back from a vacation to New York, my head was spinning. I was being considered for a chefs job. Chef de cuisine. New York City. In a great restaurant. I immediately spoke to my current Chef about it, and woke up early for phone interviews, and sweated about impending tastings, and what it would mean to move across the country. I was nervous, and doubtful, but felt completely ready to take the next step. Then a week before everything was set to jump off, life intervened, and the whole thing fell through.Standing with my Chef as he loads his car for an off-site event, I tell him the whole story, then mutter this:"I think im gonna open a ramen spot.""I think that's a good idea. Do you have a name?""Yeah. Im gonna call it Hapa Ramen."6/16/2010I have planned poorly.It's Wednesday, the day before our big farmers market debut. A month earlier I was getting my teeth kicked in at Coffee Bar, and im not going to re-cap it all over again here. The past month has been all about redemption, and planning, and building myself back up. But here, in this moment, as I prep by myself, (Victor is in school, Susanna and I have not met, and my other cook had to go to her stripper job. Seriously.) I realize that I am deeper in the weeds than I have ever been in my entire life. My last day at Nopa was Sunday, and there are several things that I have not taken into account:cooking is easy. driving around picking up everything because you dont have proper accounts set up with vendors is really fucking hardmaking 300 portions of noodles all by yourself takes a very, very long time.fuck that. prepping for 300 covers all by yourself, no matter what it is, more or less sucks.going out for tequila on monday was a mistakestrippers are less than reliable, especially when youre not paying them.In the midst of all of my stress, and multi-tasking, La Cocina informs me that the kitchen will be closing at 5. It's Wednesday. They always close at 5 on Wednesday. They told me this. It was in my paperwork.I. Am. Fucked.As I calculate how many portions of noodles I can knock out per hour, and eye the case of snap peas that I havent even touched yet, and watch the clock inch towards 5, utter panic sets in. La Cocina agrees to let me stay until 6...then 7...then 8...but seriously dude, you HAVE to be out by 9. I pack up all of my noodle mise, and 5 hours later my home kitchen is covered in flour. I blanch snap peas and chard, and through kindness (and pity) Nopa allows me to store all of my prep in their walk-in for the night. Nothing would ever be hard again? Seriously. What the fuck.I drive home, and sleep for one hour. I'm not questioning the choices ive made, but as I lay down in bed, with my two month old son sleeping a few feet away, I do start to question my cooking ability, my intelligence, and how much easier it would have been to have just taken that well paying job in NYC. The first Hapa Ramen service starts in 5 hours. [...]



2010, you were a motherfucker.

2010-12-30T23:32:18.258-08:00

2010, you were a motherfucker.  Without a doubt, you have been the most difficult 12 months of my life.  If we were cellmates, you would've had me in lipstick.  I was your bitch.  2010, you ambushed me in the dark, shoved my face up against the mirror, and forced me to look at myself for who and what I am.  I fucking hate you 2010.  And I am forever indebted to you for everything that you gave me.2010, you revealed my weaknesses by slapping me in the face.  Very public failures that led to sleepless nights that led to wildly aggressive, mildly productive days that led to more sleepless nights that somehow led me to a logical idea of how to proceed in the most efficient way.  You took my dangerous overconfidence and stripped it down to it's core; an inflated ego resting on a wobbly scaffolding made up of too many compliments, too few challenges, and the idea that I could do anything, at any time.  2010, at a certain point you were beating me down in such a brutal way that you made me feel deeply connected to the world around me.  Turmoil, frailty, unrest, rage.  You forced me to find a way to escape myself if only through running until my legs cramped and my lungs ached, and I was far, far away, with no choice but to walk back home alone, insecurities and fears taunting me the whole way.2010, you made me smarter, by showing me how stupid I am.  It's been a hell of thing, being out there alone, and trying to figure things out...especially after I thought I had things all figured out.  I made my decisions based on a frail mix of past experiences, instinct, and common sense.  And this would work fine for me until I realized I had been being completely inefficient; burning up money, hours, and my teetering sanity.  Then, one moment at a time the pieces would start to come together, and I would quietly curse myself and let in a smile, if only for a moment.  And to think now that I have it all figured out would be ridiculous.  I'm sure that in six months ill be feeling many of these same frustrations with my past self.  For as smart as I like to think I am, I sure am a fucking idiot sometimes.2010, you forced me to be better.  If for only one reason.  For the first time in my life succeeding had nothing to do with trying to advance my career, or ego, or money.  Cooking wasn't about being the best, or the guest, or self-fullfilment.  2010, you gave me the most profound/terrifying experience of my life when you gave me my son, and you showed me a whole new way to approach my work.  There is no motivation in the world like working for the survival of another person, and as a cook, to experience this...it's illuminating.  Every goal, every idea, every plate, every task, they all end up relating back to who it is that you're working for.  Suddenly the way people react to your craft becomes so much more..personal.  To impact my work this year was to impact my son, and even if it made me unreasonable at times, it absolutely made me cook better, and try harder.2010, through you I accomplished so much.  Achievement.  Hurt.  Humiliation.  Elation.  The making of new friendships.  The transformation of old friends into enemies.  The abandonment of the familiar, the safe, for the great unknown.  You gave me a son.  You gave me the feeling that everything and nothing was impossible.  2010, you scared the fuck out of me, and never let me act like a little bitch about it.  I hate you 2010.  And I thank you for every single minute.whats been going on the past 9 months:  SF, father & son, colton, colton, vic, colton, work, sold out, mer mer, last days at nopa, colton, to-do lists[...]



some old stuff.

2010-08-26T22:57:50.865-07:00

a single note:this blog isnt dead.  it's not going away, its not over.  here's some stuff that's just been sitting here for months.quotes and conversations.  Me:  Is your back still fucked up?Goose:  I think it's my hip.Me:  You know what's good for that?Maritess:  Boning down.Goose:  Boning down nasty style.Me:  Yoga.  Geez you guys.Dega:  Have you ever been to Cony Island?  Me:  No.Dega:  They have this game there called shoot the freak.  You shoot this raver with purple hair.Me:  Yeah, but it's different now.Dega:  It is?Me:  Yeah.  Now it's called shoot the hipster.  And instead its some asshole with a red beanie and a fixie.Dega:  I hate you."Some girls are too nice to tell a guy no.  That's how I ended up on a date with a guy that worked at the renaissance fair."-Maritess"Come on Pito, show me your dark side.  You know, I don't think it's that dark.  I think it's kinda white."-Camaal, talking to Eddie.Merrell:  Gerardo, you look like Julius Ceasar.  Gerardo:  Does that make you wanna fuck me?Eddie:  Hey Dega. Dega:  Yeah.Eddie:  Guess what i'm gonna do tomorrow?Dega:  What?Eddie:  Bone down regular style. Gerardo:  Regular.Me:  Camaal, you don't want to lose ten pounds.  You'll look like Eddie.Camaal:  I don't wanna look like Eddie.Me:  No.Eddie:  What.  Are you talking about my stinky pussy?(Merell and I are bickering.  I pass her a pan of chickens mid argument.)Me:  And take your fucking cock, because its the only kind you're getting!Merrell:  Well...I don't have anything to say to that.  So fuck you.Eddie:  Here's a good one.  Wanna know how much of a pussy I am?  I cried through the entire movie "Up."Me:  (Hysterical laughing)Merrell:  Why are you volunteering this information?Eddie:  Have you seen it?  It's a very touching movie.Al:  Fire back 40.Me:  I'm sorry Al, I couldn't hear you because I was too busy laughing about Eddie crying through the entire movie "Up."Maritess:  Have you seen it?  It's a very touching movie.from top:  pig diagram, restrictions apply, mer-mer's birthday, making james freeman cringe, pigs head, burning towels, butchery, tomato, amy brown, los angeles, a big ass mimosa.[...]



