1. I lurched away from the table after a few hours feeling like Elvis in Vegas – fat, drugged, and completely out of it.
2. All worries are less with wine.
3. Since my earliest memory, I imagined I would be a chef one day. When other kids were watching Saturday morning cartoons or music videos on YouTube, I was watching Iron Chef,The Great British Baking Show, and old Anthony Bourdain shows and taking notes. Like, actual notes in the Notes app on my phone. I have long lists of ideas for recipes that I can modify or make my own. This self-appointed class is the only one I’ve ever studied well for.
I started playing around with the staples of the house: rice, beans, plantains, and chicken. But ‘Buela let me expand to the different things I saw on TV. Soufflés, shepherd’s pie, gizzards. When other kids were saving up their lunch money to buy the latest Jordans, I was saving up mine so I could buy the best ingredients. Fish we’d never heard of that I had to get from a special market down by Penn’s Landing. Sausages that I watched Italian abuelitas in South Philly make by hand. I even saved up a whole month’s worth of allowance when I was in seventh grade so I could make ‘Buela a special birthday dinner of filet mignon.
4. You can never focus without a goal and never achieve your goal without focus.
5. Life Is Like a Big Kitchen — You Create, Plan, Organize, Execute,
Achieve and Sometimes You Fail…
6. Do you remember your favorite dish your mom always prepared for you?
7. Kitchen work is teamwork.
8. He traced his nose to my shoulder. Once he came back to where his lips had begun, he whispered, “Turn around, Jordan.
9. A good spice often deceives us into thinking that someone is a good cook.
10. Chefing is like real life — you never finish learning.
11. Guard and preserve your mystery like a chef who cannot reveal the secret to his best recipes. Remember, if you lose your mystery, you lose all your pizazz and enchantment.
12. I haven’t waited to be summoned for my big moment by a tap on the shoulder from a mysterious, benevolent stranger. It doesn’t work that way where I’m from. You make your own opportunities where I’m from.
13. In order to stay focused, you need to be motivated. In order to stay motivated, you need to know your why!
14. That was certainly a case of snowballing momentum. Who would’ve thought he’d succeed being that far behind?”
“True. This particular assignment was designed to test one major skill…
the ability to expect the unexpected.
How well the student could envision exactly what sort of dish would be necessary…
… for a buffet-style hotel breakfast was the key to success.
But there is another skill…
one of the most important for a chef to have in a kitchen, where anything can go wrong without warning…
the ability to respond and adapt to any situation at will. Soma handicapped himself with his choice of dish, but by adapting to the situation, he overcame that deficit brilliantly.”
“He’s a little rough around the edges, but he seems like a promising talent.
15. You have only failed if you have completely given up on your goal.
16. He could smell the readiness of onion in every one of its stages of cooking and knew exactly what stage worked best for each dish. He could identify the exact rapidity with which milk had to boil before adding the lemon to make the cheese curd separate into paneer. He could sense exactly when to add the tomatoes to tie together the onion, garlic, and ginger so that the curry came together perfectly with the oil separating from it in syrupy rivulets.
17. The kitchen is a high-speed environment, so the more flexible you are so better
18. Inspiration, I found out, only comes from within you.
19. A leader is someone who can gather people around himself who are smarter and more skilled than he is.
20. If you don’t change, you are afraid of yourself.
21. Cooking is an art and also science.
22. The good news was that he wasn’t sixteen anymore and he had this, his art. His food. And if this dinner continued to go the way it was going, if Mrs. Raje stood by her word and gave DJ the contract for her son’s fund-raising dinner next month based on tonight’s success… well, then they’d be fine.
Mrs. Raje had been more impressed thus far. Everything from the steamed momos to the dum biryani had turned out just so. The mayor of San Francisco had even asked to speak to DJ after tasting the California blue crab with bitter coconut cream and tucked DJ’s card into his wallet.
Only dessert remained, and dessert was DJ’s crowning glory, his true love. With sugar he could make love to taste buds, make adult humans sob.
