Thursday, June 30, 2011

You Got a Boo-Boo Poll Resaults

Cuts aren't too bad of an injury. Band-aids work great, cover them with a finger cot and you're ready to go back to work. Even a cut that requires stitches are more of a nuisance than pain. Need help with that cut, check this out.

Burns are far worse than a cut in my opinion. They hurt a lot, and often. Burns are ugly and turn into noticeable scars. Ice, cold water, salve...nothing really takes that constant sting of a burn away. I've found nothing that really helps a burn feel better but start here with a few suggestions.

Puncture wounds got no respect on this poll, but from my experience are more troublesome than either a cut or a burn. A puncture wound is difficult to clean first off. Second a puncture closes itself quickly trapping any infections bodies that might be; oh lets say a lobster tail or a fish's fin spines. I had a finger that was swollen up twice its size and required a doctor slicing the area open to clean it followed up with a large dose of antibiotics.

Lastly, and most unfortunately we examine how a torn quadriceps fit in with the above. I have to admit this is a far more detrimental injury. Physically and emotionally a torn quad will tear you down. Read about my personal experience with a torn quad here

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rib-eye Butchering

Every chef, cook even, worth his weight can clean up a whole rib-eye and portion out a few Delmonicos, but Chef Sebastian of the blog Salty's Kitchen has taken it up a notch by isolating the Spinalis Dorsi or the rib-eye cap. Watch his video here on his new expanded blog more specific to his extended knowledge and passion for knives.

Chef Sebastian rolls the cap up and ties it into steaks that look a lot like a filet mignon. The whole muscle laid flat looks like a flank steak, or cut long ways resembles a flat iron steak. I'd think that this would be a great steak to slice over a salad or as a classic bistro steak frites. All the while you end up with a 'center cut' rib-eye which is a true and honest description that surely warrants a hefty price tag on the evening's specials.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Market Garden Brewery Journal, The Prequel

I was hired to be the opening PM Sous Chef at the Market Garden Brewery. I started this journal with the intent on publishing it once the restaurant opened. The restaurant has since opened, unfortunately without me on hand. I’ve published the following blog posts in reverse order so it is easier to read. There are 4 parts. Enjoy!

MGB part 1, Getting Hired

Market Garden Brewery Journal

May 16, 2011

I had a smashing interview with the Chef and GM of Bar Cento. I come to understand at that time the Market Garden Brewery and Bar Cento are all under the same management which is very encouraging to me as I have a great amount of respect for Cento. We chatted about cooking style, management style, and my previous places of employment. Personally I can get really uptight and nervous during an interview, but this was very relaxed as if I just met two new guys at a bar. Oh wait, I did! I was asked back for a cooking interview.

One week and a day went by before I came back to cook at Cento as part of my interview. Little did I know the Chef d’Cuisine was the man working next to me. As par course I kept things chilled, my area small, clean, and was polite. I was given a box with a few things in it as well as free range to any other ingredients that interested me. It turned out like this:

Mussel App; Mussel pizza with black olive-orange tapenade, arugula and parmesan cheese next to fennel and Hoggarden braised mussels.

Chicken entrĂ©e; Half Chicken three ways….Oregano marinated chicken breast over cauliflower-fingerling potato puree studded with black olives topped with caramelized ramps, pimento esppelite encrusted chicken thighs over black eye and English peas topped with jalapeno-almond brown butter, lastly frenched chicken wings drenched in olive oil and chili flakes.

It went well. We walked through a construction zone that was a restaurant only in ones daydreams. I was offered the job. Accepted it, and explained my situation to my current employer who was more than understanding, even supportive of my opportunity. It was a five star day.

June 6, 2011
Today was my first day on the job. I was instructed to be In ‘around noon’. Cool! I thought I was on time as it takes about 8 minutes to get to Ohio City. What I didn’t plan for was the ten minutes you drive around looking for a safe place to park and the resulting 5 minute walk. So I was about 15 minutes late on my first day. WTF was I thinking. I couldn’t embarrass myself anymore could I?

Yes is the answer. Turns out a management meeting was planned for noon. After walking around the block to where it was I was drenched in sweat, and late. Throw out that first impression, “Hello my name is Michael, I’m late, and now completely soaking wet.” Meeting 7 new people at one time is no easy task add on myself inflicted drama. But I was damn happy to be in a management meeting with a group of people getting organized by a leader and the matter of getting things done most efficiently was conquer and divide.

