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    Captain Cook, Hawaii

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  1. I've been eyeing the Croquade* waffle maker for some time. I like the idea of interchangeable plates -- especially for making waffle cones. Plates went on deep discount on Amazon a couple weeks ago. And I thought, "Hell, they're giving the plates away. May as well cry once and buy the waffle maker." They seem to be out of business. Their customer service number has been disconnected. But their website is still up and is almost fully functional. (I've had the waffle maker in my cart for a week, and can't get past the shipping tab -- trying both my address and a friend's address on the mainland. No luck. Anyone know what's going on with this company? * They're called Frifri in Europe. They look to be available there.
  2. ScoopKona

    Canned sardines

    And put in a dollop of dijon with the lemon juice. I swear, I always forget ONE thing when typing these extemporaneously.
  3. ScoopKona

    Canned sardines

    I have found fresh sardines for sale at the Monterey Fish Market. And, yeah, there's nothing quite like a good grilled sardine. I think that's why Ferran Adria said that a good sardine is better than a mediocre lobster. It is. As for canned? I didn't see this suggestion (I also skimmed, so apologies if I missed it). World's quickest Caesar dressing: A room temp egg, a food processor, canned sardines in oil (I like North African), lemon, garlic, parm, pepper, neutral oil. Spin the egg until it starts to lighten. Lemon juice. Drizzle-spin sardine oil from the partially-open can to form the emulsion. (That's enough fish flavor for most. But not for me. I toss a filet in.) Drizzle-spin canola to desired consistency. Then spin in the garlic, black pepper and parm. Add salt if necessary. Should last a few days in the refrigerator. I'm making some today because lettuce was on sale.
  4. I never worked in one of his kitchens. But I worked next door and saw him CONSTANTLY. The casino kitchens do quite a bit of borrowing from each other. "We're out of foie -- see if Fleur can spare a lobe." Hubert bounces back and forth between his California and Nevada restaurants. Out of all the celebrity chefs, a diner is more likely to have Hubert overseeing the kitchen than anyone other place -- because he's going to be in ONE of his places almost every night. The first thing he does is go to each station and shake everyone's hand, thanking them for working -- starting with the dish pit. I've seen him expo. He's good at it. There are a great many chefs who really, really suck at expediting. The celebrity chef I worked for was almost NEVER around. Maybe once a year. And even then, he was an enormous ass. I couldn't wait for him to leave. I worked at that place for a few years and he never knew my name. Hubert had a warm greeting for me down in the bowels of the casino -- even though I never worked for the guy.
  5. I'll roast it however you'd like. But you are right, nobody does light roast here. Since I've never tried light-roasted Kona coffee, it would be a worthy experiment. My guess is that roasting light doesn't develop any of the chocolate notes this region is known for. And like "Rutherford Dust" with Napa cab, that's one of those things we're judged on. In fact, I'm planning on growing cocoa around the coffee for the same reason wineries grow thyme and marjoram as cover crops. When I have a tasting room (next year, if all goes well), I'm throwing out the "free coffee and hope people buy it" model. Nine grams of my coffee costs $2. (I hope to get that down to $1.50 this year.) That's enough to pull a shot of espresso or make a cup of pour-over. So I'll sell it for $2 and the customer can have it any way he or she wants it -- cappuccino, latte, au lait, Americano, even with loads of sugar and vanilla non-dairy creamer, ice cream and turned into a milkshake. If people love it, great -- even with the shocking prices I charge, it's still less than Starbuck's. And if not, no harm, no foul. They still enjoyed the view and tried coffee which has a known cupping score. So, if you find yourself heading to the Big Island, I have a neighbor with a 1-pound roaster. That's as small as they come. I'll roast 1 pound of green. It will end up as 3/4 pound of roasted. We can try it and see how it tastes.
  6. I'm a few months from packing my house on the mainland and permanently moving to the coffee farm. There is one thing I need to take care of before I go. I have both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 1st edition (1961 and 1970), excellent condition. Signed by both Paul and Julia. And a lovely inscription from Julia to her friend, Kay Thompson. Thompson wrote the Eloise series of children's books. These books will disintegrate in Hawaii. It's ridiculous to bring them here just to watch them fall apart in our humid climate. So it's time to sell. I'm planning on handing the books off to Sotheby's rare books and manuscripts department and see how it goes. But if anyone has a better idea, I'm all ears.