The stage. A guide.

2010-03-09T11:44:19.970-08:00

Question of the week/fill in the blanks: on a stage, you should ___. On a stage you should not ___. What makes a good stagiere?amigadehelado@linecooka stage should pay attention, ask questions, taste things. Get out of the way when neccessary. Don't set stage hours by a "clock"Tanukipdx@linecook once had a stage grab my favorite yanagiba ($$$$Japanese slicer) and cut themselves a piece of bread w/it. end of stage.Tanukipdx@linecook a good stage silently&invisibly gets stuff done...like a little mise en place fairy. a bad stage snacks on people's miseBenjamin_Parks@linecookOn a stage you quietly take notes You should not start telling your glory stories of all the other restaurants you have worked in.tournant@linecook -should//STFU, do what we tell yo, stay out of the way...should not//show off your skull n knives tattoo, hit on serversadoxograph@linecook on a stage you should absorb and remember the best and worst of what you see, esp little detailsadoxograph@linecookon a stage you should not ever say to yourself well, I'm not getting paid so I don't have to (clean, be on time, fill the blank)PrixFixeOnline@linecookYou should work your arse off, you should not stand around after finishing a task. Always ask chef for next task, speed is a must.jrnavlag@linecook U should work and learn. U should not let the pay or lack of it be your drive.  Do your research.  Then shut up about it.ingridc@linecookYou should shut up, be nice, listen and follow directions. You should not touch a cook's mise unless asked. Or get mouthy, ever.ingridc@linecook p.s.-last wk's stage told chef he wants to trail our killer pasta man Javi.. so he could show him how to make it right #dieinafirerandomplacement@linecook a good stage contributes to the team and fits in with the teamrandomplacement@linecook work and learn, run your mouthGchef703@linecook What makes a good stagiere? Hard-Working, Humble, Passionate person who Loves food and is willing to do anything to learn!Gchef703@linecookyou should not Be a Pre Madonna!!! Should not be late, ask for daysoff, breaks or a special jacket to show off to your friendsGchef703@linecook you should Be a Sponge Listen! Learn! and ask a million questions even if they are stupid questions. ask em!You're about to explode.  There's too far too much blood and oxygen coursing through your veins, and your eyes your pupils are so dialated that they would catch the attention of any police officer you came across.  You just finished your stage, and it went so beautifully that you're too wound up to eat, or drink, or even talk about it.  This is one of those perfectly fleeting moments, so you just sit there on the bus, missing your stop, so you can soak it all up.  You start Tuesday as the new fish cook.  Unless:You blew it.  It seemed like your stage was going ok, but right around the end of the first turn the sous told you that you could take off.  You considered protesting, but instead you decided to change, have a smoke and get a bite to eat.  Sitting down at the bar, you order your food and a drink, and sometime later the chef tells you that you're welcome back anytime...but no job is discussed.  And you dont ask about one.  Your stage is over, and you wasted it.  So how did this happen?Prep:You went into the restaurant between lunch and dinner service dressed appropriately, resume and knives in hand.  For a week you've been reading the menu on-line, and bringing yourself up to speed on the background of the chef and the restaurant itself.  After your chat with the chef, you let him know that you're ready to stage that evening if he would like.  He tells you to come back Friday instead.  On Friday you show up early, smiling and introducing yourself to any staff that you come across.  You take your knives and a spoon out of your kit that you slimmed down a bit, and settle in with any prep work that they'll give you--herb picking, cut[...]



Composure.

2010-01-18T12:09:07.236-08:00

Would you rather work with someone that was fast but a completely out of control, or a person that was slower but composed and in control?CookhouseSF@linecook As one of the latter I'd like to work with the former KellyNg1@linecook i would take slower over sloppy anyday. seems easier to speed up a nice slow snail than to tame a rabid slob.KyleCWilkinson@linecook Fast and out of control. Would balance my slower and more composed workstyle. theNeilD@linecook What about fast and composed with poise; that's true talent. Those are the people that make you better.aphexplotz@linecook Slow and composed. I've worked with both, and I'd rather be down one than have someone I can't predict or control.rupski23@linecookcomposed and in control. no question about it. the kitchen is crazy enough that if your leader is spazzing then its gonna be bad..FattedCalf@linecookComposed. Definitely composed. In my experience, people who go too fast and don't think can really put a banana in the tailpipe. tournant@linecook slow/in control, for sure. fast/out of control=messy, doesn't listen, takes shortcutsGuyArnone@linecook fast&out of control = slow for the extra time spent fixing Speedy's mistakes.gardenstatechef@linecook what's the end product? give me speed and insanity if the plates are perfect.jesachrist@linecook slower and controlled. Working too fast creates more problems than it solves, and in the long run slows down everyonemost_impressive@linecook Slower, but in control. Speed can be taught, but accuracy and commitment to perfection is more valuable, IMO.TheNPA@linecook All headway gained by being fast is lost in the ER while the Doc stitches Speedy Gonzales back up.MatthewSievert@linecook in it to win it baby. Planning will allow for swift execution.cookerguy@linecook Slower and composed, just not too slow. Fast and out of control disrupts others as well.ingridc@linecookIf I had to choose I'd go door #2. Out of control cook drags the whole ship down w/ them. Slow affects the line too, but less so.ingridc@linecook (and for the record I've been both quite enough, thanks!)Benjamin_Parks@linecook Slower but in control. Chaos always creates more work (cleaning, fixing, etc), so quick chaos just produces more work faster.cnewton9 @linecookneither, I always try to teach the kids that efficiency=speed vs accuracy, fast but sloppy no good, slow but perfect also no buenoGchef703@linecook Slow,Composed and in control FTW! They can always gain speed later. But sometimes speed is what you need! good question.stresscake@linecookabsolutely slow composed and in control. Frenzy causes stressful miserable work environment. Calmness is more productive over LTJerry:It's looking like a slow Tuesday night, and the cooks are coasting through their prep period, all laughs and smiles. There's a lightness in the air, and there are plans being made for days off. A special family meal is on the stove, and reggae plays on the dining room sound system. Everyone is a quiet shadow of their usual kitchen self. Except for Jerry. Jerry has his headphones in, playing Pantera so loudly that the cooks across the kitchen can hear it. He bounces around nervously, and just before service he jumps around and rolls his head like a boxer getting ready for a fight. The kitchen will do 135 covers tonight. Jerry will treat it like he just defeated the Roman army.Denise:The first thing Denise does when she comes in is crack a joke and say hello to everyone in the kitchen. She'll breeze through prep with a smile on her face. Then when things get busy on the second turn, she will completely lose her shit. There will be muttering under her breath, mise slammed around, and a constantly shaking head--like each order on her station is a personal insult to her mother. Denise will stop calling back tickets completely, until things escalate with her sous chef to the point o[...]