At this point we walked through a construction zone that only looked faintly more like a restaurant than 2 weeks ago.

I helped a bit on the line at Cento that night aka did some ‘bitch work’ which was, in retrospect, a cool way to ease into things. If it wasn’t 110 degrees with 101 percent humidity that is. The guys seemed cool, everyone was pleasant. Monday night is “Happy Hour all Night” day. It was crazy busy to me, but the crew thought it was kind of slow. The griddle guy had like 11 burgers going on at once with a fryer chocked full of fries all the while the other feller has like 6 pizzas to go into the over. And it’s not even 5 o’clock!

Oh, I forgot the stairs that I thought for sure were going to be my death. I must have gone up and down those fucking stairs 30 times, and about 24 of them I was only centimeters away from breaking my neck.

June 7, 20011
Early in the afternoon we walked through MGB and labeled where we want everything to go. A very interesting task looking at an empty, dark, dusty room and trying to invasion where tables, racks, sinks and shelves should be. Lucky for me most of this was prepared in advance and we just had to apply the tape. At the time of writing this all our equipment will be in position on Friday, it’s Tuesday today.

I got to actually work the line at Cento tonight. Much more satisfying than peeling beets watching other guys cook. Now, today I will say was slow. Compared to last night a real sleeper. Everyone was really cool with showing me what to do, and how to do it to their speck. It’s not my kitchen so it’s just right that I prepare everything the way they want it done. They have a very successful operation.

MGB part 2, Getting My Hands Dirty

June 8, 2011
I didn’t actually show up on time again… talked to my mom too long on the phone. Damn it.

We worked on putting together shelving and stainless steel table tops. The racks came together nicely after the first two, but the fucking tables really showed us what ass’s we are outside the kitchen. The combo of different length legs and a weird hex bolt Allen wrench thing that we only had one of was a bloody nightmare. We built two tables in the basement of MGB where I’ll tell you there is not ventilation less AC. Not even a blessed fan! Turns out we built them with different length legs and had to take them completely apart and redo them. And then we had another 6 to do properly once we figured out the puzzle.

After a few hours in the sweet shop putting together racks and tables we walked across the street and Cento is getting fucking slammed. I mean def con 9 kind of shit. All men on deck, grab a life preserver and hope for the best. I feel comfortable claiming a 300+ cover night.

There was also a beer tasting of MGB beer at The Speakeasy of which there was also some food prepared which made everything just a bit, and I mean just a tiny bit more interesting. Until I walked down stairs to see the deboning of pig heads being prepared and the parade of friends and family just amazed at the procedure. What a way to end the night.

June 9, 20011
Today was an interesting day. I took the online Serve-Safe exam. What a joke. The easiest exam I ever took, especially after a 2 hour lesson from which they culled all the questions. If you failed this exam you have to just hit restart, in life I mean.

Made some beef cheek ravioli, picked duck confit, chopped rosemary and dropped some sweat. On to the next day as not much construction has happened in the places we need it to happen for the sake of improving the status of our kitchen completion.

June 10, 2011
This Friday turned out to be a very interesting day. We started with banging out about 400 beef cheek ravioli. No problem! Then our attention was turned to plucking peas out of their casing. No, not out of the pod. Individual peas out of their little tiny casings. Cubby hands got no rhythm. I also rinsed off and dried a dozen halved pig faces and set them out to dry as we would eventually braise them overnight.

The guys said it was just an “alright” night, but it was fucking amazingly busy from my recent experience. I was only helping out the burger guy and was amazed at just the volume he did let alone the entrees that Chef did and the nonstop flow of pizzas.

It’s very exciting to think that I can go to work, bust my ass, and come home with a whole huge overwhelming feeling of, “I did a good job today.” It’s been a long time since I can say that to myself deep down inside. I’m not quite there yet, as I feel I’m the Cento cook stand in who is mostly in the way, but right around the corner is a bearded grin for all to see.

MGB part 3, Almost Ready to Cook

June 13, 2011

Yes, two days have passed since my last entry and that is because I was given a much appreciated and unsuspected week-end off. Wow, what a little R&R can do for an old man. I think I went 9 straight days between Nemo and Cento and they got harder and harder every day. I am so mentally, physically, and emotionally recharged I’m ready to conquer this week like a Viking.

