I always thought that being a chef would be exciting. You get to travel, meet lots of great people, and immerse yourself into an almost cult-like driven profession where everyone has the same passion. Your passion. The passion for food and to create food. I mean, think about the possibilities! Bland starchy vegetables with ordinary proteins will now dazzle people. Why? Because of your skill! Your obsessive almost insane drive to make the ordinary extraordinary. You took the time to learn how to make magic when others could not.
I used to read cookbooks before bed the way other (more normal) people read’ mysteries or cheap thrillers. I used to write menus with my friends just for fun. ‘If I gave you this menu, what would you order’? Cooking was a way of life, and other people like me had dreams of running the best kitchens in the country, with other like-minded insane and obsessive people.
And then you get there… I rose through the kitchen ranks very quickly and became an executive chef at an early age. I choose what went on to my menu, I bought the ingredients, I trained my staff, and I cooked my food. And what a shock it was!
I will back up a second here and explain something very candidly. Professional cooking is NOT an easy job. It is downright hard, and part of young cook’s education should entail the real – life reality of the day – to – operation. Bottom line is we need to make a living. Cooking- it becomes hospitality, and the fundamental principal of hospitality is taking care of other people. If you want my perfect chicken dish to not have butter, I better give it to you that way, even though it may break my heart. If you like filet mignon so well done it could double as a hockey puck, I better give it to you that way. Why? Because our customers pay our bills. Our customers get what they want, or they will go somewhere else, and I might as well shut my doors.
Chefs work long hours under high pressure with people who don’t like them, don’t speak English, aren’t formally educated and will fight you every step of the way. Do we fire these people and find others? Yes. Who replaces them? Well, you can figure it out. Chefs have to remain calm is the barrage of the nightly service crush. Chefs need to lead other people. They earn respect, and deserve respect.
Being a chef is a tough job and that incredible passion for food, the love to create, the ‘calling’ can easily get lost somewhere. Get lost can equal burnout syndrome. Most of us have gone through this, and only a few come back to fight another day.
I stopped being a professional chef by trade, but as I mentioned, I am still VERY connected to the job. Tonight was an exceptionally busy night in our hotel, and I watched our PM chef leading the guys through a very challenging service. Yelling, ordering, 500 degree convection ovens next to pots of boiling water next to high BTU burners loaded with saute pans. Dish washers running behind everyone, servers madly racing back in forth, and in the center, the control point: the expediter (the man who works the ‘pass’, ie the chef of the kitchen, the controller. Semi-controlled chaos. My hat goes off to those people who are taking a full military-like assault. I wanted nothing to do with it. A non-stop barrage of orders, all different, all ‘special’ and all critical to our existence.
My passion for food has returned 100%. It was never gone, but simply overshadowed by other challenges. I LOVE to cook. I love thinking about cooking, ingredients, making the perfect roast, perfect grill… Nothing makes me happier. Maybe I had to go through hell to realize it… maybe I shouldn’t mix my passions and professions..
Standing Bone-In Rib Roast
Prep time: 5 minutes
Inactive cook time: 24 hours
Cook time: 4 hours
Yield: 5-6 servings
1 6-8 lb bone-in rib roast
extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
10 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 strips bacon
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
Grind the bacon in a food processor with the thyme. Rub the entire roast with the olive oil, garlic, bacon/thyme mix and pepper. Cover tightly and let sit over night.
Heat an oven to 475 degrees. Liberally salt the roast. Line a roasting pan with foil and either a roasting rack or wire rack (to keep the roast elevated). Put the roast in the oven and cook until slightly browned and crispy. Do not open oven!! Turn oven down to 200 degrees and cook for about 4 hours. Check temp. Internal temp should be between 115-120 (med-rare in the very center). Let roast rest. Turn oven back up to 475 and return the roast to the oven to re-heat and re-crisp.
Let roast rest for 5 minutes, and carve. Serve immediately.
The appropriate sides and sauces for this are limitless. Be creative. Remember, this is your chance to dazzle people!