Cook's advice

These are for all those cooks who are just getting into the real world. These are for cooks who just graduated from culinary school and hurrying to be called chefs.
Respect those who came before you
Trust that the system works
Those who can't, usually teach
The kitchen is the most brutal place in the restaurant
You will be overworked and underpaid
Glamour is not part of the equation
Be part of the team
Loners do not last in the kitchen
That stockpot with with the simmering goo has your name on it
Be always ready with a small notepad and pen. ALWAYS.
You will be screamed at. Count on it
Start at the bottom
The grease trap will be your best friend for a few months
Get comfortable shoes.
Get ready to lose weight. A lot of it
Ditch the significant other. The hours will ruin your relationship. Especially if he or she is not in the same industry
Take care of your knife. You only need one.
Read and read some more
Concentrate on each cooking procedure, no matter how insignificant
Work clean
Put in the time
Put in the sweat,blood and tears. There will be a lot of it.
Be creative on your own time
Be OC on your mise en place
Do not steal
Leave your hangups at home
Lose your inhibitions
Taste everything
Smell everything
Feel everything
Watch other cooks from the corner of your eye
Keep busy. No excuse to be standing on one leg.
Be mindful of everything around you
Show up early. Not on time.
Leave when when the chef tells you to leave
Wear boxers
Take a bath everyday
Don't mouth off
Don't show off
Your knowledge is limited and considered moot compared to the real world
Admit that the culinary school did not teach you everything
The kitchen is not democratic
Keep your tools within reach
Keep your ingredients within reach
Know the difference in textures
Kiss your holidays and weekends goodbye
Keep a culinary bible on hand
Strengthen your foundations in French cooking
You are not the center of the universe
Don't get into this profession for the glamour
Keep an open mind
Be flexible
Be tenacious
Be adamant
Do not be bothered when somebody calls you a lousy cook
Learn from your mistakes
Tomorrow is another day

Tomato jam jam!

I just recently came across this recipe. It was interesting, since the jams I knew where made wih fruits. But you have to think. Tomatoes ARE fruits. So I whipped this up for a client, and they loved it. Goes well with cheddar cheese or even parmiggiano reggiano. But for me, Havarti cheese is the best partner Slather the jam on sliced bread, add slices of havarti, then pop in the oven toaster. Voila! Great afternoon or midnight snack.
2 450g can of peeled tomato
3 C sugar
1 tsp tabasco
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried pepper flakes
juice from one lemon
Place all ingedients in a heavy bottomed stock pot
Place over medium heat, and bring to boil. Mix thoroughly
Lower heat to simmer. Occassionally stir with a wooden spoon to prevent burning at the bottom
While that is going on, grab maybe four glass jars with metal screw top lids where you would want to store the jam in.
Place another stock pot with water
Place jars in the water
Bring to boil. Let boil for 5 minutes
Take out jars and lay on the table
Let cool
When jam has reduced by one half while simmering, it should have that familiar thick spreadable consistency
Remove from heat
While hot,pour jam carefully into the jars
Cover tightly with lid. As the jam cools, it creates a vacuum in the jar
Let cool thoroughly before placing in the fridge



Who reviews the reviewer?

