A Splash of Humor and a Dash of Asshole

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The Hack Chronicles – By Chef Douglas Alexander

Why Does He Hate Salmon So Much?

I imagine this chef was a young man when it happened. He was probably asleep dreaming of one day being a lawyer, a tax accountant or a fireman when they came. The door of the family home was torn from the hinges in a violent fury. He was woken from his dream by the anguished screams of his mother.

Terrified, he ran into the family room only to see the salmon on full attack. One bit off his father’s arm with a sickening crunch splashing gore across the room splashing across the boy’s Winnie the Pooh pajamas. His mother ran into the kitchen only to be cornered by another pair of the giant fish. They toyed with her chasing her between them on massive fins until finally laughing and tore her in two.

The boy had sunk to his knees, broken, his father’s blood spreading in a pool in front of him. Somehow the dismembered man was able to squeak out the words ‘get them, my son. Make them pay.’ His words ended with a sudden crunch as his head was splintered by the mighty jaws of the one of the largest salmon in the room.

Soon they circled around him. He awaited his own death. Instead, inexplicably the salmon laughed and quickly exited the house leaving the boy crying and alone with the blood, the carnage, the destruction.

‘Yes, father. I will get them. Oh, yes I will…

Or at least that is what I hope happened.

You truly have to watch this to really get the understanding of why I am hoping that this man’s family was killed by salmon and he has vowed revenge. Why else would he so savagely destroy this noble fish?

At first you I thought he might be alright. Why would you videotape yourself cutting a fish if you were not good at it? The beheading was done well. The knife is very sharp and heavy. It takes the head off with ease. He even removes the first side basically nicely. However at the 36 second mark you see what looks to be about a quarter inch of flesh left on the skeleton.

It then goes bad. What happens during the two cut scenes I am not certain, but I think in the director’s cut he is seen ejaculating upon the still to be fully brutalized salmon.

The way he takes off the skeleton is savage and without remorse. How much meat is left upon it is of no consequence. This is the salmon that killed his mother after all.

At the 1:33 mark he is taking off a lot of bone and flesh from the top side of the fillet. Why? Nobody willingly does this when breaking down a salmon.

The removal of the rib bones seems a labor. He is not cutting apart a cow here. This is maybe a ten pound salmon. Knowing someone who has the very same deba, I know it is a great knife. This guy is just a sadist bent on vengeance against all salmon kind.

At 2:29 my stomach turns as he has flayed the creature of it’s skin and is now just shredding it. He is documenting on video the fact that he has no technique and should be ashamed. I am ashamed for him.

Finally he pinbones the fucking thing and begins to portion it. Observe his lack of a scale. He is so good he doesn’t need one, ladies and gentlemen! Look at the way he just tossed the uneven portions around not worrying if he is tearing the flesh.

After all of his amazing work we have six uneven, inconsistent portions per side. Fuck me.

I truly expected him at some point to just start hacking at the fish like a maniac.

I can only take solace in the hopes it was a piece of shit farmed Atlantic salmon and not something wild that might require skill and respect when cutting.

Not everyone is Morimoto when it comes to fish fabrication, but this was just staggeringly bad. And to videotape it and post it on the internet for other people to see is just asking for derision.

You sir, despite your great knife and music video are a hack! Trade that knife for a hammer and start making shoes!

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Kitchen Zen

There are moments as cooks where the craziness of a kitchen suddenly becomes silent. Times when the the fast paced, balls to the wall kitchen life suddenly slows down and becomes peaceful. These moments are often short but very sweet. Let me preface by saying, none of these are true if you are behind in your day. If you don’t arrive at least an hour before your shift, you will probably never experience any of these moments. Also, if you are a talentless, slow, worthless piece of shit cook, stop reading now because all of this is simply a fantasy you will never experience. You should go get high and drop off that resume at 7/11. Maybe you will someday write an amazing blog about Slurpee Zen, but you will never experience any of these sweet, sweet times. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Pre Service

