Two all beef patty special

It was late. Way past dinner time. I  just came of work, she came from a strenuous exercise of grocery shopping. Most places were already closed, at least that were in the immediate vicinity. Going further out lessened the chances, yet we took what little we have and ventured out in search of something to eat.

Out of the commercial business district, went north on the highway, hung a right at the now darkened mall, past a couple of stoplights, past the motels. A short roundabout, and we saw a hole in the wall the caught our attention. Situated next to a carwash, we went in. Despite the desperation derived from hunger at midnight, we had to admit that it was very inviting, especially if you are slapped with this…


Extensive. But not overly so. Black Angus Burger with fresh fries. Yes. Two please.

Sign says the pinkness of the burger is the sign of perfection. We decided to take their word for it and headed for a table.The outside seating were already taken. After having paid for our meal with visa (yes, they take cards. Surprising) we went in. It was difficult because of the semi self-service policy. I carried the round tray with a soda and a beer on one hand, feeling like I work here. Ah well. Place appeared not to be pretentious enough.

Photo1225  Photo1224

Narrow room. LCD TVs on both sides. Packed. We sat down at the corner and patiently waited. Orange color dominated the scene. Stainless tables. The kind you see at local cafes. Cool air from the overpowered air-conditioning units. I had to go back to the car and get Rossana’s jacket.


15 minutes and two follow-ups later, our food arrived. By then we were through halfway our beverages, and we were presented with this.


The fresh fries turned out not to be a misnomer. It was fresh potatoes. The way they used to do the fries. Not the mass produced frozen sticks they serve everywhere else. And what is for dipping? It was unexpected for a place like this to be spoiled for choice. Garlic mayo, aioli, Americana tomato sauce, Heinz Catsup, Mustard, Tabasco, all in big squeeze bottles. Ravenous, we dug in.

45 minutes later we were stuffed. The burgers were juicy. Real juicy. It was made in-house. Ground fresh everyday. According to the menu, it was never frozen. The fries were perfect. The beverages cold. The general atmosphere? We enjoyed the place as much as everybody else in the room.

Looking around, I said ‘This is a place I don’t see myself coming back in the next week’. But I will come back. Because by then the burger we just had would have already melted away into a distant gustatory memory.

So Charlie’s will be on our list for a while. Just inside Barrio Kapitolyo, past Cafe Juanita. On the border of Pasig. No reservations. Don’t bother to call. Just show up.


Five reasons why you seem not to be getting anywhere

Despite the best efforts, the groveling, the yelling, there comes a point in one’s career when one realizes we are getting nowhere. As a professional cook in the most dynamic industry in the world, it is a surprise that so many of my colleagues have remained a commis for several years, or have stayed at the Peninsula for 35 years and still remains a captain waiter. There are many excuses for this. That’s just it. Excuses. Not reasons. So something can be done about it. But here we can identify the most common. The list is adapted from an article by

  1. You have people on board who are not pulling their weight – Co-workers whom you stick to. Depending on the professional orientation, you may be mired in mediocrity because your co-workers have convinced you that it’s not worth going the extra mile for someone as special as guest. Many have complained of Labor Unions actually encouraging this attitude. I know some individuals (I refuse to call them professionals because…) who prioritize Union work over what they were hired to do in the first place. Some Executive Chefs complain they could not adapt to situations because the Union dictates that it has to be put in writing at least one week in advance. Perish the thought for the head chef to order ‘Pantry chef called in sick today. Go work the pantry one week from Tuesday’. If your posse is not flexible, or have not the sense of urgency. or couldn’t care less about the welfare of guests, chances are you are not either.
  2. You have failed to invest in yourself – Since there is nothing constant  but change, being carefree will leave you behind the times. No more being updated on what’s happening now. Maintaining the status quo. Being afraid of what is different. ‘We have been doing it this way for years. Why fix it?’. We learn new things everyday. We just have to make the conscious effort to realize that.
  3. Delegating dilemma – We try to be the jack-of-all- trades, yet be the master-of-none. We try to be everything, but fail to focus on what we are good at. So we miss out on what could be done better. If we actually delegate some things to other people, we would not be complaining about not having enough time to learn how to make a good Hollandaise sauce.
  4. No direction – Like a ship without a rudder, if you do not know where you are headed, you will just go round and round. A vision, a dream, a desire will propel you forward. It may be slow, it may be instant. With perseverance, you will get there.
  5. Acting on advice and recommendations – or the lack of thereof. Acting on sage advice, on recommendations from co-workers, be it on a professional or personal level, will give you options. If you take it in yet not implement it, you still maintain the status quo.

