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Archive for January, 2010

Originally I was going to call this where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But I have never had nor started a kitchen fire in my life. Burned some cookies maybe, but thats about the extent of it. Although I do have a few friends that when the smoke alarm goes off we joke, dinners ready. All kidding aside this is about when I landed my first kitchen.

Yup, mine. In control. Me! The big cheese, top toque. Well okay, so it was kitchen of one, but who cared! It was all mine. To set up as I saw fit, do with as I pleased. It was the summer before college and I needed a job. One to stave off boredom (and get me out of the house), secondly get me cooking again and lastly to earn money for my ever burgeoning music appetite. Having spent  3 years under a very talented and very strict European chef, I had more than mastered the basic rudimentary kitchen skills. I figured finding a job would be a snap. Wrong! Wilton was (and still is) an incredibly small town and back in the days of yore, there was not much going on. Anywhere. Taking into consideration I had no car also threw a wrench into my plans.

But luck was on my side, for on the way out-of-town there was a funky little place, and given that my father had to drive by it every day on his way to and from work, was an added bonus.  It was a small compact “upscale” deli with a few tables for eat in and some foot traffic. So I sauntered in, gave the owner, an affable fellow named Howard, my CC story ( with some bull shitting thrown in about management skills) and lo & behold  had a job. Howard had originally bought the “Nibbler” as everyone called, it for his wife, who wanted her very own mini Dean & Deluca. Six months in to the venture she lost interest.

So there was Howard with a business that had potential, just no one w/ the skills to run it. A ship without a captain, a boat with no oars. There was a meager staff for the morning commuters since the train station was within walking distance. Coffee, bagels w/ a smear, the NYTimes, not much else. My job was to increase business by offering breakfast goodies, luncheon items, some sweet treats and so-forth. No problem! Piece of cake. I cobbled together a menu of quiches, sandwiches, soups, salads  all “on the go” foods. Easily eaten on the train or at the office.

It was an instant hit. For there was nothing else like it around. In New York you had D&D, Zabars, Fairway. But for the Wilton commuter, with precious little time we offered something better than greasy diner food. Which by the way was our only other competition in town. Orems Diner. Still there. Still crappy. That & the local Market, and they were always trying to steal my ideas.

In essence I was my own boss. I learned a lot about managing my time, ordering food, menu creation, sanitation, and how to deal with delinquent staff. The 2 counter people we did have, who became friends of mine, far preferred to spend their time smoking weed in the basement. I would be lying to say I never partook. I did. Just usually at the end of the day, while waiting for my Dad to pick me up.

I had to learn how to put together a catering menu, figure out food costing, how to recycle product so not to have waste (think soup!). It was total creative freedom and I thrived on it. Being alone, with no one telling me what to do, was a dream come true. I loved it. It also set the tone for all my future culinary employment that was to follow.

Being able to experiment with new ideas & recipes was incredible. I was limited only by time & my budget! Chilled Champagne melon soup ~ crisp spicy gazpacho ~ silky smooth lobster vichyssoise, so refreshing on a hot summer day. Cheesy 4 onion ~ white bean, sausage & escarole ~ hearty chunky chili, which was never complete w/ out a side of jalapeno-cheddar corn bread. We always ran out. Pasta salads, BLT bow tie, greek orzo w/feta, chickpeas & kalamata olives. The Bounty~a sandwich composed of turkey (oven rst of course), cool cucumber, cream cheese & red onion on 7 grain bread freshly baked by me. Chicken salad w/ apricots, grapes, red pepper, scallion, almonds & curried mayonnaise, in a whole wheat pita or over greens.

On the weekends the place was insane. Whole & mini quiches, soups by the quart, the deli case full of salads, warm fresh breads, Danish, mini gleaming jewels of tiny fruit tarts, cheesecake, old- fashioned  3 layer cakes by the slice, jumbo cookies, decadent double chocolate brownies. Eventually I added a line of imported cheeses & had a few select breads & good bagels brought in from New York. I was like a kid in a candy shop, only it was my candy shop!

Granted, not everything I made was successful. I had my fair share of mistakes. My first attempt to make  Sushi was, to say the least, priceless. I don’t think even the crows were interested. I knew nothing about seasoning the rice, bamboo mats, etc..rolling it up, was of course, no problem! Japanese food was still pretty avant-guard. I tried. I failed, but I tried.

The summer came to and end. I tried valiantly to pass on some favoured recipes, but the young woman hired to replace me had no passion, no love, no desire. It was just another job to her. She did not share in my enthusiasm, and this girl was to head off to school in a year ( the CIA) what became of her I have no idea. I was headed in a different direction. College. Cornell. One of the ancient eight. Time to get serious.

“The Nibbler” closed, though the building is still there on Route 7, housing a succession of convenience stores. But I can’t help thinking when I drive by what valuable lessons I learned & what fun I had doing so.

