Sunday, January 23, 2011

Le Bernardin

Stage #6

LE BERNARDIN Upper West Side
155 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10020

So this is what its like to be in a 3 star Michelin restaurant! For those of you who do not know, Michelin (yes as in the tire) is a restaurant and tour guide book that originated in France. The Michelin guide employs anonymous inspectors to dine in restaurants and judge the service/food. If the restaurant meets expectations the restaurant may be visited again and again and if the inspector thinks that it is up to Michelin standard they are rewarded a star. Obviously the more stars a restaurant has the better it is perceived. Some chefs dedicate their whole careers striving for one of these proverbial stars and Le Bernardin has three.

As I walked into the kitchen I tried not to feel intimidated but its difficult once you recognize the caliber that surrounds you. Michael Laiskonis (one of the country's top pastry chefs) was 10 feet away from me perfecting his desserts for service, Maguy Le Coze (owner) was up at the pass speaking to the sous chefs; the people you read about and here I was sharing the kitchen with them.

After I got the tour of the kitchen and met the chefs, I figured I would just stand in the corner and watch; surely they weren't going to let me touch anything, however next thing I hear is "do you know how to clean foie gras"? "We have about 60 lobes to clean for torchons; we're having a foie cleaning party". I was thinking to myself, who can afford to have a foie gras cleaning party but I am down! I helped clean the foie gras with a couple sous chefs and a stage from Germany and another stage from Chile. At this moment I really felt immersed in my industry and was proud to be apart of it. The kitchen had such an energy to it, filled with chefs learning from one another and preparing for the perfect dinner service.
cleaned Foie Gras

Let me explain why I say it is the perfect dinner service...

Cooks that are hired at Le Bernardin start off at the Garde Manger station (cold food) where the food is prepared ahead of time and is pretty much fool proof. If the cooks do well at this station they will move up to the next station and so on and so on. It can take as long as 2 years for a cook to reach the fish station (the Poissonnier) and trust me in a restaurant known for their fish you better believe the Poissonier in Le Bernardin knows how to cook fish perfectly. Once the tickets come in, (which are all still hand written by the way) the line functions preparing one table at a time dedicating the most care to those specific diners. After that table's ticket is cooked and completed it goes to the pass and is tasted and inspected by 3-4 sous chefs, if and only if, it is perceived to be perfect it goes out to the diner. This was amazing to watch; everyone relying on each other, communicating with the upmost trust and respect for one another, all working together in synergy to create the perfect dining experience.

Stage Lockers
every kitchen in New York has lockers for their employees because everyone walks and usually needs to change before work. Not to mention the winters suck and you need to shed about 3 layers before putting on your chef whites

Seared Yellowtail King Fish; Truffle Risotto,
Baby Vegetables, Black Truffle Emulsion

Family Meal
chili, rice, crab fritters, salad

Pan Seared Duck Breast
Turnips, Dolce-Forte Sauce Pine Nuts and Caramelized Orange

Sous-Chef Colby

Baby Shrimp, Shellfish Foam


Fermented Black Bean-Pear Sauce Vierge
Ink, Miso Vinaigrette, Purple Basil

Lobster Carpaccio
Hearts of Palm, Orange Vinaigrette

Mini Steamed Buns
Hoisin-Plum Jus

Leek and Grape Parfait, Caramelized Endives,
Green Peppercorn Marinere

Spices that are specifically blended just for Le Bernardin

Red Snapper
Saffron "Fideos", Smoked Paprika Sauce

Making Pasta

I'll never forget the feeling I felt when I walked out of Le Bernardin. It marked the end of my trip and it reminded me how passionate I am about food. It is such an art and a profession that allows you to showcase your creativity and share it with others that are just as fervent about it as you are.

I say this to all aspiring, young chefs out there; live life to the fullest, experience all food, work in every type of restaurant you can, immerse yourself with other chefs, cooks, restauranteurs that are just as passionate about this field as you are and learn from those experiences and let them shape you into the person/chef that you are and want to become.

Something tells me my New York journey isn't over and I truly do miss the city. Maybe I will find myself here again in the future; either way I am so thankful for this opportunity; i'll never forget it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Stage #5



135 North 5th Street, NY 11211

My day started today at 6am. I almost forgot how much I love being up in the morning, drinking a fresh cup of coffee, prepping for the day. All of Egg’s coffee is made by French Presses. When I asked Evan (the sous chef) why they did it that way he replied,“because it’s the best”. That seems to be their philosophy at Egg, which is one I admire. Their dishes are simple but are cooked perfectly, highlighting the fresh ingredients used. They use cage free eggs, natural sugar and organic products and when you taste the food the difference is conspicuous. The crew put me to right to work on the line and it was so much fun. The first dish I was responsible for was scrambled eggs; sounds simple right? And it is! But they use the correct techniques and the result is perfectly cooked, pillowy eggs that melt in your mouth. You start with a barely warm pan, crack your eggs, and constantly move them with a rubber spatula breaking up all curds that form. Then you finish them off the heat so they just come up resulting in a custard consistency that should resemble cottage cheese. Oh and the taste, too good to describe!

Teddy slicing country ham

Then on to the candied bacon made by melting down turbinado sugar and water then coating it in thick sliced Canadian bacon. All gravy for B&G (biscuits and Gravy) is made to order and is so delicious!

