Just three months ago I was embarking on a new adventure here at beautiful Cannon Beach. Wide eyed and white knuckled I ventured into the kitchen at EVOO. Now 12 weeks later I feel there is much I still want to experience but I am no longer the fledgling learning to fly. It would be a daunting task to surmise all I have learned here to date. It has been an amazing and almost overwhelming amount of culinary staples as well as a surprising amount of small details overlooked by the home cooking I have been used to. I really feel that I have been welcomed in to an almost underground society here; the scene behind the curtain of a great meal or a good night out. Memories created on a first date, a birthday celebration, or just a fabulous dinner with close friends usually start with the when and where to eat. The people in the background who you may never see, work like madmen to ensure their guests’ good time out. Remember to be kind and tip them well as they deserve it, believe me!
When I first decided to come to the coast I was on the fence about whether attending a culinary school was the direction I wanted to take. I have always loved learning but the heavy price tag of admission, coupled with some of my chef friends advice to just work your way up the ranks had me questioning what to do. This experience seemed to be the perfect chance to test the waters. For me the dynamic here has been exceptional. The standards are high as are the expectations of mental and physical stamina. Thinking in a proactive way so you can anticipate and delegate the best of your time is the key. It was a chance for me to test what my grandparents used to call “the stuff you were made of.” In my family we pride ourselves on some pretty tough stuff. And here, everyday technique, cleanliness and speed are questioned.
I have been reading a great book in my down time called “Beaten, Seared & Sauced” that has closely resembled my day to day activities here in this little kitchen. It’s about a man changing direction late in life and attending the CIA in NY. Let’s just say I can relate. One of the similarities is that encouragements are given but even the most subtle of compliments are reserved only for when the job is done correctly. In my mind that makes it much more meaningful and heartfelt. The recognition gives me a good sense of pride for my accomplishments. Actually the ultimate compliment from Bob is when he stops mid stride, leans in to check my work with a discerning eye, pretends to wipe away a tear and says “they grow up so fast ” before continuing on his way. In return when I stop with inquisitive looks, my questions of the how and why have always been answered with a scientific background and a practical approach. It has really helped me to connect with what I am doing.
Which brings me to the question of what I am doing next? Culinary school still looms in the background after seeing my mentor in action. I have also been in touch with a select catering company and looking at the possibility of going back to school in the food writing realm. Anything is possible, right? I am happy to say that for now, I have been asked to stay here at EVOO and continue learning through the summer. I plan to become a jack of all trades, handling the retail, service, and still doing my favorite time, prepping in the kitchen.
These past months I feel like I have found little pieces of myself and my passions again. I am excited every day to be cooking in the kitchen, and sharing my very first blog has rekindled my affinity for writing. I feel lucky to be surrounded by a supportive community and amazing group of people that have made me feel like family after such a short amount of time.
Thanks to everyone for reading and following me on my journey so far, and thank you, Bob and Lenore, for all you have done to help me on my way. I’m looking forward to an amazing summer full of new experiences and the chance to follow my heart. Signing off but not going far…. Kate
P/S: Watch for Shanda’s blog, “The Green Project”–coming this summer as she tells us how her family responds to eating “green,” i.e., more vegetables from her CSA basket.
Hooray hooray for the month of May!
Its time for a new menu and new learning’s. I have a good feeling that this month will be an appreciation of patience. The best things in life take a bit of time. In the past couple of months things like pasting garlic have tested my time table. First you must peel each clove, remove the innermost sprout, mince it and then you can finally draw the flat of your blade over it again and again until an aromatic paste is formed. At first it sounds simple enough but in the midst of the 5th clove, with more garlic sticking to the knife and my fingers than actually turning into the beautiful smooth texture I envisioned, I realize the clock is against me. I am pretty sure I was given this laborious task for a few reasons. Either Bob wants to be sure I’m not able to attract ANY eligible men and therefore keep my mind in the kitchen, or he is protecting me from potential vampire attacks.
I feel this month will continue to challenge me to remember to breathe in times of frustration and to persevere toward the amazing meal. Take shucking peas for example. In my mind I have lofty ideas that a whole box of English peas should take oh…45 minutes to get done. I have the water on and heating so it will be ready to blanch them when I am ready. Of course, I should have known by my mentor’s slight head shake and Cheshire cat smile that my time-line was more around the 1 1/2 hour mark. In the end the whole huge box only yielded about 3 1/2 cups of shucked sweet little green peas. I call them ” escapeas ” because half of them take flight – in no particular direction except away from the bowl they are meant for! And let’s not forget these little gems are just one component for the risotto on our first course of the May Dinner Show.
This Italian rice dish is one that must be nurtured itself as well. A good risotto must be tended to constantly for about 25 minutes and when it is done it must be served right away to impart the creamy texture intended. It waits for no one! Arborio rice is most commonly used, sauteed in butter or olive oil first and then adding a ladle of stock one at a time, stirring to distribute the liquid evenly and prevent any burning. When the stock is absorbed you repeat the process. It can be mixed with a variety of ingredients, mushroom leek and lemon has worked well for my dinner parties in the past. Whatever you add the goal is to have a dish that is hands down one of my favorite comfort foods.
I was so excited to see Osso Bucco on the menu this month as well! I had seen plenty an Iron Chef make it while totally geeking out on the Food Network, wishing that I did not have to live vicariously through the judges on the flat screen. The first time I was able to order it for myself was at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo on my birthday trip to NYC. Truth be told he was always my favorite Iron Chef anyway so this was my little dream come true. Lets just say I was not disappointed…the marrow from the bone gave the slow cooked braised veal a velvet mouth feel. The meat was so tender it almost melted.
It is made with lamb on our menu, but the effect is the same. I have seen it turn even the most skeptic of palates into lamb lovers. I truly believe it has to do not only with the painstaking preparation, but also with the quality and freshness of the lamb itself. Bob has it delivered within the week the lambs are harvested, and they are only harvested when ordered. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I now know the time and work involved in each little step takes my enjoyment of a meal to a whole new place. Every component in the menu has a purpose on the tongue. It can be light and sweet like my peas or full of richness and depth like the lamb. A bright gremolata balances any heavy notes and a thick nutty cream sauce can smooth out delicate potatoes. It is truly the little things, the sometimes frustrating, time sucking, minute details, that really do make all the difference in a dish. So this week I am in great appreciation of the symphony of food I help to create as I embrace every task I am given!