Friday, November 27, 2009

¡Aye, Los Pinche Flatbreads!

One of the menu items that we introduced when designing the menu at MTM, are the flatbreads. We take a yeast dough, roll it into an oblong shape, pile it with all sorts of different ingredients, and bake in a 450° oven until the crust is super crispy. The absolute responses from these have been overwhelming. On “Flatbread Thursday”, as we lovingly call it (we do a ½ price flatbread for ladies night), and the record for one night is 118…..I think. When you take into account the number of seats in the restaurant, and the fact that each flatbread is hand rolled, that’s a lot of trabajo, seƱor. Our flatbread guy, Colin is a powerhouse, and probably one of the most even keeled sons-a-bitches around. Even on flatbread Thursday, he’s so calm and collected……… he makes me look like Gordon Ramsay. Props, Colin.

We do a special flatbread Thursday through Saturday, and can be anything from a “Pepperoni and Sausage,” to a “Fig, Brie, and Prosciutto, with Toasted Almonds and Lemon Arugula.” We have been toying with the idea of doing one every single day, but the pressure of finding enough space on that station is always an issue. One of the problems (I brought this upon myself), is that there is absolutely no cross-utilization of ingredients on any of the flatbreads. When developing the menu, I wanted each one to be unique and a little out of the ordinary. The Chipotle Shrimp for example has a cilantro pesto as the base, chipotle seared shrimp, tasso ham, pepper jack cheese, diced roma tomatoes, and a key lime sour cream. The Pear and Gorgonzola has a gorgonzola mousse, roasted Asian pears, smoked provolone cheese, and baby greens dressed with raspberry vinaigrette. So as you can see, these are not your average “pizzas.”

Last week we ran a special one that will be going on the new winter menu. It is absolutely a thing of beauty………a masterpiece if you will. Yes, yes…….you may bask in my genius-ness. The Ahi Tuna Flatbread has a little Asian flair, and combines a creamy miso mousse, topped sliced fresh avocado, a mildly spicy Asian slaw, rare-seared and sliced ahi tuna loin, Guinness and soy reduction, wasabi aioli, and toasted sesame seeds. At $14.95, it comes with a higher price tag than any of our other flats, but when you take into consideration the high quality fresh tuna we use, the imported, Japanese ingredients, and the sole fact that you achieve spiritual enlightenment in the first bite, I think it’s a pretty fair price.

Tonight’s special was an All-American Cheeseburger Flat, that blends a American cheese mousse, seasoned ground beef, sliced roma tomatoes, shaved red onions, beer battered pickles, shredded iceberg lettuce, and a “special sauce,” which is basically a variation of McDonald’s “secret sauce” without the relish. Awesome. So, you can see, even with something a little more “low-brow,” we try to make it as out of the ordinary as possible.

Notes and Randoms:
- My Birthday is Monday. I’ll be turning 30……………...... again.
- Rob Hoersdig is our general manager and a really cool guy. Shout out for ya', buddy.
- “Black Friday” was a little red for us (meaning low sales)
- Best prep music: Beatles.......or Floyd.......I just can't's Beatles.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I’m back……….. I have taken a brief sabbatical, from the blogging scene to get back into the swing of restaurant life. It has certainly been a long haul. In April, I received the Executive Chef position at a restaurant in Dublin, Ohio, Matt the Miller’s Tavern. Henceforth to be known as “MTM,” since I type slow already. Anyway, I have been working 12-15 hour days, for the last 8 months, and have finally reached a place where, I feel, the success of restaurant is definite. The staff I have in the kitchen now, are genuinely good cooks, and probably most important of all, take pride in their craft. I think I’ve got some pretty good loyalty brewing in both the Front of the House and the Back of the house, and have a experienced Sous Chef that I can count on to do whatever is necessary at all times.
There was a lot of re-learning that had to be done with the old staff that remained, and there were a few people I had to let go. At one point, during our crusade to hire on some experienced cooks, I received some serious bashing on the employment section of Craig’s list. I don’t know……..something about how I’m a lazy, incompetent douche bag……. that only weighs 65 lbs…….. because I sling too much coke. ….yada, yada, yada. Anyway…….you make some enemies. But there’s also the chance you meet some fantastic cooks along the way.
Such a cook goes by the name of Alvaro (last name withheld for reasons that must remain unknown). Alvaro one of my AM cooks, came from one of the owner’s other restaurants down the street, and also has been there from the opening. When I first arrived in the kitchen, there were no recipes… specs…….not even an ingredient list on a beverage napkin…..….Nothing. Alvaro was always the one I could go to, to find out what goes in what, and how much. As time went on, I started noticing the intense calm in which he operates behind the line. Never a negative comment (In English anyway), always upbeat and level headed, even under severe pressure. The absolute proficiency that expelled from his body was impressive. I have never seen, in my 17 years of cooking professionally, anyone so efficient and resourceful. Multi-tasking isn’t even the word in this instance.
Just 2 weeks ago, I had the very unfortunate news that Alvaro would no longer be able to work with us. It was a legal/commuting issue, no need to say more. The first week he was gone, his absence was felt by all in the kitchen. I always looked forward to Thursday mornings because Alvaro was back from his days off. I knew that no matter how busy we were the night before, the prep list would get done. That Thursday morning, after realizing that he was not there, my heart could do nothing but sink.
After two long weeks, Alvaro has come back and in full swing. He said that all was taken care of, and I didn’t have any reason to question any further. As I was talking with my Sous today, he had a great thought. He said, “It just feels like everything is right with the kitchen again.” And indeed, the delicate harmony of the kitchen seemed to be repaired, and balance, once again, has been restored to the force.

