I walk the line

Tonight was my very first night working the hot line!  I was so thankful that the chef was kind and chose my first night to be a random Tuesday night.  The pace was slow enough for me to get a feel for the line and learn the different plates.  I still have a long way to go, but I am so ecstatic to finally do what I went to school to do.  I feel like each day that I work, my decision to pursue this career has been validated.  I love this job!  I love the rush of the line!  I can’t wait to learn more and to be trusted with more responsibility!  Life is good!

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Rest for the Weary

Saturday at the restaurant was crazy!  We served probably close to 200 guests.  I was working at the pantry station again, and we didn’t have a minute to catch our breath.  It was a blast!  The pace made the night just fly by!

Pamplemousse Salad

Smoked Seafood Platter

The weekend was a well earned rest after working 6 straight days at the restaurant.  Michael and I spent all Sunday together, which was so nice.  My new schedule is Tuesday-Saturday from 1:00-close, which means that our overlapping days are Saturday mornings and Sunday.  So, we try to spend as much of those days together as possible.

Sunday Morning Love

And in case you needed further proof that High Fructose Corn Syrup should be banned, here it is!

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Pantry Station

Today was so much fun!  One of the guys at work showed me how to do some butchery and fish cleaning.  It might sound weird to someone from the outside, but butchery and fish cleaning are critical skills in the restaurant biz!  Only the most trusted employees get to do it because that can make or break the bottom line.  The protein is typically the most expensive item on a plate, so if your employee is cutting portion sizes too big or cutting it poorly and letting some go to waste, you could lose a lot of money.

I also helped roll out some cookies and make pear tarte tatin, which was amazingly delicious with a dollop of vanilla gelato all melty on top!  I know it’s rare for a chef to enjoy baking, but I sure do!

At service time, I got to work at the pantry station with another employee, learning to make sandwiches, salads, and cold appetizers.  It was a slow night, but it gave me the most exhilarating sensations.  I love this job!  I’m totally addicted!  I really like the people too, everyone is really nice to me and is always asking if I want to try to do something or taste something.  They’re as eager to teach me as I am to learn.  I think they’re really accepting me.  One of them complimented me on my knife skills today.  He remembered the parsley I had chopped from Tuesday and said that he wished that I could teach some of the other chefs how to do it!  Here are a few of the things I made tonight:

$50 Lobster Truffle Grilled Cheese

Beet Salad

Ahi Lolipops

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The Morality of Food

This morning I had lunch with some family.  My cousin, Ryan has been stationed out here with the navy, but he has been commissioned to be a chaplain.  So he’s moving back to Ohio to go to school.  His parents were in town, so we had lunch at Corvette Diner to catch up.  Corvette Diner is a 50’s style diner where the waitresses wear poodle skirts and break out into choreographed song.  It’s very kitchy, but very cute and a very fun time!  I had a black and white malt, which transported me to days as a kid hopping out of the pool on a hot Florida day.  I wasn’t very hungry, so I got the Cobb salad, which was good, but nothing very special.  I went straight from there to the restaurant.

Today was the first day that I really got to make something at Pamplemousse.  I made gnocchi, and I wasn’t monitored (too) closely.  I did some prep work and spent the evening watching the line.  It was fun getting to see how it all works, but it was definitely a slow night.  I’m slowly getting to know the staff, but I’m so terrible with names that it’s difficult.  I also filled out a bracket for the company pool.  I have Florida going all the way.  I know they probably won’t, but as the Beach Boys say, “Be True to Your School.”

We had a brief discussion about vegetarianism in the kitchen and it got me thinking about the morality of food.  There are such a variety of different products that have social and ecological repercussions:  foie gras, veal, shark fin, , etc.  I am trying to buy organic and local produce and dairy because I think it’s important for my health and promoting a demand for it.  I also am trying to buy free range chicken and grass fed beef for the same reason.  I know that a lot of people think my concerns are silly or superfluous, but I have to follow my own conscience.  Vegetarians are called by their consciences to avoid eating animals and I can respect that.  The problem that I have is that it hinders the taste of food so severely, in a way that organic/free range/grass fed products do not.  It’s definitely a difficult commitment that I know that I could not make.

