(This is something I wrote months after my stage at Coi in San Francisco.)
I can’t stop thinking about Coi. Now that I’ve had time to let it all sink in and now that I’ve got some perspective I am feeling so inspired from what I soaked in there. I just wasn’t ready at the time to be thinking that way but now that they’ve put the wheels in motion I’m seeing cooking differently. Chef Daniel is such a thinker, and it is very inspirational to be around someone who is constantly creating, evolving and pushing. His favorite sous chef told me that he doesn’t like to work at the restaurants that do lots of covers to make money but sacrifice quality. He says that he wants to cook for the pleasure of creating the best food he can with nothing getting in the way of that. The pleasure of pure beautiful creation that isn’t money driven.
I just finished reading the Reach of a Chef by Michael Rhulman and the chapter about Masa’s truly inspired me, I think because of the seed that was planted in my head at Coi.
Masa cooks purely for the pleasure of creating the best food that he can, and it seems that there are many parallels between him and chef Daniel. The love and pleasure of creating the best you can. It is also weird that Masa’s is one of the most expensive restaurants in America and that Coi is also very expensive, but it really doesn’t seem to be about money somehow. It’s like they would be doing what they do with 6 customers a night or with 100 customers a night. But they wouldn’t want 100 customers a night because then the quality of the food would suffer. Like at Coi they make their own butter not just because it is a superior product but because of the primal feeling of making butter. Its not just, I make this to sell for money, its, I’ve had the process of making the best thing that I can make and I am driven by reasons and passion.
I had a bad couple of weeks. I sank into a sudden deep depression, I could hardly get out of bed to go to work. I was up late at night jacked up on my insecurities. I could hardly keep from crying throughout the day. My self esteem was gone, my confidence was gone. I felt worthless, hopeless and stupid. I felt like everyone hated me because I was so bad. I didn’t know I could still get like that, it’s been a while, I thought I had out grown it. It came and went quickly, that I am thankful for. I just have to move on and hope that the people around me don’t hold it against me. (This was written during one of my hard kitchen times. I have meds for that now.)
Maybe dining is changing and it isn’t the recession that is keeping people away from fine dining restaurants but that rich educated people are looking to spend there money in places using ethical, alternative ingredients, like us and mass produced meat is going extinct. (I wrote this during a recession in Vancouver. I think of it often while I try to move our restaurants forward.)
I remember when I first started cooking I didn’t want to share any of my ways of doing things I wanted to only take knowledge from the people around me. Mostly because I new virtually nothing and I lack common sense so I wanted to learn good ways to do things. In one kitchen I had a chef that would say, “Make a potato and leek puree, for a dish on the new menu.”
I would say, “I’ve never made one before, can you give me a quick run down?”
He would say, “No you just make it.”
Me, “But you’ve made it before, you can tell me what mistakes to avoid and save yourself product and time.”
I wouldn’t actually say that, but I would think it. I got used to powering through on my own but it was a really hard way to learn and the worst was when he would say that what I created was “good enough”. I had to hold myself to my own standard. Later I learned that my standard wasn’t the highest it could be, and this got me thinking. I decided to go to Coi to observe a very high standard so I could learn where to set my own standards. I may not be making the same level of food, but I can adhere to the same level of standards. I think once the standards are ingrained into you they are there for life, it takes constantly asking yourself is this good enough and could it be improved.