Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving... And the Mystery of the Ghost Shitter

Wednesday classes came and went, and before I knew it it was Thanksgiving. Thursday morning, Jon, our friend Valerie and I set off for Jersey. We were starving, and the only place open by school was McDonalds. So, as much as it sucks to say, I had a McRib on Thanksgiving...

The whole trip down to Jersey, I sat in the back of Val's car and played pokemon on my gameboy. Occasionally stopping to crack my knuckles and laugh as Jon yelled "LEAF!" at the top of his lungs every time a leaf floated towards the car, just to freak Val out.
Last Thanksgiving, my friend Cooper was the guest at the Petela house, and I was instructed that I had to go to Wawa (a tristate gas-station/convenience store/sandwich shop0 and get a Turkey Gobbler: a sub with hot turkey, gravey, stuffing, and cranberries.So yes, I actually ate turkey on Thanksgiving... even though it was from a gas station, it was delicious. I got one for the trip home when we left too.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Jon's fat black lab named Coal. We waited for Jon's Grandma to get back to the house, then we set off for the Montego Bay Motel. Let me clarify, Wildwood, NJ, the town where Jon lives, is a bustling resort and beach vacation destination in the summer... but in November, it is DEAD. Most of Jon's neighbors were gone, because those houses were only their summer homes. A family friend of Jon's, however, manages a local Motel, fully furnished with an Indoor waterpark. The motel gives this guy an apartment in the Motel so he can remain on premises at all times. We went there for what was left of their Thanksgiving birds. Jon's grandparents and the three of us were there for about an hour when Jon's whole family arrived. We left for Jon's house, only to return to the motel about an hour later to Swim in the pool, and to play a little late night game of paintball on the beach and under the boardwalk.

We came back to the Petela household, went to bed. We woke up to go pick up a few last minute items, and the pig for dinner. When we got the pig back, we opened up the cardboard box it was in and realized that the damn thing was frozen solid. It was 10 AM and dinner was at 7. Jon called, pissed as hell, and negotiated a pretty sweet deal. We went back to the meat market, returned the pig, got about sixty pounds of pork shoulder, and a full refund. We paid zero dollars for 60 pounds of pork. My kind of thanksgiving.

We came back, and Val, being the worthless baker she is, was just getting up. Jon started a fire out back and got the pork on his hand made barbecue pit while I trussed, seasoned, oiled, and saged our turkey. Jon and I were cooking on and off all day. We assembled both proteins, a cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, apple sauce, potato salad, Italian sausage stuffing, a gravy, and pierogies with kielbasa. And had plenty of time to spare. Not to mention, we had smiles on our faces the whole time. We had no desserts, however, and when we asked master baker Valerie to bake one pie, and to assemble a boxed cake with store bought icing for Jon's little cousin's birthday, you would have thought we had asked her to donate her kidney. She was so dramatic about baking one pecan pie. I am not sure she had ever made one before... I could have made it, because I had made a corn syrup pie filling on extern when in the bakery, but I decided that she had to pull her own weight. She even had a helper, Jon's 17 year old sister, but it was still like pulling teeth. The pie came out well, but there was only one pie, for 30 plus guests. But despite the fact that she had enough crust and filling to make two more, she decided that it wasnt worth the effort.

This whole ordeal simply justified my belief that bakers and pastry chefs, especially ones from the CIA, will hold you ransom, simply because they know that you don't want to put forth the time and effort that is necessary to do their job, however simple and mindless it may be. Valerie, if you're reading this, your pie sucked too.

Dinner was a success, afterwards, we went bowling, then around 2 the next day, Saturday, we left for New York again. I wanted to go the city on Saturday afternoon, but Valerie was up all night chasing boys so she couldn't be bothered to wake up before noon. Killing my plans to eat my heart's content in NYC. Thanks again VAL. If you can't tell... I'm Bitter.

