Speak Up

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Job Jumping

ChefWife Karol brought it to my attention that her chef changes jobs quickly. "Don't worry, my chef has three different jobs in 1 year. At this moment he is in process to have another new job as a Sous Chef in a new restaurant, so is crazy, but the chef is looking for a new experience in the kitchen all the time. But I pray to he can stay in a job for 2 years."

This isn't only the case of job jumping. It seems to be a plague among chefs and cooks in the culinary world. Just when I really get to know a few cooks that Erik works with, they up and move to a new city or restaurant. And of course it happens during restaurant week or on Christmas Eve and always without the formal two-weeks of notice. But the question is: WHY??? What's the deal with chefs moving around so much. It's got to be hard to learn a new station at a new restaurant. And unlike most jobs the hours and days off are different for each restaurant and each station. So why bother?

I've got a couple theories about job jumping. I don't know if any of these apply to your chefs, but we'll see.

1. DNA. Maybe the personality of a chef is what drives them to job-hop. After all, chefs are always trying to get better and be the best. Maybe once they realize the faults of the restaurants they are working in, they move on in hope of conquering something better.

2. Education. It's a possibility that cooks and chefs want to learn different cuisines so they take a taste-so to speak-of different restaurants and kitchens. Asian, Asian fusion, Asian-French, Asian fast food, and even Asian Texan. (Not quite sure if that last one really exists :-)

3. Grass. Is the grass really greener on the other side of the kitchen? Chefs and cooks are practically tortured to cook late nights over severe heat. But when they peruse StarChefs or Criagslist for a job offering benefits, complete creative control, and best of all a salary, it's hard to resist making the transition.

4. Promotion. This seems to be the most probable explanation. It's all about money and power. We all want it. And in the food industry moving from kitchen to kitchen might be the best way to get to the top.

I'm really only guessing here and I'd love to hear what other people think. My chef, Erik, has been working for Jean-Georges for the past 5 years. I know a lot of other JG chefs who have also been with the company for a long time. I think when a cook finds a chef/kitchen that works for him or her, they stay there. Not every kitchen is for everyone and not everyone is for every kitchen.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Birthday Happy Hour

Even though I've never met most of you I feel so connected to you all. So if you live in the NYC area, I'm inviting you out for drinks at Dorrian's in Jersey City for my birthday on Friday. It's directly across the street from the PATH train that picks up in NYC at Christopher, 9th, 14th, 23rd, and 33rd. See map below. I'd love to meet many of you if you can come! See you at 5 on Friday.



Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fast Food Favorites

My brother Chris at Fat Burger eating a TRIPLE cheeseburger.

I'm so grateful that I live in a neighborhood with no fast food, but don't get me wrong I do enjoy a chili and fries from Wendy's famous value menu. And these depressing economic times that are killing off our restaurants one by one are feeding the bellies of the fast food restaurants. McDonald's and other restaurants that boast drive-throughs sees huge gains during recessions. Not only is the food much cheaper, but it's greasy, warm, and comforting.

My favorite fast food has always been, and will always be WENDY'S. Wendy's is always there when you need her. She's like me too, born in Ohio. And I've been ordering off that delicious value menu since middle school. My parents used to tell us we could only order off that side of the menu. I didn't mind! Wendy's was the first to sport the value menu in 1989! And the selection is unbeatable: chili, baked potatoes, Jr. bacon cheeseburgers, chicken wraps, chicken nuggets, and a Caesar salad people!

A close second would be In and Out Burger, but I just can't call it my favorite since it's only available out West. Rounding out the top five: 3rd Sonic, 4th Taco Bell 5th Burger King

Honorable Mention: Jack in the Box. They have the best tacos-they put a slice of American cheese in there! Plus they make some of their sandwiches on toasted sour dough bread.

But that's just me. What's your favorite fast food joint? And what's the best thing to order on or off the value menu.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Sing the Praises

Photo credit: Nick Solares

One very important part of being a chef's wife is being able to lift up your chef when he's buckling under the pressure of food costs and food critics, diners and whiners. But it's also important to give the chef the acclaim he or she deserves. After all, everyone wants to be loved and admired-especially chefs!

Last week, my school was closed and I had Monday off. Of course I was looking forward to spending the "weekend" with my chef. But as it goes he was going into Perry St on Monday for a couple hours to cook for Nick Solares, writer for Serious Eats/A Hamburger Today. And I didn't mind waiting at the bar while Erik worked since I got to chow down on one of those delicious Perry St burgers and sip a refreshing house made soda. (see below) I so desperately wanted to go over and plop down next to Nick, but I thought it would be a little inappropriate for the wife of the chef to start chatting up the reviewer.

Nick wrote a fantastic article about the $35 prix fixe deal at Perry St. Which, by the way, runs all year long!! I'm so glad he wrote that Erik is only 24, too-Even though Erik is 25 (as am I for another 8 days!). After all, it takes a lot for a 25 year old to be the chef at a 3 star Jean-Georges restaurant.

One last toot of my horn: here is a link to those fabulous JGV house made sodas. My favorite is the passion-chili and a close second would have to be the cherry-yuzo.

Love you, chef!!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Recession Depression

I'm grateful, more than ever, that my husband and I have secure jobs. I'm reminded every day how real this failing economy is. This is the scariest article about the state of the NYC restaurant economy I've ever read.

Support your local restaurants. Eat out. Tip well.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Confessions of a Fine Diner

Maybe I should be wearing the disguise.

Although in my mind I imagine myself as a perfectly poised lady peeling her gloves off one finger at a time for the restaurant coat check to guard while I eat-in reality I know I am a dining oaf at times. I used to worry-who am I kidding-I still worry about my appearance in restaurants. Are my bites too big? Are there too many crumbs around my plate? Should I shuffle this food around to look like I ate it? How much to tip!? My mind races with questions and answers all through the meal. I've learned now to enjoy the experience, but that isn't to say that I don't worry if I'm doing things "right".

