Friday, December 19, 2008

The past six months, friends made and lessons learned...

Before reading ahead, I would like to qualify by stating that this particular blog is just a vent session and is not meant to disrespect anyone I consider friends. If you get offended then it looks like the blog is working cuz the truth hurts, lol.

These past 6 months of my career have been an interesting bump in the road, to say the least. I left my Executive Chef position at a corporate food service company to, let's say, "pursue my private chef business". Very shortly after that, I picked up a line cook job at a local city club to bring in some extra coin. To say that I learned a lot there would be an understatement.

Let's sum up what I mean by "learned a lot". I couldn't POSSIBLY list them all, so let's start with 5 for now:

  1. How much I love and appreciate a clean kitchen, the Latino community and hot interns.

  2. What it means to be under qualified for your position (no, I'm not talking about myself, lol).

  3. That it's very easy to get sucked into an angry persons negative way of thinking when you least expect it. (shit, you start to believe it's true!).

  4. That everyone is an expert on food but no one wants to be a Chef.

  5. Servers are either culinary grads that are too lazy or too stupid to work in the kitchen or...not.

I've seen some ugly and disgusting things working for this place. I mean, the health department would have a FIELD day if they had the chance to just snoop around the ice machine!!!

Ladles stored in uncovered containers, a regular site. (lets not forget the whipped cream stored in the piping bag too! YUM)

This slicer was cleaned 3 days before and not very well. 5 people used it since then. This is what it looked like before I had to clean it to use it.

This corner is what I like to call the dust bunny cage. It's right near the ice machine, 3 feet from the chefs office, nice, eh?

Without a doubt, I've done some great things and some not so great things in my life and career. I've worked along side some of the best in the industry and some of the worst. Each of the chapters in my life have bore great and valuable lessons that I've been able to take with me. My last employer is, certainly, not an exception.

Double standards? It would KILL me to watch someone count scallops to make sure that they were ACTUAL U-10s to assure himself that he wasn't getting screwed on price while, just a few feet away, another department head would throw away about 20 pounds of bread, muffins, scones and desserts twice a week because that person either wasn't getting the proper leadership or just didn't give a shit (I would have to lean towards the latter, I'm afraid).

Another example, the Executive Sous would be literally PUKING into the trash can in front of the Chef and still be allowed to work, around food! WTF is that all about!?

When cross contamination has too many syllables to worry anyone, it just gets to be scary to eat there. Smelly fish, old biscuits, rotten bok choy, etc., etc.

When you have over 900 pounds of potatoes, 20 cases of cream, 6 cases of eggs, 150 pounds of onions in house and you do like 50 covers a day, its time to look at yourself! Shit, when your fruit flies are as big as birds, take a look at your HOUSE!!! Jeesh man.

I dont know, I could go on and on but I wont bore you.

You know the old saying, if you hang around a barber shop long enough, chances are that you are going to get a hair cut. Well, same thing goes with working for a place with little to no standards. Whether it be cleanliness and sanitation, low self esteem, lack of focus and a system or anything that goes against what you've been trained to do, be or say in the food service industry. It IS possible, eventually, that if you allow yourself to be lead by someone or something that believes something that goes against what you know is wrong, then you will begin to believe that the wrong way is the correct way. Fucking scary. The moral to THAT epiphany is to stick with the winners!

I'm not going to sit here, typing in the dark, and act all miserable and hateful towards my former employer. We left on good terms and I met some AWESOME people. I think I met more good people in these past six months than I have in a really long time. Yes, I've met some dicks too, but we could write another blog just about them! And, I'm grateful for the extra income we REALLY needed (though, I was getting paid like a dishwasher, but I digress). I'm just blown away at the things I saw. For a place that is supposed to be one of the best private clubs in town, it sure has a nasty back stage man.

The following pictures are a to offset the ugliness I wrote above. Like I had said earlier, I met some great people and they deserve to be featured. Eh, I threw in a couple random pics too :)

Lunch Special created by the new sous chef. He hadn't been corrupted by them yet. I like the way this looks.

