Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ChefX is da bomb


Always keeps his cool: On the morning of Day 2, he was informed that a private party he was catering for was on that night, not the following as he had planned. He took the news as if you told him "have a nice day," shuffled some staff around, did a little nervous dance, and moved on. Later in the afternoon his wife dropped by. When she heard the news she was stressing something major, but not disproportionately to the situation at hand. ChefX asked her to stop freaking out and to go home if she was to continue stressing.
When I told him I thought her response was normal and his not, he said this was the reality at hand, and what could be done but to get things done? (Um... panic, yell, curse, take stress out on others, perhaps?) My level of respect for Chef X quadrupled that day.

Has a massive cookbook collection: There's an entire wall downstairs that's dedicated entirely to cookbooks. This was his education along with years of hard work in real kitchens
, not culinary school.

Likes kitchen musicals: He sings bad 80's songs, but he mostly makes up songs from the kitchen. My personal favorite: "Pasta Ladaaay! She be makin' the pasta..."

Shows R-E-S-P-E-C-T:
For the food: By not messing with
the ingredients too much. He likes to let the ingredients shine with their pure essence of flavor.
For the staff:
ChefX respects everyone, even a silly girl like me who just walked in off the street. He respects their individual strength and craft, even if it's just peeling a thousand pea pods. He's also smart and humble enough to try his best at speaking Spanish - clearly the first language of professional kitchens in NYC.
For himself: By not acting like a ganache (French word for "fool," as I learned today). The cowboy chef - the cursing, yelling, punishing macho man portrayed in Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, and countless other real-life kitchen accounts, has no place in the kitchen of RestoX.

Is a subtle but effective teacher: He doesn't use many words, just targeted and timely ones.He's taught me the to do everything with a sense of urgency at all times, no matter what the job. He watches everything you do, but from afar. At first I thought he didn't care much about me and the little tasks I was working on, but I was completely wrong. He cares about every aspect of the kitchen. He goes way, silently observes like an eagle from afar, and allows you to make a just a few mistakes so you can learn from yourself what happens when you make those mistakes. This is by far the best teaching philosophy. All he then needs to do is come over and say just a few words - barely a sentence - to drive home the lesson. He lets the experience inform you - you already know you've made some kind of mistake and you can see for yourself the (horrific) result.
It doesn't require much explanation, just why it was a horrific mistake, and then he shows you how to correct it. It's quite effective.

Demonstrates humility: Period.