Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010, you were a motherfucker.

2010, you were a motherfucker.  Without a doubt, you have been the most difficult 12 months of my life.  If we were cellmates, you would've had me in lipstick.  I was your bitch.  2010, you ambushed me in the dark, shoved my face up against the mirror, and forced me to look at myself for who and what I am.  I fucking hate you 2010.  And I am forever indebted to you for everything that you gave me.

2010, you revealed my weaknesses by slapping me in the face.  Very public failures that led to sleepless nights that led to wildly aggressive, mildly productive days that led to more sleepless nights that somehow led me to a logical idea of how to proceed in the most efficient way.  You took my dangerous overconfidence and stripped it down to it's core; an inflated ego resting on a wobbly scaffolding made up of too many compliments, too few challenges, and the idea that I could do anything, at any time.  2010, at a certain point you were beating me down in such a brutal way that you made me feel deeply connected to the world around me.  Turmoil, frailty, unrest, rage.  You forced me to find a way to escape myself if only through running until my legs cramped and my lungs ached, and I was far, far away, with no choice but to walk back home alone, insecurities and fears taunting me the whole way.

2010, you made me smarter, by showing me how stupid I am.  It's been a hell of thing, being out there alone, and trying to figure things out...especially after I thought I had things all figured out.  I made my decisions based on a frail mix of past experiences, instinct, and common sense.  And this would work fine for me until I realized I had been being completely inefficient; burning up money, hours, and my teetering sanity.  Then, one moment at a time the pieces would start to come together, and I would quietly curse myself and let in a smile, if only for a moment.  And to think now that I have it all figured out would be ridiculous.  I'm sure that in six months ill be feeling many of these same frustrations with my past self.  For as smart as I like to think I am, I sure am a fucking idiot sometimes.

2010, you forced me to be better.  If for only one reason.  For the first time in my life succeeding had nothing to do with trying to advance my career, or ego, or money.  Cooking wasn't about being the best, or the guest, or self-fullfilment.  2010, you gave me the most profound/terrifying experience of my life when you gave me my son, and you showed me a whole new way to approach my work.  There is no motivation in the world like working for the survival of another person, and as a cook, to experience's illuminating.  Every goal, every idea, every plate, every task, they all end up relating back to who it is that you're working for.  Suddenly the way people react to your craft becomes so much more..personal.  To impact my work this year was to impact my son, and even if it made me unreasonable at times, it absolutely made me cook better, and try harder.

2010, through you I accomplished so much.  Achievement.  Hurt.  Humiliation.  Elation.  The making of new friendships.  The transformation of old friends into enemies.  The abandonment of the familiar, the safe, for the great unknown.  You gave me a son.  You gave me the feeling that everything and nothing was impossible.  2010, you scared the fuck out of me, and never let me act like a little bitch about it.  I hate you 2010.  And I thank you for every single minute.

whats been going on the past 9 months:  SF, father & son, colton, colton, vic, colton, work, sold out, mer mer, last days at nopa, colton, to-do lists

Thursday, August 26, 2010

some old stuff.

a single note:

this blog isnt dead.  it's not going away, its not over.  here's some stuff that's just been sitting here for months.

quotes and conversations. 

Me:  Is your back still fucked up?
Goose:  I think it's my hip.
Me:  You know what's good for that?
Maritess:  Boning down.
Goose:  Boning down nasty style.
Me:  Yoga.  Geez you guys.

Dega:  Have you ever been to Cony Island? 
Me:  No.
Dega:  They have this game there called shoot the freak.  You shoot this raver with purple hair.
Me:  Yeah, but it's different now.
Dega:  It is?
Me:  Yeah.  Now it's called shoot the hipster.  And instead its some asshole with a red beanie and a fixie.
Dega:  I hate you.

"Some girls are too nice to tell a guy no.  That's how I ended up on a date with a guy that worked at the renaissance fair."