Saturday night, another uneventful night in Hyde Park. Sunday, I don't want to talk about Sunday. All I can say is that until Joseph Addia is healthy, or at least Mike Hart, and Gary Brackett too, this Colts team wont be doing anything too special. Peyton needs a supporting cast, at least ten other players on the field. At times this season it has seemed like Peyton has three linemen and two receivers on the field... period.

I have actually been interested in the Pacers this year too. I like what this teem has been doing. It seems like we have gotten rid of the riff raff, and with Collison at point, Danny Granger playing as hot as ever, and Roy Hibbert finally living up to his potential, this young team could be in for a hell of a run. It'll be nice to have a sports team to follow come February.

Monday morning I woke up, went to the bathroom, and there was a fat turd in the toilet. It wasn't mine, I assumed that Jon had taken a dump in the middle of the night and not flushed in order to not wake me up. But it was HUGE. I got back from class and told Jon... "Nice floater Jon." He was confused. He hadnt pooped. I hadn't pooped. We had no idea who it was.

Later that day, before I went to the gym to go play pick up basketball (a nightly activity now) Alex, my former roommate who lives a floor above me walked into my room and asked if I liked the present. Apparently he is poop shy around his new roommates, and noticed that our door was unlocked on his way to his 7 AM class. He has been pooping exclusively in our room for the last three weeks.

Now its time for class updates. Monday in nutrition I drew an awesome turkey using my hand as an outline. My friend Eli said it was so good its going on his fridge.

Costing... I worked on my menu development project.

Law... only two more classes til I ace the final and say peace out to the class.

Intro to management. The teacher... she still is trying to guilt me into giving the school more of my money. I still hate her. I still learn nothing in the class. Nothing new.

Menu development. I am working on a concept for a restaurant. I came up with a pork centric restaurant located in the empty shop underneath my sister's apartment in Chicago. It's called "Tongue and Cheek" and specializes in utilizing the whole hog in its tasting menu. Each dish uses pork, and every part of the pig is utilized inat least one dish. there are 4 courses, five options per course... and yes... pork desserts. i have the menu basically finished. I'll post it later when i am officially done and it looks nice.

Tomorrow is another day. This weekend I am going to try to make it to the city, and my good friend Cooper is coming back to school.

Should be fun.

Potential investors... please stay tuned for details on Tongue and Cheek. I am falling in love with this restaurant concept and may have to actually pursue it at some point in the future. Who knows.

Until next time,


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Man... The CIA

I just need to blow off some steam… the CIA is starting to get to me.

My first week back at the CIA is complete. The homework is starting back up and I’m slowly gearing back into school mode. It is nice not having to be in class until 11 30 every day, but the classes that I am taking right now are killing me inside.

Nutrition… where I learned a few days ago that the balanced diet should be high in green vegetables, low in dairy, sodium, high fat proteins, and sugar. All I eat is pork, cheese, salt, and all I drink is Coke and the occasional cranberry juice in the dining halls. For obvious reasons this teacher and I do not get along. And she tries to tell me that 1 tablespoon of salt is enough to season 10 damn pork chops. I tablespoon of salt might be enough for one pork chop. MIGHT.

Restaurant Law, slightly informative. But really irrelevant. The material does not relate to Restaurants at all. And the teacher clearly has more interest in being a stand up comedian than teaching law… which I’m actually okay with.

Cost control and Food Purchasing… lets just say that its so amazingly informative, that at one point in class today I looked over at my friend Eli’s notebook, and he had filled two entire pages with the words “I like boobs.” And he will most likely walk away from the class with an A or a B.

Menu development is actually an awesome class. We get to conceptualize menus and restaurants and just talk about food in general. The main project for this class is designing a restaurant, and a menu for that restaurant. We have to come up with our own concept: anything goes. I am doing an offal themed snout to tail menu restaurant. There will be lots of charcuterie, lots of pork, lots of beer. I have to put a pig’s trotter on the menu… I have to.

