I get asked all the time about cooking classes. I used to teach a lot at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul. But this coming November, I am teaching a bunch of classes and hosting a dinner onboard the Holland America Line’s Ryndam. This is all part of the Carlson Wagonlit Travel culinary cruise program, and the classes and events are available only to passengers booking through Carlson Wagonlit Travel agencies. The ten-day cruise along the Mexican Riviera is roundtrip out of San Diego and stops in Cabo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, etc. Want more info? Go here to book the cruise.
I also get asked to go to restaurant openings, and in the past, I always said no out of some vague sense of professional propriety. But I was asked to attend a soft opening for The Strip Club, Aaron Johnson and Tim Niver’s new joint, and I told chef-partner J.D. Fratzke I would stop by; but last week, my wife and son had the flu, the dog had surgery, and the cat was being the cat, so needless to say, I missed the first few nights of service at The Strip Club, a restaurant on my side of town that I have high hopes for. But I got an e-mail from J.D. at the end of the week. He told me that on opening night, into the first rush, with a bunch of tickets hanging,
“the shelf bolted into the stainless over our char-broiler -- the one holding all of our steak plates -- collapses. Platters shatter all over the first ten grass-fed strips we've fired for paying customers, two fillets of char, four salmon steaks, two saute pans and, of course, my broiler cook, six foot seven Anthony Finck, who turns to me and says with a bewildered smirk, "I don't think we can stack plates there anymore, Chef." We fought out of it. It took about an hour, but we fought out. Insurgents breached the perimeter, but we took no casualties.”
Funny stuff, J.D. Every chef has stories like this one, and since so many readers of this blog are in the business, on both sides of the room, perhaps some of you will share yours? Here’s one of mine:
I was running the floor one night in 1984 (or 85?) at Elio’s as a favor to the owner who was out of town for the weekend; it was a Friday night in NYC—in the summer. I was working at his other restaurant Petaluma as the chef, but he wanted me up the street at his flagship for the night, and my sous was handling the light night at our eatery. Calm evening at Elio’s, full but no crush; all our customers were retreating to their summer homes. A guy lights up a cigar at a six-top. I tell him to put it out since tables near him are complaining. He points out that two other tables in the front are smoking cigars. It’s Ben Gazzara at one table and someone at Woody Allen’s table smoking the other one. I tell the foppish guy in the back with the heavy New York accent that those men are regulars and that no one complained about them. He throws five one-hundred dollar bills on the table and walks.
The next day I get a call from the GM at Elio’s; there’s a picket line around the restaurant, and no deliveries can come through. We call Elio. He does some digging on Local 459. Turns out, there is no such union local. Turns out the guy I pissed off was Tony “Fat Tony” Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family. I ended up having to go with the restaurant GM to meet this guy and apologize before they would lift the fake picket. Scared sh**less. Thank goodness he was more interested in coming back to try the gnocchi than he was in messing with me.
Here’s a great local blog, The Masticator. I get asked what I like about these all the time, and of course I think this guy’s take is spot on. Go figure.
Go here, and check out the awesome photo contest, and start charging the digi-cam batteries—there are great prizes galore. Also, am I the only one who thinks that Punch in Highland is heads and shoulders better than any of their other locations when it comes to pizza quality?
Tori Shin in NYC is a hot little Yakitori bar that serves chicken sashimi and some killer skewered, grilled poultry treats. I have been asked about this stuff endlessly, and I promised many of you that I would let you know about it. Consider yourself informed. The yakitori is out of sight, and this should be a must-stop for anyone heading to the Big Apple looking for a taste of Tokyo.