So, You’re  a Vegetarian Now?

haven’t really blogged about it at all, but on a whim I decided to become a vegetarian. I have been going strong since mid September 2015. My last meaty meal was takeout Chinese food, and I remember it like it was yesterday. But to be honest I don’t really miss meat at all. Well, to be clear I’m actually a pescitarian, the only “fleshy” food I eat is fish, something I consume atleast once a week. 

It was hard at first because I didn’t really do my research. I felt my energy fading, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Before becoming a vegetarian I would suggest doing your research or consulting with a nutritionist. I read some books, and  am now taking lots of vitimans, and I’ve been great moving forward. 

As of Christmas I’ve diligently been back at the gym. I wanted to hit it before New Years so I wouldn’t be considered a New Years resolution cliche. With diet and exercise I am down 7 pounds in about a month. I have a long way to go, but every little bit counts.

People ask me why I decided to become a vegetarian, and it’s kind of hard to answer that question. Yes, of course I care about animal rights, but that’s not really my reasoning. For me the thought of eating meat with all these added hormones kinda grosses me out. Not to mention genetically modified meat ( ew). With that being said I’m sure people will counter comment and say that in the germination process plants are being genetically altered also. Yes, this is true I prefer non GMO foods, but sometimes you just can’t avoid them.

It gets really challenging at work sometimes. I now cook in the savory side of the restaurant, and you have to taste everything you prepare. Yes I taste, I chew, and then I politely spit it out, and then season accordingly. So,  if this is your excuse for not becoming a vegetarian your point is no longer valid. Sometimes I get temped, but I haven’t cheated, not even once.

I love this new lifestyle and I think it’s going to be a lifelong thing. If anyone ever has any questions about recipes, motivation, or advice for me please feel free to reach out!  

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So You Want To Be a Professional Baker

 

Ever since I was 13 years old there was nothing I wanted more than to be a pastry chef. I would bake in my free time, I would read cook books, I would even spend my time in the bookstore looking for new cookbooks. My Pinterest is overloaded with recipes from day to day muffin recipes, ice creams, sorbets, cookies, wedding cakes, as well as composed desserts. I even have a board called ” bakery one day”.  I had a dream from a young age and somehow at a very young age I made that dream a reality.

I think it’s funny because I remember one of my college chefs telling us bakers in class, “you know baking is fine and dandy, but one day you may be job hunting and there will be a higher demand for  culinary help compared to the need for bakers, and you are going to have to make a decision. Do you want to be jobless or are you going to man up and take the culinary job.” I heard this and most likely rolled my eyes.  I remember back in freshman year when we had knife skills classes, I never really took it seriously because I knew I was going to be a baker. What baker needs to know the difference between a small, medium and large dice? Better yet what’s  the difference between tourne  and bruniose, mince and chiffonade.  I remember the day in class when we had to kill live lobsters for lobster bisque. The teacher took his chef knife and went right for the skull.  Lots of the bakers got squeamish, some of them even asked to leave the room. There was another time when we were working with shrimp in class and we had to gut them, I had my lab partner do it for me. Why? because I was going to be a baker, and i don’t even like shrimp.

At this point in the post you may be wondering where I am going with the story… well just two and a half weeks ago I started working for a different restaurant. I thought I was being hired to work in the pastry department, but in actually I am the lead prep girl. Yes, I went from pastry chef, to lead prep cook, some people may think of this as a downgrade, but I’m using this as a learning experience. Where I was as a pastry chef there was no room for growth, but within this position I have room to grow, and I am learning so much.  Im actually pretty proud of myself because how many pastry girls can say that they can successfully do what i am doing? I’m making sauces, I’m working on my knife skills, I’ve cooked mussels for the first time, I’ve gutted shrimp, I touched an octopus, and cooked it, and I’m sure there are more interesting tasks to come.

The moral of this story is even though  you have your heart set on being a baker that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore other opportunities. Also pay attention in school,even when you think something doesn’t apply to you, it may not now, but one day it will. Believe it or not your teachers no what they are talking about!

Being A woman in the Kitchen

Some of the sexist men in this world may make the comment that women belong in the kitchen, but in the industry this notion is quite different. There aren’t nearly as many women chefs in the industry when compared to men, and they don’t get nearly the amount of respect they deserve.

I never really thought too hard about being a woman in the kitchen, its not big deal right?  I am a woman; I can cook, I can bake, and hey, I work in a kitchen, no big deal, but maybe that’s just my naïveté.

The other day one of the cooks was introducing me to one of the new line cooks, and in Spanish he said “ ella es la solomente chica en la coscina” meaning that I am the only girl/ woman in the kitchen. It doesn’t really bother me much because all of the guys treat me with the utmost respect.

Although the kitchen staff I work with treat me with respect sometimes I feel like some people don’t take me seriously for a plethora of reasons. I am twenty-two years old ( but I’ve been told that I have an old soul so sometimes it feels like I’m spiritually  sixty-two maybe older ), I am also a solid 5 feet tall maybe a solid 5’3 when I wear my sketchers shape-ups.

