A week in a foofy vegan kitchen

I spent my internship for culinary school at Candle Cafe and Candle79, both vegan restaurants in NYC’s upper East Side (note: $$$). I like to think that I’m an organized person-I called ahead, set dates and times, mailed in my externship paperwork to the sous chef…..yet when I arrived, dressed in my dorky culinary hat, he had no recollection of me even coming in. So begins the hectic week that is restaurant kitchen life. There was no room for me in the high-end kitchen, so I had to walk a few blocks to the “cafe” (still $15 entrees…) and I worked among 8 men from mexico, all related to each other (for real). Most of them didn’t speak english so I definitely got to improve my Spanish skills. I made some dressings and components of meals, but definitely felt like an outcast. The rest of the week I was in the high-end restaurant, where everyone was much friendlier and not related (still 99% mexican, which is interesting to me-not in a bad way, I had a lot of fun working in the kitchen—but TV makes you believe it’s all white older guys behind the scenes. From the dishwasher up to the sous chef, todos son de mexico) There was one girl who worked there and another girl doing an internship from the Natty Gourmet School which only costs about 4x as much as my school does—I met someone who had graduated from there and was working part-time at Candle, but was quitting to work in an office to pay off her loans from the school….something’s wrong when the school you go to costs more per year than you could even hope to make in your field. Anyways, in the fancy restaurant, the kitchen was bustling and they gave me projects and things to make. I got to use the gigantic industrial equipment and taste test a LOT. (the food is freakin’ delicioso pero muy caro).
I have learned that I do not like the fast pace of the restaurant industry (already known).
I want to put love into the food and appreciate the steps along the way, not just push it out on time—this experience reinforced that. I didn’t lose my love of food or cooking, but I do know that I want to have a more direct connection to the consumer.
Perhaps scratch cooking classes? Harvesting and making preserves….cheeses…we’ll see.

So much to say…beginning with wild edibles.

brill.jpgI have returned from my journeys afar and have returned a married woman! There are too many stories to tell, as usual. I’ll separate my trip into weekly entries and try to keep it simple for the a.d.d. population. I arrived in NYC a few weeks ago to a lovely indian summer. I stayed at Marc’s fabulous digs in Astoria and we somehow made gourmet delicious dinners most of my time there. We took a foraging field trip with Steve Brill who is quite kooky but knows his wild edibles. Marc was very adventurous and pulled out a few young sassafrass saplings to make some homemade Root Beer (end result–delicous!) We collected a number of items: oxalis for salads, spiceberries supposedly for smoothies (which was not made) and a ton of mushrooms! We gathered giant puffballs (which became puffball parmesan), honey mushrooms which were sauteed with butter and garlic, and inky cap mushrooms with which I made a gravy of sorts out of and we poured that over Quorn nuggets and rice. Marc was very scared of the wild mushrooms and it made me doubt myself for a bit–but we both took the plunge and ate up and it was delicious. I need to join the Myco society and learn more about mushroom i.d. It’s very satisfying and joyous to find something growing in it’s natural habitat and then EAT IT. Plus, it’s free. And it’s fresh. And it’s local. ‘Nuff said.