"Come on Pito, show me your dark side.  You know, I don't think it's that dark.  I think it's kinda white."
-Camaal, talking to Eddie.

Merrell:  Gerardo, you look like Julius Ceasar. 
Gerardo:  Does that make you wanna fuck me?

Eddie:  Hey Dega.
Dega:  Yeah.
Eddie:  Guess what i'm gonna do tomorrow?
Dega:  What?
Eddie:  Bone down regular style.
Gerardo:  Regular.

Me:  Camaal, you don't want to lose ten pounds.  You'll look like Eddie.
Camaal:  I don't wanna look like Eddie.
Me:  No.
Eddie:  What.  Are you talking about my stinky pussy?

(Merell and I are bickering.  I pass her a pan of chickens mid argument.)
Me:  And take your fucking cock, because its the only kind you're getting!
Merrell:  Well...I don't have anything to say to that.  So fuck you.

Eddie:  Here's a good one.  Wanna know how much of a pussy I am?  I cried through the entire movie "Up."
Me:  (Hysterical laughing)
Merrell:  Why are you volunteering this information?
Eddie:  Have you seen it?  It's a very touching movie.
Al:  Fire back 40.
Me:  I'm sorry Al, I couldn't hear you because I was too busy laughing about Eddie crying through the entire movie "Up."
Maritess:  Have you seen it?  It's a very touching movie.

from top:  pig diagram, restrictions apply, mer-mer's birthday, making james freeman cringe, pigs head, burning towels, butchery, tomato, amy brown, los angeles, a big ass mimosa.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The stage. A guide.

Question of the week/fill in the blanks: on a stage, you should ___. On a stage you should not ___. What makes a good stagiere?
amigadehelado@linecooka stage should pay attention, ask questions, taste things. Get out of the way when neccessary. Don't set stage hours by a "clock"
Tanukipdx@linecook once had a stage grab my favorite yanagiba ($$$$Japanese slicer) and cut themselves a piece of bread w/it. end of stage.
Tanukipdx@linecook a good stage silently&invisibly gets stuff a little mise en place fairy. a bad stage snacks on people's mise
Benjamin_Parks@linecookOn a stage you quietly take notes You should not start telling your glory stories of all the other restaurants you have worked in.
tournant@linecook -should//STFU, do what we tell yo, stay out of the way...should not//show off your skull n knives tattoo, hit on servers
adoxograph@linecook on a stage you should absorb and remember the best and worst of what you see, esp little details
adoxograph@linecookon a stage you should not ever say to yourself well, I'm not getting paid so I don't have to (clean, be on time, fill the blank)
PrixFixeOnline@linecookYou should work your arse off, you should not stand around after finishing a task. Always ask chef for next task, speed is a must.
jrnavlag@linecook U should work and learn. U should not let the pay or lack of it be your drive.  Do your research.  Then shut up about it.
ingridc@linecookYou should shut up, be nice, listen and follow directions. You should not touch a cook's mise unless asked. Or get mouthy, ever.
ingridc@linecook p.s.-last wk's stage told chef he wants to trail our killer pasta man Javi.. so he could show him how to make it right #dieinafire
randomplacement@linecook a good stage contributes to the team and fits in with the team
randomplacement@linecook work and learn, run your mouth
Gchef703@linecook What makes a good stagiere? Hard-Working, Humble, Passionate person who Loves food and is willing to do anything to learn!
you should not Be a Pre Madonna!!! Should not be late, ask for days
off, breaks or a special jacket to show off to your friends

Gchef703@linecook you should Be a Sponge Listen! Learn! and ask a million questions even if they are stupid questions. ask em!

