For the Love of Cooking...

Why I love what I do…there are some real boring jobs out there to me, albeit they ARE jobs and things could be much worse….much worse! After seeing some folks simply sitting around and doing not much more than watching grass grow or gazing down as their second hands on their watches meander slowly forward as they “guard the gate”, makes me love what I do even more. There are those who sit at a desk and have almost no contact for entire 8-hour shift, or some who do not challenge their minds or physical state, and of course, those who do. Again, so as not to try to create a sense of negativity about myself or downplay or disregard the meaningful jobs that some of those folks do perform each day, I do respect that they at least do work! I think we can all be thankful of that. I respect someone who at least get’s up in the morning(or day/night) and has enough energy and sense of responsibility to perform whatever task, duty and skill that they may have for our society and for themselves. I also am fully aware of the fact that many people provide duties and functions that I use each and every day, and hell, even take for granted, yet they go unrecognized. I do appreciate them for that. All I am really stating here is that I love what I do, and nothing beyond that. I cook. Are there times of challenge? Sure. Are there moments that are truly frustrating and aggravating…hell yes! Do I ever feel like I do not want to go in to work to do what I do best, simply because I perhaps have a family and would like to go do things with them, yet I have important commitments and obligations that are setting precedent. Absolutely. If I have said it once, I have said it many…a job is only a job if you would rather be doing something else. This is so the truth with me and my work. Or should I say my passion. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and strive to be with them every time I can, and I do make the time. But I have this thing called a passion. There is also this component which is dubbed as commitment and his close cousin named drive. They have many close relatives, but these are my main family members of my job. They are also my weaknesses. Cooking is what makes me tick. As my banner reads “an addiction”…I traded one for another. That is the life I lead and another story in and of itself. Sad but true! All in all, at the end of the day, on even my worst days and hellish nights, I love what I do and would not trade it for anything. Everyday is so different from the last. You are only as good as your last dish or meal. You have employee challenges. Attitudes and personalities. Domestic issues. Demanding guests and outright rude people at times. There are budget constraints and time restrictions and still not enough hours in the day to fully do what I want to do. And yet, you still get up each day and look to do it over and over again, or at least I do. I suppose that there are more exciting jobs out there, with some truly fascinating features. Great. Let those that live in that world enjoy what they have and I what I have. After all, those are probably my next guests. Whatever you do…commit to yourself to be the best!


Foie Gras Dinner at Rover's...

Jason, Michael and I

Thierry and Jim

Good times!

What an excellent time! It was such great fun to collaborate and cook along side these great chefs again. Michael Ginor, from Hudson Valley Foie Gras; who supplied the awesome lobes of luxury to us chefs. The evening started off with the chefs gathering in Thierry's kitchen at Rover's and staging their mise en place. It was a bit quiet, pretty calm, cool and collected. The way it should be! As professionals, we should not see chaos, clutter or disarray. We shook hands, acknowledged our colleagues and contemporaries, as well as the commis', and made small talk before getting to it. We arrived with most products prepped and ready. Always a plus when traveling to another kitchen so as to be able to lend a hand to others as well as see what is happening. Our passed amuse of the moment were to be passed...Michael presented our guests with a great Duck Prosciutto/Fig and Litchi Sorbet amuse,

my good friend Jason Wilson, from Crush Restaurant with his Seared Foie Gras "Burger" on savory Gougere, Thierry with his Torchon of Foie Gras with Harissa and Jim(Jim Campbell; our Executive Sous Chef at the club) and I with our Frozen Foie Gras "Lollipops" done "anti griddle style" with Salted Caramel and Pickled Cherries and Pistachio Dust. What a hit.

The first course from Michael was a Nori Cured Foie Gras, Ahi Tuna Tartare, Tempura Fried Quail Egg, Yuzu "Paint" and various little sauces and nuances.

The foie gras was cured in a salt cure, with ground nori seaweed, then frozen and then grated with a micro plane over the tuna and quail egg, which was fried in a light batter of tempura, but still soft centered. Great flavors!

Next was Jason...

with his Butter Braised Maine Lobster with Foie Gras-Duck Agnolotti (little pasta purses), delicate ribbons of shaved Foie Gras, micro greens, Alaskan Sea Salt and a subtle and very tasty Spring Garlic Broth.

Thierry and his Chef de Cuisine; Adam Hoffman

then stepped in with a Tournedo of King Salmon with Seared Foie Gras, Fennel Confit, Fennel Flan, Fennel Pollen and a striking Licorice Butter. Pure flavor is what it was. We(The Rainier Club) were up next with our Seared Breast of Squab and Poached Foie Gras, a sliced of Caramelized Pear, Baby White Asparagus and Demi Thumbelina Carrots(both from the Chef's Garden), Micro Celery, and a little "infusion parcel" inside a hand made tea bag made up of orange, thyme, bay, anise, mace and black pepper, which sat in the bottom of the bowl to infuse the "Boisson" of roasted Squab Jus that was poured table side. A gentle sprinkle of Orange-Vanilla Fleur de Sel was applied as the dish left the kitchen.

