I have to ask myself everyday, "how did I save a life today?" I wonder how making nine quarts of small diced mire poix saved some one's life? Or how smoke roasting a whole beef tenderloin really prevented a loss of a family member? Or when I make 25 quarts of chicken tortilla soup really allows some one to see their kids that night? It all does, some how?
My day starts with the breakfast special. I move on to one of the weekly projects like chili, refried beans, pepper gravy or green chili. Then there are the three different soups of the day we make from scratch. Depending on what it is, the daily lunch special is started either first thing in the day or really close to 11:30 service time and the occasional hot lunch catering for 10-20 people. From there the day can go in many different directions, usually it is mise en place for the next day's adventures or start a braising or long smoking project. If the next day is a fish special, Stach will start fabricating fish. We'll share some of the meat fabricating projects, but in all honesty we like whole roasting loins and cutting them for service, but we'll cure/marinate for over a day when it's beef, and 6-8 hours to brine pork and chicken.
From there we starting getting into service time, so we'll fire batches of the special so we can serve well made hot food. We try our best to serve food as if we were still in a restaurant, but the trick is cooking food that well hold up to sitting in a steam table. The moment I tell other professional cooks about holding food in a steam table they tend to disrespect what I do. I'd like to challenge them to making caramelized brussel sprouts that will still be tasty after sitting in a steam for half an hour to forty-five minutes; or figure out how to hold a buerre rouge hot for over two hours and not have it break, or how to time serving whole roasted leg of lamb and ensure that ever serving is perfectly moist and delicious. There is a way to cook food made to order and there is a way to cook food that tastes like it was made to order.
Alot of chefs who work in places like I do took a wrong turn somewhere. They had learned the basics techniques, they learned what the components of certain dishes are and they buy it all pre-made. Stach and I will spend a week figuring out how to make our specials from scratch. We love the challenge of holding our food in the steam table. I mean caters do it all the time and their food is pretty good, when they decide not to serve roasted potatoes on an offsite gig.
What am I getting at here? What I do is work worth doing. How many professional cooks you know can sell Rocky Mountain Surf and Turf (a half rack of lamb and a side of trout) for $5.75? Because my food comes out of a steam table, doesn't mean what I do should be completely discredited. I'm making a difference, I'm introducing John Q. Public to the wonderfulness that is brussel sprouts in brown butter and sage. I am creating vegetarian dishes that an omnivore will want to eat over a meat dish. I will keep doing it, I will show the people out there that what I do is more than just spooned mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables with a chicken breast on a plate. I make things like Cashew and Sweet Garlic Crusted Alaskan True Cod with White Truffled Gaufrette Potatoes or Veal Osso Bucco over Saffron Risotto or Speck Wrapped Halibut with Porcini Cream Sauce and Garlic Sautéed Broccolini. So what if it comes out of a steam table, it takes time, knowledge, skill and creativity to feed my fellow employees at iCorp the food we love to make.