Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kitchen Confidential S03E04: Tears Over Foie Gras

There is perhaps, no regret.  But there is nostalgia.  If I'm allowed to call it that.

Up to this day I always told myself that the greatest opportunity in my career was to work in that little cafe in the Queen City.  That greatest opportunity that was too short because I let it go.  In that little cafe where everything was Larousse.  If you tried to cover up bubbles in your chocolate pudding with some ganache they would definitely know about it, and you would get your ass whipped.  If you missed a step in making the stock there was a high chance you'd not live to see the next sunrise.  In that little cafe.

It was too short an opportunity.  Sure I got a copy of the recipes.  A friend of mine from that same cafe who only stayed as short as I did sold a recipe for 30,000 PHP.  I had a notebook full of recipes from the place but somehow I didn't want them exchanged for 30,000.  I was part of that team when the place was in its opening stages, and if you read the notebook, you could see how the recipes progressed, changed over time, as we recorded what worked and what didn't.  How one chef did it compared to the other.

As I moved over that knot in my life, I came to the hotel that I had fond memories of as a trainee.  I thought life sucked, and kind of regretted having to lose all the Larousse-ness of that cafe.  See, hotel survival was on a different level of culinary trickery, to the point where you swore you could be a chemist.  If the recipe called for raspberry but you didn't have it, and it was needed badly or you could be on the morning papers, something came out of your ass that apparently made the guests think it was raspberry.  Nothing like a little food color to do the trick.  So this kind of skill also earned some points in my experience book, I guess.  It was really handy.  But I didn't expect to do it very often.  And really, I always took pride in my work.

I was nothing more than an entry level cook, the lowest of all the commis in that hotel, but I was working with foie gras.  I worked with liquid nitrogen and sous vide and Paco jets.  To some this was nothing new.  I went to Thailand and was surprised at how liquid nitro found its way in a stall in a mall like it was some cookie treat.  Sous vide was introduced in the 70s so, that was expected too.  Still, even as I thought at the time that this kitchen was outdated, I could never have experienced all of these in that cafe.  I could never have lived to work with Michelin Star chefs and chefs that appeared in international magazines.  As I left that hotel they hosted two more rounds of guest chefs, and I thought well damn, I missed another Michelin Star opportunity.  

I did not regret it 100%, leaving.  Because my life there was hell.  Despite the enthusiasm I felt knowledge-wise, my bosses made sure I did not enjoy it.  When I moved to another hotel, which was where I currently worked, I thought it was going to be better.  "State-of-the-art" when I heard it.  I assumed, something beyond the 70s.  Beyond the foie gras and the truffle and the nitro and the Paco and the xantan and the foam and the dry ice and the espuma.  A true five-star experience that perhaps brought back the Larousse that I missed, a place that debunked all kinds of magic tricks to make that mayonnaise or red wine sauce.  And a place where new people shared new ideas.  Culinary-wise, I was bored out of my mind.  We couldn't even afford the local brandy to marinate chicken liver with.  Did I regret it? 

To make things easier I heard the news that the first hotel was closing down.  Good on you to have been closing just as I left.  You know, something to blow raspberries at.  Not going down with ya, I thought.  That's what you get for being mean.  Your hotel closes down.  And it was all fine now, I could move on from the Michelin Star guest chefs.  Then an old colleague from that hotel posted a video.  It was a tribute to all the culinary adventures the hotel had to offer.  And I saw the kilos of foie gras, that I never got to touch again after coming to the new hotel.  And tears fell.  Soon I began to cry.  It was as if I was mourning over something.

The foie gras.  The xantan.  The truffle.  The nitro.  The paco.  The foams.  Stuff that I played with to make amuse bouche.  Just amuse bouche.  And I never got to see them again.  It was not an episode of frustration that I often had with the new hotel, but this time it was more of a welling sadness.  And that's how it came to be that the sight of foie gras made me miserable.  I loved food in that miserable way.  

Weekend Report 14: When Your Mind's Made Up... Really?