The reason Mina Raje had given him, a foreigner and a newbie, a shot at tonight was his Arabica bean gelato with dark caramel. DJ had created the dessert for her after spending a week researching her. Not just her favorite restaurants, but where she shopped, how she wore her clothes, what made her laugh, even the perfume she wore and how much. The taste buds drew from who you were. How you reacted to taste as a sense was a culmination of how you processed the world, the most primal form of how you interacted with your environment.
It was DJ’s greatest strength and weakness, needing to know what exact note of flavor unfurled a person. His need to find that chord and strum it was bone deep.
23. Failure is detour, not a dead end!
24. Look forward, move forward. Get going, keep going.
25. Travelling the whole world, working where other people spend their vacations — that sounds like a dream.
26. One thing I know for sure is I’ll never be a rocket scientist and I know I’ll never be a chef.
27. As a chef you have the possibility of traveling the world
28. No one became a great cook just by reading the recipes.
29. You want to be hands-on and on the other side, you need to be a great delegator.
30. I’ll be right here. Until they drag me off the line. I’m not going anywhere. I hope. It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
31. Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, as they say in the army – and I always, always want to be ready. Just like Bigfoot.
32. Nothing is a turnoff like a New York City housing authority kitchen. People want to hear about that once you’re successful, not when you’re living in it.
33. Who’s cooking your food anyway? What strange beasts lurk behind the kitchen doors? You see the chef: he’s the guy without the hat, with the clipboard under his arm, maybe his name stitched in Tuscan blue on his starched white chef’s coat next to those cotton Chinese buttons. But who’s actually cooking your food? Are they young, ambitious culinary school grads, putting in their time on the line until they get their shot at the Big Job? Probably not. If the chef is anything like me, the cooks are a dysfunctional, mercenary lot, fringe-dwellers motivated by money, the peculiar lifestyle of cooking and grim pride. They’re probably not even American.
34. A chef’s magic is his ingredients, how he can substitute one for another, then break with convention by changing it all around again without once referring to the recipe. And then just at the death complete the beauty by adding another element never previously thought of. Well words are the writer’s sorcery, our dark arts and our sleight of hand. They’re our enchantment and our temptation. Sometimes both the chef and the writer overindulges himself and it gets out of hand, but that’s how we like it, it’s how we’ve ghosted some of our best creations.
35. To want to own a restaurant can be a strange and terrible affliction. What causes such a destructive urge in so many otherwise sensible people? Why would anyone who has worked hard, saved money, often been successful in other fields, want to pump their hard-earned cash down a hole that statistically, at least, will almost surely prove dry? Why venture into an industry with enormous fixed expenses (…), with a notoriously transient and unstable workforce, and highly perishable inventory of assets? The chances of ever seeing a return on your investment are about one in five. What insidious spongi-form bacteria so riddles the brains of men and women that they stand there on the tracks, watching the lights of the oncoming locomotive, knowing full well it will eventually run over them? After all these years in the business, I still don’t know.
36. All food is just a vehicle for transporting butter to my mouth
37. What most people don’t get about professional-level cooking is that it is not all about the best recipe, the most innovative presentation, the most creative marriage of ingredients, flavours and textures; that, presumably, was all arranged long before you sat down to dinner. Line cooking – the real business of preparing the food you eat – is more about consistency, about mindless, unvarying repetition, the same series of tasks performed over and over and over again in exactly the same way.
38. She too looked like a regular lady, living in the world- didn’t seem particularly with it or excitable or stellar. But that chicken, bathed in thyme and butter- I hadn’t ever tasted a chicken that had such a savory warmth to it, a taste I could only suitably identify as the taste of chicken. Somehow, in her hands, food felt recognized. Spinach became spinach- with a good farm’s care, salt, the heat and her attention, it seemed to relax into its leafy, broad self. Garlic seized upon its lively nature. Tomatoes tasted as substantive as beef.
39. This book is about street-level cooking and its practitioners. Line cooks are the heroes.
40. While Nicole drove off in search of recipes for fish hash, clam fritters, and salmon quiche, Charlotte settled in the Chowder House with Dorey Jewett, who, well beyond the assortment of chowders she always brought to Bailey’s Brunch, would be as important a figure in the book as any.
