WD-50 Stage continued

We found out that most of the cooks at WD-50 have completed at least a three month stage before being brought on as a paid employee. Everyone there is on salary, everyone other than the people on prep are in around 1pm and out around 1am. I love the feeling coming back from a stage at a really great restaurant. Meeting all the people, working with the chef, seeing how they run the restaurant, their system, and then coming back to where you work with new ideas and try to spread your experience around to the other cooks. This wasn't my stage, it was Jason's and he has done just that. These stages are essential to personal development in the kitchen. The people that want to improve, have the drive and want to move forward are usually the ones that don't have a problem giving up their time. They're smart about it, looking at the whole picture, knowing that in the end they are really going to benefit from the experience. Here are some more of the pictures

Eggs benedict...fried hollandaise, sous vide egg yolk, bacon, black sea salt

Lamb loin..."tomater" tots(fried green tomato puree), green apple, chartreuse

Carbonara...bacon, puffed orzo, garlic chips, truffles, black pepper cream, parm soil

Turbot...bbq lentils, cauliflower chips, dried apricot
Their is a cool method for the cauliflower chips but I do not wish to divulge any recipes without permission.

Chestnut-Horsey Soup...smoked mackerel, pear, ver jus gel

Wagyu Skirt Steak...chinese long bean, peanut butter pasta

Monkfish...red pepper oatmeal, black olive, turnip

Still more WD-50 to come.


So You Wanna Stage....At WD-50

One of our cooks, Jason, was interested in staging in NY. He started by emailing a couple restaurants and then waited to see what happened. After 3 weeks of waiting with no response he was finally contacted by the GM of WD-50. One of Wylie's rules is that if you want to stage then you need to put in at least five days otherwise its pointless, you won't really get to experience everyday service and the creative process. Jason got up there, showed up the first day around 1pm and was assigned the first task of any stage. Clean the walk ins, this may not seem right but it is a great opportunity to see every thing in all the coolers and ask questions later. As a stage you are entering another chef's kitchen to learn and do what ever tasks are asked of you in the hopes that you will just learn. Jason did his part and then spent the next 5 days on the garde manger station, one of the busiest in the kitchen. They prepare the amuse and the first 5-6 courses of the tasting menu. There is a fish station and a meat station, pastry, and yes Wylie is always there working the pass. Here is a shot of the kitchen and the skylight.

Wylie is one of the most inventive american chefs around. Looking at the run down neighborhood, the building front, and the minuscule sign that I myself walked by 10 times trying to find the place when I ate there you wouldn't think that this is one of the most innovative restaurants in the country. Wylie proves it though, you don't need your restaurant to be at the top of a mountain or on a beach in some exotic location to become a destination restaurant. When was the last time you told your significant other that I have this awesome trip planned to the lower east side??
Well, he has done it. Jason did a great job of documenting so if you want to know what the food looks like at WD-50 as of a week ago here it is.

Starting with one of my favorites is the Octopus Sheet, pine nut oil, saffron cake, pickled ginger

Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, sorrel leaves, cream cheese

Shattered foie gras, sherry vin jam, shaved fennel, malt balls

Parsnip tart, quinoa, hazelnuts, bok choy

More to come........stay tuned


Chorizo Rolled Pasta

We've been working on a couple new pasta presentations. This is "round" 1 on our chorizo pasta. We rolled it out, blanched the whole sheet, patted it dry, then spread a layer of smoked paprika chorizo cream over it. Rolled it up, tied like a torchon and chilled it.

Sliced it, ring cut it and then wrapped it in a thin sheet of potato to hold the shape.

Seared it in extra virgin and butter, then served with orange vin, orange segments tossed with whole grain mustard, green olives, evo, and lemon over a little more of the chorizo puree. The potato is nice and crispy and the pasta is heated all the way through.

Some ideas for "round" two might include some shredded duck confit rolled up in the pasta or some methocel veg puree to bind it.


