Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Tuesday, my last day at L'Etoile, was bittersweet. I woke up at 4 30 like I always do, and rode to work in the rain. I didn't mind though. They day went on like normal. I said goodbye to Nate, the Graze sous chef, around 10 or so. The cooks came in, and I stayed for about a half hour after they got there. I was looking for excuses to stay around longer than I had to, just because I really wasn't ready to walk out of that kitchen for good. But the time came, I shook everyone's hands. Thanked everyone, and hung the thank you letter that I wrote to the staff on the pass. On the way out I got some phone numbers, got some hugs, and Scott and I even had a little mini photoshoot, because he wanted a picture of me walking down the hall for the last time, looking back over my shoulder.

I got home, laid on my bed, watched some 30 rock, and eventually, it was time to go back for dinner. I had made a reservation for myself and Mary to go to dinner at L'Etoile to celebrate my last night. I showed up, and was greeted by the FOH staff. They set one menu down on the table, and it was Mary's menu. They told me I didn't get a menu because I should have it memorized, which I did. I had already picked out what I was going to order that morning. I glanced at Mary's menu, and realized at the top, it read in big bold print, "Best of Luck Mike. We'll Miss You!" Moments later, a server came to the table and handed me a menu. It was signed by the whole staff with personal notes from every member of the staff. I immediately read the first note, it read...

"Thanks for all your hard work. Keep your great attitude and you'll get anywhere you want to go. If you ever need anything, including a job, let me know."

-Tory Miller.

I was overwhelmed. Then the food came and it got even better. I ordered the soup, and the hash, and the scallops. The soup was a tuscan bread soup. Its sarvecchio cheese broth with chunks of bread, pork meatballs, and iceberd lettuce. It was really good. I always snack on the meatballs when the Hot Side guy makes them, so I really wanted this dish. Mary ordered the radish salad, and they brought out the head cheese as an extra course. Then they brought out the midcourses. The hash, was the dish I was most excited for. It is a yukon potato and celery root hash with confit chicken gizzards and a smoked shallot puree, toped with a sunny side up duck egg and spicy hollandaise. It was so good I can't believe it. I'm still having dreams about it.

Then, Ed hooked us up. Before out entrees they brought out two pork chops. They gave us extra entrees, and it was the other dish on the menu that I really wanted to try. The pork dish is an awesome berkshire pork chop, pan roasted to a perfect medium, served with a hash of delacata squash, cabbage, and cranberries. and the sauce is a foie gras cognac jus. Awesome. Just awesome. By this time in the evening I was on the verge of drunk. They brought us wine pairings with each course, and, since Mary had practice at 6 am this morning, and since she drove me, I drank her wine too. I couldn't let it go to waste.

The final course, was sublime. I ordered the scallops. Theyre Beatifully seared and served with ham, brussel sprouts, sweet potato puree, and sauce choron. I had never had a scallop with a sear as great as that. It was incredible. Absolutely incredible. For dessert, we had extra courses too. I ordered the chololate pate, Mary ordered the apple grunt with gingerbread crumbles. Both were great, and they also brought out the pumpkin mousse with zabaglione, and two cupcakes.

The bill came. I looked at it, and we had gotten 295 dollars worth of food, and wine. The total on the bill, "$00.00". It was my first comped meal ever, and it was incredible. I was almost angry that they did it. They had done so much for me already, it was too much.

Mary and I went back in the kitchen, thanked everyone, and I said goodbye to the FOH staff. I was told that my thank you letter made some of the servers cry. We left, Mary dropped me off at home, and just like that one of the best days of my life was over. I never really realized that I meant as much as I did to all the people here. I just figured I was the intern. But they're going to miss me. A lot.

Today I'm going back to thank Tory for everything, to get a few things finished up in the office, and to say one last goodbye to the bakers. Then after dinner service I've been instructed to be at Graze, for one last night with the cooks. I can't wait.