Last and most certainly least, we have intro to management. I could wipe my own butt with the pages from that textbook and acquire more information than I do from this teacher. She spends an hour of every class telling all of the students why we have to stay for the bachelor program, (which I decided against while in Madison.) And she spends the next hour of every class trying to make us her best friend. She makes us take pop quizzes what are not for a grade. So, while I was in class on Saturday night at 8 30 and she handed me a quiz that isn’t for a grade… of course, I fill in random bubbles, turn in the quiz thirty seconds later, and wash my hands of that God forsaken class.

I am amazed at how much the focus of the teachers and staff has changed from before my externship. Before everyone was focused on teaching us as much as possible so that we didn’t make fools of ourselves on extern. But now that were back… they won’t stop until they have each of us in their pockets for another two years and another 70000 dollars.

And most of the students here don’t see through the insanity of it all. They probably aren’t paying for their own school, and have parents who can comfortably afford it. They probably don’t really like cooking, because the past month that I haven’t been in a professional kitchen… I’ve been going through withdrawal. The thought of spending two more years in strictly academic classes… when all I want to do is cook… is maddening. One student actually stated this as a reason for staying, “It’s two more years when we don’t have to be working.” I don’t know about this kid, but I’ve set some pretty lofty goals. I honestly am pissed at myself that I didn’t start sooner. I only have fifteen years or so of high intensity cooking in me, and so much to accomplish. While my classmates will be studying up on how to write payroll checks, I’ll be working in kitchens across the country, possibly the world, paying off loans half the size of those my classmates will be paying.

I also forgot how fucking arrogant a lot of CIA students are. These people think they are the salt of the earth. It makes me sick. So many attitudes… so many egos. You can look at people and see them thinking, “I go to the best culinary school in the world.” If there was one thing I learned in Madison, it was how to act in a kitchen. I remember when Nate, the Graze sous chef came in for the first time at the old site to do menu testing for Graze. No one knew who he was and he was looking for something to do. He came to me, the lowest person in the kitchen, and asked what he could do to help. I told him he could pick pea tendrils for me. He did it, no questions asked. Later that day, I found out that he would basically be one of my bosses. I was astonished that he had the humility to pick my freakin pea tendrils when he could have just walked away. That’s the mentality I want to have whenever I step foot in a kitchen. No name on my jacket. No cocky, I run this place, attitude.
I’ll try to be one of the good CIA grads who take their education for what it is… not a golden ticket to the Michelin Guide.

CIA… stop trying to sway me. I’m gone in June. No way… that’s what I say.

In other news, Jon and I bought a pig for Thanksgiving. It’s a 30-40 pounder. We’ve also got a turkey.

I’ll be posting tons of pictures and such from my Jersey Shore Thanksgiving.

Take it easy, pray I don’t go off on a faculty member or two.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First Class

I believe that the last time I wrote was after my final dinner at L'Etoile. That following evening I had an awesome farewell get together with all the cooks at L'Etoile and Graze. It was cut somewhat short by a certain Mr. Jameson, but it was great to get to spend a final evening with all the people who made my experience in Madison so great. I have a feeling that I'll see most, if not all of them at some time in the future. Even if I never return to L'Etoile as a cook, I know for sure I'll be back to visit. And I'm sure I'll cross paths with the cooks who are all sure to move on to bigger and better things sometime soon.

My trip back home was hung over. But I made it back. And Mia, my dog was extremely happy to see me.

I got to see my aunt, go to the Colts Monday Night game, and purchased some new clothes, because i lost a considerable amount of weight in Madison and most of my clothes no longer fit.

I also killed a mouse at 2 am at my cousin's house. It took me two hours to hunt down the little fucker then I beat it to death with a bbq fork then threw the fork like a javelin and speared it right in the gut. The primal adrenaline rushing through my system prompted me to stand, puff out my chest, throw my arms up in the air, let out a victory cry followed by yelling at the top of my lungs, "You're my bitch mouse! You're my mother fucking bitch!"

