I don’t exactly ‘have’ a football team, but I sure do like acting as if I did. You see, I grew up a Redskins fan (which gives me one more thing to work out for the rest of my life) and I lived in downtown and uptown Baltimore for eight years. Mired in conflict, I try to root for the Skins and the Ratbirds every season, but I just can’t bring myself to vow a stern allegiance to either. I simply can’t take either team too seriously.
As such, I revel in the devout loyalty of many fans, some even tattooing their team logos and players’ faces all over the body. More power to them I say.
During the postseason I am amazed at the trash talking, and then at the fall of a given team’s rise to seasonal power, the imminent silence as though the fans had just lost a loved one is deafening. In shock, the zealous minions stumble around wondering where the bomb came from.
No, I take great pride in having no team and in messing with peoples’ minds. When the Steelers were in the Super Bowl, I wore a Steelers jersey at school.
“But I thought you hated the Steelers…” the students pondered. Well, I don’t exactly ‘hate’ them but they are definitely not my team. It’s just that I have coworkers who deeply despise them, so it gets under their skin.
When the Packers won, people wondered why I was so pleased. It was just a good game and a good team won fairly. That’s how I watch football and I am calm in mind knowing that I have so much opportunity to confuse and irritate others as they argue for the indefatigability of their team.
I like to think that I’m just rooting for the sport and for the athletic prowess of the players.
Similarly, people often ask me two kitchen-related questions: Who is my favorite chef? And what is my specialty?
Many people seem to get perturbed when I say ‘can’t answer’ and ‘don’t have one’, respectively. Without a specialty, they think, I must be a rudderless ship floating in a sea of food.
Alas, this is nary the case as I explain to the inquisitive individual that as a working chef, my ‘specialties’ were to be found in all facets of the kitchen. I guess if you could count washing pots and pans as a specialty, then I could list that in my top ten.
Under great pressure, I would have to say sauces would rank up in my list of specialties, but to say that I’m a saucier would be a misnomer. There is simply too much that I don’t know and that’s why I read, write, explore and experiment; it’s all in the name of science.
To answer the former question out of sequence, if I had to pick one chef as my ‘favorite’ it would be Thomas Keller. Here’s a chef who never set foot in a culinary classroom in his life, apprenticed the old-fashioned way, and is now the regular culinary ‘Super Bowl’ winner every year with award winning restaurants in very different genres in the business. Honestly, though, there are many modern chefs who are accomplishing the same, but Keller has been a constant champion throughout it all.
As I write this, I try to figure out if I really do have a specialty. In the modern American kitchen, most chefs don’t have the luxury of hiring a poissonier (fish cook), saucier (sauce cook), chef de patisserie (pastry chef), garde manger (cold kitchen cook) et al. He or she has to understand the basics of all of these capacities and hire and train their staff to work across the various competencies.
And so we have the modern line cook; if trained properly, well-versed in all aspects of the kitchen. Untrained, they are unfairly fed to the wolves to battle through the rough nights that are a norm in the business.
Not being locked to a specialty, I can study endlessly and absorb the knowledge and works of others, and I can be amazed at the ‘clutch plays’ that often occur in the business.
Recently, while working in Alexandria at a private club, one of the sous chefs made a small plate that was so simple and yet so amazing, it grounded me. It is these moments that make me truly enjoy the business.
I rethink my role in the business and gratefully admit that even the smallest technique, assimilated into my repertoire, could be key in leading me to the championship some day.
oysters with citrus sorbet
4 oysters, shucked
4 dabs Sriracha Sauce
1 tsp. Citrus sorbet
- Divide the oysters onto plates according to your manner of service. For example, if you are serving an amuse bouche such as pictured above, simply serve one per small plate
- Scoop sorbet and place on top of the oyster.
- Put a small dab of Sriracha on the shell and you’re done. Serve and eat quickly so the sorbet doesn’t melt
Citrus Juice (tangerine, grapefruit, lemon, yuzu)
- Combine simple syrup and juice until you have a strongly flavored liquid. This is to taste, but remember that cold food loses flavor so it must be strong at this point
- Using an ice cream maker, freeze according to manufacturers instructions.