Friday, June 20, 2014

A Glimpse Inside a Kitchen / "Real People Wednesday"

Happy "Real People Wednesday" Friday!

We have been spending a lot of time this week focusing on the recipes that have become staples in our kitchens. Danielle shared a her lovely herb vinaigrette and a great lentil recipe both are very nice for summer dining. I also wanted to focus on some lighter more warm weather friendly recipes with my watermelon avocado salad and Vietnamese spring rolls

Since we have focused on home cooking the entirety of the blog Danielle thought it might be fun if I did a piece on what it is like to work in a professional kitchen. I have been working with Timing and Chemistry Inc for over three years now and have met some really wonderful and talented cooks. Our kitchen is filled with people from all walks of life- some have been trained from the bottom up others have been working in the industry for over 20 years. We have a certain standard we hold our staff to here because we take pride in producing a great and consistent product. Being in fine dining our guests expect a level of perfection and we strive to meet that in our kitchen. We have some really smart really creative guys that make up our kitchen staff and I am really grateful I get to work with such great people everyday. 

I decided to mix things up for this interview. Because the restaurant world can be pretty time consuming, especially for those in the kitchen and management, I didn't want any one person to have to take on the burden of answering a whole series of questions. I instead thought it might be more interesting and fun to ask a few questions to all of our kitchen management. I thought this would provide and more broad and clear picture into the life of a kitchen professional. Russell Klein is the chef owner at both Meritage and the new project Brasserie Zentral. He has carefully selected a wonderful team of managers to help execute his vision in the kitchen and they were kind enough to agree to participate in my post today. I have known most of these guys for over three years and they have become very close to me. I use to work in a kitchen so I am aware that it is a very stressful environment to conduct work in and sometimes it can physically wear you down. I thought it might be fun to ask some really interesting questions... things that you might not usually get to know about the people who are creating and cooking your food.  I also stepped into the kitchen and took some pictures and videos that I hope you will enjoy as well. Now that my long introduction is complete I would like you to meet Jon Beyreuther (Chef de cuisine at Meritage), Josh Chevallier (Head Sous chef at Meritage, Geoff Stout (Sous Chef at Meritage), and Tim Helgeson (Head Sous Chef at Brasserie Zentral).

 Since I interviewed four different individuals I am going to structure this a bit differently-I will put the the questions first than the corresponding answer with the person responding name.

1. Why did you chose to pursue a culinary career?

Jon: After Attending college for a short time, I realized a desk job would not work for me. I had always cooked as a summer job during high school, and decided to pursue it as an option. I've always loved the atmosphere of being in a kitchen. There is a daily adrenaline rush that most professions do not provide. 

2. What is your favorite food memory?

Tim: My favorite food memory pertains to my grandmothers garden. When I was a child, she grew all varieties of vegetables, and used every bit of it all. Each day, something new was ready to be unearthed- some days large bounties. We would snack on raw kohlrabi and carrots, then prepare some for dinner. But the real beauty in it all was preparing for the desolate months.
As a farm girl in rural Wisconsin in the 1930's, it wasn't a chic decision to can and pickle all varieties of food, it was a mode of survival. The conveniences of modern society, and its processed, easily accessible foods, were years and miles away from the Luckwaldt farm. You simply managed your resources.
She had a magical room in her house- the root cellar. It had a dirt floor, wooden shelves, no window, and it was always cooler than anywhere else. The shelves were lined with hundred of mason jars. Jams, pickles of all varieties, canned tomatoes, fruits. It contained everything that could not be consumed while still fresh- everything. 
Despite, now easy accessibility of food, she maintained this tradition until day that she died. She chose to maintain tradition. To respect the integrity of farming, of good cooking, and that sense of poverty that produces a certain soul that cannot be faked. It was my grandmother's respect and diligence towards food, I think, that I hold most dear. 

3. What is your favorite part of working in a kitchen?

Jon: The sense of teamwork and camaraderie. The common goal of serving something great and being able to receive an immediate appreciation from happy diners. 

4. What are your favorite foods to prepare?

Josh: My favorite thing to prepare is definitely the ballotine.
I Love grinding my meat and stuffing little birds! Just kidding...
But seriously, the ballotine requires a level of technique the home cook can execute, but may find difficult. It's always more fun for me to prepare and serve something to a guest that they cannot make at home themselves. 


5.  What are the hardest ingredients to work with in the kitchen?
Geoff: Sometimes the most simple ingredients are the most challenging. When you buy tomatoes, fresh fruit or citrus that just aren't exactly where you want them to be. You have this idea in your head of what it should taste like, whether raw or cooked, and sometimes they don't live up to that expectation. So getting these simple, fresh ingredients to taste how you want them to be can be the most difficult.

6.  What are the food that inspire you in the kitchen?
Tim: I am a huge fan of foraging. The forest holds a certain sense of magic for me. You may be collecting fiddle-heads to pass the time, but it is the morel that you truly desire. You search for hours and see no trace of the mystical mushroom, so you give up. Then, just as in love, when you are ready to throw in the towel forever, everything that you had sought for, is right at your feet. Nature has decided, in your humility, that these gifts belong to you. You know that if you don't treat these items with the greatest care, you may never be given another shot, so you actually love these mushrooms. There is nothing better than cooking with kind of connection to your food.

7. What are some foods you cook at home or eat out and why?

Geoff: I tend to eat a lot of Asian food at home. I like the depth of flavor and spice that exists in their cuisine. Also, lime and cilantro are just amazing. A burger from The Nook or everything at Bar LaGrassa are my go to places when I want to eat out though.


8. What is something you don't think outsiders know about what goes on in the kitchen?

 Josh: I have three answers for you!
The hours: I am pretty sure most outsiders are unaware of how many hours these professionals work to make the ship run.
The Lingo: In most professional kitchens, we have a way of talking with one another that is different type of communication. Its like we are speaking a foreign language with each other... with a lot of innuendos...
The hands: How many hands touch your food? Kind of gross when you add it all up but we do a wonderful job with sanitation and the more hands the more care that goes into that dish. 

 I am so grateful for those who participated and I hope all of you readers had a great time getting to know some of the great people behind the food at the Timing and Chemistry restaurants. Don't forget to check out the recipes we posted earlier this week!

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