2009.

2009-12-29T11:43:31.533-08:00

Here I sit, at the end of 2009, and it feels like everything is different.  None of the details have changed;  I still live in San Francisco, and I still cook at Nopa as a sous chef.  I'm still writing this blog.  But when I look in the mirror, or have a quiet moment to myself, things feel different.  2009 was a crazy year for me.  It was a good year for me.  In 2009 this blog seemed to find its place.  Through things that seem as trivial as a twitter account, or a podcast, I met people and made friendships that are deeply important to me.  Through countless emails I was able to connect with cooks from all over the world.  As everything seemed to be expanding and moving towards one big interpersonal disconnect, the opposite ended up happening.  My world got smaller.  Then I turned 30, and came to realize that I needed to take life a little more seriously.  Soul searching, introspection, whatever.  I made some decisions, and decided to stick to them.  Then I woke up one day, and wow.  Things had changed.2010 is a little scary to think about.  A friend of mine said to me "2010 is the first year I haven't been excited about."  I had never thought about it like that, and im not sure that's my sentiment.  But it does feel like a giant, scary beast that I have to tackle...like im getting into the ring with a faceless terror.  In the following year im going to to be faced with figuring out whether im a better writer or a better cook.  There's a chance that this blog could end in 2010.  There isnt an infinite amount of topics for me to write about here.  Sometimes I feel like im just regurgitating the same old garbage.  Add to that the fact that im going to be a father, and want to open a restaurant this year, and things start to get very cloudy and scary and im suddenly very aware that nothing feels perfect or right, but things just are.  It's an amazing thing to be faced with the rest of your life.  I thought I knew what it would feel like, and how I would deal with it.  I don't.  And I suspect that's perfectly normal.The thing is, its not like anything is actually ending.  If anything, things are just beginning.  After a year like 2009, where things were so good and changed so much, I can only imagine what's coming.  It's possible that just being daunted about knowing that you have to make something for yourself is enough to leave you shaking...but maybe its better to try to run through all of the insecurity and bullshit now, before everyone is toasting at midnight.So whats next?  What's going to happen come July, or next December?  Shit, what's going to happen next week?  Does the fear or uncertainty ever go away?  Do things ever start to feel right, or perfect?  Or is it more important to just let things happen?My Best Meals of 2009:CoiFlour & Water, every time5 PointsIppudoFreeman'sPlaces I Ate At, Often:Flour & WaterFish & FarmOut the DoorKatana - YaNopalitoArguello MarketStuff I Couldn't Live Without:A good penThe iphoneMy pocket knifeA Moleskin, even if it is falling apartFriendsThe Pixies, TV on the Radio, Old OutkastAccess to TwitterFlickrMy MacbookCulinary Fantasy League:My Team:Raw - Michael BlackGarde Manger - Jon SmulewitzPasta - Micheal TuskVeg/Garnish - Mourad LalouFish - Stuart BriozaMeat - Ryan FarrSous Chef - Daniel PattersonChef - Thomas KellerEddie's Team:Sautee - Charles PhanVeg - Jeremy FoxGarde Manger - Taylor BottechierGrill - Ryan FarrPasta - Tom McNaughtonSous Chef - Me (haha!)Chef - Jacques PepinMer-Mer's Team, based solely on looks:Michael BlackBrandon JewTom McNaughtonJay FosterMongoosequotes and conversations:Me:  There's snowmobiles.  And guns.Kitty:  Can we shoot guns while we're on the snowmobiles?Me:  I guess so.Kitty:  Wow.  It's like a Mariah Carey video.(Merrell is hitting me in the shoulder, over and over again)Paulie:  [...]



What is bad cooking?

2009-12-16T12:38:56.035-08:00

Question of the week: What is bad cooking?jusdeveau@linecook, Bad cooking is usually doing something with little regard to the final outcome, but just to mark it off the prep list.SpecialDark @linecook What is bad cooking? Not shaving a second off a tedious task. Not learning anything new. Losing respect for the craft.zellicious@linecook bad cooking-when the food tastes bad and you expected it to be good. chains etc, you know what to expect, bad is unexpected ickjrnavlag@linecookBad cooking when U not only not care abt wht U're doing, but U dont care abt the outcome. lk getting "steamed" fish frozen insideingridc@linecook agree with @Tanukipdx re: bad cooking. Also, for me, cooking and intent have always been connected. Poor intent = bad cooking.Tanukipdx@linecook BadCooking? It's cooking without thought or care, soul or emotion.Bad cooking & bad fucking have much in common.swedishmike@linecook Taking good ingredients and making them taste bad. JessPav@linecook Bad cooking is canned corn, canned green beans and being told "If you don't like it, DON'T EAT IT!" cloudsandcoffee@linecook when you're in a foul mood and all your negative energy goes into the food... then you eat it. bad cooking! addycat@linecook bad cooking lacks heart CraigHatfield@linecook Not honoring the ingredients. Loss of good technique in the face of flash technology. jcooks@linecook bad cooking is cooking without love or care for the ingredients, the consumer of the food or yourself. janessao@linecook Mine. ;)MatthewSievert@linecook"bad cooking" You know the right way, but you skimp and don't give the ingredient, specifically an animal the respect if deservesKitchenEntropy@linecook bad cooking is lack of passion, care, and self pride. usually found in burn outs and money chasers. oh and applebees and chilis. ChefinProgress@linecook Bad cooking is when you cease to care what you are doing. swedishmike@linecook Taking good ingredients and making them taste bad. pleddy@linecook When you are focusing on new flavor combinations or plating without mastering basic cooking techniques. laurafrofro@linecook Often it involves underseasoning.fallwitch@linecook Bad cooking = cooking w/o heart. You don't need passion but you have to want to make the best of the ingredients in front of you. savorykitchen@linecook Bad cooking is cooking w/out care: either bad ingred, not tasting, forgetting the person who will eat the food you prepare. m_twang@linecookOr as a very good saucier once told me (repeatedly) "garbage in, garbage out". But he said it with a heavy NY accent which is a +. m_twang@linecook Bad cooking is a lack of uderstanding. It's the easiest equation quality ingredients and a bit of care equal good results. swedishmike@linecook Taking good ingredients and making them taste bad.It's a cold Tuesday night, and you're on a cook's night out; something your crew has looked forward to for days. The plan is to hit a string of new restaurants, eating as much as you can, then topping it all off with bourbon and shameful behavior. Rules are in place: no eating anywhere that anyone has been before. And no salads, pizza, or fancy renditions of mac n cheese.Things started out well enough. There were some tasty fried bits, the required offal dish, a polite terrine. But the in the past hour, things have taken a turn. There was raw fish paired with fried cheese. There was a risotto that was so rich and salty that your fish cook polished off the wine, straight from the bottle. And the lamb saddle was so over-techniqued that your best-of-friends hot apps cooks started screaming at each other over which part was the meat, and which was the marrow-wrapped tongue and kidney croquette. And it was cold. Th[...]



