How time flies when you’re having fun. Back in 1995 I started a website called FoodWeb, one of the first sites on the net about food. I had an ad agency and our specialty was food and food related products. In typical self serving ad-think we thought we would show clients what power the net could have in their business. Maybe we were too early to the game, clients just didn’t get it.
After awhile FoodWeb turned into a weekly food newsletter growing to just about 10,000 opt-in subscribers all over the world. I did that for about 18 months if I recall correctly. It was hell on earth. Hours were spent researching topics, writing, editing, and coding the mother website. Then the newsletter would be emailed, nixies removed, emails answered, and then it started again. Eventually it had to go out monthly. Then it had to go completely.
After working with food from the marketing aspect for products like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Stilton Blue Cheese, and The Culinary Institute of America I realized that I loved food enough to want to learn how to work with it professionally. I wanted the inside track to the professional kitchen. Bourdain would tell a 48 year old ad exec trying to break into the professional kitchen he’s fucking crazy. Well Bourdain wasn’t around to warn me what I was about to get into. But he’d have been right. (I met him once on campus. He and Ruhlman were walking somewhere and I called Bourdain “Mario.” He pointed to Ruhlman and said, “He’s Mario, I’m Emeril.” I complemented him on his diet plan.)
In 2002 I enrolled in classes at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. I won a $25,000 scholarship for my apple pie recipe (it will appear here soon) and moved to Hyde Park to begin my education. I stopped writing the newsletter and jumped feet first into the professional kitchen.
For all intents and purposes my studies and subsequent restaurant jobs kept me away from writing and, as time marched ever on, web technology advanced faster than I did, or wanted to. So here I am five years later writing a blog. FoodWeb the website is no longer, though I still have the name service-marked and registered as a domain. If someone has a good idea for the name/site or offers me a boat load of money for it I’m listening.
It’s very comforting to be writing again, even though I know it will be difficult to write much when working 60 to 70+ hour weeks, six days on, one off.
But that’s some of what I’ll be writing about. 70 hour weeks, weird cooks, whacked out bakers, dishwashers and why they deserve every bit of respect they get, servers, bartenders, managers, and everything in between. It’s an insanely comforting subculture.
I’ll end this first post with a mini-rant. Maybe this will be indicative of the voice that will emerge from me this time around.
If I see one more mega food website (read All-Recipes, Recipezaar) call the janitor/secretary/insurance salesman from the suburbs a chef I’m going to blow a major friggin’ cork. Granted there are some pretty talented home cooks out there but one doesn’t get called a chef until one’s ass has been thrown around a professional kitchen on a busy night, multiple times, and lives to cook again. Chef is a title one earns.
Restaurants are incredibly difficult places to work. That goes for FOH as well as BOH. Sure we get an incredible rush when things go right. But there are dozens of things that can go wrong every day multiple times. So when the above mentioned suburbanite foodie learns how to cook any dish from memory, calculate food cost, labor cost, manage a staff of cooks and dishwashers, order food by the case, have a marriage or relationship go south, and earn a profit, THEN they can be called chefs. If you can’t handle all of the above, no toque. It’s that simple.