Best Lettuce in FLA

We get some of the best lettuce in from Charlie over at Hammock Hollow Herb Co. He only sells to a few select restaurants around Orlando, but hooks up some of the best chefs around like Daniel in NYC. If you attended the James Beard Awards last year when the theme was local, fresh and sustainable headed up by Dan Barber. All the chefs at the reception that were serving food picked their favorite local farmer and showcased their products in their passed apps. Melissa Kelly has a Primo here in Orlando, an of shoot of her restaurant in Maine. Her pick for the James Beard event was Charlie's vegetables at Hammock Hollow Herb Co. He works a little differently than most of your normal purveyors, a truck shows up on Tuesdays and Thursdays(maybe) and they unload a pallet, or two pallets or two boxes. You never really know what you are going to get. I can't wait for spring peas and summer chanterais melons.

Somm test

For most of us in the kitchen our wine knowledge is limited. I focused mainly on just the food for most of my time in the kitchen until the opportunity arose for me to apply to the somm program we have here at the hotel. Every year people people apply, your application is reivewed by the f&b director and then you have an interview with f&b execs to see if you are a good fit for the program. They usually accept around 10 people each year. There is no extra money, it's for people who want to learn about wine and they do it on their own time. We would have a class once a week for 6 months with two blind tastings per class to try and prepare us for the test. You could only miss two classes, any more than that and you are dropped from the program. Our instructors ranged from current GMs of other restaurants on property, our f&b director and assistant director, local master somms, and some very knowledgeable servers from some of our restaurants. They recommended about an hour of study everyday from maps, to vinification, viticulture, terroir, spirits, water and tea service, sake, france, france, france, and vocabulary.
This was by far one of the most challenging classes I have ever been through. Trying to sift through tons of information, you can focus on one area for days and still come away feeling like you don't know it. The other aspect of the class besides all the book work was the tasting. Refining your palate, being able to pick up slight hint of vanilla, or toast, or pickle barrel on the nose to help you determine the origin of the wine.
After all our classes we had a two day intensive session with 5 master somms. 8 hours each day, 16 blind tastings a day and when your getting grilled by a master somm in front of 80 other food and beverage professionals you want to have all your senses in tact. There is a step by step process to reach your conclusion on the wine's origin. From looking, smelling, and tasting the wine it is possible to figure out if it is old world or new world, the country of origin, the region within the country, grape varietal, and the age. After all two days of master somms throwing tons of info at you there is an 80 question test covering all aspects of wine from vine to proper service standards. After this experience I have a better understanding and appreciation for our somms and what they do as well as for wine in general.
This was all done in preparation for the introductory sommelier class, after this it is reccomended that you have another two years of training before you go for your certified sommelier. Granted some people move along faster. After that there is an advanced sommelier test, then on to master somm after years of training and coaching. Wine is an integral part of our industry. As chefs we need to understand it, be able to pair it, and appreciate the process. Having that appreciation of wine and the steps taken to produce it is no different from having respect for the products we cook with and where they come from. The wine compliments the food and vice versa.


Killer Tequila

New products are rolling in all the time and this one carries some novelty. After sticking up my sous chef while on expo, which was some much needed kitchen humor after the last couple of days I started thinking about what kind of cocktails we could make with Hijos de Villa tequila. The FOH consults with me on specialty cocktails when we do drink changes at the bar. Most of the time they have an idea and I try to help them achieve their desired effect. Our GM Doug has a good handle on what it is exactly that he wants and I try to add little touches when asked. It's fun to work in a different medium, breaking down all the components of the drinks and reworking them. We take into account how much the bartenders can handle and the "wow" factor(a description I despise but is used frequently around here). I haven't been approached on this one yet but I saw the tequila gun and went off on some stuff we could do. I would start with a "gun powder" rim of powdered black lime,salt and sugar. Use some silver powder and spent shell casings(sterilized of course) to mold some lime flavored gel. I'm sure some agave jalapeno caramel would find its way into the works, maybe some o.j. as well. I believe there is a shotgun version as well.