Thursday I return home, and on Saturday I will be at Kuntz stadium, cheering on my old high school soccer team, the guys who I coached last year, as they compete in the state championship. Who knows, maybe they'll let me on the bench if I wear my "Coach Kolodjez" jacket. Yea, I'd been a member of the program for 5 years and they still spelled my last name wrong.

Well, time to tie off some loose ends in Madison.

It's been real L'Etoile, thanks for the memories.

Mikey, Former Intern.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hey Wayne, I bet there are prostitutes in MADRID!

Its strange to think that four and a half months have come and nearly gone. This time next week I will be packing up my things, saying goodbye to everyone at L'Etoile, and preparing for the trip back to Indiana. It's been a great four months. I've enjoyed every minute of it. And its just gonna suck to have to say goodbye. But thanks to the modern world of facebook, I should be able to keep in touch with just about everyone here.

Everytime I walk through the Graze kitchen, Nate the sous chef, one of the coolest people I've met here, makes fake sobbing noises. I really think that people are going to miss me here. I like to think that I brighten things up a little, for just about everyone here. I really try to do everything I can to help people here. Like yesterday, I noticed we were out of Cholula on Garmo, so after work, I went home and brought back my last two bottles of cholula. As Tory saw me come in the kitchen double fisting cholula bottles he laughed and said, "You beautiful bastard!" On saturday I stayed late to help Graze who were short staffed, I braised short ribs and set up the smoker outside so we could smoke some pork shoulders.

I don't dislike baking. I really don't. The days are just so slow, and there's literally no sense of urgency. I miss being over on my station, shitting myself because I don't know if I'm going to make it. I miss being harassed by my bosses. I miss working with my garde mo partners, busting shit out during service, and I'm not going to be able to do any of it again at L'Etoile. I'm doomed to the bakery. DOOMED.

Having said that, the Lady Bakers are awesome. They are all super nice and really funny, and they seem to like having me. They like having a boy to make carry shit and do all the non baker work that they need done like thinly slicing a big case of mushrooms, or caramelizing onions and sauteeing sausage. The bakers go to dinner about once a month. A few times a year they come to L'Etoile, and on Thursday night theyre going to Graze for dinner, and they want me to come. They're great, but I miss working with the L'Etoile cooks. The lady bakers don't talk about football, and I had a lot to brag about, considering the bears AND packers both lost.

Today, the bakers were there late enough that we overlapped by a few minutes with the L'Etoile cooks coming in. Just as we were cleaning up, Ed came in. I hadn't seen him or any of the cooks in about a week and he yelled "MIKEY!" came up and gave me a hug and slapped my ass. This was unusual from Ed who whenever I greet him at the beginning of a shift I usually get a hostile,"Whats up fucker?" or something along those lines.

Today was a terrible day for me. I got off work, and came home. I checked my computer only to find that Sir Alex Ferguson had announced that Wayne Rooney no longer wished to play with Manchester United. He has had a falling out with the manager, and has made it clear that he will not sign a new contract. It makes me cringe. I can't even look at him, I even benched him today when I played Fifa.

Wayne single handedly kept Manchester United afloat last year, and less than four months ago had declared his love for his club and said that he wanted to stay for life. Then the world cup came around and all of England began to hate him. Except for Manchester. THe media came crashing down even harder on him because several prostitutes had come forward saying that Wayne was a regular customer. His marriage was in shambles, and the entire country, and most of the world had labeled him a scum bag and a hack. Except for Manchester. He has played like absolute shit this season, his only goal came in a 3 goal victory over Newcastle I believe, and he hasn't started in a few weeks. He had a small injury, but now he's refusing to sign a contract. And he refuses to accept that its HIS fault that his life sucks, not manchester. We've been the only ones fighting in his corner, and he wants to dessert. I'm pissed, and I'm ashamed that I ever thought wayne rooney was more than a premadonna overpaid superstar. I should have known, though. At 18 he left the club he had loved as a boy to play for Man united, Everton. He hates Everton to this day and it is shocking to me, because they were the club who helped form him. He kissed his Manchester United badge when he scored goals against Everton. So quick to reassign his loyalties, and for no apparent reasons.