Following my diet mishaps as of late, as if to put my body in even more confusion that it already was, my work schedule changed so drastically that my whole waking hours became my sleeping hours, or... it's hard to explain without the numbers but basically, my world went upside down.  That pretty much summed up the last two weeks.  I struggled so much with this time difference that even my metabolism and my diet changed.  On the last three days I had surprisingly disciplined myself to adjust to the jet lag experience.  I finished work in record time, chilled, and was about to go to sleep when I received a text from a colleague.  That I was to have my day off the next day due to sudden changes in schedule- namely, that I would be assigned to a new department and would be having a totally different time slot that had not existed before.  I was to be at the helm of things in a day's time.  And I didn't like it.  Much as I ought to have.

Okay maybe I was being too negative.  It was sort of an okay opportunity if we just got over the sudden changes, or the burden of having to handle a sub-thing all on my own.  I was going to be in a place where rich people were, for example, and that would probably mean more tips, as it often is in most hotels.  I was also going to be only a floor down from where I originally aspired to be, so visiting the kitchen upstairs was probably not going to be a problem.  I was going to be around a possibly new menu, and that ought to wipe away any boredom I harbored, if I ever did.  I was never really going to know.  All of it were assumptions and I was not going to be there for any clarifications until the day it would open (in three days time), so there really wasn't anything else left to do but sit back.

It was a day off that was granted four days before my regular day off so there was really no plan to do anything.  Not even chores.  I just did them, on my previous day off.  Which was, three days ago.  My house was still clean, my food store still quite packed.  And even if I wanted to go grocery shopping, I couldn't.  I was at the end of my rope and the next round of salaries was not in another five days.  So literally, I had nothing else to do but sit back.

In my hours of sitting I found myself to have gone over one foreign film and three different shows*.  To which I felt my muscles going numb and therefore I did a round of HIIT.  I still felt like I was trapped inside the house too much, so I decided to go out for some air.  Of course I was reminded of the awfulness of this city, and recalled the fresh air that was my hometown.  In the bukid.  And it just gave me even more reason to want to go back there, like, for a good long time.  Maybe, for good.  Truthfully, I had already half the mind.  It was a big decision to make considering all the courage it was going to take not only from me but from my fiance too.  But again, I already had half the mind in that decision.

And really, if I was only going to be surrounded by people I loved, what was there to lose?

*A Werewolf Boy
*Running Man
*King of High School
*The Apprentice US Season 5

Friday, July 25, 2014

After-Work Priorities of a Single 27-year Old Geek S02E03

After almost three years of enjoying the night shift, I was transferred to the morning shift.  As bosses often like to do.  They "shake things up", somewhat.  And having the controlling mindset that I cannot seem to hand over my station to anyone due to the belief that they can never keep it the running the way I did, I was in for some serious brain damage.  Oh, also some physical damage, sure.

I was never a morning person.  I had quite established that some 18 or so years ago when I was in third grade and I slept way later than anybody else in class, or in the house.  Which had me developing dark circles under my eyes very early in my life.  And this habit just seemed to have gotten worse as the years went by.  I was just not cut out for breakfast food.  

The main problem with the morning shift was that, I always felt sleepy after the shift was done.  I could not do what I ought to be doing (like, yoga, or other productive stuff) because I dozed off just as I would be resting right after work.  Then I would wake up in the middle of the night and do geeky stuff as I had always done in the middle of the night for ten years: go to forums, read manga, and watch rom-coms.  I had tried controlling this geeky habit for the benefit of my health, as my sleep had dwindled down to four hours a day.  However, I came to the point where, in my obsession for "trying", I ended up having to blame other people for my lack of sleep entirely.  I came to the point where, catching up to my manga and Korean dramas that I had supposedly missed out on for a few days became more important than talking to my fiance.  I came to the point where I ignored his calls completely, and even got annoyed if he wanted to talk to me yet I was still in the middle of my geeking.  "I have three more chapters to read, come on!" or "This episode takes an hour to watch and talking to you will take time off my sleep, what the eff!"