You can't go home again. But you can eat dinner there.

2009-11-29T11:54:58.546-08:00

It's two hours after service, and Joey, Angelo and I are standing in a cold, quiet kitchen.  Angelo is layering cured duck legs into confit, while Joey and I de-vein foie gras for terrine.  There's a hotel pan simmering on the stove with a thermometer bobbing in it; our poor attempt at sous vide.  We drink beers, and talk food, and even after a busy service there's a buzz in the room.  Everything feels good.  Simple.  Around 1am we cook eggs for each other, plan the next day, and walk out with a lightness in our step and our heads held high.  Everything is exciting, and constantly changing.  We're line cooks.  In a year everything will be different; but at this moment we're like a child taking their first steps.  We have the whole world ahead of us. That year passes, and our collective faces have been washed over with a hard gaze and a stack of clipboards.  We're still killing it on the line and learning new techniques and flavors...but things have changed.  Instead of inspiring late night projects, we inventory, and code invoices, and drink.  Heavily.  Day to day operations have become less about growth and more about grinding away.  300 covers is no longer a challenge.  We take on new dishes, and try to out-technique each other, but for the most part the spark has faded.The adolescence of your cooking career is a lot like your own adolescence.  You're confused, excited, your joints ache and you're probably horny all the time.  You feel like you're falling in love, every day.  It's scary, and fun, and your heart is racing so much that you start to worry about high blood pressure.  You obsess over cookbooks and websites the way a teenager obsesses over pop music and corny vampire novels.  You're just trying to survive, every day.  Is there any way to get back to this place?  To the excitement and hunger you had then?  Would you be regressing?  Is it even possible to re-capture that old feeling?Every cook wants to become the chef; they crave the responsibility, and the control.  As you move up, you begin to notice something else:  Every chef yearns to be back on the line, cooking again.  They see their cooks, making constant progress, learning so quickly...and its almost painful.  Were you a quick learner that just feels average now?  Are cooks doomed to become that jaded chef that only has those sweet memories of the days on the line?notes:buddha monk training.  not as easy as you might think.best western has a completely different meaning in our kitchen.one year on twitter.  dang.you ever go back and listen to the music you were into when you were 15, and realize that there are layers and lyrics you never understood?podcast season 2 sometimes feels like throwing confetti into the air and just kinda seeing where it lands.writing this was maddening, and part of me kinda hates it.quotes and conversations.Me:  OK Gerardo.  Who would you rather bone down with.  Adam West Batman, or Christian Bale Batman?Gerardo:  Adam West?Me:  Yes.  Adam West.  Batman.  Adam fucking West.Gerardo:  Adam West?Me:  If you were my kid, I would beat you.  I would just beat the fuck out of you.Gerardo:  Who's the other guy?Me:  Christian Bale.Eddie:  Trick question Gerardo.  George Clooney Batman!Me:  Of course it's George Clooney Batman.  I hate you Gerardo.Me:  I had yogurt, granola, a bartlett pear, and 2 cups of coffee.  Then I ran three miles and did 200 push-ups and 200 sit-ups.Eddie:  I had cassoulet and I boned down.  I win.Corey:  Hey dude.  Can you help me make pumpkin or squash pasta?Me:  No.  That would be...wait, really?  Pumpkin pasta?  I mean, I can help you make spinach pasta, or tomato pasta.  We could have tricolore pasta.Corey:  Hey dude.  Fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you.Eddie:  Hey dude!  I bro[...]



Podcast 2.6 - What is progressive?

2009-11-17T11:33:19.691-08:00

What is progressive in terms of cooking?  Is it molecular?  Is it looking back to move forward?  Is it a bong full of whiskey?  This was our topic on this podcast, which was graciously hosted by Eddie Lau. (hotfoodporn.com) Amy Brown was there, as well as Katrina Dixon. (@ramekinparty)  There was food, and booze, and laughs.  Things were pretty loose for, oh, 15 minutes or so...but its all entertainment.  Enjoy. 

ps
If you want to play our drinking game, take a sip every time you hear the word "progressive."  You will probably black out.

Opening music is Mullet Head by The Beastie Boys

00:30 - Our worst intro ever.
2:43 - Eddie's fortress of solitude.
4:11 - Why are you making me look dumb in front of our friends?
5:15 - Bong sounds.
6:30 - You guys are making my first time really nice.
7:25 - Alright we're at 7 minutes, and...
8:50 - Well, i've never worked in an office, so...
11:34 - No dude.  Im protesting.
14:23 - Annnnd finally onto topic.  David Chang/Chris Cosentino/Chris Kostow 7x7 Panel
17:55 - Oh wow, we've got a subject!  What the fuck is progressive?
23:47 - And they're probably girls.
25:33 - The asparagus problem.
30:00 - We had to bring up Achatz.
33:45 - What's not progressive?
42:58 - I don't like looking at cookbooks...
44:30 - If you take a drink every time you hear the word progressive...
47:06 - Second devil's advocate of this podcast...
56:03 - Why would you buy the cookbook if not to cook out of it?
1:00:50 - Michael Ruhlman is a bad ass.
1:06:14 - I was typing angrily.
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Podcast 2.5 - Jon Bonne and Kevin Kelley. Wine!

2009-11-09T12:03:06.962-08:00

We've only done a couple of off site podcasts, but this was the first time we left the 415 altogether.  Amy and I had an interesting drive up to Santa Rosa, where we hung out at Salinia with wine maker Kevin Kelley and wine writer Jon Bonne. 

There is an absurd amount of information crammed into this podcast...If you cook, and you feel like you dont understand wine as much you would like, this might help.  And of course, we cap it off with plenty of sillyness at the end.


Opening music is "Damaged Goods" by Gang of Four.