The best condiment created :)

My boy Mike, great dude.

My last few moments before I left were celebrated by a pie in the face and REALLY cold ice-coffee poured down the back of my chef jacket. I was a MESS!! lol. It was pretty funny and I was touched by the gesture. Made me feel loved.

Thanks for the chance to work there, it opened my eyes to some great stuff! And, not-so-great stuff. I'll miss a few of you.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cooking Class for Auction Winners at the American Red Cross

So, as many of you may know, I love Charity's. Well, worthwhile Charity's. Charity's that I know and feel in my heart that are making a difference in the community. In my opinion, the American Red Cross is one of those Charity's and I try to do what I can to give of myself for that (and many other) great causes.

The host and hostess of the evening won a few hours of my time during an auction that raised money for the red cross. So, as with most charity events, I taught a cooking class with a theme. Tonight's theme was "Pasta Night". We made a 5 course pasta dinner where scratch made pasta and raviolis were created. We stuffed them with a choice of three fillings and served them simply with butter, fresh thyme, lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil. Yum!

Here's the menu:

Theme: Italian Pasta Night

Starter Course
Bruschetta w/ Ricotta and Fresh Made Pesto Sauce.

Salad Course
Smoked Chili Shrimp w/ a Citrus Spinach Salad.

Soup Course
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup w/ Cinnamon Cardamom Sour Cream

Main Course
Home Made Ravioli w/ your choice of 3 fillings
Spinach Ricotta, Three Cheese or Sweet Italian Sausage

Dessert Course
Classic Tiramisu
And, as usual, some pics taken of this fine event:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cooking Class with the Junior League

Last night was a great evening of food and fun hosted by Weekday Gourmet. I had a great pleasure of being asked to teach a group of about 15 members of the local Junior League. The theme was appetizers. Yes, they're very popular this time of year! Three great stand-bys that everyone loves:

- Goat Cheese Filled Parmesan Cups with Bacon
- Vegetarian Thai Summer Rolls with Sweet Chili Dip
- Crisp Mini Pizzas with Grilled Vegetables, Basil and Olive Oil

First, I demonstrated the Parmesan cups and then broke the group up into two teams to create the others under my tutelage. As the wine flowed, food was chomped and laughs were chuckled, the event went smooth without any hitches.

Thank you to Weekday Gourmet and the Junior League for having me. It was a blast and I'm looking forward to more events like that soon.

Check out the pics:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Private Chef Suprise Birthday Party

I had the fortunate opportunity to cook an amazing "buffet-style" multi-course birthday meal for twin brothers and a few of their closest friends and relatives the other night. It was a suprise 50th birthday party and ,boy, were they suprised! After all was said and done, looked like there were about 35 people there. All believers and very nice people!

The house-hosts kitchen was an enviable site, to say the least. It was a fun challenging evening that was a night to remeber by all. After spending most of the previous day preparing the food with my lovely wife and good friend (thanks a ton to both of you!!!), I spent the 2 hours leading up to the event preparing the food in front of everyone.

The hostess(es) and I came up with this menu:

Menu: November 9th B-Day party Event


Goat Cheese Filled Parmesan Cups w/ Crispy Bacon

Smoked Salmon Platter with Assorted Accompaniments

Fruit and Cheese Platter

Vegetable Platter (aka Crudites)

Spinach/ Artichoke Dip w/ Chili Spiced Tortilla Chips

Main Course:

Herb and Garlic Roasted Beef Tenderloin w/ Green Peppercorn Sauce

Grilled Marinated Chicken w/ Mushroom Cream Sauce

Rice Pilaf Creamy Risotto

Sauteed Green Beans

Maple Glazed Carrots w/ Candied Pecans


Traditional Creme Brulee

Heath Bar Trifle w/ Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


Decaf Coffee and Soft Drinks

Here are a couple pictures I clicked off during this event:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Adult Cooking Class for Caring Hearts Foundation Charity

Being that the holidays are arriving, there are lots of opportunities to offer myself up for charity. As with years past, I've offered myself on the bidding block at a local charity called "Caring Hearts Foundation". Read more about them on their web site. They do some great stuff.

