What Are Your Culinary Dreams?
The Food Phenomena
With the tremendous popularity of all things culinary on television
today, I have a fascination with the actual experience of working in a professional kitchen. People say that it's grueling both physically and psychologically, but the culinary world is still very intriguing. With the advent of Food Network and the incarnation of "celebrity chefs" has brought food and cooking to the forefront around the world. Shows like Iron Chef, Kitchen Nightmares, Hell's Kitchen, Top chef and The F Word have rekindled my interest in possibly changing careers. I've even did some serious research into culinary schools. Chef personalities like Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain and Emeril Lagasse have glamorized the profession, making professional kitchens a happenin' place to work.
Coming from a large Italian-American family, food and cooking were always a big part of life. My childhood culinary related memories were of helping my mother and Italian aunts make fresh pasta, ravioli and gnocchi by hand on our dining room table. While in the kitchen, a gigantic pot of sugo (meat sauce) was simmering on the stove. The aromas were intoxicating and the experience was pure joy. Eating that food we lovingly prepared earlier in the day was absolutely heaven. These culinary skills were passed from generation to generation, mother to daughters, in most Italian families. We ate until we could eat no more. During my college years, I put cooking aside to concentrate on getting my degree. But, my interest in all things culinary, just took a different path, exploring the local ethnic cuisines (Middle Eastern, Indian, North African) in restaurants around town. As a twenty-something gourmand, I voraciously devoured (no pun intended) cookbooks to acquire the knowledge and technical skills to cook fabulous meals for family and friends. It was my passion! My cookbook collection ballooned to well over one hundred strong. One thing that always was my dream was to cook in a professional kitchen. To some extent that dream still exists today.
Culinary schools are becoming a viable alternative to a formal college education. Young high school graduates today, are investigating the respectable career as a culinary professional. And, there are several highly accredited cooking schools in America. Some of the more well known schools are:
Looking back, I sometimes wish I would have taken this career option more seriously. I often fantasize about what it would be like to work in one of the most renowned restaurant kitchen in the world. Hmmm...
A Day at El Bulli
My Dream Envisioned
After emailing an introduction and resume to Ferran Adria of el Bulli, arguably the best restaurant in the world, I request an internship in his brigade. Even though his kitchen is usually made up of 17-20 chefs, I didn't expect a positive response. The next day, to my amazement, el Bulli's general manager, sent me a text asking how soon I could get to Barcelona. Chef Adria is well known to grants stages to culinary unknowns as a way to get favorable publicity for the restaurant. It's his way of enlightening the rest of the world about his vision of molecular gastronomy.
I understood that I would perform a very limited role in this world-class culinary mecca. Upon arriving, I was escorted to the prep station where ingredients are readied for the nights service. After a week of washing, peeling and chopping vegetables, one of Adria's sous chefs informed me that I would be working in the garde manger station (salads/ appetizers) Noticing my attention to detail and skill level, the man himself, Ferran Adria invited me to cook on the line. What an honor! He was fascinated by how quickly I was able to adapt and master the intricacies of his cuisine. This kitchen is one of the most complicated on the face of the earth, and now, I was officially preparing food for service at el Bulli!
Wow! Talk about letting your imagination run wild. Actually, a few years
back, while in the jewelry business, I sold a watch to a well known local chef.
In our conversation, I mentioned my love of cooking and the curiosity I had with
working in a restaurant kitchen. He told me that if I had an evening free, visit
his restaurant and experience what it's all about. It was an absolutely unbelievable adventure. After having the honor of participating in the staff meal and observing the organized chaos, he put me to work on the prep station. What a night!
If you have an interest in a chef’s life and the environment of a restaurant kitchen,
Let me recommend these books:
- Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
- Heat by Bill Buford
They're great reads, very humorous and very eye-opening. (see below)
What are your culinary dreams?
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