Saturday, March 19, 2005

Last supper

My last night at Lampreia is just a few short hours away. Scott called and told me it was dead, to stay home. I don't know if I just sounded pitiful enough at the thought of not working, or if he really mistook today for friday. But none the less, he called back in a matter of 30 seconds to say I could work. Tonight is the culmination of two and a half years of my life. And I say that because I poured my entire being into Lampreia.

So looking back (hindsight is 20-20) i can share with you a few of my favorite memories.

1. The reason I got the job. Not because I went to both culinary and baking and pastry school. Not because I came around 4 times befor I got the interview. Not because when I was allowed a half an hour in his kitchen as an observer i stayed for 5. Not because I was so blown away by his food that I knew there was nothing else for me at the time. And not because I wanted it with all my being. It was when he sat down with me and just started asking me about myself. When the conversation turned to my competitive athletic youth I stated, "It's been said about me that I am a very coachable person" That line, that was it. All that work and it came down to a statement about my ability to get yelled at and not cry.

2. My first tastes of many things....truffles, white and black, foie gras, more italian cured meats and sausages I can name, chessnuts, oysters, sweetbreads, tounge, tail, the list goes on and on. And for many of the flavors I had tasted befor, at Lampreia I learned what they were really supposed to taste like. Often you think you don't like a food when in reality you just don't like that food prepared incorrectly.

3. The first glass of champagne. As the lowest man in the kitchen the nights ended for me first with the panic of the service subsiding, then with a big clean of the whole kitchen, inventory done 3 times so I didn't miss a thing, prep lists gone over and over, and a hand shake with the chef before i left. For everyone else it ended with a nice glass of wine, sometimes champagne, and light conversation. So the first time this was offered to me was a big treat. It was 6 months after I started, and 6 months untill it was offered again. It was not what the cup held, but what the gesture held that was so important to me.

4. The first white truffle season. Once a year for those lucky enough to get some, white truffles come in. The aroma fills the kitchen for a week and it was like nothing I had ever smelled. The smell will allways take me back to that time and place, when I was still discovering everything.

5. Bill Gates's red pepper terrine. After only being there for 8 months Bill Gates shows up for dinner. While Lampreia is used to seeing people of his public and professional standing, the man himself had never been in befor. So impress him we would. But I took the hot knife and mangled the entire terrine so not a single plate could be finished. I know the chef was yelling, but I couldn't hear him over the pounding in my ears and adreneline coursing through me at the horrendous mistake I had made at the most inopportune of times.

6. All about apples. This was a cookbook created from a menu we served in the fall. It was my first taste of a project like that. Seeing how it happens start to finish. And the photo shoots were exciting.

7. Dinner for James Turrell and Lunch for Santiago Callatrava. These are the celebrated figures that we bend over backwards for. The other artists creating without the push of the public's desires. Turrell's use of light as a changing meduim and Calatrava's bridges and buildings that defy words inspire us to be better artists. These artists are who we elate in creating for.

8. My broken Elbow. One tuesday morning scott arrived to a message from me saying, "chef, I broke my elbow. I need surgery. I'll be in today to work no matter what." I hired a student to do the hands on stuff and verbally guided her through 4 weeks. Not only did I feel super tough only missing 3 days for surgery and saying stuff like "I can do more with one hand that you can do with two" but it was my first taste of leadership. I couldn't show her how to do anything. I had to teach her the skills I had spent the first year perfecting with only words. It was an amazing excercise that I will draw on through the years.

9. The night my parents came in. When I started at Lampreia my dad was very eager to get a table. I told them they had to wait untill their 25th wedding anniversary. "But that's a year and a half away!" protested my father. "Exactly" I said. But in doing that I was able to be in a position of security and give them a perfect experience. Not only did they get to sit at a table next to Rob Morrow, the doctor from Northern Exposure, but they had a special menu created just for them by the chef and I. I have never seen my mother smile that much and my father was just beaming. My mom who loves her little smokie sausages in BBQ sauce said she thought she was going to have to pretend she liked the food. But she told everyone she knew for 2 months following that it was the best meal of her life and why.

10. The Fat Duck. Not only is it great to get to go to the Fat Duck. But reaching a level of respect that the Chef would use his reputation and connections to help advance me is the real accopmlishment. And I get to go work at the Fat Duck!!!

11. I suppose this should be first instead of last. The meal I ate at Lampreia. While in baking and pastry school and working at a no-matter seattle restaurant I was invited to have dinner with a friend of my cousin at his favorite restaurant. The food was more beautiful, flavorful, alive, true than I could have ever imagined. It was an awakening for me. I can still tell you every detail of what I myself and my dining companions ate. I didn't know how, or why, I just knew that this was it and I had to be a part of it. And 2 and a half years later here I am. Going to one of the top restaurants in the world, and remembering why Lampreia is in the same class.


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