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Date: Thursday, 05 Dec 2013 16:00

It takes a long time of working in kitchens to develop a knowing over-the-shoulder glance at what the wake of your boat means. Like reading tea leaves, one has to drink a lot of tea before one notices patterns at the bottom of their saucer.

How long should you stay with a chef, in a kitchen, for a company, in a city? These questions can only be answered by you, or your mentor.

As you move towards your various goals, you should be collecting people who know from whence you came, where you're at, and where you'd like to go. You should be part of someone's collection to. As we say, stick with the winners. Wherever I work, I notice people who should be noticed, and I add them to my basket. You never know who will be your next boss, or hire.

A woman wrote to me recently and asked:

"How do I go about finding the right chef and getting a position with them? Who do I contact about getting jobs in certain kitchens? Is it uncouth to contact chefs directly? How do I make my desire for knowledge known to certain individuals?

To which I answered:

  • You should be trailing as much as you can. Not necessarily for a job, but for the experience. There are few chefs who will turn down a free worker for the day.
  • Aim high. go through zagat and mark down every fine dining place. those houses have pastry chefs and teams. eat those people's desserts. every day you should be going out. if you can't afford dinner, call ahead and see if you can get desserts at the bar. THIS is your research. if you like what you eat, ask for the pastry chef's name and send your resume -- by SNAIL MAIL. say you ate their food and you want to work for them.
  • be prepared to move cities. if what you want to be is a chocolatier get as much experience with america's best. do you know Sahagun / Elizabeth Montes in Portland, Oregon? her chocolate is amazing, but very different than the frenchies. if you're with your future spouse I can't imagine that person will die if you move elsewhere for a year for your education/career. of course I don't *know* your situation, but this industry can offer so much more if you're able to travel.
  • Stage with Chef Migoya at Hudson Chocolates once a month if you can't get hired right away. THAT'S AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY and you would be a fool to pass it up. Seriously. Not only is he brilliant, but he KNOWS EVERYONE AND EVERYONE KNOWS HIM!
  • send me your resume. I'll pass it on to some people I know.
  • when you trail a place, talk to the other pastry assistants. get a read on the kitchen. are the dishwashers happy? is the kitchen clean? does the boh respect the foh? are people staying for a long time? when you're trailing a kitchen you should be PAYING VERY CLOSE ATTENTION to the WHOLE KITCHEN.
  • do as much research on your future kitchen/chef/pastry chef as you can. {I can't tell you how many cooks are ridiculously lazy about this! now with google no one has any excuses not to look someone up.}
  • stop working for people you don't admire.
  • pick jobs where you are completely over your head. run to catch up. and eat as much as you can all over nyc - every borough! travel/explore/use this city.

Then she wrote to me again. She said she couldn't move cities. She said she really needed to start making some real money. She said she needed health insurance. She said she wanted to habve kids soon. She said she thought she was ready to be a pastry sous chef. She sent me her resume. I had already guessed where she was working. I was right.

In her words:

"I am at a point in my experience, and in my desire to go all in, over my head, where I am more than ready to take on the role of sous chef. Not only will it challenge me as I wish to be, it will (hopefully, most likely) also provide me with a salary commensurate with my skills, and add the bonus of medical insurance, possibly. I am no perfect chef, not by a long shot, nor do I know more than any number of pastry cooks out there, BUT, I have such a strong desire and will to lead, teach, give, and share what I do know. The core necessity here is money, but the inclination toward teaching and leadership is strong too."

My response:

On the subject of money and saving for your future:

  • there are few jobs in this industry that pay well. even when you become chef/enter management, what you get paid, divided by the labor needed, comes out to little more than rent, transportation and the odd night out.
  • take out a calculator and enter in a series of numbers and you'll see what I mean. ie: if you make $40k as a pastry sous that's $769 weekly gross. divide 769 by 60 hours = $12.82 an hour, gross, which is about $9 an hour after taxes... Increase the yearly by $10k and then divide it by 70, 80 and 90 hour weeks.
  • if you want to make a lot of money, go to the hotels, or union houses like The Four Seasons.
  • but know this: IT'S EXTREMELY HARD to go back to A. an independently owned/non-union wage house, and/or B. a non-management position, once you've gone after the title &/or the $.
  • it's also hard to get "learning" positions after you've gone after jobs just for the title &/or the $.
  • What I mean by all that: it's easier to learn the right way the first time around, than get your bad habits beaten out of you by someone who *does* know what they're doing. *think of it this way: if you were me/or someone else you respect, would you hire You at the place you're at, to be their sous chef?*
  • Just because you're "already" in a position of teaching etc., does not necessarily mean you're ready for a promotion to management. ALL assistants and cooks should be teaching/showing/leading/practicing! I was an assistant to many many pastry chefs before I was promoted. 
  • Once you take a sous position, the minimum commitment is two years. Are you ready to make that commitment to your chef & the house? if you are, you must think very carefully about whom you choose to give that promise to.
  • Maybe you think you're ready to be a pastry sous chef because of who your chef is right now. You might not think so if you were working on a bigger team, in a more established house, with a badass pastry chef... Some things to consider.
  • There are loads of chefs out there who aren't ready to lead. Leadership skills are but one fraction of the  skills that great sous/chefs posess. There are also a lot of chefs who think/believe they're ready/want to lead, but they didn't have enough or very good teachers/mentors, and when they're in charge of a real kitchen with real rules and real bottom lines and real cooks with real problems, they implode.
  • You're not the first cook to choose money so soon in their career. I've seen loads of cooks get promoted to sous long before they were ready. Many people get promoted just because the chef needs someone to work more than 40 hours. IF YOU ARE TO BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR LEARNING, YOU HAVE TO BE CRITICAL OF YOUR SKILLS. If you're not capable of being critical about your skill set/level, chefs and restaurateurs will seduce you into roles you're not ready for. That's a promise.
  • There are plenty of chefs out there who chose/choose making a family over working crazy hours for little pay. This is as good a reason as any to change kitchens/chefs. The only prize you should be keeping your eyes on is YOURS. If you know what YOU Need, go after it.

I added some footnotes~

You should be trailing at at least one kitchen a week on one of your days off. never get too comfortable. There's no such thing as a trail being a waste of time. The worst trail is better than the best first date. Even if you see a dirty, disorganized, lazy kitchen with shoemaker cooks and inedible food, you'll know what not to do/where not to work/who to work under, in the rest of your career.

As your resume reads right now I would say you need at least two, but preferably three more years of working for badass pastry chefs, on amazing teams, in solid houses, under your belt, before venturing out as a sous chef. If you don't feel like you can afford to work like this, go immediately to a house where you can grow into that position fast. Houses that come to mind: Locanda Verde, The Four Seasons (resto not hotel), Marea, Del Posto, Gramercy Tavern, Lafayette, Buddakan, Daniel, Jean Georges, to name a few. I can send your resume to all these pastry chefs, but the rest will be up to you.

Lastly I added specific feedback about her resume.

Cooks resumes these days are at an all time low. Some of the errors are egregious! Whetever happened to spelling well, not mixing tenses, and leaving off jobs we worked at for less than a year? Final word of wisdom: get real critique/feedback about your resume before you send it to a chef you respect/admire...

...which brings me to -

I'm starting a new service:

Send me your resume & $25, and I'll critique it before your next job interview. Seriously, yo, your resume is you. Most chefs I know these days, including me, erase ten times more job queries than schedule interviews. If you want to cook professionally, and get better and better jobs in great kitchens, with serious chefs, you must represent yourself better! And it starts with that word document...

Author: "shuna" Tags: "betwixt, body memory, friends, hard to t..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Oct 2013 16:00

I get a lot of email from cooks, chefs, soon-to-be cooks, culinary students, parents, spouses of BOH peeps, etc. They are looking for advice from someone in the field that no for-profit culinary school, or glossy magazine will tell them about the whys and the hows that one needs to navigate this mine-field of a not-so-straightforward-road of a career "path."

But my viewpoint, my story, if you will, is only mine. Please write your own comments below to add to this list. Every kitchen, every city, every chef, every cook, every walk-in is a snowflake. Meaning: what my kitchen requires might be loathsome to you. Or what one feels every stagiaire should know, times a thousand, creates the real list.

A female culinary student has written to me for advice on staging. I replied thus:

