- February 6, 2011
It’s been 3 months since my last series of posts, and quite a lot has happened during that time. At MBC our lunchtimes have been pretty crazy with 50+ covers being the average – no surprise really because I reckon that we do the best lunch food in the neighbourhood. The evening services, on the other hand, have been a lot more “hit and miss” – sometimes 10, sometimes 40+. I still reckon that we’re just a bit too expensive and that the evening menu simply doesn’t change often enough. That said, last week we started our new evening menu – which I really like. Some great associations & contrasts of flavour / texture / colour – crabe / hélantis / crumble sarrasin-chataigne ; foie gras / champignon paris / kumquat ; st jacques / mâche fumée / cerfeuil racine ; raie / huitre / tajine rhubarbe-panais ; glace et madeleine blé noir / truffe / poire.
As all of that has been going on, I’ve been planning my escape, and at the start of January 2011 I managed to negotiate my departure – “une rupture conventionelle” which allows me to leave and retain my dole if I don’t find a job that interests me….a nice safety net. During january there weren’t many adverts that interested me….and then I saw Senderens (2 star michelin kitchen) again looking for kitchen staff…..me in a 2 star kitchen ???…yep, I fancy that….before leaving for Nantes I want to take advantage of being in Paris to work in a top kitchen. The thing is that I’d been for a trial almost exactly 1 year earlier, but clearly I wasn’t ready – they didn’t even call me back as I recall. Since then I’ve made a lot of progress working at MBC, so I figured that it would be worth a 2nd attempt. My lunch service trial went well, I found a place straight away on the fish section (my favourite section), I was at ease and understood much better how one should function in a professional kitchen. Clearly the chef was happier with me this time around, and I was offered the role of demi chef de partie on the fish section.
I was delighted to finally be able to see what working in a 2 star kitchen is about – what an opportunity.
My chef at MBC thought that I should look for a chef position in a small, local café/restaurant. The idea being to replicate the kind of set up that I will probably have when I eventually set up my own restaurant. I could see his point of view, but I have so wanted to be in a michelin star kitchen ever since I started this coversion from consultant to chef, that this opportunity was too good to miss….even though the salary is even less than MBC !
I start tomorrow (after 1 week off from MBC) and I have to say that I am quietly “shitting” myself…..will I be up to it, will I follow the service, will I be too tired working from 7h30 ’til midnight ? We’ll see and I’ll let you know……
- October 30, 2010
…well, at least untill I leave Paris for Nantes in July 2011. Yep, I’d have to say that things are going well in Gilles Choukroun’s flagship restaurant….quite a change from a month or so ago when I was bored and tired with the work, and irritated/worn down by my colleague in the kitchen. Since the middle of september I’ve had my own stuff on the lunch menu (well, starters and desserts) which has been a challenge but frankly I’ve got plenty of ideas. The new lunch starters and desserts starting on Tuesday (a public holiday on monday – all saint’s day !!) will include :
We are also finally being noticed by one or 2 critics / bloggers, which is good to see. We’ve had 2 groups of bloggers visit the restaurant in the last couple of weeks (invited by the chef, it has to be said), a food critic from the Nouvel’Obs (Jean-Marcel Bouguereau) and a fair bit of activity by foody people on Facebook (Stéphane Riss, amongst others)…ohh, and the chef’s book seems to have been pretty well received by the critics. So, all in all, it’s going pretty well at the moment.
By the way, I forgot to let you know how my trial at Guy Martin’s 2nd restaurant, “Sensing”, went. It went well – I was offered the job of chef de partie Garde Manger….but at 1500€/month it ain’t enough, unfortunately. A very good chef (doing the MOF at the start of november), a welcoming atmosphere in the team and top quality products….but I can’t take a pay cut on a salary which is already not great.
Must get on – the kids come back today after 1 week at their grandma’s…..can’t wait to see them !!
- December 28, 2009
Here’s my proposition : oysters in a warm vinaigrette, with an oyster sabayon and cripsy chestnut chips on a beetroot and apple carpaccio.
Now for the photos :
The result ? : the flavour mix is good – salty, sweet, earthy. the texture mix pretty good too – crispy (chestnut), smooth (oyster, beetroot), velvet (sabayon), fresh (chervil). Execution ? Sabayon needs more work (I’m not very good at these, atleast not with only 2 eggs), chestnuts over cooked and thus the sweet flavour overtaken by just crispy almost burnt.
