I want to tell all of you that I'm dominating this kitchen noise, but meat station has been challenging. I work Friday Saturday Sunday only on meat, and I get my ass kicked those three days. I haven't had much time to become acquainted with the area or the dishes. It shows in my performance. In three weeks on the station: I've overcooked the executive chef's pork chop, I've had one chef bring me into the office after service to tell me something like, "You need to move faster, man. This is New York;" and I've had another chef kick me off the station with twenty minutes left of service because my station was such a wreck. I was banished to peel potatoes, an embarrassing thing. (I peeled the shit out of those potatoes, though.) I need a bit more practice with the meat.
I have been told that I was moved to meat because I was killing it on fish. Also, they say that meat is easier than fish. So I got that going for me.
We had a bacon challenge the other day. A chef handed each cook in the kitchen a three inch slab of bacon and said, "Make a dish with this before 10 o'clock. The winner gets a six pack." I represented my former kitchen Grange Kitchen and Bar with "roasted chicken, bacon jam, grilled ramps and asparagus, pan sauce."
The chef decided, "Sue, you're disqualified for being too slow. I'm sorry. For the rest of you, all the dishes were excellent. Roy, you're bacon caramel was really good, but I was expecting something more intricate than an ice cream that you didn't make with caramel. And since, Rob stole his recipe from a restaurant that he used to work at, I'm going to give this one to Jim. Jim you had a lot of things going on."
Shoot. As I was plating, the chef said, "I have a feeling you've done this dish at a previous restaurant." I shouldn't have proudly said, "Oh, yes." I didn't know it was a bad thing.
Everything is stolen. Carmel and ice cream? Roy didn't get flack for ripping off Dairy Queen. The other dude's dish was "bacon roasted in chili oil, jalapeno, asparagus, bacon powder." Bacon powder is bacon fat mixed with tapioca maltodextrin. I don't know where he came up with the idea, but if you google "bacon powder" it has 19 million results.
I'm not upset that I lost. Okay, I'm really upset that I lost. Bacon jam gets down, and I don't like losing. But, man, that judgement was ridiculous.
Everything is stolen. You know?
When Avatar came out, millions of people watched it even though it had the same plot as Disney's Pocahontas. When Pocahontas came out people watched it even though it had the same plot as that time John Smith sailed to the Americas in 1607 and hung with a native lady named Pocahontas. Do you think John's bros told him that it was awfully cliche of him to be hanging with the exotic, native chick, that it had been passe since Solomon trying to get with the Queen of Sheba? Do you think the Queen of Sheba would have liked Disney's Pocahontas? I hope so. That movie is so fly. I mean... have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
The chef was helping Roy brainstorm ideas for his dish. One of the chef's suggestions was bacon and Parisian-style gnocchi. It happens that one of the most popular contemporary cook books,Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, has a recipe for Parisian-style gnocchi. It's possible that the only reason any one is thinking about Parisian-style gnocchi right now is because of that cookbook. We made it at my former restaurant. I just ate it the other night at a friends house. Do you think the chef has read Keller's book? Do you think the chef is aware of Keller's influence? Do you think Keller is aware of a gnocchi recipe in Everyday Cooking With Jacques Pepin from thirty years ago? How much do you think Pepin digs bacon jam? I... just... think that the rainstorm and the river are my brother, the heron and the otter are my friends, and we are all connected to each other, in a circle, in a hoop that never ends.
Everything comes from somewhere else whether the person making it knows it or not. Oh yes, bacon jam is a more specific recipe than Parisian-style gnocchi. The whole dish that I made was a Grange dish. If you gave my former Grange chef a piece of bacon and told him to make a dish with it, I'll bet he would decide something like, "Bacon jam will impress these guys. I'll make some bacon jam, put it on top of a meat, throw some seasonal vegetables in there, and boom. I'll win." And that's exactly what I thought. I think my former chef would be proud. I learned that type of meat-centric, simple, seasonal cooking from him. That's why I worked there. Experience. Influence. Now that I've worked at Nougatine, if somebody handed me some blackberries, I might juice the hell out of them and throw some yuzu in there, and Jean George would smile. He might even taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth, roll in all the riches all around him, and for once, never wonder what they're worth.