– Peeling Garlic
– Plucking Thyme
– Skimming Sauces
– Trimming Filet
– Frenching Chops
– Removing Pinbones in Salmon
– Slicing Chives
– Flipping out Your Mise into Clean
Pans
– Crossing the Final Things off of
Your Prep List

Mid Service

– Clearing the Rail
– Slicing Meat and Realizing it is
Cooked Perfectly
– When You’re Fully Weeded and You
Look Up For a Second to See a Hot
Blonde with Ginormous Bazookas
Being Ushered to Her Table
– Tasting a Perfectly Reduced Sauce

Post Service

– The First Ice Cold Beer
– The Second the Shitty Food
Encrusted Boom Box Gets Switched
Back On
– Hearing the Covers Count
– Switching the Lights Off and Hearing
the Door Close Behind You

Let me further explain by stating that none of these are a guaranteed moment of Zen. Most of these things can be a huge pain in the ass if you’re not in the perfect situation. But then again, if you would have shown up earlier you could have probably stopped to enjoy them. I almost forgot the most Zen-Like moments ever………….Getting a Blow Job in the walk-in.

Now please enjoy these photos I boosted from former dishwashers’ Facebook pages. They are the hardest working motherfuckers on the planet, but they also play hard. I’m sure you can tell.

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The 24 Hour Lamb Leg

I don’t take high quality photos

-I’m a cook, not a photographer

I don’t give measurements or recipes

-I’m sure you can figure it out

I don’t tell you when to season

-You should know that or you shouldn’t be cooking

THE LAMB

Boned. rolled and tied lamb leg, marinated overnight in red wine

Vacuum seal with garlic,  a bunch of butter and thyme

Sous vide for 24 hours at 60 degrees celsius

Pat dry and season

Brown with a few thyme sprigs in a mixture of half olive oil and half butter

Baste it like it’s your job, and you love your job

Flip it and continue to do your job

Remove from the pan and give it a rest

Slice it with a sharp knife. If your knife is not sharp, you are more than likely not sharp. Write that down.

—————————————————————————————————————-

THE SAUCE

Start with some lamb ribs. If they are unavailable use some other sort of meat and bone combination.

Sear the ribs

Add some thyme and a little butter

Add half and onion and a head of garlic cut in half.

Deglaze with red wine and reduce by half

Add beef stock to cover and simmer for a few hours

Strain

Mount with butter just before service

—————————————————————————————————————-

Mushrooms and Melted Leeks

Cut mushrooms and let dry out on a towel overnight. Dry mushrooms make crispy mushrooms, and mushrooms should always be crispy. (I used crimini and chantrelles)

Working in small batches, start in hot oil and finish in cold butter

While they are crisping, slick your leeks thin. Make sure to impress your audience with amazing knife work.

Remove the mushrooms and in the same pan add leeks and a bunch of butter.

Cook low and slow until leeks are “melty”

Add a touch of cream and cook until it is all absorbed

Add the mushrooms back and incorporate

—————————————————————————————————————-

THE PLATE

Chicks………. My Homage to Female Cooks

 

Respected for her net worth? Yes. Respected for her cooking skills? No.

Respected for her awesome boobies? Yes. Respected for her cooking skills? No

There is no such thing as an average female line cook. They are either complete badasses or pretty much worthless. There have been a few select women that stick out in my mind as being instrumental to what food has become. They have overcome what is often considered a “man’s world,” and made a name for themselves. And those women are:

Alice Waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respected for: Shaping west coast cuisine, leading the organic movement, having one of the most amazing restaurants of all time, making people think about what they are eating and where it came from, first woman to ever be named the James Beard Foundations Best Chef in America (1992)

Alumni: Mark Peel (Campanile), Dan Barber (Blue Hill), Judy Rogers (Zuni Cafe), Suzanne Goin (Lucques), Jeremiah Tower (Stars), Paul Bertolli (Fra’ Mani), Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto), Michael Tusk (Quince), April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig)

Julia Child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respected for: Encouraging people cook good food at home, making French food approachable, bringing food to television, inspiring so many people