Towards the end of service they actually shared their recipes with me! I was surprised at this gesture and when they acknowledged my uncertainty Evan said “in the words of Ferran Adria, there are no secrets”. Best quote of the trip and one that really put things in prospective for me!

I felt this philosophy all over New York and I feel like Atlanta lacks from this viewpoint. Chefs should share their knowledge with others, it is an industry that is built on structure and team dynamic.

Eggs Rothko

brioche, cheddar, over easy egg, roasted tomatoes

French Toast-Amy's brioche, maple syrup, melted butter

The Perfect Omelet

Me and the Crew

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Stage #4
(v): to join together harmoniously
103 west 77th street
new york, ny 10024

I arrived to the Dovetail kitchen at 2pm and was immediately put to work. dicing sweet potatoes, peeling soft boiled eggs for the "soft boiled egg" dish, scoring trumpet mushrooms, cutting parsnips, the typical bitch work. A lot of chefs hate this type of prep but for me its very therapuetic and prepping your dish is just as important as cooking it. Dovetail was recently awarded their first Michelin star and you see why. Everything was immaculate, immersion circulators in every corner, chefs dressed in Bragard aprons conveying discipline as they prepared for service. For some reason this type of structure puts me at ease; makes me comfortable. The thing I love the most about fine dining is that it takes a team to put out the dishes, you have to learn how to communicate with each other.

John Fraiser is the head chef/owner of Dovetail. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to meet him as he is opening a new restaurant in So-Ho. The plan for the new space is to change the menu/concept every month and close after 9 months (when the restaurant hits it's peak) and walk away. The point being that as soon as the restaurant hits its climax and makes money you shut it down so you don't experience the slow period; pretty genius if you think about it. This also allows you to find temporary not to mention cheap rent in one of the most lucrative parts of town.

Roasted Sirloin, Beef Cheek Lasagna, King Trumpet Mushrooms, Onions

Halibut Confit
chanterelle mushrooms, salsify, truffles
Seared Foie gras
graham cracker puree, huckleberries

soft boiled egg
scallion puree, polenta, bacon and sweet potato ragu

I have re-discovered my passion for eggs on this trip. It is such a versatile and delicious protein. To make quick and easy soft boiled eggs you bring water to a boil with some vinegar (this makes the egg easier to peel) and cook them for 5 minutes, place in cold water, then peel. You will have a perfectly poached egg, so simple and delicious!

Duck Confit
beets, soybeans, curry puree

I really liked how they presented the duck confit in this dish. After the duck is finished cooking they lay it out on a sheet tray lined in the duck skin (pictured below) and press it over night. Then cut it into rectangles and crisp it on the stove to order.

Fuji Apple Crisp
pecans, rosemary butterscotch ice cream

Pork Shoulder
potatoes, cabbage, kumquats

Brussels Sprouts Salad
cauliflower, manchego, mangalica ham
Dungeness Crab Salad
daikon, shiso, yogurt

This dish was gorgeous. The crab is rolled in sliced, blanched daikon.

Mushroom Gelee

Friday, January 14, 2011

La Mangeoire

Stage #3
La Mangeoire
Midtown East
1008 2nd ave New York, NY

Today was great! I got to the kitchen around 3pm and was reminded what it's like to be in a real kitchen. The crew was prepping for dinner service when I arrived. Everything was so quick, efficient, not to mention perfect! A place like this makes you want to be called a chef.

The first thing I smelled when I arrived in the 400 sq foot kitchen was veal stock. It has been a long time since I have been in a kitchen like this; I forgot how much I missed the sounds. Chefs moving with the kind of speed that seems chaotic but delivers with finesse. I also forgot how tough it can be; guys moving, getting it done and you better stay out of the way. Of course you get the usual disrespect when they recognize you are a female but it just makes me want to be better, stronger, tougher.
Chef Devoulier was in the corner prepping his Chicken Coq Au Vin that he marinates for 3-4 days. There is something special about this man; not only is he a phenomenal chef, but his smile portrays his passion. I never heard him raise his voice or disrespect any part of his team. He seemed to be having fun and it reminded me why I love to cook. He made me want to be better and literally sit in the corner and soak it all in like the "sponge of a stage" I was.

Smoked Duck, Frisee, Egg

This was one of the best dishes I have had in New York!
The base was frisee salad tossed with shallots and simple vinaigrette. Around the outside was thinly sliced "cold smoked" duck breast. The smokiness from the duck tasted like bacon and the outside fat literally melted in your mouth. The dish was topped with a 1hr poached egg, dredged in panko breadcrumbs and fried.
When you broke into the egg, the yolk protruded out encasing the dish with a creaminess perfectly balancing the saltiness of the duck and bite from the vinegar. I am still thinking about it!

Main Prep Area

Some fun facts and pics

Pork Belly/Momofuku

ok so guess how much money I have spent this week????

One week in New York, eating like a queen and only spent $30. Its been crazy; this city is truly like no other in the world, a unique place that I have been so fortunate to experience.

Guess how many cab rides I have taken this week???

1 and it was only because I got lost. People always say NYC is so expensive and don't get me wrong its not cheap but if you take the subway and get connected with local restaurants its definitely feasible.

I have to admit in the beginning of the week I was a little homesick but as the time goes on, the more settled I become, it's going to be hard to leave!

milk bar-east village

Momofuku Candy Bar-so good! I just remembered I have the rest in the refrigerator!!!!!

Korea Town at 2am
this girl did not want any part of the picture

awesome apartment I was in last night