May-June-2017_flipbook Revised

the Coffee issue

as the others cooked. The next time, the cooks would take a turn as guests. It was important for them to experience the joy of being on the receiving end of our culinary shenanigans. Contrary to the reality of their cooking school drudgery, they were in total command of their kitchen and meal service at my dinner parties. There’s respect (and awe) due to the men and women who work long hours in wicked conditions of heat and pressure. At home, the cook can laugh off a failure and pick up a pizza. In a restaurant, when the guest is not happy, the cook is shamed. Add cuts and burns, sore feet, hip problems and bad knees. Don’t forget that most kitchen crews work in an alternate universe, on duty when we’re not, from early mornings to late, late nights. That’s punishment enough for anyone. A 12- to 16-hour day is not unusual. Restaurant apprentices and cooks busy climbing the ladder show up for work early, beg to learn and leave late. So even knowing the rigors of that career, we staked him to culinary school. It was only right after his years of peeling potatoes and other indignities. Our only payment for subsidizing his tuition was that he was required to come home (and cook) for major holidays. We worked in the kitchen together, except now I was the helper and he was the chef. There was plenty I could learn from him. So we’d toss ideas around and ask each other, “What if we tried this instead of that?” We played “What if?” with a good sense of humor, stacks of cookbooks to explore, and lots of coffee or adult beverages. To collaborate successfully, one must park preconceived notions at the door and be prepared to be a target of laughter. So our mission that day was pudding cake. That’s when dry ingredients dominate the wet ones, and a strange but magnificent separation occurs during baking. The pudding (or custard) combination sinks to the bottom since it is heavier, and the cake fills with air during baking, rising to the top. We explored recipes and discussed ingredients, and how we could create something a little bit familiar that would still be a surprise. We knew the process; it was all about the flavors. A riff on café brûlot was finally our answer.



by Kit Wohl

T here’s not much more fun in my house than getting together in the kitchen and cooking with people you love, then serving the results to other people you love. And then there’s the creative satisfaction of making something with a new twist that surprises everyone. We’re looking for the ahhh. My nephew was recruited to our kitchen as a youngster, learning how to use a knife, chop, fetch and load the dishwasher as

we cooked. It didn’t scare him away. He kept coming back for more. He learned, he complained and then he learned some more. We nurtured his interest through culinary arts school, then watched (and suffered) as he went down the hard road of apprenticeship to become a full- fledged executive chef. I adored his fellow apprentices. They were hungry and broke. Food and money were motivators. We’d have them over when we were entertaining; one or two would be guests at the table



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