Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Internship: Day 2, 10/05/05

So I came in on Day 2, and D, Sous Chef #1 and the one who arranged my internship, wasn’t in yet. I asked J, Sous Chef #2, what I should do and he gave me some huge slabs of frozen fatback to trim and cut into 1 lb. pieces. I was having a terrible time, and both K2 and S took pity on my struggles and helped me figure out the easiest and quickest way to trim the frozen fat. They also pointed out how dull my knife was. I’d had it sharpened a few weeks ago, but K2 recommended that I have it sharpened at least twice a week, and she also corrected my honing technique (my angle was a little wide), which seemed to help a little. D informed me later that there’s a stone I can use at Quake, and he’ll show me how to use it. I also have a stone at home—I brought my knife kit home with me so that I can sharpen up all my knives. I’ll double-check with him that I’m doing it correctly when I go back in on Monday.

D had come in during the fatback ordeal, and when I’d finished he let me know that he’d like me to make Bouillabaisse again, with a couple of changes. It would be for a special event rather than the main menu, so everything needed to be cut smaller. Also, I used the fennel tops as well as the bulbs, and lemon juice as well as orange juice in the fumet mirepoix. One of my biggest problems is lack of speed, and since I’d followed this recipe once already, I was hoping to do it in less time. However, while everything seemed to go more smoothly this time, I’m not sure that I was much faster.

Once I was done with the soup, D had me clean about four bags of mussels to be steamed the next day. This was during service, and I was in the prep kitchen while most everyone else was upstairs on the line. They had the Sox game on and it seemed to annoy everyone, including the Chef, that I never knew what the score was when they came in and asked. I really hate sports, and they all seemed bewildered by that. Once the mussels were done, I was finished and free to go. D and I discussed my schedule—I didn’t make my expected 20 hours this week, so I’m going to start coming in at 9am next Monday so that I can help with early prep work. That works out well, although I hate getting up early. I’m also going to be working the dinner line at some point, which should be sufficiently harrowing.

One of the things I’m going to have to work out is how to eat enough while I’m there. It seems like it should be easy, working in a restaurant and all, but I’m trying to take advantage of the fact that I don’t have any cooking classes this quarter and reign in my diet. The staff on the lunch line is generally willing to make you some food if you ask, but it’s usually something like fries with Béarnaise sauce. Really good, but not what I should be eating on a regular basis. This week I brought organic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole grain bread (homemade!) with me, but I think the problem is that I’ve been waiting too long to eat. I’m usually woozy and exhausted by 6pm (start time 12pm), so I’m thinking I need to snack around 4pm to keep my energy up. Whatever—I’ll work it out. One of my goals as I learn to cook is to keep my diet healthy, even though I will be making and tasting a lot of rich food. I know it can be done—Chef Felsenthal, my teacher for all my cooking classes so far except Baking and Pastry, has an excellent diet. For me, it makes a big difference in how I feel and how much energy I have. Everything in moderation and I’m cool!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Wine and Beverage: Day 1, 10/04/05

Wine Word of the Day

Veraison [ver-ray-ZON] The point in the growing season when ripening grapes begin to soften and change color from green to either red or yellow, depending on the variety. In the northern hemisphere, veraison typically occurs anywhere from late June to mid August, depending on the climate.

Definition compliments of the New Wine Lover’s Companion.


I was concerned about my Wine and Beverage class because I found out on Monday that the fabulous Bob Bansberg, Sommelier at Ambria, was no longer teaching it. I’d heard such good things about him, and was really looking forward to his class. However, the new teacher, John Laloganes, seems like a fine replacement. He’s entertaining, and it looks like he knows his stuff. It sounds like he has a variety of experience: management, wine, and general restaurant. I also found out (through the wonder that is Google, of course) that he used to be a manager at the Green Mill. How cool!

So the first day was pretty much a general introduction to wine—it’s history, a little bit about how it’s made, types, and bottle shapes. We also watched a documentary on the Mafia and Prohibition, which was fun.

We took a “what do you know?” test, which I’ve uploaded as a PDF. Feel free to download it and see how well you do. I only got about five right and didn’t have a clue about most of it, which was pretty normal for our class and pretty much what he expected. I’ll post the answers next week!

Below is a little of the information I gleaned in class. You can view a PDF of my full notes here.

Wine Classifications

Wine: Fermented juice of grapes (unless otherwise specified). You can substitute fruit or vegetables, but 99.9% of all wine is made from grapes.

Table Wine: Wine containing no added alcohol. Alcoholic content of table wine must be between 8-14% alcohol.

Sparkling Wine: Table wine that contains large amounts of dissolved CO2 (carbonation). No added alcohol.

Fortified Wine: Table wine with extra alcohol added. Fortified wine must contain between 17% and 22% alcohol.

