Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bringing Home Some Bacon!

Last week I printed out fifteen resumes and mapped out my drop off route. After scouring Yelp and UrbanSpoon, I checked out menus from my favorite restaurants in town. Rochester is more foodie than we realized. I decided to just go out on a limb and drop off my resume at the neatest sounding places around. Chris reminded me that not every place I had on my list would be hiring, and I nodded- but what did I have to lose? I picked out a skirt, pulled a blouse over my head, and buckled my shoes. Ready, set, go!

Chris started the day off as my chauffeur but after four locations, duty called and he had to scurry off to work. I traveled to the Italian eatery, the hotel steakhouse, the Mediterranean bistro, the fun bar, the fancy canteen, the new southern saloon in the neighborhood...among numerous others. After my whirlwind of driving around in the good old Volvo, I could not wait to take the shoes off of my blistered feet and sink into the couch. 

After looking back on my day, I thought about how I had encountered some chefs who were very unimpressed with the CIA stamp on my resume. I think it's very interesting to see how bitterness can be extracted from chefs who made it where they are with out the expense of the Culinary Institute of America. It's also a shame that a lot of CIA graduates step into a position believing that they know everything, which in turn makes employers bitter about grads from my school. I guess my opinion on the matter is that I will never stop learning and that's what I always play up; I love to learn. And I think that at the Culinary Institute of America, they train you to want to learn. Each class is three weeks long, and so after three weeks I am chomping at the bit to do something new! I think that I would appreciate that if I were looking to employ someone. As far as the educational background, I know that it is very real that people can make it without going to school. I have witnessed it and I also know that some of the world's greatest chefs learned through experience. But I think that an employer should appreciate that I have spent my time and lots of money to jump start my career. 

The next day, while roaming the makeshift aisles of the resale store, I got a phone call for an interview! I was not expecting it, and as I shuffled between the pre-owned doors I discussed a few of my past employers and what kind of job I was looking for. What kind of job was I looking for? Hmmm. It's difficult to tell a potential executive what you are looking for in a job if you are not completely sure yourself. I can tell you what I don't want to do! I do not want to be stuck in a dead end job with no possible movement. I don't want to be stuck on garde manger for a whole summer making the same dishes on repeat- (been there done that). I do not want to go through the motions and become a robot. I'm not sure I want to be on the line (although I think that if I got into it, I would be pretty good at it). I would love to be your butcher! But apparently not a lot of people do that anymore. I would also be interesting in an evening server job. I have been interested in front of the house throughout my schooling and I think that because I grew up in my parents restaurant and I was a hostess at age 5, it is natural to be in the dining room for me. Something that Chris and I had discussed was that when you have that CIA "stamp" I referred to on your resume, no one really considers the education that we get in the dining room. I would say that I was in two of the best service classes on campus and I learned so much about fine dining service. But compared to the number of kitchen classes we were enrolled in, three classes is a small percentage. Still I think that combined Chris and I have better service skills that probably half of the servers we have had when we are dining out. 

 Ends up that I set up a early morning stage at the Italian place and an afternoon interview with the steakhouse at the Hilton hotel. For those of you who don't know, a stage is basically a kitchen interview. It is a time that is set up for the prospective employer to see a few of the skill sets you have, as well as giving the employee a chance to get a feel for the kitchen and see if it is fit for them. After putting my classic black pants and white t-shirt on, I set out on an early morning venture to Two Vine restaurant.

 I started off by mixing up some focaccia dough and then rolling out a dozen balls of perfectly round pizza dough. The chef then demonstrated how to grill them off and where to store them. I think I impressed him because he suggested starting with one grill- two pizzas at a time, and I was quickly able to take on four at a time. He then asked me to blanch off some freshly cut french fries and micro-dice shallots at the same time. I will admit, I was not great at the shallots. First off, anything related to an onion makes me cry like a baby, and if you have ever cut one of these vegetables, you know that it's a sting not just a tear. But my eyes are the most sensitive, honestly I was cutting chives the other day and the moisture swelled up around my lashes. And I was not that fast at cutting them either, I really wasn't. I know it's no excuse, but I have very small hands and so my hands have not been completely trained to move my curved fingers parallel to the the knife as it glides away. After I finished the shallots I confessed  that I probably had not cut a whole quart of shallots since my first class at school, and I apologized for my delayed technique. He told me not to worry and hastened me on with other prep tasks. At the end of my kitchen tour, the executive chef welcomed me onto their prep team and asked when I could start. I eagerly said that my day one could be the next day. 

Feeling a boost of confidence I rushed home for a quick lunch and rehashed the mornings events to Christopher. I think he was proud of me. Although have worked with a caterer since I graduated, I have not been in a kitchen every day of the week besides my own since graduation, and I think he knew I could do it, but I was a little weary. Then I changed out of my whites and into a button down for my next interview. In my mind I knew that I would be unavailable mornings, and that I was looking for a flexible part time evening job. The chef at the the steakhouse was looking to hire a day time garde manger cook; two things that I did not want. So it was easy to say that I was unavailable but if anything else came up, to keep my contact information. I think it was better, not to be so overwhelmed by two new jobs in one day. My mom had mentioned that it would be great to balance two part time jobs, but three is a bit like juggling-which I do not know how to do by the way. 

