- May 22, 2009
As per usual, let’s start with the photo….
Whilst noting down ideas for my up coming “Dom for One Night Only” tasting menu at “Zoé Bouillon” in the 19th, I hit upon the idea of using wafer-thin apple slices, dried out in the oven (100°C for 1 hour after having left them soaking in a syrup over night), as a basis for a “millefeuille” with some kind of crab filling.
So, here you have the first attempt. So, how was it ?…..ok…..I still like the idea, and the little salad decoration, but overall it was a “taste” disappointment. Poor quality products (I just fancied trying it out, and so didn’t wait to buy good, fresh crab, and instead used tinned stuff from Vietnam !!!!) = poor flavour = have a bit more patience next time and buy some decent fresh crab.
The success for me were the apple “chips”. Very easy to do (as long as you’ve got a mandolin), and a nice effect. With the creamy filling, each crispy apple slice softens slightly, but in fact this makes it easier to eat.
For info, the crab was mixed with shallot, chervil, garlic, mayo, cream, chilli, lemon and tarragon.
I’ll let you know how it turns out when I get some decent crab.
- May 10, 2009
2 weeks now into my return to the role of a senior consultant, and so far it’s been difficult and weird. In my first week I prepared a proposition for a potential client, selling my skills as a technical expert and as a project director. During this time I was pretty absorbed by my new found consultant role, but since then, I’ve not had anything concrete to get my teeth into. As a result I’ve been boosting my energy, and my morale, by thinking about food and trying out various recipies.
This week I’ve had lots of energy and desire in the kitchen upon returning home after a day’s work – as you’ll have noticed, maybe, with my various recipies and photos. In the metro I put together an imaginary menu for my friend’s wedding in a few months time (even though I don’t know if I’ll be cooking for them or not!), and in general, food and various cookery/food books are helping me get through these initial difficult weeks back.
So, it’s difficult at the moment.
However, I’ve always been someone who gives 100% to whatever he does, and so pretty quickly I’m going to have to really get stuck into something “solid” at work. To support this process, I think that I’ll also need to forget about cooking for a week or 2. It ain’t going to be easy, but I want to get back to where I was before so that I can really judge whether I stay, or whether I return to the kitchen.
By the way, my kids (or rather my daughter) say that they prefer me as a consultant because they see more of me, though my son has already asked me who is going to be serving in our restaurant whilst he and I are cooking in the kitchen…”will Maman and my sister be serving ?”…..so, I think that the restaurant project lives on strongly in my kids.
As for my wife, she knows where I’m happiest, and I know that I have her full suport for whatever I decide to do…..this is absolutely essential for anyone hoping to create a restaurant.
I’ll keep you informed, as per usual !
- May 8, 2009
OK, now that I’ve got your attention, time to tell you what’s in this fine concoction….quite simply, aubergine, pecorino cheese and my own arrabiata sauce (good quality Italian tinned tomatoes, onion, anchovy, garlic, 1 red chilli….all cooked slowly to get the right consistency and depth of flavour).
This is a simple starter, accompanied by a mixed leaf salad, with bags of flavour. Me and Antonella ate this on the balcony in the sun this afternoon….marvellous !!
Only comments to note :
- April 26, 2009
My ohh my…..a pretty busy and important month of April…….40th birthday celebrated last week, party last night, final service at restaurant Kong as fish section “chef de partie” last Wednesday, end of the “Create a Restaurant” month long training course a few weeks ago and 2 day trip last week to a city out to the west of France (to be revealed in a later post !!) to check out the city where we intend to set up home in the not too distant future…….
All good stuff.
There’s one thing that I haven’t mentioned, namely that I’m starting back at Capgemini tomorrow morning with my first role possibly being “Project Director” for a chain of supermarkets…..hmmmmm……..
Yep, I’m heading back into the world of consulting – for how long ? We’ll see. Why ?? Having prepared an intial version of the Business Plan for the creation of my restaurant, I need to check for once and for all that I’m ready to quit consulting for cheffing and my own resto. Creating a restaurant is the ultimate challenge which requires bringing together many skills, not to mention a fair amount of money ! It’s also a step which changes everything for the family. So, if I’m really serious about doing it then I want to be sure that I’m going to do it well…..and a first part of this is making sure that consulting (and the life and money that goes with it) is really no longer for me.
I’ve come a long way over the last 19 months of training and working in the kitchens of Paris (and Newcastle). I’m still not quick enough during the service, but I’m a hell of lot better. Earlier last week I dealt with 80+ fish main courses on my own (not including the ravioli starters that I had), “banging them out” as we used to say when I worked at Jesmond Dene House – it’s a question of organisation and anticipation. My knowledge of products, where they come from, their seasonality, the farmers / producers invloved and the cost involved is improving all of the time. There’s a lot more to learn, but I’m finally pretty happy with where I’m at and the progress that I’ve made.
The next step is for the family as a whole….we’ve been planning to leave Paris for a number of years but have never really made serious attempts to pick where to move to. Well, that’s changed (we know where we want to live) and now we’re starting to get everything in place for our move out west in the next 12 months or so.
