Sometimes it’s hard to believe I used to cook for a living.
When I remember those days, I mostly remember the incidental stuff, the hectic pace, the thrill of a Saturday night at the head of the line, the carefully-timed cigarette breaks, the make-outs with the waitresses — you know, all the important stuff.
And of course I still remember all the more difficult methods and techniques. I can still make a crystal clear consomme, an ideally viscous beurre blanc, a spot-on medium rare tenderloin.
Medium rare tenderloins are like the 10-page papers of the restaurant world. Incollege we used to say that if there was one thing and one thing only that we would leave the institution with (besides an unseemly number of hickeys), it was the rock-solid ability to write a 10-page paper. We could literally do them in our sleep.
Medium-rare tenderloins were just as pervasive a part of my life as a chef, and I literally dreamed about them most Saturday nights, in my favorite workmare that mostly consisted of me having two tenderloins on the grill, overcooking them slightly, having to slap two more on the grill (now I am 10 minutes behind), overcooking them, having to slap two more on the grill, (now I am 20 minutes behind), overcooking them (now I am screaming), etc.
I only ever overcooked them in my dreams. Really. I was a tenderloin ninja.
What I seem to have forgotten entirely is how to cook a proper omelette.
Now, granted, eggs were never really my forte. I avoided brunch shifts like the plague-ridden events that they are. Very occasionally I would have to come in and make a proper hollandaise for some rookie line cook, but then I was gone like the wind. Primarily because of how hungover I typically was during Sunday morning brunch shifts.
Recently I have been undergoing a bit of an omelette renaissance, rediscovering how simple and quick they are as a nutritious and filling dinner. But the results have been getting progressively worse and worse.
I mean, sure, they’re edible, and stuffed with the most delightful ingredients, all chopped to a perfect small dice. But they are far cry from the fluffy, golden brown ideal of my youth.
Am I too sacked out from work to construct a proper omelette? Or do I just lack the zen state imposed by a Sunday morning hangover that allows one to focus on one’s cooking with a laser-sharp precision?
Perhaps I just need a new teflon pan! Perhaps I am merely forgetting that one cardinal rule of professional chefs everywhere — “blame the tool, not the hand!”
Of course, the real cardinal rule of professional chefs everywhere is the thirty-second rule. But you don’t really want to know about that, I’m guessing.