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dave s.

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Everything posted by dave s.

  1. I was about seventeen and my country-gal girlfriend showed me how to make what in Oklahoma we call cream gravy.....sausage or bacon or for that matter ground beef. Twenty-eight years later I still make it the way she showed me, and while of course my repertoire now includes all the usual sauces, I still like a good roux-based gravy best of all.....I must say my turkey gravy this Thanksgiving was really quite good-"I would eat my own father with such a sauce."
  2. I've really enjoyed some of the explanations by former servers....very enlightening. The thing is these corporate places change so frequently I have to wonder how any of their employees can keep anything straight in their heads for very long. As a longtime BOH guy, I see FOH people as no more comprehensible than space aliens. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to subject themselves to the kinds of things they do, and even as they irritate and bedevil me beyond belief, I retain a grudging admiration for them. That doesn't mean I'll put up with any crap whatsoever, but unless it's deliberate rudeness or a safety/sanitation issue I'll usually just blow it off when I'm dining out and some little thing goes wrong or irritates me slightly. C'est la guerre.
  3. That's frickin' amazing! As a former T-Towner I applaud these efforts, and as someone who cooks at a SMALL country club-we are getting ready for our BIG EVENT of the season, a 200-person golf tournament,WOOOO!-I grovel at the feet of those who can endure such madness, especially in the GODAWFUL TULSA SUMMER HEAT!!!Rock on!
  4. dave s.

    Sysco Food

    I work at a country club where we use Sysco for much of our stuff and a couple of local vendors for fish, produce etc. For some reason-I don't do the ordering-sometimes we get part of our produce from Sysco instead of the local guys-and I have to say with some things Sysco does a surprisingly good job. Their bagged green onions and herbs are always nice and green and fresh, while the locals try and pawn limp bedraggled crap on us. I suppose that being a huge corporation they have specs for all that sort of thing, which is definitely an advantage. As far as their providing precut stuff, so what? We certainly don't use it, but lots of fast food and fast-casual places sure do. It's loads more cost-effective than training people to use knives properly, and cuts down on injuries too, and when you have a 300% turnover rate these things become vitally important.
  5. My advice would be: do something else for a while. Don't go into the business at a very young age. Work in a hospital. Do social work. Join the Army. Do something that will give you a sense of proportion so that later in life when you ARE a cook or chef or manager or whatever in a restaurant you won't think it's so damned important.
  6. Beyond the whole intelligence/common sense issue I would say that a more unfortunate and growing trend is insularity....so many people are getting into the kitchen right out of-or in some cases while still in-high school. And the only work environment they'll ever know is the kitchen, with all its eccentricities and dysfunctions. So while I seldom meet anyone in The Life who is downright stupid, I encounter many who are terribly limited.
  7. Well, I like it....of course it's faddy and perhaps it's pretentious. But I'd much rather have an infused oil, even if of comparatively low quality, than what passes for butter in many places....anything from Butter Reddies nice and chilled straight from the reach-in, and tasting like the inside of the reach-in, or the whipped.....ah, butter-like substances so unfortunately common these days.....as Bourdain says, you can't believe it's not butter? I can! As far as good bread needing to be eaten plain, I agree in theory, but in practice I seem to have a pathological need to eat grease. So I dunno.....I think this trend will pass, but what shall replace it I can't predict.
  8. Sort of , which came first, the demi-monde or the attitude? Hard to tell, but one thing is certain: the restaurant atmosphere in general, especially BOH, does very little to discourage forms of behavior not often seen in other work settings. I had to listen to a young garde-manger all day and night...the kid is only on drugs some of the time, but he is full-time crazy...his bizarre stream-of- consciousness rantings and random loud noises and singing etc. would have seemed right at home in an asylum. Or a restaurant kitchen. And why not? He does a pretty good job, after all. And that's it for this kid. He's in The Life now-'cause any foray he makes into the straight world will seem like a repressive hell to him after this.