Now over to you lot – good luck !!
- December 28, 2009
OK, to welcome in 2010, here’s the idea – instead of me simply publishing another recipie, I wanted to create a bit more of a link with those people who read my blog from time to time.
On a regular basis, I will challenge you to come up with an amazing recipie from a list of 3 seasonal products. Here’s how it works…..
I publish the challenge on my blog, listing the 3 products that are to be used
You then have to create and produce your fantastic recipie. You take some photos, publish it on your blog (if you have one) and you send me the link. You have 1 week from the date of me publishing the challenge to do this.
I publish the list of recipies that I receive with the links to the various blog / facebook / other pages and ask people to vote (using a form that I will set up on my blog)
One week later I will announce the winner
Why ? Well, I’m just curious to see what other chefs create with the same main ingredients that I use in one of my recipies. At worst you will have another link to your blog from chefsdiary, which will help your stats a little bit.
For my first challenge the 3 key products which should feature in your recipie are Oyster, Chestnut and Beetroot. You can use any other product, and you can present them in any form that you like….but the 3 products should be clearly present.
Go on, give it a go. I’m curious to see if anyone raises to the challenge…….I’ll publish my recipie in the next few days……
Until the next post, here’s to a great 2010 !!
- December 7, 2009
Another event over, approximately 300 “mini-meals” served and a resounding success – at least in terms of customer satisfaction and my overall organisation. The only negative point being that I didn’t charge enough for what I was sending out. More on that later.
First of all, a brief explanation of what the event was this w/end…..my good mate Thierry and his wife organised a sale in their home just next to Bastille for 6 artists / designers / photographers / illustrators. They asked me to provide the food with the only “restriction” being that each bite or plate being “cheap”. We didn’t know how many people would come over the w/end, but 300 came along the last time. So, prepare a menu for potentially 300 people who could arrive at different times during the day (we didn’t know when the “prime time” would be either)……..this was the first challenge.
I decided to base my menu on 4 things
thai influence (with a few british references)
mini-dishes or “amuse bouches” instead of the classic buffet “finger” food
cheap for the customer (1€ at first which then became 2€ on the second day)
100% mark-up on the cost price
So what went out during these 2 hectic days of service ? Let’s start with the savoury mini-dishes…..
Baby Squid, Red & Green Radish & Mustard leaves salad with Beetroot chips and Beetroot and Ponzu dressing
Thaï Chicken soup
Organic Salmon in 2 marinades (Citrus fruit & Coriander – Dill and Fennel seed), Orange and Curcuma emulsion, cube of Smoked Herring jelly, seaweed butter
Oxtail Parmentier with Potato and Celeriac purée
Thaï Red Curry Aumônière, salad of Joël Thibault’s carrots, Mizuna salad leaves
Jerusalem Artichoke and Ginger Velouté, Kaffir Lime Oil
And now for the sweet mini-dishes…….
Orange Madeleine, sweet Aubergine and Hazelnut condiment, sesame seed and ginger garnish
Organic chocolate Ganache, Orange brunoise, Tarragon condiment, Clementine powder
home made Organic natural Yoghurt with Clementines in 4 Spices
Cardamom and Lemon ice cream, Chocolate Cookie Crumble, Red Chilli
Bread & Butter Pudding, Coriander Custard, Iced Muscat grapes
Lemon Shortbread, Pear poached in Galangal and Lemon Grass, Beetroot Chantilly
Scones, Jelly and Kaffir Lime Cream
So there you have it…..a whole lot of work (I started cooking on Tuesday, finished at 3 in the morning 3 times, bought new crockery instead of using plastic, did all of the shopping) for 1 or 2 Euros. From the image below you can see that I calculated my cost for each dish and based my calculation of the end price on the basis of 50 items of each dish being sold.
My price calculation was fine, as far as I’m concerned. Where I got it all wrong was the number of items being sold……we actually sold around 300 items. I physically could have produced and sent out more items but I would never have been able to work quick enough to deal with sending 700 dishes !! Saturday was the busier day and we were open for longer (up until 9pm), but I was only charging 1€ and my organisation in the kitchen wasn’t optimum (getting used to someone else’s kitchen ain’t straight forward). Sunday I bumped up the price to 2€, was much more organised in the kitchen (thus able to send stuff out quicker)….but we had 2 hours less of service and there were fewer people.
