The Holiday Offering...
...a "digital kitchen" of things I have been doing with our team during the "rush". These depict the images of a typical day and night(and into the next) of the holiday madness, that at times, makes you want to swallow a 45. And although this may be the case, and it seems like utter psychoticism, in the midst of it all, during the chaotic bedlam, the innate passion and true craftsmanship shines through and prevails. You do what you do to get through, and to be the best~ Cook!
Cooking during the holidays is different than any other time of year, as it is a totally different space of mind. It is not only the time of year that one would perhaps rather be with friends and family, but a time of year that congers up things to cook that happen only during this period. It is fun, once you can overcome the sheer insanity of the already fast-paced industry being kicked into overload almost overnight.
Giving your food and dishes a holiday "boost" by means of new ingredients that seem to be out-of-place at any other time (what...like you are going to do a spiced cranberry consomme with smoked maple glazed duck, savory pumpkin seed brittle and a hot persimmons gelatin in july?) are definitely an invigorating experience, and one that tends to satisfy the soul. We wait all year to be able to do this, and yet, with an almost immediate climax, we are already longing for Spring. Go figure.
Seasons come and go for us in the Northwest. They are something that as chefs, we base our existence on them. It gives us life. Revitalized energy. Creative inspiration. Our seasons are more strung out than in some other regions and locales in the lower 48. They are true. The are real. They allow for ample time to adapt and overcome the very nature of their existence. To get fully in touch with itself and really take hold of what is being offered. But alas, as mentioned, typical humans...we get bored quickly and start to scratch that itch to cook something new that lie ahead. In hindsight, that is what keeps us on edge and thus, exciting for the guests. Afterall, how interesting would it be if we did the same thing all year long? Not.
The weather is definitely an inspiration for us all. Some recent research of a cool blog that was turned onto me by a friend confirms that. Check out ideas in food. What inspires one, could be total bog down for another, and visa versa. This time of year in Seattle, for me, is a time that fuels the drive for good, solid hearty cooking. Tasty flavors of the festive nature. Hell, if I can't be at home with the family cooking for them, I might as well do it for everyone else with a sense of holiday spirit. In good food and cooking...cuisinier.
The Xmas Rush...
So...here's what we have been battling;
The Rush~ It comes on like a hurricane...slowly building velocity while seemingly dormant in the wake of the fall months. Then, like a freight train coming without any intention of stopping, it hits and the intensity thickens. Ala carte and especially banquets become overly saturated with clientele, searching for gastronomic pleasure with hunger-stricken eyes in which which we provide.
The People~ hoards everywhere! They come from near and afar. Out of the depths of the cellars and from the grain of the wooded walls, or so it seems. As most service industry will testify, this season is crazy! It seems to propel the thirst for entertaining all at once. Unfortunately, for us in the thick of it, it gets to the point where it sucks and sadly for some, they flat-out hate it, and it shows! What will tend to separate the professionals from the hacks, is that those that are here to see it through until the end, even if it kills us, are the only ones left standing.
The Chaos~ The chaos comes in many forms, in every second of every moment. It is something that early on, one must learn to manage and deal with, and ultimately live with. Being able to control it and still cope on a somewhat conscience level, is the goal I chose in this pursuit long ago. I am not freaking dead just yet!
The Hours~ All of them...fed by adrenaline, excessive amounts of coffee, extreme lack of sleep and copious levels of inner self-propulsion towards achieving excellence and reaching the finish line at the end of the day, only to come to and go at it the next! Another thing that works for me to get through the rush, or so it appears at the time, is the constant musical mayhem that replays itself in my head to the likes of a conductor of a symphony in his or her zone... where ever i may roam, outlaw torn, alive and once, cochise and birth ritual to name but a few. 15-18 hours @ 6-7 days a week, for several on end do not make for a very savory lifestyle, but we love it! My only real regrets are to my wife and kids, as they take on the grunt of it.
The Physical Demand~ The toll this takes on the human body is one that is not for the frail, the weak or intolerant. Or for that matter, the social queens that need that beauty sleep and time out with friends- forget it! This takes serious stamina, commitment, dedication and devotion to making it through the battle. The strong will to succeed & sound piece of mind to persevere are those that endure the holocaust.
In the end...it is all just cooking, and the pursuit of something great in which to share with someone else who chooses to dine in your establishment, which we should all be so lucky.
Winter Cooking~ In Touch with Your Soul...
If I have written about it once, I have done so hundreds of times...with much love and heartfelt sincerity I might add. It is a time in our lives as cuisiniers, that we sink our teeth into something real. Something concrete. Something that touches your soul! It is a type of expression that allows one to be whole. To be free from the superimposed pressures of becoming posers for the high society of diners and cooks alike. It is true, slow, succulent winter cooking. By that I simply mean that there are times when although our profession warrants it, and for that matter, demands it, we tend to cook and prepare things that are driven by a higher power, a stronger force set into motion by our peers, competitiors, business leaders, owners and media. A style that can be misconstrued as something it is not, if by no other reason, than perhaps just not being what one really, truly wants to cook. It is restaurant food. Glamorous and sleek~yes. Sophisticated and elegant~ absolutely. Avant Garde and cutting edge~of course, and why not? These dishes we see and cook in our restaurants each day are what we live for. They are what we seek to find in the worlds best eateries. Now, don't get me wrong. I love the food that I cook each and every day. It is what kicks my ass to keep going, and trustfully, those who follow along in the wake of my employ. If the femmes et hommes in our kitchen read this, and I know they will...("hi guys")...they will all surely think I am faux. But honestly, it is the true winter cooking that can allow us to release our identity and connect with the seasons offerings. To bring out more of ourselves than quite possibly any other time of year. For me, it is cooking that is simple. It screams the bounty of the region in it's profound beauty, brought together in harmony by means of the art of cuisine grande mere. That warmth and precious sense of wholesomeness is what penetrates the superficial nature of what we tend to get caught up in. This labor of love, simply put, is "one in touch with itself". As we commit to the long process, commit completely to it's existence, we soon realize what cooking is, and can be, all about. It is my hope and vision, to share this with my sons as they grow so that no single important part of this memory and knowledge will be lost. This done, will ensure the legacy of my soul as a chef.