I'll miss him, but I don't want him any more. Let him go to spain, and soak it up with Ronaldo in the land of no defense. It's time for the young boys to have a chance. The young Italian Federico Macheda, who I've actually had a conversation with, has been promising to produce for two years, and hes still only 19. Danny Welbeck has impressed on loan, as had Mame Birame Diouf. Both are strong, energetic strikers and will be chomping at the bit to fill the void left by wayne. Not to mention Tom Cleverley, the twenty year old who I see as a valid replacement for BOTH Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

I've put rooney up for sale on Fifa... its official, hes no longer welcome.

Tune in next week to hear me reminisce on my full time at L'Etoile. And to read about my excitement for all the new places im going to try in New York.



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Letters to a Young Chef

While I was at school, I had some preconceived notions about bakers. The bakers and the culinary students at CIA have a heated rivalry. Bakers are known as dough hoes or sugar sluts by the culinary students, and the culinary students are known as a group of rowdy drunks who aren't fit to function in society. The bakers might be right, but as I baked bread every day this week, I came to a few conclusions. While the art of baking is by no means easy, and the production load of the lady bakers at L'Etoile is no joke, working in a bakery is without a doubt much more physically, technically, and psychologically easier than working a restaurant line. Yea sure you work early, but every day this week I was out by noon this week. For the first time since I arrived in Madison, I actually had a social life on days when I worked. You, as a baker, have an extremely flexible deadline for your goods. You never have to rush to push food out. You never have your boss screaming at you because you have plates due up in fifteen seconds. And, while baking requires techniques such as rolling dough, all the hard work can easily be done by a machine. You set timers, set it on speed 2, and walk away.

Let's just put it this way, at no point this week did I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about how I had to bake a few more brioche buns the next day because I left a half sheet tray of them uncovered overnight on the speed rack. I didn't like it.

My time at L'Etoile is coming to an end. I don't want to spend a whole lot more time with the lady bakers. I want to be on the line, busting my ass, alongside the guys who I've worked beside for the past four months.

Having said that, I've never really baked bread before this week and it is interesting, I just can't see myself doing it for a long time.

This week, Starting on Wednesday, I woke up at 4 every morning to be in the bakery by 4 30. I, being the resilient bastard I am, made a point of not changing my sleep schedule too drastically. So that meant on a nightly basis, I would go to sleep just before 1, wake up three hours later, get off work at 12 or so, and take a brief nap before continuing my day.

On Friday, I got off work and was able to go see Mary play against Indiana, with the rest of the Ording family. I got an hour and a half nap in before I had to be at the game at 7. The game lasted until 9 or so, then we all went to dinner. I made it to bed by 1. Saturdays, due to the farmers market, when we sell pastries on the street, the bakers have to be in by 3 30. So I woke up at 3. I got off at 11 30, after braising 40 pounds of short ribs and smoking 30 pounds of pork shouder for Graze on top of my baking duties. I met with the Ordings immediately who were at the farmers market. We had brunch at Graze, and I returned home to sleep.

With basically one work week left at L'Etoile, I've been reflecting on my time here and doing A LOT of thinking about the future. I bought a few books on Amazon with a gift card I had received for my birthday. First, I bought the New York Michelin Guide, a book filled with the top restaurants in New York. Then I bought "Letters to a Young Chef". A book written by one of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the world, Daniel Boulud. In the book, he gives advice to people like me. He tells us his story, what he would do differently now, and he gives young American cooks the best advice imaginable in how to make it in this world. Even in the first chapter I had the chills. Because, without knowing it until now, I've been the posterchild for Daniel Boulud's road map to success.

