Chefs & Their Tattoos

I recently returned from the American Culinary Federation Convention in Kansas City. I was so totally humbled by the talent that was represented from all over the country. It also made me realize how much has changed in the food business.

My first restaurant gig was 1970 at the Top of the Hub, 52 floor of the Prudential Building, Boston. I was a fry cook. They hired me because — I showed up for the interview. I mean fry cook, right? Someone gives you something, you put it in the grease and then take it out before it burns. It’s not rocket science.

There isn’t much I haven’t done in a restaurant. Front of the house, back of the house, back of the walk-in. Everything from Slinging hash to tossing pizza, from salad prep to charcuterie chef. But it’s been 28 years since I’ve been on a kitchen line and a lot has changed.

The Biggest change I’ve noticed, tattoos. This is especially noticeable among the younger chefs. At the ACF Convention I did an informal survey with un scientific results. I wanted to see if there was any pattern that could be devised.

Okra and Garlic

Okra and Garlic

One man I met had a tattoo of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. One man had two I CHING – hexagrams, ancient Chinese text on his forearm. One was the symbol for “OVEN” the other was for “MOUTH.” He talked about feeding the world and then he got all esoteric on me and my eyes started to glaze over.

One chef had two concentric circles on the palm of his hand. What, I asked, is the symbolism? The smaller inner circle, he said. was a teaspoon and the larger outer circle was a tablespoon. Practical.

I spoke woman just out of culinary school who had a beautiful tattoo of a chef’s knife with the words written in script, “Mise en Place.” A french phrase for putting in place. In the cooking world it is the the area that has all the stuff you need on a regular basis during your shift. She said it was a constant reminder to keep her shit together

Goonies_post

Chef Jeff Morris’ Goonies Tattoo

Jeff Morris, chef/owner of The Copper Pot in Clarkesville, GA has an incredible tattoo. It is is not food oriented but is a tattoo of substantial meaning to him. His entire right arm is a storyboard for the 1985 Richard Donner film, “Goonies.” He was 8 years old when he first saw the movie and it obviously had a huge effect on him. There is only so much real estate on your body for ink so one needs to put some thought into what tattoos you’re getting. The photo here is just the upper arm. Down the rest of his arm and and forearm are other iconic images from the movie: The treasure map, the waterfall, the wishing well, the doubloon that was used to align clues, an image of Sloth with a pirate hat and of course the slogan, “Goonies Never Say Die.” True dedication.

And by the way, if you’re ever in North Georgia, make your way over to the Copper Pot for a great Lunch, Dinner or Sunday Brunch. They also have a full bar which is not always easy to find in the mountains of North Georgia.

Are you a chef? Do you have a tattoo? Tell me about it. Many more things have changed in the restaurant business and in the coming weeks I’ll be posting more of my observations.

Ciao For Now

National Lasagna Day!

Today, August 04, is National Lasagna Day

Lasagna is one of my favorite Italian dishes. In honor of National Lasagna Day I reposting a video for my version of Lasagna Bolognese. It’s made with a rich sauce that include Sweet Italian sausage and bacon. The sauce cooks for hours concentrating the flavors making this lasagna the best you’ve ever had. Yes, it’s better than your grandmother’s lasagna. 

The complete recipe and notes are available on the original post:

http://wp.me/p1EYFY-eT

 

 

 

National Dry Martini Day

June 19 – Celebrating A Classic

I just got off a cruise and there were 3 different “Mixology” classes. We tasted 9 different “Martinis.” None of them remotely resembled an actual martini. Today any libation strained into a cocktail class can be called a martini. I’m an old fashion type of guy and I’m often reminded how old I am when I have to explain how to make a martini to a bartender.

This is an actual exchange between myself and a young person tending a bar.