  • bring with you: a notebook that fits in your back pocket, 1 fine & 1 regular sharpie: both black. have these with you for the rest of your career. Claire Fontaine is the very best notebook I have ever used.
  • buy a waterbottle/put your name on it. EAT A SOLID MEAL BEFORE EVERY SHIFT you work. do not expect the job to feed you.
  • eat foods that give you real energy. if you start to survive on caffeine/sugar/drugs etc. you will not have the real stamina you need to last in this industry for more than a few years.
  • if you plan a career in pastry, keep a baby offset spatula in your pocket. there are one million uses for this tool and if it's sleeping in your knife kit, you can't use it on the fly. also a hard bowl scraper in your other back pocket. I can't tell you how many savory cooks have borrowed this from me-- it's amazing for passing difficult solids through fine meshed sieves/tamis etc.
  • look and learn. try not to chat or ask a lot of questions. see if your answer is in front of you before asking it.
  • be safe. stay out of the way. a stage is always in the way, but try to find a place to be and keep it clean and organized.
  • show up early & stay late. this shows commitment.
  • SAFETY FIRST. because you are an unpaid worker, the establishment is taking a risk with you being there. if you are injured in their kitchen you will be covered by workers comp, but the money basically covers band-aids. if you cannot lift more than ______# don't do it to be macho. I know people who have had serious injuries because they were too afraid to appear weak in front of their peers.
  • the answer to every question is either "Yes, Chef" or "No, Chef" it's always better to start out more polite than you need to be.
  • all your tools should be clean and sharp. if you don't need your gigantic tool-kit, don't bring it. bring only the tools your chef tells you you need. but this does not apply to your baby offset spatula. you should never be without this.
  • wear a uniform that fits you. you should look neat and clean at all times, and professional. do not wear your school chefs coat.
  • be on guard. sometimes the friendliest cooks do not have your best interest in mind. do not shut off your instincts! if someone feels creepy, in ANY way, they probably are creepy. give said person the least amount of energy you can but do not act rude.
  • it's possible you will be older than everyone in the kitchen. these days a lot of executive chefs are 30 or under. if the whole kitchen is very young, age-wise, they might try to make you feel out-of-place. stand your ground - you are there to learn, not be their mommy or guidance counselor. anyone can go to college, at any age! a stage is like auditing a class, not marriage. no matter what a cook's age; if he/she is serious, respectful, polite, humble, clean, organized, and has a sense of urgency, he/she belongs in said kitchen and can grow to be part of the team.
  • immediately after every day of staging, write down EVERYTHING you saw, did, heard. even if this isn't legible to anyone else but you; even if grammar can't find it's way into your sentences, write it down. at least 30m before you go into that kitchen, read through your notes twice. at the end of every week, create a list of the most important things you saw, heard, smelled, ate, tasted, felt etc.
  • KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF. if you hate the food, or think the chef is disorganized, or think you know better, or see someone not FIFO'ing, or see a busser/server/host drinking the last of the wine glass dregs, or suspect _________ is having an affair with __________, or want to season something more/less, or think BOH should get to eat family meal, or any variation therof, stow said opinions away in your  "what I learned during my stage" notebook. DO NOT SHOW this notebook TO ANYONE but your cat. 
  • if someone asks for your opinion, be vague and diplomatic if you feel negatively. the premise of a stage is that you are a person who knows almost nothing. if you know more than nothing, keep it to yourself, unless YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE the person you are dealing with is an ALLY. even someone you are sleeping with might not be your ally. all is fair in love, war, and kitchens.
  • hierarchy is a real thing. it matters. a lot. pay VERY CLOSE ATTENTION to who likes who more, who teases who more, who is quiet, who is boistrous etc. it's just like grade-school -- you don't want to be beat up every day at school, but there are factions, and if you are seen as a traitor to the team you're on, it can be hard going. straight up people pleasing gets most people in trouble.
  • when you have questions, make sure they're informed. meaning: do your homework. research the chef, the restaurant, the pastry chef, the cuisine, the owners etc. if I think the question asker is lazy I don't give that person a lot of attention. I'm more fond of the curious person than the know-it-all.
  • my favorite cooks are the ones who care, are intensely clean & organized, and are problem-solvers. anyone, skilled or not, can point to a problem and announce it. sometimes the only difference between a cook and a chef is how she/he handles the SNAFU incomings.
  • keep your eye on YOUR PRIZE. constantly re-define success. if you're learning anything, no matter how minor it appears in the scheme of things, that kitchen is a good place to be. but YOUR PRIZE is yours: it's personal. we all think we can suss a person out, merely by look at them, watching them, and asking a few surface questions. not so. you have no idea why that gal on garde manger, that man expediting, or that woman on saute is doing what she's doing or where she's come from or what she's seen or how long she''ll cook for. keep your focus on you and keep your side of the street clean. accountability is your best friend, not your lover. accountability is looking deep within yourself and coming clean to your chef and your team when you've made a mistake. remember: you only go to sleep with you every night. your integrity is all you've got.

Richie Nakano gathered a bunch of cooks hints about how to and how not to stage too, on Linecook. Check it.

I look forward to hearing your experiences too!

Remember, we keep what we have by giving it away.


Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, baking hint, body mem..."
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Date: Monday, 02 Sep 2013 03:36

Happy September. The city's summer quiet comes to a close this weekend, as if tying off a scarf one began in April.

So much has happened since I wrote on eggbeater last. I'm sorry to have been away for so long, but oftentimes what is going on for me in a given kitchen, on a job, is not mine to tell, wholly, and I can't always figure out how to tell it diplomatically. I'm sure you understand.

Also, to be fully transparent, I've been cheating on you. Since April.

I've been taking my words elsewhere. Sharing them with others. My sentences are being edited by Charlotte Druckman. I couldn't be luckier, more honored, and more grateful. Behind every great writer is a keen, tough, grammatically correct editor.

My new paramour is Medium.com and the room we do it in is called The Egg Beat. I'm profiling pastry chefs. The idea is to give press to pastry chefs directly, without the middle man of their employer's website. Most pastry chefs aren't even named on their dessert menus, or acknowledged by print media journalists, or credited for their recipes in cookbooks! Most pastry chefs have no "name" until someone "discovers" them.

I think that's ridiculous, and I aims to change the playing field.

Let's face it, most professional cooks don't have the time, (or desire), to self-promote, or they don't really know how to use the-social-media-platform-of-the-moment. Twitter is about as much as anyone can bear, and there's a lot of katchka dreck to contend with, making it impossible to find the pastry chefs who aren't on TV.

So this bi-monthly column is a way to recognize the people behind the pastry. Maybe introduce you to an intuitive baker, a punk rock chef, a pastry chef making chocolate dirt or a chocolatier setting up shop in an old bookbindery factory. I'm writing about modern and old school pastry chefs alike. I could be writing about a pastry chef near you, or one halfway around the world.

At the end of this month I'll be participating in the Star Chefs International Chefs Congress in a few different ways. On the Sunday (if all goes according to plan) I will be one of the "Floor Judges" for the Pastry Competition, and the next day I will collaborate with my good friend Amanda Cook making baked goods to highlight heritage grains* from New York State. We will have a table as part of the eat@ICC "food court," if you will. Look for "A Bite of the Big Apple."

*I have recently begun a "conversation" with GrowNYC's Strategic Developer June Russell, who is working with various farmers growing grain, milling it into flour, in conjunction with the Heritage Grain Conservancy. I am most excited about working with Emmer and Einkorn varieties, which I am told have very different flavor and structure than the "standard wheat" we have all grown accustomed to.

And lastly, the most exciting idea to come across my desk is Mealku. I'll report back as soon as I know, and can explain more.

If you're wondering where I'm working these days, I'm At Large. It's like being On The Lam, but different.




Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, betwixt, friends, har..."
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Date: Sunday, 16 Dec 2012 18:21

A sous chef I worked with once said to me, with no irony or malice, "In this business you can have a romantic relationship or friends. You will not have time for both. You will not have energy enough for both."

He was right. For most all of my 20 year career thus far, this has been true.

Another cook told me, "You will miss all weddings, births, funerals and holidays. Get used to it."

If you work from dark to dark and sleep and do laundry on your one day off, you do not become an ideal candidate for dating. And if you never RSVP to family and friend functions, you will completely drop off their radar, piss them off and it could take you another lifetime to gain back their trust enough to 'schedule you in' to their lives again.

There are many chefs who prefer working in a kitchen to being in their parents, children, friends, partners lives. There are many cooks who could work more efficiently and get out after 10 or 12 hours rather than 14 or 16. And there are chefs who prefer to go to the bar after work, rather than home.

There's not a cook amongst us who will not argue, til death, the necessity of our presence in our kitchens. Kitchens are indeed like underground clubs. They are "our" people. We "understand" each other. Our cooks "need" us. Without us our kitchens will fall apart! Days off?! Who needs them?!! Shoemakers, that's who! Our stations will be a fucking mess if we don't micromanage them 20 hours a day.

As a young cook I heard that Andre Soltner, chef of the late Lutece, stood at his stove for 45 years straight, only to take off a few hours once to have a knee surgery.

The byline of our business could be:

Cooking Professionally
Where A Day Off Is A Weekend and Two Days Off In A Row Is A Vacation

All these things are true. being a professional cook/chef is hard work. It takes all of you, and then some.

But there's another truth. And they can co-exist in the same field, the same industry, the same kitchen, the same cook.

Relationships you have, start, form, keep, nourish, participate in, are present for, keep and work on intentionally-- you need these. You need love as much as you need sleep.

It's important to grow relationships outside of your job and the bar. Your family will always be there but that's no reason to forsake them for your career.

There are chefs out there who can sustain multiple "lives" while remaining consistent and effective leaders and inspirationalists at their stoves. They can have friends and lovers. They can go to the occasional wedding or funeral without having to quit their job. They can get sober and stay sober. They can get eight hours of sleep a night. They can own a dog and go on dates and make meals at home.

I agree that the first 5 years of cooking should be solely about cooking. Maybe 10. But in that trajectory a cook can begin to make life choices as well as kitchen/chef/cuisine choices.

For the first time in my career I have a romantic partner, a relationship with my family, friends from inside and outside the industry, and there's talk of getting a d. o. g. Even though I live with my partner, he and I have opposing schedules and sometimes we don't see each other, awake, for days in a row. For the first time in my career I need, but also want, to devote as much energy to building and feeding my primary relationship as I do my kitchen, my chef, my cooks and our diners. Sometimes he even calls me out if I give all of myself to the restaurant and leave nothing for him on our days off together.

There are, and have always been, chefs who buck the 24/7 rule. There's many ways to skin a rabbit.

When I was at the French Laundry, Thomas would sit down with all the cooks at the end of the night to write down the next day's menu. We would all inventory our stations and the walk-ins for mis en place and the sous chef would begin an ordering sheet. We would all start our next day's list. Sometimes we would talk shop.

One night we were discussing the James Beard nominees. Thomas was asking us who we thought he should vote for. A chef's name came up. One of the cooks really liked him and spoke up. Thomas asked the cook if he knew about an incident that chef had been involved in just a few month's previous. He did not. But I did.

This chef was in charge of a restaurant inside of a hotel, both of the highest caliber. There was no doubt his food and technique were spot on. But he offended a female server one afternoon with a disgusting comment. When the union of the hotel asked the hotel management to reprimand him, the hotel management said no, and the union staged a walk-out. Until the hotel management made themselves and that chef accountable for his actions, there was no one to serve the food, clear tables or wash dishes.

Thomas made an important point that night. He said that to honor a chef with an award was not to merely recognize their cooking abilities, but to reward their role as a leader in the industry as a whole.

As a cook you are faced with a number of options. You have to "choose the winners." You have to look for your next mentor all the time. You have to constantly re-evaluate what Chef you have chosen to inspire you and why. As you grow in your confidence and skill you will be able to take in the whole of a Chef. Your Chef as Chef, as Leader, as Human.

And humans are social creatures. We grow mentally, spiritually, physically, sexually, emotionally, psychically, when in contact with many sources of heart, inspiration.