Today consisted of a lot of cleaning and re-cleaning of things that got dirty and re-dirtied. The place is really coming together fast, both front and back of the house. The upstairs line is set. All the heavy equipment is in place and ready to fire up. The pass is set, things are getting bolted in…as in ‘they aren’t moving any time soon bolted in’. The prep kitchen is coming together alright. The upstairs line seems to be larger than I imagined while the prep area is quickly and drastically shrinking like Rick Moranis’ kids. We have a steam kettle that for operational code doesn’t need any ventilation, but sooner than later that little prep kitchen is going to be an 120 degree fog of dead meat.

You think to yourself “cheese tasting that sounds great!” Well, if you’re wandering around and nibbling a bit and stand next to what you like and ignore the rest then you’re in paradise. When as a professional you HAVE to taste every cheese with four different beers peppered in with three different meats and some pallet cleansing water and bread. That is a job! I sized up what we were getting into when all the cheese came out and knew I had to pace myself. Really only 3 of us out of 7 tasted every combination possible, and I’m pretty sure I can say we enjoyed it. I know I did at least. Putting a cheese board together isn’t as easy as you think.

Oh, and a lead into tomorrow is that we unpacked an 815 piece small wares delivery. Holy fucking cardboard boxes Batman! And on the docket for tomorrow is a trip to Dean Supply to pick up what we forgot in an effort to pull off the always stomach wrenching food service health inspection.

June 14 2001
Food inspection passed. Now we clean all 815 pieces of small wares. Mop, clean, mop, clean, mop clean seems to be the theme for the day aside from ordering our first official, legally storable food at MGB. A good day to say the least.

June, 15 2011
More of the clean-mop procedure, but we had the whole kitchen staff in for an orientation and information sharing session. The crew moved pickles over from Cento to MGB. Had the guys clean some stuff and get a feel for the place. Everyone seems to have a place and have a priority. We will get a feel for the crew the next few days. We placed thousands of dollars worth or orders today between food and small wares so we should be ready to hit the floor wheeling tomorrow. Tomorrow, Thursday is our first hot food day. I have to admit to a few butterflies with this. I don’t know who I can trust to not fuck up or who needs only a watchful hand? I guess we will all just dive right in and it’s either sink or swim?

MGB part 4, Four Inches that Changed Everything

Four inches that changed everything

The day started out great. It was the first day in our brand new kitchen with our brand new staff. Everyone together working for the purpose of putting this kitchen, menu, and restaurant together just in the nick of time. A bunch of guys working in the new prep kitchen, heads down content on accomplishing their tasks. I was feeling great. I was breaking down whole chickens with one of our lead line cooks. We chatted it up a bit till my next task required me to go across the street and get a recipe. It was pleasantly cool day, but I was thirsty so I walked behind the bar and grabbed an ice tea and sugar-free red bull. I took a healthy swig off the bottled ice tea and dumped in the red bull, grabbed a pen and walked with a purpose off to find that recipe. Three seconds later everything changed.

There is a small four inch step that I didn't notice and took a bad fall on my knee, "ouch, I'll lay here for a second then get up," is what I thought would happen. Unfortunately my knee just didn't feel right. It didn't hurt, but I knew something was not right. Within seconds I was assisted by a few co-workers and in their eyes I could see that something was wrong. They wouldn't let me even try to get up; which in retrospect I am very thankful to them for, and 911 was called immediately. Within seconds of the fall my knee was described as looking like a 'pumpkin'.

The EMS ride, the ER, the x-rays, the discomfort was all quite foreign to me, but most of all I could see in the eyes of everyone who walked by and looked at my leg that something was seriously wrong. "No fracture," were sweet words to hear, but little did I know that the words, "torn quadriceps muscle," would come to haunt me.

I was admitted to the hospital that late afternoon with the hopes of an early morning MRI the next day. In the moment I was still holding out hope that it was just a bad bruise and a little ice and a wrap would fix me up. You know, "take two of these, rest, and see you at work tomorrow." That defiantly was not in the cards. In fact by the time I woke up to go for the MRI a surgery time had been scheduled. I think that is when it hit me: no back to work tomorrow, no prepping a new menu, no friends and family night, no opening night, no opening month, no feeling of accomplishment after a 14 hour day, everything that I was excited for, even the hard, the really hard parts of the restaurant opening were gone for me. Talk about emotional devastation.

