And Now For Something Completely Different…

 

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.”

iuzzini

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.

desserts

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!

12 Comments

  1. Posted January 29, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Woo hoo!! I for one support this challenge whole heart and stomachly. And now for something else completely different, maybe Ill start posting my comments here, instead of trying to not embarrass my lovely wife to be.

    Also now I can’t be made fun of for playing with my Ultratex 3, my soy sauce foam made with soy lecithin, and frozen spheres of hibiscus tea.

    Go Johnny, go go…

  2. Posted January 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Very cool! I’m psyched to read about this new project and about your new gig!

  3. Posted January 29, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi,

    I would love to speak to you regarding this project. Please get in touch with me.

    Best,
    Johnny Iuzzini

  4. Erin
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Questions:
    Will you be posting the recipes for these fabulous desserts or just commentary on the process and snazzy pictures?
    Also, are these desserts so difficult that one who has not attended pastry school or other culinary institution will be unable to make them?

  5. t
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    AWESOME!!! Congratulations!!!

  6. Posted January 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Such a great idea. I will be looking forward to reading about this. Julie (of Julie and Julia) had great sucess becaus it is a great idea. It’s so impressive when you take on a challenge. Good luck getting your hangs on the seasonal items and most importantly, have fun!

    Maybe you can grade the recipes? this guy is doing it for a Martha Stewart book, she even had him on the show

    http://jeffandmartha.blogspot.com/

  7. Posted January 29, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Erin – Because the plan is to blog the whole book, I’m not going to be posting the actual recipes, because that would be like giving the book away for free. Chef Iuzzini deserves royalties for his work.

    The book is designed to be challenging-but-doable for home cooks. There are a lot of workarounds for the more complex stuff, as part of the project I’m not planning to take them, but they seem like great substitutions for cooks who want a taste of these masterpieces without some of the hassle. I like that I won’t need too much extra equipment to do this project.

  8. Posted February 1, 2010 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    Congrats on your internship! We can live vicariously through you.

  9. Joanna
    Posted February 1, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Congrats on the internship!! Looking forward to drooling over your creations from the book :)

  10. Posted February 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on your internship! Your journey has been such an inspiration. Best of luck with these exciting new challenges.

  11. Posted February 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I am so happy you are doing this and cannot wait to follow. Hopefully you’ll still be going full fledge in june and i can be one of those dinner party guest. tricky desserts are so not my forte.

  12. Posted February 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Congrats! I am coming by for a Marshmallow!

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] and other TopicsMaking Squash Puree or Pumpkin PureeMaking Pie CrustMaking Fresh Pasta « And Now For Something Completely Different… February 9, [...]

  2. [...] This post is an installment from the ongoing Dessert FourPlay project, in which I prepare and write about all of the desserts in Dessert FourPlay: Sweet Quartets from a Four-Star Pastry Chef by pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. For more on this project, click here. [...]

  3. By Where I’ve Been – East Village Kitchen on May 4, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    [...] I just finished my internship at the fancy Manhattan restaurant and I’m taking a week, or maybe two, to reflect on where I want to go next. I’m using my free time to get back into my own kitchen to work on some exciting projects, one of which is the resurrection of the Dessert FourPlay project. [...]

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