Notes and Randoms:
-There was a chef bio in one of the local circulars, “This Week”. I guess I’m going to be in the recipe rotation of local chefs. The link can be found here:
Beware of the very large headshot.
-I’m working on another song called “Runner”, referring to the reoccurring problem of getting somebody to take hot food from the kitchen, out to the dining room. In the preliminary stages but I got some great/ funny lines so far.
-A slew of leftovers + 10 minutes = great fucking soup. Every time.
-Mayonnaise is awesome. It is a chemistry miracle, and it is delicious. Rob is a mayo-phobic nut job. Nuff said.
-New Menu rollout on December 1st. Watch fo’ it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Week Numero Uno

Well, week one is over at the new digs. I can elaborate since the previous chef is gone now. I am at a little place called Matt the Miller’s Tavern, in Dublin, Ohio. It is a new concept for one of the larger restaurateurs in the area, and is going towards the route of upscale tavern cuisine. He has some investors lined up to expand and grow the concept, but the menu and kitchen systems need to be streamlined first before we even think about expanding. We are in the process of looking at the current menu and taking it to a better place, developing recipes, and organizing the way the kitchen operates. Not that it was all bad, but there were certain things that struck me, and made me think of how we’re not running the kitchen as smart as we should be. Unvarying menus need to be engineered, and not just a list of things that sound good. For instance, when I did inventory of the product in house, I counted over 15 different cheeses that had to be stocked at all times. I am a cheese fanatic, but to run that many cheeses, in such a small kitchen was ludicrous. We need a little cross-utilization, people.

But the restaurant itself is a welcome change, although I’m not quite used to the hours yet. I only see my kids when they are on their way to school, or when they are going to bed, which is really killing me, but stepping into that kitchen last Thursday, I realized how instantly comfortable I was inside. It’s like seeing that old friend that you haven’t seen in years, but when you meet again, you pick up right where you left off…. Like when you’d been roller skating all night, (here’s where I’ve lost some of my younger readers), and you would go to the locker and put your sneakers back on…… They were all nice and cool, and felt so right. That’s how I felt being back in a restaurant kitchen.

I had been out of that environment for so long, I forgot how much I love it. I have always been a restaurant chef, and I think I always will be. Being behind the line is where I fell in love with this industry in the frst place. There is just something about getting totally wrecked on Friday and Saturday nights. The adrenaline pumping through your every pore……. the immediate satisfaction you receive from a night handled brilliantly……experiencing such unbroken focus, that even Bruce Lee would be reserved.

One of my line cooks called out on my first night, so I was forced to do a trial by fire shift on the broiler. We got crushed. I had dupes (or tickets, to some of the younger crowd) coming out onto the floor. I had a copy of the menu taped to the wall next to me for quick reference. I had food and oil all over my chef coat……I had sweat sticking my under shirt to my back……. I had food all over my shoes…… I was dirty, sweaty, smelled of olive oil, garlic and sea salt……… It was Fantastic.

Keep watching for updates to the menu and progress with the restaurant.