  9. Ooh la la aside, while one can sub "world" for "monde" and perhaps still retain the same meaning, "demi-monde" means exactly what it means-try saying "half-world" and see if anyone has any idea what you're talking about.
  10. Well, the Cool Whip story illustrates the kind of person I was referring to in my previous post when I said "Joe Average." Like CKatCook, I'm from Oklahoma, a place not known for fine cuisine-I was brought up on casseroles in which Campbell's Soup figured prominently, and I don't think I tasted real mayonnaise, or butter or whipped cream until I left home and joined the Army. I'm sure many of us did not spring from the womb with the rarified tastes we now possess. But the difference between US and THEM is that we tasted, believed and never looked back. And a lot of people taste, and say "ICK!" or "EWWW", and go buy the Cool-Whip. And these folks might as well belong to that alternate universe, because I do not understand them at all. So why does so much food suck? Well, it doesn't, to a lot of folks. It's real good. It's what they're used to. It's convenient, it's hygienic, it's attractively packaged. It comes in big sizes too-crates, vats, barrels-which is good because the nation of BIG PEOPLE we're becoming needs BIG FOOD. And it sure as hell is cheaper-try the value menu at Jack in the Crack, Burger Despot, Kentucky Fried Critters, or McGoogle's. So, OK-the aliens outnumber us a zillion to one. Let them have their sucky food. Stay close to home, and if you have to venture out, pack a lunch . Don't watch TV either-the aliens are using it to try and convert you-ever noticed that the ONLY food commercials on The Food Network are for the absolute suckiest of sucky food? And if you do watch TV and see a commercial for a restaurant, AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS-restaurants that can afford TV time are Corporate Hellholes staffed by can crackers, microwavers and shoemakers and frequented by aliens only. Be warned.
  11. As LB Howes said above, it all has to do with how one defines "chef." The popular perception for instance is that graduates of culinary schools are chefs, which as most of us know is bunk. Another example is myself-I cook at a certain level, and most civilians regard me as a chef. Well, I'm not currently in a management position, but on the other hand, when people see me after work at the grocery store or whatever and ask me if I'm a chef, I usually say , yes I am. Because by their definition, I really am-in that I can take all kinds of raw unprocessed ingredients that many people have never even heard of and transform them into beautiful delicious food. And that is the essence of a chef in this day and age. So I certainly do not feel the least bit guilty about wearing chef coats, pants or what have you, and NOBODY who is a dedicated professional cook-or baker, for that matter-should, either.
  12. Yeah, shoe or shoemaker is a great one but I've always used and heard it to mean someone who CAN cook, but is a hack-lacks any kind of passion or finesse. A couple terms I've heard lately are "cock sauce" for sriracha-because Tuong Ot brand sriracha has a rooster on the bottle, and it's fun to say. Edamame is "eatcha mama"-for no good reason at all, except, yes it is fun to say. Asparagus is "assbag-" balsamic vinegar is "ballsack." Do we see a bit of a pattern here? but wadda ya gonna do.... In a less profane vein, "flash" means to briefly heat something in an oven or salamander to bring it up a notch or two-there's another one-"bring this steak up to medium, please." Or "get some heat on this, chef!" The title "chef" itself is used a lot, sometimes VERY sarcastically, between cooks-" Hey Dave! Your pico de gallo needs a little salt, don't you think?" "Yes chef. Thank you chef. I'll get right on that, chef, ya damn shoemaker!" Equipment is funny too-a flexible fish spatula is sometimes a Peltex, even when it's not made by Peltex. A food processor, as mentioned by someone else, is a Robot Coupe-generally mispronounced like "coo" instead of "coop"-but big immersion blenders are sometimes made by and referred to as Robot Coupes. Usually, however, these are "beurre mixers" or "boat motors,"and the small versions are "beurre sticks" or even, if the speaker is a real geek, as "emulsifiers." I don't have any insights into its origins, but I HAVE heard the term "all day" used in one other , but similar context-when playing Horse, a poker-type game played with dice which are shaken in a cup and WHANGED down on the bar-so you might say, " I got a pair of fours all day,"and you really mean right then-ish.