If you are guilty of any of these, you probably have not move an inch in the last couple of years, don’t know any better, afraid of the unknown, maintains the status quo, complaining you are not paid enough, and basically a boring person. I recommend to take the risk. Learn something new everyday. Be the best in whatever your do. Change. Just change. For better or for worse. At least when you die, you will no longer wonder what it felt like.


Why Valentine’s day is…10 reasons

spooning Why celebrate it only one day (or evening) out of the year? Are we a victim of the tyranny of greeting card companies and smarmy commercials? Every fourteenth of February is when couples move heaven and earth to celebrate their love. Some reason it to be the result of past shortcomings. Others Just wanted to mark the day. But did you ever wonder there are more weddings in June than in the love month?

In any case, it is February that would bring in one of the highest revenues for restaurants, despite it having the fewest days in an accounting period. Two, even three seating reservations are planned to keep up with the demand. Candles, roses and slow music herald the day almost as kitschy as Christmas carols in mid-November. The best menus come out to act upon our libido with the addition of natural aphrodisiacs, colors and the obligatory bottle of wine. But what is it that drives the human being to dine at the best restaurants this time of year? Why do people like us in the restaurant industry look forward to this occasion both with dread and anticipation? Let me count the ways….

Because there is a history for Valentines – Steeped in tradition and legend, we honor the one we love, and to a certain extent, St. Valentine.
We can’t cook for crap – most diners, even though they call themselves foodies, could not even dream of turning out gustatory delights as those prepared by a professional cook. Plus they couldn’t be bothered to clean up the oven at home. It’s a good enough reason to indulge in some fine cuisine.
Most men are unimaginative -  Spontaneity is not the order of the day. Are there other days to have the same fervor or reason to break out the dancing shoes and brush up on some oenology? Or is it just being lazy? Or it’s the easiest way to portray sensitivity?
Sense of adventure – on the corollary, it is the season to have the courage to do something different with a loved one. If one has gotten past the asking-for-a-date hurdle.
Lack of independence – some have pretended to have a date just to avoid going out with single friends to celebrate being free of the ball and chain
A good reason to chuck the New year’s resolution – It only comes once a year, right? I can burn off that rich dark chocolate truffle, right?
Ads are persuasive – particularly condom ads in February leading up to the fourteenth, and pregnancy tests in March. ‘Are we good?’
”Everyday with you is a special day” – Men can not get away from that line
It’s a milestone – especially for young couples starting out. Especially if they just met during the magic of Christmas. Especially if she expects it
Men can’t win on Valentines – Because it’s a catch 22. It’s the reasons behind it that boggles the mind. And add insult to Injury, Valentine’s 2011 means men will miss Monday night football

If you Google it, there are more ‘reasons to hate Valentine’s day’ than to celebrate it. Why is that?


A morning in the life of…

Sausage Platter 05:30h woke up after hitting the snooze button for the nth time. Body stiff from a cold night’s sleep, recuperating from the previous day’s activities. I drag my ass to the bathroom to tap a kidney, and a blast of cold shower to wake me up and wash way the sleep wrinkles on my skin

0545h Pulling over my favorite kitchen trousers, shirt, then downstairs for a quick brekkie of cheddar cheese with wild raspberry jam on toast. Grab the keys and head out the door. The sun has yet to reveal its glory, so it is a pleasant bluish grey dawn. A cool breeze greets me as I head on down the street to catch a jeepney

0600h Caught the bus, left standing on the aisle. Seems to be a busy day for many as there is no seat available. Us standing grabbing onto the hang rails, each thinking of the day to come. Prep lists run through my head. Croissants, have they been delivered? The GM likes his croissants, three at a time. And being a Frenchman, he likes this particular purveyor. Chef de partie should show up today, with a 92% occupancy at the hotel, as it’s going to be busy. I watch the world go by as the bus lurches from stop to stop. On board TV mentions another bomb threat, this time at a prominent catholic school. Classes suspended. I gaze into the distance while the tabloid quality announcer drones on to the next story. After 10 minutes, bus is packed to full capacity. No need to hang onto the rails anymore. We are so squeezed together, balance is not a problem. I can relax my arm now. Most mornings it tells me how sardines feel like. I remember I have to call someone about silencing the exhaust from the kitchen hood. It’s deafening as of late.

