So I scored that internship at the fancy Manhattan restaurant (thank you to readers for your kind words via comments and email), and tomorrow I’ll be working my last shift in the Brooklyn kitchen where I’ve come to feel at home. The next three months will be filled with some very serious schooling that I hope will help me take my cooking to another level and expose me to techniques that I’ll never learn in school. As excited as I am about all of this, lately I’ve been feeling a bit glum about leaving Brooklyn behind, for two reasons: I’m going to miss the company of the chefs and cooks who gently mentored me and made work fun, and, most of all, I’ll miss the satisfaction that comes from creating something from start to finish. You see, for a pastry cook (or intern), the biggest difference between working at a high-quality, rustic style restaurant and working in high pressure, fine dining is that at the former you are involved in the entire plate – the cake, the ganache, the swoop of sauce, and the candied garnish that goes on top. In fine dining, where one plate may have 20 components, multiplied by the number of items on the menu, I may have my hands in a few tiny pieces of the finished product, but I’ll never be able to look at something and say “yeah, I made that.”
That’s not to say that there’s no satisfaction in creating the prefect shard of candied kumquat to sit atop a plated masterpiece – there totally is, and there’s no better way to learn to do something really well than having to do nothing but it, for hours on end. But, being a girl who wants it all, I’ve decided to take on a project to experience the art of making intricate, higher-tech desserts, from soup to nuts. Admittedly, this pursuit feels a bit trite in the shadows of Julie & Julia and the beautiful opus that is Alinea At Home, but I hope that I’ll walk away with some important lessons learned.
The book on which I’ve set my sights is Dessert FourPlay, a cookbook of sophisticated, high-tech, psychedelic recipes from the imagination of renowned pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. The project will sacrifice some founding tenents of the East Village Kitchen, especially the one about avoiding hard-to-find ingredients, while upholding others; the dessert courses are organized by season and designed to celebrate Mother Nature’s latest and greatest.
So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m going to take on one of Chef Iuzzini’s recipes per week, or two, if I’m feeling ambitious or have dinner party guests to impress. I’m not going to set a timeframe for the project, if I come to the end of one season before the next has begun, I don’t want to feel pressure to use inferior strawberries shipped from thousands of miles away just to stay on schedule and adhere to an arbitrary deadline, when I can wait a few weeks and use amazing ones from the farmer’s market instead.
And, if I cook something that I really love that’s not from the book, I’ll be sure to write about it here, just as I have always done. The blog is not changing permanently, this project just reflects where my head’s at, which is pretty much the point of having a blog in the first place. I understand that I risk losing a lot of my regular readers who will surely feel that they were lured here with enticing recipes for a bait-and-switch, but I hope they forgive me as I get this off my chest. Please join me dear readers, because damn, it’s gonna be a blast!