Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I received my latest knife last week. It's a beauty. Made by Mr. Itou in Japan. It has an eight inch Damascus blade with a combination of hippo ivory, turquoise and marble for the handle. This will be another "don't use" knife. I now have three. I appreciate well crafted things. Such as knives, guitars and pistols. Some things are good just to look at and some things are meant to be used. The rest of my knives are meant to be used, and they do get used.

Most experienced cooks develop a bond with their favorite knife. As I open my knife kit I get a little bit of a rush of excitement. Which knife am I going to use for this task? The task at hand usually will dictate which knife I use. If it's for general purpose I most often grab my Hattori KD series santaku. It's an expensive knife that I didn't intend to use so much but it has become an every day knife. It is well balanced, always sharp, and very comfortable in my hand. A pleasure to use.

I've gotten into the habit of keeping all of my knives sharp. Every time I grab one I don't have to check for sharpness, I know they will ALL be sharp. No one touches my knives but me. I clean them, sharpen them and take them with me where ever I'm working. I can't stand it when I find a kitchen knife by the dishwasher waiting to be washed. It's a rule in my kitchen that you take care of your knives. It helps create that bond between chef and knife. That relationship is important. I will never develop a bond with my "don't use" knives because I will never use them, clean them or sharpen them. I would be more upset if I lost an inexpensive knife I've bonded with than the very expensive "look at" knives I never use. Some day I'll have to break down and use my pretty boys just to get to know them and make them feel comfortable in the stable. It must be like being a place kicker in football. Looking all pretty in a clean uniform but really only half a football player because you don't mix it up and get dirty.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Farm Fresh Fish

On the way into work on Saturday I heard part of GW's radio address about the environment. I don't want to get into politics here but I found it odd he decided to make a stand on fish. Which made me think about the subject. The over fishing of some/many species of wild fish/seafood. There is no doubt it's a problem that needs to be addressed. Coincidentally I got a call the same day from a woman asking me about the salmon we serve at one of our restaurants. She asked if it was wild or farmed. When I told her it was farm-fresh salmon you could tell she was disappointed. There lies the problem. More and more chefs are going green, natural and slow. So what do we do? Sell over harvested wild fish or sustainable farmed fish? Evidently it's been beaten into the heads of customers that wild fish is a bad thing. I beg to differ. You just have to know your source. I also question the quality of some wild fish as well. Wild is not always better.

There is some farmed fish I will not sell and there is some wild fish I will not sell. The customer HAS to trust the chef to make the right decisions. That's the bottom line. I don't sell farmed tiger shrimp, tilapia, catfish, baramundi or "grouper". I will sell a product from a tried and true supplier that uses proper aquaculture techniques and feed and I don't trust most third world countries. I have a relationship with my vendors and we have an understanding about source. They know what is acceptable to me and I hope customers can have a relationship with their chef and have an understanding what is acceptable to them.

GW talked specifically about wild striped bass. It is already regulated and I hope it doesn't go away completely. I serve it often and wasn't aware of any shortage. One way to tell is by price. Has anyone priced real sea bass lately? Despite the chef boycott it still wholesales close to $20.00 per pound. I haven't served it in years. Wild striped bass is usually around ten and has specific seasons, similar to halibut and some species of wild salmon. The numbers of those fish harvested is watched closely. As a result much gets frozen and served months later. I was around when we almost fished redfish into extinction and now sea bass and grouper.

The bottom line is I prefer a farm fresh fish from a respected source over frozen or endangered species. I feel it's better for my customer and the environment.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


It's over! What a day. Started at 8:00 am, setting up AV equipment for the video presentation and microphone. Actually got in the kitchen at 9:00. I had started the consomme the night before and left it simmering over night. Had to deal with that right away. I also realized I should have scheduled another cook. I almost forgot about the luncheon for 29. I called Rey and he was nice enough to come in. He'll be working a double as a result. I was never so happy to see him. As it turned out we had a very busy lunch. (wouldn't you know it) There was never a moment during the day that I wasn't working on a task, The problem with wine dinners is that most of the prep is technical and I don't have skilled enough staff to do it properly so as a result I must do it myself. All in all the wine dinner went great. I think our guests enjoyed it and had a great time. I'll talk about each course below and offer my thoughts.

New Zealand Abalone Ceviche:
What a pain in the ass. First you have to clean the abalone then slice it super thin because it is tough. Then we julienned it. Marinated it with fresh lime juice along with mango, cilantro and jalapeno. I was happy with the dish over all and made for a great presentation served on the half shell. I felt the fume blanc was a perfect match.