The dream (create a restaurant) is not over, far from it, but I want to ensure that I (and the family) have as many options as possible. If I decide that, finally, consulting really is finished then I will head off to the west of France, find a kitchen to work in for another year or so and then find the location for my future restaurant. If, on the other hand, I see that consulting still has a future then we’ll move out west but as a consultant rather than chef.
…..I’m pretty sure that I know how things are going to turn out (if we’re heading out west it’s also to be close to the fabulous products that are available), but I’m just keeping my options open.
Before signing off, a quick top 10 of my key moments / experiences :
Keep tuned for the next step and wish me luck !
- February 23, 2009
Nearly at the end of February and approx. 5 weeks since I started my “extra” work at the franco-japanese restaurant in Paris. Well tonight, for the first time, I felt as though I was part of the “machine” and that I had finally started to “feel” the rhythm of the service…..and the really good thing is that I was also able to be in touch with the food…that is, choose the attractive fillets of Black Cod and colour them nicely in the hot sesame seed oil before finishing them in the oven, cook the Scallops so that they’re nicely coloured on the “presentation” side and still soft in the centre…..
It really is quite some time since I have felt this, and bugger me if it doesn’t feel good ! I was “dancing” again tonight.
When working in a professional kitchen, the 2 most important things are
The second point is maybe obvious, but in my brief experience, the basic “currency” in the kitchen is be able to work quickly and efficiently. This is where you gain (or lose) respect in the kitchen amongst your peers. Deal with the unexpected quickly and efficiently. Have a “Plan B” and a “Plan C” when things go “tits up”. Know your products in your set-up / mise en place so that you know how to take short-cuts when things aren’t going to plan.
Anticipation, keeping a cool head and listening are also key aspects of being able to cook food for a living.
Anyway, tonight I felt as though I was much more in control of the service than ever before, even if I still missed certain things that the chef called out when announcing the order…….I said a “good night” and not a “perfect” one !
- February 20, 2009
It’s been quite some time since I last wrote, and to be honest I really don’t have the “juice” to tell my story at the moment. But just to bring you all up to date with where I’m at and where I’m going, here’s a quick update.
On the work front I’m doing 3 or 4 days a week at a franco-japanese restaurant in the heart of Paris – very trendy, decent food, loads of customers (150+ per service) and I’m doing the fish. The main thing that I’m learning is how to go quicker (more on that in another post), but there’s also some new products (Black Cod, various seaweeds, japanese-style vinaigrettes and sauces) and, it has to be said, a good team of experienced chefs who have been very helpful and supportive (“cheers, lads”).
To complete this steady flow of work I’ve done some temp work for Adecco Prestige, as well as working in a small café / bistro next to Science Po in Paris, running an afternoon training course about cooking fish and even working in a fishmonger’s shop !
Up until now I haven’t fancied doing another “Dom for One Night Only” menu in a local restaurant,….that said, I’ve started today thinking about a theme for a new menu (something concerning fish)….I already know where it will be (Zoé Bouillon in the 19th), and maybe even with whom I might share the cooking.
Basically, I’m doing lots of different stuff, which is great in general, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, as Bono would say. I’m pleased with the fishmonger stuff, and I know that whatever I do in future will involve fish. But I’m also most probably going to go back to capgemini at the end of April (April 27th to be exact) so that I can get back to earning decent money and put some of it aside to help us to buy a house. I think that it is important to spend even a short time back in my old job to see really where I’m at. I “feel” 100% sure that I’m made to cook, to work with beautiful food and products, and to welcome and look after people. But before I throw myself totally into this, I need to focus a bit on the overall family project of buying a house.
So, 9 weeks before I come to the end of this current phase in my cooking apprenticeship….let’s make it an interesting time with as many experiences as possible !
- December 17, 2008
Just a quick note for those of you who are not already aware of what I have been preparing these last few weeks. I’ve managed to persuade a local organic café (l’Echappée) to let me take over the place for a day and a half preparing for one service during the evening on Saturday 20th December.
I have 50 reservations (a mixture of friends, colleagues and even some of you from the “blog” world) ranging from 7pm and 9.30pm, so I’ll be in the kitchen for a good 5 hour service. The idea is to give myself the chance to do my own menu in a professional environment – as if I had my own place, but without the hassle.
During the evening there will be music that I have selected, with the help of my neighbours Fred and Chloé. There will also be some photos from my blog on display, as well as one or 2 photos of chefs that have influenced me.
As for the menu, a mix of influences from France, Italy, south east Asia and, of course, back home. I’ll leave you to spot the geographic influences in the various dishes…..
