On Doubt and Feline Doughnuts

​Good evening, friends and neighbors!
There’s been a lot of thinking, rethinking, and nefarious plotting going on at my end recently- what I want “On The Bench” to be next, what it used to be versus what it has become, and how I want to go about tackling that “next big thing” we ALL worry about- the big project, the big presentation, the opening day, the whatever.
In the midst of all of it, two fortuitous memories resurfaced amid the frothy madness that the waters of life work themselves up into.

The first one is the video below, which remains one of the single best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten for attempting ANY project EVER- personal, professional, or academic.

The second one is a bit more of a story. This blog will therefore be a little different than the others- part story, and part actual news update about what this blog will turn into, and what I want to do next.

Watch the video, and I’ll see you after the jump. Thank you Extra Credits for handing down some sage advice that makes so much sense, I wished I’d learned it earlier in life.

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The Eye For Detail

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

There are reasons I call myself a “baker,” and not a “pastry chef.”

Beyond the respect and station that I think comes with the “chef” title that I personally don’t think I’ve earned just yet, or the argument that “a chef is a cook who leads other cooks” and I haven’t had any cooks under my command for longer than a couple hours, there’s the fact that… well… I don’t think I’m quite crazy enough yet.

Let me explain- when I say “not crazy enough,” I mean that I still stand in rapt awe, wonder, and a little fear, of people who possess the meticulous attention to detail necessary to do certain things. Not just do them once or twice, but REPETITIVELY, and CONSISTENTLY. No cutting corners, no shrugging things off as “rustic” or “it’s meant to be like that”- if whatever these people do isn’t looking pristine, it’s unacceptable.
While I’m not exactly envious of the perfectionism these individuals have (my grandfather’s saying “Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of ‘good’” comes to mind- and he was a brain surgeon) I am constantly in wonder of the level of PERCEPTION involved in noticing minuscule details.

Like many things in this world, an ideal case study for it comes from a certain mouse.

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Tapping The Breaks- Dealing With Burnout

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

This week’s entry is going to be a little light, and next week’s is gonna be… well, non-existent, because I’m finally getting to go on vacation. Emily and I will be heading down to Florida for a few days to see her folks. It’ll be our first chance to ACTUALLY get away in nearly two and a half years, and frankly, it couldn’t have come sooner.

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Mise En Temps- Timeline Like A Baker

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors.

The clock starts as soon as I walk in the door.

In the first 10 – 15 minutes of my day in the bakeshop, I need to:

1. Determine the state of the front counter and what they will need immediately.
2. Whether anything has been requested that I didn’t anticipate the day before.
3. Amalgamating my task list for the day.
4. Pulling anything that will need time to come to a workable temperature (frozen doughs, cream cheese to soften for icing, etc.)
5. Prepare my station- knife roll where it’s accessible, sanitizer bucket and towel, extra dry towel tucked in my apron.
6. Review any instructions from the pastry chef.
7. Get a cup of tea or energy drink in me.

Once I have that list ready (as well as an energizing beverage), the planning begins.

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“Bakeshop Changes a Man…”

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

I got up before my 5 am alarm clock again the other day- thanks mostly to my cat. It’s a little hard to sleep through eight pounds of furry, purring lump flopping itself on to your chest- even if your alarm isn’t supposed to go off for another half-hour.

Ugh… fine. Covers off. Slippers and house hoodie on because the heater has yet to kick on. I use my phone and watch as a flashlight to find my glasses- Emily doesn’t have to be up for a few hours yet. Best not to wake her.

Shuffling through the dark apartment on the way to a lightswitch, I almost trip over Cleo twice. She’s weaving in and out of my legs and purring- thrilled as all get out that I’m awake to feed her, even before I fix my own breakfast.

“Yes, cat, I’m coming.”
“Yes cat, you’re getting fed.”
“Jesus Christ, you act like we never feed you. Keep your fur on.”

As I tip out half a can of weirdly uniform, monochromatic glop that claims to be turkey with sweet potatoes and gravy into her bowl, watch her take a few sniffs and walk away, I reach over and shut my alarm off.

“This is my life.”

Yes, yes it really is. I asked for it to be this way.

“It’s All In The Book”- About Recipes, Storage, and Preservation

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

Back in culinary school, I quickly learned that the single most useful tools a student can have on them at any given time is a pen and a notebook.
Especially in my Soups, Stocks, and Sauces class, a.k.a. Hot Foods 101.

My chef for that class was a fun and pleasant guy, but tended to have something of a short temper and a dry sense of humor. When we got into the kitchen for the practical half of the day’s class, he would have EVERYONE’S production scrawled up on a chalkboard.

He would then rattle through it, top to bottom, along with recipe specifics that group must know. Then he would erase the board- and he wouldn’t answer ANY questions for the rest of the day that amounted to “What else was I supposed to do again?

I learned VERY quickly how to jot down notes, written in my own flavor of shorthand, and to create mnemonics for myself each day to make sure that- once the board was erased- the only thing I had to say was “Yes, Chef.”

 

The little flip notebooks I filled didn’t just help me that day- I often used them to scrawl down recipes and procedures my chefs described, or later on to sketch quick plating ideas. Those saved ideas and recipes got compiled in a little bound notebook with a magnet closure- and never got too far from my knife roll or chef uniform.

Small beaten-up recipe book

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Eating Healthy, Part II- 5 Tips for Going Shopping and Beating Your Food Budget

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

No matter where you are on Earth, certain things drive food culture forward- geography, climate, population, social mores, and so on. Right at the heart of it though, from the salt-of-the-earth origins of cuisines all over the world- from the Soul Food of the Southeastern United States to the multifaceted mosaic of Chinese food- is economics, and the single question every cook asks:

“HOW DO I TAKE WHAT’S CHEAP, MAKE IT TASTE GOOD, AND FEED EVERYONE?”

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