Nature vs. Nuture
People ask me all the time if our ''chefs'' or ''me'' have been to ''Culinary School''. I respond with some bitterness........Abso-fucking-lutely not. We prefer to troll in untroubled waters.
Case in point: We have long had a connection with Portola Valley, Alpine Road, Sand Hill Road and that area. One of our clients was Mrs. Lane of Sunset Magazine: the sweetest, smoothest, most knowledgeable food, service and garden lady that ever walked. Think MFK Fisher for the middle class masses. Just because her son was a complete fucking idiot.....(see the Hawke a Loogie post).
Mrs. Lane's house was built for parties: big decks, open public rooms, two butlers' pantries, two kitchens (fore and aft). One of my cousins was one of her editors, so we got the inside track and she booked us for two back-to-back dinner parties. Same menu, same number of guests.
The first week I hired this guy from the Culinary Institute of America.....This is the culinary big time.....the Yale and Harvard of food. So....Bob Larman (you know how adverse I am to using real names). One of the dishes was Pommes Boulangére: white potatoes halved, thinly sliced from above, tiny slices of Bermuda onion slid in between the slices.....hotel pan....chicken stock and cream.....cover and bake. Cheese at the end.
In the middle of the chaos of the actual party I turned to Larman and said: "Put in the potatoes." He went back to the prep kitchen and put the hotel pans in the Eisenhower era ovens.....They did not quite fit. No worries. He just closed the doors as far as they would go, set the temperature and walked away.
An hour later, the potatoes were still raw. We had to individually wrap them in plastic and microwave them in droves....burning our fingers.....Jolly Green Giant molten condoms.....Fuck.
Fired Larman....with prejudice, as they say in the CIA.
Next week, to fill in.....I hired my brother-in-law: Michael McKenzie Monckton. Michael was known as Trips...not necessarily for the triple M thing. Michael used to babysit the dog of a major LSD importer from Holland on his ranch in BumFuck Cachagua (there was a landing strip). In exchange the Dutch guy would give him film cans of LSD jelly slivers from the sheets of acid. This was useful in Michael's normal job of Union Laborer: pulling nails from boards, carrying bags of cement, driving fork-lifts.....Long hours, low stimulation...provide your own, right?. Michael worked on The Aquarium.....they took him off the forklift when he hit the wall with a hug stack of sheetrock and the whole structure swayed for a while.......
So......Larman came with a nice chef coat with his name and some intials on it....None of which were CDF....for Complete Dumb Fuck.....Monckton came with a flannel shirt and hobnail boots. Monckton ran the Webers....and whatever. In the chaos, I turned to him and said: "Fire the potatoes....." Forgetting the previous week. Forty minutes later, I panicked and realized I was facing the same fuckup as last week.
I ran back to the service kitchen. Monckton had realized that the pans didn't fit. He went out to his truck, got some duct tape, found some aluminum foil, stuffed rags in there......AND MADE THE OVENS BIGGER! The potatoes were perfect. Which guy do YOU hire?
Last fall I was at an Olive Coming Out Party down the mountain from my house. The olive place was perfect, and everyone who was anyone was there: Carmel people, Hasting's scientists, wine geeks, rednecks, pathetic socialites, etc. We face north, though...and it got cold, quick. People became uncomfortable and started to leave. This funny teenager (bored son of one of the guests) noticed, and built a fire in the courtyard. People stopped leaving and started gathering around the fire. Some of them were old, and were tired. The kid picked up on this, went to the barn and started hauling bales of hay out. He made a ring around the fire, and soon a dozen or more people were sitting on hay bales on the chilly evening, having a great time. I hired the kid for the summer on the spot.
Now, you ask, why did I say ''this funny teenager''? Well, he had an awful sense of humor, but he also had cerebral palsy, and only half of his body really responded to commands. He walks kind of funny. One arm is questionable, at best.
This past weekend on the beach, the kid....heretofore to be know as Will Cheesebro....hauled three tons of equipment down the beach, and across seventy yards of sand. Learned how to grill with charcoal in twenty minutes, and never lost his smile. When the event planner came up to me and said, "So, we are ready for our wine talk now." I kind of stared for a moment......wine talk? Oh shit. She: "You were going to bring an expert on Carmel Valley wines......" Will stepped right up: "That's me!" The kid did twenty minutes with eye surgeons about the estoteric aspects of wine-making in Carmel Valley in the new millenium. (His dad is a winemaker....but still...)
Have I mentioned that he is 16?
He comes from a hard-core family.....here is Granny: "Will, you are going to have to sit down one day soon and face the fact that you have a SERIOUS handicap.....and deal with it!"
Will: "Handicap? Screw you Granny, I can do anything anyone else can do. I don't have a handicap!"
Granny: "Will, face facts....You are hopelessly handicapped: you are a Teenager!"
Nature? Or Nuture?
CIA trained .......or Life Natural?