You're about to explode.  There's too far too much blood and oxygen coursing through your veins, and your eyes your pupils are so dialated that they would catch the attention of any police officer you came across.  You just finished your stage, and it went so beautifully that you're too wound up to eat, or drink, or even talk about it.  This is one of those perfectly fleeting moments, so you just sit there on the bus, missing your stop, so you can soak it all up.  You start Tuesday as the new fish cook.  Unless:

You blew it.  It seemed like your stage was going ok, but right around the end of the first turn the sous told you that you could take off.  You considered protesting, but instead you decided to change, have a smoke and get a bite to eat.  Sitting down at the bar, you order your food and a drink, and sometime later the chef tells you that you're welcome back anytime...but no job is discussed.  And you dont ask about one.  Your stage is over, and you wasted it.  So how did this happen?

You went into the restaurant between lunch and dinner service dressed appropriately, resume and knives in hand.  For a week you've been reading the menu on-line, and bringing yourself up to speed on the background of the chef and the restaurant itself.  After your chat with the chef, you let him know that you're ready to stage that evening if he would like.  He tells you to come back Friday instead.  On Friday you show up early, smiling and introducing yourself to any staff that you come across.  You take your knives and a spoon out of your kit that you slimmed down a bit, and settle in with any prep work that they'll give you--herb picking, cutting bread, citrus supremes.  You work quietly and cleanly, with eyes and ears open so you dont miss a thing.  Unless:

You drop into the restaurant as you walk by, and approach the chef who is expediting a fairly busy lunch service.  He doesn't have time to talk to you right now, but tells you to come back that evening at 4 for a stage.  You tell him that you have tickets to a show, but could you come in tomorrow?  He asks for a resume.  You dont have it with you.  When you do show up for your stage, the chef asks you why you want to work in his restaurant; what is it about this place, this food, that turns you on?  You stumble through some bullshit answers.  He smirks at you.  Unpacking your kit you pull out 6 knives, a spatula, tongs, and a handful of spoons.  The sous steps in next to you.
"Um.  What's all that shit for?"
Working through your prep, you dont shut up--about your last job, your opinions on how things should be done, and who you think should win top chef.  No one really responds to you, but you go on anyways. 

The chef had told you that he needed a fish cook, so this is the station that you stick with through prep, line-up, and into service.  During line up you politely ask if you can taste mise, and as you taste dishes you take notes, and try to memorize the station set-up.  Just before service you sweep the station and wipe down everything for the cook.  You ask the chef if he wants you anywhere else during service, but he says no.  During service you pull plates, and garnish, but generally try to stay out of the way and observe.  Eventually the pace starts to build a bit, and the cook catches your eye.
"Alright.  We're going on 7 fish and 6 scallops.  We'll go together, ok?  You take the scallop dish."
An hour later you're cooking all of the proteins on your own, with the fish cook plating and garnishing for you.  When the sous asks how it's all going for you, you tell him you love it, and want to close the station that night.  There will be no end of shift meal or drink for you.  Just a cold family meal, a watery iced tea, and a nod of approval from the brigade.  Unless:

You bounce around the kitchen getting all up in everyones shit, but not really absorbing anything.  You taste without asking, and more than once you criticize the food.  During one of your rants about how you used to do it at your last job, the grill cook catches looks at you and growls "Well that's so fucking interesting."  Most of your evening is spent leaning against the ice machine, and when you do step in, you're so fucking slow wiping plates and garnishing that the sous knocks the chervil out of your hand and shouts "JUST FUCKING SEND IT!"  You cook zero orders, and when you sit down to eat at the bar, you order an expensive cocktail, and dont tip.  You.  Fucking.  Blew.  It.

There is nothing like a stage in any other field of work.  Sure, athletes have tryouts, and actors have auditions.  A stage is both.  It lasts many hours, is physically and mentally draining, and everyone is already expecting you to fail before you even begin.  It's the culinary equivalent of  getting jumped into a gang.  You get one chance to get it right, and being thrust into an unfamiliar, borderline hostile environment guarantees that if you don't fail outright, you are at very least probably going to make a stupid mistake.

And at the end of your stage, it's all of this pressure that makes succeeding all the more sweet.  To have cooked well, and won over the cooks that let you into their home is a special thing.  It's a re-affirming rite of passage, and a fleeting feeling you only get to enjoy every once in a while.  Don't let your stage just pass on by.

