Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kitchen Confidential- Your Way/ My Way

We all know and see through blogs that every cook, chef, kitchen or what ever out there has there own way of making food they might have grown up with, or tried. For example, the mofongo I make is what hubby and I had in a road side stand on our travels to PR. As I watched the woman making it, I thought that looks easy. When I tasted it I knew I had to recreate it in my own kitchen. Over the years I shared my love for this dish with a few people who are Puerto Rican; William for example who is from NYC, begins to tell me his mothers version of it. So I take note, and try them all. Who cares if it is not what a person might remember, has had at a restaurant, or make themselves. Recipes have changed over centuries, as they are passed down, made in different situations; it is just how it rolls when it comes to recipes and techniques. Most other recipes for mofongo are great, I just still stick to the version I saw on my trip to Puerto Rico. I fell in love with the mortar and pestle the woman was using, and bought one to bring home, and use it for many things.

Over the years through training, and when you teach; it is important to first explain that everyone (especially chefs) has their own way of doing things. You have to be prepared to except the fact that there is not one way of doing a task, and will be instructed differently. Buffalodick has coined a great way of thinking in that regard...'Rectums & Opinions, We All Got One', and I do respect that. My philosophy is like that of my father, why say anything if you cannot say something nice- or do not say anything at all. Be respectful in how you express instruction or advice in any position; being respectful of others is important for all of us, and can help make the learning process less stressful. You might find yourself out of a job one day.

I showed the students Buff's t-shirts he donated for a cook-off, and I could tell it was going to be a battle to the death when we get to that class. One of the teachers blushed as he held it up!

Class this week was fun as always, and I have already had that 'Every chef/cook has their own way of doing things' talk in our first class (most culinary class books say this in the first introduction of the book). We talked about how it does not matter how you do the job, as long as the job gets done; along with a good attitude. This class we begin with a review, and then they got a look at their starter cookbooks. (Stacked on the corner of the desk are some of the books that have been donated for their new library) You could tell they were ready to open them up and get started, but I had a speaker waiting in the wings. Career Day.

Pat Tanner is a food writer I admire, and lives in my area. She wrote about my work a few years ago. We also are 'Slow Food' activists. Bragging- Pat wrote that I was a 'Powerhouse', and she enjoyed my wine and food pairing event. Waiting for a review can be nerve racking, but she was and is a sweetie! Pat began talking to the class about how her career developed over the years. She went to school to be a teacher, worked as a caterer, hosted a food radio show, puts together the Zagat reviews for South Jersey, and writes for the local papers and Princeton Living Magazine. She told the class that a few times she actually told the person on the phone offering her a job "I am not really qualified to do that", but they wanted her to give it a try. Pat Tanner is now a restaurant critic.

Pat shared with the class about how she has to go into new restaurants like the one I wrote about, Elements, and everyone knows her from the radio show. So going into a familiar setting and trying to be anonymous can be difficult. We laugh, because she is telling us how she had to wear a long wig, and a totally different way of dress to disguise herself for this particular review. Everyone that worked there knew who she was in real life. She offers to send me a photo, and I cannot wait. Pat was an Newark inner city kid herself, and shares her experiences. She is a great help in showing the students that they their are many opportunities and roads leading to a job where someone pays you to go out to eat, and you get to write about the experience. That right there blew them away!

The first photo I took her facing away from the camera, but she said that it was okay, since she was not officially on duty!

Request to post-

Sure, it's OK to publish the photo you took on Thursday.

- Pat

She also sent me the photo and it was hysterical how she disguised herself, but she has asked me not to publish the photo...