  13. Wow, this is interesting! As an occasional soda drinker who dislikes too-sweet beverages I'd like to try some of this stuff-I live in the hinterlands so probably I will have to wait a while before it becomes available here....Hearing about the Meyer lemon flavor reminds me of Schweppe's Bitter Lemon-it used to be sold in the mixer section of grocery stores but I haven't seen it in years.
  14. dave s.

    Unripe mangoes

    Green mangos are kind of an east/west thing, enjoyed in south and central America as well as the Orient...my favorite way to eat them is a riff from a Colombian friend of mine with a bit of an Eastern spin- I shred the mangos with my cheapo plastic mandoline, toss the shreds with olive oil, rice vinegar and a bit of salt and fresh black pepper-just a bit of sriracha or Tabasco is good, or hold the hot stuff and it makes a nice foil for spicy foods-it's pretty as well and makes a good garnish!
  15. It's a very interesting topic. I spent quite a few years as a corporate restaurant manager and I can tell you one can rake in the bucks doing that....but it is the most soul-sapping job I've ever had....I re-invented myself as a cook. I did a whole lot of reading. After about 4 years of hard work I suppose I know about as much as any graduate of any 2-year culinary school, and I for sure know what works and doesn't in the real world. I'm happy with this, although it is a definite fact as I see it that many chefs are prejudiced in favor of culinary school grads when hiring and promoting. But I do this for love, not money. I won't be doing it much longer. I guess what concerns me most about culinary school grads-and I've had the opportunity to see quite a few from various programs-is, they have very high expectations for the most part-and why shouldn't they? Culinary school ads usually portray folks in snowy white toques caressing ice sculptures, giving orders to ranks of obedient cooks, etc. The poor schmucks that graduate need to realise that won't be their reality for a LONG time, if ever....but far worse to me, is the almost total lack of any sort of management skills in any culinary school grads I've ever worked with. They're totally lost when given a position of responsibility/authority. The only management techniques they know are the ones they've picked up from watching their sous-chefs, the exec, etc. In all too many cases these are not the best people to emulate, unfortunately-it's a self perpetuating cycle of dysfunctional management all too often. Yes it is of course critical for a chef to be a superior cook-BUT equally important are superior leadership skills.
  16. I have to totally agree with phatj on this-go into pretty much any grocery store in the U.S. and you'll find loads of beautiful-looking sandwiches that TASTE LIKE CRAP because the bread's awful. Talk about chemical taste! Bread should have a handful of ingredients yet most commercial stuff has an ingredient list that reads like a chemistry exam. I'm not going to get on the wrap-bashing train when there are so many,many lame sandwiches around. Most of the kvetching seems to be directed at the wrapper itself-well, yeah! Tortillas suffer from the same problem as bread-too much artificial crap in them. I see nothing wrong with a well-constructed wrap made with a GOOD tortilla, and good luck finding THAT.
  17. I think this illustrates the whole chef/not-chef dichotomy-as someone else pointed out, there's only one real chef per kitchen, and lots of other players going by different names/titles. In French, "chef" means a lot of things-department head, bossman-in the French military lower ranks say "OUI CHEF!" and "NON CHEF!" to their NCOs and officers-it's all about command. So these days we have jokers like on "Top Chef"-what are they chefs of? -and other specimens who couldn't run a kitchen if you held a gun to their heads, accorded the title "chef," and on the other hand professional cooks who have all the chops but not the credentials, and they're lumped in with the hash-slingers. Bottom line is, if you work for someone, wear what that person tells you to wear. If you have your own place-hey, you're the boss-the...yes! The chef. Wear what you want. Be happy.
