Wowsers. What a week. Actually the past two or three weeks have all been a bit crazy, but in a good way. On my last day staging at the Italian restaurant, I helped the pastry chef make 150 or so desserts for a book signing with none other than food blogger/cookbook author extraordinaire David Lebovitz. It was a long day but overall a great first experience with making and plating large quantities of desserts. At the end of the day, I left the restaurant, took the train to the airport, then boarded a plane for Arizona. Just in time too, because Chicago had been hit with MORE snow. Sheesh.
For a Chicagoan, Arizona in the spring is absolutely glorious. There’s the warm sun, green plant life, you can wear sandals and eat outside. I spent the majority of my days sitting in the sun and reading with my cousins, and of course, eating. Most days were planned out by the family according to meals and where we would be having them. One night we made homemade pizzas on the grill, which was incredible. My aunt and uncle are pizza making pros.
We also hit up the town’s beer and bbq festival. Warm sun, beer, food, live music…this was what I’d been missing all winter in the miserable midwest! It made me so excited for another Chicago summer.
Then there was the famous, and aptly named “Meat Night”, during which our family consumes a ridiculous amount of meat in the form of the best brisket I’ve ever had in my life, and extraordinarily fabulous ribs. You just can’t stop eating it. I was so distracted by how good it was that I forget to take any pictures whatsoever. My uncle started preparing the meat about two days before dinner time, first marinating the brisket in a rub for 24 hours, then smoking it for another 24. Phenomenal.
My last morning we had breakfast at a diner located on an airbase. It was pretty cool to watch the tiny plane take off, but my favorite part was the sign hanging inside the place:
The day after I returned home I was back in the city for a few days to work at a popular new restaurant with their bread baker. I thought my other job was fun, but this place was so, so great. Most of the staff were around my age, and everyone balanced serious and focused work with a great sense of fun and humor. It was a blast. Of course, the small, yet efficiently organized kitchen wouldn’t fill up until around noon, 7 hours or so since Greg (the baker) and I arrived to start the breads. Not only did I learn a ton more about breads, but I also learned how to make yogurt, how to pickle and smoke foods, how to clean ramps (which rival fava beans in labor and tedium), and how to test a wood fired oven for proper bread baking temperature (by timing how long you can hold your arm inside of it before it starts to hurt). I had so much fun in those two days and I already want to go back. One of the butchers at the restaurant even offered to let me stage with them for a day, and I plan on taking him up on that whether or not he was serious.
The more I work in these kitchens, the more I know it is where I want to be. 12 hours on my feet? Bring it. At the end of the day, I’m completely exhausted but strangely contented. Sure, it’s all new and novel, but I honestly can’t imagine I would feel this happy doing anything else.