Notes and Observations
- Mexico City Spanish dialect is much different than that of the Central American Spanish dialect. And no matter how loud you shout an “all day” call, they will still not understand you.
- NO!….NO! Necesito tres mas pinche salmones, wey! Para vender!
- There are 1,254,945,645 things that are a better use of my time than a Sysco food show. I counted.
- Guy Fieri is not as big of a douchebag as I previously thought.
- My kids make an awesome, from scratch waffle batter. Chefs in the making, I’m telling you.
- The Liquid-Center Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding was outstanding, and will be on the new menu.
- Rolling out a sample of said dessert to my service staff is like watching the monsters from “I am Legend” annihilate a human body.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I’ve crossed back over to the dark side

Sorry for not posting for a while. I fell off the face of the earth for a while, but I managed to climb back up. Man, what a long strange trip it’s been over the last 3 months. Lots of things have happened since my last post. My wife received a job in December, working as a web designer for The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. This is her calling, and what were paying absurd amounts of college tuition payments for, so we decided this was a good move. We packed up the kids and the copious amounts of crap we have accumulated over the years and went for it.
I departed my job in Maryland at the Convention Center in January, and worked my ass off trying to secure employment out here in Columbus. Let me tell you, it’s rough out there. I started in January, getting names and addresses of every possible food service operation in the area……country clubs, convention centers, hotels, catering, you name it, I was trying to get in. I was keeping pretty positive in early January. Out of the first 30 letters and resumes I sent out, I received about 10-12 either phone calls or e-mails explaining that the certain location didn’t have anything…..but call this guy……or I heard the chef at so-and-so just walked out last weekend. That type of thing.
After tons and tons of follow-ups, emails, letters and cold calls, I still wasn’t getting anywhere. In fact there was a solid two month period that I didn’t so much as get an email, much less a call for an interview. I was starting to think I was black listed. Nobody was talking to me.
Meanwhile, back at the homestead, I was driving everybody crazy. If you know me on a personal level, you know how anxious I can get. I always have to be doing something. I start all sorts of wacky “MacGyver” projects around the house, using bits and pieces of whatever is available. And if by chance that I’m not cooking in a professional kitchen, you can’t keep me out of the one at home. I start experimenting, testing, researching, and attempting various formulas and recipes that should not be duplicated in the home kitchen, much to the chagrin of my family. For a little family get together at our house one night, we all decided to have breakfast for dinner. Simple right? Wrong. Everybody loves my scrambled eggs with Boursin cheese and smoked salmon, so rather than paying the $ 8.00 for a 4 oz piece of smoked salmon at the grocery store (come on, that’s 32.00 per pound…….outrageous!), I decide to buy the $ 4.00 per pound fresh side of salmon, then, cure and smoke it myself. We had about 12-15 family members coming over that night, but had food for 40. In my defense though, the salmon was delicious.
Anyway, I finally received a job offer from a new restaurant here in Dublin, Ohio. The name and location are being withheld at this point, because the current chef doesn’t know he’s leaving quite yet. I actually got the job from, believe it or not, You’ve done it again craigslist! Not only will you lead people to everything from a used guitar to a random sexual encounter, but you also have a kick-ass classified section. My sister in law e-mailed me a link to a job that was posted on there, and I was astounded at the amount of high quality management jobs that were posted. So, I replied to the post, along with numerous others, sent my resume in, and they actually called me. After three interviews and a solid tasting (for all of you that are not privy to the demanding nuances of the food service world, this is where you go into a kitchen and cook for the prospective employers….maybe more on this later), I got the job.
I’m back in the restaurant world, baby. Back to the hours….the intensity of service…the heat and sweat….the undistinguishable foot ailments…..the weekends……the stress. In the past 8 years or so, I’ve enjoyed some jobs with the most cushy schedule and hours that a chef could ever hope for. I’ve had a good run, but I’m also excited to be back in a restaurant kitchen. This environment is what made me fall in love with this profession in the first place. I have, and always will be a restaurant chef. There’s a certain camaraderie amongst the kitchen staff in a restaurant that can not be found anywhere else. It’s an atmosphere that I’ve been missing for too long. It will be a challenge, it will be an adjustment, it will be a struggle. I’m totally ready.

Observations and Randoms:
- If you do a stovetop smoke, inside your house, because your grill is still in Maryland, it takes approximately three days to get the smell totally out.
- Interviewing really sucks
- Moving really, really sucks
- Moving 500 miles sucks probably the worst of all- I’m not leaving my house ever again.
- Craigslist kicks ass. Monster and Career Builder does not.
- I hate selling myself. I sound like such a dick.
- Tampa in January is like spring everyday. If you ever go there, check out the Salvador Dali museum. Ask for Chuck.
- This is what got me the job. Check it out.