  7. Since 2018, I've been the sole proprietor of Monkey King Coffee in Captain Cook, Hawaii. The farm is 100 years old. And very much a work in progress. The previous owners became so old and infirm they could no longer manage the land. So they let it go, and go, and go, and go. I think I may be able to clear the farm and have it back to being "just a farm" by the time I turn 60. Maybe. After a few years of cutting and burning invasive exotic plants, I finally have a small portion of the farm up and running. (If you visit the farm web page, all the pretty picture are shot from the farm house, looking towards the ocean. There is another mile of farm behind me, that needs to be cleared.) Here are a few misconceptions about Kona coffee. 1) The Kona Coffee Belt is tiny. A mere 30 miles long (north south) and just 2-3 miles wide (top down). My farm comprises an most of a "top down" section. It is one of the old Royal land grants, and one of the few old coffee farms which hasn't been broken up or sold off to bigger farms. 2) Kona coffee is one of the most counterfeited foods. Right up there with Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Many of the 10% Kona Blends being sold have zero Kona coffee and zero Hawaii coffee in them. There are a few class action suits against the supermarket chains which are selling bogus beans. 3) While price isn't 100% an indicator, there is no such thing as cheap Kona coffee. The least expensive I've ever seen is $22.50 a pound, being sold out of the back of a truck near the Costco in Kailua. Most of my neighbors sell theirs in the neighborhood of $35/pound. And anything which has scored well in a cupping competition will sell for $50+/pound. (I'm one of the more expensive brands out there. And I currently have nothing for sale because harvest is going on right now.) So, if you see Kona coffee offered for $10/pound, it is almost certainly fake. But spending a lot of money from a middleman isn't an iron-clad guarantee. The best bet is to deal directly with a farmer. If anyone wants to try the real deal, I recommend two of my neighbors (I receive nothing from these recommendations, other than goodwill). 1) Dr. Paulo's Kona Coffee. Ask if they still sell coffee in a USPS flat-rate box. That is the least-expensive way I know of to get real Kona coffee to your door. 2) Hawaiian Mana Farms. They're growing at double the elevation -- higher elevation, less yield, more flavor. They're my "up the hill and down the road" neighbors" who let me use their processing equipment when mine breaks. Eventually, like Pinocchio wanting to be a "real boy," I hope to have a real tasting room where I can do really cool things. Once that happens, then we can talk about brewing demonstrations, farm tours, agritourismo and similar. But if you are heading to the Big Island and would like to drop by and say hi, send me a message with the dates you will be here (and where you will be staying). I'll try to accommodate you.
  8. Can't do it. Thankfully, I don't have to. The ones who aren't even 1/10th of the person they portray on TV tend to run afoul of the law -- things like stealing tips from employees, sexual harassment, assault and similar. For instance, I worked for a crazy chef who threw things. He also couldn't expedite to save his life. He screwed up when he fired half a dozen tickets, thinking he had fired seven but only fired six. So he was waiting for an entire table of entrees that nobody was working on. And when he realized nobody was working on the entrees, he grabbed a plate and threw it at a cook. This cook was a nationally-ranked frisbee golf player. He caught the plate and threw it back at the chef -- direct hit. The chef was knocked out. The plate shattered against the pass line after clocking chef in the head -- ruining two complete stations full of mise and every bit of garnish on the pass line. The entire kitchen had to be shut down, while we threw away absolutely everything which could have been contaminated by flying shards of porcelain. The chef finally came to, and started screaming for police, terminations, lawsuits and similar. Too bad his little tantrum was recorded on camera. He was encouraged to take a position at another restaurant.
  9. Epilogue: 10 years later So, the underlined text turned out to be the most important part of this story -- for me at least. "Jackie," who is a real person with a real PhD (in a subject that is hard to convert into employment), really does own a lot of rental properties. Last time I saw him, prior to the pandemic, he was up to above 60 rentals. And was still working in a Las Vegas casino kitchen, bouncing around from kitchen to kitchen. With the average price of a house in Las Vegas, he's worth north of $20 million -- and still making food for tourists. At least he was a few years ago. One evening, standing around in the EDR on a very, very slow night, Jackie and I got to talking about his real estate empire. He told me how he got started; how things snowballed; and potential problems. "I've explained this at least 100 times. Nobody has ever picked up the baton and run with it." I started doing the same thing, but