It’s been a wild ride since graduating from the CIA, y’all–from Relais & Chateaux, to my own catering biz, to organic Alzheimer patients. But I ate some good food, cooked some good food, drank some good wine, and got my ass engaged. Also, I got my ass kicked by a bunch of 13 year old girls.
The world is a messed up place. To follow our passions and to follow our love, we make ridiculous sacrifices we shouldn’t have to make. Why does cooking school, the greatest freaking thing in the world to a wanna be chef-geek like me, have to cost so much money? Now I’m in debt up to my eyeballs, and have just come out of eggs-and-toast-every-snack-and-every-meal-of-the-day phase after 10 months of soul searching and cooking like a fiend. My love for cooking has lead me out of the woods, my home, onto a freeway with road signs reading “There Will Be No Dreams with No Cash,” “Shitty Work, Great Pay,” “Great Work, Shitty Pay,” “PB and J for you again tonight, Sucka.”
Well here’s what I say to you world. I am not giving up. My catering biz will blow up eventually. And the work I have chosen as my bread and butter is somewhat rugged right now, but it will blossom into a pretty little frickin tulip that smells awesome to my fans and like salted nuts to the critics. And I will write some great stuff in my day. And I will eat some awesome food and drink some sick wine despite the cost (I’ve found much of the best is not too expensive anyway).
Anywho…when I graduated last July, I went back to the Berkshires, MA and started working FOH(that’s “front of house” for you non food biz peeps) at a Relais and Chateaux. A strange move for a cook at heart, but a good one nonetheless. Professor Weiss, master of wine, hooked me up with the gig and I took it gratefully, being recently inspired by wine, and by him. Weiss is a hungarian jew who came up from nothing all because of that big ‘ol keen shnoz of his. He’s also a buddhist, a real hard ass in the classroom, and a total food lover as well. He also had me do some light editing of a new edition of his book WineWise.
I got formal service into my bones, and worked on wine selling and presentation. I also lost those sunglasses on the chair by the fan. Dang. Mostly, I just pissed off the wine somms by spending too much time at the tables, getting lost in the wine cellars, and hanging out in the kitchen too much. But the guests liked me, and sometimes I knew what I was talking about, so they had to appreciate having me around at least a smidgin. ;).
This place was old school. I mean Ooooold school. It was an old mansion nestled within the curves and bumps of the Berkshire hills, built in 1907 with half its materials imported from England and Ireland. The rooms inside were mostly dark and vast, lit by candelabras at night, stuffed with priceless antiques, meticulously kept with enormous bouquets of flowers bursting from thousand dollar French vases. The grounds were perfectly manicured, befitting of the perfectly manicured people strolling about with crystal water glasses, playing tennis, lounging in the pool, playing croquet, drinking Sonoma bubbles, puffing fat cigars, listening to the pianist on his grand piano while they sipped Sauternes. If not for the Jaguars, Maseratis, iPhones, and John Williams, it would have completely felt like living, and working, in the 20’s. No MACROS. No Pens, even! Straight up pencil written dupes, homey! Servers wore white jackets and black bow ties, lady servers wore starched french maid get-ups. Guests had to dress formally, suit jackets and ties provided to over linened yuppies if need be.
And the wine…oh my…the wine…
I wasn’t allowed to even have my phone with me at work, let alone take pictures of wine bottles, so bear with me here. I drank the most insane wine! Burgundy for Cote du Beaune that tasted old and alive at the same time. An old vine Zin from 1976 that was rich, fruity and smooth. West Coast bubbles: bready as f*^k! Indescribable Bordeauxs too complicated to understand until half a bottle in. It was awesome! Oh…and I met this potty mouthed guy. He was a cook:
Throughout the course of a 6 hour stagé, he taught me how to make scallop boudin, rabbit rillettes, and how to be obsessive about mise en place, all with a bonus of an in depth tutorial on how to pierce a penis. Thanks, bro!
Then all of a sudden I was in Vermont–self-employed and making giant batches of farm soup. WTF?! More to come…