Luckily today, fine dining has taken a much more casual route. Fewer restaurants require the men to wear jackets. Mario Batali plays rock music in many of his establishments. Jeans have become formal wear-when rocked with heels and a blouse. But these confessions you're about to read are criminal acts in any restaurant.

Let the confessions begin.
My first fine dining experience was at Daniel in NYC. Daniel still holds to the traditions of fine dining, jackets required, soothing music in the background, and a ballet of servers that dance around you while you eat. If you know Daniel, or any 4 star establishment, you know I was thrown into this industry like an understudy on opening night. At this time, Erik was already working for Jean-Georges at the flagship, but had never eaten anywhere as nice as Daniel. Well, we ordered the full tasting as well as a wine pairing. And needless to say our judgement was impaired when we left a $20 tip on a $550+ meal. It also didn't help that Erik's roommate was cooking there at the time. Later that weekend we made amends by hand-delivering an appropriate tip. Lesson learned: Always tip well-no matter how much wine they serve. OR Drink less.

For a couple months between culinary school and Jean-Georges, Erik worked in LA at Water Grill. One night, Erik and I went to dinner there with a fellow cook and his wife. Again, we ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings. The meal was tasty, the company was friendly and I almost made it through the entire experience without lousing it up. Just as the check arrived at the table while the server was standing right next to me, I took a drink from a wine glass and within an instant, there was a wine explosion. I must have bitten the glass and it shattered in my mouth spilling wine all over my clothes and the table. I must have looked like a wreck! Lesson learned: Clearly I didn't learn enough from Daniel about drinking too much. But I did learn never to bite down on a wine glass. (Who has to learn that the hard way anyways?)

Eventually I did learn my limits with food and alcohol. I never, repeat never drink liquor and I have a 2 drink maximum-all the time. But then comes the situation when someone buys you a drink that you just can't drink. I was at P.J. Clark's not too long ago and a nice chap bought my friend and I a shot. Well I wasn't about the drink it. So when he flipped his head back to down the tequila-I flipped my head back too-only I dumped my shot on the floor. (Sorry P.J. Clarks) But I had to! I had no where to put it and I told him I wouldn't drink it. The poor guy wasn't any the wiser. Lesson finally learned: Drink what you can drink.

I've written these stories in chronological order so at this point we are coming to the present day, give or take a few months. Erik and I went to David Chang's Ko in the East Village. Let me first say, that I am a fan of David's and I appreciate what he is doing with food. However, I am not the most adventurous eater in the world and textures can freak me out. I know everyone loves his shaved fois gras with lychee, Riesling jelly and pine nuts- (click for picture)but I couldn't get through one bite. So, I spit the foie gras in my napkin. Sorry David Chang. I only spit out one bite when the chefs weren't looking. Erik ate the rest. Since then, Erik has been back to Ko, sans the wife. Lesson learned: Bring a more adventurous eater/large napkin if you're going to chicken-out on some food.

This final confession is only a minor offense to the restaurants I eat at. The smallest of food misdemeanours. I steal petit fours. I can't help it! By the time the pretty little pastries come out I look pregnant with a tasting menu baby. But I can't resist the tempting treats so I drop them into my purse and eat them during lunch the next day. It's not really stealing since they served it too me, but it's certainly not good etiquette. And really, it is a good idea because the next day all I need is a sweat, small reminder of the delicious experience I had only hours previous. Lesson learned: None. I'm going to keep doing this, until I get caught/extremely embarrassed.

Now I know I can't be the only one who has done embarrassing things in restaurants. Although I doubt anyone can top my wine glass bite. But why not share with us and try!


Friday, March 13, 2009

The Big Two-Six

I'm turning 26! Not necessarily a milestone birthday-but a birthday none the less. It only happens once a year so I might as well do it up right. Which means what exactly? Happy hour with the co-workers? Partay at the house? Dinner with the chef?? All three? My usual birthday celebration is dinner with the chef and maybe dinner with my chefwife pal, J. But this year I think I'd like to have some F-U-N.

My Birthday Wish List

1. the book: Don't Blame Teachers for City Public School Failing. I haven't read it yet, but I'd imagine it's going to be my new inspiration.

2. some kind of awesome handbag in Italy

3. Making a wish list is actually really hard. I'll have to get back to this later.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Tame the Beast

Your chef is working. (duh) You're all alone at home. Your stomach is growling, you're starving. And at the lowest point in the food stock, you open up the fridge ..and if you're like me all you see is a door full of condiments and a couple of water bottles. The pantry is no better. A box of pudding mix, a handful of stale chips crumbled at the bottom of the bag, and a box of waffle cones.

Have you reached this point? Have you eaten something shameless? I know I have! Not too long ago I was faced with a lack of food and it was too late to order in. So I made some frozen ravioli. There wasn't any sauce either so I topped it with that spray butter you're supposed to put on corn on the cob. I've topped a dry frozen burrito with a slice of American cheese. I've cut up some way old iceberg to make a salad and since there was no dressing I added some super thick raspberry jelly/sauce. SICK. Every bite was worse than the last, but the growling beast in my stomach had to be tamed.

So what have you eaten in desperation??


Friday, March 6, 2009

And the Winner Is..

Gini from Raleigh, NC! Her book title:
86 My Husband. The challenges of being a chef's wife.
I love it!! The use of kitchen lingo that only DCW's (and chefs themselves) know is great!
Gini, you've got until Monday to email me back with your contact information so we can get the books to you ASAP!

Thanks to random.org for supplying the random number generator. And of course Jessica Conant-Park for writing these fabulous books and giving them away.