This industry has an invisible voice. It will tell you you have to make a choice. It will tell you to choose the kitchen above all else. While I have done this, at times, I beg of you to hear the quietest of all voices. Listen hard. Hold your ground. Keep your eye on your prize. No one else's goal[s] need be yours.

You can work towards getting out of the kitchen in under 12 hours and let your kitchen be independent and learn how to make and solve mistakes and face challenges without you. You can walk into your kitchen tomorrow and choose this. You can delegate and pass it on and teach and inspire and push while you are there, and while you are not there you can go to museums and read books and make love and look at the horizon and see the stars and feel the sun on your face and get a massage and be a witness at your best friend's wedding and sleep in and make porridge and bundle up your kids for their first snow and go to the farmer's market and

all of these activities can be a recipe unto themselves for You. To marinate in, to support, to water your own garden. When all we are to our cooks is our own insularity, our own tunnel vision we do not teach them anything but what comes out of a washing machine on rinse cycle for far too long. It is important, and vital, to our abilities as leaders and executioners and food makers to see beyond our own noses. Relationships beyond our kitchens are important and necessary.

You can have more than one relationship and cook professionally. You can, and be a great chef one day.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "body memory, friends, hard to tell, insi..."
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Date: Wednesday, 11 Apr 2012 13:00
  1. How many restaurants do you frequent per month? ___
  2. What percentage of them have a chef? ___
  3. What percentage of those that have chefs also have a pastry chef? ___
  4. What percentage of those restaurants with both chef and pastry chef do you feel you are eating a seamless meal? ___

DSC_5963By seamless I mean: if your meal was a sentence would it be grammatically correct? If your meal was a fitted shirt would the neck be tight but the sleeves perfect? If your meal was a portrait would the subject be blurry and the back ground in focus? If your meal was a house would the bedrooms be a dimly lit, the kitchen tiny and the bathroom an outhouse? If your meal was a vacation would the last days be better than the first or would you wish never to return?

Whether you're in the camp calling cooking art or craft, all sides agree chefs use ingredients and cooking styles to tell a story, to share a thought, to hone an idea, to take you home, to create memory, to woo, to change or solidify or blow your mind.

In kitchens where there's more than one chef, and therefore more than one point-of-view, how many directions can a meal take you? How many directions do you want to be pulled?

Do you prefer a meal where the end of the sentence completes the initial thought or don't you mind being brought to your edge only to leave sticky but not satiated?

These are some of the questions chefs and pastry chefs ask of each other, and thus the diner, when they get into bed together. Well, not literally.

DSC_6125My hope is dessert finishes the sentence savory starts.

My best restaurant pastry chef jobs have been collaborative. I don't believe the last course can be made in a vacuum. A lot of savory chefs I've worked with want nothing to do with pastry and are more than happy to keep themselves oblivious. While this might feel nice-- to be allowed unbothered space with which to "do our thang," it rarely makes for growth. For either side.

I don't believe savory chefs should always be the boss of pastry chefs. Radical? Maybe. If we're both chefs--meaning we're both in charge of our teams and at the top of our respective fields, why should savory be the umbrella under which all other managers reside? I know a lot of pastry chefs with more years and experience than the savory chefs they work with.

It is important that pastry chefs have some experience in the savory realm and savory chefs do the same. Neither side wants to listen to the other when neither one has sought knowledge for that which they are attempting to correct/weigh in on/steer. It's easy to taste a soup and say you don't like it but can you pick out its nuances? Can you do the same for a sorbet? Do you know why one day a gnocchi floats and why another day it disintegrates? Do you know what ingredient's incorrect temperature causes a chocolate chip cookie to spread?

DSC_6037When was the last time you ate a meal in the restaurant where you work? Have you eaten any of your dishes, sweet or savory, start to finish? Meaning not just picked at the various components here and there but really sat down with the silverware you tell the waiters to mark the table with, and eaten it the way you hope a diner will?

Do you think the menu makes sense, from beginning to end? Does your food suit the clientele? Does it really?

Sometimes we have to let go of "the food we want to make" to accommodate "the food our clientele wants." Sometimes we have to take off a flourish no one eats, or condense a menu because indecisive diners make for less table turns. Sometimes we have to change our price point because the check average is scarily low, and sometimes we get to count our blessings when the stars align and everyone orders what we didn't think they'd be brave enough to and for that day we can embrace the warm fuzzies.

I don't believe I have a savory chef soul-mate out there. Or I do, but I don't believe there's only one. But I do think it's important to be in a kitchen where a conversation, with more questions than answers, is taking place.

DSC_7181Savory and pastry chefs who ignore or shun or tamp down or fight against or compete maliciously with or work independently of each other are doing a disservice to themselves, their food, their growth as chefs and the menu/dining experience as a whole. Some beginnings are so dissimilar from endings one wonders if the pastry chef and savory chef have ever even met.

It's a wonderful learning experience to cook in a kitchen with a great savory and pastry team. If you work in one of them, take advantage of all the corners of it! No one cook or chef or commis or sous chef should feel they can no longer ask questions or learn more or get a refresher lesson. Even if it's in diplomacy.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, baking hint, body mem..."
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Date: Wednesday, 04 Apr 2012 14:00

DSC_0818I like to say my g_d has a sense of humor. A notoriously tricky one, I dare say. Not exactly sinister, but definingly dry and definitively abrupt, like the person who pulls a tablecloth out from under the table settings, practiced or not, at the art of subtlety, grace or confidence.

Some friends of mine and I like to say, "sometimes g_d is doing for me what I can not do for myself." DSC_0801

Sometimes you're the tablecloth and sometimes you're the hands and sometimes you're the grip and sometimes you're the smile about to break and sometimes you're the dishes that tremor but do not shatter and sometimes you're the surprise and sometimes you are the glass that cracks but does not fall and sometimes you're the idea to do such a thing at all
         and sometimes you're taken by complete surprise.

DSC_0839Challenges will always arise. It's how we react, rise, reach to/with/into them that transforms us.

I'm not saying these tricks don't ambush.  We navigate as best we can with tools we continue to sharpen or wish we did not own or wish we did. DSC_1114

Reacting and responding are not the same.

Sometimes we turn a corner we didn't know we were turning until we glance back and can no longer see from whence we came. We may try to reach back to say farewell to those we loved and appreciated and wanted to learn more from, but the door closes on the chapter and, to honor the memory they wish to become, we walk forward.

We put one foot in front of the other.

We have faith the ground beneath us will remain solid or we borrow faith from people we love and trust who have extra to lend.


Sometimes we can say goodbye with intention, sometimes we can not.

DSC_0864Strangely I feel grateful for having once experienced a grief so great, so large, so dark that I came to know its attributes, its tides, and can now, sometimes gracefully, sometimes awkwardly, stand in it's course and let it wash over/pass through me, understanding that hope, that light-a comprehension of the incomprehensible; an untangling of confusion and answerless questions, is possible and not out of reach.

One day at a time.

For all loss is loss, no matter it's timing, no matter its reasons, no matter its warnings.

If we are interested in re-defining success we must also define failure differently.
If we are interested in re-defining success, we must discontinue to draw ink lines where permeable ones would delineate more accurately.

The snake swallows its tail. There are no endings, only beginnings. Success is not virgin birth.

I know one certainty: the only thing you can rely on is change.


I proceed, as Peels recedes.
I am proud of all I conceived, built, produced, organized, systemized, learned, celebrated, conjured, inspired, taught, realized.
I built a bakery. DSC_0919
Whether the owners/investors re-shape or remove it, or do what they need to do to insure the space makes them the monies they need to reconcile their bottom line, I remain proud of that which I bore from nothing more than a hope, a wish, desire, a love of baking so strong I have no words to describe it.
On the day before the first day of Spring, the owners and I bid farewell, shook hands and thanked each other for the opportunities we gave and received. More than anything I'm happy for what they gave me. Wood and linen. Staples. A canvas to stretch on my own. Freedom & belief. 

Au revoir, to see again; to leave without saying goodbye. For Good. No home is permanent, excepting the one residing inside.

Be not sad for me. The life-force of a restaurant is the same as a person-it adds, expands, subtracts, grows and shifts; feathers shed; wings are clipped and grow back again; going for as long as it goes, rarely staying the same, or wanting to! The bottom line of a spreadsheet is the outcome of a list of percentages that are ingredients: a recipe for a healthy enterprise-one which not only feeds, but nourishes.

Wondering what's next? I've had some ideas on the side, shelved, proofing in the oven, on hold, hibernating, waiting, restless. I've been placating them with excuses for a long time now. "Not now, I'm opening a restaurant." "Not yet, I'm hiring a team." "Soon, I promise." 

Remember how I said my g_d has a dastardly sense of humor? G_d is nudging me to keep my promise...


Thank you a zillion times thank you to everyone who came in brought friends & family & introduced yourself & ate & tasted & worked & staged with me and for Peels pastry department & everyone who allowed me to make your birthday cake & wedding cakes/pies & photographed & wrote about what I was doing & interviewed & surprised me & gave me critical feedback & made suggestions & put me on the radio & tv & took notice of what my bakery was trying to achieve & came to the Ice Cream Social & ordered your Thanksgiving pies from us & I really do hope to see and feed you all again wherever I land with my whisk and Baby Offset Spatula next. I won't soon forget you, {as I hope you won't, me} Your support has meant so much to me and that which I am attempting to speak through my baking.

au revoir.


Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, betwixt, body memory,..."
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Date: Friday, 30 Mar 2012 14:00

DSC_3738On January 16, 2012 Bill Corbett, Lincoln Carson, Francisco Migoya, Christina Tosi, Brooks Headley, and Michael Laiskonis put together an epic dinner of dessert. Aptly named Killed By Dessert, the affair was intimate, attended by 60 people. I offered my services as photographer/documentarian. And I am so grateful I did.

I took 800 photographs in about 10 hours.
One hundred sixty six of them can be seen on Flickr.

The best words on the event were the ones they put together themselves. You can read those words, that collaborative 'manifesto' on Michael Laiskonis' blog.


But because the photographs are without descriptions or a timeline-the menu:

Yes, you woulda been killed too...


