12.08.2002 (Sunday), 10:17 AM

Poubelle's Winter Feed 2002

I got your back...

Yesterday, I cooked perhaps the most exciting meal of my life.

This year's Poubelle Winter Feed was one to beat all others. On Friday, I felt that the menu we were doing was full of old favorites with new twists and rooted smack in the middle of comfort food. Who knew that it would be that and so much more.

After spending most of Friday making sausage and pate, I arrived at 9:30am at Tom's ready to...uh, cut myself. That's right, just two hours in I gashed my left index finger enough to require a band aid or two. And, as anyone who has cooked before knows, band aids are a real pain in the ass especially when dipping in and out of water, trying to hold stuff to chop and so on. Fortunately, I clot well so I eschewed the protection after a while for the sting of onion. Well, at least it was antiseptic...the finger from the onion and not the other way around.

As usual, we were on non-stop mode and even though the menu was made up of straight-ahead dishes there was lots of prep to get them into shape. I think I finally sat down at around 10:45 pm...

I could describe the entire day and night in excruciating detail but that would not be what I really learned yesterday. For me, yesterday was all about connection, love and respect.

Tom and I have been cooking together for about five years. In that time, we have become good friends and great kitchen mates. Make no mistake though...I am his sous-chef first and foremost and he has my total love and respect and I am extremely happy in that role. He designs and I implement--it's really as simple as that.

All really excellent working relationships (and friendships as well, and we have both here...) make the kind of connections which cannot be bought or duplicated with others in any manner. Working with Tom in his kitchen just seems to bring some form of telepathic harmony between the two of us. Ideas flow, needs are anticipated and met, action is seamless and there are times when we are just so in sync with one another that we'll stop and flash a bit of a wry smile to each other to let on that the magic is fully in motion.

For example...at some point yesterday, I was moving about the kitchen working on some veg prep. Something told me (shit, don't ask me what, exactly, it was just something...) that Tom needed red wine for what he was working on. I just reflexively grabbed the red wine and brought it over to him. At the same moment, he turned and grabbed it, paused and started to say, "how did you know...". I don't know...I just did. "I got your back...", I said. "It's my job." We had another similar moment later that evening side-by-side, working on two separate dishes...there were wry smiles and mental high-fives all around.

It was then that I started to think about how connection is also real important in aikido. In many aspects, aikido is best done when there is a complete connection between nage and uke, when you feel your partner's energy and motion and can move and adapt with and to it. That perfect connection is not often achieved in aikido but when it is, it is very cherished thing. Waza (Japanese for "technique") is stressed in aikido but connection is stressed even more. Tonight was had damn near perfect, and very cherished, cooking waza.

At the end of the evening, we were tired (I had to drive home...) and didn't quite know of what to make of the very successful evening we had. Everything seemed to go so smoothly--more than ever before--and I think that we were both a bit awe-struck (and maybe a little drunk...) at the whole affair.

I could say that it was another perfect evening but you probably already figured that one out...

(It would be unfair to take all of the sous-chef credit for last night's dinner as the other sous-chefs, John, Tim and Mark, kicked much ass in the prep, cook off and plating department...)

Appetizer course
  Charcuterie Platter
  Butternut Squash Soup
  Terrine of Foie Gras
First course
  Sea Bass, Celery Root, Red Wine Reduction
  Shrimp, Winter Vegetable, Blood Orange Sauce
  Ravioli de Saint Louis, Sauce Tomate
  Zebra Potatoes
Second course
  Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Desert Style
  Osso Bucco, Saffron Rice
  Wild Mushroom Ragout
  Warm Lentil Salad
  Mocha Puzzle Cake
  Apricot Pathivier
  Lemon Tart

Posted by wjc