Sunday, March 29, 2009


Without precision, it's impossible to have consistent results. At tonight's shift at Okoze, I focused on making sure that all my execution was precise and predictable, by slowing things down just a little bit.

For me, it allows me to drill in proper technique. For the exec chef, they have confidence in what I can turn out. A few reasons why I like this line of work so much is because there is a premium placed on technique, and there isn't much BS in terms of faking what you can and can't do.

So I was making dinner for my brother and some mutual friends at Okoze and while I was working on their omakase dinner, I realized my nigiri (fish on rice) technique was finally coming together. Basically I'm looking to touch the fish less and have it down to three compressions as opposed to the 5 or 6 you see at many restaurants. Within those three compressions, you should see a graceful arc, with a wider head. The tail should also look graceful as if it were the tail of a fish. This is just my opinion and style. But this all can't be done without an exact cut and portioning of the fish. Too thick and it won't round out properly. Too thin and there won't be enough taste and the proportions will be off.

Above is a lemon, sliced for some rolls. Even if we have enough made, I will still do a few just to warm up before guests arrive. I'll usually warm up on my dinner too because I'm not about to go half-ass someone else's meal. I need to go to bed, I have to give a customer portal training for my sales reps bright and early.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gone huntin!

So in a few moments I'll head out to the central valley with some friends to go boar hunting. If anyone has read the Omnivore's Dilemma, I believe they make some mention of that. Then on Sunday, we'll be meeting up for a butchering class where we drop the pigs off at if we're fortunate.

To be able to harvest some truly wild game, and cook with it is an amazing privilege. Fortunately I've been a competitive shooter since I was small so I can handle the marksmanship part. Either way, what most people miss about the whole aspect of hunting is simply to be outdoors. Having absolute respect for the animals you harvest, respecting and upholding game laws...are all part of it. I don't hunt much, but it's great to be able to take some responsibility for what you eat. I'll be able to apply handling principles on high grade seafood, to the handling of this game (should I get even anything), to make sure what we get has been handled with the utmost care.

It's also nice because I'll be going with some hunters who want to learn more about shooting, so I can help them with technique etc, and I'll be able to learn more about hunting and wildlife in general. For you gearheads out there, I'll be taking my Remington 700-5R in 308 Winchester with Leupold Mk4 LR-T scope (my competition platform). Thanks to Chris for letting me borrow his Benchmade fixed blade. I promised him some sausage or boar chops in return. Good deal.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dinner Party Menu for March 7th 2009

Here is the menu for this weekend's dinner party. Of course I might change things up should I spot a winner at the market.

Shiitake miso soup with manila clam and leeks
Ankimo sunomono
Amberjack and tuna sashimi
Sushi...obviously (Engawa, ikura, maguro)
A roll or two
"Napa trip" scallops
Poached lobster with truffled mac and cheese
Black bean clams with fresh bell peppers
Rose-Raspberry Almond Tarts

Chef's notes:
There's a few guests that have had some of my main creations like the Ankimo and lobster. To keep things interesting for them, I'm going to prepare them in slightly different formats. On the sushi portion, I do want to get more into the nigiri and one or two rolls just to demonstrate technique and bring some depth to the Japanese portion. The "Napa trip" scallops has no real name but it's a round molded chopped scallop course with tobbiko and avocado. I made this for Serena in Napa on a trip there and she requested it. The poached lobster is always a hit, and I wanted to make it more accessible by pairing it up with a nice mac and cheese. Black bean clams this time again, but with more of an emphasis on the vegetables to offer up a fresh crunch. Knife work on the bell peppers will be important.

The dessert is what I will focus a lot of development on this week. It's a relatively technical dish and will take some practice runs this week. A paired dinner drink that we had in New Zealand may make it's way onto the menu too but we'll have to see as far as time/expense goes.

Food pic is a roll I made a few years ago.

Monday, March 2, 2009

More on inspiration...

As I was developing the menu for this Saturday's dinner party, I hit a roadblock on a few items. On palette cleansers, on transition dishes. So I figured, that I'd leave them alone for a day or so, but for right now strengthen one of the courses. So I reached out to my friends.

I was chatting with a friend of mine, Olympic cyclist and foodie and were were talking about mac and cheese (How he finds time to hang out and bike at such a high level is beyond me, ie. baller-dom). But such a humble dish...who doesn't like it? There it was, poached Maine lobster tail, with truffled mac and cheese (with the poached lobster claw diced in there). I feel okay introducing such a heavy hitting flavor combination as long as the flavors are managed appropriately. My risk is that it will taste busy, and I'll need a flavor to have a clear separation between the lobster claw (I love the aggressive claw flavor), truffle oil (finishing flavor), and the mac and cheese. I'm thinking even some bay leaf which could blend with a strongly flavored cheese but different enough to offer contrast.

Just for a sanity check, I was also chatting on gchat with another friend of mine who loves food. Ran the idea by her and obviously cheered her up from her long work days (lots of exclaimation marks). She really likes similar foods I like (black bean clams), so I thought it was a good dose of reality to run it by her. As far as the menu goes, we'll be coming off some very styled dishes, so it will be refreshing to still have the intense ingredients, but with a plating that demonstrates a home style approach.