New Creations, Old Ideas, and Older Demons- 2019 Wrap-up

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

It’s a good night for a scotch.

I’m in the “office” corner of my house- a corner that has gotten messier in recent memory. I’ll do some tidying after I finish writing this, I promise- right now, its staring me in the face, wondering how long I’m going to let those piles of books and random CDs just sit there, and if I’ll ever get rid of those old boxes of business cards and just buy new, correct ones that don’t have expired business names or abandoned web addresses on them.

In the other room, my wife and cat are watching a review video on YouTube. The single lamp in the room- besides our holiday decor- paints everything a pale gold as Em listens the review. It’s almost white noise as she boops at an iPhone game.

I’ve spent the evening relaxing, knitting, reading library books, and buying up Chanukah socks for my friends. Now it’s time to sip some scotch, and write my last blog post of 2019.

Just about a year ago…
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Dim Sum and Star Wars: “Jewish Christmas” and Holidays in the Industry

“Hey, so we’re closed on Christmas Day, right?”
”Huh? Yeah, of course.”
”Well… there’s orders going out the next morning. If we’re not going to be here, who’s going to make them?”

”…Crap.”

Bakers necessarily need to plan for a few days in the future. Especially when you have wholesale accounts expecting pastries early in the morning. Someone dropped the ball somewhere.

“Uhh… okay, don’t worry, we’ll think of something.”

Well, we thought of something first.
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Snapshots of the Bakeshop III- The Night Shift

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

The last time I wrote a “Snapshots,” I was working the morning bake shift. Since then, I’ve taken over the completely opposite end of the day- evening pastry prep.

I’ve gone from managing the oven and getting the bakery off to a good start each day to watching it slowly empty out, till I shut everything down as the last man left.

If you’re wondering what a bakery looks like as the day dies down, here we go.

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What Doing Nothing Feels Like, and Why You Should Do It More Often

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

This might be a bit of a shorter blog post than usual. Recent shake-ups at work have left me nearly drained everyday, and I haven’t even had the energy to work on my other projects (namely, my next book and a free ebook on time management and mise en place!)
Thank you for being patient with me on those!

If you’ve been reading this blog for really any amount of time, you probably know that one of my ongoing frustrations is my relationship with productivity, anxiety, and my own self-worth. In brief, any time that I’m not directly working (or working on something) feels like wasting time on some level.

“Wasting time” is something my brain translates as “laziness” or “shiftlessness”- and when your self worth is connected to how busy you are… it’s kinda hard not to feel like a bum for needing a break. And yet, taking a break is needed not just for creativity… but for being alive.

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Dunning-Kruger, Imposter Syndrome, and When You Can’t Believe Yourself

Good morning, friends and neighbors! Today’s topic is one that I’ve been thinking about for a while because not only does it come up in creative life and professional life… it’s also an excuse to flex a bit of my dusty BA in Psychology.

With the increasing diagnoses of anxiety and depression among the American population, “imposter syndrome” is a term that gets used to express frustration and self-criticism of one’s accomplishments. Slightly less well-known (but increasingly used in recent years) is “the Dunning-Kruger Effect,” which is oversimplified in order to be used as a criticism of others.

The truth is they are two sides of the same coin- we experience both in our lives, and the impact of them change how we handle our work, our creative projects, our relationships, and ourselves.

So if you came looking for Freddy Kruger, you’ll have wait about a month. Sorry- just a bunch of fascinating psychology today.

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Why “Beauty in the Mundane?”

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors.

Way back when I first started this blog, it was only meant to be a little newsposting feed for what was coming out of my tiny kitchen in New Jersey. Since that little kitchen wasn’t putting out too much… neither was the blog.

When I started writing on a regular basis, I didn’t always have new recipes or projects to talk about- but I did have my recent quest to lose weight, get stronger, and put the lie to the self-destructive lifestyle popular in the culinary world. After speaking with my sister- who was trying to flex her experience with brand management and degree in marketing- we decided that “What’s On The Bench” need a tagline: Reps, Rolling Pins, and Building A Better Baker.

Time went on, and I started to realize that living a healthy life in the culinary industry wasn’t just a matter of working out or eating your veggies regularly. Being a cook is mentally and emotionally taxing- so our brains and hearts need care as well. I wrote about mental health- mine and others.

What about emotional health, though? What soothes your mind doesn’t always soothe the heart and soul- couldn’t I write about the things that by-pass the intellect and just make people smile without them realizing it?

Those are the moments of simplicity and beauty that I love, and they are everywhere. So the blog became “Reps, Rolling Pins, and Beauty in the Mundane.”

Of all the evolutions my writing has gone through… that one might be my favorite so far.

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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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