The next level.

What does it take to get to the next level? 

Drive, determination, faith, perseverance, relentless efforts, mistakes?

Those are just a few key words that I consider to be building blocks to the next level. 

Every single day we have is a gift, another opportunity to be better than the day before in more than just one way. The majority of us have jobs; we all may dislike our job from time to time…but those moments spent in complete solitude can be the most rewarding. Once the finished task at hand has been acknowledged by a superior or someone you may consider of higher intelligence, savor it… a very rare occurrence during busy moments. 

This past weekend I was presented the opportunity to assist at the Blind Pig dinner in the River Arts District of Asheville, located at The Old Wood Co. To be surrounded by many people who truly enjoy the beauty and wonders of food was an incredibly rewarding and invigorating feeling, one that I have not experienced in a long time.

The theme of the dinner was Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon, celebrating the 40th anniversary? Right? Yeah. Talk about triangle shaped foods, crazy colors, and fascinating textures. I savored every moment around the chefs, food lovers, Pink Floyd fans, etc. I would do it all over again, but how about  a Red Hot Chili Peppers dinner? That would be funky. 

Let’s get back to the title, the next level.

As of late I have been composing a list of ideas/goals/quotes/facts to help me reach the next level, and those beyond. 

1. Continue the tapas restaurant journey throughout major US and possible foreign cities.

2. Wake each morning with determination if you plan on going to sleep with satisfaction.

3. This is random, but the SAT was such a scam….measures what? I measure things in grams, ounces, kilograms, and take temperatures in celsius while I am at work. How did the SAT prepare me for real life beyond high school? Perhaps with time management, quickly and efficiently answering questions by expanding my knowledge throughout many styles/topics of literature? Perhaps. I work for one of the absolute best chefs in the country and it did not prepare me for that at all. The SAT does not measure courage, integrity, success, or happiness in life. 

4. Integrity is beautiful, always be honest and true. Silence is not always the best cure. 

5. Appreciate what remains, look forward to the next things in life, and never give up.

6. I want to eliminate the word good from my vocabulary, it is just dull, boring, overused, and honestly who uses it properly anyways? 

7. I have learned that love is like an old gravel road that has been traveled on by many, appreciated by few, loved by others, and seen by the world. As a child I would travel down many gravel roads with my Father to job sites for future homes. Contractors, painters, and other men would travel down the same path. Going up and down, around the bend, a constant exploration. Sometimes the journey can be difficult, especially during storms or dark nights, without the bad we cannot see the beauty in life. In my personal life I have made it a goal to slow down, stop, and take a few minutes to truly appreciate the gravel road. My gravel road will never end because I have chosen to live in love and share my joy of life with whomever I encounter along the way. 

8. Do you want to be right or to be happy?

9. A quote from one of the best books in history,

"She was terrific to hold hands with. Most girls if you hold hands with them, their goddam hand dies on you, or else they think they have to keep moving their hand all the time, as if they were afraid they’d bore you or something. Jane was different. We’d get into a goddam movie or something, and right away we’d start holding hands, and we wouldn’t quit till the movie was over. And without changing the position or making a deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were."

-J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

10. Octopus is succulent, go eat some, but only if you know how to cook it properly. 
Food People

Have you ever encountered someone who is absolutely endlessly fascinating? I have, and I speak to him every day. This is an ode to one of the most incredible men in my life.

September 23: I love you, blue moon.

Discover.

Below are a few things I have cooked, lately, or in the past. 

blue corn johnny cakes. creme fraiche. rainbow chard. bulls blood. golden beets. candied walnuts. sorrel. 

maldon torta. mushrooms. blackberries. chevre. cara cara. thyme. micro bulls blood beet.

trout. charred fennel. strawberries. spinach. quinoa. toasted pine nuts. 

braised lamb. seared cippolini. rosemary collards. pomegranate. chili. 

garlic scape biscuits. fried egg. applewood bacon. local cheddar

semolina. honey. toasted almonds. golden raisins. 

TOMATOES. 

pomodoro. Known as the golden apple from the Italians. 

pomme d’amour. Known as the love apple from the Provencals. 

Mallemort is the home of canned tomatoe puree. (Southern France area)

AVOCADOS.


Native name, awa gault, also known as the alligator pear.

The people of Laire brew beer from avocado leaves, the beer is called babine.