One morning I was the only person available at the moment to take in an order. The delivery man proceeded to tell everyone in the kitchen that I was his new girlfriend and he felt the need to tell me the correct way to take in an order as if I had never done it before. As I mentioned I am young, but I am educated and therefore quite intelligent, and I have been in the industry long enough to know how to receive an order. Maybe I am overreacting, but that did not sit well with me.

Another instance: Just the other day an order came in and it was blocking the door to the basement where my kitchen is so, I did what I needed to do. I carried four fifty pound bags of flour down a flight of stairs and well as two twenty gallon bottles of oil ( at the same time) down that same flight of stairs. meanwhile men watched me and commented on my strength, but did not lend a helping hand until I instructed them to do so.

All in all I take pride in my independence and strength, but I will never allow myself to be taken advantage of especially11161361_938824056168627_2537065100483308686_n because I am a woman working in the kitchen.

Time Flies When You’re Busy

Within the past month I have officially graduated college ( even though I have been out for months), I put out my very first dessert menu ( on my own) , and I have been running around like a crazy person trying to make my dreams come true. One of the many reasons why I have not posted in quite some time, my apologies to my faithful readers.

There have been so many changes going on in the restaurant that I work for but it is important to stay focused and always do my best. This includes stepping up and taking on a little bit more responsibility even when you aren’t asked to. Change isn’t always bad; sometime sit leads to something better, but only time will tell.
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Keep Calm and Bake On

From the last time that I posted until this very moment I have been extremely busy with life. Let’s be real the key word life is just another word for work, work, work . Unfortunately, the restaurant industry leaves little room for extracurricular activities. Long grueling hours, physically exhausting tasks, standing for at least 8 hours a day, sometimes way longer, eating unhealthy foods or sometimes being so busy you don’t eat at all. One day my pedometer read that I had done 12 miles in a day (walking as well as going up and down stairs). If it sounds like I’m complaining don’t worry I’m not. Believe it or not, I love what I do so, so, so much. But it is important to figure out what works for you, and what makes you happy. With the fact that work is your “life” you better hope that you are content, and if you’re not, then it’s time to make a change.

If you have read some of my previous posts you already know that I am a recent college graduate. Well, I finished my classes a few months early, but my actual graduation is next week!

I never really settled into my first job after college. It didn’t make me happy, and I pretty much knew that from the start, but I kept on working. I stayed for so long for the fear of disappointing others as well as the fear of not being able to pay my bills, we all know a college education isn’t cheap, and loans will be here before I know it.

Two weeks ago I decided to give my two weeks’ notice at my place of employment. I was so unhappy, and I brought my unhappiness home with me, and that is just no way to live. At this point in my life some would think that money would be on the list of things that are most important to me, but most people would be incorrect. The most important thing to me in life right now is my happiness. If for whatever reason I can’t pay my bills I can rely on my family for help, not that I would want to, but there is always that option. You can’t get back your younger years no matter how hard you try, so spend them doing what you love, and being happy.  It’s never too late to make a change.

I now intend to devote more of my time to the restaurants that I work at. I am currently fiddling with new menu ideas. Oh, I forgot to mention I have weekends off so I actually get to see the sunlight! And I get my life  back!

New Opportunities

A few weeks ago I received a Facebook message from a friend I used to work with. She told me that she was leaving her current job, and that that place was going to need a replacement. The head chef was interested in hiring me to fill her shoes, how exciting! I believe that the best jobs are the ones that find you. Also I think its VERY important to maintain good relationships with all of the connections you make inside and outside of the industry. You never know when they might come in handy.

After I had expressed my interest in the position the chef basically told me to come in the next day and start training. While I am getting acclimated this will be a part time job; about thirty hours a week, and as it gets more busy I will acquire more hours.

This is probably the best job that I could have ever been offered considering I just got out of college only three months ago. I am the sole Pastry Chef of this restaurant as well as the adjoining restaurant. I work in a spacious basement all by myself Monday through Friday (I even get weekends off!) . I am responsible for daily production, including banquet event desserts and ordering necessary ingredients.

Did I mention I am also working my catering job? haha sounds like a lot to handle, but I really enjoy being busy. I go a little stir crazy when I have too much free time on my hands.

A typical day starts for me with my alarm is blaring in my ear at the crack of dawn, 4:30am to be exact. I get ready, make my much needed cup of coffee, and hop into my car; anxiously awaiting about an hour of traffic sometimes more.  I arrive at my first job for 6:00 am and I make sure that everything is complete by 12:00pm, which leaves me half an hour to get back into my car and head over to my next job, which usually starts around 12:30pm and doesn’t usually end until 10:00pm. Then I get to drive home, sleep, and do it all over again. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, I am very thankful for the opportunities that I have been given, and I cannot wait to see how things progress.

Kids Baking Championship

The other night I was flipping through the channels, and there was nothing on TV, Surprise surprise. Eventually I stumbled across the food network channel. The show playing was called the Kids baking championship. This show features young culinarians competing for their shot at $10,000 as well as a new kitchen, and an excerpt in food network magazine. The show is hosted by Duff Goldman the Ace of Cakes TV star as well as Valerie Bertinelli. The competition starts out with eight young bakers, and it proceeds from there.