They sat in the kitchen, though Dorey did little actual sitting. Looking her chef-self in T-shirt, shorts, and apron, if she wasn’t dicing veggies, she was clarifying butter or supervising a young boy who was shucking clams dug from the flats hours before. Even this early, the kitchen smelled of chowder bubbling in huge steel pots.
Much as Anna Cabot had done for the island in general, Dorey gave a history of restaurants on Quinnipeague, from the first fish stand at the pier, to a primitive burger hut on the bluff, to a short-lived diner on Main Street, to the current Grill and Cafe. Naturally, she spoke at greatest length about the evolution of the Chowder House, whose success she credited to her father, though the man had been dead for nearly twenty years. Everyone knew Dorey was the one who had brought the place into the twenty-first century, but her family loyalty was endearing.
41. I have been seduced and I have seduced. But this, dear friends, and gentle mouths…this was a Seduction.
42. As a cook, your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system – and it is profoundly upsetting if another cook or, God forbid, a waiter – disturbs your precisely and carefully laid-out system.
43. The business, as respected three-star chef Scott Bryan explains it, attracts ‘fringe elements’, people for whom something in their lives has gone terribly wrong.
44. I am much more than what you see. An artist who can wow you with a tasty squid ink tortellini and weave a tall tale.
45. Sprinkle a dash of madness into the vanity of your sanity, & keep cooking up genius while dishing out the creative divinity of your humanity.
46. The tone of the repartee was familiar, as was the subject matter, a strangely comfortable background music to most of my waking hours over the last two decades or so – and I realised that, my God… I’ve been listening to the same conversation for twenty-five years!
47. Chef Danny O’Shea had truly outdone himself. In addition to the two types of salmon, and the foie gras brioches, of which Sally had just taken a second, there were artichoke bottoms filled with chervil-laced lobster, potato gaufrettes slathered with creme fraiche and topped with caviar, and wedges of hot fingerling potatoes coated with melted cheese and sprinkled with crumbled bacon. Carefully trimmed vegetable crudités garnished the platter of appetizers.
48. Well then, those folks are judgmental assholes,” Liv spat. “You’re more than a fucking label, Z. You’re an amazing chef, a mediocre bassist, and you’ve got this dorky way of scratching the back of your head whenever you talk about anything personal, which isn’t often, but holy hell is it cute. I know you way better than any of those folks casting stones do, and I adore everything you are, Zane Parata.
49. My breath may smell like two inches from a landfill, but I’m a decent writer and one hell of a chef.
50. Chefs. You either loved them or tolerated them, but either way you had to learn to live with them.
51. Will was now all man. And all cowboy.
52. I have a killer loose on the ranch and all I can think about is kissing you again.
53. I started in our neighborhood, buying a pastrami burrito at Oki Dog and a deluxe gardenburger at Astro Burger and matzoh-ball soup at Greenblatt’s and some greasy egg rolls at the Formosa. In part funny, and rigid, and sleepy, and angry. People. Then I made concentric circles outward, reaching first to Canter’s and Pink’s, then rippling farther, tofu at Yabu and mole at Alegria and sugok at Marouch; the sweet-corn salad at Casbah in Silver Lake and Rae’s charbroiled burgers on Pico and the garlicky hummus at Carousel in Glendale. I ate an enormous range of food, and mood. Many favorites showed up- families who had traveled far and whose dishes were steeped with the trials of passageways. An Iranian cafe near Ohio and Westwood had such a rich grief in the lamb shank that I could eat it all without doing any of my tricks- side of the mouth, ingredient tracking, fast-chew and swallow. Being there was like having a good cry, the clearing of the air after weight has been held. I asked the waiter if I could thank the chef, and he led me to the back, where a very ordinary-looking woman with gray hair in a practical layered cut tossed translucent onions in a fry pan and shook my hand. Her face was steady, faintly sweaty from the warmth of the kitchen.
Glad you liked it, she said, as she added a pinch of saffron to the pan. Old family recipe, she said.
No trembling in her voice, no tears streaking down her face.