Valentines Hell

Most of us in this business hate valentines day. It's usually amateur night with a dining room filled with people that don't usually eat at upscale establishments but only once or twice a year so it's always a challenge. It's a lot of special requests and order fires but for the most part it's a night for the kitchen staff to make the servers run. That didn't happen last night, the kitchen got the hit. This is a picture of our orders before we got busy. I wish I could have snapped a shot of the ticket rail then but there were a few more important things going on. The tickets on top are on hold and the bottom is the fire rail. At one point both fire and hold rails were full and I had another stack by my expo mise en place about 15 tables deep on fire. In the middle was a 32 top a la carte. Granted most of the tables were deuces but we had a good hour and forty five minutes in the weeds. In the end we got it done, some tables waited a little longer than others, especially the ones stuck behind the 32 but we got it out. After a service like that we all felt like hell. Not a good way to end a 12 day stretch of mostly doubles. On the upside, we sometimes make friendly wagers in pre-shift with the FOH. The wager:

Servers sell forty valentines specials(10% of what was on the books), and I will cook for all the servers in pre-shift the next day.
If they don't, the servers do a deep clean on the fish room, our refrigerated room where we butcher all our proteins. Usually the butchers job and a lengthy, dirty, cold process.

I will give them one for the effort but they still came up 9 short, sorry servers.
Have fun cleaning the fish room.


Smokin' Strawberry and Parmesan

We do a lot of special events and restaurant buyouts where we get a chance to create custom menus suited to our guests needs. Here is one dish we served at a buyout in the restaurant. Parm foam, shaved parm, strawberry agar, balsamic redux, basil, fleur de sel, and freeze dried strawberry in liquid nitrogen.

3 Star Chef

I just finished with "A Day at El Bulli" and now it's on to Ramsay's 3 Star Chef. Like most of the celebrity chef's out there he wasn't just handed a tv show. He worked his ass off with some of the best chefs in the world to get where he is. Look past the tv shows and the persona, look at the book. There is a wealth of knowledge to be had. Everyone wants to do "avante garde", but can you cook. I have this talk with a lot of my guys and gals. If you can't get the basics then how are you going to interpret the proper use of some of these ingredients.
I worked for some hardcore frenchies, went to work afraid to mess anything up, but learned alot. This book reminds me of blinding vegetable prep, upmost respect for ingredients, utilize everything, and focus. The memories of working my way up, having that feeling of geting a compliment from your chef for a job well done and then 10 minutes later being demoralized in front of the entire kitchen staff for putting up a dish that seemed perfect in your eyes but the chef disagrees.
I love the el bulli, alinea, moto, fat duck, and ryugin food and concepts but this brings it back for me. It seems like every once in a while we have to go back to go forward.


Chef's Pasta

We have a dish on our menu called the chef's pasta. Every couple of days to a week we run a new pasta dish to utilize ingredients in house, items that show up from the farm, or just whatever we want to do. If we are selling it then we will keep it on for a week and get the most out of as we can. We all work for Todd so fresh pasta is a must on the menu. I put this on as a prelude to valentines day. We butter poached some 1.25lb lobsters, then made a giant truffle and potato ravioli, a little garlic spinach, mache, truffle vin, and shaved truffles. Nothing crazy, just a good solid dish that we can rely onto bring in some revenue. For what we had on the books the servers sold the hell out of it. We are looking at 410 resos for valentines, which means the servers better bring their running shoes but I'm sure if they sell it like we did tonight we can prep 30 of this one dish and still 86 it.


Tomato Poached Lobster

Our amuse tonight was maine lobster poached in tomato water. We poached the lobster tails, trimmed them up and served it with compressed cucumber, red pepper, and celery leaves over the clarified lobster infused tomato water. We added old bay, lemon juice, horseradish, extra virgin, tabasco and fleur de sel to the lobster infused tomato water.


