Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Have Knife Will Travel

It's hard to keep up sometimes. Too many plates spinning at once, and if you're not careful, you'll lose focus and start breaking them, the audience will gasp, possibly boo. Then what? It's mid-April already. How did this happen? How wide and deep is this abyss that consumes time? Does anyone care anymore, or are we all on auto-pilot, pulling days of the kitty calendar and throwing them in the bin? I think I care, but I learned a long time ago that time is ever the victor and we just have to deal with it rolling away like it does. It's like a bad trip. You just have to go with it; to fight it is to end up under the covers, alone, while your friends sync up Atom Heart Mother with the Goonies and laugh and scream as One Eyed Willie eats "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast". Who wants to miss out on that?

Blogging when you work in the industry at this level of immersion is hard. It's an afterthought, at best it's a quarterly post, which is barely comparable to the three or four posts a week I had before I was in a serious relationship, before I was married, before I opened a restaurant and became chained to the line like one of Madame LaLaurie's cooks before the fire. It's like that. The rules changed once I was on the other side of the window. You can't blog the same way. You can't say the same things. You can't. There is a thin line already between pride and pretense on a blog, and the line is thinner once you are a cook. It's one thing to post a pic of your plate when your a prideful home cook, but that same pic as a professional is just douchey. "Hey, look what I did." It gets old. But, you do want to put yourself out there. You want that recognition, because you're human, and you have an ego, and you know someone's getting off on that.

This year has been all about learning. As a student on the path, you can't stop. To stagnate is to die, to be a relic. It's nice to be reminded that you are but another brick in the culinary wall, and that that in its own way is inspiring. I've done a good amount of staging this year. Not because I'm job-hunting, but because it's good to get outside of your comfort zone and go cut veg for someone else and start back at the bottom. I've also spent some time in a few food trucks, which is interesting, different.

The Butcher is now getting recognition. I'm glad he's been a character on this blog for as long as he has. He is finally getting some credit for his skills and not being ignored, or having ideas brushed over by those with less experience. His partnership with Ben at Salt & Time seems so perfectly timed (I introduced them, which is great), and well suited. Things are going well for them, but that's not my story. I've gone out to the shop in Neiderwald, a temple of cured meats in our area, and made sausage, prepped, watched, learned. I've long been a student of his, so it's great to take it further, to keep learning from a master. I was really stoked to help them pull off a successful stint in the SquareSpace food truck during SXSW, where I worked the flat-top making almost a thousand pig face sandwiches. It was a great experience.

I did a night at Hudson's. It was bittersweet, but a great experience. Kelly was a gracious mentor for the night, yet it was eye-opening to see what was going on behind the curtain. They have a great crew, and are still doing great things. I liked working the pantry. Again, it's nice to be on the bottom. Old friends and new out there. I enjoyed the real life dramatic irony of being just another loser stage to the line cooks. The twenty-one year olds with their egos, and their questions about "why are you interested in cooking?" It was great to see their faces when the FOH showed up, most of which I grew up with, and everyone came by and gave me a hug and we talked shit. One of the kids came up to me later and asked how I knew everyone. I know everyone. It's that simple. We had one of the kids come stage at Black Star, and he would have gotten the gig, too, but he's moving in less than a year and we need more commitment.

SXSW came. Came hard. All over this town's face. I took that opportunity to help out East Side Kings for a week. I made new friends, and again, saw the real Wizard behind the curtain. It's fun. It's hard work in a tight space, like sex in the back of a Volkswagon. Those kids, and they are kids, are the real pirates. Sure, their captain gets all the credit, but their out there 14 hours a day manning the sails and making sure the hordes of hipsters don't overrun their bows. I liked working the fryer, and doing prep; lending my hands to an institution that gets a lot of recognition for Paul's successes in other arenas, and in turn, long ass lines. I got to work the window for about seven hours one night, just doing customer service, and that too was great. A real trip back to my roots.

Of course, the chip shoppe, Black Star, is home. It's busy. We've doubled our old food sales records. Fridays and Saturdays feel like the battle of Helm's Deep, and we are the Rohirrim, looking out on a see of faces crashing like waves against our walls. It's badass. We kill it. Lately the focus has been on the future, and new programs, Spring menu, and communication. It's hard to be a team in an industry that is used to having a head man in charge. But that is the point. That's the challenge. The beauty of the fucking thing, ever changing around you, constantly needing attention to sustain. I love it. I love my crew. We're not the pirates of ESK, even if we've stolen a few, but we're similar. We're not adrift either, we have a mission, a vision, a membership to feed and titles to win. Like I said, this, this forum, has to change to stay consistent with that world. I can't just spout off nonsense. There is decorum that must be observed. No more "whites for Tyson." I'm digging around in my bag to find my shades, because the future is bright.

5 comments:

Phillip Dubov said...

Well said Chef. It was a delight having you in the HOB pantry.

Flapjacks said...

I look forward to doing it again! Want to work with Paulino for a night! That guy is amazing.

Addie said...

Love your writing, love your perspective. Thanks for taking the time to post.

Flapjacks said...

Thanks, Addie! When are your parents coming back so I can buy them a round of beers?

TexasDeb said...

You've clearly been super busy - I too am happy you took time out to post. The inter-web is simply a better place with you in the mix. Have a great weekend.

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