Chroegraphy of a Chef

15 08 2012

The cook dances.

He hears a rhythm in the chaos of a busy dinner service.

The ticket machine clicks a stoccato prelude.

The expediter bellows the first deep notes “Two shrimp pasta, fire! ”

The melody begins.

Saute pan slides onto fiery burner.  A squeeze of oil shimmers with the smooth roll of the wrist.  Drop down for t12 shrimp, sharp SEAR as they hit the pan.  A ballerina’s sprinkle of seasoning.  Jolting reach for pasta.  Sharp poses from prep pan to boiling water.  A shake, a stir.  Techno robot flips the shrimp.  A reach and dip.  Sauce hits the pan.  A scoop and shake.  Al dente pasta meets pan.

Flick and flip.  One dish.  Swipe.  Spoon to taste.

Click clack.  Spoon down, fork up.  Twirl up a tall mound of pasta.  Gently floats to meet plate.

Ping ting.  Fork down, spoon up.  Shrimp float around the edge.  Sauce drizzles all over.

“Shrimp pasta up.”The bass returns, the evening continues.

The dance continues all night long.
This is the cook.  The steps are etched in his muscles, the rhythm pulsing through his veins.  Each dinner, he executes the dance with flawless, inspired precision.

The chef?  The chef is the choreographer.

Her dance is one of creation, of trial and failure.  Her dance is unpredictable and uncertain.  She is inspired by other rhythms, other melodies.  She listens, she feels, she moves with experimentation.

The movement begins to tell a story.  It has passion, fire, gentility.  It inspires.  The steps take over the body and the mind until they become habit… Obsession.
The steps become fluid.
The rough edges smooth.
The recipe becomes a song.
The food becomes a story.
The plate becomes a dance between creator and audience.
This is the choreography of a chef.


For an inspired dance, check out this recipe for Lemon Cake


Cauliflower: What is White?

30 07 2012

What is white?

Cauliflower.  Cauliflower is white.  It always has been, it always will be.  That’s just the way it is.

Or, that’s what I thought.  Then I met farmers.  I went to markets.  I read cookbooks, I talked to chefs, I tasted, explored, experience.

Now, cauliflower is still white.  And it’s purple, green, and yellow.

My world opened up, my knowledge expanded, and my understanding changed.

In ten years, my visions has shifted:  From a world of only-white to a world of variety.

This world is changing.  Nothing is just white any more.  There’s too much more out there to taste.

Strawberry Seduction

20 06 2012

You look up.  She catches your eye from across the room.  In a sea of browns and greens, her seductive red lures you in.  The laws of attraction elicit a deep breath as you inhale her sweet aroma.  Her glowing charm glints like the girl next door.  Her fragile skin hints at precious innocence.

All you want to do is grab her, pick her up, and take a big, juicy bite.

She is strawberry.


Let her radiance inspire you.  Fantasies of chocolate-dipped desserts, colorful breakfast bowls, and simple afternoons licking your fingers run through your mind.  Share company with her friends Blue, Black, and Rasp.  Let her meet your buds Almond, Arugula, and Ginger.

She’s not in it for the long-haul, little more than a summer fling.  But she’s good for every last, juicy drop.

You can find her at optimal beauty at places like:

Seedling Fruit (at Chicago’s Green City Market)

Whole Foods Market (all over the world)

Duo Talent: Rainbow Chard

11 06 2012

Duo Talents are hard to miss.

Duo Talents catch your attention with a notable first impression.  They perk your ears with a clever joke.  They challenge your thinking with a poignant question.  They have incredible shining eyes, a bright smile, and glowing confidence.

And then, they get better.

Beyond that first impression, lies another layer.  It’s the richness of self-motivation, the audacity to take risks, and the warmth of listening to your concerns.

The Duo Talent has two sides to entice.  They have a vibrant, crisp intro to attract.  Then they have a textured, soulful depth to keep you interested.

Rainbow chard is a duo talent.  It draws you in with bright, seductive stalks.  It keeps your interest with luxurious green leaves.  In one beautiful bundle, you get a two-for-one.  You can chop the stalks for braising, soups, sauces, or slaw.  The leaves offer layers for fluffy salads or wilted sides.

By enjoying both talents of this vegetable, you savor the many talents it brings to the table.  Just don’t let the other mustard greens get jealous.

Lower on the Chain

6 06 2012

To produce one pound of US steak (less than 1,000 calories of food), 45,000 calories of fossil fuels are required. 70 percent of the antibiotics we make are used on our livestock. And while Africa starves, half of the food we grow in this country goes to feed our livestock.

There was a time when meat cost more than vegetables. Chickens were reserved for special Sunday dinners, and, even then, every part of the bird found its way into giblet gravy and leftover soup. Now, these birds come in perfectly-portioned, uniformly-sized pounded breasts that cook in ten minutes. As Americans, we spend a smaller portion of our family budget on food then any other developed country. This is probably why we’re okay with the genetically modified wheat and under-tested pesticides that are banned in the European Union: It’s cheaper.

A challenge to eat healthy and sustainably is a challenge to change the way we look at food. Take the meat off. Switch the plate around so that vegetables and complex carbohydrates are the foundation while meat is the rare treat. Eat whole foods. Eat more plants. You’ll still get plenty of protein and fat, but probably in a form that is friendlier to your waistline and your arteries.

Other cultures have been doing this for centuries. Use them for inspiration. Mexico has its rice and beans. India has its red lentils and curried dal. Even our Native Americans shared corn and bean succotash.

Here we still have our grand images of the cowboy lassoing tonight’s dinner in a heroic display of the hunter feeding his family a hearty meal. This is an idyllic image of the past, though. Our current image is the truth of claustrophobic factory farms filled with sick, mutated animals. Our image for the future is our choice, a choice we make three times a day, plus snacks. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. It just means a little extra attention and one simple rule: Eat lower on the food chain.

For more information, check out these worthy reads:

Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma

Northwest Earth Institute’s Menu for the Future

Green with Envy

31 05 2012

My recent love of broccoli for protein comes only after my love for its beautiful green and sweet, buttery flavor.

Flavor first.

There you are, dear broccoli, hiding amidst your comrades on the produce shelf.  Beside you, crisp romaine reaches tall with its vibrant stalks.  Golden onions shine for your appreciation.  Even drab white cauliflower embodies untouched purity in its individually-wrapped package.  Yet broccoli rests with little enthusiasm.   Store employees bunch you to attain some form of cohesion, but your woody stalks and tufted florets scream more “alien” than “appetite”.

Broccoli, old pal, you just need a friend.

I gladly pick you up and invite you over for dinner.  I happily cut your stalks long, making tiny trees from your bulky frame.  Water is boiled and salted — heavily.  “To taste like the sea” echoes the voice of a past chef.  In the rolling, bubbling jacuzzi, down go your drab greenness.  In minutes, there is magic.

Your faded color makes way for glowing emerald.  Your woody trunks soften.  The salty cloud of water brings out the earthy, sweet flavors that hide in your stems.

A few minutes later, a knife easily slips out of your thickest stalk, and you are ready.  A quick shock into a bath of ice water locks in your crisp green.

Tossed with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper, you are beautiful.  You put romaine to shame.  Somehow you have transformed into this delight that plays between my teeth while also melts on my tongue.  Broccoli, my friend, you are ALIVE.

Take that, cauliflower.

The other veggies are green with envy.