Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Trash Talkin' Tallahassee

I am a new chef looking for a job.

I graduated with honors from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy.

I have worked as a personal chef in Paris, the undisputed center of the gastronomical universe.

I have read Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste twice, even though it hurt.

And I am looking for a job in Tallahassee, Florida.

I have a friend who graduated a few months before me. He is working for Chef Gordon Ramsey (most of you might know him from his uber-dramatic FOX show Hell's Kitchen) in London on the line at one of Ramsey's most sought-after dining concepts.

I have another friend who graduated at the same time as I did who is now working in the catering division of the Four Seasons Chicago, recently named the Best Hotel Experience by some swanky and reputable source.

And I am looking for a job in Tallahassee, Florida.

The past two days have been full of resume passing. Perhaps it would have been easier to throw my resume at people in say, New York, Napa Valley, or even Boston or Orlando (Chefs at Disney get a $1,000 bonus just for staying for a month). But in Tallahassee, I had nine possible employers. Nine. And every single executive chef or sous chef that I talked to in the past 48 hours had the exact same thing to say. "The Le Cordon Bleu? What in God's name are you doing in Tallahassee?"

I have to admit, Tallahassee isn't the chicest or most erudite of towns. Two things dominate the social landscape. Politics and college life. This fact, in turn, does two things: it limits the kinds of restaurants that succeed in the town (the kind politicians eat at, and the kind college kids eat at), and it limits the job field significantly. A town with over 60,000 college-age students willing to work for a pittance in the kitchen is much like the problem I would have had by staying in Chicago and working in a kitchen. Only the problem in Chicago kitchens is that if you don't speak Spanish, it doesn't matter if you ARE Escoffier; you're not getting a job.

It's true, Tallahassee wasn't my first choice, but the possibility of my attending FSU for graduate school and my ability to live here for almost nothing while I pay off my college loans was too tempting to pass up. Plus, I do believe that there is room in Tallahassee for a young, 22-year old, blonde American girl to show these down-home executive chefs that she actually can make some kind of an impact in this gastronomically-challenged town.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Day 1: The Snacking Challenge

Breakfast: Veggie omelet (1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, TONS of veggies), one peice of whole grain toast, optional coffee/tea (no milk, no sugar)

Lunch: A bowl of minestrone (2 cups), green salad tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, a peice of whole grain toast.

Snack: Nonfat cappucino/latte (optional Splenda), non-fat flavored yogurt (less than 120 calories/serving)

Dinner: Baked salmon on a bed of arugula, 1 cup steamed broccoli

Okay, day 1. I wasn't hungry all that much. But I have to admit, I was jonesing for something sweet all day. The nonfat Yoplait "Boston Creme Pie" flavored yogurt just didn't do it for me. Plus, I was decieved. Boston Creme pies have chocolate. The yogurt didn't have chocolate. A day without chocolate is like...well, that's another blog entry.

I did cheat a little bit with dinner. Oh, I had the salmon and the broccoli and the arugula (even though my family was eating beautiful fluffy rice), but the salmon was blackened, and the broccoli was sauteed in a little olive oil with garlic, soy sauce, and orange zest. Come on, I'm a chef, give me a break.

The hardest thing was not the drinking 8 glasses of water, and it wasn't the sticking to the menu at mealtimes. It was the snacking. During cooking, I have to taste everything. I also found myself opening the refrigerator at odd points during the day, mindlessly almost-reaching for the tub of ice cream or a peice of homemade peanut brittle. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier.

So there we go. I'm actually kind of hungry right now, but I'm going to try desperately not to eat. If I have to eat, I'll have a carrot.

That last sentence made me remember why I don't "DIET."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving Detox Diet - Disaster or Doable?

I'm about to disclose my actual weight. But first, I'll tell you what it's taken to get there.

I weighed this much during my senior year of high school. After high school, my weight has been up and down, but never exceeding 180 pounds. I have been (during this time between high school and now)obsessed with calories, a daily jogger, a Weight Watchers member, a yogi, a Pilates practicioner, and just about every other kind of healthy-method dieter. Oh, and in France, I lived on the 6th floor of a building with no elevator.

But this Thanksgiving, I kind of overdid it. Okay, I really overdid it. I can feel my waistline stretching, despite my efforts at healthy eating (read: I've been eating one slice of pizza or one chocolate-chip cookie instead of two ). So on Yahoo!.com tonight there is a blog posting for a 72-hour Thanksgiving detox diet.

I have to admit, as well, that I've never followed a "diet" in my life. Healthy eating and education and exercise has always been my way to lose weight. So this is going to be the first time that I've ever actuall followed a prescribed meal plan.

Starting tomorrow, I'll post about my results. It should be interesting.

Oh, I forgot to mention how much I weigh. I'll put it in code. 200-45.5= my weight in lbs.

Yay for me. Wish me luck. The chef is dieting.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Challah back, ya'll.

For the past week, I have been physically unable to stop baking. Every new day sees a pie, a loaf of specialty bread, cookies, pastry, or some other variation on something else that has to be put in the oven for a specific amount of time.

Perhaps it's because I need to forget. I need to forget Paris. I need to forget how many times my heart has been broken. My time in the kitchen has turned into entire days. Sometimes I feel as though the only place I really belong is in the kitchen. I understand the kitchen, and it understands me. Even if i don't eat what I make (I usually don't), it's my time to meditate. It's like a cathedral. I don't speak. I don't sing. I don't dance. I just listen. I listen to the sizzle on the stove. I listen to my Kitchen-Aid whirring as the dough hook pulls the mound of flour, eggs, salt, and yeast into something that will make my house smell more and more like a home.

I usually cook all the time when I come home from one of my adventures. But baking, that's a different animal. When you bake, you have to hyperfocus. It is impossible for one to think about anything else when they are baking. You have to count the ounces of flour in the bread. you have to count the minutes you knead it. Sometimes you have to count the revolutions the bread makes around the mixer. You have to count the hours for rising and pay strict attention to the temperature where it is rising. Baking requires - no, demands - your full attention. Perhaps that's why I have been baking nonstop since I came home from Paris a week ago. I cannot think about Paris while I am baking.

And yet, all I think about while I'm baking is Paris. I think about the way the boulangerie smells at 4am under my 6th floor window. I think about the unhappy woman behind the counter at Boulangerie Caulaincourt with her automatic "Madame, bonjour!" before she takes my order for a demi-baguette, a croissant, and a pain au chocolat. I think about eating sugar covered profiteroles with Guillaume under a clear August sky, dipping them into my chocolat chaud. I have Proustian memories of Parisian boulangeries.

I have found myself making challah a few times this week. Challah is the braided Jewish bread traditionally found on Shabbat supper tables. I have to admit, I have been to more than a few Shabbat dinners in my short life, and the challah has always held a certain symbolism for me. The challah is only cut after the blessing is said (Baruch, ata adoni...etc, I won't pretend to know the whole thing). It is a kind of brioche without all the sugar. Instead, a tablespoon of honey is added. Of course, I speak of a Jewish bread in French terms. How very ethnocentric of me. They are beautiful though, and the dough is soft enough to sleep on and smells yeasty and fresh when it rises.

I also made a cinnamon raisin loaf this morning. I don't know what it looks like on the inside, or what it tastes like, for that matter. I should have made two. The cinnamon raisin bread and one of the challahs are gifts for friends tomorrow. I hope they eat them with Thanksgiving dinner. I hope they are worthy of sitting next to a stuffed turkey and a happy family around the table.