Hail To The Chef

Being a restaurant person means you have different ideas about food than normal civilian people. Unfortunately for fans of my penis-related humor, this post is not about when it’s appropriate to stick your dick in the mashed potatoes. (Yes, I loved Waiting. While it wasn’t perfect it still captured the zeitgeist of corporate restaurant life better than most of the other restaurant movies I’ve seen have done.) This post isn’t about what we serve to others but what we prepare and eat for ourselves.

If you grow up poor and ignorant, your thoughts on food probably differ drastically from the food thoughts of your better-off, less ignorant counterparts. When you don’t have to clip coupons and you can eat what you want from where you want, food choice is exactly that: a choice. When you grow up piss poor food choice often boils down to whatever fills you up the best from the place that has it the cheapest. When I was growing up I distinctly remember that Mickey D’s was considered restaurant food, Wendy’s was upscale restaurant food, Taco Bell was Mexican, Domino’s was Italian, and things like sushi or lamb chops might as well have been science fiction or titties for all I had seen of them. The rest of the time it was cereal, frozen food, pinto beans and fried potatoes or, as a rare treat, spaghetti. I say this not to play the poor card but to point out the difference of perspective towards food that I now have. In a way I’m almost glad I came from such humble culinary beginnings because now I appreciate the food I get to eat now, and believe me I see enough people who don’t appreciate getting to eat well.

When I first started out on my own in the world I carried with me the eating habits of my childhood. In short I ate like shit. I’m surprised I survived after eating that way for so long. But as I worked in more and more and better and better restaurants I ate better and better food. Generic cereal and frozen Chinese food gave way to better and better entrees, though I must confess I have never fallen out of love with burgers and more specifically burgers from Wendy’s, which is by FAR the best quick service concept on the block, IMHO-NFITNOISUF (In My Humble Opin-No Fuck It That’s Not Opinion It’s Straight Up Fact).

I graduated from burgers and fries to chicken sandwiches and salads. Then I went from that to grilled chicken entrees and quesadillas and various other TexMex dishes. Then on to lamb chops and beef Wellingtons. Then on to every kind of steak there is, settling on filet for a good long while and later moving on to ribeyes and sirloins for variety. I learned of the awesome power of garlic and how much better pasta is when it’s al dente. These days I regularly eat sushi and crazy authentic Asian dishes that ten-year old JerBear would never believe present day JerBear would get to eat.

In short, I have been exposed to a lot of different kinds of foods that I never dreamed of eating in my youth. Granted, I don’t have a standing rez at Per Se. I’m no gourmand. I’ve never tried marrow or foie gras. I’d like to try marrow some day but liver and really offal in general just don’t appeal to me. But being exposed to all these different foods and the methods of cooking them has had an enormous effect on what’s for dinner at the Bear household.

For example, the christmas dinner I cooked this past year for my side of the fam consisted of pan seared rosemary and garlic pork loin with sauteed onions, mushrooms and bells over semolina linguini with fresh, homemade alfredo sauce and steamed broccoli and zuchini for a side item and for an appetizer we had homemade bruschetta using a nice french bread instead of ciabatta or something Italian. Then for dessert my lovely patissiere made a cobbler. This was the best meal I’ve ever cooked and I’m pretty sure it was one of the best meals my dad ever ate. I was proud of it. Still am.

For the longest time in my marriage I was the better chef in our household. Or at least I thought I was. No offense to Mrs. Bear of course. It’s just that for a very long time I had a lot more experience in the BOH than she did and I was better at cooking. She had a food history similar to mine and a fear of using knives so it’s not like I thought any less of her.

But ever since Baby Bear started eating regular human food Mrs. Bear has been on a mission to cook better and more often than she ever has before and I gotta tell you I’m not hating it. She has knocked several meals just way the hell out of the park lately and I am so proud and happy about it that I go to work bragging about the wonderful feasts I’ve been enjoying. Of note recently she has made chicken tortilla soup, enchiladas, various pork dishes, and peach cobblers that you could charge good money for in any restaurant I’ve worked in. It’s been a real treat lately living in my house. I don’t bring food home from work very often these days.

Take eggplant for example. I’ve always disliked eggplant almost to the point of hating it. She made this chicken and eggplant parmesan the other day that was so, SO, SOOO good it blew my mind. I ate just about all of the eggplant and asked for more. As in we were both off the next day and right after that moment, that taste epiphany, that moment when you realize that this food you always had your mind closed to is actually pretty good, that moment where if it were in a romantic comedy it would be the moment when the guy finally realizes that the nerdy chick in art class is really fine as hell when she takes her glasses off and sluts it up a little, RIGHT after that moment I said ‘Hot Damn you are showing me how to make this TOMORROW!’

When you haven’t liked something all your life and then somebody prepares it for you in just the right way and you eat it and then it’s like a switch gets thrown. Your taste buds set the neurons in the pleasure center of your brain on fire and the fact that you never liked it before makes you enjoy it all the more. I think it’s a great thing when your eyes get forced open by a perfect example of a food you’ve always hated but now love. That eggplant was the epitome of this.

Good Job, Baby!


Dignity and Respect

Me, The JerBear


P.S. By the way she never did show me how she performed that parmesan-battered magic. JerBear sad:(


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2 responses to “Hail To The Chef

  1. Auntie em

    Freaking Awesome!

  2. Myr

    Working in restaurants has totally broadened my culinary horizons. When my family and I would go out to eat it meant McDonald’s, or Pizza Hut, for a real treat. Veggies were from a can, and steak? It came one way. Well done.
    At nineteen years old I got my first job as a hostesses, where I discovered avacado, Caesar salad, medium rare steak…And eventually worked up the courage to try sashimi, which is now my very most favourite food in the whole wide world.
    Good for us, growing and adapting from our humble culinary beginnings!
    P.S. Wendys chili sauce rocks my socks off.

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