His first piece of advice that caught my eye, was to get your foot in the door with a good chef, not a great one necessarily, but someone who can teach you great things, and provide connections when you feel you're ready for something new. That is undoubtably what I did at L'Etoile. Tory is a great cook, and a great chef, but the ceiling is only so high at L'Etoile, there is only so much I can do here. But he, and even Chef Chris at Graze have amazing connections in New York and I think they'd be more than happy to give me a nod, and a point in the right direction. Even cooks that I work with like Bryan Weinstein and Ed Lee could be huge for me in the future. I have no doubt in my mind that both will move on to accomplish great things. Both are extremely passionate, very skilled, and have an unparalleled desire to learn.

That brings me to my next connection to the book. Boulud argues that in a kitchen of the caliber that I am working in, you will learn more from the cooks you work with, than possibly even the chef. I agree without a doubt. I had the opportunity to work alongside Weinstein for over a month on Garde Manger before he was promoted to Meat Cook. The guy is more passionate about cooking than anyone I've ever met in my life. Pete, Ryan, and Ed all took me under their wing,

Most of you know that I see my near future in New York. I want to take advantage of the incredible opportunities that I will have at my fingertips, but the prospect of spending a life time in NYC is a little daunting. But Boulud has reassured me that there is a way to be successful outside of New York. And he hit close to home on this one. He talks about how he has known countless cooks of incredible quality, who worked in New York, but were tired of the city and left. And were successful. He says something along these lines: Today, you do not have to be in New York to be a great chef. Chefs from New York have become very successful, leaving New york and going to places like Cincinnati and Louisville or Madison, Wisconsin.

I knew he was talking about Tory. The man who took me in, and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

It's funny. In the past few weeks, even before I bought this book, I have singled out Boulud as the one man that I have to work for. He talks about this importance for young cooks to stage, or work for free in kitchens, just to prove yourself and act as a sponge. I now know what I have to do. When I get to school, I will show up damn near every Saturday morning at the back door of Bar Boulud and DBGB, two of Boulud's restaurants that specialize in charcuterie. I will ask to work for free. If they let me, I'll probably do things like plucking game birds, torching fur off of boar' heads, stripping meat for headcheese etc. But it will honestly be an honor to work in that kitchen, and I think that I can prove myself worthy of even a part time job when I graduate.

Another key step in Boulud's roadmap to success is to travel. I really didn't think this was possible until I thought about it. Should I get in at a Boulud restaurant, I would have a door to France. Boulud himself was born in France and trained in Lyon. But his restaurants, specifically the two that I am targeting, have a partnership with Guilles Verot, the most famous Charcutiere in France. If I could prove myself worthy, maybe I could get a nod and be sent to Paris to train under the masters at Guilles' Verot, I would be on cloud nine.

This last reference I will make, was the coolest for me. He reflects on his experiences as a young cook and his relationship with other cooks. "Once the marketing was done, I would sit down at one of the local bouchons and have a bowl of tripe with them. They would open a bottle of Beaujolais (but I stuck with lemonade) The stories, the pungent rough language, the camaraderie made me feel on top of the world. Of course, they would rag me pretty hard in the way that old pros like to tease a young kid. But I ate it up. I was just so happy to be in their company." I still have to go back to Saigon Noodle before I leave. The Pho with tripe and tendon is just what I need right now.

I have one week left. I have to make it my best week yet. Less than one month from now I'll be back in New York. I cannot wait. But I'm going to savor my last few moments in Madison.

Go Colts! and GO Irish! My high school soccer team knocked off our top rival, Carmel today. I coached these guys last year, and had the pleasure along playing alongside them for a few years. I just hope they make it to state, which is two weeks away. Because if they do, Coach Kolo will be back on the sidelines one last time.

