Thursday, April 14, 2005

For whom the bell tolls...

"Worked a half day did you?" asked my roommate Dan as I strolled in at 9 tonight. It was a lovely early evening for me. I was stationed across the street for prep all day. I had a lovely stroll through the village while the church bells rang and made it home just as dusk fell to night.

I learned today that the reason bitter almonds, peach pits, apricot pits, and cherry pits all smell like ammaretto is Benzaldahyde. It is the isolated flavor molecule that gives each of those things their distinct "almond" taste and smell. It can be naturally produced with those items themselves, or can be synthesized using saw dust. I was told that there is no way to differentiate between the natural and synthetic molecules; not with your tounge, not with your nose, and not with a science lab. "But with saw dust?" you ask, "I don't want to eat saw dust, thats unnatural and gross." Well, not really, and you almost cirtainly have already. Immitation vanilla is also synthesized using the same paper industry by product. Vanilla was the first synthesized flavor all the way back in the 1800's and has been used extensively ever since. You might even have some in your cupboard if you are a cheap-skate.

There were film crews setting up as I arrived for work yesterday. I guess it happens a lot. I had a very interesting chat with the Chef, Ashley Watts about stuff. He started as a stagiere years ago and has worked his way up to the top. He said that the day they got their 3rd star was a complete surprise. No one expected it, heston wasn't even in town. It started as a normal day, the staff got over thier initial shock, and cellebrated a bit. Then the next day the tital wave hit. The phone started ringing off the hook, reservations flooded, and each night there would be up 3 tables with journalists, magazines, newspapers from across the world. I liked that story a lot. To me it says that what was happening inside this restaurant was simply Heston and his cooks trying to make the food the way they wanted it the best way they thought they could. Not a bunch of cooks striving to attain the merit of someone elses standards. They earned their 3rd star by working towards their own goals. This is the kind of creative process I want to be a part of. And honestly, in how many 3 star restaurants do the cooks address thier leader by first names? It's a thing of beauty, watching these cooks work together. It's like a well oiled machine and no one is ever yelled at, insulted, made to feel stupid. Each cook is respected and given controll over themselves, and I'll say, they use that to come together and rise above. It's amazing how much you can achieve when you just feel good.


Anonymous londonchef said...

Hey Dana, it's great to hear such postitive stories coming from Heston's kitchen! I've heard similar tales, but that was through the grapevine and not from a direct source. I've spent some time in a one-star kitchen and actually feared for my safety when the chef threw a major fit. It was unpleasant to say the least.

April 15, 2005 11:47 AM  
Blogger chicchef said...

I totally agree with your aspiration to be the best you can be. To be in a positive work environment is very scarce. I am looking foward to that kind of commradery.
See ya soon!

April 18, 2005 3:10 AM  

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