  • that's not bechamel.
  • holy shit!  I updated finally!
  • podcasts are coming back.  no really.  they are.
  • get some rest.
  • burrito
  • stepping into an open grease trap means youll probably need new shoes.
  • that's pasta water.  not a deep fryer.
  • fish & farm seems like its becoming the new industry night off spot

Quotes and Conversations.

Me, to Gerardo:  Hey dude.  Tell your partner if he mouths off to me again, im gonna tie him up.
Eddie:  Shhiiiiiiieeeeeett.  You wish!  You wish you could enter the dungeon!

(I pinch Eddie's nipple.)
Eddie:  Hey dude!  Not the nipples!
Me:  Oh, im gonna get the nipples.
Eddie:  (pause)  I'm...ticklish.

Me:  You can call him a pussy if you want to.
Eddie:  I don't want to call him a pussy.  That would be the pot calling the kettle black.

Me:  Eddie.  Want me to give you a hand massage?
Eddie:  No.
Me:  With my balls?
Eddie:  That's not a massage.

Goose:  Those new light fixtures are bad.  The block looks good now.
Me:  Yeah dude, they're nice.
Eddie:  And they reduce light pollution.
Me:  Fuck off Ed Begley Jr.
Goose:  Get the fuck outta here with that shit.
Eddie:  Did you know I can ruin any conversation?

"I'm a human snuggie.  You wrap me around you and watch t.v.  I come in different colors.  But mostly white."
-Corey.  Human snuggie.

Gerardo:  Can I borrow your skimmer thingy?
Merrell:  It's called a spider.
Gerardo:  I know a guy named spider.

Me:  Elton John has hairless balls?  What?
Goose and Dega:  I have hairless balls!
Me:  I hate you guys.

Me:  Would you bone down with a guy that wears a lot of gold jewelry?
Dega:  How much gold jewelry?
Me:  A lot.
Dega:  Hell yeah.  Mr. T?
Me:  You'd bone down with Mr. T?

Me:  Wouldn't that be cool?  If you had a hinge on your balls?  You could move them like this.
Goose:  Yeah.  But then you'd have to grease them.  You wouldn't want squeaky balls.

Merrell:  My stomach is getting flat.  See?
(Gerardo is watching the conversation.)
Merrell:  This doesn't concern you Gerardo.
Gerardo:  I was watching you touch yourself.

"I evaluate every stripper on a case by case basis."

Eddie:  You missed out.  I brought candy yesterday.
Corey:  What are you?  A pervert?  Halloween's over bro.

Eddie:  I think old people are cute.  I saw some old people going into Good Vibrations...
Corey:  Stop.  Stop.  Sentences should not include old people and Good Vibrations.

(Jamie is feeling my abs.)
Jamie:  You should feel his abs.  It's impressive. 
Merrell:  I'd rather feel yours.  (Jamie walks away)
Merrell:  Was that weird?

(Merrell walks into the corner of the stove.)
Me:  Did you just jab your pussy with the oven?
Merrell:  Yes.  Even though I don't have balls, it still hurts.
Me:  Graceful.  You're a real pageant queen.
Merrell:  I'm a fuckin lady.

from top:  sautee, line up, al, a gift from ryan farr, mer-mer's balls, where am i vol. 6, fuck you in your ear, super bowl, you figure it out

Monday, January 18, 2010


Would you rather work with someone that was fast but a completely out of control, or a person that was slower but composed and in control?
CookhouseSF@linecook As one of the latter I'd like to work with the former
KellyNg1@linecook i would take slower over sloppy anyday. seems easier to speed up a nice slow snail than to tame a rabid slob.
KyleCWilkinson@linecook Fast and out of control. Would balance my slower and more composed workstyle.
theNeilD@linecook What about fast and composed with poise; that's true talent. Those are the people that make you better.
aphexplotz@linecook Slow and composed. I've worked with both, and I'd rather be down one than have someone I can't predict or control.
composed and in control. no question about it. the kitchen is crazy enough that if your leader is spazzing then its gonna be bad..