Take it easy,


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Move On

I'm entering the final phase of my time at L'Etoile in Madison. It's kind of bittersweet. Two weeks from today I will say goodbye to my friends and coworkers, and I'll head home. Yesterday, I was informed of a change in plans. Starting tomorrow, Wednesday, I'll be working with the bakers. I'm kind of sad because I don't believe that I'll be doing any more actual line cooking at L'Etoile any more. But I really am anxious to learn how to bake bread, and the pastries that we serve at Graze. It should be pretty awesome, despite the fact that I will have to be up at 4 30 every morning to start baking.

This weekend was incredible. Absolutely exhausting, but incredible. I got off work at 10 on Saturday night because we had a stage and Pete said I had worked too much this week. I got home at 10 30, played a few games of fifa and laid down to go to bed. The second my head hit my pillow i heard a familiar ringing sound coming from my computer. It was my friend Jon from school calling me on skype. I HAD to answer, because Jon is my dude. We talked about food, work, and other stuff. I love hearing Jon talk about his externship. He is working at arguably one of the most ground breaking restaurants in the world. Blue Hill at Stone Barns in NY is a fine dining restaurant that operates on a massive piece of land, and is unique in that the restaurant grows most of the food it uses. It's farm raises livestock and produce that directly come to the kitchen. Its an unbelievable place, and in January, for Jon's birthday, he is bringing me along with some of our other friends to Blue Hill to eat. We'll get the VIP treatment. I'm beyond pumped.

By the time I said goodbye, it was 1 30, and my alarm was set for three. I decided that 2 hours of sleep wasn't worth it, so I continued to play fifa until four, when my cab came to take me to the airport. I can't sleep on airplanes, so the twenty minutes of shuteye that I got on my flight from Madison to Chicago was considered a victory. But the trip from Chicago to Indy was pretty restless. I sat with my nose against the window for the whole thirty minute flight.

I was amazed at what I could recognize of my city from up in the sky. I immediately recognized the Northwest corner of I-465 between Michigan Rd and 86th st. We flew directly over Eagle Creek Reservoir, which was upsetting, because I could have jumped from the plane and been home in less than five minutes. But no, we continued south to the airport. I did see Lucas Oil, and the roof was closed due to the 85 plus degree heat.

My dad was waiting for me at the airport, but the best part of my trip was waiting for me at the top of the stairs when I got home.

Let me explain the relationship between me and one of my oldest friends.

About nine years ago, in December, my sister and I heard a knock at the door. We opened it to find a shivering, whining cardboard box. We pulled the box inside and opened it. My parents looked on with wide grins. I immediately reached in the box and pulled out a tiny black puppy with a floppy ear and a pink belly. She was still shaking, so I hugged her, and held her up to my face. I looked her in the eye and as I did, a tiny, black spotted tongue poked out and tapped me on the nose. I'll never forget that puppy breath.

For the past nine years, everyday when I came home, Whether she was in the driveway, or at the top of the stairs, Mia was waiting for me. If she was in the house, she would sit at the top of the stairs. I would kneel down to pet her, and as I did, she would leap up, put her pays on my shoulders, and lick my face a few times. Only after she had done so would I be allowed to enter the house. If she was in the yard, she would stand in the middle of the driveway as I pulled in, and after I stopped and rolled down my window, she would prance over to the driver's side, and put her paws up on my door. I would stick my face out, allowing her to sniff me, and lick my face some more, then I would continue into the garage.

We go get fast food together on a regular basis. She celebrates with me when Manchester United score. We're a team.

I'm her boy and she's my dog. And I have missed the crap out of her. I often sit in Madison and wonder if she really misses me, or even notices how long I've been gone. And I was reassured on Sunday, as I opened the door and walked up the steps. She was there, waiting for me. Not like she normally was. This time, she practically attacked me. She made noises I've never heard her make before. And for what seemed like a few whole minutes, she clawed on my shoulders, licked the crap out of my face and neck, and even bit my ear a few times. She had missed me. My sister was clearly jealous that her reception the day earlier had been nothing like it.

