Sunday, April 10, 2005

Tuesday: It begins

I walked in to the restaurant and strait to the changing shed. After putting on the coat and blue striped bib apron, I barely made it two feet out of the shed befor I heard , "hello, Dana right? I've got a job for you." and a box of Choux Pointu was shoved in my arms. It had begun.

The day was a bit of a blur. I kept my head down and worked hard while keeping my head up to observe as much as possible. Every task i was given opened up 10 questions to be answered before I could even begin. Where is it? What is it? What is a Vac-pac machine? What is Sous Vide? Where is Shed 3? Can I walk through the restaurant yet? Who is Rupert? Is this the right size? Is this the best way to approach this task? Does bruniose mean the same thing to The Fat Duck as it does to me? But after years of working for a chef with the highest of standards, I at least knew what to ask before I started to ensure success in completing the task correctly.

The prep kitchen was being remodeled so I spent the day in the labrotory. Or, "Hestons Atomic Kitchen" as one article was titled. Here I picked Chris the scientist's brain. Here are the things I learned. Keep in mind, this is not text book, it is what I heard in conversation with an expert.

Brining. A brine is a mixture of salt and liquid in which meat is kept before it is cooked. This ensures the meat will be moist while cooking. The ratio needed is between 5 and 10 percent salt to water. Ok. This I knew. So what is so interesting about salt water? Well, it's the why. Why does salt, which logically should extract liquid, make meat moister while cooking? Well, meat is strings of protien fibers which are capable of holding a certian amount of water next to them. Salt will actually change the protien in the network and make it capable of holding more water molecules next to them. This reaction happens in a brine up to 10 percent salt. When you start to make the salt much higher you move in to hamming something. which actually breaks down the protiens ability to hold moisture and extracts it.

Meat glue. What? Meat glue is a natural enzyme we produce in our own bodies. When we work a muscle, we create microscopic tears which in turn heal and make our muscle stronger. This enzyme is the glue that holds the muscle tightly together while the tissue heals itself. The japanese developed this enzyme for comercial use in making their immitation crab meat. It is produced by crossing two yeasts. It comes in a powdered form and is mixed up with a little water, spread on the meat, and in two hours the bond is solid. Then you can do cool stuff with it like take out the bones and guts of a large sardine, and glue it back together so it is a solid fish again. Or wrap a pidgeon breast with panchetta which will stay perfectly in place while cooking.

Now it's on to dinner. The staff dinner is at 6 sharp. It was a little like being the new kid and trying to find a table to sit at in the lunchroom. Then back across the street to "the house" and more prep work untill 11 at night. A 20 minute walk home, up the stairs, and strait into bed. I don't think I blinked twice before I was fast asleep.


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