The next day I got my schedule at 2 Vine, and I starting getting in a groove of a routine. I work the morning prep shift, eight to noon, and I get to do something different every day, although shallots are on my list every single day. And I am happy to report that today I made it through my quart of shallots without a single tear! So many people have advice- put the onion in the freezer, stick your head in the freezer, stand by a flame, put a toothpick in between your teeth, chew gum...but really, there isn't really a trick that has worked for me. I just used a sharp knife and opened the door for a breeze, that's all I had to do. Lucky for me, my job entails a lot of meat fabrication which is really where my passion is. The day that I got to work with pork, beef, and chicken, I could not keep from grinning. 

The main challenge I have had to face is the schedule. I felt deflated because the person I enjoy spending the most time around, had the exact opposite schedule as I did. And although I was so excited to be back in the kitchen on a daily basis, I was so sad to leave so early and made sure I pried my eyes open until 11:30 at night so that I could spend even twenty minutes with my love. And I will say that it puts a lot of stress on both people. The first few nights of the week I had trouble getting to sleep because I stayed up so late and pschyed myself out because I had to get up early. The worst is when you set your alarm (or in my anxious case- check for the second time that your alarm is set) and it says, your alarm will sound in six hours. I know I am spoiled and have gotten used to a solid eight hours, which is probably not normal for someone my age. There were definitely times in school when I went with four hours sleep. I feel old. Anyway, back to business. I was really struggling with the schedule. One night, Chris came home and asked me all about my day. As I was rambling on about making pizza dough and deboning pork butt, I came to a pause. "So I start lunch on Mondays" OH MY GOODNESS! The entire time I had been chattering about meat, and he had been smirking because he had the best secret! We get to be normal now! I no longer have to make dinner for one! I cannot really use enough exclamation marks to show you how exciting this is. When Chris and I first started dating, we were both AM students- finished with our days at 5pm and we got to enjoy the weather and many adventures. For the past year, we have both been on the PM schedule which is really horrible because how can you have a really great adventure when you know that you have to go to work at 3pm. So now, we are both on a morning schedule, and we are adjusting. It's a little weird. I think Chris tried to draw the line yesterday when I said- "Hey I think dancing with the stars is one at eight." He did not want to be that couple, although he still enjoyed a few moments of the show with me.

So now I really am a home maker, "Dinner on the table when you get home love!" Haha not quite, but everything seems to be falling right into place. Just in time for autumn. We are finally settled into Rochester and our apartment, and we are starting to feel like quite the family. :)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Preservation Station

I am smack dab in the middle of canning season. I have finished two projects and I am ready to start the next. Applesauce was my first canning attempt. Actually I did can one jar of pickles, but I do not like pickles so how am I to know if they are good or not? Would anyone like a jar of pickles? No guarantee they are great, but I will pay for postage!

 Back to applesauce. Kind of:
 I was able to gather some fresh from the tree apples when I was visiting a very good friend a couple of weeks ago. We actually had a fun filled day packed with apple gathering and cider pressing.. THE MOST FUN. If you have an apple tree and want to invest in something wonderful, a cider press is the thing to go for. I was told that this press was small compared to some of the bigger presses farmers have, but it seemed like just the perfect size. It's amazing how the process works. You insert the whole apple (or half if they are big) into the grinder and  turn the handle to crush the apples. After crushing a batch of apples you then turn the screw which presses a board down and releases the juices through a mesh sheet and into a bucket you have places under the spout. After this step, you can run the cider through cheese cloth to catch any of the remaining sediment and then drink away! Fresh cider will last a little over a week but not much longer because it is unpasteurized. Hands down the best cider I have ever tasted.

So I was able to collect some extra apples to make my apple sauce. I then read up on making apple sauce and canning apple sauce etcetera but really went with my own recipe based off of a few recipes. But I made sure to include lemon juice because acid is important when it comes to canning. After creating my mixture I warmed my jars and started the process. I crossed my fingers and hoped that I would hear the joyful sound of that "ping!" when the top seals onto the glass jar and everything you have done is proven to be successful! one ping. two pings...........and three- a sigh of relief. Mission one- a success. 

The next was a tomato sauce. Now I researched tomato sauce and found a few interesting facts. Although we assume that tomatoes are high in acid, they do not have enough acid to stay good in a jar without the addition of citric acid. Tomatoes used to be of high acidity, but because humans are now desiring a sweeter taste, tomatoes are being bred for less acid and a higher sugar content. Interesting. When reading about the sauce itself, sources claimed that most people make the mistake of just using tomatoes in their pasta sauces. At school, we of course learned to start with onions, carrots, and celery like any good sauce so that is how I start all of my recipes. But this specific source claimed that pureeing carrots into the sauce make it sweeter. Instead of carrots, I decided that since I had some summer squash and zucchini laying around from the farmer's market that I would incorporate that into my sauce. It worked out and got the Christopher stamp of approval! Make sure to add lemon juice to the bottom of your jar before filling it with sauce in order to properly preserve the tomatoes. 