So there you have it. I thoroughly enjoyed this w/end and was generally speaking very happy with the quality of what I sent out. I had nothing but positive feedback when people were kind enough to pop into the kitchen to say thanks. Lots of my business cards disappeared (though I did see Thierry’s daughter running ’round with a big pile in her hand at one time, though I’m not sure how much business I’ll get in the future !!)….it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks / months. I still most certainly do not want to go into buffets as a career…..it’s working in a restaurant that I want. That said, I will happily do one or 2 events, but this time at a price which covers all costs including my daily rate for the prep time and a decent profit margin. As long as my future clients are looking for more than sandwiches, soup and salad then I will be happy to get stuck in occasionally.
Before I sign off on yet another event, I must thank Thierry and my wife, without whom this w/end would not have been possible. These events are never a “one man show” (usually it’s Marc who is involved, but I figured that he deserved a “night off”). Thierry helped me in the kitchen on Thursday and Friday, listening to my ramblings whilst cutting the Bread and Butter pudding discs of bread and sorting the salad leaves. He then took on the role of taking orders and the cash during the w/end, whilst serving drinks. A great help and a good friend. As for my wife, she is now becoming a bit of a “dab hand” at dealing with the service. She helped organise things on the Saturday and was constantly washing, tidying and generally doing the necessary to ensure that things ran smoothly.
Thanks to both of you.
- November 22, 2009
Here’s the “recipie” for what I made for lunch today for my family and a friend and her 2 kids….a little risotto (always popular with the kids) finished off with a purée of jersualem artichoke (that’s been in the fridge for a few days !!), accompanied by fresh scallops on a bed of leek braised in wine and a few slices of sautéed squid. The dish was “dressed up” with a couple of cubes of a smoked herring jelly, a clementine powder and a bit of balsamic reduction.
I must confess – though it’s pretty obvious from the mixture of things in the plate – that this dish is the result of using up things that have been in the fridge / cupboard for a wee while (except for the scallops and squid, which I bought yesterday……it’s really the good time to be buying these 2 products)…..but none the less, the overall result was very good….particularly the smoked herring jelly with the clementine powder.
So, time for the photos…..with a little explanation of each one when necessary
Smoked Herring Jelly with Clementine Powder
These 2 ideas come direct from the “Chateaubriand” kitchen where I spent 5 fantastic days last week. They make a jelly with another bouillon but keep the smoked herring clear stock for a delicious soup….I took the 2 ideas and put them together.
….as for the clementine powder, the technique is pretty simple – though a bit time consuming ! You peel the clementine and then cut out the white interior of the rind leaving just the zest. You could just scrape the clementines with a zester, but the skin (being much more fragile than that of orange or lemon) tends to split and break…..and anyway, you don’t get a great deal of zest (at least for making a powder) with a zester. Once the zest gathered, all needs to be placed in an oven at 80-100°C to dry slowly (takes between 1hr and 1h30)….until the pieces break like crisps. The resultat “crisps” are then pulverised in a mixer. The result is a fantastically pungeant, though rather bitter / sweet, powder….to be used carefully.
Clementine Powder and Fennel Seed Salt
Great with fish, a quick “gastro” salt made with fennel seed ground up mixed with “fleur de sel”….magnificent…..
So, there you have it. Enjoy.
- November 9, 2009
I’m tired after my first day back in a professional kitchen, and so I’m going to write in English (bit of a rarity these days). Today and tomorrow I’m in the “Kong” kitchen, and then from Tuesday ’til Saturday the “Chateaubriand” kitchen…..and the verdict…?….It’s great to be back !!!!!
The trick is “organisation”..I know that I can cook, but I’ve got a lot to learn on the organisation front.
Anyway, onto the recipie……well ok, I own up……the ingredients are pretty much exactly the same as what I did on Saturday, but hey, any good chef has to know how to reuse left over ingredients to do something else. Getting back from work for my afternoon break (before plunging back into an evening service of 150+ customers) I saw that my fantastic baby squid were going to be less fantastic if they were not eaten today…..so, looking around to see what else I could add to the salad leaves, squid and ponzu that I had from saturday I saw some fruit and a bit of japanese noodles – the somen.
