Today was a big day for me. We have a handful of new dishes on the menu, two just on the garde manger. Sous Chef J approached me directly and we went over the dishes, their components, the required prep, and the suggested plating. I patted myself on the back when I realized that I was the one they chose for this brainstorm and discussion. I asked a fair amount of questions about the techniques and ingredients to make sure that I understood clearly.
One dish is a salmon poke with gooseberry salsa and sesame crackers. I LOVE the gooseberry salsa. The bright orange gooseberries are tart but refreshing, and the salsa remarkably resembles a Thai papaya salad in flavor. We were serving it with the duck confit, and I’m so happy it’s staying on the menu and even more so that it’s on our station. One of the interesting umami flavor elements that makes the dressing unique is a fish sauce caramel that Chef had concocted. It’s basically the same as Vietnamese caramel braised “kho” (ca kho, thit kho, etc.). I had trouble replicating it, so instead, I made my dad’s fish sauce (nuoc cham) and Sous Chef J liked it! We mixed it in with the lime juice and vinegar that the gooseberries were marinating in. I was so excited to make that dish a bit more my own. The poke itself is good as well – chunks of sashimi grade salmon tossed in a citrus and sesame oil dressing mixed with Japanese sweet (Kewpie) mayo.
The second dish is a pea salad. A bit of springtime in the dead of winter. Blanched English peas, toasted macadamia nuts, confit cherry tomatoes, southern-style smoked Bentons ham, onion puree goat cheese, pea puree cracker, parmesan tuille… This was quite the complex dish with many, many elements. Sous Chef J had already prepared a batch of the pea puree crackers yesterday since it needs to dehydrate overnight but he was not too pleased with his results. He had spread the pea puree in a thin layer on parchment paper and sprinkled on finely chopped Bentons ham and togarashi. It was good but the clumps of ham were a bit awkward. We brainstormed ways to improve on it, and I suggested the idea to make a “dust” from dehydrated ham, similar to another garnish we have in our mise. So during service, I went ahead and dehydrated a few slices and then after service (and cleanup and doing the ordering/prep list) I stayed late to set up the next batch of pea puree crackers in the dehydrator. I hope it turns out well… I am so grateful for this opportunity to really add my input to the dishes, build my repertoire of techniques, and develop my culinary vision.
One last thing. Today while we were working, Singing Hot-Apps Guy asked me what my endgame is. He said that every cook he has met has greater dreams, ambitions, that they are working toward. I had been thinking about it long and hard, and I finally came up with my mission statement: I want to run my own kitchen someday. I want the Michelin Guide to come back to this city and I want to earn at least one Michelin Star. Specific, concise, eloquent. Let’s do it.