FattedCalf@linecookComposed. Definitely composed. In my experience, people who go too fast and don't think can really put a banana in the tailpipe.
tournant@linecook slow/in control, for sure. fast/out of control=messy, doesn't listen, takes shortcuts
GuyArnone@linecook fast&out of control = slow for the extra time spent fixing Speedy's mistakes.
gardenstatechef@linecook what's the end product? give me speed and insanity if the plates are perfect.
jesachrist@linecook slower and controlled. Working too fast creates more problems than it solves, and in the long run slows down everyone
most_impressive@linecook Slower, but in control. Speed can be taught, but accuracy and commitment to perfection is more valuable, IMO.
TheNPA@linecook All headway gained by being fast is lost in the ER while the Doc stitches Speedy Gonzales back up.
MatthewSievert@linecook in it to win it baby. Planning will allow for swift execution.
cookerguy@linecook Slower and composed, just not too slow. Fast and out of control disrupts others as well.
If I had to choose I'd go door #2. Out of control cook drags the whole ship down w/ them. Slow affects the line too, but less so.

ingridc@linecook (and for the record I've been both quite enough, thanks!)
Benjamin_Parks@linecook Slower but in control. Chaos always creates more work (cleaning, fixing, etc), so quick chaos just produces more work faster.
cnewton9 @linecookneither, I always try to teach the kids that efficiency=speed vs accuracy, fast but sloppy no good, slow but perfect also no bueno
Gchef703@linecook Slow,Composed and in control FTW! They can always gain speed later. But sometimes speed is what you need! good question.
stresscake@linecookabsolutely slow composed and in control. Frenzy causes stressful miserable work environment. Calmness is more productive over LT

It's looking like a slow Tuesday night, and the cooks are coasting through their prep period, all laughs and smiles. There's a lightness in the air, and there are plans being made for days off. A special family meal is on the stove, and reggae plays on the dining room sound system. Everyone is a quiet shadow of their usual kitchen self. Except for Jerry. Jerry has his headphones in, playing Pantera so loudly that the cooks across the kitchen can hear it. He bounces around nervously, and just before service he jumps around and rolls his head like a boxer getting ready for a fight. The kitchen will do 135 covers tonight. Jerry will treat it like he just defeated the Roman army.

The first thing Denise does when she comes in is crack a joke and say hello to everyone in the kitchen. She'll breeze through prep with a smile on her face. Then when things get busy on the second turn, she will completely lose her shit. There will be muttering under her breath, mise slammed around, and a constantly shaking head--like each order on her station is a personal insult to her mother. Denise will stop calling back tickets completely, until things escalate with her sous chef to the point of yelling and him kicking her off the station. Nights like this will happen at least once a week.

Mark is the first cook to show up for work, every day. He sets up his station meticulously. There will not be a single detail missed, and he will be almost invisible while he works. There is a quiet dignity to him during this time. Then when service starts he start acting like someone has taped a live grenade to his back. There will be dips and dives and spins and some of the most violent movement you have ever seen. The other cooks will be watching him out of the corners of their eyes. At best, he will end up exhausting the entire kitchen.

Jen is like a warm blanket; when she is next to you on the line, you feel comforted...happy. She helps quietly, cooks with dignity, and maintains a level of composure far beyond her years of experience on the line. She never raises her voice, or flails, or loses her temper. Her movements are so fluid they appear slow--yet she's always setting the pace for the other cooks. Sitting with her, eating family meal, you ask her how she does it.
"It's just food, right? Why panic? I'm not doing open chest surgery or anything."

Composure. It's what separates good cooks from great ones. It's that quality that causes a guest to sit and watch, transfixed by the grace and elegance of a dinner service. It's certainly not the most important quality for a cook to have...but it's something that kitchen lifers immediately recognize and come to respect in their peers.