I was taking my day off from work a little slow, and watched a few dozen episodes of a drama that I had already watched three times*.  I wanted to finish everything before I moved on to more important chores like, well, working out and doing the groceries.  Which I perfectly calculated, mind you.  I finished the entire thing with two hours to spare- so then I had one hour for yoga and one for groceries.  Then sleep.  I laid out my yoga mat then the phone rang.  Dammit.  Now as a fiancee I was obligated to answer calls, somewhat.  Particularly so if I had lied about going to sleep last night when all I did was marathoning a show.  I lied so I could get uninterrupted viewing pleasure.  It was that simple.  No cheating on other guys or anything.  I just wanted to watch my show.  

Yes I had degraded to a place where I held my otaku stuff to be more important than the person I was going to marry.  Oh my god.  I thought maybe this was just a phase of adjustment yet again, especially because of the morning shift situation.  I thought, how was I going to be a mom, nay, a wife, at this point in my life?  I felt sorry and rightfully told my fiance so.  And I felt even worse when he accepted the whole thing as if it was some news of terminal illness.  He said, "well, you better get your ass on yoga and groceries like you said then.  I won't talk to you today unless you feel like it, and do what you have to do until you find your rhythm."  I was a bad person, and he was being a saint.  Guys like this, you don't want to let go of.  So I thanked him for understanding, hung up, and did some bad-ass yoga like I promised.  And now I'm going to sleep because I need to wake up tomorrow while the moon is still up.  Save me from my morning shi(f)t.

*The King 2 Hearts (2012) starring Lee Seung Gi and Ha Ji Won

Friday, July 18, 2014

You Are All Surrounded with Lee Seung Gi

This is not a review of the recently concluded show You Are All Surrounded.  Technically.  This is just me fangirling on Lee Seung Gi.  I agree pretty much with what Dramabeans said about the show.  Dilly-dally here, dilly-dally there, could have helped if there was much more development elsewhere, etc.  But this is me fangirling on Lee Seung Gi.  So here we go.

I had the clue that Lee Seung Gi would take on a different role before his hiatus because of military service.  He always had the bratty, "young master" role.  Spoiled, always getting his way, cruel to women, jerk.  He probably wanted those roles because in reality TV (which is quite different from reality, of.course.  As I ought to believe) he's always the sweet nice guy who respects everybody.  Still, I wished he would break away from his mold- always a no-good guy who comes around and changes for the better in the end.  He plays that role well, and I don't really mind but it would have been really refreshing to see him trying something new.

When I read about the premise of You Are All Surrounded:
The police comedy is about a group of rookie detectives, starring Lee Seung-gi as the sharp but assy hero whose careless words tend to hurt those around him. --Dramabeans.com
I thought, ah.  Still the same asshole role I would assume.  As the show aired though, I was surprised to find his character to be different this time around.  This was his most angsty, brooding, and complex role, with so many back stories to support his troubled past that was always absent in his previous dramas.  He was usually just the simple guy who was just an ass because he was brought up that way.  Period.  So to see him being the silent kill-joy guy, the guy who kicks and screams in frustration when nobody is there for him, the guy who can't trust anybody because he has so many secrets, was very interesting to me.

Oh and because I'm fangirling, can I just mention that this is the most abs I've seen from Lee Seung Gi?  He's an actor I always found to be conservative, and held out a lot in showing skin, even with a camera on him on reality TV for five years.  I guess, when you're going away for two years (destination: army), you have to leave the abs image for the ladies to remember you by.

Hmm, kisses.

Chemistry-wise, I'd say Lee Seung Gi always has good chemistry with his leading ladies in dramas.  Despite having a girlfriend made public (akdjfdklfajeidaoif) early this year, he acted well enough with Go Ara in terms of skinship in this show.  But well, if I had to compare- most memorable kisses would probably go to Suzy and Ha Ji Won.

