Good afternoon, friends and neighbors. This is possibly my last blog post for 2017. It has been an interesting day so far, and it's only 2:50. I've been reading a lot, writing more, and finally feeling energized but calm enough to think clearly.
No, that is not a contradiction.
Good evening, friends and neighbors.
This post is dedicated to the women who have saved my life- they’ll know who they are.
This blog post is… well, it’s going to be a little rough. I’m going to be talking about kitchen culture, of course- but in particular some of the big problems with it. Ones that we ourselves are causing and perpetuating- the abusive, macho, meathead culture that we have glorified, and how it hurts our female comrades and ourselves. We have seen icons fall, and powerful culinary empires crumble, simply because the man in charge decided he was going to be a “guy” rather than a man.
I promised myself a long time ago that I would never EVER discuss politics on this blog, and I am holding to that. Regardless of the political twists that other pundits have put on the topic, this state of affairs transcends political philosophies- it cannot be allowed to continue.
This blog post is aimed mostly at the guys in the audience, and especially those who are frowning or wincing after that first paragraph. If this is a little much for you, then carry on- hopefully the next topic will be a bit more lighthearted, maybe with some goofy pictures or foodporn.
Guys, I hope you stick around though- because fixing this is absolutely, 100% on us- all of us- and I will tell you exactly why.
I’ll start with one time I was a coward.
Good evening, friends and neighbors.
My name is Matt. I am the Black Hat Baker, and I dress like a Vanaran Monk when I exercise now.
Stand by for nerdiness.
Good evening, friends and neighbors!
Back in culinary school, I quickly learned that the single most useful tools a student can have on them at any given time is a pen and a notebook.
Especially in my Soups, Stocks, and Sauces class, a.k.a. Hot Foods 101.
My chef for that class was a fun and pleasant guy, but tended to have something of a short temper and a dry sense of humor. When we got into the kitchen for the practical half of the day’s class, he would have EVERYONE’S production scrawled up on a chalkboard. He would then rattle through it, top to bottom, along with recipe specifics that group must know. Then he would erase the board- and he would answer NO questions for the rest of the day that amounted to “What else was I supposed to do again?” I learned VERY quickly how to jot down notes, written in my own flavor of shorthand, and to create mnemonics for myself each day to make sure that- once the board was erased- the only thing I had to say was “Yes, Chef.”
The little flip notebooks I filled didn’t just help me that day- I often used them to scrawl down recipes and procedures my chefs described, or later on to sketch quick plating ideas. Those saved ideas and recipes got compiled in a little bound notebook with a magnet closure- and never got too far from my knife roll or chef uniform.
Three years after I started speed-scrawling in my little notebooks, I was in the kitchen of my final class of culinary school. My chef asked me and my little dessert team what was going to be on the menu. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the little notebook, flipped a couple pages, and said “Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. The special roll in the bread baskets will be slices of beerbread.”
The chef nodded and eyed the little book. “Ideas?”
“A few, Chef- mostly recipes I know will work.”
He grinned and clapped me on the shoulder. “You’re gonna do just fine, Matt.”
That was several years ago now. That same little book still resides in my knife roll pouch. It’s gotten more than a little threadbare. The binding is falling off, and it’s held closed with rubber bands- the magnetic closure long since torn off.
My faithful little book shall not last forever- whether it runs out of space or crumbles first.
About the Author
The Black Hat Baker, a.k.a. Matt Strenger, lives in SE Portland, Oregon as a professional baker. Here, Matt bakes, cooks, exercises, and explores, returning to his wife and their hobbit hole up Mt. Tabor to write about all of it.
Email the BHB at blackhatbakery(at)gmail(dot)com
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