There is the issue of morality of the lunches being served in cafeterias around the country.  Many students consist on pizza, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, etc. without getting many fresh fruits or vegetables.  Alice Waters, my personal hero and owner of the legendary Chez Panisse, has been pushing an agenda called the Edible Schoolyard.  This project involves children in the growing of a garden as part of class.  Students are also taught to prepare simple meals based on the fresh fruits and veggies grown in the garden.  With the rise of diabetes and obesity in this country, how could this not be a priority?  So many people do not know how to prepare simple healthy meals, so they resort to fast food or convenience food full of extra sodium, fat, and preservatives.  This project would not require a great deal of money:.  Ultimately it would save the country millions of dollars in medical bills if it successfully decreased diseases due to poor eating habits.  Here’s an interview with Alice.

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Cater Like a Rockstar

Yesterday was day 2 of my externship.  I got to the Mousse at 1:00 and was quickly put to work brunoising (cutting into tiny squares) bell peppers and mincing enormous amounts of parsley.  Just as I was finished, I was rushed into a van to go to a catering event.  We drove for a good 45 minutes to a place called Dana Point, which is the farthest north I’ve ever been in Cali.  We actually saw a beemer on fire along the way, totally crazy!  We arrived and I assembled hundreds of little lime curd tartlets and did odd jobs to help the rest of the staff.  We were very busy, the event was 1500 people!

This was a pretty ordinary party.  There were GoGo dancers and a DJ in a boom box.

There were In And Out trucks giving out burgers.

Oh, and Billy Idol performed.

Pretty standard evening, no? 😉

It was a great time and I’m starting to make contacts.  Networking is so important in this industry.

Sorry the picture quality isn’t great, but I was more focused on working than taking pics.

Off to the dog park!

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Corn-Fed Beef

I wrote a paper for school on corn-fed beef.  Here’s some food for thought:

As most beef enthusiasts will affirm, corn-fed beef has a far superior flavor and texture to grass-fed beef.  It is also less expensive to purchase and quicker to produce.  So, why are some scientists concerned about the nutritional and environmental impacts of corn-fed beef?  Is there a hidden cost to consuming it?

Cows have not always subsisted on corn; their natural diet is primarily made up of grasses.  It wasn’t until the 1950’s that corn was first introduced into the diet of cattle in America.  Industrial farmers discovered that by feeding corn to their cows, they could significantly reduce the costs of producing beef.

The turnover for cattle increased significantly when fed a diet of corn.  Cows raised on a natural diet of grasses are slaughtered at 48 to 60 months old.  On a corn-fed diet, they grow so rapidly that they are slaughtered at 14 to 16 months.  Corn-fed beef is literally fast food.  By decreasing the amount of time it takes to care for a cow until slaughter, farmers are able to save money.

The government has been subsidizing corn farmers for years, so cattle farmers can buy corn at an artificially low price.  Cattle farmers buy corn for 50 cents less per bushel than the cost of growing it!  Farmers traded wide pasture lands for feedlots, where they could house more cattle on less land.

The conditions of feedlots are unsanitary, cows are often up to their knees in their own manure.  The deplorable conditions of the feedlot present a threat of infection to cattle whose immune systems are already weakened by their unnatural diet.  Corn creates an acidic environment in the intestinal tract of a cow, leading to infection.  It was this very environment that provides an ideal environment for E. Coli.  Farmers treat cows with copious amounts of antibiotics.  This abuse of drugs is producing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Another major health concern with corn-fed beef is the possibility of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.  Feed lot cattle are often fed animal byproducts, which could be contaminated.  Grass-fed beef is free of this deadly disease, since they are fed a vegetarian diet.

The nutritional value of corn-fed beef makes it almost unrecognizable from grass-fed beef.  Corn-fed beef has an undeniably superior flavor to grass fed beef due to more marbling in the meat.  The presence of marbling indicates significant amounts of saturated fat, which can lead to high cholesterol.   Ounce for ounce, grass-fed beef also has a lower number of calories.   In a nation where obesity has become an epidemic, a switch from corn-fed to grass-fed beef is a smart move.  According to “Grass-Fed Beef:  The Superior Protein,” the average American eats approximately 87 pounds of beef annually.  If a person were to switch from corn-fed beef to grass-fed beef, he/she would lose 6 pounds per year without any other alterations in diet or activity.  Grass fed-beef is not only leaner, it contains much higher levels of several nutrients:

Omega 3 fatty acids-  healthy fats that support immune and brain function, while reducing the risks of cancer, and heart disease.

