You have food questions, I've got answers. Whether your interested in learning more about culinary technique for yourself or just trying to get laid by laying down some edible spread, I'm here for you. Or maybe your in the industry and you just want to talk shop and swap stories. Whatever it is, if it's remotely related to food, fire away, fire it up but as the old adage goes, if you can't stand the heat get the **** out of my kitchen (which is why I struggled placing this thread in the Lounge or in the Depths). Anyways...
First, I'll drop a little background on myself. I started my decent into the restaurant industry as a FOH server. A good friend of mine (it is who you know) scored me a back waiter position at a 5-star restaurant called Pete's in Boca Raton (now City Fish Market). It was my first experience in dealing with uber-rich ****s, celebrities and their idiotic counterparts that spend obscene amounts of money on food and booze. I soon worked my way to banquet server, which led to a front server position (there where two waiters and a busser for every table) which led to me, despite the ridiculous amount of money I made in tips, wanting to punch undeserving entitled and demeaning pieces of **** in their throats.
Where was I? Oh yeah... So after following my high school sweetheart (whom I am now married to) to her university destination of choice, I sought out a few more server jobs in some more classy joints. Sure enough there came a time where I found myself in the position of looking for yet another one. Only this time, I made sure to wrap up all my searches and interviews to come home and catch a TV show. Which TV show you ask? Great Chefs (http://www.greatchefs.com/).
I was in love. I signed up for culinary school and off I went. While attending the Florida Culinary Institute and having the benefit of being taught by some of CIA's finest instructors who had moved down to Florida from NY, I also had the great privilege of working for a German Master Pastry Chef in his bake shop. I arose at 3:00-3:30 in the morning to get into the bakery; worked til 11:00; drove up to West Palm Beach for classes at 12pm; drove back down South to get home around 6pm; did some homework; went to bed around 8ish only to do it all over again the next day. I really did enjoy it as I was able to learn both aspects of culinary and baking & pastry. You see, you only get one degree or the other at school (culinary or baking/pastry) and I was able to obtain a culinary degree while gaining experience and extensive knowledge of baking and pastry work at the same time and finished up a few courses in hospitality management as well.
After graduation, I got married and the actual BOH work in restaurants began. There are a couple more places of work that I didn't list below because they really aren't worth a mention as they didn't turn out to be worth a damn and I didn't spend a significant amount of time anyways. Mostly corporate **** holes like Cheddars. It took a single day, after being hired as Asst. Mgr, to look around their kitchen and view how ****ty their food and production process was (no stove burner tops, primarily microwaves) and I split. No thanks.
The first kitchen I worked in out of culinary school was a modern American/French based bistro where we worked with local farmers and fisherman. Our menu changed weekly depending on what was in season and what was brought in to us in terms of proteins and produce. Asshole chef; great learning experience. On top of the usual dinner shift (3-11pm), I also did most of their baking and pastry work at night. Once the dinner shift ended we would clean up the kitchen and my baking shift usually started around 11:30pm-12am after a beer/MJ break and lasted until about 4am, maybe 5am depending on the prep list and orders. After a year and a half, I had had my fill (and I was tired as ****) and it was time to move on.
I then became Kitchen Manager of a very popular university bar. Named one of Playboy's best college hangouts, blah, blah, blah. I enjoyed the experience. Redid the menu, saved them literally tens of thousands a dollars a year by changing their food production systems and haggling with food purveyors, yada yada yada, but the fast paced bar and grill food along with managing amateur college kids/cooks was not my thing. I moved on in less than a year.
Then came my primary staple: a high end USDA Prime Steakhouse. Worked my way thru every kitchen station and position to eventually land as Sous and then Head Chef. During a period of time while here, and before the major promotions, I also worked lunches and some dinners at a Japanese/sushi restaurant a few doors down for ****s & giggles and more experience. I loved my time here at this steakhouse. One of the very few restaurants I had been in where everyone was family and both the BOH and FOH had a lot of respect for each other. Closest knit group of friends I've ever had and will have.
Then came my unofficial retirement. I left the kitchen but remained in touch with special catering requests and helped develop the kitchen concept and menu for another popular college spot that still thrives to this day. Besides Florida (I purposefully left out the names of places and restaurants in FL to protect the innocent from any stories that may surface as the thread continues), I dabbled here http://opusdine.com/ when I moved for a short period of time to Colorado but realized I was over it and my income wasn't needed.
I am now officially retired from the restaurant industry. I now spend my time reading about food science and chemistry and still love to cook at home and for others and although I miss some aspects of it, the desire is never enough to subject myself again to the long hours and ass kicking work.
All in all, the fringe benefits and the drug and alcohol fueled lifestyle are all true. If you ever have a chance to pick up a copy of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential it gives an accurate behind-the-scenes look into kitchens and it's culture.
Enough about me for now. I want to hear your questions, comments and stories.