"Oasis at Three O'Clock in the Morning"

Falafel, Pine Nut Hummus, Flat Bread

Bill Corbett



English Muffin, Black Pepper Butter, Caramelized Onions, Soft Poached Egg, Pea Shoots

Christina Tosi


“Wish That I Had Been Born Into It”

Latkes, Smoked Salmon, Caviar and Rose Champagne

Lincoln Carson



Dashi-Braised Short Rib, Bone Marrow

Michael Laiskonis


Mole Negro de Oaxaca

Duck and Corn Tortillas

Francisco Migoya



“Just Plain Vanilla”

Supported by Mandarin, Buddha’s Hand, Coriander

Lincoln Carson

Delamotte Rose Champagne


Butterscotch Semifreddo, Tony Style

Brooks Headley

Delamotte Rose Champagne



Tarte Tropezienne a la Façon Thorne

Michael Laiskonis

Delamotte Rose Champagne


Napoleon Trimmings

Caramelized Puff Pastry Shards, Just-Made Mousseline Cream

Francisco Migoya

Rosa Regale, Brachetto

"Cornflake Cookie Dough Should Make Up 91% of Everyone's Daily Intake, Not Just Mine"

Fresh Cookie Dough, Cookie Puree, Warm Cookie, Cereal milk

Christina Tosi

Domaine Weinbach, Gewürztraminer, Cuvee Theo 2009


"My Family's Lack of a Culinary Legacy" aka "The Only Thing My Mom Ever Taught Me How to Make"

Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich

Bill Corbett

Kracher Beerenauslese, 2008


"I was Too Picky of a Kid to Ever Understand PB&J"

Crock Pot Cake, Warm Pickled Strawberry Jam, Peanut Butter Halvah, Sweet Cream

Christina Tosi

Kracher Beerenauslese, 2008



Brooks Headley


"Peaks and Valleys"

Milk Chocolate, Tarragon, Hazelnut

Bill Corbett

Warre’s Otima 10 Year Tawny Port


Melanzane E Cioccolato, Tableside

Brooks Headley

Warre’s Otima 10 Year Tawny Port


Coffee Éclair

Francisco Migoya

Knob Creek Bourbon and Coffee Ice Cube


“The Beginning of the End, aka The Old Fashioned”

Orange, Toffee, Smoked Vanilla, Praline, Bourbon

Lincoln Carson

Knob Creek Bourbon and Coffee Ice Cube



Caramel Coffee Parfait

Michael Laiskonis

Lamill Coffee


Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, friends, geography, i..."
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2012 04:34


The James Beard Foundation has just published their extensive list of semifinalists for DSC_15132012. There are dozens of names listed in every category. My name was on that list last year. It was a cause for great excitement and anticipation. While I didn't make the nomination list, being a semifinalist is enough to put on a resume and feel proud of. To be noticed and recognized by the James Beard Foundation is a wonderful thing. And none to easy for a pastry chef, for which only 1, in all of the USA, is chosen per year.

What are the JBF awards? From their website:

Excellence. Passion. Achievement. Success.
The James Beard Foundation Awards shine a spotlight on the best and brightest talent in the food and beverage industry.

Covering all aspects of the industry—from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers and architects and more—the Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America.

DSC_1487Why do they matter? In The United States of America a James Beard award is considered the highest honor for a chef.

Cook. Baker. Chef. Pastry Chef. Commis. Sous Chef. Saucier. Prep. Dishwasher. Restaurant Owner. It's mostly a thankless job, despite what the media screams at you. It's hard work, day after day, hour after relentless hour, year after vacationless year. Month after month of the same chaos, sometimes reigned, mostly flood.

And then, bam! Once a year a list comes out. The names on it are ones we know, ones we've hard before; some we're surpised by, many we're bored of hearing about. When we read the winners, we're happy there are so many of them it takes a minute to realize there are so very few in the categories of Pastry Chef, Baker, Chocolatier. It takes you another minute to realize there's only 1 award for Pastry Chef Baker Chocolatier. 1.

One James Beard Foundation Outstanding Pastry Chef a year.

In all of the United States of America. A small country, I'll admit, but still. Really? 1?!

DSC_1501How are the awards determined? There's general, legalese information on the James Beard Foundation website under the title "Policies & Procedures." And then there's the critique by Josh Ozersky in Time Magazine. But for the "real deal" see what a JBF Judge says about the process, the criteria, for voting on and choosing "the one," out of hundreds of thousands.

How can one award once a year, define us? It can't, of course.

     being a chef is part pirate, part whore, part punk rock,    part cop,   part junkyard dog, part priest, part cog-in-the-wheel, part junkie, part celebrity,       part sell-out, part pawn, part athlete, part mother, part judge & jailer & lawyer,        part diplomat, part lunatic,    part model, part artist, part factory drone, part convict, part philoopher, part conductor,    part jock and stoner both, part   prat, part citizen, part murderer, part numbers-cruncher, part mayor, part      politician, part polyanna, part bad guy & good girl both, part craftsman, part jailer,   part tornado,         part scoundrel, part construction   worker, part radical,    part accountant, part do-gooder, part thief,    part doctor,

DSC_1500part indefinable.

Chef. A recipe with a list of unattainable ingredients. Incompatible parts.
And there are so many of us.

But because the James Beard Foundation yearly awards are where it's at, I beg you to write them requesting a Regional Outstanding Pastry Chef Award, as they do for savory chefs.

DSC_1524One such person has already written and set forth such a letter. Jenny McCoy, my good friend and colleague, most recently pastry chef of Craft in NYC, set down brave and eloquent words, sending them to Susan Ungaro, President of the James Beard Foundation. Jenny's words, as she is in person, are strong, educated, positive, proactive and utterly brave.

Very lucky for me, and all of you, she has agreed to let me publish her letter.

July 26, 2011           

Susan Ungaro
James Beard Foundation
167 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10011

Dear Ms. Ungaro,

   The James Beard Foundation has repeatedly wowed me over the years with their commitment to honoring culinary professionals of all kinds in the United States—not only are the crème de la crème of the industry acknowledged by the JBF, but also professionals who are just beginning their careers; professionals who use food as a way of giving back to their communities; professionals who write about food, photograph food, and even design spaces where food is served. Professionals, who just like the JBF, set the standard for the nation’s industry.

   My first introduction to the James Beard Foundation was in 1999. I was finishing a program in pastry arts at Kendall College, 19 years old, and embarking on my career as a pastry professional in Chicago.  My chef, and former JB Nominee, Don Yamauchi and pastry chef Celeste Zecola of Gordon were asked to cook the last two courses for a “Friends of the Beard House” dinner at Crofton on Wells; I was invited along to assist.  It was at that dinner, in the company of amazing chefs and former James Beard Award winners such as Charlie Trotter, Norman Van Aken and Carrie Nahabedian, that I decided, I, too, wanted to become a friend of the Beard House.  I, too, wanted to strive to win an award, as Pastry Chef of the Year. I still have the menu from that evening; it serves as a reminder of my goal, and as a reminder of my respect for the James Beard Foundation’s endeavors.

   Fast forward twelve years, and many James Beard dinners, benefits, award ceremonies later and while I still dream of an award, my dreams have broadened slightly.  Now I dream to make a lasting impact – an impact that will garner recognition for more of my peers and for the pastry profession as a whole.   I found myself sitting in the auditorium at Lincoln Center last spring thinking, “One pastry chef award a year just isn’t enough to honor all the hard work and expertise of pastry chefs nationwide.”  Just as the cuisine of savory chefs varies throughout the country by region and season, the desserts of the country’s finest pastry chefs do as well. 

   The baking and pastry industry has flourished in recent years. Television shows like Top Chef: Just Desserts have top ratings; schools are being dedicated solely to the art of baking and pastry; films like Kings of Pastry, chronicling the World Pastry Cup competition are in theatres nationwide; pastry chefs have celebrity status and are becoming household names; restaurants are highlighting their pastry chefs nearly as much as their head chefs; enrollment in pastry-based culinary programs has increased by 50-75% in the last handful of years.  With the field of baking and pastry growing at the rate it is, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the James Beard Foundation rise along with it?

   And so my question to the James Beard Foundation, its Board of Trustees, and its National Advisory Board is this: Would the James Beard Foundation consider honoring pastry chefs within regions just like they do savory chefs?  In just the last few months, I have mentioned the idea of award expansion to several of my pastry and savory chef colleagues across the country, chefs who are both former JB Award nominees and winners, and every single one of them agrees—awarding more than one pastry chef a year would be a tremendous acknowledgement to the pastry profession from the organization that the pastry profession respects most.

   Many thanks for your time and consideration. I look forward to working with you soon. DSC_1507



Jenny McCoy
Pastry Chef

Jenny's blog, Seasonal Sweets, also has a copy of her letter published, and another plea to write to The James Beard Foundation.

Please honor Jenny's gift, Jenny's bravery, Jenny's letter with a letter of your own!

Consider this post a call to action.

Please send a letter-- especially if you are a cooking for a living. Please write a letter if you [or someone you know, know of, respect, love and or admire, are inspired by] are now, or want to be: a Chef, a James Beard Award Winner, a Pastry Chef, Pastry Cook. Or believe Pastry Chefs should get the same recognition as Savory Chefs.

Thank you.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, betwixt, body memory,..."
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Date: Saturday, 03 Dec 2011 03:16

Chefs are {in}famous for posessing many traits. Patient & Understanding are not two of them. Not high on IMG_3275the list at any rate. We're famous for more popular antonyms like hot-tempered and unforbearing. We bristle at critique, take everything personally, and have a hard time listening to reason on the job. We don't love change. Especially the change that comes when a cook gives notice.

I have worked for all kinds of chefs. I wanted to work for as many chefs as I could before "becoming one myself." I saw as many management styles as I did kitchens. The chefs who struck me the most were the ones pushed, challenged, listened to, grew, mentored, inspired, learned from and sent off their cooks when their "time had come" in said kitchen.