on a much smaller scale. The reason I dropped offline entirely was to concentrate on building my own little rental empire. That worked out quite well. But it's a boring subject. Back to the casinos. After accepting a position in a kitchen run by a celebrity chef who everyone knows, I got my ass handed to me, but good, five and six days a week, 10 hours a day. (And still I woke up in the morning and dealt with loan officers at banks and similar.) We pumped out 500 fine-dining covers on an average night. And 800 on a crazy night. Unlike the casino proper, the fine dining establishments don't care about overtime. They're selling $5,000 bottles of wine to retired athletes. My overtime wasn't so much as a blip on the radar. A whale could make a reservation two hours after we closed. And half of us would have to stand there, waiting for this whale to show up. Because who knows how much expensive alcohol this whale might buy. I saw guest checks which ran into the six-figures -- big party with lots of pricey wine. Magnums of vintage champagne add up fast in Las Vegas. I worked this kitchen for two years. And then, suddenly, it ceased to be fun. The head chef left and started his own off-Strip restaurant. (Two years after that, he had a heart attack on the pass line at his place and died in his own kitchen. He was 10 years younger than me. But he looked 10 years older.) The new exec and I didn't get along. And I was "married" to a coworker on my line who was incompetent. So I was doing two jobs all night. I finally left that kitchen to go open a new kitchen for another celebrity chef. I lasted all of 15 minutes after that place opened. (An exaggeration, but barely.) That chef was crazy. The kind of chef who throws things. Since by then I was a known quantity, I took a job at yet another well-known Strip restaurant. This time, they kept me on long enough to send every other cook and chef on vacation. And then let me go. Apparently this is something they did every year. Frankly, I didn't mind. Because when I left, I knew all their recipes. And that was the goal from the start. Finally, I went to yet another resort and ended up right back where I started -- a cook's helper. It turns out that bouncing around from kitchen to kitchen like a pinball is better than staying in one kitchen. There is always some level of bull [excrement] to deal with -- whether it be an annoying co-worker, or a crazy chef, or a kitchen that was set up by an architect who never spent a minute in a kitchen. At least I was never in any one place for more than a week or so. Meanwhile, I kept working Jackie's real estate plan. In 2018, during the big Kilauea eruption on Hawaii, I flew to Kailua-Kona and purchased a coffee farm. For a couple years, I was back-and-forth between Las Vegas and Hawaii, cooking less and less, and farming more and more. I'm here full-time now, I'm more a lumberjack than cook these days. My wife, who is still under contract with another Las Vegas company, has a few more months before she can flip them the bird and join me. I'll fly to Las Vegas for the very last time; pack our things into a shipping container; and leave Las Vegas for good. Soon, I plan on offering cooking classes on the Big Island of Hawaii -- how to cook local dishes. So, in retrospect: 1) For the right sort of person, cooking at a big resort can be a rewarding, fairly lucrative career. I never had any money problems when I worked there. I ate at least one free meal per day at work. Our household costs were low. Our combined income was decent. We spent next to nothing and just worked our financial plan. Many, many couples do this -- and then save up enough to open their own place. Some make four or five goes at it before finding something which works. 2) For the wrong sort of person, Las Vegas is a pit of addiction. I knew a bunch of people who blew almost the entirety of their pay on gambling habits, substance habits, or buying toys which don't last. For instance, "Sure I spent the down payment on a tattoo. But this tattoo will be with me for life!" Half the casino kitchens have that one guy who is working way, way, way past retirement age. He keeps working because he has no other options -- the sad result of a life, squandered. Many of those are still chasing that "big, big score" at the tables, or a Football parlay or similar. 3) Celebrity chefs -- they are nothing like their persona on TV. Except for Hubert Keller, who is PRECISELY the way he appears. The grouchy, swearing chefs are teddy bears in their own kitchen. And the mild-mannered ones are/were tyrants. (Lookin' straight at you, Mario Batali.) I stopped caring about celebrity chefs because more than anything, they got lucky. There are loads of better chefs who don't get the public adoration because they aren't telegenic. They're sending better food across the pass line -- that's all that matters. I'll keep an eye on this thread and answer any questions. But I'm a couple years out of the business now. I will post about my coffee farm in the coffee forum. This farm is my last big project.
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