2:45 - We're not talking wine...I don't know if there's any wine on this table.
4:20 - I just shot it.
10:55 - It's similar to cooking....
17:30 - If I made the same wine year after year...
19:32 - This is hurting the case for the Nopa frozen food line.
22:29 - So we won't see your wine in Vegas anytime soon?
27:42 - The case for whole clusters.
35:33 - Most of them are under twenty dollars a bottle...
42:42 - What Wolfgang Weber does at restaurants to get a great bottle of wine
46:15 - Jon's favorite wine varietals and regions
49:45 - It's easy to blow off a category of wine, but...
57:20 - What restaurants do you go to for interesting wine?
1:00:00 - Enough wine...
1:10:21 - Are we in the 707? 
1:14:40 - I feel uncomfortable where this conversation is going...
1:18:56 - Calling Corey.

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Being present.

2009-11-02T11:45:46.942-08:00

Your girlfriend broke up with you.  Your dog died.  Rent is late.  Your car broke down.  Your roof is leaking, and you're so broke that you cant wash your work clothes.  Everything is fucked.  You're completely overwhelmed and miserable, and now you have to catch the bus to work.Everyone has been there.  Life gets so complicated and messy that spending twelve hours in a kitchen seems impossible...and it's only your Monday.  You walk around in a haze of distraction, barely present.  In the middle of a pick-up, the meat cook nudges up to you and taps you on the shoulder. "Hey dude.  You gonna plate that risotto?"They say to leave all of your problems at the door when you come into work.  Be present and aware, every day.  Just cook, and you get to forget about everything.  And to a certain extent, I agree with all of this.  The problem with this approach is that every cook handles their problems differently.  Rudy might get drunk before he comes in.  Leslie will slam her oven and refrigerator doors all night.  Doug will try to laugh it all off, barely containing his misery, and David just might break down and cry around the time the second turn is sitting down.  It's a funny thing to be asked create such highs for others while feeling so fucking low.  You're not a robot.  So I say take a different approach.Dont ignore it, embrace it.  Let it feed you.  Immerse yourself in it.  Let every single bit of whats on your mind seep in and consume you, to the point where you feel like you cant take it anymore, then go cook.  It will be horrible at first.  You'll feel overwhelmed, slow, and you'll barely be able to tell the difference between your spoons and knives.  You can handle it though;  You barely even notice when you cut and burn yourself anymore.  A little bit of adversity isnt going to kill you either.  As you go on, you'll start to have a little bit of clarity.  The intensity of your problem, coupled with the intensity of cooking, will help you to see things for how they really are.  Then suddenly you'll feel that lightness return to your step, and your focus will shift.  Your problems haven't actually gone away, but you're at least starting to feel better about them.Cooking is a place to find peace.  In all of the chaos and noise, a good cook is quiet, with their head down.  Their distractions become part of their focus.  Dealing with these problems on the line, instead of shutting off, or repressing, or simply trying to distract oneself can contribute to a stronger, more focused cook.  Sometimes making things really hard is the best way to move forward.notes:when you see us high-fiving, we're not congratulating each other, we're making fun of Marina guys.there are no death traps in our kitchenwhen asked to choose between david chang and chez pim, i'm going to choose the former.if you get a number, you buy beers.  that's the rule.hypothetical thursdays.  there are some very strange scenarios that come upquotes and conversations."I gotta admit.  I miss the Dick."-Ponder.  Was missing Eddie."Yeah dude.  I like sardines.  They're quick.  Like my lovemaking."-CoreyCorey:  Yeah dude!  Get in the fuckin' matrix!Me:  You want some trance music to get you in the matrix mood?  You've already got the green bandanna on.Corey:  Hey dude, you used to like house music, and my bandanna's the same color as the matrix.Me:  I just said that.Corey:  Really?Me:  So it's about this aspiring singer and neurotic comedy writer.  Annie Hall.  If she likes it, marry her.Corey:  And if she likes Best From Behind 2, marry her.Me:  Best From Behind?Corey:  Yeah.Me:  The porno you found at your Grandma's house?Corey:  Yeah."Hey dude.  She wants [...]



Teaching the Terrible Tournant.

2009-10-21T11:46:09.845-07:00

It's Thursday night, and your stomach is knotted.  It's the second day back from your weekend, and your station is just the way you like it.  Everything is in its place, your board is clean, and you got through prep quickly enough to sharpen your knife.  All of the best cooks are on the line tonight, and your chef de cuisine finally listened to you about the pasta app, using your idea.  Everything is going great, but your face is still crossed.  And the reason for your stress just stumbled into the kitchen and knocked over your salt.His name is Oliver, and tonight he's the tournant.  The idea is that Oliver has shown enough drive and raw skill to move off of the cold station, and get a chance to lend a hand and even try to fill in for a few orders as the night goes on.  Ideally, Oliver would already be proficient on all of the stations in the kitchen before being given this position.  But this is simply not the case.  The exec sees the tournant as a position to train a cook.  So as the night wears on, you will have Oliver on your station, trying not to fuck it all up.Around 8:30, the kitchen is a hot, sweaty mosh pit.  You've barely uttered two words, and there's a soft crease running across your forehead.  There's a quiet, aggressive focus driving you.  Oliver steps into your station on the pick up, holding a fish spat.  His hands are shaking like he's had too much Mountain Dew (which is probably accurate) and when he goes to plate, he cracks your perfectly cooked filets of sole in half.  Without missing a beat you drop another one, only to catch him saucing the duck...but not before he dribbles sauce across three other plates.  You wipe furiously, flip your fish, and send plates.  There are still five orders of pasta on your burners, and you catch Olivers gaze.  "Two and three.  Ill take the three.  Go."Oliver twirls the pasta around his tongs and goes to nestle the noodles gently, but his grip slips.  The pasta flings out of the spring loaded tongs and into the pile of chives you just cut a la minute.  You drop two more orders, race to cut more chives, and finish the plates.  Then you realize your sole re-fire scorched.There are two options in this situation:You grab Oliver by the collar of his chefs coat, slam him into the ice machine door, and shake him until his eyes bleed.  While you choke him with your forearm, you tell him that if he ever steps onto your station again, you will kill his entire family.  Your sous tries to pull you off of him, but not before you leave Oliver crumpled on the floor, shaking.  Walking away, you point at him.  "STAY. IN. YOUR. FUCKING. BITCH. CORNER."You clean your station down, cook the rest of the night on your own, and find Oliver during family meal.  Sitting down with him, he barely looks at you.  You look him in the eye, and pause for a moment.  You run down the laundry list of dumb shit he did tonight.  You re-assure him, and tell him that you had days like this too.  You make a plan for him to be back on your station Friday night, where you will slowly walk him through the pick ups.  Oliver has become your project.  Your responsibility.  Training and teaching a young cook is the seasoned vets job.  Sure, you could just show up every day and cook.  And when the green cook steps onto the station you are not required to give them much more than a grunt and growl.  But the goal in cooking is to pass on your craft.  The mark of a great cook is one that leaves a mark on all those around them.  In a way, your success will end up hinging on them.  As you progress through the kitchen, your ties to these cooks become all the more important.  It's no longer about your ow[...]