ME:  I’d like a Tanqueray Martini up.
BT:   Gin? Do you still want olive juice
ME:   No, I’d like vermouth.
BT:   (Slowly) Okay, you want me to put the vermouth in the glass then pour it out?
ME:   No, I’d like you to put the vermouth in and leave it.
BT:   You mean like an ingredient?

Look if you want to drink chilled vodka with olive juice, knock yourself out, just don’t call it a martini.  In this video I made last year you’ll see how to make a classic gin martini.

Drink Responsibly or stay home and drink.
Ciao Fro Now

Summer Salads

Just Add Lettuce

There are several varieties of lettuce that are looking and tasting great and we’ve been having salads for lunch and dinner. If we got up early enough to eat breakfast we’d probably have a morning salad as well. We can’t give it away fast enough so we’re making complete meals of salads.

Here are two of our favorites.

The Cobb Salad

funny speaker vinny verelli

The Ingredients.

Sharp cheddar, pickled beets, tomatoes, avocado, chicken and very thick bacon. The hard boiled eggs were placed in the jar of pickled beets for an hour to give them the red color. Leave them in for a day and the red goes deeper into the egg whites. We used a Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing.

Just Add Lettuce
Cobb Salad_close_post

Smoked Salmon Salad

Funny Speaker and celebrity Chef Vinny Verelli

The Ingredients. 

Smoked Gouda, hard boiled egg, capers, yellow pepper, pimento from a jar, chopped onion and smoked salmon. We used Annie’s Shiitake Sesame Vinaigrette. All the ingredients can be adjusted to your tastes.

Just Add Lettuce.
SalmonSalad_post

National Mint Julep Day

Funny speaker and celebrity chef gives his recipe for the perfect Mint Julep.

The secret to making a great mint julep is in the simple syrup that is infused with fresh mint. There’s only so much flavor you can get out of muddling mint.  When you use crushed ice in a drink it can quickly water down the alcohol. By using 120 Proof Single Barrel Knob Creek this dilution is minimized. The bourbon flavor is still there with sufficient kick.

Although May 30 is officially National Mint Julep Day I usually have my first Julep of the Season on Derby Day. If I’m going out of town on derby day I’ll bring fresh mint with me.

The video below was posted originally on YouTube on July 10, 2012.  I found a jar of mint simple syrup in back of the refrigerator from the day this was shot. There was a funky deposit on the bottom but I was able to skim some clean syrup off the top and make a quick julep to celebrate the day.

DRINK RESPONSIBLY… or stay home and drink.

Want some fun facts about the Mint Julep? Check out this site, MintJulepDay.com

National Coq au Vin Day

Funny Speaker and Celebrity Chef Celebrates National Coq au Vin Day

Today, May 29, is National Coq au Vin Day.  This is not to be confused with Coq au Vin Day which is March 22nd.  This classic French dish is so good they gave it 2 days on the food calendar. There are a lot of different elements to this recipe but the good thing is you can do most of it separately and in advance. The dish, like a fine wine gets better with age, for a couple of days at least.

Coq au Vin literally means “Rooster with Wine,” but has become chicken with wine as it’s hard to find rooster in your local market and your neighbors will get pissed if they catch you poaching some of their roosters. The chicken and wine are braised in the oven or simmered slowly on the range.

When I was living in the NYC it was easy to get fresh chicken from a poultry store including rooster as well as beautiful pieces of pork fat. Although you can find pork fat here in the mountains it’s usually Salt Pork, and when they say salt in the South they’re not kidding. You’d have to scrub the salt off and then soak it. It’s just a lot easier to use the thickest bacon you can find. Besides I have learned to appreciate, no love, the Smokey goodness of bacon.

I like to use chicken thighs as they won’t dry out and are uniform in size making for good portion control. Serve the Coq au Vin over egg noodles One way to go gluten free is to use corn polenta.

For years I’ve used Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The recipe printed here is a hybrid. Part Julia but with traditional mirepoix and some of my own ideas thrown in. Click HERE to see the full recipe with notes from an earlier post.