Judy Rodgers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respected for: Authoring one of the most useful and well written cookbooks of all time, making the simplest of foods elegant, the best roast chicken of all time

Suzanne Goin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respected for: Bringing Los Angeles back into fine dining, working her employees hard while accepting nothing short of perfection (I was one of them),  being a leader in the fresh/local food movement

Resume: Chez Panisse, Olives, Alain Passard

Elena Arzak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respected for: Expanding the legacy her father started in Spain, innovative cuisine, running one of the most successful and highly acclaimed  restaurants in Europe, being insanely talented

Resume: La Gavroche, Louis XV, Pierre Gagniere, El Bulli

Nancy Silverton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respected for: Making the best bread in the world, bringing the bakery back into the spotlight, branching out and bringing artisan style pizza into California cuisine, awesome hair

 

Summary

I have had the opportunity to work with and for some amazing women in my career. They have had an amazing work ethic along with great attention to detail. The funny thing is, the best pastry chef I have ever worked with was a heavy metal loving, semi-alcoholic, unshaven dude.

BONUS:

THE GREATEST MUSIC VIDEO EVER MADE

Why the Internet Sucks………for Restaurants

The internet is bullshit, minus the porn of course. It has the potential to ruin the restaurant business, and let me explain why.

1) Yelp/Citysearch

These websites have turned any piece of shit out there into Ruth Reichl or Frank Bruni. Housewives everywhere now have an outlet to be a restaurant reviewer. So much of the public’s opinions regarding the total restaurant experience are completely uneducated. Opening up restaurant reviews to people that have no clue what they are talking about is highly dangerous. With the popularity of these websites growing, restaurants could see a real hit. The website http://fuckyouyelper.tumblr.com/ highlights some of the shitty things people write in there bullshit reviews. Here is my favorite:

Well, I’ve never even eaten here. So why, you ask, do I even bother to rate this place? Because I did walk in here, sit down, and read the menu. Then I looked at my friends and said, “There’s no way I can eat this.” It was all grease and fat and a whole buncha yuck jumbled together. NO WAY. Im just not into that kind of eating or food combinations..so Not appealing to me. So we left. yet, its a local institution of sorts. Oh well.

Aside from the horrible grammar and punctuation issues, this review was seriously amazing. Considering it was for a Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. The name of the restaurant pretty much states what you’re getting into.

The actual sites themselves are to blame as well.  They often “filter” out positive reviews based on the reviewer not having enough reviews on their profile. This is supposed to prevent the business from writing false reviews about themselves, but that is not always the case. Not everyone wants to review everything that they do or see. Some people would simply like to be able to review things here and there.

I have actually seen businesses offer rewards or discounts based directly on their customers leaving them positive reviews. This type of thing not being able to be filtered completely invalidates these websites too.

2) Groupon/Living Social

These websites have there place in this world, just not in restaurants. Offering your food at a large discount just to get people through the door is culinary suicide. It reeks of desperation and has the potential to seriously hurt a restaurant. The type of people that come into the restaurant for a half price dinner will more than likely not be willing to return and pay double for the same meal. The sheer hit that something like that can do to your food cost is huge. It has the potential to totally fuck your business. Not only are you losing the price of the discounted meal, but you also have to pay the website a percentage of each coupon sold. 

They won’t tell you this when they contact you about being a part of their business.  They will fill your head with facts about how awesome their company is and have tons of examples of successful businesses that have benefited from their program. Think about it this way. You have a $24 entree on your menu that you’re going to sell for $12. You then give the company $6 of that. It doesn’t make all that much sense now, does it?

To sum it all up, the internet will destroy the entire restaurant business. Not really, but it has the potential to seriously hurt a few restaurants.

And now, for no reason at all, I present to you a brief timeline of my career, in picture form.

