Friday, October 8, 2010
Do you think your Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?
1994 - Year of the Goat Cheese Round
When I moved to Seattle I was in retail. Translation: I had no job skills besides putting on make-up and I was too short & fat to model. I went to my local junior college to sign up for beauty school. The wait list was too long, the cooking program had a few openings, the rest is the story of a kitchenbitch.
There were 3 kinds of people enrolled: working chefs who wanted to add school to their resumes, enthusiastic eaters who had minor skills and didn't mind the idea of grovelling in a hot, dirty place as a career, and people who had NOFUCKINGCLUENOTANYNOTNOHOW.
When our Chef of the Day final came around, these folks brought in their Silver Palate and Pasta & Co. cookbooks and started pecan-crusting chicken like the cat licked it's own ass off and got a show on the Food Network. I am not kidding when I tell you that people thought red pepper strips on crostini with goat cheese was the shit.
I was having none of it.
Le Petit Cochon. Modern takes on comfort food. Mary Had A Bowl of Chili with lamb and mole. Iceberg wedge with pancetta & Stilton and grilled cheese with brie & pears a full decade before they got effed out by Giada, Ina and the rest of their crew. Ancient Chinese Meatloaf roulades w/bok choy cooked by none other than Chefs Matt Dillon & Jake Mihoulides (the class behind us were our staff).
I spray painted the menus to look like NYC graffiti, painted butcher paper like blue sky and clouds to go under the glass tabletops, got dozens of pink peonies for decor.
And I was going to kill something in the dining room. That's right. Until yours truly came along, the tableside portion of the final at SCCC had been strictly sixties. Caesar, Diane, Jubilee. Rinse and repeat.
No ma'am. Uh uh. I would rather release a sex tape than mash an anchovy in the bottom of a bowl and pretend there is anything original about that. And since it would be prepared by another student, it seemed pointless for me to COPY a recipe for this to happen. Where is Chef Marisa in THAT equation, exactly? Oddly, no one else ever questions this ridiculousness. Amateurs.
Drunken shrimp cocktail. I decided early on that I was going to get the prawns hammered on tequila and light them on fire right there on Broadway, cementing my legend, inspiring the next class to put down the baby greens and use their imaginations. I must have read about this somewhere, because at that point, with my limited experience, I had no idea when the season for live prawns was or where I could get them. Fuck it. Go big or go home has been my lifelong motto and it's why my life rules.
So I put it on the menu and started calling Mutual Fish every day for an update. The day of the final, I called and oh-my-Jesus, it was raining in the gulf, the water was muddy and the shrimp weren't there yet. My very first purveyor crisis. Way more practical work experience than ordering chicken tenders and waiting for them to show up.
I got back to school right when service was starting, threw the tequila in the bowl, had a shot since it was my final and what could they do, and pushed Dave and the cart out into the dining room.
You could hear the squealing across the room. They sure are loud little bastards. I guess I wouldn't be all that happy about immolation either. I hope the tequila helped ease their transition to a better place.
They were served on a bed of ice that had been colored shades of blue and green, frozen in sheet pans, and shattered to look like broken glass.
How's that Caesar salad, bitches?
My efforts were lauded, I received a 4.0 on my evaluation, and my menu went up in the display next to the office. I would have to check and see, but so far I think I am still the only one to bring death to the dining room at SCCC.
Shrimp Assassin. Recognize.