It takes incredible generosity, grace, maturity, humility, confidence and intuition to be such a chef. A chef has to know when a cook can go no further under their wing, in their kitchen, in one location. Said chef has to have been paying attention to said cook throughout the entirety of their term. From interview to stage to hire.IMG_3263

I have said this before and I will never stop saying it: Do not waste your precious time learning this life-long craft in a kitchen where the chef only looks at you like a warm body. Do not work for one minute more in a kitchen where you are not learning, not being challenged, not growing. There are so many fucking kitchens to make no money in. You might as well struggle to make ends meet under the tutelage of a chef who matters and to whom you matter. 

A chef I used to work with used to say there are 2 kinds of chefs: The Sharing and The Stingy/self-serving ones. The Sharing Chef will always talk about their sous chef, their chef de cuisine, their staff. The Sharing Chef will eat at other restaurants and talk about other chefs besides the ones under their jurisdiction. The Sharing Chef will tell other chefs about great products they've found. The Sharing Chef will share staff. Sharing Chefs sometimes trade cooks before promoting them in their own kitchens. Sharing Chefs do not poach.IMG_3292

The Sharing Chef is not a touchy feely person with only pleases and thank yous and nicey nice things to say all the time and smiling and handing you the kool-aid and giving you sick days and knowing the name of your dog and giving you your birthday off.

The Sharing Chef can kick your ass so hard your spine ends and your thighs begin. The Sharing Chef can make you cry on the line, and keep working. The Sharing Chef can blackball you and call you names in languages you don't understand. The Sharing Chef can scare the shit out of you, down to your core, and help you to understand that she/he knows everyone in the business and you better not fucking burn that bridge. 

The Sharing Chef, afterall, has the same pressures as the narcissistic one. Margins to meet, food costs to keep down, GM's to reckon with, owners to keep happy, diners to feed, dishwashers to fix, cooks to train, walk-ins to clean, invoices to log, uniform companies to IMG_3270argue with, fish to scale, burns to treat, and so on.

The Sharing Chef can help you get the next job as much as The Stingy Chef, but there are distinct differences.

The Stingy Chef barely teaches. The Stingy Chef believes their own hype. The Stingy Chef is often bitter. The Stingy Chef will watch you do something wrong/incorrect/inefficient and never correct you. The Stingy Chef will take credit for your work when it's great and put your name on what's wrong. The Stingy Chef doesn't mind a cook who isn't growing, learning, asking questions. "The Stingy Chef wants you to know s/he is the best and doesn't particularly want to "prove it" to you-- either because s/he is a secret shoemaker or because to "bring you up" is to face the possibilty of you being better than s/he."

Sometimes a Sharing Chef will look like a Stingy Chef because you're so fucking cocky the only way they can put you in your place is to make you 'beg' for IMG_3276knowledge. Chefs who have worked for dozens of years despise a cook who thinks they know it all after five minutes in the business. Some Sharing Chefs are quiet. Very Quiet. Silent even. Sometimes you have to watch them, be in their kitchens, show your dedication, for years, before you realize you are learning from them.

It's possible that The Stingy Chef and The Sharing Chef are the same person. It's possible both kinds of chefs are who you'll be.

But you have a choice. An active, intentional choice. A choice is something you decide, you make. You don't fall into choice by mistake.

See the red flags? They're not waving you in.

Many chefs are at the helms of stoves are just cooks in disguise. All it takes is a white jacket. Chef is a self designated title. A lot of people can cook in a professional kitchen. As many people can "become chefs," if they have the desire. IMG_3291

But it's not the word Chef,

It's what you do with that position
It's what you do with that title
It's what you do with that rush of power
It's what you decide will be your management style
It's how you decide to repay what was given to you
It's how you choose to be remembered by your cooks, your industry
It's your integrity
It's your standards
It's how much patience you have for your own journey in the craft
It's how much you understand what craft means
It's how hard of a look you'll be brave enough to muster the courage for, to see yourself for all you are
It's how much humble pie you can swallow, whole
It's how many tears of joy and struggle you're willing to admit will be on your horizonIMG_3268

that matters.

Can you handle the tedium? Can you do the same thing day after day, kitchen after kitchen, city after city, year after year?

Craft. A verb. A noun. A daunting task. An unforgiving journey. Un unattainable goal. A life spent asking unanswered questions.


Some concrete examples:

When I worked at Gramercy Tavern there was a cook on the line who was clearly kicking everyone's ass. I watched, I learned, I admired. It was obvious she was ready to be a sous chef. Tom gave the ok, but said 'You have to do something first. You have to work somewhere else more formidable first, for two years, and then you can come back here a sous. You'll work at Le Bernadin.'IMG_3272

When I worked at Citizen Cake our savoury chef worked all of his cooks through the stations and when they could not learn any more from him he gave them an end date and helped place them in their next jobs.

The first chef I worked for gave me reading assignments {before the internet-- I had to go to the Library} and lent me books to study. 

When Thomas placed me at Bouchon, after working at The French Laundry, in my first Pastry Chef role, I said I wasn't ready. To which he replied, 'You'll never be ready. I'll put you in shoes too big and when you fill them you'll know it's time to move on.'

Sherry Yard told me once, before interviewing dozens of pastry cooks, 'You want to hire people who want your job. They're the one's who will keep you on your toes. They're the one's you'll learn from.'IMG_3273

When I arrived in London for my month long interview/trail at The Bread Factory the owners wanted me to replace the pastry chef they had in place. When I went into his kitchen under other pretenses--of course he knew-- he not only did not let on but made me feel at home in the most humble, gracious, generous, gorgeous way possible.


These are the chefs I aspire to be like. Not the chefs who put their name all over my work every time I received press under their roofs. When a cook gives me a proper notice I honor their last weeks, days, hours, with the same respect they've shown me in their resignation.

I want to to teach cooks what I was taught. IMG_3274

These are hard lessons. Chefs don't put their arms around their cooks and teach them the ways... That shit is the stuff of two dimensional fairy tales.

Not every cook is the right fit in your kitchen. Not every cook can handle promotion. A cook can look ready and deteriorate under middle management pressures. Not every cook makes a chef who is a leader and a teacher or can delegate effectively. Some cooks continue to lie to themselves and you no matter how hard you push them, toward the truth.

Craft. It doesn't arrive on your doorstep, wrapped neatly, or bubblewrap protected. It doesn't arrive. Ever.

You have to find a teacher. Teachers. Mentors. You have to move. You have to want. You have to desire. You IMG_3295have to fight. You have to keep knocking on doors even when none of them open. You have to follow-through. You have to suit up, show up and shut up. 

And chefs? We're in charge, yes, but we're fallible. We make mistakes. Watch us. Watch how your chef acts when she/he makes a mistake. Watch to see if your chef grows too. No one wants to work in stagnation. That water fucking stinks.

There's a difference between patience for repetition and boredom/stagnation. Careful of bouncing from one kitchen to the next-- thrill seeking, if you will. Oftentimes if you can handle the boredom that comes with month after month of sameness, a year passes and you take the elevator down a floor, to the next level of intimacy with that chef, that team, that cuisine, that menu, those four seasons and their ensuing dishes.

Patience has its rewards.

I could not Chef, mentor, inspire, push, challenge, promote, share with, listen to, manage or send off cooks well until I had experienced being a cook under the tutelage of chefs who did these things for me and other cooks around me. IMG_3285

I could not do or be any of these things, until I made the choice that this was the kind of chef I wanted to be. Until I made the choice that this was the mark I wanted to make.

I could not be any of these things to my cooks until I understood

we keep what we have by giving it away.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, baking hint, body mem..."
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Date: Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 03:03

if a city could have a business card, new york's might read: DSC_2265

nyc, not for the meek.
nyc, fuck the economy.
nyc, you think you know me?
nyc, i'm not what you think. i'm so much more.
nyc. yeah you heard that right.
nyc, whatchu looking at?!
{untitled} NYC.
nyc. full stop.
nyc. call me, i won't call back.
nyc; not the girl nextdoor.
nyc: many places to many more people.

living in new york city, again, is exciting. full of newness, full of preserving the old, full of possibilities, full of contradiction,      bursting with now and again.

i've always said there's more food press in nyc than any city i've cooked in. it is with these little blurbs here & there that I keep my nose out and about, even though i work in a basement most of my waking hours.

i thought i'd share some tidbits in my bakery & sweet eating adventuring...

IMG_3004perhaps the newest, smallest bakery on the scene is Zucker Bakery on east 9th street beetw 1st - A ave. I have no idea, at the ridiculously low prices she's charging, how she'll pay rent... But check out the perfect rugelach and chocolate ball cookies that look like truffles and taste like lamingtons.

i've recently had the pleasure of eating Jenny McCoy's desserts at Craft. they are seasonal, thoughtful, flavorful and deeply satisfying, in a soulful way. you can go just for dessert! don't miss her perfect ice cream, sherberts & sorbet.

i know a person is not supposed to pick a favorite popsicle. they're all great. especially here, now. but i like New Yorkina best. i like the chunks. i like the heat. i like the balance. i like the logo. i have a professional crush on the owner. her paletas book is fantastic too. i keep it by my bed.

i'm still a fan of Bakeri in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. i love taking myself on a date and getting a sandwich. it gives me an excuse to buy far too many pastries than would suit a single diner. but, i will admit to cheating on this neighborhood bakery with an unofficial bakery... The baked goods at Blue Bottle Coffee on Berry street, just a few blocks away. if you're in the neighborhood, eat at La Superior {the best Mexican Scallions in the universe} and then you can get 2 of everything at Blue Bottle. You will die unsatisfied if you don't eat Stout coffee cake and muster up the courage for the chocolate stout ice cream affogato. seriously. died-and-light-sped-to-heaven manna.


speaking of panty-remover food--> get off your computer right now, and leave your job if you work in nyc, and sprint down to Stumptown* at the Ace Hotel for one [or 2 if you're like me-- one for now, one for the now in a few minutes] drop dead gorgeous ridiculously delicious PISTACHIO PASTE CROISSANT. I hear that they're made by Milk Bar, but they won't answer my queries, {I'm too small fry for their kind}, so I can't confirm the heresay. No matter. if it's your lucky day [meaning i don't get there before you], you can thank me. or slap me. depending on how you react to XXX pleasure. IMG_2589

*for full disclosure i am no longer a fan of stumptown coffee. i have been converted to La Colombe. and now i can never go back.IMG_3157

while not in NYC, Masachusettes' Cape Cod got really lucky when it somehow attracted PB Boulangerie to it's shore. best "american" croissant i've had in years. too bad it's a 6 hour drive away...

not like Liz Quijada needs any press from me, but her baked goods at Abraco [the BEST espresso in nyc. yes, i said it. go ahead, don't believe me. more for me.] on east 7th street, close to 1st avenue are sublime, intuitive, quiet, simple, delicious creatures. again, not a 'bakery' per se, but no matter. go there. early. get the orange blossom water & ricotta babka and tell me i'm not wrong. IMG_2713

some foods, while not sweet, in the sugar sense of the word, need mention.

i was recently one of 9 people at a going away dinner for a Momofuku Noodle Bar waiter and boy do they know how to treat their people right! i ate so many things for the first time i need 4 hands. pig's tail delish, to mix metaphors. if you find the time to be on hold with what i hear is their insane phone reservation system, get the FRIED CHICKEN DINNER. whatever Koreans do to chicken skin, my jewish people can only guess. my hat bows in y'all's direct direction. no joke. zow. delicious beyond compare. and we're not talking stupis little wings with no meat at Momofuku Noodle Bar.