- Aperitif: Fortified wine which has no apparent sweetness; drunk before dinner.

- Dessert: Sweet; drunk after dinner.

Old World vs. New World Wines

Old World: France, Italy, Spain Germany

New World: U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa

Top Five Wine Producers:
1. Italy (traditionally not necessarily quality wines, but that’s changing)
2. France
3. Spain
4. U.S.
5. Argentina

World Consumption of Wine:
1. France
2. Italy
3. U.S.
(although it’s low per capita – the small percentage that drink wine drink a lot!)

4. Germany
5. Spain

Bottle Shapes

Resources here:

Wine Doctor
West Coast Wine

I also used the information (and images) off of both of those sites, combined them with my class notes, and created a PDF here.


Recommended Wine Resources

Exploring Wine, 2nd Edition
This was listed as our class textbook. It ended up being optional, but I had already gotten it and probably would have gotten it regardless. I’m making my way through the first chapter, which covers the wine-growing process (which sounds amazingly complicated), and the primary varietals of wine (I’ve just started on the whites). This book is where I got the Wine Word of the Day (although the definition came from my next recommendation.

The New Wine Lover’s Companion
This book was recommended to me a few times over. It’s basically a dictionary of wine.

The Wine Goddess
If you’re in the Chicago area, come take a class with Diana—she’s fabulous. She’s the wine buyer and instructor at the Chopping Block, the cooking store where I work (I’m using the real names in this instance, obviously). I assist a lot of the wine classes, and they’re really a lot of fun.

I absolutely love podcasts, and this is a great one about wine. It was featured on Eat Feed, my favorite foodie podcast.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Internship: Day 1, 10/03/05

I’ve been staging at Quake since June, so I don’t know why I was so nervous about starting my internship, but I was. The staff all seemed to be in a good mood when I came in, though, and welcomed me back (I took a break for the week I was out of school). That made me feel more at ease.

It was, actually, an unusual day in the kitchen. One Sous Chef was on vacation, and the other had gone to the hospital that morning with some diabetic complications. K had been called in to take charge of the kitchen, and though I’m sure it was extremely stressful for her, she was amazingly calm.

My first task of the day was a Garlic Aioli. I’ve made mayonnaise a few times, and an aioli once. They’re basically the same thing, the difference being in the addition of garlic, but I hadn’t made either of them in a while. Of course it broke, which had never happened to me before. K showed me how to repair the emulsion by removing the broken aioli, putting a couple more egg yolks into the food processor and then streaming the broken aioli back in, just as you do with the original oil. The emulsion became a little thick about halfway through, so she instructed me to add a little water to thin it back out, and then to continue adding in the rest of the broken aioli. It worked!

A note on the definitions of mayonnaise and aioli from my Garde Manger textbook, Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen, 2nd Edition (because I wasn’t sure myself until I looked it up):

Aïoli (Fr.): Garlic mayonnaise, often based on olive oils.

Mayonnaise: A cold emulsion sauce made of oil, egg yolks, vinegar, mustard, and seasonings.

My second task, creating Bouillabaisse for the night’s service, was much more complicated than anything else I’ve ever done at Quake. I think K gave it to me partially because it kept me occupied for the entire day. I first created the fish fumet (fish broth) by sweating a white mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and in this case, orange juice and fennel bulbs), adding in fish bones, then white wine, and covering it with water. I brought it to a low boil, turned off the heat, and let it sit while I prepared the remaining ingredients: more fennel and onions, red potatoes, garlic, canned Italian tomatoes, saffron, Pernod, sriracha, parsley, and thyme. The fennel, onions, potatoes, and garlic were sweated, and then the tomatoes and saffron were added and allowed to cook for about 5 minutes over low heat. The strained fumet went in and was again brought to a low boil. The remaining ingredients were added after we brought the pot down to cool in an ice bath.

The whole Bouillabaisse experience was stressful but exciting. The thing that I hate most about being at this beginning point in my career is that I always feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, and constantly have to ask questions. I vaguely remember that feeling as a designer, but often I was able to get answers on my own because I had internet access and books. In a kitchen I only have the knowledge that’s in my head, and often, even when I think I know the answer I second guess myself and ask to make sure. I feel like I must be driving everyone crazy, but what do you do?

My day ended earlier than expected as they had a stage in that was covering the amuse bouche station, and there wasn’t really much else for me to do. While I was concerned about getting enough hours to fill my internship requirements, I was also somewhat relieved because making bouillabaisse wore me out! There was a lot of running back and forth between the prep kitchen and the pastry kitchen on the third floor (I was using their stove), lugging huge stock pots and trays of ingredients, and just the general stress of doing something for the first time. It was fun, though, and made for an interesting first day.