Any who, the winner had me over their house to show them how to create a party meal for about 1o of their friends. That night we did appetizers and the theme was "Entertaining on a Budget". What a great time!

There was a mixed crowd of cooks and a few folks that may have not stepped foot in a kitchen in a good long time. At the end of the night, no fingers were lost and they/ we ate some great grub! Lots of laughs (yeah, I'm a pretty funny guy, lol) and even more eating. Let's not forget the 12 bottles of wine they put away!

By the ooohs and ahhhs, I say they were pretty satisfied by the event.

Here are a couple pics to show you what went down:

And here's the menu of items we prepared together:
November 1st Appetizer Menu Recipes/ Chef Bradley Cooking Class

Entertaining on a Budget

Goat Cheese Filled Parmesan Cups with Crispy Bacon

Mini Stuffed Potatoes w/ Mushrooms and Carmelized Onions

Thai Summer Rolls w/ Veggies, Chicken and a Spicy Chili Sauce Dip

Chili Cook-Off Judge for American Heart Association Charity Event

A good friend of mine asked a newspaper food columnist and myself to judge a chili cook-off at a local law office. 12 employees offered their delicious chili concoctions for us to taste. The top three winners would be awarded ribbons, first place would get a trophy.

Although it was VERY difficult to reach a verdict (no pun intended, lol), we agreed upon the best top three.

There were 2 that were tied for 3rd, but after a quick review, we found our official second place winner.

After the judging, people from the company were encouraged to buy the chili and the money would go to the charity. They apparently raised about 300.00! Very cool.

Thank you Carla (and Dan) for having me as your guest judge, was a blast!

If you ever have a twinky or ice cream cook-off, lemme know :)

Some pics:

The winners

First Place Winner

The Entries

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Buckhead Beef Food Competition, Atlanta October 2008

Just recently gained access to the pictures I took while at my latest food competition. See, I was in a huge rush to get home (4.5 hour drive after a 10 hour day!) that I accidentally left my bad ass camera in the competition kitchen! Luckily, there are a few honest people left in the world and one of the chefs mailed it back to me. I just got it today, hence the fact that I now have access to said pictures!

Ok, so, this was an F3 category/ mystery basket food competition hosted at the "Le Cordon Bleu" Culinary School in Atlanta, GA and sponsored by "Buckhead Beef". There were only 25 competitors (I was number 23) which made it nice and intimate. We had access to a common pantry of many popular and well known common items and the protein was revealed to us right before we were to begin.

Our allotted time consisted of 10 minutes to bring in our tools and set up our stations, 30 minutes to write a menu based on our newly discovered protein (which was one of five items; Red Footed Chicken, Free Range Lamb, Milk Fed Veal, Sustainable Alaskan Halibut or Wagu Flat Iron Beef Steaks, all top quality all the best there was to offer.) and the previously mentioned common pantry items, 1 hour to cook 4 servings of 1 course, 10 minutes to plate up and 10 minutes to clean up. And, believe me, it was the fastest 2 hours of my life! WHAT A BLAST MAN!!!

I got to show my stuff a little and won a silver, not too shabby. Not too happy with the way the pictures of the food looked, especially since I wasn't able to take any pics until about 20 minutes after completion. So, the sauces look a little messy and the meat a little dry, but you'll get the gist of things!

I did, however, make kudos from the judges for working very clean and organized as well as making my own pasta. I was surprised no one else attempted it, not even ravioli! Slackers, lol.

My menu was:

Roasted Asparagus with Thyme Citrus Hand-Made Tagliatelle, Pan Seared Lamb Loin, Pan Jus and Basil Oil.

The judges mentioned that they would have liked to see the meat sliced thinner, so I got a silver instead of a Gold. Better luck next time :/

Competition Kitchen

My dish (dried out from the lights, lol)

Another view of the competion kitchen

A close up of that wicked pasta :D

Judgement :o

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The forager strikes again!!!