IMG_2808ISA. you have to go there to understand. my words will not do justice to chef Ignacio Mattos, owner/builder/architect/visionary Taavo Somer and their perfect union/collaboration/restaurant. my meal was transcendant. moving. joyous. soulful. brooklyn is lucky. just got better.

speaking of ignacio mattos! he introduced me to O Cafe, not just another 3rd wave cafe. if you're vegetarian [or not], if you're looking for non-Italian coffee culture {yes! it does exist!}, if you're looking for baked goods you may have never heard of, if you're looking for cared for, well-made, fresh, seasonal, reasonably priced light lunch or snacks, go here. the west village can be a bit dreadful, food wise, if you don't know about the crevices.

you might already know how much i love Buvette. i go there on almost all of my weekends. it's not food i get tired of. i wish i did, because then i could try some other restaurants on my radar. while not sweet there is a dish there that IMG_2350changed my life. it sounds like nothing lifechanging though. butter & anchovy toast. i can't explain. don't make me ruin the experience with words. you just have to trust me. there are only 2 desserts at Buvette, but really There Is Only One. chocolate mousse. fuck your diet, this is nyc. i could go on about all the other dishes i always get, but i won't. if you must know-- ask me in the comments section where i have more room to gush. IMG_1519 IMG_0119

lastly, i've been up to too much at Peels. not only do i run a bakery inside the restaurant, i'm now responsible for making all the dessert options for Freemans' [our sister restaurant] private dining. IMG_2333

so, in turn, with this last menu change, i increased the Peels bakery by about 25%, not to mention adding a few new items & old favorites to the plated dessert menu.

what i'm most excited about:

six tiny tarts for $12. big thimble sized 'pies,' at 1-2 bites DSC_2314each could be, on any given night, any new or quirky flavor we come up with. yes, you could order them for your next partay. just give us 72 hours notice. the most we;ve made is 700 for the StarChefs event at the beginning of the month. IMG_2612

snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich with arroz con leche sherbert.  Greenmarket apple pie sweetened with apple cider reduction. pistachio-almond macaron with assorted familiar and bizarre fillings... well maybe not eye of newt & batswing, but you get the drift.

        MINCE TARTLETTES! yes! British [vegetarian] Mince on New Amsterdam soil! ($3)

Gluten-Free whole orange & almond cakette [all cakettes are $3] with sour cream cheese frosting. snowball look-alike coconut cream filled cakette.

roasted red sensation pear-chestnut-been pollen crisp tart with spelt-toasted flour & oat crisp topping with chestnut-hokey pokey ice cream.

and a whole slew of packaged items~ Lyle's Golden Syrup caramels, dulce de leche blondies, almond - fruit DSC_2328buttons, tiny chocolate & sea salt cookies, caramelized white chocolate blondies, nut & processed sugarfree granola, valrhona milk chocolate texturally explicit candy {think + feuillitene, rice krispies, maldon, IMG_2611
fried kasha, hokey pokey, cocoa nibs, dried sour cherries and anything else we can think of to throw in.

whole lemon marmalade bars atop brown butter shortbread.

if you live anywhere in or close to nyc i hope you'll consider letting us do [some? all?] your holiday baking. on or close to november first, i'm hoping our website will have our holiday offerings linked in. but of IMG_1555
course if you have questions you can always use the old fashioned machine. the landline telephone.


end note[untitled] IMG_2374

having no idea what kind of art you enjoy/relate to/are inspired by, i myself have recently been introduced to, and fallen in deep like with the work of richard serra. if you need to get out of town, but you don't have a car or love train rides that take you up the hudson river, may i suggest DIA Beacon? or if you're in town and walking along the High Line {my favorite place
in nyc}, consider taking the elevator down 23rd street and opening the big doors of Gagosian Galleries and walking through the massive curves known as richard serra's work. you have until
november 26th.


Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, baking hint, Farms, f..."
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Date: Sunday, 02 Oct 2011 04:18

In just a few hours the ICC will kick off another year at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City and, like last year, I will be attending. But this year will be a little different...

In July I had the honor of doing a tasting for StarChefs with the smart, sexy, vivacious, strong, opinionated, flirtatious and lively Antoinette Bruno. I had no idea what the tasting was for or about until it was seemingly over. And then the interviews began in earnest and I was being signed up for all sorts of things at the ICC in the fall.

No matter, fall was months away.

And then I heard a little rumour. I was being considered for a Rising Stars award. It was all happening really fast. October was getting busy even before September arrived.

The day I got the call from Star Chefs to say I had won the award I was also told I could tell no one. Top Secret news they said. I was bouncing with happiness but no one to understand why. The night before the photo shoot for all the award winners I was having dinner with Jenny McCoy, pastry chef at Craft, and Scott Hocker, Editor-inChief of TastingTable.com I couldn't hold it in any longer-- I had to tell someone! I leaned in and asked if I could share an off-the-record piece of news just between us? We had been dishing some other industry gossip and I knew my sealed envelope news was safe with them.

"I won a Star Chefs Rising Chefs Award and--"

And Jenny turned to me and exclaimed, "ME TOO!"

Neither one of us knew who any of the other winners were, and we wouldn't until the next day.

The next day we learned what was expected of us because of the award.

We, all the NYC 2011 Rising Chefs Award Winners, will all sit on a panel tomorrow morning, 10-11 am called How To Make It. And that night some of the best chefs in NYC will "cook for us. We get to dress up, invite our significant other and Mentor and relax a bit.

Monday morning, 9-10am, I'm sitting on a panel with Amanda Hesser of Food52.com, Regina Varolli of Huffington Post, Dave McCue of SubscribeMail.com and Antoinette Bruno of Star Chefs called How To Build A Better Digital Mousetrap.

Tuesday night all of us will present our "winning dish" in miniature, to about 600 chefs, press & industry folks. Expect 2-3 "thimble" mini 3 - 1 Cream Pies from us at Peels. Yeah, only 600. Minaiture. Petit Four size.IMG_2627

I am especially looking forward to Hillary Sterling's gnocchi, Jesse Schenker's carpaccio, Adam Schop's Peruvian Chicken and Hooni Kim's spicy pork.

That very same night we will receive our award. Our "Mentor" will present us with it. I have invited the incredible Claudia Fleming to give me mine. No other pastry chef pushed me harder, got under my skin farther, inspired me more.

If you're in the business, no matter just starting out or have been cooking so long you feel like a dinosaur, the ICC is for you. Last year I won a 3 day pass by filling out one of the many Star Chefs industry surveys they send when you sign up for their newsletter. This year Pastry Chefs can go for a fraction of the price-- $199 for 3 days! It's an overwhelmong, inspiring, intense three days.

Last year I happened upon a demo by Patrice Demers, who thoughtfully approached me, knowing who I was because of eggbeater. He introduced us to Ice Cider and made desserts so gorgeous and at the same time intensely flavored and delicious, I had tears in my eyes and a new friend & colleague when I walked away.

The International Chefs Congress hosts some of the best chefs in the USA and world and because it's not open to the general public we can let our guard down and meet our heros, heroines, future and past mentors and all the cooks in between.

This year you'll find me pinching myself as I watch Pierre Herme make Macaron, hugging tight chefs I haven't seen since last year, catching up with colleagues I don't see enough because we're all too busy in our own kitchens, asking questions of panelists and answering questions posed to me.

I didn't win this award alone. I am the accumulation of all who have taught me. I am as strong as my team. I am continually awed and honored. I am humbled daily. I practice a craft whose depth is beyond measure. I show up every day and attempt to be better than I was the day before. I ask as many questions as I answer.

Thank you to all of you who participated in giving me the 2011 New York City Rising Star Chef 'Community Chef' Award. You know who you are, especially you Mourad Lahlou & Pichet Ong. My admiration, appreciation and love to you both. I hope I can continue to honor the award, the duty, the camaraderie the award merits.

It is my goal to be a chef among chefs. But Chef is not the end of a sentence, it is not a place we arrive. It, like the craft we practice, is a verb, like love.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, body memory, friends,..."
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Date: Thursday, 29 Sep 2011 17:34

One of the questions I ask in interviews is, "If your last chef could say what one of your strengths and one of IMG_2551 your weaknesses was, what would they say?" I find that this question startles a lot of people, which I find odd.

Having always been my own worst critic, my worst enemy, I have gottent to know my weaknesses well over the years. Call them character defects, call them personality, call them "places from which to grow," call them what you want. We love and despise certain characteristics we posess. We hope to change some of them, some traits we water and grow in our personal garden, hoping they take root and flourish and bear delicious ripe fruit. We hope some of the fruit we bear will seed and spread amongst our friends and lovers.

However it is we think of the things we don't like in ourselves, it is my belief that it takes a certain quantity of maturity to recognize them, recognize ourselves, dreadful and good alike.