What is a Food Critic? A Restaurant Critic? In most parts of the civilized world these individuals control the fate of both established restaurants and struggling eateries. These people put your favorite watering hole on the map or condemn your regular oyster bar to unredeemable limbo. With the mighty pen, they inscribe truths and half truths to let the public know how that new diner on the corner will change the dining world as we know it. It is amazing how these writers can shift the movement and inspire revolutions by simply sitting at a table with a notepad for an evening. Do you know anyone who has as much power?
In Manila, sadly, it's another ball of fetid wonton. The last ten years we have been witness to the laucnhing of thousands of restaurants, both good and bad. And of course, the ones that come to the forefront are what you initally see in glossy magazines and broadsheets and of course in blogs. And then people flock to the venues, either to be seen or to genuinely treat their palates to what the writer has to say about it. A Thai restaurant I read about in one newspaper boasted great food and great streetfood ambiance, which prompted me to make detour. According to the owner, when the write-up came out, they were overwhelmed with the patronage the next day. The food was indeed good. And eating alfresco was a treat. Service though leaves much to be desired. But something was missing. So I asked the owner if he knew the writer. I saw it in his face even before he opened his mouth. Relative. Hmmmm. And this is not limited to restaurants. Want a box of your home made chocolates be made famous? Ask a prominent blogger to write about it. Your burgers are not selling so well? Ditch the R&D. Treat the editorial staff to dinner.
Which brings us to the question: Who reviews the reviewers? Are there bonafide restaurant reviewers in Manila? I can name a few individuals who are on the take when they write about restaurants around the metro. Either through X-deal or payola. Or maybe worse. They could take it against the restaurant for not bowing to their cravings. Write a bad review. Or not write at all, because they do not get anything in return. A lot of restaurant owners follow this train of thought. Don't offend the writer when they come around with their hands stretched out. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. That great restaurants and the patronage they enjoy are only so because of the politcial undertones that one takes into consideration when choosing the plate to eat off of. How can you believe these writers? And the reviewers let these establishments know in advance when they are dining. And usually meals are prepared in advance. How can you believe the plusses on their review? Reviewing food and restaurants is mostly subjective, but the following are what I think are the primary characteristics of a bonafide reviewer:
They have to write well - obviously. It goes without saying. Unfortunately a lot of the reviewers here are either inclined to be flowery in the description or they were absent when brains were being passed out.
Know how to do a report - from background checks, source checking  up to verifying facts. The reviewer should be able to back it up.
Have a passion what goes into your mouth - Of course every reviewer should have an above average level of knowledge concerning food, beverage, service and industry trends. If you profess to be a food critic, you have to know how to cook. Really. How can anyone begin to trash a dish when they do not know how it even got to the plate in the first place.
Don't expect a free meal - especially in exchange for a glowing review. That is like selling your soul to the devil. Or the boy crying wolf. Sooner or later the so called critic will be just labeled as a hired gun if he is lucky. Meals are usually a budget allocation for their reviewers to try out restaurants and other dining establishments. It should never be in exchange for a glossy spread.
The readers are the reviewer's bread and butter - not what the restaurant provides in a basket. We are speaking metaphorically here. Have the readers' interests at heart, at the top of the list. Not the reviewer's editors, not the publications' shareholders. Not even for self-glorification. It is the readers that are the lifeblood of any publication.
For the avid readers and diners. I have but one suggestion. Be vigilant. It is your money that restaurants want to attract. Would you really want to spend a night away from home because of a perverted form of advertisment in the guise of a paid review? How can you really identify who the good reviewers are? Scanning through countless publications both here and the lands beyond our borders has revealed significant differences. Some which are notable. None of which applies to the reviewers in Manila in general. So. Arm yourself, dear readers, before heading out to that restaurant now in fashion and spending your hard earned cash. Not that I warn that you would be disappointed. But only because you went to the restaurant on your own well-informed volition  and not that you were nudged to take the drive after reading and salivating after a paid write-up. Here are a few things that should catch your eye when reading a restaurant review. Keep and open mind. Review the reviewer.
Activity photos - The pictures on the review, if any, actually show guests in the dining room enjoying themselves. It is funny how restaurants featured in publications are never occupied in these photographs. Are we really attracted to the restaurant simply by the decor? Devoid of any patrons? Are we such shallow eaters? To see a guest in animated conversation with other patrons, to see the wait staff professionally milling around, to abide by the that saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words', would have the same effect as those restaurants you see in movies.
Opposites attract - in other words, the reviewer has mentioned the plusses AND the minuses. With no inhibitions. Brutal or just being cute, the goods and bads are what makes the restaurant INTERESTING. No restaurant is perfect. Perfect restaurants usually don't last. It is their quirks that make it attractive. And the reviewer should be able to write about this. The good reviewer is usually very specific, so here you can hook your lines in and digest what came of the dinner. It may include recommendations, suggestions. All in a positive and constructive format. Details come into play here. From the stains on the table cloth to the gleaming pans seen through the display kitchen window. Or how the waitstaff move, talk or interact. The pros and cons are balanced, and relayed in a way that is most helpful to the prospective diner.
It must be a good read - a narrative, if you will. Not a long list of celebrity names, socialites and the who's who peppering the review. It should have beginning, a middle an end. It should progress. Much like how you would eat out. You really don't go out just to do 'I Spy' with celebrity spotting. It should focus on the restaurant, the ambiance, everything that would sum up to the elusive dining experience. A descriptive assessment of all the elements will definitely be a major draw.
Personal in the first degree - After all, the dining experience is a personal one. Subjective or otherwise, the reviewer will relate his feelings, his passions, his mental state even, just to relate what it's like sitting at a table as a guest, because this is the closest thing they could get into the readers' shoes. If the reviewer has an aversion to tripe, it doen't make the review bad. It just provides options to the reader. It's an opinion that the reader can take into account. Opinon. Personal. Goes hand in hand. And the opinions in the review are evidence that the writing is genuine. The reviewer's personality comes across.
So. lets' go back to the question: Who reviews the reviewers? Of course, it would be the intelligent readers. If you blindly follow what the reviewer says without any reaction, then you should listen to Obi Wan Kenobi "Who's more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him?" Have a reaction to the review. Do not be a passive reader, diner, foodie. Whatever. Just react. Be informed. Weigh the plus and minuses, the pros and cons. This way you will be one step closer to a great dining experience.
Can you add to this list please?