My time in Indy came and went extremely fast, before I knew it I was packing up my life's possessions yet again, and Mia was pissed. She always knows when I'm leaving, and she gets pouty.

Saturday morning came, and I said goodbye to Mia and my Dad, and flew off to La Guardia with my Mom. We took a cab to the city and got Shake Shack, I forgot how much I love that place. The shack stack, a burger topped with a cheese stuffed, deep fried portabello mushroom cap, on a soft potato bun, was exquisite. I was amazed that the line was only 20 people long and the weather was perfect. I've waited for an hour and a half at this place before, and the fact that i waited for five on a perfect Saturday.

The Shack Stack in all its glory.

We got up to poughkeepsie, bought all the stuff I'll need for school, went to dinner at Tacicina, a little taco joint with really al pastor and beef tongue tacos. The next morning came and it was time to move in to my new dorm room at school. Jon, my roommate, was already there when we got there. I said goodbye to my mom and immediately set out to find all my other friends. Then, the moment came that I had been waiting for for six months. Kennedy Fried Chicken in Poughkeesie. We loaded up my friends car, one in the bed of his subaru outback station wagon just for good measure and for old time's sake, and set out for the deep ghetto of poughkeepsie.

For those of you who are not aware, Kennedy Fried Chicken is a little, no seater walk up window with the most heavenly fried chicken, and the most obnoxious change heckling crackheads. I am always terrified to walk in the door, because I am never quite sure if the car will be there when I walk back out with my chicken, but God Damn it is it worth it, and the pure fright adds to the euphoric experience that is Kennedy Fried Chicken.

We pulled up, and shuffled out of the car. We let Jon out of the trunk and walked inside. I immediately made jokes about ordering a party box, 21 pieces of chicken with 5 sides. I was almost slightly serious though. I walked out with a Jumbo box, however. Five pieces of chicken, collard greens, mac n cheese. Usually I have a rule about waiting to eat it until after I get back to school, because the tantalizing smell of the grease and chicken skin makes it that much better when you finally take that first bite, but this time, I had finished two pieces of chicken before Zach unlocked the car.

Its amazing how much I missed everyone here. Today, Alex my former roommate was sitting in my room and we were talking, when he revealed his plans for the greatest TV food personality in the history of mankind. Robochef would be his name.
Heres the story behind Robochef, is that he lost his hand tragically while pulling a poor helpless kitten out of a deep fryer, saving its life, but costing him his hand. He then has a prosthetic attachment placed on his hand that allows him to basically act as a human kitchen aid/ Inspector Gadget.

Classes this saturday too, to make up for the day we have off for Thanksgiving. So my first weekend back at school will consist of one Sunday. I want to go to the city but we'll see how much work I have.

It's amazing how the faces have changed in my own group over the last six months. Just about everyone lost a ton of weight, or gained a ton. The beards were there on move in day, myself included, but were gone by the start of orientation on Monday. I was amazed to hear that Peter LaPalm, one of my friends, and my group leader wasn't coming back, because he is currently the sous chef at Bouley. One of the best restaurants in the country. I may have to stop in soon and try and get a meal. He'd take care of me, I was pretty much his right hand man in classes, and lost the group leader race to him by one measley vote.

Next week is Thanksgiving, and because of my class schedule (I have one that gets out at 8 pm on Wednesday night) I can't make it home for thanksgiving. I am instead going to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with a few friends, and Jon, my roommate's family. We're having Thanksgiving on Friday though, because of time constraints and travel. Jon, as you may well remember, was an intern at, and is continuing to work at Blue Hill, THE farm to table restaurant in the country. On our way down, were going to try and stop by the farm at the restaurant and kill a turkey to take home for dinner. Should be pretty awesome.

In case I don't write before then, Happy Thanksgiving.