The hubris it takes to say one is the best is the very same to say we are the very worst. Narcissism takes all the air in the room so that no one else may breathe. The prisoner is everyone. IMG_2552


There's a terrible irony in becoming a Chef. When you're a cook the idea is that you show up every day and do the tasks at hand, no matter what. When you're a cook your hours are mostly laid out for you. You agree on a wage and work your ass off. You listen to your chef and eventually, hopefully, come to revere and respect them, taking their orders without question, without retort, without attitude.

Cooking, being a craft, and both being verbs, means that we cooks judge each other, harshly mostly, by what we see. It doesn't matter if you worked 20 hours a day at your last post-- if you're working at this one 14 hours a day that's all that matters. Your resume is a useless fucking piece of paper when you take out your knives.

Respect from your charges, your peers, your support staff, the FOH management/ownership doesn't come easily. You have to earn it. You have to beg for it. You have to mean it. Every day, every minute. Not just when it suits you. Not just when you're in a good mood. Not just when you're getting laid regularly.  IMG_2553

When you're a cook you begin to learn to navigate. I can't stress this word enough. N A V I G A T E. Them there's some treacherous waters out there. word. Things are not as they appear. People are not as they say they are. I've worked in kitchens where people were mean on purpose or fucked up your mis en place up when you turned your head. Competiton can be fierce. Cooks have to know why the fuck you were hired/promoted/brought in and they'll test you at every turn.

The irony? The irony is that it's exactly the same when you're the Chef. Nothing changes. Except that you're in charge of all those pirates you used to be. Not only do you have to Navigate other Chefs, you have to steer the coup ship through hungry alligators.

The irony is that...

    when you were a cook sweating your balls off every night {yes I am speaking about female cooks here too} wondering why your Chef remained calm and seemingly cool on the other side of the pass, expediting

    and you thought they had it easy-- they just strolled in and

    1. called tickets 2. did the ordering 3. went to the market 4. wrote the schedule 5. talked on the phone to purveyors 6. figured out the labor costs and 7. bla 8. bla 9. bla

    and you wondered what the fuck do they do all day.

...when you become The Chef, it's impossible to explain to the cooks on the line, what the fuck it is you do all day and night to make it look easy. All you can think is this-- if these kids stick around long enough they'll see. The joke's on everyone.

* IMG_2544

A number of people have come to me in recent months because they want to learn how to bake. They are asking for work, they are asking to stage, they are showing interest in working with me. Some of them are established savory cooks, some of them have never seen the inside of a professional kitchen before. A few have gone to culinary school, many have not.

While I can appreciate the bravery it takes to reach out and ask for a chance, I fear most people do not understand the commitment.

Whether you are working for free, or not, the IMG_2505 commitment is the same. Here are some helpful pieces of advice I can assure you other chefs, professional chefs, will appreciate you knowing before you set out to seek such a relationship/situation/experience:

Do not, not for one minute, think you are doing that chef a favor. You're not. An extra person is just that. Extra people need MORE energy than day to day workers.
Do not, not for one second, think that because you are "extra" that you can fuck-off on your promise to that chef for the committed time.
Know this: that to get a trail, to be placed on a schedule, to schedule a working interview, to make a commitment to a chef IS TO MAKE A PROMISE.
A hand-shake is a binding contract.
Your name could be smeared if you burn a bridge. Especially if you burn it before you cross it.
The chef is not your friend. Write all emails formally, as you would a real typed letter. Address chef formally and sign your full name. In EVERY exchange. Do not speak to chef in email with ridiculous texting language like LOL.
Show up to said trail/stage days on time. If you're on time you're late, the saying goes.
Sending a thank you note after trailing, even if you despised the kitchen. It's good form.
Chefs: always thank the chefs who referred a trail to you. If you send a trail to a chef friend/colleague and you don't hear how it went, follow up and ask. People, all people, like to feel placed, not parachuted in.
DO NOT WAIT FOR the golden egg to get hand delivered to you.
A trail is a stage is a try-out. No one makes any promises, usually, before this day takes place.
If you arrange for a regular stage {ie more than one day} be very clear, from the onset, to yourself and to the chef, what hours you CAN and CAN NOT work. Write it down and hand it over. If, for any reason at all, you can not keep your promise/commitment, tell said chef ASAP.
If you are written onto a schedule whose hours you agreed to ahead of time and you do not arrive at said agreed time/date it is grounds for dismissal and name smearing.
Mean what you say and say what you mean. Chefs are not psychics. Needs unspoken can never get met.
Chefs despise email. Most of us can't open attachments. CHEFS DO NOT WORK IN OFFICES IN FRONT OF COMPUTERS. If email is the only way you know how to get in touch with someone this is not the field for you.
If you want to work in a professional kitchen but you have little to no experience, read this. IMG_2500
{I have someone in my kitchen in a top position who read the instructions on this blog and she is one of a number of cooks who have worked with me without ANY previous experience/culinary school degree. YES, it can happen. But you must have persistence! Patience! Humility! Willingness! Open mind & heartedness!}
Know what the word ACCOUNTABLE means.
Know that Chefs are human, just like you. Chefs have feelings. They struggle with the people they work with, for. Sometimes they jump through a lot of hoops to say yes to a stage or a trail and when you fuck it off it makes it impossible for the next person who may want the same thing as what you said you did.
Yes, Chefs have constraints too.

If I had a dime for every savory cook who said, "I really want to spend time with you-- I need to round out my cooking knowledge-- I have a big hole where pastry is concerned-- I like your department so much, can I spend a few days with you?-- my savory chef gives me no direction & I'm jealous of your cooks--" and on and on. IMG_2514

The thing is this: When you enter into a contract, and agreement, with a chef, you make a promise. BOTH OF YOU MAKE A PROMISE. TO THE OTHER. yeah? Get it?

The thing is this: working for someone is an exchange. Know what reciprocity means? You Both Need Each Other. I take, you take. I give, you give. ad infinitum.

To make the relationship work, one of you can't be absent. One of you disrespects the other when the promise is not made good on. It's like being stood up. Professionally. It's like double booking.It's fucked-up. Don't do it.

I tell people who want to work for free the same thing as what I tell people I hire. Make a commitment. To yourself, to me, to the establishment, to the department. IT'S ALL ONE IN THE SAME. Get it? Making a commitment, even if it's a silent one to yourself, is a commitment worth keeping. The hardest time you'll have with homesickness could be the 364th day but if you don't give a place a year you haven't given yourself a chance to stick it out.

I may sound old-fashioned when I say all this but manners go a long way these days. People, especially old school chefs with more than a few ounces of professionalism, take notice. IMG_2519

If none of this makes sense or matters to you, my guess is that you've worked for few chefs who've held you accountable for your actions/in-actions.

That's too bad-- the chefs who have forced me to keep my word have taught me the meaning of it.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, baking hint, body mem..."
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Date: Thursday, 29 Sep 2011 17:30

Most of my life, and even still, various people stop me in my day to day to ask, 'aren't you Michael and/or  IMG_1787_2 Susan Lydon's daughter?' Apparently I have my mother's impossible-to-miss voice and I've always known I look exactly like my father. My name also gives me away; it name appears in some of their books, and one never knows where a book is going to land and who is going to read it.

Having two well-known parents has been an interesting journey. I appreciate it more now than I did when I was younger. I feel so proud to have them as part of me, to be their succession.

Some of you may remember watching & hearing my father whistle in January 2008, here he is again, in an interview about the '60's. And if this is too much of a tiny taste for you and you want to know more, feel free to peruse his website...

Author: "shuna" Tags: "body memory, friends, hard to tell, tag,..."
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Date: Sunday, 11 Sep 2011 14:12

Four years ago tomorrow I woke up to terrible news. An airplane had crashed into the twin towers. It looked completely unfeasible and I left my girlfriend's house confused. When I got home I watched the news over and over like the day the Space Shuttle exploded but I still could not figure it out.

The next day I went to work knowing that I would not be able to reach my family living in lower Manhattan for some time to come. Having lived in London during the 1989 Northern California earthquake I knew that NY would shut down all outside lines to make room for emergency communication.

In 1996 I worked with Martin Howard and Waldy Malouf at The Hudson River Club in the twin towers. I knew that geography well. My education having been NYC public schools, many school trips were made to the roof and up the jet powered elevators of the those too high buildings often.

In the late afternoon of September 12 vague terrible information crept up into my numb consciousness. Heather Ho was the pastry chef of Windows On The World. Was this right? I asked Elizabeth (Falkner. I was working at Citizen Cake at the time.) She wasn't sure.

About ten days later my uncle called me to say that my father and stepmother were ok. I called and asked my dad to please walk over to Gramercy Tavern to speak with Claudia Fleming. I worked with Heather at GT and I knew that having just returned to NY Claudia might know where she was working.

A few days later my father called the internal phone line at CC crying. At the end of September I received in the mail the NY Times page showing the names and photos of those missing and dead. A bright photograph of Heather and a little bit about her graced the page.

When my mother read the news she called me and through tears said, "That could have been you. You and she shared such a similar trajectory."

Heather Ho was a piece of work. She was loud and spoke her thoughts without a care for how they might land. She knew that to be in this business you had to have shark's skin and if she offended she looked at the hurt person and said things like, "O come on!" Once at the bar across the street she told me that she was cooking just because. Because she didn't know what else to do. But she had a touch. She got pesky recipes to work that no one else could. And she couldn't explain what she had done! She moved like lighting. Whipped runners, captains, floor managers and back waiters into submission. And then she would slap them on the back in the sweaty defeated red locker rooms like we were all just in basic training together and wasn't it fun?

I will never forget my first week at Gramercy. Heather and Gina De Palma, (now the pastry chef at Babbo), flanked me as I leaned down into the i.c. drawers, learning how to quenelle by fire, screaming "FASTER! FASTER!" One night when I was training with Heather alone we had over 20 tickets on our board that were modified with a red "NOW" and after spinning like the Tasmanian Devil she looked dead at me and said, Where are we?!!!" Defeated, I replied pathetically, "I don't know." And then she kicked into overdrive and showed me how it was done.

We kept in touch and I ate her desserts at every restaurant she went. I ate her perfect lemon ice box cake a dozen times and was the happiest person alive the day Food & Wine printed her banana caramel bread pudding. Having grown up in Hawaii she had a sweet American palate. In her personality she carried a secret pocket of fierce quiet conviction and gave me supportive but unapologetic well chosen words when they were absolutely necessary.