Apparently the average Mexican eats 15 kilos worth of avocados in one year, assuming that they live in Mexico and not America. 

The Creoles of the Indian Ocean serve avocados as a dessert with sugar and lemon. 

BANANAS

Not a tree, but an herb that grows to be 9 meters in height…only producing one bunch or hand in its lifetime. That one bunch/hand can contain 100-400 bananas. 

There are no seeds, the banana sprouts from a rhizome, essentially it is an underground root stem, and from that it begins to grow into the banana. The stalk is just there to trick you, a pseudo-stalk. Sounds eerie. 

The Africans are known for making foutou/foufou bread from bananas. Consisting of mashed bananas and water, stirred until it becomes sticky. This preparation is classic to the people of Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon, but extremely uncommon to me! I believe that this “bread” is served raw, but it seems quite unappealing to me…I will read into this further. 

Last tid-bit, banana flowers are sterile, and the smaller the banana the sweeter it is. 


Just a few things I have been cooking lately.

Internship completed, employment begins.

Saturday will be my last official day as an intern, definitely a relief!

Things I have learned/already knew/applied in a different manner.

  • Interns have limited rights, privileges, knowledge, etc.
  • Yes chef, head down. 
  • Faster, faster, faster. 
  • The customer is always right.
  • Perspective

I shall elaborate on the bullets next week when I have a chance to breathe, I have a very busy weekend ahead of me. Look for a post next Wednesday.

2 DAYS!

Two more days until Sam moves in, that’s all. 

I’m super excited. 

Leg of Lamb.

Once you have completed deboned a beautifully farm raised leg of lamb what is left over? THE BONE, aka one of the best damn parts of an animal.

I absolutely love making stock, it is one of the most beautifully simple cooking concepts that can add incredible layers of flavor to any dish. I believe that to be a great chef, he or she must be resourceful, which entails the questions “What else can I do with this product? Does it just need to be composted or thrown away? Perhaps I can provide my staff with a new food experience? etc….”

There are a few essential components to a great stock: vegetables, herbs, bones, other flavor enhancing ingredients such as skins of fish/meat which can sometimes help to gelatinize your stock. Stock jam is sexy, don’t ever forget that. Rules of thumb, ROAST your bones or else your stock will have no color and the murky murky gray matter will float to the top…which is quite unsettling if you have ever seen gray floating chunks in a stock. Use dat poix, onions, carrots, celery…I prefer not to use bell peppers in my stock ever or it will have an overwhelmingly strange flavor. You know what I mean right? Anyways, roast your bones, use mire poix (I don’t really believe that celery is essential to a good stock, but I am sure someone would argue that), bouquet garnis are cool too, and be creative. Don’t use cooked vegetables, they will literally turn to mush in your stock and create a terrible texture amongst other things. 

Once you have roasted your bones and you have all your beautiful components in a stock pot, add enough water to submerge everything and let the flavor begin. Always simmer your stock, don’t boil it…that’s just rude. PLEASE skim your stock too, there is nothing more unappealing than having hella amounts of fat or skum left in a stock. Do not let the temperature of your stock drop below at LEAST 210 degrees F, then you might have the potential to be brewing a pot of liquid death. See what I did there Harry Potter fans? Oh hey, and don’t add salt to your stock. Amateur move right there. 

Let us jump to another page. Being resourceful in the kitchen is similar to thrift shopping, which I happen to love and do often. What can I do with someone else’s unwanted goods or waste? I will make something that will benefit my life and others. The word thrift is commonly associated with negative associations such as being frugal, or cheap. BUT, the most valuable chef is one who can make something out of nothing. 

In this roller coaster of an industry, you must make yourself valuable. What separates you from others. Your skill, personality, love for heirloom vegetables, strange obsession with herb stems, or an ever growing interest for pigs? 

RESPECT. Insert Aretha Franklin’s voice. 

  1. Yourself.
  2. The animal.
  3. The farmer.
  4. The consumer. 
  5. The Earth. 

These 5 things are absolutely essential to cooking the best possible food and fully embracing the art of gastronomy. 

Cheers.

The genius of love and the genius of hunger, those twin brothers, are the two moving forces behind all living things. All living things set themselves in motion to feed and to reproduce. Love and hunger share the same purpose. Life must never cease; life must be sustained and must create.
Turgenev, little poems in prose, XXIII