Friday, May 20, 2016

Kitchen Life & MPW

When I was a kid I loved watching the few cooking shows available at the time like Graham Kerr, Jacques Pepin, and of course Julia Child.  I especially liked Julia because my mom had her cookbooks and I grew up looking through them (wishing for photographs) and making things from them once in awhile.  My favorite item that I still seek out today is a gateau, the simplest most wonderful cake on earth.  With Julia's recipe I killed my 7th grade French classes' buche de noel contest and having seen her make one on tv had really helped.  The best episode is her birthday episode where she proceeds to get wasted on cherry kirsch, "because it's my birthday," she slurred and took a wet slug from the bottle.  Or, am I making it all up?  When I was young any level of drunk in an adult seemed scandalizing and exciting.  Either way I loved her more and my intrigue and nostalgia for her continues.  As a kid my experience of watching Julia and the others did not match the intensity of going to a restaurant and eating.  My family rarely ate out and it was very special to me.  Hearing plates slamming together from afar and catching glimpses as the kitchen door swung open to reveal a very different room than the one I was seated in filled me with curiosity. 

ye olde spraying from afar trick
Until fairly recently you couldn't find shows with real chefs in the stressful awful habitats that kitchens are.  There definitely wasn't a level of honesty about how torturous working in a restaurant kitchen can be.  Sure there was the snapshot cliche of the cruel French chef yelling, but not the full scene.  I think 16 years ago Anthony Bourdain was the first to really share the truth of what goes on from having sex in the walk-in cooler to ever-present important issues like pay inequality for illegal minority workers.  Today we are merely imagining a new standard.  We see hyper-designed million dollar spaces with fresh open kitchens showcasing hipsters with tweezers as the norm when most of us rarely attend these beautiful places if at all.  I'd guess over half a million of restaurant kitchens are purely utilitarian.  So there you are making regular old food, or glorious fancy food, for shit wages while standing in a cramped hot room accidentally touching your coworkers' butts and sometimes even rarer parts.  Maybe you're paid well, by restaurant standards, but it's still hard to justify putting yourself through that much stress for 12$-15$. 

"...if you think this is big wait til you see my dick..."
I still have post traumatic kitchen stress dreams from these kitchens- whether they be some shit-hole here in town or some fine dining mecca in Chicago, the nightmares are the same.  So why do it?  Aside from just doing what you've known, there's a sick sick terrible draw and allure to working in restaurants.  I think many front of the house staff suffer this as well.  I'm great at generalizing so I say that it goes with a certain personality that thrives on obsession, stress and anger- where everything slows down & seems clear and right.  Getting in the zone under busy, terrible circumstances.  To be honest I have not experienced this since opening QB- I lost ALL badass line cook qualities and became a stressed out freak and stranger of another sort to myself.  But I have not forgotten!  I compare many things to being a line cook, especially if I'm under duress and uncomfortable, "at least I don't have to cook on the line!"  For example, when I'm working out and wanting to die and it just won't end, aside from designing tacos in my head, I make lists of other comparable "careers" to being a line cook that I might have chosen in order to sate that unshakable sick bring-work-home personality inside me:
1) Emergency room surgeon in a dirty hospital
2) Sniper
3) interrogation & torture
4) non-sexual dominatrix dressed in a dirty t shirt who hurts you so bad you change your mind and give up S/M.
5) Revenge consultation- come tell me your beef and I will give you a fitting solution (usually fish saucing car hood vents).
6) War- but then I think, "shut up, you don't know what war is really like!"

The point is that it doesn't go away- and recognizing this in the faces of your kitchen peers or heroes is indescribably comforting and inspiring.  You will not see this on the flaccid Food Network (unless Iron Chef America is still on).  Sure, seeing anybody do anything obsessively and well is very pleasing indeed- but if it's accompanied by misery, a certain feverish paleness around the eye socket and the smell of biology class formaldehyde, ashes, and rebluchon then those people ought to be followed around by a camera crew and put on a continuous live stream for the world to see.

Long before Anthony Bourdain, and his bad-boy mimes to follow, over in the UK was Marco Pierre White (MPW).  Youtube is a treasure trove of real life swinging door glimpses that I mine on a daily basis.  It quenches my thirst for information & inspires me because Olympia, in the scope of the restaurant world, is hicks-ville nowhere cowtown tumbleweed.  When I first ran across videos of MPW I was in awe and delighted to see such authentic intensity.  If only I could have seen these videos in the late 80's!  Maybe you've been coming to the blog for a long while and have seen the Marco Pierre White videos I posted some years back.  I recently discovered that most of them were nowhere to be found on YouTube but in a panic found a couple of them elsewhere.  Unfortunately the treasure trove of MPW videos I found years ago is no longer posted due to...copyright infringement?!?!?!?  What a shame, but I'm posting what I've found again for safe keeping and hopefully at least a couple people will geek out on them like I do-- absolutely riveting!  And doesn't he look delightfully miserable??!!!

213 East 4th Avenue
Olympia, WA 98501