Do you cook?

2009-10-14T12:00:36.662-07:00

You've been on the meat station for eight months now, and after rotating through hot apps, pasta, and fish, you feel like you've found your niche.  In the beginning it was all bad;  missed temps, scorched lamb saddles, and over salted steaks.  But as time went on, you started to kill it.  There was fluidity in your movements, and a confidence in your approach.  You were quickly accepted as a member of the "A" team.  Service stopped being a struggle, and instead became second nature.  If your brigade was a sports team, you would easily be one of the star players.  Your ego grew a bit, but that was ok.  You really felt like a cook.It's just past midnight on Saturday, and you're at the bar with your crew.  Over a handful of beers and shots, you talk shit, and brag about how no one else can hold down your station like you do.  Everyone is patting themselves on the back, and feeling cocky.  When cooks from a chain restaurant down the street walk in, everyone puffs their chest out a bit more; your crew is the made up of the best cooks in town, and you know it.  You notice that your sous isn't having any part of the festivities, and is casting a sideways glance at you in particular...but you ignore it and take another shot.The next day you're breezing through prep, having a laugh with your crew, and still talking shit.  As you wipe down your station, your sous walks over and places an onion in front of you."What's up?""Brunoise.  I'm timing you.  Go."You hear the beep of his stopwatch as he looks sternly at you.  At first you laugh...then you realize he's not joking.  "Go motherfucker.  I said im timing you."You halve the onion, peel it, and a short time later, you're done.  He runs his hand through your brunoise, and holds up the ends of the onion, still whole."What about these?"You say nothing.  He sifts through the brunoise, picking out any irregular pieces."And this.  It's not very uniform, is it?  That took you over 2 minutes.  The extern does it faster than you."  He steps in closer to you."This was a fucking onion.  You talk a big game for a guy that barely brunoise."A cook that works dinner service is a different animal than the am prep cook.  PM cooks have more moves and a different energy level...but what about their skill set?  An am cook typically handles the bulk of the evenings prep work...while holding down a lunch station.  They braise your proteins, roast your veg, and generally make sure things are nice and tidy for when you step onto the station.  They receive none of the praise of the dinner cook...even though the PM shift is essentially just heating things up.  The pm shift can bang out hundreds of covers, but can they actually cook?Working at night, you risk becoming a line monkey.  Your entire service is spent in the haze of an adrenaline rush, constantly dipping and diving, just trying to keep things moving.  It's easy to become lost in this...to start to feel like you're progressing.  But is your skill set diminishing?  Have you stuck with the basics?  When you think about it, cooking a dinner service sometimes involves very little actual cooking.  You might be a hardcore sautee cook, or a creative genius when it comes to your menu...but when was the last time you made pasta, from start to finish?  Have you ever worked a prep shift?  Are you relying on someone else to do the bulk of your work?  Do you deserve to be called a "linecook?"notes:ty-flo?  that sounds like a bathroom problem. -eddie lau (hotfoodporn)if you were to cook as fast and hard as you could--like the deepest weeds you had ever been in--how long could you sustain that pace?Not so many people co[...]



Podcast 2.4 - Tablehopper. Marcia Gagliardi

2009-10-14T10:13:55.049-07:00

The best podcasts we do are the ones where almost nothing is planned, everyone loses track of time, and the conversation flows the whole time. This is certainly one of those podcasts. Marcia Gagliardi, (who writes Tablehopper) was our guest this time around. Also at the table was Eddie Lau (of Hot Food Porn) and Corey Nead. Marcia spoiled us with cheese, sparkling wine, and manhattans...and mixed the drinks out of her very awesome vintage executair traveling bar.

intro music is Award Tour by A Tribe Called Quest

1:27 - Smallpenises.com
8:18 - An unusual amount of time spent on love parade
9:54 - Do you think we could?
12:20 - What's your favorite place to drink a Manhattan?
14:23 - Inspiration from the internet?
22:18 - Bustling.
23:00 - What food media do ya'll consume?
27:32 - Chefs who go the TV route.
29:50 - What's your path Richie?
33:12 - Corey's path.
34:28 - Eddie's path.
36:06 - Is that like my ass?
41:28 - Top 3 cookbooks.
1:02:00 - The female chef thing.

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The end of the culinary world as you know it.

2009-10-06T11:46:56.000-07:00

The world is ending.  Restaurants are closing, chefs are without jobs, and Gourmet will soon be no more.  The food world at large is being dominated by a handful of cooking based reality shows and a million terrible recipe and food blogs.  Trends are turning over so quickly that even your Mom has a calcium chloride/sodium alginate set up, right next to her bread maker and pizza stone.  Things have regressed so far that opening a restaurant seems like suicide.  Let's just open a quesadilla food cart instead!  Well, I say bullshit to all this doom and gloom.  You realize what's about to happen, right?  You can see what's around to corner, can't you?Here, in San Francisco, there is a group of chefs that are rightly considered to be at the top of their game.  They're all in the same age group, they all came up paying their dues, and they're all brilliant at their craft.  They're who you want to work for in this town.  When you see them get together, it's like a meeting of the illuminati.  They are the chefs that will be cited as the dominant influences for the next generation.  And that next generation is about to come into its own.  Right now we are standing on the edge of a whole new era of chefs.  Young cooks, that came up through less traditional avenues than our predecessors.  Cooks that are embracing traditional and boundry pushing techniques--often on the same plate.  It's happening already.  Chefs like Charlie Kleinman, Ryan Farr, Brandon Jew, Thomas McNaughton, Chad Newton, Ian Begg, Justin Simoneaux, James Syhabout, Ron Pei and Luis Villavilazquez are all young, driven, and quickly making a name for themselves citywide.  And beyond the traditional kitchen format there are chefs like Anthony Myint and Josh Skenes that aren't just cooking good food, but are challenging the idea of what a restaurant is in the first place.  Add in a crop of hungry and talented sous chefs (Brett Cooper of Coi, Alejandro Rodriguez of Nopa) and I just cant see how an eater wouldn't be foaming at the mouth for what's coming.Think about it like this:  No era of chefs has ever had access to the quality and variety of farm fresh ingredients that this group does.  No era of chefs is as closely tied to organics and sustainability.  No era of chefs has had their worlds brought closer by means of the internet and social networking like this group does.  And no era of chefs has had such a rabid audience for the next big thing, and the next big chef.  And come to think of it, few eras of chefs care as little about celebrity as this group does.  It's an interesting dynamic; cooks that have seen the cost of selling out, television, and cooking for awards and not for guests.  These next chefs run their kitchens with humility and dignity, and they don't forget the whole point--that cooking is just food, and its supposed to be fun.I think the most exciting thing is to look forward.  5 years, 10 years, 15 years...where is this new class of chefs going to lead the San Francisco culinary scene?  What will be their impact on the next group of cooks coming up under them?  Who is going to end up running a 4 star kitchen...and who is going to open a quiet neighborhood spot?  The culinary world is not ending.  The future is bright, and we all get to be a part of it.notes:well, it reads well.  this is where my boy matt wang works.matt also sent us this.  we were supposed to podcast about it.  kinda forgot...but its interesting.whoever is searching all that creepy shit on my flickr account needs to cut it out.raw denim.  do not wash for months.  really?let's get one of t[...]