Lobster Dumplings in Consomme:
Another pain in the ass. Rolled the dough and hand made 70 of the ravioli-like dumplings. I was very happy with the veal/chicken consomme. No short cuts with it. Made it the old fashioned way. If you've ever made one you know what I mean.

Grilled Hearts of Romaine:
The boys in the kitchen were like "you're going to do what with the lettuce?" This will be on the menu soon. I love it.

Ballantine of Free Range Chicken:
Prepped this the day before. Very technical process of de-boning the chicken, stuffing and tying it. I reduced the consomme to make a demi to serve with it. Other than being a little over cooked it turned out great. My favorite dish of the evening. It's very difficult timing roasts because you're never really sure when it's going to be served. We had a little delay due to the wine rep getting stuck in Chicago traffic. Adding merlot to the pearl onions was a last minute thought. Seems obvious now.

North American Elk:
Lingonberry demi is also a no-brainer. I was mentored by a Scandinavian chef who taught me about game and lingonberries, It paired very well with the cab. Also tricky timing this one. The last thing I wanted was over cooked elk. I thought it was perfect. I baby sat those all night.

Chocolate Terrine:
Very simple but effective. It came out pretty good. The dried cherries went well with the Humboldt fog goat cheese, the chocolate and the wine. The Zinfandel was my favorite red of the evening and was perfect with the dish.

My wife Patrice worked extremely hard as always and gets little credit. She is my rock and the glue that keeps this place together. She deserves a standing ovation.

I'd like to thank Dave Kouzmanoff from Grgich Hills. He did a great job and drove to Indianapols to get the Zinfandel.

Probably the happiest I've been after a wine dinner.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Wine Dinner Tonight!

Being short handed lately has not made this wine dinner any easier. I should have ordered some things sooner so I could get an earlier start. I have a luncheon today for 29 and I have to do payroll. This and preparing for 70 or so six course dinners.
I wasn't able to post the menu but I will be reflecting on it when I have a chance this weekend. It's "sweetest day" Saturday and I have a wedding for 60. It's going to a very busy three days.

I made a last minute change to the menu. I managed to get my hands on some abalone for the first course. It will be the most expensive course of the evening for me to serve.

Gots to get to work. Hope to see some of you tonight! (That's if anyone actually reads this)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I find things go in spurts in my world. I haven't posted lately because I'm just to damn tired and need the extra down time to recoup or sleep. Once again a full time cook no showed on me. No show, no call. It coincides with training a new bar manager, increased baking duties due to my pastry "chef" quiting and giving a very short notice and my PM sous chef walking out in the middle of his shift a couple weeks ago. This on top of a record breaking week at one restaurant and a busy week at the other. It has been consistent 12 hour days. We are fortunate to have an apartment in the city to use during times like these. Lately we've been "home" only two days a week.

Word is a new restaurant opening in town hired my daytime cook and told him he would have to start immediately or he wouldn't get the job. (knowing he had a full time job) What pisses me off is I took him on as an apprentice and then hired him after his apprenticeship was over.

What goes around comes around. I predict that restaurant will be gone in less than a year. The only thing they have going for them is they are serving Italian food. No one in this town knows what good Italian food is. Not that they will serve any.

I also am preparing for the wine dinner. I will post the menu when I get the chance. I picked up the elk loin yesterday in West Bend and my free range chickens in Allenton. I'm excited about serving Wisconsin, small farm products.

Speaking of which, I will be attending the restaurant-farmer connection conference on Monday. Hooking up small local farmers with chefs. It should prove interesting. I would like to supplement our large organic garden with local products.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


We'll be tasting the wine today that will be served at the wine dinner on the 19th. I'll be making notes and start composing the menu immediately after. I'll do a little research regarding product availability and hopefully have a menu by the end of the weekend. I'll post it on this blog and I'll send out an email to my customer list.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Jammin Update

Last year I said I wouldn't do Jammin for the Arts again. I should have listened to myself. Next year we will just simply donate $$$$$$. It IS a worthy cause.

Very poor turn out and VERY poorly run and organized. Every musician I talked to complained and some said it would be their last. We actually declined to provide a venue this year and planned to just donate a percentage of the night's sales until we saw we were listed on the poster as having music. Rather than look bad (no fault of ours) we jumped through a bunch of hoops to host the musicians in the dining room. We eliminated five tables to do so. All would have been fine if there were people to enjoy the musicians who graciously donated their time. Changes are sorely needed. What a shame.