The colts game was exciting, but it made me realize how much most colts fans suck. I was rowdy and obnoxious, and behind the team like never before, but most people seemed annoyed by the fact that on a second and eight, I was standing up, screaming for the defense. There was a butt ugly chief's fan two rows in front of us, and on the colts' first drive, when they were stopped on 3rd and goal, she began to do what I assume was a dance, but actually looked like she was having a seizure. I screamed, "Sit The Hell Down!" She immediately turned around and looked at the guy three seats to my left. She asked if it was him, and he laughed and said no. He looked at me and winked. This guy and I go way back.

First of all, the amount of elderly women at Colts' games is sickening. I am not trying to be mean, but seriously, the last team an NFL fan base needs is a bunch of Grandma's sitting in the stands wondering why that handsome young man in the striped shirt keeps waving his arms around and throwing streamers all over the field. The people that surrounded me at this game, barring the one guy three seats away, and my sister, were all retarded. They didn't want to stand and cheer, they didn't want to yell obsenities. They just wanted to file out of the stands whenever there was a TV timeout to go change their adult diapers.

If Lucas Oil Stadium was filled with people like myself, I have no doubt in my mind that we would be Super Bowl champs for the next three years. I lost my voice after ten plays. Ten Pays, but did I stop? No.

You don't really appreciate what you have until it is taken from you. And I hate to say it, but maybe in order to weed out these annoying Colts fans, we need to lose a few more games. The true fans will come out of the woodwork and step in for the wall sitters who just don't want to go see a team that isn't putting up 45 points a game.

Then, we'll have a respectable fanbase, and a team that is much more excited to play at home.

I drove back with my dad on Monday morning. We had lunch at my favorite Italian Beef stand on the square, then I went to work and he headed back to Indy. I got off work around seven, and sat at the bar at Graze with Ed. We talked about our plans for the future, and both of us may very well end up in New York next year.

Talking to Ed made me realize that I really am ready to move on from Madison. L'Etoile was and still is a great place for me. I learned so much here and met so many awesome people, but the food world is huge, and it really would be a waste of opportunity to return here. There is so much to see and cook and taste, and I have to move on. Especially when line cooking isn't my ideal future. I have to be in New York, or Europe if I am going to learn what I want to. I can learn how to make whatever charcuterie items are on the menu at L'Etoile, but at place like Bar Bouloud or DBGB, i would be learning the trade from masters, and I would be focused on just what I love, meat.

I watched an episode of No Reservations today, the one where he goes to Praque. Prague, for those of you who do not know, is the beer capitol of the world. And the Czech's eat more pork than any civilization in the world. I think one of these days I might have to visit prague, and try and learn a little bit about two of my favorite things in life... beer and pork. Until then, I'll keep on drinking my Miller High Lifes and munching on bacon, life sucks don't it.

Tune in next week as I bitch about how much I hate measuring, and as I patiently await my return to the big apple.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No Place Like Home

Happy hump day. Its gonna be a long three more days, but I can make it. I worked a day shift today, then back on Cold side tomorrow. Friday and Saturday, I am working garde mo middle. Which basically means I help prep for anyone in the weeds and during service I jump between hot and cold side, plating both hot and cold apps. This station has been in place for quite some time, but for the past few weeks, we haven't had anyone to work it, because Aaron, the third garde mo cook, was at a bachelor party then getting married. So, the pressure is off of me, I just have to bust ass and listen to whatever anyone says, something I'm getting good at.

Sunday Morning, around four, I start my journey home. I fly to Chicago at 6, then I'll be in Indianapolis at 10. It'll be the first time I've set foot in my hometown in about four and a half months. And at 12 O'clock sharp, I'll stroll into Lucas oil stadium. It's been a year since I've sat in her seats, basked in the sunshine with the roof open, and seen my boys take the field. From the looks of it, it could be a half strength colts team that takes the field, but hey, with number 18 at the helm, I have few worries.

