some stories are so funny; we laugh until we cry and some stories are so sad we cry before we finish, but all stories need to be told...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

karma & bread pudding

the first time i had bread pudding i was not impressed- i was also very very frightened.
i had just been hired as a restaurant manager at a midtown location- on 9th avenue, between, oh let's say 48th & 51st streets- you figure it out.
i had been hired as restaurant manager and as managers do, i wandered in to the kitchen to check out the goings on.
i had been told by the waitstaff and bartenders that the food in said establishment was "okay" but as the days passed and shifts finished i noticed that none of the staff "ate in". they all ordered from local restaurants- i tried (HUGE mistake) to implement some rules during the course of my stay there. silly things like, no eating during your shift- (didn't work) no eating on the floor during your shift (uh uh) if you are going to eat at a table during your shift, could you in the very least, put the competition's food on one of our plates (with eye rolls, attitude and whispers they finally heard me).
i observed the kitchen and was apalled.
the "executive chef" was so bent out of shape- so mad at the world that watching him do anything was scary. he didn't care. he vented and cooked at the same time. it wasn't pretty. he accented his sentences with huge 'dashes' of salt.- really? really. so an animated story relaying a conversation with the owner could end with nearly one box of salt in a ten gallon pot of marinara. yum. sweaty sweatersons unite.
the "sous chef"  mixed meatballs with her bare hands, usually not a problem- the problem came afterward; she would stand for minutes and with a toothpick pick AND flick the meat from beneath her guinness book of world record nails.
i approached the owner.
he feigned being apalled.
he asked if i would be interested in eventually taking over the kitchen.
to which i repsonded an overly excited "YES".
the weeks passed
i watched the woman with the clapperclaws- do things:  make salads (which involved bags of gooey black mesculin through which one busy evening i was asked to pour it out onto a sheet tray and "pick out the green stuff"), pick pick, marinate chicken; pick pick, weed through shredded cheese picking out the moldy pieces; pick pick - and i watched her rip stale bread- rip rip pick pick oooo, found something- FLICK- and make bread pudding; far far from appealing or anything resembling anything i would ever put in my mouth (being old, i have had OODLES of things in my mouth). it was mushy and milky and she had touched it with those talons.....
the months passed and the owner announced "tomorrow you will take over the kitchen".
in all honesty, was i ready? no- was i excited? yes. scared? petrified- i had worked in kitchens on and off my entire adult life- and this wasn't five star dining- it was a bar that served food; i figured it would be great nyc experience.
i worked my ass off. literally and figuratively.
i quickly learned that the owner was not only aware of the disgusting and quite frankly illegal happenings in the kitchen- he was at fault- constantly up the chef's ass- dictating impossibilities and holding back funds- wherein the bar was making over $10,000 on a "slow" night he would constantly complain that he couldn't afford the labor in the kitchen (two full time cooks (moi and a mexicano) working 7 days per week). many paydays came and went where he would tell us; "i'm shawt on cash- i'll catch ya next week". 
blabbitty blah blab.
long story.
i worked there for a year.
seven days a week- in the very least 12 hours a day.
instead of getting better- everything got worse.
my pay was reduced.
and eventually i was fired and replaced by another cook the owner had hired to "assist me".
that's the karma part of my story; the old chef asked me "what's going on, am i going to get fired?" and i wasn't honest- i pretended i didn't know- because what the chef did was wrong- but i should have told him. i should have allowed him the dignity to walk out the door on his own and become an infection in another kitchen.
it was strange; almost like a silent film rolling above me- i could see my story playing out- unfolding- and i couldn't stop it-
but that's not the point
the point is my introduction to the existence of bread pudding.
which i have just made tonight for tomorrow's dessert.
don't forget sly & i have been baking pumpkin this and cranberry that- apple this and when we were planning our own thanksgiving meal, dessert planned first, we both just stared at each other; dumbfounded and over tradition.
i walked around whole foods in a stupor- being pushed and nudged and not caring- i somehow ended up near their chunked chocolate section....and the lights came on- there were little bakers dancing in my head- and a big neon light was flashing; BReaDpUDDingbREADpUDDinG
i grabbed challah, and a chunk of pure chocolate, whole milk, eggs, vanilla, heavy cream, and dried cherries.
with clean cut nails, i rushed home and started

warming the milk
adding vanilla- letting it sit
re-heating and adding the chocolate now perfectly shaved (after i nearly killed myself trying to CUT the chocolate, realizing as the knife slipped and dangled close to my abdomen "oh yeah, you shave it")-
i beat eggs & sugar and a dash of salt
i made chocolate ganash
i tempered the eggs and made chocolate custard.  i added diced challah and cherries and let it all bask and soak up the chocolate glory.

i LAYERED the soaked custardy bread/ ganache/ bread/ ganache
and now, it sits in the fridge
waiting to be baked
beckoning to be eaten
with a bit of creme anglaise.
the possibility exists that i may eat only bread pudding tomorrow
and forgo the usual thanksgiving fare.
i will eat the bread pudding
with a side of humble pie.
i will give thanks for custard and chocolate and bread
i will close my eyes in gratitude and offer a toast
"to karma".

1 comment:

  1. if america knew what the kitchens of the world...
    thats not the point..
    i really do not like bread pudding...
    but i loved this story
    and it would prolly have been very good
    and i love your style of writing!!!
    bruce johnson jadip
    stupid stuff i see and hear