I now have two pins screwed into my knee cap that anchor the four muscles that make up my quadriceps. There is a good six inch incision that will physically scar me forever. I will keep my left leg completely immobile for two months before beginning rehab to bend the knee and re-gain strength in the leg which should take around another 2 months. Somewhere around October I should be able to function properly. I'm sure there will be a lot of pain between now and then, as well as the lasting discomfort that inevitably haunts anyone with this type of injury.

There is one story about my surgery I just have to share. It was about half way through the surgery itself when I gained enough consciousness to hear the metal on metal pounding that was the doctor going to town on my knee. I couldn't feel a thing as I'd been numbed from the waist down and would stay that way for about an hour until they were done. I really wanted to see what they were doing, but all I could mutter though the oxygen mask I had on was, "are you guys building a table of fixing my knee." I'd imagine someone immediately jumped on feeding me some more sleeping medication. I tried as hard as I could to ask for a peek at my knee, the insides you know, but I was back to cloud nine before I could even get it out. The day after surgery I was fairly confident that this episode did in fact take place and was not only of my imagination so I came straight and asked the doctor. He smiled and laughed concurring, "Yes, we all chuckled at that."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Baked Beans Master

It occured to me that perhaps I've been hogging up all the space on this blog so I decided to ask my sister who is the self declared "Baked Bean Master" to share her recipe. She was nice enough to prepare the following as my first Guest Blogger. And now.....Michelle Walsh.

As the "Baked Beans master" I've been asked to share my top secret recipe with
the blog here it goes. I'm not good at making things up off the top
of my head so I usually start with a basic recipe and make my personal changes
from there. Just about any baked bean recipe calls for canned beans, brown
sugar, maybe some bacon and onions, and throw it in the oven for about an hour. Much too simple for me...and why bother baking something for an hour that can be done on a stove top quicker? Although my most recent beans were done in a small crock was too hot to stand over the over oven!

I've never really measured the additional ingredients, just add and taste. The measurements will be my best guess at how much of what I added this last time I made them. I used to just open the fridge and grab condiments to throw in, but recently I've noticed that a little less of everything is much better, adjust to your own liking.

1 28oz. can good baked beans (Busch's)
2 11-12oz cans plain Pork 'n Beans
1/2 lb. (6-8 slices depending on the cut) Bacon
1 small or 1/2 large onion chopped or diced, your preference (I prefer sweet
Vandalia, but a yellow cooking onion will do)
1/4 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1/4 c. ketchup
2 TBS. Mustard...yellow, Dijon, honey Dijon...whatever's in the fridge
1 TBS. Worcestershire sauce...A-1 will work too
this last time I used about 1/4 c. leftover BBQ sauce (usually I use the same
amount brown sugar, but the BBQ sauce came out good this time) Depends on how sweet ya want it...use both!

Cooking it!
I ALWAYS start with the bacon first, using Kitchen scissors, 'cause it's easier,
I cut it right into the pan, rendering as much good stuff as I can, some people
call it Fat, I call it Flavor. Cook over medium heat until just crisp, about 10
min. Add Onions and cook a few minutes longer, until soft. This part is
KEY...add the Liquid Smoke to the pan or pot. I never drain the "liquid" from
the pan...there's that nasty "F" word again...Flavor not Fat. Continue to cook
the bacon, onion and smoke together until the house is nice and fragrant! Time
for the Beans! Add beans to crock, pot, pan...whatever. Mix. Time to squirt and
dash in the rest! Mix in ketchup, mustard, A-1, brown sugar/BBQ sauce.
Don't mix to vigorously ya break up the fragile canned beans! If you do stove
top, bring to a slight boil and reduce, taste, and adjust flavor (I find Hot
Sauce works good you've gone too far sweet). On the stove top, 20-30 min
cook time is plenty, stirring gently, occasionally, until beans just start to
break down a bit. The crockpot I set to High for about 2-3hrs, until it all just
started to breakdown and set to "keep warm" until ready to serve. I've never
done the whole "Baked" in the oven kind so you're on your own with times and
temps...generally I've seen 350 for 45 min. - 1hr...good luck with tasting that
though. The beans need to warm through to get a good taste, that's why I prefer
the stove top method, even the crock gave me a chance to adjust flavors if

That's my first/best take it as you will, add or subtract whatever
you like...I saw a recipe that called for a whole bottle of chili sauce...not
gonna go there but the next batch may have a couple tablespoons in it. Also
wanted to try adding a can of pinto or kidney beans next time, just to mix
things up and maybe add a different texture. Remember a recipe is just a guide,
don't be afraid to mix it up a little and call it your own!