The colts are undefeated at home. The mighty undefeated chiefs are coming in off of a bye week and will be well rested, but this colts team will be out to prove to its home fans that there is no slump this year. Our back ups will be raring to go, jacked up by the opportunity to prove themselves on the big stage. And Peyton, in his relentless pursuit of perfection, will have fine tuned the offense to ensure that the Indianapolis colts stay on the trail of a tenth straight playoff berth.

When I got home this evening, I turned on my computer, and eventually went to to check my fantasy team. An ad came up in one of the windows. As I watched it, I smiled. A tear rolled down my face and it really hit me. I'm going home.

Without a doubt, one of the best feelings in the world is the journey to the game. Back when I lived at home, it went something like this. Put yourself in my shoes. Sunday morning, wake up, shower, put on your jersey. It's 11 30, and the game starts at one. Your sister is still in the bathroom straightening her hair at 11 45. You're losing patience by the second. You grab the keys. You tell her to hurry up. You sit in the car for a few minutes and she comes out. You turn on the colts pregame show as you pull out of the driveway. Bob Lamey. Gotta love him. You get on the interstate. You turn off Bob Lamey and switch it to rap. Your sister starts laughing maniacally and saying stuff like "OH MY FUCKING GOD!" You remain calm. Then, as you make the curve around downtown, you see it. You see the roof of Lucas Oil Stadium sliding open. You see the house that Peyton built. And it hits you. You're going going to see the greatest athlete of an era. You grew up watching this team struggle. You watched the 36-0 losses. And now they're on top. And you witnessed every step along the way. First hand.

Then you move to New York and don't get game coverage on the local CBS network. The team you love seems so far away. You can't handle that any more. Your other teams across a fucking ocean for Christ's sake. You listen to your team's games on the internet. You can't watch. You can only imagine the ball being fired across the field to an open receiver. You can only imagine Freeney spinning inside the lineman and catching the quarterback off guard. You're miserable. But your team is thriving. You're team is in the Super Bowl, and you're helpless to see them fall to a Saints team that frankly wasn't that good. They had balls and capitalized on colts mistakes. You're crushed.

Then, A year after moving to New York and four months after moving to wisconsin, you get off work from a busy dinner service at a fine dining restaurant after Midnight on Saturday. You go home, and pack. You don't sleep. How could you? You're done packing and it's two. You make a sandwich, and you call a cab. You go to the airport, and your flight leaves at 6. You stop in chicago, you're obviously wearing your Dallas Clark jersey, and still bragging about 07 when the colts beat the bears to anyone who comments on your choice of attire.

Then, while asleep on the plane, you jump out of your seat, the stewardess has just called for tray tables up, you're starting your descent. Your nose is glued to the window, Then, you break through a layer of clouds, and you see your city. You see the Speedway, and you see the highways. You're looking for it. You know you'll have to see it. And you can't help but get the chills, when you do. Its a beautiful October Sunday and the roof at Lucas Oil Stadium is open. It's gone as fast as it arrived, but you'll be reunited shortly. Touchdown. You drive home from the airport. You lay down for a power nap. You wake up, it's 11 45 and your sister is still straightening her hair. But you know what, you're fine with it this time, because you realize it's all part of the experience.

Did I mention there's a puppy waiting for you?

Hell, should just follow me on Saturday/Sunday. I'd make a hell of a lot better commercial than some drunk Sconnies (Wisconsinites) in a bus and a few geriatric Patriot fans on a boat somewhere.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ups and Downs

Until approximately 6 PM today, this was one of the best weekends I can remember. Friday, My 20th birthday, was just a normal Friday. We served 130 people and everything ran smoothly. After service I slipped it out to somebody that I only had two hours left of my birthday. Everyone in the kitchen came up to me and said stuff along the lines of, "Mikey why the hell didn't you tell us it was you're birthday?" I told everyone that I wanted to focus on busting out service and not get distracted. So after work a few of the cooks bought me a beer and I sat at Graze until around 1 30 just hanging out. I went home and slept until the next day.

