This week was a bit different. With the staff upstairs desparate for help, my boss decided to switch my shift to a day shift. Basically, I come in at 8 every morning and help Graze prep, because their basic day staff cannot be trusted to prep a lot of things that they need for the day. At least thats how Nate, the sous chef, explained it to me as I butchered 50 trout on my first morning shift. I do things like prep and blanch veggies, make sausage, butcher fish, butcher chickens, and brine all items that need to be brined. Then, I work from 1 til around 6 for L'Etoile. and my duties remain the same.
This week was different in more than one way... I actually had guests.
On Sunday my mom came to visit, and we had Brunch at Graze. On Monday, my Aunt and Uncle came to dinner at L'Etoile, and because I dont work nights anymore, I got to go to dinner with them. We Got The HOOOOKUP! We placed our orders, and Ed, the fish cook, sent me a whole bowl of Uni creamed corn, and they continued to send out additional dishes with each course. I was amazed when they sent the bill. We had easily gotten 250 dollars worth of food and they charged 60. It was absolutely incredible.
On Tuesday night, I decided upon my future...
My good friend from CIA, Jon Petela, and I had a discussion about a proposal via facebook. He asked me if I'd go into business with him in ten or twenty years, and then proceded to tell me all about his plans to open up a specialty charcuterie and cheese shop and have a restaurant attached. I was hooked. It's seriously something that I've always wanted to do. Charcuterie, for those of you who don't know, is the art of butchering, and preserving meat through curing, fermenting, etc. It also includes things like sausage making and smoked meats. Jon told me he reads my blog all the time, and that he has seriously always wanted to do this, he just didn't know who would do it with him. Then one day it hit him, "Mike... He's my guy". I've been thinking about it a lot since I've been here, but really the things that I enjoy doing the most when I am at work is doing stuff like butchering chickens, ducks, pheasants, making bacon, making sausage, making duck confit, and the list goes on. I don't mind cleaning corn, peeling potatoes, making stocks, and other things I do on a daily basis, but I know what I want to do. I have a plan too. During school next year, Jon and myself will spend ALL of our available time in New York studying up. We are both going to talk to the Chefs in the Meat Room and ask for opportunities to work for free for their side businesses. Chef Elia owns a sausage shop. We'll go to farms around the area and learn the finer points of cheese making, dairy production, etc. Coach Farms is owned by the people who own the coach handbag company, and they produce some of the best goat cheese in the country. Did I mention that they are Mario Batali's parents in-law. The same Mario Batali whose father owns one of the greatest salumi (Italian meat curing/ specialty butcher) shops in the country. You can see a connection. I want to work for butchers in the city on weekends. I want to get connected with the best charcutiers in the city. And when I'm done with school, I want to search out the best butchers, sausage makers, and charcutiers in the country and work for them. I want to learn EVERYTHING I can, here and abroad in Europe, if the opportunity presents itself. And, when the time is right, Jon and I will open up our shop and restaurant. I'm excited to start this business venture when I roll into New York in November.
I have been given a new nickname by the guys at Graze too, and I believe that it is fitting. On Saturday morning, I came in to work to find the Graze staff reeling to get set up for weekend Brunch service. They had no sausage. So, I ran downstairs and ground 15 pounds of pork shoulder, miked it in a hobart with some sage, ginger, garlic, maple syrup, salt, and a "shit house" of black pepper. Bam... fresh bulk breakfast sausage. I know because I saved about a quarter of a pound of it and fried it up for myself. One of the many perks of working in the L'Etoile kitchen before anyone arrives... you can practically do whatever the hell you want within reason. Then Chris, the chef de cuisine at Graze, ran downstairs to ask me to make a weeks worth of kielbasa for them. I ground belly and shoulder, mixed them with spices and herbs and a little bit of ice water, cased the force meat. Then I spent the better part of a half hour rolling my 9 sets of sausage, about 40 links each... 360 links of perfect little kielbasas. Then I read the note Ryan the meat cook left me... he had 8 orders of merguez, our lamb and red wine sausage that we run with the pheasant, left. So I cranked out 10 pounds of that. Before I knew it the guys at Graze were calling me sausage boy.
On Wednesday the day that I've been impatiently waiting for finally came. After about two months of talk, my buddies finally came to visit. Adam, Ryan and Dani came up from Indy... FINALLY. They got here on Wednesday night, right after I got off work. We went to dinner at Graze. They loved it. But the cookies for dessert stole the show.
On Thursday, we went to L'Etoile for dinner. I got so much shit from my bosses for coming twice in a week. They were just messing with me though. I have to say I was a little embarrassed when everyone at the table ordered the steak. I had already picked mine out earlier, I wrapped it in plastic and labeled it "for Mikey" just so my boss got the picture. There was no turning back. The steak, for all those who are wondering, is the safe pick. It's the option for everyone who doesn't know what branzino, uni, or merquez is, and is frankly too afraid to try something new. I got the steak because its the only thing on the menu I HAVENT had yet! My friends were out of their element. Ryan still had his sunglasses on his head and Nancy, our server, had to ask him to take them off. Dani and Adam had no idea what anything on the menu was, and Adam especially thought it was strange that we were serving "unicorn" on the menu. He couldn't understand that it was "uni-corn"... the single greatest thing on the menu.
I took care of the ordering for everyone though and I think they all enjoyed it. They had no idea what any of it was, but they liked it.
With the arrival of Ryan Kennedy... came the return of my addiction. I hadn't played Fifa in over a month, but it is a tradition that when Ryan Kennedy and Mike Kolodzej are in front of a TV with a video game console... we play Fifa... and I ALWAYS come out on top... ALWAYS. But not this time. We played upwards of 15 games and I won three. My rustiness showed and Fifa has become Ryan's life since I came to Madison. I'm determined to get the better of him again. I will play for 9 hours a day if I have to, but come November, I will reclaim my crown.
I can't remember the last time I was this tired. I'm still on my sleep schedule from my old shift where I got off at midnight, and stayed up til 3. This whole week, I didn't go to bed until at least 2 30, and was up at 7 AM to go to work. I don't know how I survived, but I did.
Ladies and Gentlemen... that time of year has again come. This morning, I had the pleasure of watching Manchester United plow through Chelsea 3-1 in the ceremonial exhibition season kick-off match that is the Community Shield. This game whetted my appetite. And tonight, the football season officially kicks off in Canton, Ohio.
This is my last week in my apartment, and I have no place to live yet. I can only afford a three month lease, and no place is offering them. I have to be out on Saturday by noon... If anyone who is reading this has any suggestions as to what I should do to get a place to stay, feel free to make them... I AM DESPERATE.
Thanks for reading.
Wish me luck in my quest to not be homeless.