I’m doing a LIVE Blogcast this Friday, January 23rd 7am PST / 10am EST!!!

THE_Next_Food_TV_Network_Star edited (500x375)OK, I must admit I’m a little scared and a bit nervous. I’ve been dipping my toe in the pool for much of my life, and now I’m taking the plunge towards embracing my passion – – food and people. Live online this Friday, January 23rd 7am PST /10am EST, I’m going to share my own story: my experience as a kid growing up with ‪#‎wild‬ ‪#‎food‬ ‪#‎foraging‬ and eating weird food before Travel Channel & Andrew Zimmern made it acceptable, and more.

Wild-mustard-lush-patch Wild mustard bloom

I have met many fun, great people in the food industry. They each have a great story on how they found their passion, and I’m looking forward to sharing their stories in future podcasts! I hope you tune in and let me know what you think!

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Dating a Chef

I recently came across this short article in Yahoo’s Shine by Tweeter/Blogger photographer Annie Wang Kraft and I can so relate to her. I’ve dated both doctors and chefs. Both have lousy hours – – but doctors generally make a helluva lot more money to make up for the crazy hours. On the other hand, most chefs don’t believe they walk on water, and are better lovers than doctors. So if you still have romantic notions about dating a chef, after reading the Top 10 below, then follow the link to her blog & Twitter page to read about her daily life.

1. They rarely cook for you at home. Everyone always assumes that I have a magnificent home-cooked meal waiting for me all the time, but that is far from the truth. Why? Because a restaurant kitchen is usually a million times more fun to cook and experiment in. It often has high end gadgetry that you probably do not have (or can fit) in your home kitchen. If you rent in New York City, then you might understand the rarity of a full sized stove and oven.

2. But you really do eat like a king or queen. Chefs are passionate about their art and they’re very serious about it. They show their emotions through food and they often use food to romance you. You’re in for a spectacular surprise once you dine in your significant other’s restaurant or meet them for lunch. They might just surprise you with a gourmet picnic meal.

3. Date nights are not on the weekends. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’ll have to go out to a lot of events and gatherings by myself. Weekends — aka when many social events happen — are the busiest days in the restaurant industry. But the great thing about weird chef schedules is that they often get Sundays or Mondays off — the perfect day to go to a new restaurant or cocktail lounge that’s normally hard to get into.

4. Every moment counts (maybe a little bit more). It’s so tough when they’re working nights and you’re working days that it can be difficult to find overlapping free-time you can spend together. I savor every little trip and outing with my husband — even grocery shopping. There was a period when we rarely saw each other, so much so that I would skip birthday parties and appointments to be with him. It’s difficult for some people to understand, but we’ve learned to make it work. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” sure sounds cheesy, but a chef’s wife knows it is probably true.

5. You get to experience an amazing variety of restaurants. I’ve been to tiny under-the-radar restaurants because my husband loves discovering new restaurants and trying new foods he hears about in the chef circuit. I would have never bothered to visit these eclectic mix of restaurants otherwise.

6. You’re going to learn so many crazy food words by accident. You’ll be spouting off words like “mignardises,” “transglutaminase,” and “thermal immersion circulator” before you can say Vol-au-Vent. You’ll hear chefs talk about cooking techniques or their newest experiments all the time like geeky teenage boys. Eventually, you’ll pick up the words and actually understand what they’re saying. If you asked me what these words meant before I met my husband, I would’ve given you a blank stare and assumed you were trying to explain a weird science fiction novel, but now I’m pretty much a food geek, too.

7. You become insanely sensitive to the dining experience. And you’ll garner sympathy for front-of-the-house staff and the kitchen staff. (Especially if you’re eating at your significant other’s restaurant.) Improper dining etiquette will annoy the hell out of you, like rude behavior (people who invite themselves to sit down when they don’t have a reservation) and crappy tipping (for the record, servers should be tipped 20%). Grr! I’m annoyed just thinking about these things. Let’s move on.

8. People will ask you for restaurant recommendations and cooking tips. Or they ask you to ask him. Because I’m married to a chef, I’ve suddenly become a walking cookbook/food guide. Sometimes people will ask me for recommendations for a cuisine I’m not familiar with and I’ll feel flustered or embarrassed for not knowing it (not that I’m supposed to anyways).