Thierry was up again with the main course of Roasted Saddle of Rabbit, stuffed with a farce of Sweetbreads and Foie Gras.

A creamy Farro "Risotto", a sauteed Crepe "Farci" and Roasted Rabbit Jus accompanied along with a shot of Offal Nage. This was a very tasty and savory dish.

Jason, Thierry and I then plated a collaborative Foie Gras dessert "Degustation", comprising of...

Jason's Walnut and Foie Gras Macaroon Sandwiches, Thierry's White Chocolate Mousse with Bruleed Apricots and Glazed Financier, and from Jim and I~ Milk Chocolate & Foie Gras "Bon Bon" with a truffled Apricot Marmalade, Pedro Ximenex "Caviar", Foie Gras Marbre, Micro Anise Hyssop, Foie Gras Powder and a crispy Dark Chocolate Feuillatine Crunchy.

House mignardises of chocolates and pates de fruits were passed around. The crew at Rover's were a great help and everyone seemed to have a great time, both guests and chefs! This was the first time I had cooked in that kitchen since I left there almost 13 years ago. I had a blast. The evening came to an end, as all great things must do, but not without great conversations, revisited ideas, information shared and inspired thoughts from one another. These are the times in our careers that are truly meaningful and will continue to drive me forward. Sharing views and thoughts with Michael, Thierry and Jason will propel my vision further into the deep passions of my cooking. Thank you guys for the great time cooking together. I can only wait until the next time our paths will cross...


3 Little Wooly Pigs...

ready for head cheese...

All I can say is...yea, right! As if they are little. I hope to get some more shots of our harvest, but for now, you will just have to imagine. A chef friend called to say he was actually making a trek to Spokane to pick up about 4 hogs from Heath Putman,(check out post on his blog about the slaughter for us-April 29th) owner and farmer of the famed Berkshire and little known Mangalitsa hogs from his ranch at Wooly Pigs. Some chef's, media and pork aficionados have been talking, writing and blogging about them lately(Michael Ruhlman etc) so I asked if I tack one on to his order. He gladly accepted to do so. So...arrived they did! We ended up needing to store his two in addition to ours since his walk in refrigerators were not completed yet. We had to clear out a whole side of our cooler out, just to be able to get them in. We literally had 3 huge (about 1000 lb.'s) fresh, black, freshly slaughtered Berkshire Hogs ready to be honored and enjoyed. Albeit two were his, but it was an amazing site for sore eyes. As you could see from the spring lamb fabrication class we had last month(see prior post), this was no different, only in that it was about 6 times greater in size. We had actually desired to procure the Austrian Mangalitsa Hogs, which are a bit smaller, and seemingly special and rare, yet they were not ready yet, and the demand is so high, that they are somewhat on a backlog. A lot of chef's have talked about the prohibiting cost factor to get these hogs shipped to them, and yes, it is high, but by picking them up, we saved a bunch of dough. I realize that only a small handful of folks can take advantage of this method(Northwesterners mostly) due to their proximity to Spokane. I recommend to hook up with about 3-4 different chefs and go in on the whole cost for the shipping of the wooly pig. I have received various quotes of costs, but for a whole Berkshire hog, it will run somewhere around $1300-1400. I would suggest to contact Heath directly and chat with him for the actual cost breakdown. I spent two days with a couple of cooks fabricating and processing the beast. It was a great opportunity to show our brigade what this process is all about and how important it is to be able to do this effectively. It can save you a lot of money if you know how to manage it correctly, use everything possible and market the pig, hence honoring it's life and death respectfully. So far, by the end of the night Friday, we had put shoulders into cure for coppa, jowls up for guanciale, bellys ready for bacon and pancetta, spare ribs braised for picked meat for a Spanish Tapas with Calamari, the Top Sirloins in cure for Culatello, bottom rounds ready for a slow roast for the Tapas, the head soaking for head cheese and some fat in cure for lardo (both regular and fennel pollen spiced) amongst other things. We bagged up about 45lb. of shoulder and leg meat for an upcoming event in which we need 60lb. of savory bratwursts and kielbasas. Some cuts will be used for roasts and braises, the loin we roasted and sold for a special function. The tenderloins are being sold in various specials and at the chef's table or tasting menus. So far, the taste has been quite nice, yet I suspect that with the huge amount of marbling that I encountered while butchering, the best is yet to come in the other cuts! Having an ability or outlet in banquets, dining room, lounge etc. definitely helps in being able to justify the expense and move the meat. In a fine dining(dinner) only venue, that might be a bit tough since there is so much fat! At least 50-60lb! There again, we make all of our own salumi and charcuterie so we use the fat, as well as sell the lardo, belly, bacon etc. Our kitchen is one that we make use of all the cuts, and pride ourselves on the full functionality of the garde manger. It is an endeavor that I think all chefs should experience at least once. It is truly a great project and learning opportunity. I try to do it whenever I can, as that is the way that I trained as a cook... to be able to make use of all cuts and by-products so as to understand the make up of the animal and what each cut represents and can be used for and how it is to be cooked.
splitting of the head

removal of cheeks for braise