A chef in my kitchen
I have seen chefs work in their professional kitchens, and I can say this about them, they’re all pretty much the same: they’re picky about ingredients; they’re painfully meticulous, and they manhandle food. This one in my kitchen was no exception.
Let’s call him Jughead. Jughead works at a particularly ritzy, particularly hot-right-now restaurant. He walks into my house and the vibe I get is that he’s a man of few words. He doesn’t strike me as particularly friendly either, but that’s okay. Not all chefs are Mr (or Ms.) Congeniality.
Jughead and Alex place their loot on the kitchen counter ”“ they’ve bought food from a mishmash of places ”“ KFC, Kenny Rogers Roasters, French Baker, Rustan’s Supermarket, etc. So they’ve just come from the mall and Jughead gets to work without washing his hands.
He asks to borrow a knife, so I hand him my favorite 9-inch chef’s knife. After slicing a few green onions, Jughead tosses my knife aside disdainfully and opts for the paring knife he’s brought along.
Excuse me, my knives are always sharp, thank you very little.
Being the normally curious, talkative person that I am which comes from years of interviewing people, I chat with Jughead while watching him work. He brought some finely shredded beetroot and carrots which he uses for garnish. He took about three minutes looking for a perfect carrot “string” that was just long enough to tie the green onions together. (I told you they were picky). Then Jughead gets the chicken thigh that they’ve bought and slices it at a slight angle so that the drumstick is now sticking up oddly.
O-kaay now. I don’t find it too appealing, but hey, I’m sure this is the kind of stuff they do at the place he works at. I just don’t like seeing a chicken leg that looks like it’s about to kick me in the face once I take a bite.
Professional chefs also have these creative ways of adding sauces and colors to their plates. Jughead plates a vol-au-vent pastry that he’s stuffed with mashed potatoes. He then takes a teaspoon which he’s dipped into a bowl of salad dressing, and then with a quick motion, he touches the spoon to the plate, leaving a paintbrush-like design on the black plate. (See the photo). Nifty. He also did quick swirls for the dessert sauces, which provided a splash of color on the stark white plates. (Again, see photos).
So far, Jughead has plated a chicken from Kenny Rogers on a bed of KFC mashed potatoes and added a serving of assorted vegetables also from Kenny Rogers. He’s stuffed a pastry from French Baker with KFC mashed potatoes; made a salad with bottled Caesar salad dressing and added salted egg slices and (too big) chunks of chicharon (pork cracklings). There’s also a plate of prepared sushi with a mini “explosion” of (my) nori strips held in place by a small heap of shredded beetroot, which I found creative. Look at the photo of the sushi and see if you can’t spot some peeking strands of beet. Dessert was a suman (rice cake made with glutinous rice and coconut milk) garnished with mango chunks; and ice cream “sandwiches” made with Dewberry cookies and vanilla ice cream laying on a bed of chocolate syrup.
Despite my initial impression of him, Jughead was nice enough and he answered all my questions. He worked well and was very hands-on in the most literal sense that you can imagine, and I’ll leave it at that. (!) I’ve always known that chefs are hands-on (ahem) but seeing it close-up and then eating it right after is unreal. Well, it’s the price I pay for pretty food.
After the shoot, Alex and I and the two photographers hunkered down at the table to try a bit of this and that. Everything was tasty, and you wouldn’t know it was all fast food. Much as we enjoyed ourselves, Jughead refused even a bite of the food he’d so gloriously plated. Hmm, I wonder why.