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david coonce

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Everything posted by david coonce

  1. I think education and regulation are two very different things. When giant chains like Applebee's refuse to even tell their customers what they're eating, that's just plain lazy/evasive. There's no excuse. An educated consumer makes wiser choices - that's been shown time and time again. You're Canadian, so you probably don't remember this, but back in the 80s there was this thing in schools called "recess" and "gym", and even a Presidential Fitness award program for students. It taught kids about the food pyramid and the importance of exercise and nutrition and all that. It worked, and then as the schools crumbled so did this kind of education. And now we have a rampant obesity epidemic. People don't know what's in their food, and they don't know that their food might be making them sick. The answer isn't regulation, it's education. I think you missed the point. And by the way, if you think the government should "keep its snoot completely out of the way people choose to eat," do you think the government should regulate food safety? Or should it just be "caveat emptor" - maybe that chicken was handled correctly, maybe not.
  2. As one who cooks everything from scratch and runs a professional kitchen, I have to say I'm barely worried about this. The good guys aren't going to have any problem with the sodium levels. Pretty much all of these high-sodium things are processed junk food. Canned soups, pre-made entrees, etc. They're really bad for people, especially with the obesity epidemic and the diabetes precursors we're seeing in the general population, not ot mention hypertension. If this makes more people aware of the link between sodium and hypertension, obesity and diabetes, and, more importantly, forces restaurants to make more of their food from scratch, I'm all for it. While I don't believe in regulating sodium levels, I have never believed that educating the consumer is a bad thing. Many chain restaurants have completely refused to divulge their fat/sodium/cholesterol numbers to the public. With the amazing programs out there to analyze food (ChefTec, Mastercook etc) it's just negligent. If commercial processors have to provide this information, shouldn't restaurants? As you write - "given accurate information." I have no problem with that. But several huge chains provide no information whatsoever (Applebees and TGIF) and I think that's just wrong.
  3. Until recently it was the sink - a plain old two-compartment stainless sink. Two small wells made it impossible to wash sheet pans, most larger skillets, dutch oven, etc. Trying to scrub and then spray sheet pans with the flimsy sprayer and the divide between the two sink compartments inevitably left me with big puddles of water on the floor. Finding the room to dry all these things was even worse. I would have to spread a towel over my island to make room to lay everything out. However I recently got a huge, deep single basin sink (and dishwasher) and it has changed my life. My next project is to get rid of the annoying freezer-on-top refrigerator, in which cuts of meat end up shoved into the back for months at a time.
  4. I will add a second and third for Tallent, in my adopted hometown. Great food, great people.
  5. Chicago has at least 7 Ethiopian restaurants. I always loved Ras Dashen when I lived there. There was another called Addis Abeba, which has moved to the burbs but was also very good. Ethiopian Diamond is pretty average. Others: Blue Nile, Demera, Lalibela, Mama Desta's (very good). None of them are bad.
  6. I live in Bloomington, Indiana, a college town with a great slow-foods scene, so this may be not quite applicable, but here goes: Pom. Molasses: Yes, in the local coop grocery and the specialty aisle of a chain grocery. Also Trader Joes, which is in Indianapolis but still mid-America. Sumac: We have 3 middle-eastern groceries here, thanks to the University, so no problem with this one either. Never seen it at a chain grocer but never looked, either. I bought a huge bag of it in Chicago and will probably never need to buy it again. Aleppo Pepper: In the "International" section of chain grocery store and mid-east grocery. Crema: Ever been to a "Super Wal Mart" - the kind with groceries. There's lots of Mexican stuff there - tripe, chicken feet, crema, queso fresco and anejo, etc. I assume lots of poorer migrant farm workers shop there. Miso Paste: Everywhere. I could probably find ten stores in this town of 90,000 that carry it. Sherry Vinegar: Ditto. Always in the "International" aisle of the local Marsh. Duck: Farmer's Market and the local coop always has it. Duck Fat: Maybe not; I know the co-op can order it, but have never seen it available in a retail store; I lived in Chicago and never saw it there, either. Pancetta: It's easily available, in every decent commercial grocery store. Easy. Less common pig parts: Farmers markets: I've gotten pig livers, hearts, I could even get the lungs. Trotters, unsmoked belly, etc. are readily available. I suppose that we're lucky to be in a culinarily diverse college town, but Bloomington is still 45 miles from the nearest big city and we do just fine. I'm sure there are small towns that won't have access to any of the things you mentioned, but, honestly, are people in those places going to pick up your cookbook anyway?