In the photo you see most of the ingredients, including the espuma gun which had the coconut milk, saffron and ponzu chantilly in it (and it was much better today than yesterday….which was normal because it had had time to chill out properly)…..
The baby squid marinated in the ponzu / sesame oil and coriander mix…..
The japanese Somen noodles cook in about 90 seconds and are beautifully delicate…….
Just to show you what goes into this particular brand of Ponzu “Pon”…..seemingly there are several different conconctions which carry the name “ponzu”….at the restaurant Kong we have our own recipie…..so here’s the packaged ready-made version…….
To “spice up” the noodles a wee bit I did a brunoise of kiwi, orange and shallot. The noodles were cooked and then chilled. I mixed in the vinaigrette to keep the noodles moist, but added a splash of soy sauce to give it more edge. The salad leaves (chard and roquette) were also mixed with the vinaigrette.
And so how did my impromptu afternoon break meal turn out ? I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I was in a bit of a hurry. Here’s a few photos of the final plate…..
Give it a go and let me know what you reckon…..ohh, by the way, for buying the different Asian products I went to “Kioko” in Paris….take a look at my google map with the various addresses on for asian products
Afficher Produits de Cuisine sur une carte plus grande
- October 20, 2009
It’s been a while since I have written in English, and since I’m going back to Newcastle at the end of this week, it’s time that I got a bit of practise !
So another “For One Night Only” evening over with (that’s 3 now), and this time a much more satisfying experience than the previous one at Zoé Bouillon. A smaller menu (well, slightly), only 28 people, an open kitchen, in a friend’s house and with a couple of jazz sessions between the main and the cheese. All in all a great experience which allowed me to regain my confidence is my own ability to create and to execute to a good standard, whilst still keeping a “contact” with the guests, and thus being able to enjoy the evening. I’d promised my wife (and myself) that it would be “cool”, and we pretty much delivered on that (even though Sunday morning at 11am things were looking distinctly less “chilled out” !!).
The one negative point being that I’ve probably lost money on the event since the menu basically wasn’t expensive enough (I didn’t get any of my products on a “cheap” trade price – unlike for the Zoé Bouillon evening – which was part of the “cool” attitude, but at the same time it’s a crucial part of preparing for any evening….I remember the chef at La Fontaine telling me that negotiating good prices with the suppliers is the key to success). No worries though – the aim of these evenings is to learn….if I happen to make a bit of money for buying a new knife, then all the better. I suspect that this will be my last “cheap” event, however.
Now, let’s get onto the photos….starting with the different courses….
First of all there was the Olive Oil (2 Tuscan & 1 Sicilian grand cru) and Balsamic Vinegar (1 traditional aged 3 years without additives, another standard quality with caramel) tasting which I did with a mixture of pure product to be tasted with a spoon, and 3 mini-tasting dishes (salad of coco beans from Paimpol, herb salad with local mini carrots and heirloom tomatoes / tomates anciennes, and a carpaccio of venison) which were seasoned with one of each of the oils. Unfortunately no photos, but I was happy with what I sent out – I also got to learn a thing or 2 about Italian oils.
This was followed by my take on “Scallops / Artichoke / Basil” – a filo pastry tart with artichoke cream topped with a scallop tartare marinated in basil oil and a fried basil leaf, a mixed herb / mustard leaf / japanese Mizuna salad, a sautéed scallop, finished off by pesto and reduced balsamic vinegar. I was happy with everything except for the artichoke cream which had too much shallot in it (though this was tempered somewhat by the scallop and basil oil tartare).
The main course was an autumnal mixture of “Venison / wild mushrooms / polenta“. The star was a fabulously tender and very flavoursome (but very expensive – 140€ for 2,3kg of vension “back”….not sure what the “dos de chevreuil” is called in english) piece of venison which I got from my trusty butcher “Boucherie André” on the Saturday morning. A great result in the plate which was very much a case of “good shopping”, with a wee bit of good cooking. This simple but classy dish was finished off with a few gratings of white truffle (seemingly 2500€/kilo). I was happy overall with the end result – unfortunately, the only photo that I have is of the only “vegetarian” plate that I sent out !!