Wake 'n' Bacon

Thanks Davidssun for sending me this link. A truly great contribution to the culinary alarm clock world.


click on the title of this post to follow the link.


We have a vip coming in and started minor prep today. Parsnip "Gnocchi" is in the works. We started with 1,000g of parsnip puree, 200g water, 15g methocel SG A16M. Heat the water to 180F, add the methocel, then add to the puree, re-season, mold and cool. We mold them in a stainless steel tube and cool. When we pick it up the "gnocchi" will be held in a veal monte and served with maitake mushrooms, a drizzle of banyuls gastrique, and some chervil. The veal monte is basically veal stock redux as the base of the buerre monte instead of water. We will hit it with some acid, herb, and toasted long peppercorn. We hope to highlight the sweetness of the parsnip and the earthiness of the mushroom. The sweet and sour banyuls gastrique will be the bridge between the two.


Pork Belly

Here is our pork belly right off the smoker. We let it cool, cryovac'd it yesterday and sous vide it overnight for additional 10 hours at 82C. The results are ridiculous. The sous vide process rendered a little more of the fat, kept the meat juicy, and improved the texture of the belly. We seared it in cast iron on medium heat until crispy with a little salt and we ended up with molten, smokey pork nuggets. We will be serving this with some brown eye beans from Michelle at Chef Garden, winter truffles, truffle jus, sous vide baby leek, and baby leek top puree. We make the puree first by giving the tops the shock, blanch, shock treatment. Squeeze the excess liquid from them, puree the tops with a little water. Strain through a chinois, add xanthan, salt, and hit with lemon juice when picking up. Super green and tasty.



I hadn't been off work to see the super bowl in at least 7 years. We had a few people over and smoked the hell out of some awesome pork. I brined the loin and the bellies with molasses, sugar, sea salt, bourbon, soy, a couple halved oranges and water. Our butcher recently shot a couple wild boars on some private land covered with orange groves. The boars were eating all of the fallen oranges and you could really taste the citrus note throughout the meat so I tried to incorporate a little hint of that in the brine.
I used my ghetto grill, as the wife calls it, which is an old barrel that a friend of the family did up with some serious redneck modifications. We use oak since it is easy to find around here. The loin went for 4.5 hours until it reached 144F then we pulled it and let it rest for 30 minutes. I used a digital thermometer with a probe so I don't have to keep opening the hatch to check the temp of the product and also a standard oven thermometer to check the internal temp of the smoker from time to time. I kept the internal temp of the smoker at 180F. The bellies went for 12 hours. I am still trying to figure out how to post multiple pictures so you will probably see the bellies in separate post. All in all is was a great day of cooking, hangin' with friends, drinking it up, and watching the game.

We're Here!

I have been contemplating blogging for a long time and now it is just time to do it. This will be a blog about our experiences in the bluezoo kitchen. The good, the bad, the ups, and the downs. This will be a great tool to push our creativity and hopefully meet some great people. Here is a little background info for you. I have been here at the zoo since the beginning, 11-19-03, it has been a crazy ride. I started on the saute station after a 2.5 year stint as sous chef of a small, local french restaurant. I worked my way through 3 executive chefs to finally take over the position myself. I have been the exec for 2 years and change now. We have moved into the world of modern cooking but always find ourselves falling back on the classics, of course with our little twist added to them. This blog will be a compilation a sorts with my chef de cuisine, sous chef, and line cooks being able to create and add to our posts. This is my way of challenging them to do more, create, always think about what the are doing, and to share what it is that we do. I will moderate, add my own posts, the posts of the guys and gals in the kitchen, and throw in my comments on their work. We have a talented, diverse group of individuals and hope to show you just that. This will be an interesting topic tomorrow at pre-shift when I tell them what is going on and what is expected of them. Welcome to the zoo!!