Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Unknowing Student

Before I get too long winded, it might be helpful if I let you know the road you are going to travel down with me.  This blog, is about food, recipes, my life's journey to becoming an executive chef, food again, restaurants, food travel (exciting news to come) some family and some sublime insight on life on this blue planet and well, anything I bloody like to pontificate about.

So how does one become chef without going to school for it?  Well, in my case you have two young kids, a lovely wife and no money, and minimal job prospects because after all, companies don't like entrepreneurs, they like team players, those that can sit in a cubicle and take direction from people half their age, who snapchat emojis as directives and tell people like Janice that yeah, I think a committee is a great idea.  How could one decide on a Holiday card without the help of six other people! Well, I didn't fit that mold.  So as mentioned in first post, I had to trade in my owner's hat and put on a chef's hat.

Okay.  Let me be frank, no I think I will be Stephen instead, Frank is generally a fat fellow.  I am mostly slender but with a gut of a pot belly pig and the cheeks of chipmunks. I wish I was an Aiden, because that sounds more English. Oh well, c'est la vie., Stephen it is, I am stuck with it I am afraid.

I was not an idiot (keep comments to yourself).  I did know cooking. I cooked at home.  My mum was a great cook.  I was always in her kitchen as a youngster.  Loved watching her make Yorkshire pudding and leg of lamb, not so much the mashed carrots and turnips she made. I loved it.  When I got married I did it all and I was very good for a home cook.  I loved to watch Jacques Pepin and Julia Child on PBS.  I loved all the cooking programs.  Loved the original Emeril Lagasse show on the Food Network.  I soaked it all in every chance I got.

But that alone wasn't enough.  I would be tasked with cooking for 100-300 people a day for our catering company Go Gourmet, from sandwiches to lasagnas, to fajitas, to chicken milanese and etc.  How the ^%& was I going to do that.  You know those white knuckle moments you get on airplanes for fear of crashing, well I had those all over my body for fear of crashing our business into the ground.

Little did I know, or little did I have this awareness, but I had gone to culinary school.  I had been going for 11 years.  Each day I would come to the catering kitchen with my chef and his lieutenants and I would watch them work.  I would pitch in when needed, cleaning dishes, stirring sauces, grilling chicken, dicing chicken, cutting potatoes, making salads, whatever was needed I would pinch in where I was needed.  You had to, it was our business.  Even though I was the boss I wasn't the boss of the kitchen, that was the Exec Chef.  They were head honcho.  I followed their rules.  I had to get my food handlers license, I learned to order produce and meats.  I never knew I was learning, I was just doing.

So when the rubber met the road, and I switched hats I did have knowledge, I had too developed skills, I did have a clue.  Our company had many chefs during the first 11 years, some good, bad and some great.  I learned from them all.  I was being mentored even though I hadn't a clue.  I was being prepared for this moment and I was ready. Still going strong six years later...