Celebrity chefs and whatnot

I am not a celebrity chef. Nor do I want to be one. Being on TV would be nice, I guess. Recognition of course would be every cook's dream, of being known for their cooking. And that comes from years of experience. Of experiencing countless ingredients, different locations, different people from all walks of life. I talk to people, athough admittedly I have not been very diplomatic with some as I have been very accommodating with others. The same goes with the different foods that come my way, that pass me by, that wait for me. Have you ever held a small globule of white truffle? Held it close to smell the aroma, that sweet pungent aroma that inspires you to make a truffle pasta right then and there? While in Zurich, I was impressed with the concept of an assembly kitchen. Mind you, not like an ssembly line, but ingredients that would save you kitchen time and still consistently get the same high standards in cooking. Not shortcuts. No cheats. Still the same great tasting food. Of course as a cook you should know the basic stocks, sauces and seasonings. Just in case something goes wrong. Do celebrity chefs make use of stock that comes out of a can? A cube? Do celebrity chefs use peeled tomatoes from a can to make a wonderful pomodoro?
I recently updated on the comings and goings of the cooks featured on that reality show TOP CHEF, including TOP CHEF MASTERS. What becomes of the cooks after TOP CHEF? Do they gain notoriety? Are their restaurants more popular than ever? Do they become celebrity chefs?
Then I look at the current chef offerings on local Manila TV. Some of them do not look like they have apprenticeship experience under their aprons. How do they get on TV? And the food that they feature, is typical culinary school fodder, the type you first jot down on your notes on the first day of cooking class. How do they get to go on TV? How much exposure do you need? Who do you have to know? Are they considered celebrity chefs already the moment the camera is focused on them?
Wolfgang Puck. Tony Bourdain. Jamie Oliver. Emeril Lagasse. Fernan Aria. And countless others. These Celebrity Chefs made their bones. Scraped their skins. Cut off fingers. And make really, really good food. And a lot of people love their cooking. And they all consider themselves cooks. They do not go around and introduce themselves as Chef Jamie, Chef Tony, etc. Yet people know them. Their reputation as good cooks precede them. They can make a souffle effortlessly. From scratch. Countless other cooks can do what they do. But they opt to not go around trumpeting themselves as chefs. I know a few who are very good cooks. Who are resourceful enough to make a mean roast with a few ingredients. But they never get on TV. Not that they want to. Or have the courage to. But they would make great TV instructors. Because they taught me what I never got at culinary school. And it helped me a lot during my career.
Should celebrity chefs be idolized? Do the current cooks want to be celebrity chefs? Do they get into the profession to be able to create, or to get into the spotlight?