Posts Tagged ‘kinkead’s day 2 and 3’

I gathered my tools as I’ve been instructed: one big ladle, one small ladle, two big whisks, a slotted spoon, plastic containers, towels, towel cleaning liquid, and a cutting board with a wet towel underneath to prevent slippage. Just as usual, veal stock was simmering away; it is the base for all brown sauces at Kinkead’s. While I was waiting for my daily instructions for the chef, I asked another worker to show me the correct way to sharpen a knife. When Chef JG saw me with his knife and the sharpener, he sternly said “Don’t sharpen my knives; they’re plenty sharp…I’m very anal about my knives”.

I spent the day making chinese steamed buns. I also made an oyster dipping sauce and was told to multiply by four. After finishing the math, I did my best to measure all of the ingredients correctly. When I said we were out of oyster sauce, the chef asked how much I put in. I replied, “2000 grams”. “Woah!”, he said, “I told you to multiply it by two, not four.” Instead of arguing, I just thought of the rules:

  1. The chef is always right.
  2. When the chef is wrong, refer to rule number one.

I also came in the next day and worked with executive sous chef Dane. Dane is a young African-American with a propensity to curse. When I pointed out that the calendar for family meals said “Thai fried lice”, he muttered something about “stupid mexican bitches”. His disclaimer was that “A lot of shit gets said in a kitchen…more than any other place”.

I began to cut 16 pounds of butter for various sauces. Chef Dane told me that the way I was doing it would take all day. Instead of cutting the butter in small batches, it is much faster to quarter every stick and then cube them all at the same time. I told him that this sort of thing seems obvious to him, but, to me, it’s all new. I’m gradually learning how to pick the right tools for a certain job and the quickest and most effective techniques for performing a task. Chef Dane agreed and said that many believe that chefs are some of the smartest people. There’s definitely an obsession with efficiency and speed that separates the chef from even the smartest engineer.

Dane was making polenta with chicken stock, cream, butter, and parmesan cheese. I said something like “Is that going on the low-cal menu”. He chuckled and replied: “If you’re looking for light food, don’t come to Kinkead’s.  The restaurant is very innovative, yet has retained many French aspects. I asked him about Bob Kinkead and he said that he stops by occasionally. Apparently, he’s a great guy and loves to tell stories about how he used to dine with Jean-Louis Palladin—one of the most famous French chefs in American history. Interesting fact: Palladin’s most famous restaurants was in the Watergate. However, Kinkead’s doesn’t operate like a French restaurant. The French brigade system distinguishes chefs by dish components. There are sauciers, rotisseurs, and positions for almost every task imaginable. Once a dish is made, it is almost always tasted by the chef de cuisine. Kinkead’s has neither the space nor the capital to pull this off. That system takes an insane amount of cohesiveness and synergy.

We made a cure for beef, a necessary step in the making of pastrami. The key ingredient is Sodium Nitrate, a chemical that’s used in fertilizer, pyrotechnics, smoke bombs, glass, pottery enamels, and rocket propellant. I really hope we were using it as a preservative for beef. Anyway, the vibrant pink color of the chemical is what gives pastrami its deep red color. I asked him if he had any blue Sodium Nitrate we could use. He said no.  We also made basil oil. The key is to blanch the leaves in boiling water for about 30 seconds. This releases the chlorophyll, giving Kinkead’s basil oil its vibrant color. The basil is then blended with oil and strained through cheese cloth.

A pastry chef was making brioche. She measured all of the ingredients on a digital scale. If the scale read 201 grams and she needed 200, she would pick out sugar and flour granules. Conversely, when a cook measures—like Dane—he/she usually has a different approach. Dane placed a big container on the scale and added all the ingredients, setting the scale to zero after each one. In brief, perfection didn’t matter. Each chef shows a love for food in their own way. One has a greater respect for ratio and the meticulous precision that the baked good requires. One has a physical connection and tastes as he/she goes, until a harmony is reached between food and palate. In my opinion, baking and cooking makes a key distinction in personality type; almost all people lean to one side of the spectrum. I consider myself on the cooking side to the extreme. I’m not saying that there is no overlap between the concepts and intricacies of both arts, yet there is an innate difference in both personas that I would like to explore.

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