These young kids possess passion, drive, ambition, creativity, intuition, refined palates ( for their age) and so many other commendable attributes. Including technique, passion, and poise. After watching one of the episodes I had to check to see if the rest of them were on On Demand so I could catch up. The way these children carry themselves at such a young age is unbelievable. I wish some of the young chefs in my generation had this much drive! The hosts on the show are so inspiring. They critique the chefs and advise them while making the kids feel good about themselves and their product.

Even though it is a competition the competitors still work together. On one of the episodes Jackson burnt his hand in the middle of the competition and he was lagging behind. Natalie finished her dish early, and then offered her services to make sure Jackson was able to finish just like everyone else. She showed amazing sportsmanship, and took the initiative to help others. Teamwork is one of the most important things about working in a kitchen. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you do have one common goal; to have your guests leave happy and satisfied, so they will come back again and again.

It’s great to hear the laughter in the kitchen, and the energy behind these young chefs. I know from experience that some of the older chefs do not like to hear laugher and excessive chatter in the kitchen, but my philosophy is that as long as you are getting your work done properly and efficiently what’s wrong with a little laughter?

One of the quotes that stuck with me from the show is that “ when you watch food network it looks easy, but when you experience it you realize that it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life”  well spoken words from Anthony Smith who was eliminated earlier in the show.  His quote resonated with me because I have seen so many students come into culinary school with no background at all besides opening up a Betty Crocker box, tossing in some eggs into the mix and then throwing them in in the oven which would be fine because everyone has to start somewhere! But when you ask them why they want to become chefs I often hear explanations like “I love watching the Food Network”, I want to have my own cooking show, I want to work for the cake boss… Ect. It’s great to have goals, dreams and aspirations, but you have to have the drive, ambition, and determination to back them up. Needless to say these kids have a bright future ahead of them! The Finale airs on The Food Network Channel on Monday February 23rd at 8:00pm EST.

In No Time Things Change

So, remember how two posts I was kind of sort of complaining about my new job? Well over night I went from salad prep girl to banquet events dessert girl, which I am actually excited about. I am still learning the ins and outs as well as my true role in this position. But on my first night I was left alone to serve a 300 person party, talk about responsibility. At first I was totally freaking out, but in reality it’s not that bad. It’s all about timing, and pace. The next day I was in charge of a 500 and a 100 person party, needless to say that was a little more overwhelming, but I still made it happen with time to spare.  It seems as though once I really get the hang of things I could really make this “my department” the sales team is already asking me about new ideas, and trust me I have tons. On my days off I am looking through my recipes, and thinking of things that the team would really enjoy selling. I am also trying to analyze the negatives within the department, and looking at how the department operates, and slowly trying to make improvements.

With this new job I am on a sixty day probation period. During this time I think I am being tested, no not think, I know I am being tested. I believe they want to see how much work they can through on me before I get overwhelmed and quit. But I know that I will not get overwhelmed (well I already have but I already overcame that), and I have no intentions of quitting.

Forty-seven more days to go!

Getting The Job, That Wasn’t My Dream Job

With much hard work and some summer classes I became eligible to graduate early. I figured I would get a leg up on my competition; the swarm of college students all fighting for the same thing… a job. With the hope of paying off those dreadful high interest loans.

I started the job hunt in early October. Daily I was scoping out the Boston Chef website as well as may other job hunter outlets. My resume was up to date; my cover letters were tweaked to make sure each hiring manager knew why I should be their next employee. I would check my e-mail daily, no hourly, lets be real, I hit the refresh button every five minutes in the hopes of getting a response. My impatience was getting the best of me, and I was losing hope quickly. I started thinking to myself, maybe I should get an office job. in the end an office job would probably have a much higher starting salary, but without a doubt I would be sacrificing my happiness for a paycheck.

About a month and a half later I started getting a flood of email responses from people saying that they either wanted to set up interviews or stages with me, or both! I was excited, and overly confident that every interview I had would go well, and that I would win them over.

My dream job out of college I thought I would be making at least $20.00 an hour. I figured with the experience I have I would at least be an assistant pastry chef, and that I would be able to offer someone some of my creative ideas.

My interviews quickly knocked me down a few pegs. Even the best jobs which I loved would only offer $10.00 an hour starting out.  At that rate, I would be better off working at McDonalds as a kitchen manager. Needless to say I was not very happy, but I didn’t want to give up.  I have two degrees. An associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts, and a bachelor’s degree in culinary management , I am not an expert yet, but  still know my worth.

With the help of my amazing chefs at school I was given yet another interview with an alumni from my school. The job seemed promising, and they offered me a little bit more money, so I accepted.

My first day on the job was 9am on New Year’s Day.  As the new girl I have been subjected to chopping large quantities of lettuce as well as other vegetables for salads 8+ hours a day, and as of right now, I don’t know if there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

the moral of this story is don’t chase paychecks, chase dreams because when you find work that you love you will never truly work a day in your live. We are way too young to be miserable!