9. You’ll try foods you would normally never try. It usually starts out with my husband saying, “Here. Try this.” You might think that I’m gullible, but I trust him even though I’ve ended up trying all sorts of weird offal dishes because of him. I’m actually glad I just dig in and try all this unique food without asking. I’ve definitely become less of a picky eater and I do love fried sweetbread now (even though I still o not want to think too much about what it is, anatomically).

10. Patience is key, especially when you’re married to a chef. I’m still figuring this one out myself. Things will come up at restaurants unexpectedly. It can be anything from a group of diners who came in late, rowdy patrons at the bar, or something in the kitchen took longer to prepare than anticipated. He might not be able to get home until 3 a.m., and considering how little I see him, it can be particularly frustrating. Things happen that are beyond your control and the only thing you can really do it be patient and wait. But realistically, who wants to wait around for someone all night? Remember, though: you might go to sleep alone, but you’ll wake up next to the person you love — and it’s worth it.


Things They Don’t Tell You at Culinary School!

There are many very reputable culinary programs at really great colleges and universities all over the U.S.  And I totally respect the venerable C.I.A. (Culinary Institute of America) as the Harvard of culinary programs.  In fact, I’m proud to have a relative who graduated from a C.I.A.-Cornell combined program for a B.S. in Hotel & Restaurant Management.

However, I find it appalling that some of these private school chains work more like over-priced basic training facilities than institutions of higher learning.  Many of these schools are charging exorbitant tuition by feeding off of people’s love of food along with their star-struck excitement of seeing superstar chefs competing at the top of their game each week on television.

What they don’t tell these students is their 4 year degree means they know enough of the basics for salad prep, or garde manger at best.  No matter what great grades they got in ice carving or meat deboning, no great restaurant is going to risk putting them on the line when the restaurant needs to quickly bang out consistent quality dishes for the dinner rush.  No matter what accolades they got at school, nobody wants their opinion, and don’t even think about suggesting any changes on the menu.  The students really need to have an incredible passion for food, to learn to work precisely with a great sense of urgency, and think quickly on their feet.

And finally the worst disservice, is neglecting to tell these students that they’re going to have to work lower wage jobs to pay off their student loans.  By lower, I mean lower on average than students graduating with degrees in other disciplines like teaching, business, and computers.  In 2010, restaurant chefs on average, made less than $24,000, and head chefs made less than $45,000.  And worse yet, they will work 10 – 14 hour days on their feet, including weekends and holidays towards student loans for up to $70,000.  Sure there are chefs out there who go on to open great restaurants, cookbooks, TV shows, etc., but they are the exception.  Becoming a star chef is as difficult as moving from high school to pro sports – – it can be done, but very few make it.  To get to that star chef level requires a lot of very long hard hours of not making it.

For those who have not been swayed by these Dept. of Labor statistics, I would advise you to look into the culinary programs of various community colleges.  You may be surprised to know that several community colleges have actually put in respectable showings and beaten teams from nationally acclaimed culinary schools at national American Culinary Federation (ACF) competitions.  So at the very least, you don’t have to start your culinary career with a huge debt looming over your head.

Much of the this article’s information was courtesy of Leah A. Zeldes a freelance writer featured in the Chicago Sun Times.  http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/food/11424848-423/what-i-didnt-learn-in-culinary-school.html

Andrew Zimmern meets Tommy Gomes plus Gabardine’s Exec Chef Chad White at Catalina Offshore Products, San Diego’s Top Seafood Provider

Tommy gives Andrew a taste of a rare treat: fresh swordfish marrow!

This past February, Tommy Gomes gave Andrew Zimmern the opportunity to sample some really fresh seafood at Catalina Offshore Products in San Diego.

Tommy shows how the Uni (sea urchin) is processed.

Eating the Uni straight from the supplier is even better than going to a sushi bar!  SO FRESH!!!

Andrew is wowed by Gabardine’s Exec Chef Chad White

Andrew was also treated to some of the seafood skillfully prepared by Gabardine’s Exec Chef Chad White.

Look for the segment to aire on Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods America Mondays 9pm PST.

Full-Time Frugal Foodie & Part-Time Chef Stalker

Fabio Viviani at VIP Post-Party for the Gourmet Experience in Del Mar 10.8.2011

Adam looks down at me during talk at his book-signing at Barnes & Noble The Grove 4.27.2011.