When I started cooking, my only goal was to be fast. Aside from not working clean and generally spinning around in my head, I probably looked like I was having a seizure. Then I started to notice the other cooks around me that were better than me. They were so expressionless. Did they just not care as much as me? Did they just not take things as seriously? Well, no. They just knew what they were doing. As my sous chef at that time said to me: "You don't want to look like a little bitch."

Time passed on, and as I slowly came to find a comfortable place in my own skin, my movements became more relaxed, but my head didnt. I still felt like I was one step away from flipping over my cutting board, throwing my salt at the food runner, and fist and elbowing my way out of the front door. It would take lying to myself to cure it; daily affirmations of "You're on control, you can cook, you're a motherfucking handsome badass." It sounds ridiculous. It was. And it worked.

Finding a way to be composed makes the other cooks look differently at you. The crew will respect you, your chef will be quietly impressed by you, and your skills will improve. You'll have more energy. And you'll know what to tell Mark when he starts to lose it.

So how do you deal wih it? Where do you find your place of balance? How do you compose yourself when things get crazy?

  • That G-Shock lasted a hard 10 years on my wrist. I washed it by putting it through the dishwasher.
  • If the girl is more Ghost World than Mean Girls, it's probably a good thing.
  • When someone says they did a "stint" in a kitchen, what the fuck does that mean?
  • In order to truly find balance in life, I think a person really has to explore every single corner of the human experience before coming back to center.
  • Ingrid writes some good stuff.
  • What's harder to live with: Regret or shame?
  • Podcasts. Really fucking up the whole podcast thing this time around.
  • the howbadcanitget blog could be very hilarious.
  • pastry chefs for the culinary fantasy league. taking nominations now. (amy brown, luis villavelazquez, william werner, bill corbett, melissa chou...who else?)

quotes and conversations.

Goose: Aaah!
Eddie: Did I startle you?
Goose: Nah, I just didn't know you had that much ass.
Eddie: I got a badonkadonk. Where do you think all the hot dogs go?
Goose: (laughs)
Eddie: Put that on your blog.
Me: Oh, i'm going to asshole. That's one of the dumbest things you've ever said.

Me: If you could bone down with a dolphin, would you do it?
Dega: I had a dream that I was swimming with dolphins the other night. You just reminded me.

"I don't like thongs. Does that make me gay?"

Me: If we were on ecstasy, would you suck my toes?
Corey: Probably.
Goose: I would watch if I were on E.
Corey: That would make you gay.

Dega: This girl showed me her mission tattoo. You're gonna get mad. It was a burrito, with the foil folded into wings, wearing Ray-Bans and drinking a Tecate. She was so pumped.
Me: So did she give you syphilis before or after she showed you the tattoo?
Dega: Before.

Me: Why do I always have to ask people to say "I love you" back to me?
Goose: I love you dude.
Me: Man fuck you Goose!

"You know what this music sounds like? The music from Sim City."

Me: None of my underwear fits anymore.
Amy: What, your dick got smaller?

Me: Would it be weird if I got stigmata out of my butt?
Dega and Amy: That's not stigmata!
Corey: It's called two piece Tuesday. It comes out in two pieces.

Me: How did you come to pee on her?
Dega: She asked me to pee on her.
Eddie: We are living in an awesome time.
Me: Well it had to be in the shower, right?
Eddie: Was it in the shower?
Dega: No.

Me: Eddie, if I asked you on a date, would you expect me to pay?
Eddie: Oh hell yes.
Me: Would you give me some action after?
Eddie: Yes. I might be a lot of things, but i'm no tease.

Me: Man, this restaurant is way busier at Christmas time with that new Bloomingdale's down the street. (pause) Mongoose, there's no Bloomingdale's down the street.
Goose: What the fuck is a Bloomingdale's?

mer mer, through my cup, eating is fun, thats a dumb shirt, can head, tattoo, chef415?, mischief, a lot of data usage.