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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Getting out of the Kitchen

At Trident Tech's fundraiser
More volunteers

Trident Tech. students awaiting instruction

Hot boxes filled with bouillabaisse

The assembly line for the main course (lamb chops over farrow)

(Trident Tech fundraiser)
My externship has a myriad of requirements that need to be fulfilled and one of them is to volunteer within the community for at least 20 hours.  This is a great requirement as it gets the student out into an area to make contacts in his/her field.  I was able to take part in Trident Tech Community College’s annual fundraiser dinner on the 27th of this month.  I met the Program Chair Chef Michael Carmel through my own culinary institution’s instructors and this paved the way for my participation in their fantastic event. 

Each patron pays $250 per plate for dinner, dancing and an auction of the area’s best goods and services, in addition, items auctioned off include gourmet dinners prepared by Trident’s chef instructors.  Our group of students assembled in the catering kitchen as was responsible for the two courses of bouillabaisse and lamb chops over farrow topped with lamb Au jus.

These folks really know their stuff when it comes to assembly line plating.  We were able to get out 600 plates in about 15-20 minutes tops.  I was impressed with their organizational skills and managerial aptitude.  This place is a first rate culinary institution and was able to make some nice contacts and enjoy great conversation and camaraderie. 

(Folly and Isle of Palms Beaches)
There is a lot more to Charleston that meets the eye.  You have to inquire, research and want to learn and know more about what a city has to offer before you can discover the hidden jewels.  Well, Folly beach and Isle of Palms beach aren’t exactly hidden jewels but I, nonetheless, discovered them and was thrilled to have done so.  I can see myself becoming a fixture at Folly as it is closer and more to my style as it is more of a commoner’s beach.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Isle of Palms but it’s a longer drive and more upscale with yachts everywhere!

Isle of Palms Beach

The pier at Isle of Palms Beach

I like Folly for its kitschy beachcombers’ attitude.  Families come here for volleyball, swimming, shelling and a plain old-fashioned good time.  Access to the beach is also more appealing as the Isle of Palms has row after row of condos and townhouses lining the road parallel to the beach limiting pathways just a little bit.  Regardless both beaches are expansive (kind of reminds me of pictures I’ve seen showing California beaches) and wide.  They both have piers with shops and eateries that satisfy the hungriest of appetites and also the fair amount of souvenir stands to catch the eye of the tourists.  I guess it comes down to location because any beach is a welcome addition to the end of a stressful week.

Isle of Palms Beach

Folly Beach

Lifeguards at Folly

Great way to read a book
(Stingrays Hockey)
I had an inkling to get a read on the local flavor by attending a Charleston Stingrays game.  The Stingrays are the minor league affiliate of the Washington Capitals NHL team.  You can really understand an area by the way they embrace their sports franchises.  Unfortunately for Charleston, the size of this idyllic town is a wee bit too small for any major league teams to be playing here and their size is a bellwether for interest and support of their community.

Turns out that Charlestonians are nuts for hockey!  As of this writing they are 24-17-1-1- which is pretty good.  On the night that I was in attendance they were playing the Florida Everblades and they won by a score of 3 – 1.  The fans were pretty rabid and in fact I had screaming in stereo as there was a “gentleman” (and I use that term loosely) directly behind me that couldn’t let any hint of controversial officiating slide by.  He found it necessary to harass the referee’s at all costs even at the expense of his girlfriend’s embarrassment.  She couldn’t stand it any longer and ended their relationship in front of a packed crowd with extreme prejudice.  This guy is such a knucklehead that he didn’t follow her into the concourse until after he made his point to the indifferent officials.  Upon returning he lamented to his friend that “I guess it wasn’t meant to be” to which his friend replied “you’re a first rate idiot”.  Oh well, I guess this guy has his priorities a bit mixed up as I noticed that his newly ex-girlfriend was extremely attractive and seemingly graceful and articulate.  But you know, God loves an idiot!

(Watching Chef Deihl)
Anyone who wants to really learn will first watch and listen.  They say that being a good listener is the key to learning any subject matter in an effective way.  Watching Chef Deihl make sausage and fabricate meat is like seeing a man give birth to something astonishing.  Chef Deihl doesn’t just make food….he lovingly cares for it, he nurtures its beginnings and does everything he can to understand the effect it will have on his customers as well as how to be able to fabricate it in an efficient and respectful and presentable way.

Trussing steaks

Sharing a laugh

Painstakingly measuring each foot-long hot dog

For instance, when I first was given the opportunity to fabricate beef tenderloins with him in the upstairs kitchen (his culinary domicile), he explained to me the importance of the grain in which to run my knife when separating silver-skin from flesh.  Most folks think that grains in protein are the striations or fibers found in the muscle and you would be correct but Craig Deihl takes everything at least one step further.  He taught me that when you run your finger along the surface of the loin that it is smoother going in one direction and coarser/rougher going in the opposite.  He exclaimed that if you move your knife “with” the direction in which it is smoother, then you won’t have to struggle with your knife and the end result is much more presentable.  Whereas if you remove the silver-skin in the other/rough direction; it will look as if you “happy-whacked” the meat making it look like a badger got a hold of it first.  It’s no small wonder that Chef is getting such notoriety in Charleston and nationally as well.  Just the other day Chef came to me showing that Chef Marcus Samuelsson was endorsing Craig via twitter.  It’s the little things that make a difference like the grain of protein – the ones that most don’t know about.

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mark:
    Bruce gave me the addy for your blog, and I've been enjoying reading about your experiences as a budding chef. What a wonderful writer you are; I feel as if I'm right in the thick of things with you. Bruce called me to tell me how proud and excited he was about your progress, and also the opportunity you have to go to France to work.

    I just loved the time I spent at your beautiful home in Lake Orion, and was delighted with your culinary expertise the day I spent at your place. While I'm sorry you're no longer there, I'm so happy you've found your niche and are pursuing your dream.

    I hope you get this - I don't know how often you check your comments. Let me know if I've reached you.

    Suzanne in Des Moines