Bold, dark and boozy. That’s how I like my men and my truffles. I was still at the agency when Mad Men first premiered and fully supported the waves of accolades that followed. Like most I couldn’t resist falling for the sexy, brooding, borderline alcoholic Don Draper. What better way to gear up for the upcoming 7th season this spring than combining my two favorite things: chocolate and booze.
Back in February, about half way through my culinary arts program, I decided to test my newly acquired skills and begin to trail. For those not familiar with the term, trailing or staging is basically the process in which culinary students or potential employees of the restaurant business are either lured into or terrified out of the idea of working in a restaurant kitchen. You are basically an unpaid employee for a day, or night depending on what shift you are working. Trailing can be as easy as standing in a corner and not getting in the way while tasting the entire menu that rages out of the kitchen during a given service. Another version will have you chop, mince, peel, or shuck until your fingers cramp and your knees buckle from being on your feet for 10 hours straight. Both experiences are crucial in understanding this business and the immense work that goes into making sure that you and your friends are perfectly satiated and quenched by the end of your dining experience. My first trail was much like others I assume. Over the course of 8 hours I peeled, seeded and diced cucumbers, learned how to properly mince chives, sliced a crate of mushrooms which I later sautéed in batches all while trying to keep my wits in the cacophony and chaos of being on the line. To my surprise, I was offered a job as a Garde Manger. After accepting this offer, I embarked on a journey that was both a physical and emotional pursuit. As my last day at the restaurant has concluded, I look back and realize how the undertaking has changed the very core of me. The following excerpts are key moments that defined and shaped my experience.
A couple months ago, Lindsey Becker of The Date Dish approached me to produce a video for her. Lindsey specializes in creating simple but impressive meals for two, and was collaborating with Scratch DC on these amazing crab cakes for a special summer menu. Similar to Plated here in NYC, Scratch DC delivers packages with all the prepped and ready to use ingredients you need for creating a quick and easy meals for four. These kinds of companies are a great option for working parents who may not have time to stop by the grocery store or brunoise a pepper but still believe in a home cooked meal for their family. Even if you are cooking for one, or want to impress your date, delivery systems such as these are the new rage for amateur cooks. The recipes are coming directly from chefs most of the time and have been tested to perfection. Since everything is portioned out per recipe, it’s the more economic choice for those who tend to eat out more but occasionally like to dabble in kitchen, after all have you seen the price of saffron lately? You can skip the heavy lines at the local market, and work with ingredients that are fresh, organic, and most of the time more local and seasonal than at your neighborhood bodega. Blue Apron, based in Brooklyn, not only offers New Yorkers gourmet meal kits, but is a great resource for acquiring hard to find products that are not common outside of metropolitan areas. I’m excited to see where this trend will go and how it will possibly effect business models for markets and grocery stores. If you happen to live in the DC area, you can have this crab cake package delivered to your door as soon June 27th! Cooking from “Scratch” really can’t get easier.