Where Did All The Chef Hats Go?- Portland’s Impact on American Cuisine

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors!

This morning, I had the great fortune of getting contacted by an old teacher of mine from culinary school. Chef Joe Sheridan was appearing on WOND, a local New Jersey radio station, discussing culinary education, the industry, and seeking the voices of alumni. I was having a slow morning and agreed to call in.

After catching up a bit on the show and brief introductions (including plugging this blog and my book. #shamelessselfpromoter) Chef Joe asked me an interesting question.

 

“Matt, I’ve recently been reading this book “Burn The Ice” by Kevin Alexander and- well, to stereotype your entire city, we came from an era of white table cloths and pressed napkins. Now we have chefs with tattoo sleeves, in black T-shirt’s with hats on backward, serving in dining rooms with bare tables and distressed walls. It’s all different!”

Now, I gotta own that since coming to Portland, I’ve gotten a couple food tattoos. I haven’t worn a proper white chef’s toque since I graduate culinary school (I hated them anyway. The paper ones tore and had a habit of knocking things off overhead racks, directly onto my neck.) There’s no denying that the Pacific Northwest spawned a reckoning in how fine dining was treated in America.

 

While I have yet to read Kevin Alexander’s “Burn the Ice” on the subject (I just bought it on Kindle a few minutes ago. It’s officially on The Pile,) the sharp cultural difference between living on the West Coast and training on the East is something I’ve mulled over plenty.

 

Why PORTLAND of all places? I have some thoughts…

 

 

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It isn’t called “Bridge City” for nothing.

 

 

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The Comedown- Beating an Anxiety Feedback Loop

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

I’m pretty sure I’m incapable of actually being on vacation. Moving the body doesn’t necessarily move the brain.

Emily and I finally managed to get nine days of vacation together, spending most of them in Corvallis, Oregon and being hosted by an old high-school friend of mine and her husband.

For the first time in three years, I am on a trip where I truly have nothing to worry about… except for the fact that I have nothing to worry about. It’s hard to beat a habit of a lifetime.

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The Ten Steps of Baking (Totally Not a Listicle)

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

After last weeks post about the basic science of bread, I figured it might be a good idea to keep going on this rudimentary road trip through the land of yeasted loaves and carbs. For this post, and most of the posts coming up, I pulled out one of my old culinary school textbooks as a reference, and the memories came flooding back.

Namely, “Holy f*** this stupid thing is heavy.” 

41YOWNAPFuL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgIt’s still an excellent resource, though. The book is “Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach by Michael Suas, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a deeper dive on the science and craft of baking bread.

 

 

 

As for today, we’re gonna keep it light and- literally- go by the numbers as we cover The 10 Steps of Baking!

Stand by for tasty science!

Yzma and Kronk from The Emperors New Groove screaming "It's dinner time." in lab coats.

from The Emperors New Groove

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Loafing About- A Hot Take On Bread Science

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

A few years back, Emily and I were checking out a candle shop in Collingswood, NJ. The place (predicatably) smelled almost overpowering. Besides candles there was a lot of incense, Wicca, natural- healing, and- what I have been told is an accepted term- “woo-woo stuff.”

The proprietress was behind the counter, and she asked what we did as she rang up our purchases. I told her I was a baker, and the following exchange happened:

“Oh good! I’ve always wanted to ask a baker this! Okay, so what’s the difference between wheat, yeast, and gluten? Like I’m trying to go gluten free because it’ll help my chakras align, but I’m also vegan and I REALLY like nutritional yeast, so like, is there gluten free yeast? Isn’t yeast alive, so isn’t it actually not vegan? And I was also wondering bzzzzzzzzzzz…..”

Me:

Animated gif of an extremely baffled llama

“….”

To avoid anyone from having to deal with this shenanigans again, and to answer a couple questions that have been pitched to me by other non-baking pros, here’s a Crash Course on Bread.

Let’s get started.

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“Embrace the Suck” – Identifying and Beating Toxic Positivity in the Kitchen

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

There’s something to be said for powering though issues, or “stiff-upper-lipping” it. One of my mantras when it comes to time management is “Freak out when you have time.” Definitely easier said than done, but being able to tolerate discomfort for a while DOES make one stronger- mentally, physically, and as a person.

That is a far cry from pretending that that discomfort and pain doesn’t exist though, or that you aren’t having trouble- OR that you can endure it forever.

Acknowledging that life can suck can help you… and pretending it doesn’t can hurt you. That’s toxic positivity… and in the kitchen, it can make a difficult life even harder.

A quote meme reading "One smile can cure all the disease no matter what just keep smiling. " by Akansha Pande

I call Shenanigans.

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A Healthy Dose of Self-Loathing

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors! Sorry about the. Lack of a post last week, but I wanted to take a little time off for my birthday. I’m 33 now… so I figure I’lll. Know what that’s supposed to mean next year. I try not to get too navel-gazy… the lint gets up my nose.

Besides, there’s been plenty of stuff going on to keep me occupied. I’m very good at my job (of writing AND baking, fortunately)- and my day job keeps finding ways for me to demonstrate it.

Often repeatedly. In the same manner.

Animated GIF of the President from the West Wing pounding his head on his desk

That said, no one became proficient at anything by “winning” all the time. You gotta screw up sometimes… so how do you react?

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