54. Bakushan had only been open for a couple of months, but expectations were already sky-high. Still, few people had mentioned the food. Instead, everyone was writing about the up-and-coming chef, Pascal Fox. According to nearly every article, he’d dropped out of college and worked at top French restaurants around the world. Then, at twenty-five and on every “30 under 30″ list in existence, he had received an offer to take over L’Escalier, a cathedral-ceilinged white-tablecloth institution in Midtown. But just as New York was ready to inaugurate him into a realm of Immortal Chefs synonymous with a certain level of luxurious precision, Pascal had said he would open a place on his own. He didn’t have a location or a concept- or so he’d said in his interviews- just a conviction that he didn’t want to fall into the trap of being yet another French chef at another fancy restaurant.
So there we were, in front of his brand-new place. It was hard to label it. I had read neo-modernist and Asian-American eclectic. The food was hard to pin down, but the inside was just cool, at least from my sidewalk vantage point. It was 5:45 and already there was a forty-five-minute wait for a spot at one of the communal, no-reservation tables.
I looked at the crowd while we waited and saw a couple of girls dressed in tight, short dresses. One of them held a food magazine with Pascal Fox’s face on the cover against a blurred kitchen background. I stole a peek at the photo. His eyes were a deep black-brown with a streak of gold. His hair was charmingly messed up, longish bits going every which way, casting shadows on his sculpted cheekbones.
That was the other thing. Pascal was exceedingly good-looking. I hadn’t paid attention to the hype around his looks, but seeing these girls swoon over his photo made his handsomeness hard to ignore. And… the pictures. I’m only human.
55. Wait, what’s the chef’s name?” she asked. “I think I read about him in ELLE.”
“Ooooh, ELLE,” Elliott mocked. “He must be a big deal, then.”
“He is a big deal!” Emerald said, slapping him with the menu. “Or at least he’s cute!”
I wanted to yell Enough. I wanted to redo the whole night- the outfit from Emerald, seeing Kyle, my orders off the menu.
“His name is Pascal Fox,” I said quietly, way too quietly for normal conversation, and unintelligible in this loud restaurant.
The open kitchen’s steam and smoke masked Pascal a bit, but I still caught a glimpse. Even though he was getting a lot of media attention, he didn’t look like a man who cared about photo shoots and celebrity. He looked like a serious chef with a lot on the line. He sprinted sideways through the narrow galley, threw something out. His chef’s jacket was rolled to his elbows, revealing a mural of indecipherable tattoos.
56. Just then I looked up to see Chef Pascal standing over our table.
“Excuse me for one moment.” He reached over me, and I think Emerald and I both gasped aloud at him. He smelled like bacon and caramelized onions and had a movie-star-perfect face, soft but still chiseled. A little stubble. Dark skin and big eyes with long, thick lashes. And the gold streaks in his eyes? Even better in person, luminous and crackling with light.
Now I felt like Melinda in the living room, asking me what I was. Was he Egyptian? Mexican? Spanish? But of course he wasn’t like me at all. He was closer to a model or an actor than anyone like me.
Pascal didn’t appear to notice our gawking. He removed the housemade kimchi-ghee hot sauce from our table and replaced it with a new bottle. He gave a soft, barely there smile, then continued to the other tables, leaving almost every girl- and many guys- shivering in his wake.
“Ha!” Emerald said, clearly exhilarated. “That was a rush, huh?”
“Yeah…” Elliott struggled. “That guy… has a lot of tattoos.”
I watched Pascal march back into the kitchen. From the pass, where the dining room met the kitchen, I thought I saw him look back at me, too.
Yeah, right, Tia, I thought just as quickly. Like that could ever happen.
57. I’m not a chef. I think in this country, we use the term very loosely. I’m a cook and a teacher.
58. Hunger gives flavour to the food.
59. Some people when they see cheese, chocolate or cake they don’t think of calories.
60. Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas; don’t burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don’t put it through a press. I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic. And try roasting garlic. It gets mellower and sweeter if you roast it whole, still on the clove, to be squeezed out later when it’s soft and brown. Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.