Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Spanish Boots.....

Onwards in the world of haute cuisine....or Alta Cocina.

Bitter, depressed IM's and phone messages from Brendan at Mugaritz. Weekday business is slow, and they do big weddings on the weekend. Andoni is out of town, and the Basques have the run of the place. The wedding food is utter shite. Stale, boring, possibly fermented.

Plus, the Basques have attitude to the foreign workers: "Hurry up! Hurry up! You are too slow!" This is while they are doing 14 dinners. With 30 chefs in the back. Brendan takes extra seconds to make his dishes absolutely perfect.....and takes the heat. It is like soccer, once again. When skilled white boys play with a Mexican team they will almost never get a pass. They can dish off over and over again, set the brothers up perfectly, and get no respect.....for a while. Eventually, the Latinos realize the value of cooperation and get over it. This is not random is for good reason: there are very few skilled white boys, after all.....and god save a Mexican on a white team.......

Brendan almost walked out on Saturday over the prawns for a wedding. Even us, at pathetic groveling AMF always try to remove the entire tail shell of the prawns.....leaving just the flipper meat and no shell. It doesn't always work....seasonally the shells are too soft or too bound to the meat, but we always try.

Of course, the idiot guests STILL throw out the tails......because.......??? It is Shrimp Ass meat?? Because they always throw out the tails? Because they are too stupid and self-absorbed to realize we have taken the shells off for them?

Failing removal of the tail shells, we peel the REST of the shell and leave the tail shells....which the guests will throw out anyway. At least it looks like a prawn. Mugaritz they just rip off the whole tail structure. Trust me....if you are at an event and are offered a prawn with the tail ripped off....put down your plastic glass of chablis, and back out of the double-wide, get in your pickup truck and drive away.

Brendan dug in and was carefully removing the tail shells. I mean, the guests were eating in a Michelin one-star restaurant, and paying more than 100 euros per guest. The Basques ragged him hard.

The next day was Sunday, and a busy day in the restaurant proper. Busy enough for Andoni to show up. The Basques continued gerning Brendan for taking too much time on his dishes. Andoni overheard and freaked. He blasted the Basques, called over his partner and his chef and gathered around Brendan's station. They all patted him on the back and blasted the Basques again. Just then the press showed up, so Andoni took interviews at Brendan's station. The result was: Brendan on the front page of the Sunday Metrolino section of the Madrid paper. Wow. No bitterness among the Basques about that! Oh, no. Clear sailing on the job site from here on out. You betcha.

After the interview, Andoni bought Brendan a drink and gave him the rest of the day off. He went out to the garden and kicked back. Ahhh......the herbs. Ahhh......the flowers. Ahhh......two hot Columbian chicks grab Brendan, stuff him into a Mercedes limo and off they go. ''Kidnapping is an old traditon in our country.....It happens all the time!" Great.

Champagne flows......Brendan tries to escape. More champagne. The limo is going to Barcelona, don't you know. Eventually, Brendan convinces the girls to let him out....with 200 km of cab fare.

My Sunday was not exactly like that. How about yours?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Spanish Fly, Take 2

The latest from Mugaritz:

The day after the two hotshots quit under fire from Napoleon, the 23 year old chef, Brendan got promoted. He is off the barbeque and in the shark tank: Primeros. He and two other guys do five of the fourteen entrees. His specialty is one salad. It takes seven minutes working with tweezers to place everything just ever so.......

The kitchen has thirty chefs; the dining room fifty seats. And they only have ONE Michelin star. I guess the Cachagua Store will have to wait for ours. I just need twenty-six more guys on the line......and we should probably do something about the Budweiser cooler decor. Chairs might help......

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Spanish Fly

Brendan has arrived in Renteria.

In the pursuit of, really....the kid abandoned the super-models and his non-euro life-style in Prague for the gritty Goya realism of the higher reaches of modern cuisine. Hence, we find the lad getting off a bus in Renteria (think Alameda, beat up old port with hillsides full of projects) in a driving rainstorm, dragging a suitcase. Room and board and ten euros a day for four months as a stagier at Mugaritz.

Not to worry. The restaurant is not in the port. It is out of town, out towards Oiartzun in the country. Very Cachagua-like. Guys speeding by in beater cars with mufflers banging sparks....Cows and chickens and dogs in the back yard of the restaurant.

First, the room: two bunk beds, four guys.....just enough room to walk between the bunks. Quite a downshift from the apartment near the museum in Prague........

Not to worry. First day on the job was mellow. Arrived at noon, only had to work til 2am. And not back to work until 9:30 am the next day! That is like....only 14 hours on, and 7.5 off! Who cares about the room?

Turns out the crazy honor of being drafted by Mugaritz is somewhat diluted by the fact that there are TWENTY-FIVE other honorees. So, it is like high-level soccer, or the SS: congrats, you got picked, now, in order to advance, you have to kill all the other guys who got picked with you.

Not to worry. The other-worldly gifted chef (Andoni Aduriz) you have signed up to work with isn't actually around. Too busy being a celeb. Working food events, like the Masters of Food and Wine (where he met us...and by the way: they haven't paid him the $1800 they owe him for working the $4000 per head dinner for 30 he did....fucking Hyatt).....trolling for new blood. His second-in-command, Napoleon, is a raging fuckhead. No talking during your 14 hours; and certainly no joking. Kinda like Tassajara. Two 30 minute breaks in your 14, and lotsa abuse.

Brendan is assigned to BBQ duty in the back: eggplant, veggies, chicken. Lotsa burned fingers..

Brendan tries to lighten the load with his co-workers when Nappy is not around. Talking and joking. Even in MachoLand, there are very few guys that can hang with Brendan. This tactic backfires, however. The cool guy from Portland, with major skills (he has been working in France for 8 months, and been at Mug for 2) is reminded that there is a world of humor and irony.....and quits. Same with the guy from El Bulli. Two of his buddies are gone in the first 48 hours. Fuck. The Portland guy goes back to FRANCE!! Which is like leaving Iraq and moving to North Korea....

Well, heck......only 118 days to go!

The super cool guy from WD-50 in New York is still there (he tried to hire the Portland guy on the way out....) but he is only down for a 21 day stretch. Survivable.

Indication of stress on The Lad: He has drawings for remodeling the Cachagua Store into something real.......

Remember Midnight Express?