  18. I understand the concept of making the best of a bad situation, but what I fail to comprehend is why we accept as normal much of what occurs on a day to day basis in the restaurant culture. I, too once gloried in my burns and scars and ability to work under insane pressures quite often for insane people. But as I grow older and perhaps wiser I find myself questioning the need for much of what the average cook undergoes during the course of an average day. The rest of the world has moved forward but the restaurant business is by and large stuck in some sort of time warp. The traditional kitchen is based on a regimented, nearly militaristic European paradigm. Barking out orders followed by barking out of "yes Chef" and "no Chef" is still the norm many places, and why? Having been a soldier, I can say with some authority that even the armed services don't indulge in the degree of heel-clicking and rigid adherence to every idiotic whim expected of many cooks. As a former health-care worker I can tell you that code blues, in which a patient's life hangs in the balance, are not accompanied by the sort of histrionics such as are encountered behind the line during dinner service. Contrary to what some believe, pride and passion can exist without meaningless B.S. As far as creativity and self-expression go, I've never worked in a restaurant where I could just cook whatever struck my fancy that day. Another writer spoke approvingly of the "bareboned human emotion" that one finds in restaurants...well, one certainly does, unfortunately. In most kitchens it's entirely normal to exhibit the kinds of behavior found usually in the severely mentally ill-loud and random noises, inappropriate speech, demented laughter, psychotic behavior. Personally, I like to cook. I'm good at it. What I don't like is having to do my job in an atmosphere which in virtually any other profession would be considered aberrant. And the pay is, for many, woefully inadequate. If the profession of the culinarian is at all important, why the chump change? There are good reasons why you find so many ex-cooks, chefs, etc. in the ranks of vendors, sales reps and knife-sharpeners. I think sooner rather than later this industry is going to have to get on the stick and get into at least the 20th century, or else accept the fact that it will be staffed by the substance abusers, the can-crackers and the shoemakers.
  19. I was recently laid up for quite a while following knee surgery and jelly beans saved my sanity. For 5 weeks I had to spend 6-8 hours a day attached to a machine called a CPM, and I basically had to be nearly flat on my back-couldn't use my laptop, couldn't do much of anything besides read and eat-eventually I hit on jelly beans as sort of a cigarette substitute-I quit smoking long ago but the enforced inactivity got some cravings going! So I figured jelly beans would be worth a try, as they're hard to eat fast-so I got through a long succession of days reading and slowly, meditatively popping jellies. My favorites ended up being, not Jelly Bellys, but a brand sold at Wal-Mart, called Gimbal's and made in San Francisco-somewhat cheaper than Jelly Bellys but with excellent, clean flavors-47 flavors in each bag, including tiramisu, which I believe someone else was pining for....it's very strange, as I've never been much of a jelly bean aficionado, although I've always had a thing for licorice jellybeans and indeed licorice anything.....There used to be a jalapeno Jelly Belly which I liked a lot, as well. Since I've been back on my feet my jelly bean cravings have pretty much subsided, but I have a newfound appreciation for the little guys.
  20. Wow. This is basically my story as well. It's very distressing to try and cook really good food in a really nice facility and constantly get shot down and have to bang out liver and onion blue plate specials and such for people who can afford any kind of food imaginable....for some reason my club decided we needed some state-of-the-art cuisine and after extensive searching hired a very fine executive chef-for a while we were turning out some really nice, beautiful food-but of course food cost was higher than it ever had been, etc.-so of course he's no longer with us and we're back to prime rib and lobster-of course the way these folks slug down the booze they aren't really tasting anything. So this begs the question, if this is the way the upper echelon of society eats, should we really be surprised that Joe Average out there is satisfied with virtually any garbage thrown his way? American eating habits are changing, but not as much or as quickly as we would like to think, especially in the hinterlands. As far as tipping goes, my club officially has a no-tipping policy. So instead of servers being highly motivated to go the extra mile to make decent tips, there is absolutely no incentive for any of them to work any harder or do a better job than the lowest slacker on the team.