My next mission will be a salsa canning. I have collected the last tomatoes before the weather turns, and will be formulating my own recipe. But the coolest part of all of this canning is that I get to decorate the jars after I am finished. I think I made the years best purchase at a resale store when I bought a ziplock bag full of random lace ribbons for seventy five cents. It's grand. I'll keep you up to date on the jar to jar basics. Until next time. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Grass is Never Greener

Every girl who has straight hair wishes it were curly and every girl gifted with curly hair wishes it were straight.

So it's a little early to crack jokes, but my hair has been through some trauma lately. I am really treading on thin emotional ice by trying to make light of the situation for your enjoyment, but there is a possibility that some of my advice may be useful.

Long story short I was getting sick of growing my hair out. I was a couple of hours away from chopping it off myself when my knight in shining armor came home with a hair relaxer and a chocolate cream pie! I have researched natural relaxers and so I figured it was the same sort of thing. WRONG-O. After the treatment my hair was completely damaged. Dried out, stringy, frayed...think of all of your worst hair days and combine them with your best friends worst hair day...and that is what I had. I was mortified. What ever would I do? I have had bad dye jobs before and have neutralized the colors with another round of dye, but it did not look like there was anyway to help my completely deflated curls. My scalp ached and displayed red blotches.

Christopher felt horrible. He kept saying sorry and researching what we could do. We returned to the store and picked out a perm treatment. If it's flat now and I want my curls back, I would have to put them back, right? WRONG. After rushing around to collect all the needed perming rods, I called my mom. I felt as though I was over the fact that my  hair went wrong and I was on the way to a bigger and better curly girl head. She scolded me. Just as mom's do. Not the "you're grounded" kind (mind you I am an adult now) but the kind my parents were always best at "I am very disappointed in you". She explained to me that the worst thing I could do was put more chemicals in my hair. She warned me that my hair might fall out, my scalp may be damaged etcetera. She told me the only solution was to shave my head- immediately. I am not afraid of short, I am not even afraid of edgy shaved head hairstyles. But I don't think I could pull it off. Unfortunately I was in an accident when I was five years old and fractured my skull. As a result I have a scar from ear to ear which would be just in time for Halloween- the bride of Frankenstein. Ah! I can almost imagine. So I took a deep breath and decided to try and save my scalp.

I researched the undo-ing of a hair relaxer and all of the arrows pointed to shaving your head. "The only solution is no solution at all." The hair on my head has been chemically deconstructed and reconstructed to be straight and the only way to get my curls back would be to grow them back in. But I kept calm and decided to go natural. This was my plan in the first place and maybe since God made my hair curly and I should have stuck with the girls all along, I should only use ingredients that He created.

Below I have listed some of the helpful natural hair treatments that I have tried and the results I have had. I am far from being curly again, but my hair does look healthier. Moral of the story is, it is ALWAYS better to stay natural. And I am taking the pledge to stay as natural as possible. If you can eat it, then it is probably safe for your body.

1- Egg mask- Eggs contain balancing proteins (which is what my hair had lost) and will give your hair more volume and make it more manageable. You can mix the egg yolks with olive oil or honey or you can just apply the whole egg to your hair. One egg goes a long way, so mix and use one at a time. After this treatment my hair seemed to be a little more workable. This is a mask I will try again even if my hair returns to its natural state.

2- Avocado- I took the plunge and pureed some avocado. Avocado is one of my favorite vegetables. Not only because it is good when you eat it, but I always rub the pit on my hands because its natural moisture is so good for you. The internet said that avocado is very beneficial for both your face and your hair. Some people mix it with eggs but since I had already tried the egg thing, I went for the honey mixture. Honey is antibacterial, attracts moisture, and has a variety of healing properties. After mixing these ingredients, I massaged the goop all over my head and into my hair. Chris then fashioned me a plastic wrap cap (makeshift shower cap) and I scooted off to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I showered. While rinsing, my hair felt worse, but after combing and air drying it, my hair began to feel and look more lively. This mask had my favorite results of all of the natural remedies that I have tried.

3- Olive Oil- Every reviewer online raves about olive oil treatments. It seems a little Grease Lightning to me. But I am trying it all. I massaged the oil into my scalp and let it sit for a half an hour. Very messy. You can always wash egg out of your shirt, but oil is pretty permanent. I rinsed my hair with just water and it didn't seem to do anything. (DUH water and oil don't mix). After soaping my hair it seemed to start to dry and although it still felt oily, it really helped the sheen of my hair- building up natural oils that had previously been stripped.

4- Currently I am in a yogurt/mayonnaise do'. It is said to act as a great conditioner and helps with circulation. The egg in the mayo acts the same way as the egg mask itself, combined with oil. The yogurt has milk proteins which hair craves. I will have to see how it turns out!

Moral of the story is: Love and appreciate what you have!