It all started with a little man and his love of food

Soon after I was making awesome wedding cakes

I peaked, with pork

I retired. Now, I cook for a party of 4 with the most talented sous chef of all time

I can have open beers on my station and take my sweet time

And then I end up right where I started

 

A Little Light in the Kitchen Loafers

For the most part, we all love each other in the kitchen. Sometimes that love is intense, and sometimes that love is expressed is in unusual ways. It might even get a little out of hand. I really wish that a true reality show would be made about cooks. The world needs to see an accurate depiction of what a cook’s life is really like. Peoples minds have been tainted by the bullshit they see on television. You are not rewarded for having a good dinner service, it is expected. But let’s get back to the point, kitchens can get a little homoerotic at times. Think about it, you’re stuck in a confined space working elbow to elbow with sweaty dudes (for the most part) all day. We are bound to lose our minds a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, there is no man on man action happening, but things do get a bit crazy. Let me explain:

1) Throughout the day, anything that even mildly resembles a dick will in fact be used as one.

Various sexual activities will also be simulated with said objects

2) After a long, tiresome day in the kitchen we will all go out together. While we are out, we will consume large amounts amounts of alcohol. After consuming the alcohol, we will tell each other how much we love each. Occasionally, we will prove our love for one another.

3) Camera phones have changed everything. Things that you used to do just to get a laugh, are no longer private. Someone will take a picture and capture the moment forever.

So let’s wrap this up before it gets out of hand. Cooks love each other and we are not afraid to show each other. I’m not sure if any other professions out there have the camaraderie that kitchens do. I consider my fellow cooks to be an extension of my family. We understand each other and like to be around one another. It’s not gay at all, I promise.

Bonus Pictures:

Dishwashers are the epitome of fashion

Nudity is always funny

Expendable Youth

For the most part, culinary students are complete pieces of shit. Read this article and then I will explain my point.

Top Chef Dreams: Are Cooking Schools a Rip-

Off?

By KAYLA WEBLEY Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Click here to find out more!

Students at the San Francisco branch of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
The idea of becoming a gourmet chef and maybe even owning your own restaurant someday is one of those enduring fantasies that percolate through each generation. And today, with the popularity of starmaking competition shows like Bravo’s Top Chef and Food Network’s Iron Chef, the concept of cooking your way to a new career is even more alluring. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the bottom lines of for-profit education companies in the business of selling those chef’s-hat dreams are soaring.

As the economy continues to limp along, the drive to get a leg up in competitive fields like gourmet cooking is only increasing. Overall enrollment at for-profit trade schools, which include culinary schools, has expanded by about 20% a year for the past two years, according to the Association of Private Sector Colleges & Universities, a group that represents for-profit schools nationwide. For example, one company, the Career Education Corp., which operates 17 culinary schools in the U.S., has seen enrollment increase by more than 46% since 2008, according to company spokesman Mark Spencer.(See “The 20 Best- and Worst-Paid College Majors.”)

And the students flocking to attend culinary schools are paying a pretty penny. According to data recently released by the Department of Education, tuition at a culinary school can run upwards of $30,000. For example, the Orlando branch of Le Cordon Bleu (LCB) charges $35,130 for its 21-month associate’s degree in culinary arts. Thanks in part to that hefty price tag, LCB’s parent company, the Career Education Corp., has seen its profits balloon. Last year the company reported revenue of $1.84 billion, a 63% increase from 2007.

But the numbers aren’t as good for students at culinary schools. Many enroll sold on the idea of being a chef but wake up to the harsh reality of low-paying line-cook jobs and mountains of debt on graduation. About 800 current and former students are involved in a class action in California that alleges that the LCB branch in Pasadena, formerly called the California School of Culinary Arts, “falsely led students to believe they would be able to obtain employment as chefs after graduation — and make a chef’s salary, thereby enabling them to pay off their loans within a reasonable period of time,” according to Michael Louis Kelly, an attorney representing the students.