When I learned that her death was definite I had trouble mourning her. I could see her and hear what she would have said. Sappy she wasn't. Nor would she stand for such ridiculousness.

In early October I traveled to NYC for a pre-planned Lydon family reunion. I did something else. I called Gina and Claudia and I told them what I had not the time to say to Heather. I thanked them for helping to shape who I was striving to be as a pastry chef. I thanked them for pushing me so hard (that kitchen was loud and brutal at times) and told them that GT had been a real turning point in my career. We told Heather stories and remembered her in the way that she would have been happy to have been a part of. We talked shit and we told it like it was.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "body memory"
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Date: Monday, 25 Jul 2011 05:18

If you can look past the fact that the only chefs quoted in this piece on Eater National are male, you'll find that I'm not the only chef wondering where the cooks I remember working alongside 20 years ago, are today.

My personal favorite quotes:

Tony Maws, Craigie on Main, Boston:

"What we get now are these Gen Y kids that aren't used to receiving feedback that's even remotely negative. They're not necessarily the come early, stay late types. They don't understand that this is a craft. Who doesn't wish this was easier?"

"The other thing is that culinary schools aren't setting expectations. You basically don't need any experience to get into the CIA anymore. It used to be that you needed a year in a restaurant and things like that. Now they just want your money and don't bother to tell you that when you leave culinary school, you'll be lucky to make twenty-thousand dollars and won't be able to pay back your loans."

Matthew Accarrino, San Francisco's SPQR:

"When I started cooking, you used to stay at a place for two years. Then you left and went to another place for two years, and so on and so forth. Hell, when I was getting started, some chefs would tell me, "If you stay here less than a year then I'll blackball you." That never happens any more. The chivalry has been lost. Now every resumé that I get shows people that move around more than once a year. It's hard to really harness any kind of talent other than natural talent in a cook if they're not stable."

Stephen Wambach, Philly:

"In the States, it's all talk. Kids want to learn how to make a sphere of whatever before knowing how to make a proper red wine sauce. The problem is the executive chefs at the mid-range level are not leading and nurturing their cooks — there is no foundation, everyone just wants to be a superstar."

Sang Yoon, Father's Office LA/CA:

"It's not so much talent that you look for in young cooks. It's worth ethic — showing that you'll do whatever it takes — that is the key factor. I look for dedication and loyalty, since if I'm going to invest time in them, I want to be sure that they stick around, absorb the information, and want to move themselves up."

"There's more and more people to choose from now, but it's harder to weed through that number of applicants."


speaking of applicants, I'm looking for 1 solid pastry assistant at Peels. Just 1. You wouldn't think it would be so hard... email me your resume & cover letter if seriously interested.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, body memory, friends,..."
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Date: Monday, 04 Apr 2011 05:15

kitchens are never just about cooking. they are communities, cities, families, gangs, partnerships, cities, empires, kingdoms, islands, homes, churches, refuges, prisons, forests. schools of fish could teach us a thing or two.

no one goes to work amongst their brethren just because. we all seek more than money when we sign up to be employed. for those of us who appreciate someone else besides ourselves signing said paycheck, we give and get something from working for others, with others.

I worked my first 80+ hour work week before the age of 16. I come from a family of non-retiring people. I like working. I don't feel like I'm working [very hard] unless my job is physical.

people ask me when did I {know I wanted to} want to be a chef. never. not once was being a chef my goal. I wanted to cook professionally nearabout 1991 and when I began, I had reached my goal.

unbeknownst to me, I had been preparing and was prepared to work in kitchens well before I stepped foot into one. although I didn't know the vernacular ['all day what?'], and owned not a single knife, many bosses and supervisors had trained me to shut up, suit up, and show up no matter what was going on in the rest of my life. being a latch-key kid meant knowing that I had only me to clean up the house & real life messes I made. no one ever grounded me but I spent a lot of nights in public parks. I started washing dishes in grade school and was cleaning the whole apartment by Junior High. my mother worked at home & I learned how to answer the phone politely & take a detailed message.

reliability. accountability. cleanliness. humility. manners. efficiency.

this is what life can teach you. if you choose to let it.

or you can wait until you're in your 20's and have some chef kick the shit out of you, every day, until it's learned into you. engraved. carved. branded.

I don't care if you work in a Michelin rated restaurant or a 20 seat lunch counter, these words will help you in kitchen as in life.

a little of any of these goes for miles in dog years.
reliability. accountability. cleanliness. humility. manners. efficiency.

a chef I worked with once used to say, "You have to be able to go to bed with yourself at night." in other words: where is your fucking integrity?

esteemable acts build self esteem.

nothing else. no bling, no sex, no person, no awards, no TV spots, no stock options, no trust fund, no purebred dog, no wedding in East Hampton, no name in bright lights, no knives named after you, no resume,

nothing else, but your repetition of esteemable acts, will build, nourish and uphold self esteem.

because when you're a cook among cooks, it's a god damned verb. we cook. action. active. constant. repeat.

c r a f t.

we cooks respect the now. we don't care where you've been, who you've fucked, how many hours you worked at your last job, where your scars come from, what the NY Times said about you, what your jacket's been embroidered with, how much French you speak, how many varietals of mushrooms you know, what you think of sea salt, how many farms you've visited, where you started, how long you've been doing it.

cooks watch. cooks listen.

how elegant are you on the line? is every plate the same? at what point will you break and start cutting corners? are you cleaner, faster, more efficient than me?

how about your manners? do you kiss certain people's ass and talk shit behind another's? do you say hello to everyone by name when you walk in the door? do you shake everyone's hand regardless of position? do you wait until someone asks you for help before giving it freely? when your fellows are in the weeds do you jump in to help? do you know how to listen with more than your ears? do you thank the people who have helped you? when you give notice are you graceful?

kitchens are old school. they're not necessarily democracies, even if the government they've grown up in is. the manners chefs in most kitchens expect might be considered 'old fashioned.' I say it's better to err on old fashioned. few people will fault you for saying 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'Yes, Chef.' most chefs don't want to hear what you think or even have time for a discussion when they're correcting or talking to you. if you think you know better, do better. if you think you can do better, what the fuck are you waiting for? if you made a mistake, be grateful your chef noticed, take [immediate!] heed, move on. if you're sure you know better than your chef, you're in the wrong fucking kitchen-- leave and go where the chef knows more than you or become a sous chef so you can feel the pleasure of constantly being wedged between a rock & a harder place.

even if you're front of house. especially if you're front of house.

the chefs are considered the parents of the house, even if they don't pay the mortgage.

these words: reliability. accountability. cleanliness. humility. manners. efficiency. they apply to waiters, bussers, back waiters, captains, baristas, runners, bartenders and everyone in between.

you think that when you become a chef it will be all about cooking. all about baking. all about food. you and the meditation of kitchen. but once you become someone responsible for humans and not just carrots, the game changes forever. carrots don't braise themselves. cakes don't rise because you hope they will. all those burgers don't get to temp at the wave of your expert hand.

people. people are the machine that run the ship. people. and people need encouragement, admonishing, teaching, inspiring, guiding, pushing, critiquing, listening to, growing, forcing, nudging, laughing with, watching, learning, mentoring, following, yelling, training, fighting, wrestling, forging, molding,        and setting free.

and it's not just chefs who are 'in charge of' cooks. cooks need to be in charge of themselves. they need to go to bed with themselves at night. cooks need to rely on one another. cooks need to speak to and with one another. they need to watch and listen and learn who are the good ones amongst them all. stick with the winners is what I say. cooks need to work next to, with, alongside their prep staff. a chef du partie is only as good as her commis. a commis is only as good as his chef du partie.

because what you learn in the kitchen, what you learn on the floor: when that person who has been around your block a few more times than you, takes the time to pass on their experience, pass on a few words of encouragement/critique/acknowledgement/compliment/admonishment, they're doing it for the you of you, not merely the you of the numbers on your paycheck. 

           listen and use these words, these exercises, these lessons, these challenges/growing opportunities to water your integrity, to nourish your self esteem, to honor humility, to pay homage to your craft. use these exercises, these lessons, these challenges/growing opportunities to the betterment of your kitchen, you, your goals, and whomever you choose to pass them onto next.

  for these are not merely kitchen lessons, these are life lessons.

keep them as clean and as sharp as your knives, and they will never steer you wrong.


Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, baking hint, body mem..."
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Date: Sunday, 20 Mar 2011 04:44










Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, betwixt, body memory,..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Mar 2011 05:18

DSC_6041 A long standing aversion to being inside fast whizzing frames, aka TV & film, has recently been challenged, in the best possible way.

Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs, the incredibly energetic, lively, smart, generous, silly, gorgeous women behind & inside Food52 entered the Peels pastry kitchen [aka Pastrylandia] and made a video of me making Butterscotch Pot de Creme.

But instead of airing one video of it all, they've broken it up into 5 parts!

Part 1 is all about Vanilla Sugar. In Part 2 I address how to achieve silky smooth voluptuous soft silken delicate custard. For Parts 3-5, keep connected to Food52's Video link.


Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, baking hint, body mem..."
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Date: Sunday, 27 Feb 2011 04:43

IMG_0585 all in one neat package,

Edible: East Village Bakery Uses Sweet Elements Of Surprise

on TV,

for your viewing pleasure.

I must say, for the record, what an absolute pleasure and honor it was to work with Rachel Wharton! She is as smart and beautiful and funny and silly and lively and dynamic and down-to-earth as she appears here.

Coming from the Bay Area I had no preparation for the serious, thick, "glossy," thorough magazines that are Edible Manhattan & Edible Brooklyn. They're doing some fine work. Especially considering all that's going on food-wise in the little big apple.



Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, friends, hard to tell..."
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Date: Monday, 14 Feb 2011 05:32


raspberry jam filled bambolini from Heather Bertinetti


petit fours from Kiyomi Toda-Burke & Sandra Palmer


brown butter-pecan cream puffs {c'est moi}


mini mallowmars from Kiyomi Toda-Burke & Sandra Palmer


chocolate "sweethearts" at Peels by yours truly.

Author: "shuna" Tags: "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, body memory, geograph..."
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