Podcast 2.3 - Hot Food Porn meets Porn - Eddie vs Violet

2009-10-06T02:52:55.161-07:00

Well, i've never recorded a disclaimer for my podcast, but I suppose it was only a matter of time. This is certainly something different for us--a podcast centered around sex, and it's relation to food. There is little talk of restaurants, or professional cooking. But what you lose there you make up for in fun, interesting content. So dont be a prude. Give it a listen. Intro Music is I Was A Lover by TV On the Radio 2:42 – Handjobs. Enough said. 4:32 – Twitter questions 12:45 – What is a lifetime supply of KY? 16:22 – You are a pervert 22:54 – Hanky Codes 31:40 – March 14th 41:22 – No titties? 46:45 – That’s gonna be an interesting dish. 58:00 – Eater National[...]



A good sin?

2009-09-30T03:45:06.779-07:00

"You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride." -Cesar Chavez"In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes." -John Ruskin"The truly proud man knows neither superiors nor inferiors. The first he does not admit of; the last he does not concern himself about." -William Hazlitt"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us." -Jane Austen"There is this paradox in pride; it makes some men ridiculous, but prevents others from becoming so." -Charles Caleb Colton"Pride comes before a fall." -ProverbsThe last five minutes of a thirty plate pickup on a busy night happen in a time warp. The momentum of four or five different stations slowly building together into an all out sprint while everyone rushes to plate, garnish, and clean plates before they head to the pass is one of the most dangerously beautiful things you could ever see. It's where finesse shows it's true face; elegant swipes of sauce, and garnishes placed like they were made of the most delicate material on earth. An efficient cook will take an extra moment right before the plate goes up to give the plate a quarter turn, adjust their gaze, then say goodbye forever. It's a picture of impermanence. Make it beautiful, wipe it clean, send it on its way. Until this happens:Randy is on hot apps, and is behind on the pickup. He blasts his soup, scorching the bottom a bit, and when he goes to plate, the soup splatters and hisses on the edge of the pot. His plates end up with spots all over them, and he forgets to wipe his fingers off, leaving little fingerprints everywhere. The plates come back to be cleaned, and at the end of it all Randy is left getting shredded by the Chef de Cuisine as he stares at the floor."Are you giving up? It seems like you're just giving up. If you don't care anymore just tell me.""I still care chef.""Because seriously, I can get someone else. That was fucked.""No chef, I can do it.""Look, just care more. Take a little pride you motherfucker."Pride. It's complicated. A cook that takes pride in their work will put out food that's elegant and delicious. They take the extra time to do things correctly the first time. They taste, and obsess, and relish in the glow of a happy guest. Every now and then, amidst the scowls and glares, you'll see a brief, soft smile flash across their face. You might not realize it, but they're enjoying themselves. Ego has almost nothing to do with their cooking. Instead you get a perfect blend of confidence tempered by humility. They respect tradition, and their fellow cooks. The idea of failing is almost as scary as getting into a fight for the first time. So they ball up their fists, puff out their chests, and go in swinging.A cook that's prideful is a different thing altogether. They spend all their time in past (the last place I worked did this blahblah) or in the future (when I have my own place im gonna go in the dining room and tell the guest to fuck off!) and little to no time in the actual moment. A prideful cook feels a sense of entitlement, and believes they are the standard bearer when it comes to sanitation, mise, and life in general. They believe that they should be sous chef, or chef de cuisine, and will do anything to undermine those above them. They have a hard time believing that they could have made a mistake. (but I made it, how could it be wrong?) When things get busy an aura[...]



Moderation.

2009-09-21T12:14:56.141-07:00

I used to love it.  Getting off work after a busy night, salt still sticking to my forearms, I would head to the bar with my crew.  Once there we quickly put away a shot and a beer, and another, and another.  Then Kevin, the server that had almost 2k in sales (half coming in wine) would show up, start buying rounds, and the night would melt into oblivion.  Sometime around 3:30 I would find myself stumbling out of a dingy cooks apartment, wondering how to get home without killing myself.  The next day we would all wake up in absolute pain, head into work, and sweat it out on the stoves with few laughs between us.  There was a pattern to it, and we rarely strayed from it.  It was our right.  We were cooks.  The thing is that once you get into the cooks lifestyle: the heat, the stress, the camaraderie, and the eventual reward at the end of it all...it becomes hard to let go of.  It starts to become less about a reward for yourselves at the end of the night and more about your nightly plans.  Everyone's sharpness becomes just a little more dull...but you tell yourself that its ok.  The team is stronger now...closer.  Isn't it?Eventually, things start to fray.  Your grill guy, who already has a nasty habit of a liter of Pepsi and blunt to the head in the parking lot before work starts making frequent trips to bathroom during service.  His eyes are alert, but his jaw and edgy demeanor tell a different tale.  The food runner that cant remember table numbers was up until 5am with him doing coke, and they're both starting to make your evening very difficult.  Manuel, your fastest sautee cook has started asking for booze mid shift to quell his hangover, and by the end of the night everyone has had a sip.  Two months later you're dumber, slower, and fat.  But fuck it, because you're a real cook, right?But here's the rub.  There are a lot of cooks out there that are smarter, more talented, and far more driven.  And they didnt stay up until 5am last night doing coke.  They don't drink on their shift.  They are so singularly motivated to be the best, to move up, and move on that with every hangover you get, they're leaving you behind.  Think about the crew at Alinea, or Laundry.  How can there be room for the fog of a big night out when you have a 15 hour day and the standard of perfection weighing on you?By nature we are indulgent people.  Our jobs center around taking care of others.  We're surrounded by great food, lots of wine and booze, and like minded folks that got into this job because the monotony of a nine to five was never a viable option.  Cooks that think they're just doing whats expected are at best, a cliche.  At their worst, theyre alcoholics, or drugs addicts.  There is such a great deal of discipline in our work.  Why isn't that carrying over into our free time?It's important to find a balance.  It's important to not take yourself too seriously, and not let the pressures of the job cave you in.  I think it's also important to remember that at the end of the day there is a greater responsibility to your craft.  It's not just about the daily drudgery--there has to be a bigger goal.  Life isn't just decaying slowly.  "All things in moderation, including moderation." — Mark Twain notes:there was talk this week of mongoose on all fours, wearing a leash and collar, being held by ponder.  no, there was no writing in blood on my mirror.  but thank you for your concern.oh snap.who knew that pork bones are so hard to come by?congratulations to Ryan F[...]



Podcast 2.2 - Just the Two of Us.