The cheese course was essentially what I’d planned to do for the menu that I prepared for Zoé Bouillon….before things started to go “tits up”. 3 Italian cheeses (Taleggio – cows milk, Brescia; Piave – cows milk, Venice; Moro del Logadoro – Goats milk, Sardinia) with chutney, herb salad, frozen Muscat grapes, beetroot chips and toasted Panetone….my only problem with this “dish” was that there was too much in the plate.
The evening was wrapped up with a “Pear / Rosemary Ice Cream / Tarragon Galani” combination which, though pretty classic on the pear-front, finished things off nicely. The pear poached in a couple of decent bottles of red wine, along with a Rosemary and Mascarpone ice cream topping a traditional venetian biscuit (my wife, Antonella, used to eat them when she was with the family in Mirano) called “Galani” (flour, sugar, butter, tarragon, eggs, Grappa…..ohh, and a lot of frying in oil !!!!) was pretty good. Nearly had a disaster with the ice cream because my “bowl” (“cuve” en français) was not cold enough, but stuck the half-iced cream back in the freezer and ended up with a very creamy “iced” cream.
So there you have the menu. Before I go, I’ll leave you with a few photos of the evening, the jazz, the people, the mood and the chefs (yep, I was more than ably assisted by Roland, whose house we were in)…enjoy and see you soon for the next installement……
Laure added a touch of class to the evening with her 2 jazz sets
Our guests seemed pretty chilled and in the mood !
I was focussed, whilst being very well accompanied by Roland, my commis !
I’d said that the key words were to be “cool”, “generous”, “pleasure”…..well, for me anyway, I felt all of those things. With me closing finally the “senior IT consultant” chapter at the end of this week, I really wanted to make this evening work…..going full-time, 150% into the cheffing world needed a positive experience to give me the boost and confidence to help me during the first uncertain weeks back in the professional kitchen….our evening at Servane and Roland’s in Ménilmontant certainly provided that….goodnight !
- June 15, 2009
Just a quick update on how things are going with the reservations, preparations, the menu and the stress !!
20 reservations so far – my little Google Docs booking form is working a treat (give it a go if ever you need a quick and simple way of getting people to give you feed back, and so on). Almost all of you are going for the 6 course option – shame because you’re going to miss out either on the dessert or the cheeky cheese number.
Speaking of the cheese course, I have to admit that there’s probably a good reason why people aren’t being tempted – I haven’t yet told you what I am doing for this course. I was thinking about this coming home tonight from work – at the moment I’m working on 3 different styles of cheese with 3 different accompanyments (crikes…do we say that in English ??!!), but all around the theme of the famous British dish, the “Ploughman’s Lunch”. I won’t say any more on this for the moment.
This week I have to check with Frédéric (the owner of Zoé Bouillon) how much this is all going to cost – I’ve pretty much got the “shopping list” sorted, I just need to check what prices he has with his suppliers. I am going to be able to get most of the stuff from his suppliers, I hope. I’ll only go elsewhere for certain specialist products – for certain veg I am planning to go to Joël Thibault at the Alma market in the 16th arrondissement in Paris, for the pork…..well, it’s either Brittany or I change the meat that I use, for the truffles…..we’ll see.
I’ve got to go to see my wine merchant as well to decide what wine I’ll be choosing to accompany the menu. A new offer, by the way, will be 3 glasses of wine (a different one each time) for 5€…this I will work on with the caviste.
Stress ? Personally I’m really looking forward to the 5th. I’ve got Monique in the kitchen with me, and several people are going to help with the prep before hand. So, I’m feeling good. The main thing left to sort out on the menu is the pork dish which could well be replaced by a cheeky Oxtail (“queue de boeuf” in French) dish….very British !
I’ll keep you up to date as things progress.
- June 13, 2009
…that is (for those who don’t already know), the Millefeuille of Crab and the thyme-butter poached lobster.
Let’s start with the result –
So, now for the photos…..
- Poaching the lobster in “beurre monté” with thyme, à la Thomas Keller…a good technique, and easy to manage
- I’m going to have to be careful with the portion sizes – lobster is damn expensive (as I guess you all know) and thus everyone is going to have approx. 50g of lobster meat, plus the 10g in the raviloi – perfectly fine for a tasting menu, but not necessarily easy to make each portion look pretty
What did I learn and what will change, if anything ?
If you haven’t already booked, and you fancy trying out the above (and more), then get yourself onto my reservation page – Dom “For One Night Only” 5th July