Saturday, January 08, 2005

The lady in the apron is not a chef

A friend who is sous chef at a fine restaurant in one of our four-star hotels cringes when I cook for him, which is not often since his snobbish delicate palette abhors homecooking. Traditional Chamorro fare does not require an artistic hand, to which he arrogantly says is a damn shame. A meatloaf is a meatloaf and for this reason, I will prepare for my nieces because of its simplicity. I give myself a time allowance of one hour, most of it spent in cooking time, but my cousin says an hour and a half is true, and he'd know because he's a fireman. The preparation of meatloaf is never to be spoken in the presence of Herr Sous Chef.

Are all chefs arrogant snobs? The Pillsbury Dough Boy isn't, nor is Chef Boyardee. My Aunt Victoria is a wonderful cook with no culinary pedigree, although I believe she secretly harbors a wish to publish a cookbook of Chamorro recipes, which by the way, would be very successful.

One truly memorable occasion was the celebration of my birthday when Mr. Sous Chef prepared a three course dinner complete with dessert for my friends and me at my place. He had a difficult time for all the courses had to meet his high standards, his line cooks weren't on hand to assist but then he treats them like little munchkins which they don't appreciate, for some a painful reminder of a sad childhood, and he had to settle for a conventional oven, oh horror. The whole preparation was a bit over two hours and I thought he was punishing me as a sous chef is responsible for presentation and serving in a timely manner. Our first course arrived after waiting for over an hour. We were starving. Perfection does have its drawbacks. However, the food was wonderful, prepared "on par" as he smugly put it. Who wouldn't salivate over fois gras and baby potatoes with sauteed garlic and butter sauce? The occasion of the craving for a McDonald's Big Mac slid down Maslow's Order of Hierarchy of needs and was just a distant memory.

I enjoy cooking and believe the culinary arts to be an exact science, until you step into my kitchen where chaos is a friend that pats you on the back for a job well done. I believe that a messy kitchen is the sign of a good cook. Sous chefs earn their pedigree in established restaurants around the world and I respect this, but in my kitchen, grab an apron, wash your hands and get the eggs out of the fridge.


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