Friday I had new dishes too. The galantine was switched to a pork pate wrapped in bacon with brioche toast and a warm salad of heirloom beans and a maple sherry vinaigrette. It is awesome. And the other dish is a fines herb crepe filled with duck confit rillette served over a warm parsnip puree with a salad of watercress and drizzled with a concord grape gastrique. This dish is straight up BOMB.

On Saturday, I was in the weeds even before I got to work. I had burned through almost ALL of my prep on Friday night so I had to basically reprep all six of my dishes from scratch. Tory asked me to help him do some prep for his trip to New York, and I couldn;t say no. I was doing my damn best, but it was too much. But I, being the intern trying to prove myself worthy of a spot on the line, tried to be a hero and finish all my prep by myself. And I almost succeeded. Almost. Aside from Ed cleaning crab for me and a prep cook cleaning the beats I roasted, I completely reprepped my station. I cleaned and roasted 60 orders of delacata squash. I roasted parsnips and made a puree. I roasted beets. I julienned 4 quarts of radish and kohlrabi. I sliced 40 orders of beef carpaccio. I made 80 crepes and filled them with duck rillette. I smoked crab. I made 1 pint of chimmichurri. The Chimmichurri involves me hand chopping 6 types of herbs. I fried fingerling crisps. I portioned cheese. I cleaned and cooked and pickled mushrooms. I smoked crab. I cleaned watercress. I blanched heirloom beans. I toasted brioche. And i did all of this in four hours and skipped staff meal to get it all done. The whole first turn was absloutely crazy. The first turn was an hour and a half long, and we did 75 guests. Ed helped me get through the first turn and helped me and my partner on hot side, Mike, bust out plates and get everything out on time. The whole second turn, however, I controlled my line and didn't have any help from Ed. Mike helped me when Iw as in the weeds and I helped Mike when he was in the weeds. Tory, when the last plates were going out, yelled out, "Well done apps, good shit boys!" It was the first real time Tory had ever congratulated me. It felt good.

Then after work, I finished up cleaning. I noticed Nisse and Scott, the pastry cooks, working on chocolate curls. It never crossed my mind that chocolate curls aren't even on the dessert menu. I got off work, my parents were coming to pick me up, but I had to hang out with the cooks for a little bit. I sat at the bar and was having a few beers, most of them purchased by other employees as birthday gifts, and while Ed and I were having a serious discussion about how I can improve on my station, and I felt a tug on my shoulder and a hald Dragging me from the bar. There were Scott and Nisse, the pastry cooks, with a cake and candles. Graze was still full of customers, but the whole bar, which was half full of Graze and Letoile employees erupted in a round of Happy Birthday. We cut the cake, and I ate my piece, chugged another few complimentary beers, said my goodbyes, for my parents were waiting out front of Graze to pick me up. I hadn't eaten all day, and I was slightly intoxicated, (not sure they knew but now they do!) so they wisked me off to get pizza and took me back to my apartment so I could sleep.

Morning came and they came to pick me up. We hit up the grocery store and they hooked me up with enough food to last through my final month in madison. My gifts came, I was given two bags of frozen patties from Patties of Jamaica! THANK GOD! I had two for dinner tonight. I got a Manchester United Away jersey with Nani's name and number on the back. I got a new colts t-shirt and a colts rubix cube.

We had lunch, watched football then they left. I endured the colts game, and I'm still pissed about it. The one sour note on otherwise a great weekend. I found a feature on this blog and found out that my blog has been visited 1100 times. 34 of those times have been from Denmark. Not sure how that worked out. I had no idea that it was on such a big scale. Im global bitches! This prompted me to sign up for a program that allows google ad's to be published on my blog... and I get cash money for each viewer. So on that note... KEEP ON READING!!!