There’ll be a set menu of 4 or 6 courses for everyone and you will only pay the cost price for the food (including cost of paying staff)…so damn cheap (19€ 4 courses, 24€ 6 courses). The menu is
Amuse Bouche (anchovy and olive stuffed gnocchi topped with confit tomato purée, and spoon filled with basil and roasted tomato chantilly with Pata Negra ham)
Cauliflower velouté with nut and apple garnish
Salmon « chaud-froid »
(cold salt cured salmon with citrus fruit, hot salmon nem with coriander) with winter salad and orange vinaigrette
Butternut Squash Risotto with roasted Scallop and Nuoc Mäm espuma
Pigeon thigh confit and breast stuffed with Fois Gras, dates
and winter roots
Goats Cheese on roasted beetroot with salad and beetroot vinaigrette
« Bread and Butter Pudding »,
yoghurt with 4 spice clementines
- November 22, 2008
When cooking fish at home, I believe that one shouldn’t decide what dish to cook before going to see what fish is available at the local fishmonger. On Thursday I went to visit the famous fishmonger, Jacky Lorenzo, at Bastille market. Whilst chatting to him he advised me to buy some Salmon Bass / better known as Meagre (“Maigre” in French). In his opinion it is as good as Sea Bass whilst being much cheaper (about 33% cheaper), so why not ? The fish was just over 1kg, so OK for me, Antonella and the kids, especially if I prepared it with the raviolli that I had made the night before.
Let’s start with the photo, to whet the appetite…..
I had never tasted Salmon Bass before, and I was intrigued to see if it was as good as Bass.
Once at home, I set about preparing the fillets of Salmon Bass. The shape of the fish is pretty similar to Bass (differences with the fins and the colour of the skin) and the colour of the flesh (firm and red-tinged) is almost a dead-ringer for bass. One interesting difference was the much shorter bones in the rib cage.
For the raviollis (classic pasta recipie rolled out with the ever present “Imperia” pasta machine) I decided to do 2 different types, simply in an effort to accomodate the different tastes of us the parents and the kids !
For the sauce , I did a simple tomato sauce with wine, fish stock (cube), cream and seasoning. It was fine – nothing to write home about, as we say.
So, the lesson for me was buy Salmon Bass again when I get the chance. The flavour was very good (though I did help matters by cooking it almost perfectly and seasoning it nicely), and I like the firmness of the flesh.
Bon appetit !
- November 18, 2008
Last Thursday, at the end of my evening service, I left my position of demi-chef de partie at “Au Petit Marguery”. I was finally enjoyng my job, I was a lot more confident and was, overall, a hell of a lot better than when I started.
So why stop then ?
Well, I guess not surprisingly for many of you, it’s because the even after only 6 weeks the stress was starting to tell on the family. We weren’t seeing enough of each other, basically. This was an obvious problem, I know, but we weren’t sure how we were going to react (to my hours at work) as a family until we tried it….until we lived it.
On the one hand I am pleased that I know that I left the job having been able to actually do the job. But of course I am disappointed to be leaving what was meant to be the kitchen where I was to take the next step and really get “stuck into” the job of professional cooking.
At the moment I can hear a lot of people saying the they “told me so”…..the restaurant business is too hard for such a late conversion, that there’s too much to learn in too short a period, that it would be too hard to step down the salary ladder, that it would be the end of my family life….well, I’ve only been “undone” on the last point, the reduced contact with the family. All of the other stuff we (me and the family, because without them I wouldn’t have got this far) were ok with.
So what next ? Well, I’m not sure, is the honest truth. I am working for atleast 3 days over the w/end with a friend who is preparing for a function / party for 200 people. I am starting to get ideas together for a web site promoting good products and good sources (shops, artisans, markets…) in Paris (a chance to work with a good friend of mine in Sweden who sets up and runs web sites – including “Chefsdiary”, as it happens). I’m also trying to organise an evening where I would cook (with my own menu) at a restaurant just a few minutes from the house. I guess that there will certainly be some temp work between now and Christmas. However, none of these are long term “solutions”.
What is sure is that I know that I am passionate about cooking and so I will simply find a means of cooking “autrement”, as they say here in France……
One last thing to say is a big “thank you” to the chef at “Au Petit Marguery”, M. Frank Laratte. C’est un “grand chef” qui sait gérer une cuisine, les individus qui s’y retrouve, la pression et les coups de feu….tout en transmettant sa passion et son humour. Il a dû surmonter des sacrés problèmes ce dernier temps dans sa vie personnelle – il les a assumés tout en gardant son professionalisme, son humour et son sang-froid. Chapeau…..et j’espère, à bientôt !!
As for the next steps, I’ll keep you up to date, as per usual.
- October 26, 2008
I finished last week (Thursday evening) on a bit of a downer with a poor service. 2 days break, a sunny trip to Lille (to look after my wife’s mum who has broken her ankle) and a calm Sunday service have all lead to me feeling much more positive about myself in the kitchen and in this job in general. We only did around 30 covers this lunch time, of which approx. half were for me (Scallops, Sole Meunières, Cod, Sea Bream, Salmon, Cêpes). So not much work, and certainly no “coup de feu”. But I took pleasure in getting my fish “right”…nicely cooked, well presented….I just need to work on my beurre meunière. I also got through most of the things on my “prep” list this morning.
My main aim every day is to go quicker…..that’s all. I obviously want to get my “cuisson” correct, but I’m pretty confident on this point.
Anyway, my wife is chilling out on the sofa next to me and I’m going to sign off to spend some time with her…..she looks so terribly inviting !!!