  21. I've been experimenting with eggrolls/springrolls quite a bit lately. My favorites are not very traditional-I use a filling of coarsely ground or chopped pork or pork and shrimp stirfried w/ a little nuoc mam (vietnamese fish sauce), black pepper and a tiny bit of 5-spice. I prefer using the chopped or ground meat because that way when you bite into the roll it all doesn't pull out as w/strips. I use a "slaw" that is not cooked-jicama, cabbage, daikon,whatever-shredded and very lightly tossed w/a sort of pan-Asian vinaigrette which changes constantly. I like also to add rice noodles , Vietnamese style. Wrappers are either Vietnamese banh trang(rice "paper") rehydrated in warm water-Nicole Routhier says dissolving sugar in the water makes the rolls brown better and get crispier. I must say however that in my opinion regular commercial eggroll skins have a really nice crunch much nicer than the authentic kind-and they stay crunchier in the fridge the better to be eaten cold in the middle of the night...
  22. Some years ago I was managing a fast-casual restaurant in Asheville, NC. Let me preface this by saying I've lived in Asheville for many years and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else-BUT some people in this area seem prone to many strange allergies and maladies which probably are not found elsewhere and possibly do not exist at all.....at any rate, one day one of my employees came and got me saying that there was a lady in the restaurant with a dog, and it did not appear that she was blind or otherwise handicapped. So I went out front and observed this lady and dog for a few minutes-the dog was a medium-sized mongrel-type dog wearing a dog pack ,out of which protruded a bottle of water....the lady seemed to be a typical sort of new-ager, judging from her apparel...the woman indeed did not seem to be differently-abled in any way, and the dog appeared to be serving no purpose (aside from just being a dog) besides toting a water bottle. Now let me say here that I'd never received any training or seen any guidelines about service animals. So I approached the woman as discreetly as I could, and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, but I'm going to have to ask you to take your dog outside."Well, it was if this person had been waiting all day for this opportunity-she began to berate me rather loudly, insisting that her dog was a SERVICE ANIMAL which she had to have with her at all times! Due to her medical condition! That dog was her support system! She had every right to have the dog with her! ETC. Well, I was stunned at first and then pissed off-I had tried to be discreet and professional, and she was making a huge public scene-so I said,"So what's that dog doing for you exactly?'So she says, "I HAVE ALLERGIES,AND THE DOG HAS MY MEDICATIONS!" Wow. So from there I just had to back down....she must have called the toll-free corporate hotline, because we received very shortly thereafter a set of guidelines concerning service animals which states as I recall that a service animal can be anything at all pretty much and YOU CANNOT EVEN ASK IF IT IS IN FACT A SERVICE ANIMAL. And all this lady's dog had been doing was carrying her pills around for her, like a self-propelled handbag. Well, I thought it was B.S. then and I think it's B.S. now.
  23. Yes. My school told me the same thing, and the health department dinged my last kitchen over a couple of us wearing wristwatches. If it's part of the regs, they have to teach it in school. Nowadays I carry a digital clock/kitchen timer with a magnet in the back. Stick to metal surface, toggle between clock and three concurrent timers as needed. Sometimes one learns the most useful things from the pastry crew. As for other suggestions for the OP, for home, get an aloe plant and an econo-size bottle of ibuprofen or whatever painkiller you prefer. And sleeping with a pillow under the knees will aid in foot pain/fatigue recovery. Think elevation = better circulation. Overall, try not to go overboard with tools, including my timer suggestion. With time, as you learn how to move around, you'll learn more about yourself and what you need to function at your best in that particular kitchen. ← Hmmm....well, I've not been to culinary school but I've been in the biz for many moons and never heard about the watch/bacteria thing. I've certainly worked with some well-educated chefs who wore wristwatches BUT health dept. regs certainly vary wildly. I guess a caveat should be "consult local authorities before wearing a watch." Regulations or no, I wear a waterproof watch and wash/sanitise it regularly. Also I try and not cook with my wrists, but that's just me...
  24. Amen to all the above, with the addition of some current jibber-jabber: "Housemade-" like homemade(or homade!) but more prententious- "Coulis-"any sort of sauce at all, pretty much...... "Infused-" is it really? "Aioli-" Mayo plus whatever equals....yes, AIOLI. That's it! "ragout-" what-evah! These spring to mind readily but no doubt there are many, many more!
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