Part I | Let’s play gestures!

Note: Because my stage at Narisawa was a new experience in many ways, I will split my post about it in two parts. First, the culture in the kitchen, and second, the food itself.

When I worked at Restaurant Daniel, Relais & Chateaux was celebrating its anniversary by sending chefs to prepare dinners at fellow R&C establishments, and Chef Emmanuel Renaut came to New York City to cook with Chef Daniel Boulud. He brought along his sous chef and pastry sous chef, who was Japanese, spoke fledgling French and no English.

The pastry sous chef struggled to communicate in our kitchen and was frantic trying to finish his prep for the special dinner. I did my best to assist because having done events myself, not knowing where things are in a kitchen is a major hurdle.

One morning, I came in early to help him. He asked me to make a sable dough and I skimmed his recipe. All of the ingredients were written in French, which was no problem, but there was one item on the list I couldn’t translate because it was in shorthand. I tapped him on the shoulder, pointed to the ingredient and had a puzzled look on my face. He thought about it and said in a heavy accent, “Yellow.” I worked the riddle out in my head and a light bulb went off. “Egg yolks!” He nodded his head enthusiastically. I thought, “Yes. This will be okay. We will make it work.”

This was a harbinger for my experience at Narisawa, which is considered the best restaurant in Asia and number eight in the world. There were many, many riddles to solve every day: culturally, linguistically and technically. Mental and physical exhaustion beckoned with the 16-hour days ahead of me, but I was determined to make the most out of my experience here.

Continue reading “Part I | Let’s play gestures!”

Language class

A Colombian-American chef converses with a Japanese chef in French, turns around to speak to a Spanish-Catalan chef in Spanish and then faces me to speak in English. The Spanish chef and another Japanese chef struggle to communicate in English and chuckle because they’ve forgotten they can both speak French better. Laissez-nous parlons en français, oui?

Continue reading “Language class”

Could it be?…Willy Wonka’s factory?

When I was instructed to arrive at 37 MacTaggart Road at 7am on my first day, I realized that I wasn’t going to 2am:dessertbar, Chef Janice Wong’s restaurant. Through her Instagram account, I knew that she had to be doing a lot of production for her speciality chocolate candies and catering items, but I assumed that it was all being done at the restaurant. A production facility? Was that where I was headed?

Several thoughts raced through my head. Was I going to be sitting on a production line, slapping stickers on boxes of chocolate? Was I going to be wearing one of those catch-all hairnets? Was I going to learn anything? Wtf, man.

Continue reading “Could it be?…Willy Wonka’s factory?”

I make potatoes

Out of the ten or so restaurants I have worked or staged in, only one (Per Se) had deck ovens and a proofing box for bread-making and it was technically not the restaurant’s, but Bouchon Bakery’s, which operated in the same space.

I did not see deck ovens or proofing boxes when I worked at Restaurant Daniel, though admittedly they did exist in the pastry kitchen before I arrived but had since been moved to the commissary Chef Daniel Boulud opened to bake the bread for all his New York City restaurants.

What is a deck oven and proofing box? Continue reading “I make potatoes”

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