Simplygourmetbistroandcatering’s Blog

Swan Melons to sheet pans
January 23, 2009, 2:58 am
Filed under: Why I am where I am

So I got the job and man did I need it. I had yet to really feel passionate about anything in life and I was doing the stereotypical falling into depression cause I was unsure of direction and I am 22 routine. Little did  I know what it meant to start at the bottom of the proverbial barrel in food service. Clean the grease trap, clean these 300 sheetpans, roll 3000 scallops and bacon were but a few of the “wonderful” jobs I spent the first full wedding season doing. I did however seem to spark a kindred spirit type relationship with one of the owners and he really took me under his wing. I was taken to the hardest, most demanding, ridiculously difficult catering events I had ever seen, and I wouldn’t take it back for a minute, it is why I am where I am. It is why I can cook an entire meal with chaffing sterno and tinfoil if I need to. It is why I know better than most what mis en place means and how important it is in a makeshift kitchen where anything could go wrong. It is also why I quickly became more than a dishwasher, first lesson, cutting the perfect swan melon.

It had to be over 100 degrees in the back of the kitchen truck and at the time, lets just say, I was a BIG boy when my boss put a honeydew melon in front of me and said “I need you to make this a swan and we have no extra fruit and the bartender just dropped four racks of champagne glasses and I have to deal with that so do your best.” WHAT!!!! Well luckily for me(with my delusions of grandeur) I had done alot of studying on how to garnish and become a better caterer so I at least had seen pictures of it being done. Sweat pouring, brain pounding I set the knife to make the first cut knowing that if I did a good enough job my days of being just a dish boy might get alot easier. I spent 45 minutes trying to shape the wings when my boss popped his head in and said “I need that on a tray and garnished in five minutes” so I went into overdrive on the easiest thing to screw up, the head. But I tell ya I tried my damndest to make it look beautiful and set that tray up with fanned strawberries and anything else I could find. I walked down to the banquet hall, nervous and proud.

Well needless to say it didn’t come out all that well, I think my bosses exact words were “I asked for a swan not a handicapped turkey” (With no laughter involved) I was devastated, but driven so I let his comment pass. I bought 28 Honeydews that week and you know what I got it down and actually improved upon their “way” of cutting swans. About a month later, the handicapped turkey boss pulled me aside and said “I knew you were the right choice.” Made it all worth while.

In our next installment how I completely botched my first wedding and the importance of sharpies in the kitchen.


I dropped a 1200 pound safe on my legs
January 17, 2009, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Why I am where I am

Ok, so about 16 years ago I was driving a truck for a living. I used to deliver heavy equipment and photocopiers, my idea of cuisine at this point was a box of cheez its and a two liter of coke or a gas station hot dog special. I had just started doing catering work on the side and really looked forward to leaving my day job to go scrub pots and pans and narrowly avoid being hit in the head by “said” pots and pans. Why did I do it, I sometimes got a chance to cook or at least set up a cold food display and I loved that aspect of it. If I got to design a fruit tray, it would be the most amazing fruit tray that crowd had ever seen. If I got to even help with the plating line, I would diligently make sure everything was in its place and that their wasn’t a smudge on any plate. I was an anal perfectionist, and everyone arund me let me know it.

So one day after working 10 hours at one job and then another 8 catering I went into work after downing as much iced coffee into my system as I could handle and began the day. Litlle did I know that that day would change my career path forever. As I began loading my delivery truck for the day I had the boss come up to me and ask me if I could deliver a safe to a home in Brookline, MA. “Of course”, I said (I was never one to say no, even to this day I mean I catered an entire Thai wedding, food and all) Well that eagerness was a blessing and a curse because as I went to lift the safe on the dolly, the young kid helping me underestimated either his own strength or mine and pushed as hard as he could. A combination of the inertia and force caused the dolly to rush towards me and cause me to fall over and have all that weight and pressure land squarely on my calves snapping both of my ankles out in the process. Well that’s just great, I had just gotten married(since divorced) and we were pregnant and the guy I was working for was one of the shadiest individuals I had ever known and I knew disability or workmans comp was gonna be out of the question.

Well I was right and he told me to take a week(unpaid) and then be back or he would have to fill the spot.

So a week later I hobbled into work and just felt abused and couldn’t seem to get motivated. But I needed the job and I kept plugging along waiting for that challenge or spark to get me going again. Nothing. Then I received a phone call from my boss at the catering company and he said he was desperate and he needed help feeding the Shriners, a plated Roast Beef dinner for 3,000 people. Again, “Of course.” What i walked into that day was one of the most intense experiences of my entire life. Four plating lines, 25 kitchen staff, 35 waitstaff, 12 coolers of mashed potato, four coffin chests of ice cream balls and more. And despite the fact that I was scared shitless and completely overwhelmed I forgot about the pain and just went to town. I felt great, reinvigorated, alive!!! The next morning I woke up to go to my regular job and just drove right past and went directly to the catering company and begged for a job, any job and I got it, starting position, dishwasher. And I felt great!!!

Next Chapter: Dishes to garnish to more dishes….or how I learned how to make swan melons with dish pan hands

The Personal side of Simply Gourmet
January 16, 2009, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Why I am where I am

Wedding Table SettingSeeing as I am struggling with the whole wordpress pages thing. (Can you treat all the pages as separate entities like with different entries and stuff, if so I have no idea how to do that.) I will just begin telling my story.

I guess if you asked me what I really wanted out of life I would describe to you exactly the setup I have now(professionally anyways) I want to be Luke from The Gilmore Girls, always have and if there was such a place as Stars Hollow, that is where I would live. There is nothing more important to me when building culinary relationships with people than building personal ones as well. I am never happier than when someone tries my food and makes sure to give me a handshake and ask me my name before they leave. I have catered many a wedding in my time (think 1000’s, not hundreds) and I have become lifelong friends with alot of my brides, another very satisfying feeling. So what is wrong you ask? Well if I had to sum it up in one sentence, “I am on the wrong coast!!!!” I have spent some time in California and I tell you places like I have are a dime a dozen, fresh food, personable service, attention given to every customer are the norm. Unfortunately for me (from what I have seen so far anyways) the East Coast, especially the northeastern part is not all that friendly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have lived here all my life and I can understand why there is such a difference. Weather, economy, politics, they all play into it, but dammit people “Can’t we all just get along?” I have lived through the blizzards, and the wait a minute weather, the dukakis’s, the big dig, the fickle nature of the sports fans, the planes leaving from Logan and everything in between, but I truly believe that it is not too late to come together a little. Naturally I felt cuisine was a great way to bridge the gap, I mean who doesn’t love Nutella or a great cheeseburger. When I cater a wedding you can tell if the people like each other or not and then once they sit down and eat , it is like they are forced into discussion and interaction with food as the centerpiece. I want to provide an atmosphere and cuisine that is conducive to interaction and family and the desire to be better human beings. It isn’t too much to ask is it?


Coming Soon….. How I went from dropping a 1200 pound safe on my leg to being a full service Banquet Chef and beyond!!!!!