One of those students, Daniel Vasquez, says he has had difficulty finding work other than as a line cook — a lower-paying job that he likely could have gotten without footing the bill for culinary school. Vasquez became interested in the culinary institute after seeing a commercial on TV that he says led him to believe that if he went to the school he would become a chef. When he enrolled in 2005, he says, he was told by an admissions officer that on graduation it would be “easy” for him to obtain a job as a sous chef (an apprentice chef) for which he could expect to start at $18 an hour. Vasquez was so convinced that he took out $65,018 in loans to cover the tuition for the 18-month program ($45,148), as well as associated fees, supplies, his uniform and living expenses.

In the years since graduation, Vasquez, for the most part, has been unable to find culinary jobs that pay more than $10 to $12 an hour and as a result has been unable to make payments on his loans. And although the school changed its recruitment materials nationwide in July 2009 to make it clear students cannot expect to be chefs on graduation — it now lists more realistic postgraduation career opportunities — that’s cold comfort to Vasquez, who is now nearly $80,000 in debt. “I’m not sure I will ever be able to pay it off,” Vasquez told TIME. “I never would have borrowed the money if I knew I wouldn’t be able to repay it. I went to this school so I could be ahead, jump-start my future, but now, who knows.”(Read about the cult of the celebrity chef.)

That’s the problem, says Eric Greenspan, rising Food Network star and head chef and owner of the Foundry on Melrose, a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles. He thinks students enroll in the programs hoping to skip to the head of the pack, only to find out that they still have to start at the bottom. In entry-level cooking jobs like that of a line cook or work with a caterer, a typical starting wage is $9 to $10 an hour, Greenspan says. “These kids are paying law-school prices, and [culinary schools] are training them for minimum-wage jobs.” He says students would be better off getting their foot in the door with a chef they admire and working very hard to climb their way to the top. “How do rock stars become famous? They work hard. They don’t go to guitar schools,” he says.

That argument taps into the perennial debate over the usefulness of higher education: Are creative careers like cooking, fashion design and even journalism best learned by going to school or by getting your foot in the door and training on the job? One of the largest benefits of going to school is making connections to people in the field. That was true for Jim Hanson, who graduated from LCB’s Minneapolis branch nine months ago. He says the $34,000 or so he paid for his associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts was worth the cost — even though he had to take out student loans — in large part because the school connected him to his current employer. As a student worker at the school while he attended classes, Hanson was introduced to the owner of Chez Arnaud, a French bakery in Minneapolis, where he now works as head baker (and recently won a local award for “Best Baguette”). “It was all worth it,” he told TIME. “Without [Le Cordon Bleu], I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near this job.” Hanson, who estimates that he will be able to pay off his student loans in five to 10 years, says the cost of the program was intimidating at first since he would “be paying for this for a while,” but ultimately he decided it was a financial risk he was willing to take. “This was an investment I wanted to make for myself,” he says.

And it’s true that the onus is on the students to make sure their aspirations are realistic in relation to their budgets and their local job market. “Students are always making an informed decision and should fully understand what is involved,” says Brian Moran, the interim president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges & Universities. “If they are taking loans, they need to understand their responsibilities — the total picture.” And, of course, no degree can guarantee a job. “The education our students receive from experienced chef instructors puts them on a career path,” says spokesman Mark Spencer. “But as with all education, it’s no guarantee of success.”

But as Greenspan notes, culinary schools do a very good job of tapping into the psyches of wannabe chefs. “Culinary schools sell people on their love of cooking,” he says. “They’re selling the dream.” Indeed, a recent advertisement on Google for the Arizona Culinary Institute, a private, for-profit school that charges $25,990 for its nine-month program, read, “Ready to follow your dream?” But if the number of competitors on Top Chef and The Next Iron Chef has proved anything, it’s that while there are a lot of people who want to be chefs, far fewer see those dreams come true.

– Taken from time.com

Let’s start from the beginning. Television shows such as “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef” shouldn’t be blamed for kids having minimal success upon graduation from culinary school. I have never seen a contestant on either of those shows whose job description is “recent culinary school graduate.” The majority of contestants on either show run very successful restaurants around the country and have spent a lot of time honing their skills. I’m sure they started working either washing dishes or prepping for minimum wage. Most of them probably spent a few years working for free and soaking up as much knowledge as they possibly could.  On the other hand, all of the contestants on “Hell’s Kitchen” are totally talentless pieces of shit that have no business being in a kitchen. They are the assholes that I spent years firing and reducing to tears.