0630h Took the first step off the bus and onto the pavement for the 20 minute trek to work. I didn’t mind the distance. I don’t often mind when I get to pass through one of the few greeneries of the commercial business district. Jovanotti now crooning in my head, the noise cancellation headphones making mincemeat of the rising traffic. Gives me time to focus on other things, like that couple who jogs. One can sync his watch by these two, as they round the same corner at exactly 0642h. No fail. Health buffs. OC health buffs. Both with matching cross trainers and ipods strapped to their shoulders. Makes me wonder: do joggers at this time of the day eat breakfast first before sweating it out? Or do they eat later? I personally know some joggers who go for the obligatory frappucino at the nearby coffee house after a run. Why bother?

kitchen 0655h Don my whites and head into the kitchen and straight for the turnover log book. Busy night they had. No functions today, but occupancy has risen to 96%, and additional 36 people to feed between now and 1030h. I check in with the dining manager. GM has already went through his croissants, satisfied with the consistency. Breakfast buffet layout is ok, no delay in setting it up earlier. A couple are eating their meusli, newspapers between them, silently perusing the previous day’s events. James Cullum through the piped in music, and the sun has already extended its tendrils on the crisp white table cloths. This is where it gets surreal. A Kodak moment at the Brasserie.

0900h Second wave of diners have come in for breakfast. The tickets are fluttering on the pass, the kitchen now in fourth gear. 4 benedicts, 2 frenchies and a side order of baked beans I call out, getting the prompt ‘copy’ from my chef de partie. Ah, he is here today, but with a telling bruise just below his left eye. Domestic life is unbearable for some people, especially if you have a wife that beats you senseless often. Another story of woe, but our kitchen has a lot of stories. Culinary school graduate that fits the mold of spoiled brat is fiddling around his iphone while tossing some shallots. Did the course because dad did not want him to become a nurse. Fights have ensued because of this contradiction. High school undergrad who worked his way from dishwasher to line cook. Only breadwinner of the family. Steward recently had to scar off tattoo of his ex off his neck. Not a pretty sight. And so on and so forth. Bourguignon stewing in the pot slowly in preparation for lunch.

1030h Breakfast service over, 86 covers served. Breakfast meez on kitchen tabletops quickly replenished and stowed away for the next day. From other refrigerated drawers comes the ammunition for lunch service: garnishes, sauces, pasta and the meats. The frenzy for 1130 seating has begun.

1230h restaurant fully occupied. What? A tout bus decided to dump their passengers all at one go? Tickets now two deep on the pass, a few in my frenetic hand, calling out orders. ‘one tuna, one salmon, one lamb ordering! Pickup on 12! Fire on the Seared tuna with risotto!’ Kitchen screams back ‘copy’, the beginnings of being in the weeds. Last minute meez check reveals braised pork down to last three, and we only just begun. Replaced belly with pork chop, and will have to check with evening shift on why the braised pork was not prepped.

1300h Wait staff has just fucked up the ordering sequence. Started grabbing the plates off the pass without a check on the tickets. Vegetarian curry comes back for the third time. Captain waiter says table 5 waiting 20 minutes, I muttered no one called it yet. Busser backs into the kitchen (always not a good idea), eventually dropping tray laden with soiled plates and glass on the floor. Steward like flies converge and clean up the mess, and lunch service moves on. ‘Pick up on 21, hold the rissoni!’

1330h Vegetable purveyor makes delivery. Evidently a few hour too late as every available piratical kitchen hand grabs the produce to complete their mise en place. I head down to stock room to replenish meats, dairies and some first aid kit, as the chef de partie has nicked his finger prepping sliced corned beef. Blood everywhere. Skin hanging by a thread. A sight to see. By this time service has slowed down.

1400h Coffee and a cig. For just a few minutes while the crew catch their breath. Have to consult with My chef on how to best tackle the Chinese special. Some supplies have not come in, as their are being held ransom by purveyors due to overdue accounts. So the Valentine’s menu will have to be debated upon tomorrow.

1500h Lunch of boiled chicken and steamed rice with a side of fish sauce. And a tall glass of lemonade. Here I can shift to lower gear, and catch up on the news. Scribbled turnover and preplist for evening shift. Mentioned that we need more ribeye and risotto. Braised Pork being thawed for prepping. Pantry girl called in sick, so someone has to cover.

1600h changed back into civvies, and head on home

1730h Painfully peeled off the grease smelling clothes and plopped onto the bed for a quick nap before dinner.

How was your day?