Suzy and Seung Gi in Gu Family Book

Ha Ji Won and Seung Gi in King 2 Hearts

Whenever Seung Gi kissed Go Ara I would always think about his reservations having a celebrity girlfriend.  And I would think if Go Ara also held back because of said girlfriend, lol.  I guess it's just work after all.  Besides, the reason why Go Ara and Seung Gi probably didn't have too many steamy scenes was because of how the show was written.  They had a very natural, supportive kind of romance and you can't blame Uh Soo Sun, Go Ara's character, for just being the quiet girl who has brooding guy's back.  Seung Gi's leading ladies often had strong personalities who rivaled his spot in the limelight when it came to his dramas.  This time however, Go Ara remained a supporting character all through out the show.  The one who took her spot was of course, Legendary Detective Seo Pan Suk, played by Cha Seung Won. 

So let's move on from Go Ara to this guy.  I've never seen any of Cha Seung Won's dramas, but from what I've read, he's pretty interesting himself.  And seeing him act in You Are All Surrounded leaves me quite curious as to his other roles in his other shows that I've read great reviews of.  And I could write about his acting in this drama too, which was great, but you can read from other websites.  I don't want to get too far off from Lee Seung Gi.

This was how my monitor looked like back in the day when the first season of Noonas Over Flowers was airing.  Noonas Over Flowers was a show about four middle-aged actresses ranging from ages 40-60 going on a backpacking trip, and to make things even more exciting they added Lee Seung Gi, the "nation's (Korea) younger brother/ nation's mother's friend's son you never want to be compared to" haha.  And of course to the right I'm watching Lee Seung Gi on 1N2D, the show that immortalized him into reality TV for years.  

Give me moar before you head off for the army, Seung Gi ya!  I'm actually wishing for another season of Noonas Over Flowers before having to cut off from him for two years.  Oh Korean TV, what will happen with Lee Seung Gi gone?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Kitchen Confidential S03E03: One After the Other

I have a blue-collar job.  I work behind the scenes, most of the time.  And so it came to be that in all the years I had worked, I had minimal contact with guests.  I liked it that way because guests were kind of like, kids.  They were necessary for the propagation of humanity- in this case, the business, but that they could get on your nerves and you want to kick them just to shut them up.  My charm skills were put to the test when for the past three weeks I was stationed at the buffet.  Like, at the buffet: smiling, handing things to people because they were too lazy to get it themselves, answering questions and making up answers.  That kind of station.  Surprisingly I enjoyed talking to people.  And I liked going the extra mile.  I loved it when people thanked me because I gave them special treatment.  And don't get me wrong, I loved giving special treatments.  I loved giving everybody VIP status.  It was as if you struck lucky at finding nice people who smiled back, or curious guests willing to listen to how you made that dish.  It was also as if you were lucky, the bad kind of lucky, if you ran into a guest, the shitty kind.

As if the verbal reprimand was not enough regarding the goddang salmon, I knew I was in for it the next day when all the bosses lined up to share the news.  My agony just got extended another day because big bosses didn't go to work on Sundays.  You know, boss rights and all.  

Tonight, a memo arrived forewarning the kitchen of a "delicate" guest.  

EDIT: Well, I was in the middle of wanting to tell the story of said guest regarding her know-it-all-ness of the Caesar dressing but I was apparently too drained of energy I dozed on my laptop.  Then I woke up and I'm not in the mood anymore.

Let's just end it at that.  A shitty week, that totally deserved me a massage but I got to sleep in an awkward position instead and the massage place had already closed.  Add the stress of my phone being slammed to the hard kitchen floor cracking into pieces.  I had it repaired and it's working 50% of the time.  The other 50% it exists to annoy me when it stops functioning right at the height of my rant as I tell my boyfriend about this shitty week.  So no, nobody else knows about this goddang story because I was supposed to share it to get it off my system but every single time I get interrupted.  

I wonder if it's just one of those days.  Or, the start of those days?  Tunununun.

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