Next, lets take a look at one of these bullshit culinary school commercials. Let me break it down for you.

-What is that bullshit cream sauce and why is it being poured over a sliced chicken breast with raw tomatoes around the plate. At least the garnish was creative………dried parsley flakes. They always “set it off.”

-“Love to Cook?” It should say “Do you love to make no money while spending your nights in small, insanely hot spaces next to degenerates with sharp knives and direct access to fire?”  It takes a lot more than the love of cooking to spend your life in a kitchen.  Let me simplify it for you. I’m sure most of you like jacking off, but it’s probably not a smart career choice. For most people at least.

-Little blonde girl in the floppy hat needs a hair net

-“Prepare to become a chef.'” No, this school will not do that. The proper way to prepare would be to work hard, learn and stay humble.

-That cantaloupe bowl full of berries is a complete embarassment

-Ah, there is Blondie again selecting wine pairings for the evenings tasting menu.  Wait a second, I totally read that wrong. She is actually an extern from the culinary school and they are drinking in the basement after a hard shift. Mr. Busboy turned sommelier is dropping some bullshit line about the wine being old world and full-bodied. Twenty minutes later the wine is gone and she is being bent over a case of Korbel. That what really happens.

-“This could be your perfect career!” This statement is absolutely true. If you love the rough neck kitchen lifestyle and that is the only thing that makes you happy, then it could be the perfect career. Otherwise, it will break you down and make you cry yourself to sleep at night.

-You don’t need the free brochure to find out how to land a “hot culinary career.” Skip the phone call, find a job working for someone you respect and work hard. That’s really all it takes.

If a commercial like this one really inspires you to fork over the money for culinary school, you more than likely are wasting your money. People who spend the time and become a chef knew that’s what they wanted long before they were sitting on their couch watching Jerry Springer and wondering what to do with their lives. They are passionate about food and that’s all they could ever imagine doing. They go home at the end of the night after working long hours and think about their mise en place for the next day. They dream about new dishes and flavor combinations. Cooking is their life, not something they like to do.

Let’s talk about this lawsuit. 800 students are suing a culinary school because they “falsely led students to believe they would be able to obtain employment as chefs after graduation.” This should be thrown out immediately without wasting anyone’s time or money. You can become a chef upon graduation, if you work hard enough and put your time in.  I actually am a graduate of the exact culinary school being sued. I believed I was going to become a chef after I graduated and that I was going to be paid a good salary as soon as I had my diploma in hand. I graduated and spent years working hard for next to nothing. Did I blame the school ? No, I realized I had to work hard if I wanted to eventually become a chef someday. It’s not the schools fault these 800 students are not chefs, it all a reflection upon the students themselves.

Now let’s get to the issue with Daniel Vasquez. He was informed by an admissions officer that he could easily find a Sous Chef gig paying $18/hour upon graduation. First of all , a Sous Chef is not an apprentice chef, but we will blame that fuck up on the author of the article. Secondly, the chances of becoming upper management in any career after completing an 18th month certificate program is slim to none. Do I blame the admissions officer? No way, I blame Mr. Vasquez. He should have researched his career choice a lot more before dropping $65,000. Most people these days are looking for the easy way out, as I believe he is. He is a line cook making shitty money at some bullshit restaurant and saw this lawsuit as a way to make a few extra bucks without having to work for it.

The bottom line is this. Working in restaurants is not easy. Becoming a Chef is even harder. Very few people become successful chefs and even fewer are recognized for their success. It takes a lot of hard work to make it through a night of service in a busy kitchen, and you will not be compensated well for that work. You have to have dreams of becoming a chef because you love the business, not because you want to be rich and famous. Simply “loving to cook” is not nearly enough.