So, a friend of mine foraged up a couple dozen pounds of Hen of the Woods mushrooms and was gracious enough to hook me up with a few. So, keeping with the chef-food-lover-food-geek thing, I had to cook them up. I plan to cryo-vac those bad boys for future use. But, of course, before they cooled, I had to eat a few of them yummy things. YEAH, GOOD STUFF!!!

After cleaning the hell out of them (about 6 times), trimming them up and making sure there were no more bugs (gotta love organic produce, lol), I sauteed them in olive oil, butter, thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, wine and salt and pepper for a couple minutes (house smelled awesome!) to cryo-vac them in one pound increments for easy use.

Thanks for the shrooms dude!!!

The finished product steaming away :)

My mees :)

WOW, almost 7 pounds!

Yeah, thats after I trimmed them!

Ain't they perty? :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

A tour of S&D coffee company!

I just got back from a tour of the S&D coffee company sponsored by the local ACF chapter. About 20 of us were led around this awesome place to see how they create some of the best coffee in the country! It was TRULY impressive and beyond any scope of imagination. And, not only did I score a sweet coffee mug, but I won the 50/50 lottery! :) See, it pays to go to your local Culinary Federation meetings, lol.

My visit with insanity...

So, with our recent finances being a bit tight (thank you Mr. Economy!), I answered a job ad on craigslist to help out at the local Nascar track. It was at the main "members only" club house for three days of racing; Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

I put in a total of 48 hours in three days, I was beat.

Let's revisit that gracious event, shall we?

To say that it was unbelievably-crazy-insane in that kitchen would be an understatment. Aside from the massive amounts of food (we're talking in the tons! The feeding number I got was a total of about 7500 people!) that we cranked out, it was one of, if not THE loudest kitchens I've ever stepped foot in.

The combined levels of decibals from the searing, grilling, the hood vents sucking, buzzers from the ovens and steamers, the phones ringing, the chopping, the cussing (mostly from one particular country bumpkin farm girl with an affinity to gangsta rap music and singing) and, let's not forget, the screaming from the brigade of fellow Northerner Chefs, Sous Chefs and Cooks, made it impossible to think straight!

None of us were even aloud to stay still for a moment. There was a time when I just stood there for one second, catching my breath, when one of the Nazis (the uniforms made them look like Nazis, sorry, lol) came over to me and ordered me to get busy, do something, it was great man. I felt like I was back in the begining 20 years ago learning how to chop onions and shit, lol.

Just because WE, the grunts, weren't aloud to stay still, catch our breath, or EAT, didn't mean that it wasn't going on around us. If you were "in charge" or worked for the local food service company, or were friends/ relatives to the aformentioned, you had the God-given right to stand there and do nothing. If you had a mic stuck to your shoulder, you were even aloud to SIT IN AN OFFICE most of the time, lol. Boy, there were a few times that I wished I had one of those mics. My sciatic nerve was throbbing quite a bit.

Anywho, overall it was a great time. Long hours, yes, but I got to meet some awesome people, some famous people and felt alive and full of purpose for the first time in a while. I guess standing that long brought me back to how grateful I should be for the life I lead today. To think that I could be doing that shit EVERY DAY like I used to just sends chills down my spine.

Check out these pics I clicked off with my cell phone.

We marked over 2000 pieces of chicken breast!

Tons of Spagetti Squash!

What a view man!

Me and a few from the crew!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Revisiting our day with the forager...

So, a friend of mine from the local slow foods chapter was one of the people I went mushroom foraging with the other day. Come to find out, he's an awesome photographer! I saw some of the photos he took on his flickr page. Made me a little jealous of my photographer abilities as well as a little pissed that I spent so much on my camera thinking it was top of the line! Eh, live, learn, laugh is what I (almost) always say.

Anywho, here are a couple pictures I downloaded from his page, check it out to see the rest.