  7. I've had a bottle in my fridge that has been open since 2004, and has moved to four different houses/apartments and two different cities. It's still fine (I used it about two weeks ago for a sauce). It's all chiles and preservatives anyway - I think you'd know if it was bad, because it would be moldy. On a separate note, I have a jar of tamarind paste that has an expiration date of January 2005. I use it about twice a month, and never had any problems with it. I don't know what it is about southeast Asian condiments, but they seem to be designed for long-term stability.
  8. The new, revised issue does indeed still include canning directions. It is, however, missing a lot of the older sort of "home" recipes, None of the squirrel, possum, bear, muskrat, headcheese, etc. stuff and not as many recipes that include lard, suet, tallow, and the like. I'd suggest getting the newest issue and then scouring ebay or a thrift store for an old one, to keep on hand as a kind of reference guide to how America cooked in 50-60 years ago. It's almost like an American version of the Gastronomique.
  9. Honestly, the fact that you enjoy being insanely busy, are able to multi-task and remained composed under pressure are the very most important attributes of a restaurant cook. I know that when I bring new people into my kitchen it is these things that I am most interested in observing, although retention of information is also very important. Knife skills, while important, are not a deal-breaker as these other things are. Of course, I'm not doing insane garnishes or anything. But, as I said before, your knife skills aren't going to improve enough in a week to make a difference, if knife skills are indeed what the Chef is focused on. Just enjoy your stage. You'll learn things regardless. Edit: and, oh yeah: work clean, above all.
  10. Ouch - my first thought was "Are Sandra Lee, Robin Miller, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri disqualified..."
  11. I would say, don't stress it. You won't learn enough knife skills in a week to matter, if they're that bad. Go in there humble and do the job. It's not rocket science, and it'll only take a couple hours before you realize you've either got it or you don't. But coming in super high-strung and nervous is the very quick way to get yourself tossed off the line. there are more important things than knife skills: ability to multi-task, an eye for a nice plate, the ability to work well under stress, and the ability to stay composed under pressure. These are the things I look for in my styages, much more than knife skills.
  12. david coonce


    A fork is fine; by the time you get to that point in the process of serving a piece of meat, the juice loss is minimal, and can be avoided by carving on a recessed board or one with grooves to catch the juices. Regardless, losing juiciness in a piece of meat is more easily remedied by allowing the meat to rest a while after cooking. If your concern is aesthetic, then I would reccomend tongs over fingers,
  13. Just putting it in the freeze will not keep it fine forever. Refrigerators dry things out, including parmesan cheese. Needs to be vacuum sealed to keep in the fridge for an extended period of time. I like FG's idea - use it more and more...butter and parm make a great pasta. Cheese and pepper make a great pasta. Cheese and butter make a great risotto. A pound makes a great gift. It's damn good with figs and prosciutto. It's damn good alone or with some fine balsamico. Use it or lose it. ← I meant well-wrapped. I didn't literally mean to just put the hunk of cheese in the fridge uncovered. But wrap it well. Most home cooks don't have a vacuum sealer, so I would just recommend a couple layers of wrap, very tight. But I agree -just use it up. Shave it over everything.
  14. I've done dozens of events like this over theyears.My biggest tip: Don't stray too far from what your restaurant normally does; people will expect that next time they come to your place. You don't want people to ask about the mussels or whatever that they had at that catering event. And keep it simple and big flavors - bisteca alla fiorentina, threaded onto skewers, for example. Bite size.