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This will be brief, something I am not usually known for. I have wanted to write for quite a while now, but family circumstances have prevented me from doing so. It’s amazing how quickly the hours in a day can get away from you, when one has other obligations. Although I do have many blog ideas already laid out, finding the time to sit down and type them has thus far eluded me. Fear Not! I have decided to devote 1-2 hours every day to accomplishing this goal. My twitter habit will just have to take a backseat for now.

Next to cooking, writing makes me feel good and is a great creative outlet. While I am new to the medium, I find it highly enjoyable. Whether telling a culinary tale, being snarky or drooling over Billie Joe Armstrong or Jensen Ackles (he’s on #Supernatural for those who don’t know) its fun!  More importantly, I hope the few people who “follow” this blog do too (have fun that is). Who knows maybe someday I might even get published, but if that never happens, hey that’s okay to.

So have patience and look for more posts coming soon. Next up in my queue is to finish another theme in my “Humble Beginnings” thread. Trust me, they are 100% true. While I may not achieve the fame of Anthony Bourdain and his Kitchen Confidential book (such a fun read) I have had many of the same experiences. I just wish I had thought of it first!  Oh well, if at first you don’t succeed try, try again! Or so the saying goes.

Here’s another saying that I recently heard and deemed worthy enough to include here. The person who said it is a knowledgeable chef, albeit one with some very firm ideas on food and it’s place in our society. Culinary newbies or students should definitely give it a read. He/she also has a blog, so here is the link ~ http://www.theunknownchef.tv/ . Certainly a chef whose worth his (her?) salt in words.

“You want to challenge a palate, and it should be thought of as a crescendo of textures woven around a subtext and pronunciation of flavour”.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. For thats what I hope to achieve here, to weave a quilt of flavours and textures that will excite the mind and stimulate the senses. All while educating and elevating your journey into the culinary adventures that await each and every one of us. May each day bring you something new.

Enjoy!

Victoria

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On rare occasions I blog about something completely un-food related. Like now. This is a test. It is only a test……beeeeeeeeeeeep. Feel free to throw your two cents in.

You know you’re a #supernatural fan when:

1) You own all the seasons on DVD.

2) You have a t-shirt that says “Got Salt”.

3) You know a ‘colt’ is not a race horse.

4) You u-tubed Jensen Ackles lip- syncing Eye of the Tiger and bookmarked it.

5) Bad Company is not a family gathering.

6) Your favourite saying is Son-of-a-Bitch!

7) You like cheesy 70’s style hotels because they have “magic fingers”.

8) Your dream car is a black 1967 Impala.

9) You know that being a Hunter has nothing to do with wild life.

10) You shop at the army surplus store.

11) Your cell phone ring tone is “Don’t fear the Reaper”.

12) You have read the bible.

13) You never let anyone drive your car.

14) You bought the John Winchester Diary on Amazon.

15) You call people who annoy you Chuckles or Douche-bag.

16) You want to go to Lawrence, Kansas.

17) You carry a flask and it does not contain holy water.

18) You cried when Jensen Ackles got engaged.

19) You know what “LARPING” stands for.

20) You want to be touched by an angel ~ in this case Castiel.

21) You’ve been to a Comic-Con convention.

22) You want a bacon-cheeseburger and you’re a vegetarian.

23) You own a Kansas CD.

24) You googled “Ghostfacers”.

25) You named your dog Dean (or ) Sam.

26) You have bags of salt ~ just in case.

27) Your fireplace poker is made of Iron.

28) You know how to draw a Devils Trap.

29) You own all the #Supernatural books ~ yes there really are books.

30) Highway to Hell is not morning traffic on the 405 (LA) or 1-95 (NYC).

31) You have a cassette player in your car.

32) You want Metallica played at your wedding.

33) You’ve googled “how to make a hex bag”.

34) You liked Ruby better as a blonde.

35) Thought Dean looked hot in a Tuxedo.

36) Beer with a whiskey chaser is your preferred beverage of choice.

37) Like when Sam gives the puppy dog eyes.

38) You’ve watched My Bloody Valentine ~ for Jensen.

39) You’ve watched Friday the 13th ~ for Jared.

40) You cried when Jo & Ellen died.

41) You hate Meg.

42) You love the Trickster.

43) You miss Ash and his mullet~ business in the front/party in the back.

44) You wish Bobby would take his cap off ~ or ~ smile.

45) The season 1 finale blew you away. Literally.

46) You’ve re-watched the Dean & Anna the angel sex scene ~ just to see Dean shirtless.

47) Christmas wreaths will never be the same.

48) You liked Bella ~ in an evil sort of way.

49) You loved Dean as a Corporate Executive & Sam as a computer drone.

50) You miss the genius that was Kim Manners. RIP.

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