2009-09-20T11:38:57.709-07:00

Here's a change.  Instead of last season's multi-guest podcasts, this time around it was just Amy and I.  We've only done two other podcasts like this (with Corey and Speez) but they have a nice feel to them.  Topics this time around were changes in kitchen dynamics when cooks and chefs leave, cooking for self vs cooking for the guest, chef cliches, and many twitter questions answered.

3:35 - Calling Corey
6:00 - An email/Changes in the kitchen
15:39 - That question I asked you earlier.../Cooking for self
21:08 - Look at all the people on the Twitters
23:03 - Chef cliches
32:55 - OUR twitter friends?

No podcast next week, but we'll be back the first week in October.

Opening song:  Robots In the Garden by Autolux


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Perfect?

2009-09-12T21:39:34.531-07:00

Question of the week: Is there such a thing as a "perfect" dish? Have you eaten one? Have you cooked one? What was it?libertyhuang@linecook My Uncle Jerry's braised pork belly is my fav dish ever.Gingerthegirl@linecook I could wax all poetic on a lot of dishes I've had, but I what know is this: the hungrier I am, the more "perfect" a dish tastes.shepdave@linecook no such thing as a "perfect" dish. 4 me every dish is an evolution 2wards the best possible dish. that said:sushi@tsukiji =perfectJessPav@linecook There's no such thing as a perfect dish. Just like there's no such thing as a perfect poem. It can always be improved on.RFaucette@linecook yes I think you can make a "perfect" dish. It may only be perfect to you though. I don't think it can be perfect for everyone.rupski23@linecook I think perfect meals can be acheived more often than we think. Often, it's a question of being perfect for that momentsfmongoose@linecook yaaaaa........... my calamari dishes hahahaPav1ov@linecook I got brain lock thinking of an answer! Ass kickin question. Simply put, the answers are all no. But it's something we are all ...hollowspring@linecook The best is wild strawberries just picked from the plant.MatthewSievert@linecook I feel good when I execute good food for others. Obtaining perfection or eating perfection can be a curse and a goal.CNrecords@linecook the perfect dish after surfing is either; a) smoked fish sandwich w/ tomato and cold drink or b) burger and a cold drink.HeatherHAL@linecook I think perfection lies in the simple things, like a roasted chicken. I'm getting there!dianasaurusrex@linecook I think a great BLT w/avocado can be the perfect food. I had a sous vide lobster once @ The French Laundry that was perfection!tablehopper perfect dishes: the watermelon pickle/pork belly number at fatty crab, and the cha ca la vong version at betelnut haunts me.I've only experienced it a handful of times in my life--about the same amount of times that i've been in love, gotten into fistfights, or felt rock bottom misery. The times when it's shown itself were quiet, almost terrifying. In the heat of service, going a million miles an hour, you stand up from being crouched over your plating. Looking down, you're not sure whats going on right away. You turn the plate to the right, then to the left. Then it dawns on you: the plating composition is perfect. Every element is resting perfectly. This becomes your model for the rest of the night. At the end of service you cook the dish for yourself, and call over all of the other cooks. There are mutters of "fuckin nice plates dude" and "you frills motherfucker, look at this thing." As you all dig in, everyone goes silent. Your grill guy breaks the silence."That's a bad ass dish. Everything works. It's just....""Perfect."It's the kind of dish that you never get bored of cooking, or eating. After a few weeks of running it, you decide to take it off the menu--if only to give your guests something else...and then they start demanding that you bring it back. In an attempt to re-capture the magic of that plate, you push and stress and obsess. Mostly all you end up creating are poor amalgams of the original...until, if you're lucky (or insanely talented) you find your way back to something truly beautiful.It's something that ive wondered about for a while. How does one attain perfection? For the longest time I was convinced that I wanted a 4 star restaurant. A place to make an attempt a[...]



New York

2009-09-01T03:05:46.741-07:00

I'm standing outside of a bar on my last night in New York, smoking a cigarette, while Ginger sways from the effects of many shots of rye and beers. It's hot as hell, even at 3am. Manhattan is quiet. Behind all of screech of sparking subway tracks underfoot, and the honks of a thousand cabs, it's peaceful. We talk, and reminisce. I feel like i'm home.My week leading up to the trip to New York was an amazing one. I gathered all of the places here in San Francisco that I hadn't had the time to see, and built an itinerary. There were trips to Kitchenette, Muir Woods, MOMA to see Avedon, Il Cane Rosso, Thursday Farmers Market, Rickhouse, Coffee Bar, Foreign Cinema for brunch, Yerba Buena Gardens with my nephews, and Heaven's Dog. Ginger was out for her brothers wedding (which was fun and beautiful) and in a way we shared a dual vacation. If I had only had that one week to relax, it would've been enough...but New York was looming on the horizon. And in a way it was making me nervous as hell.Flying into New York on a red-eye, I couldn't sleep at all. I typed this out on my phone:Strange melancholy feeling going to ny. Mostly broke. It's been 6 years. We have a nice plane, and a trendy hotel to stay in. San Francisco is rooted deeply in me, and that's hard to let go of.We're on a redeye. I can't sleep.Usually on a trip like this I feel like I have a lot of thinking to do, and this trip is no exception.Starting yesterday I had that restless out of the kitchen feeling that I get. Imagine anxiety coupled with deep paranoia and guilt. It's fucked and it sounds psychotic. Maybe it is. I should feel lucky. There are friends to see. I've been given countless lists of places to go to from people I like and respect.Over drinks today a friend tried to talk me into finally going it on my own. I have a family to think about, and that's making me sway both ways. I need to take the next step... I also need security and job stability, which I have at Nopa.Being here makes me feel older, but still somehow connected back to my youth. I've been here so many times.It all sounds so over-dramatic, and maybe it was. But stepping off that plane into the 100% humidity, all I could think about was how tight money was, and what a strange and pivotal point in my life I was coming up on. I wasn't even sure that I would be able to enjoy myself. I felt thin from too little sleep and the bright morning sun. For those first few hours in New York, it didn't really feel like vacation.Our hotel did well to lessen the weight of my stress though. We got hooked up with a nice room in the brand new Standard Hotel, courtesy of Matt Wang. (thanks Matt!) After some rest we met up with Ginger, ate lunch at Barbuto, and walked the highline. Ginger showed us around, and that night we ate at Freemans's, where her boyfriend is the chef. Decompression complete, begin vacation.In the following days we made our ways to Porchetta, Abraco, Third Rail, Momofuku Ssam, Ippudo, 5 Points, and Pastis, with a lot of pizza and drinks in between. I ran into SF transplant Nate Appleman, and the sous from Perbacco...further proving that the world is very, very small. Running around town felt easy...city blocks became familiar...and the ease of being able to call Ginger and meet up was...amazing. On our last night, romping around the lower east side, I could feel New York getting its claws into me. Or maybe it was just the booze.Being is New York[...]