The Cast of Characters & Quick Guide to the Story

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cook hooky

Yesterday I asked the chef and pastry chefs from Somewhere to join me for lunch. I wanted to thank them for welcoming me into their kitchen and teaching me a lot. (I admit it: I did not know how to make a perfect dice until Chef showed me.) This lunch also had a selfish motive. I wanted them to brainstorm with me: what would they do given the constraints of a galley and a crazy-low budget (which is $6 per person per day, by the way - and yes, that's three square meals and believe it or not, it's fifty cents more a day than on the Neverland (my previous boat).

As we sat there, digging in on amazing take-out in the form of Meng Kum Na from Wandee Siam, we talked about food. This is what chefs do when they play hooky, I thought. Some of the great ideas I got?

1. Instead of making individual samosas, the pastry chef suggested I roll out one big slab of dough, fill it, bake and slice. Brilliant.
2. Canned fruit for chutneys and fruit compote. Duh! Why hadn't I thought of that?
3. Dried beef.
4. Tofu for protein. I am not a fan of tofu, but Chef convinced me to give it another try since it's a cheap source of protein if we have vegetarians onboard, or just to lighten our dependence on meat.

I'm still digesting all their ideas, but it was great to sit down with them for a few minutes, steal some time out of their busy day to talk food.

Stop #2: Coffee with Al at Dean & DeLuca, where we sat in the sunshine catching up and talking about nothing other than food. Al gave me a lovely knife.

My new sporty, lightweight knife bag.
Best peeler ever.
The Great Microplane
Being back at the restaurant reminded me of some of the lessons I learned there - and some of the tools I came to depend on. So what did I do next? Stop #3 took me to the Broadway Panhandler. I bought a few items I've been needing - a proper sheath for my chef's knife (the charm of the cardboard/duct tape version is literally wearing thin), a particular peeler chef introduced me to, a microplane (though I have one in a storage unit somewhere), and my first knife bag. Maybe there's anotherword for knife bag? There was a time when I would have felt pretentious carrying a knife bag, since I haven't previously considered myself a chef. But standing there, thinking about that cardboard sheath, and the way I stick my knives into my luggage every which way... I figured it's high time I exchange my "that's too pretentious" stance to "that's so utilitarian!"

Stop #4: Franny's.

Stop #5: I had to wait until none to conduct a conference call before I could leave Manhattan, so I went back to Isabel's and watched the latest episode of Top Chef. Yes, I teared up.

As I sat on the train back to Philly, listening to Downeaster Alexa on my iPod (yes, I am that geeky), I was consumed with ideas about all the things I'm going to wrap in dough and bake.


  1. I'm on board with 3 of the four ideas. Tofu: feh! Cardboard tastes okay if you spice it right. So what? And I don't know what the demographics of your new boat are, but don't give that stuff to adolescent boys.

    What does "perfect dice" mean? Brunoise?

  2. Ah, don't be so predictably anti-tofu! There are tons of ways to make it great. I'm not a vegetarian and I'm not in love with highly processed soy products, but if you use it in Asian cuisine the way it's typically used, it can be quite delicious! I'm not talking Tofurky here...