Thursday, May 22, 2008

a day in the life of a kitchen

the restaurant is only open for dinner during the week. chef gets in around 9ish. runs through the receipts for the night before and checks stock. around 10 o'clock a supplier shows up. general supply stuff, bulk items: trash bags, potatoes, towels. then two wine merchants. a short frenchman, and another fellow from sonoma. "that's in northern california." he tells me. i nod, never heard of sonoma, or northern california for that matter. spread out on one of the steel tables, in front of the bunn coffee maker with the morning pot still steaming are four bottles of french wine. from languedoc. two reds, a white, and rose. the latter is pronounced rose-eh. these are for sampling. life should be so hard. the little french man asked me "do you work here?" as i walked through the door. "he's my brother", i pointed to chef. "would you like a glass then." it's eleven o clock in the morning, what do you think? i snatched a long stem and held it out. he delicately poured some savignon blanc, twisting it at the last moment. "thank you." with my fingers on the stem and pinky resting around the edge of the base i swirled the wine, freeing the scent. i smelled the boquet like a bonafied asshole. (hmmm, is it me or do i detect some hints of guava fruit and cucumber - probably just me)
"is there a bar here, or is it table service." the man from sonoma asks. i glance up from my glass, where the wine is still swirling around the walls of the glass: "table service." i said it like i owned the place. "it's an out of towner question." i think he meant it's a man from sonoma, northern california, question. whatever. the little frenchman and the man from sonoma pack up their gear. plugging the bottles with corks. shake hands, and tell chef they'll see him later.
a bank lady comes by about some chamber of commerce business. another supply guy, this time a local produce man. and then some time after noon another wine man. this time no samples.
meanwhile chef preps a few items for the evening, including a stinging nettle veloute. "stinging nettles?" i asked chef. i saw patrons, faces swollen and purple, large welts on their tounge trying to swill down the last drops of his delicious poison soup. "ah yeah." that was his explanation. "wait, stinging nettles. they sting you. and you're making a soup with stinging nettles. i'm missing a key piece of information methinks." "cooking takes the irritant out." still, i'm skeptical. also, i don't own a restaurant, and have never been to cooking school. (just tasted it. yeah, it's good.) chalk one up for the "i don't know what i'm talking about" column.
after the nettles comes a trip to the store. first to the cash and carry and then the co-op. cheese lady jane says, "hi chef" as we walk in. i nearly said hi back to her. chef talked shop for a second, and scored a sample of some new blue cheese that had just come in. she sliced off a few thin shavings and handed them over. it was beautiful. the cheese was soft and nearly melted in my mouth, the salt and sourness of the vein worked well against each other. d-lish. i still tasted the savory sourness in the corners of my mouth nearly an hour later.
back at the restaurant chef smashed some lemongrass, releasing their essential oils. this, he said, was for a broth in which he would brine the pork belly. once he had roughly chopped the lemongrass he added it to water, wine, orange juice and onions in order to make the brine.
set out to thaw: lobster tails and halibut. one last thing to make, the braising sauce for the halibut.
at roughly one o clock chef brought out some cheeses from walla walla, three goat cheeses: fresh chevre, herbed chevre, and a larzac with grape leaf ash slashing through the middle. the latter had a sharp bite to it, reminiscent of the blue i had earlier. we made little sandwiches with some of the fresh bread baked at the restaurant. i, for one, was famished. and it took the edge off. sometime near 230 we walked a few blocks to a new york style pizzaria. a decidedly different culinary mileau to be sure. and refreshing. you know. college kids. stoners. the joint during work and pbr after type crowd. chef, his assistant, and i munched on a large, foldable pepperoni liberally sprinkled with spicy basil, red pepper flakes and "parmesan (cough cough) cheese."
here's a picture of chef: more later.

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