Vitamin E- lowers heart disease, risk of cancer, and has anti-aging properties.

Conjugated linoleic acid- a type of fat which has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Sustainability is also a major concern regarding corn-fed beef.  Conventionally farmed corn requires enormous amounts of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, which both require oil to produce it.  Raising a single cow on a corn based diet requires 284 gallons throughout its lifetime.

As previously stated, the practice of feeding cattle corn is a modern innovation, so the long term effects of consuming corn-fed beef are still unknown.  What is certain is that the instances of obesity, diabetes, and coronary heart disease are on the rise in this country.  Could corn-fed beef play a role in these and other issues?  It’s possible, more long term research is necessary to determine the safety of corn-fed beef.

It is the responsibility of the USDA to regulate the practices of cattle farmers to ensure public safety.  However, cattle farmers have many powerful lobbyists in Washington D.C. working to promote the interests of corn-fed beef, as it is more profitable than grass-fed beef.  It has fallen to the consumers to determine whether or not the health and environmental risks are worth the flavor and convenience of corn-fed beef.  Ultimately, demand will dictate what farmers produce.  If consumers demand grass-fed beef, and refuse to buy corn-fed beef, farmers will be forced to reform their feeding practices.  Unfortunately, most Americans remain uninformed regarding the issues of cattle feed.

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Externship Day 1

Well, I survived finals!  Here are just a few of the plates I made, I got so busy that a few plates escaped the camera 😉

Roasted Beet Salad

Cheesy Grits with Lobster and Asparagus

Seared Lamb Loin with Beurre Rouge and Veggies

I had the weekend off and took full advantage of it!  On Saturday, we took Taxi to the dog beach, which has become one of our favorite things to do.  Michael and I had dinner at Pamplemousse so I could try it out before starting there.  We got the Medley of Five Starters, which included:  tuna tartare, lobster ravioli, tempura shrimp, cajun oyster, and a salad with lobster, grapefruit, and avocado.  It was soooo delicious!  I especially loved the salad, yum!  We enjoyed our appetizer with a basket of an assortment of breads, the cornbread was my favorite.  For dinner, I ordered the lobster, which came with truffled mashed potatoes and an assortment of baby veg.  It was amazing!  I was surprised by how much food there was!  During dinner, I spotted Chef Strauss in the dining room & I mentioned to our waiter that I would be starting my externship on Monday.  He had Chef come over so I could finally meet him.  He was very friendly and sent over dessert on the house:  chocolate peanut butter bome with vanilla gelato.  It was like a Rece’s Peanut Butter Cup but about 100 times better!  I was in a serious food coma!

Sunday Taxi and I went for a run and I made beef stew while Michael worked in the lab all day.  I drove up to La Jolla to have lunch with him at Elijah’s, which is a Jewish deli.  The food was delicious!  I ordered the mushroom barley soup with challah bread, which was tasty!  I ordered the California wrap which was just ham, turkey, avocado, and tomato.  It was good, but nothing special.  Michael ordered a breakfast trio, which came with challah french toast that I couldn’t stop eating, oops!  I also got a black and white cookie to go, which was not what I was expecting.  It kind of tasted like ginger; it wasn’t bad, but it just couldn’t hold a candle to Too Jays!

Monday was awesome!  I didn’t have to be at Pamplemousse until 1:00, so I got to spend the morning playing with Taxi.  We went for a long run, took a nap, and had lunch.  I got to work baking cookies and slicing deli meat.  Just 2 hours after I had started, Chef Strauss told me to go to the Omni Hotel to help cater the Liver Foundation Gala.  I didn’t get to do too much, mostly help plate and do a few odd jobs, but it was really cool to see how it all works.  Culinary events are always interesting because in this industry, what is appropriate and what is not appropriate is not clearly defined.  There are some chefs who are very serious and some who are terribly unprofessional.  It definitely makes me more aware of my own actions and what kind of chef I want to be (Alice Waters, obvi!).  I think it’s really important to find the right balance of fun and business.

It was a little weird and a little sad to not see my culinary school buddies in the kitchen.

ComfortTable at Kitchen 5

Another day, another adventure!  Today I’ll take some pictures!

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