  15. Just put it in the fridge. It'll be fine in there forever. You can freeze it, too, just make surer to pull it out at least a day before you want to use it.
  16. Thanks David, tell that to my editor - Maggie the cat. She doesn't always like my use of that word. Besides that she is a great editor though. Thanks -- I think --Ivy. I'd never ban the Fbomb, but I follow the same editorial rule on it as I do on adverbs -- one every thousand words. The thing that really made me understand prep was your description of cutting a lemon against a post, because there was no room at the counter. That's crazeeeee. And it shows the difference between getting our mise together at home, and doing it in a professional kitchen. I'll never again complain that I don't have enough counter space. ← And all that insane lack of space, time and equipment is what leads to the gratuitous use among professional kitcheneers of the word "fuck"
  17. I like Charlie Trotter's Kitchen sessions books and Gray Kunz' Elements of Taste. The Kunz book, while occasionally a little pretentious, does give you a lot of insight into how to create dishes using different tastes, something that sounds right up your alley with regards to where you want to go with your cooking. I don't use cookbooks much anymore, except for pastry, but the Kunz book is a nice reference and I have approximated some of the dishes from it.
  18. Down in the meatpacking district you can find duck fat by the gallon. There's also Jetro although you may have to be a restaurant owner to shop there. European Imports is located in Chicago, they sell duck fat by the gallon, and I think anybody can buy from them. Look 'em up. As far as onion rings go - wet batter, not a dredge.
  19. Your basic premise is flawed - you don't switch careers and become a chef - you become a cook first, a grunt, a line cook. You work terrible hours for terrible pay for a long time in a hot, miserable environment. You do that long enough, develop a few chops, then maybe get to learn something abut food, then learn a little more, and eventually, after years and years of hard work, you might become a chef, at which point you will work longer hours and be blamed for everything. I know, that's simplistic, but if you're questioning something like the hours or culture of professional chef-dom already, without even being involved in it, then you don't have what it takes. That's okay; I don't have what it takes to be an engineer. I've personally found a situation that works for me with regard to seeing my wife and having a normal sort of life; I manage a kitchen in a large food co-op, working with local farmers and promoting sustainable food choices. It allows me nights and weekends free, as well as benefits and insurance, but it also means I don't get to have my name above the door or be able to present beautifully plated dishes covered with black truffles. It's a tradeoff. But it took me 17 years of cooking professionally to find that balance - to abandon my dreams of opening my own restaurant in favor of having an outstanding quality of life.
  20. I wanted to watch it but the site said it was only available for online viewing in the UK. Darn.
  21. Thanks for the great post. As one who deals every day with lots of vegetarians, and as a former vegetarian myself, I always want to talk about this process. I try to only eat animals that, as Joel Salatin relates in the Omnivore's Dilemma, "only have one bad day in their life." I too believe that if you are going to eat animals you have a responsibility to see that they are raised responsibly, slaughtered humanely, and as little as possible is wasted. But, seriously, go get that tongue. It's terrific. Pickled or cured.
  22. Bin 36 in Chicago has flights of certain drinks.
  23. It's may. Mussels may not be the best right now.
  24. Good writing. I especially liked the part about always being "fucked on everything." I worked in a kitchen for a restaurant with a patio, and when the patio was open - from about May to September - our number of seats doubled - from 42 to 84. But you know, the size of the kitchen didn't double, the size of the line didn't double, and we didn't hire twice as many cooks. We were just fucked on everything every day.
  25. The thing about having a dry towel around your belt/apron strap/wherever that you constantly use to wipe your hands on is that it's a major health code violation and really gross. I mean, suppose you had raw chicken (or meat) threw it on the grill, then had to plate, so you wipe your hands on your hidden towel, then a few minutes later taste a sauce, wipe your hands again, and plate the cooked chicken - voila - you just contaminated the cooked chicken. Your noble desire to save a few paper towels might make someone sick. So suck it up and use the paper towels.
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