James Beard Rising Star nominee Exec Chef Nathan Coulon (formerly of Ivy Hotel & currently of True Food Newport Beach) as Head Judge a Whole Foods Mkt Huntington Beach Cook-Off Competition Nov. 2011

I’ve been a foodie since childhood watching Graham Kerr “The Galloping Gourmet” instead of Sesame Street.  Through the years I’ve enjoyed following Julie Child, Jacque Pepin, and Wolfgang Puck.  More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some culinary luminaries & some of the southland’s top chefs.  When possible, I’ve also collected autographs on their books which include: Diana Kennedy the “Julia Child of Mexico;” Travel Channel “No Reservations” host Anthony Bourdain, “Man v. Food” host Adam Richman, & “Taste of America” host Mark DeCarlo; American Master Bladesmith specializing in kitchen knives Bob Kramer; and Extraordinary Desserts Owner Chef Karen Krasne (featured on Food Channel “Best Thing I Ever Ate” Cake Walk episode).  I got word

Exec Chef Nick Brune (in hat) of local habit wow'd the crowd at Collaboration Kirtchen 8.21.2011.

Chef Owner Su-Mei of Saffron had everyone laughing while she tickled their tastebuds at Collaboration Kitchen 9.25.2011.

from the venerable Exec. Chef Thomas Keller that he’ll sign my copy of “ad hoc at home.”In those cases where I didn’t have a book, a picture had to suffice as in the case with Travel Channel “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern, Bravo Top Chefs Brian Malarkey (Season 3) & Fabio Viviani (Season 5).  I’ve had the opportunity to meet such incredible talented California chefs:  Exec. Chef Jon Eyer Hard Rock Hotel, Exec. Chef Nick Bruneof

Chef Antonio Friscia was cool enough to give me this shirt off his back!

Local Habit, Exec. Chef Olivier Bioteau of Farm House Cafe, Exec. Chef Chad White of Sea Rocket Bistro (soon to be at Gabardine), Exec. Chef Andrew Spurgin formerly of Waters Fine Catering & currently Chef/Partner at Campine (with Chefs Brian Malarkey & Antonio Friscia), Exec. Chef Antonio Friscia formerly of Stingaree & currently Chef/Partner at Campine as well as Exec Chef/Partner of Gaijin Noodle & Sake House, Executive Chef Victor Jimenez of Cowboy Star, Owner Chef Su-Mei of Saffron, Owner/Baker Charles Kaufman of Bread & Cie Bakery & Cafe, Former Exec Chef/Partner of Chileco & current Regional VP of 24 Carrots Catering & Events Scotty Wagner, Owner Gina Freize of Venissimo Cheese, Exec. Chef Nathan Coulon (son of Michele Coulon Dessertier of La Jolla) formerly of Ivy Hotel & currently of TrueFood Kitchen, Newport Beach; drinking centric travel “Three Sheets” host Zane Lamprey; and California foodie celebrity Chicken Charlie Boghosian best known for his fried food stand at the major county fairs from San Diego to the California State Fair in Sacramento.

Campine 3 Owner Chefs Antonio Friscia, Andrew Spurgin, & Brian Malarkey Collaboration Kitchen 1.29.2012

Bravo Top Chef Brian Malarkey meets The Frugal Foodie at Fruit of the Soul 2010

Exec Chef Scotty Wagner, chefs & staff Wine Rave Nov. 2010

Zane Lamprey, host of Three Sheets partying it up (as usual) The Lodge at Torrey Pines Chefs Celebration - San Diego Beer Week 2011

Exec Chef Christopher Logan of Creative Flavors Catering walked away with top prize & several gold medals at ACF-sanctioned Tour of Tastes cook-off competition at 2010 San Diego Fair.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Chef Karen Krasne & her daughter Sahara at the party for the launch of her latest cookbook "Extraordinary Cakes."

Chicken Charlie Boghosian is best known for his highly sucessful deep fried food stands that can be found at the major county fairs from Sacramento down to San Diego. He actually won a 2nd place medal chefs cook-off competition at the 2010 San Diego Fair.

The secret to “flakey” vs. “crumbly” pie crust!

Whenever I make pie crust it’s not tough, but it always turns out more crumbly than the more desirable “flakey” texture. NOW I know that the secret is in a technique called “frissage.” See how this Harvard grad turned baker does it!

The Longest Running Culinary Demo Series in the entire USA is in San Diego!

The nation’s longest culinary demo series has been at the San Diego Fair June 11th – July 5th by the Chefs de Cuisine Association of San Diego!  Come out to watch, taste, & participate!  They’ve been pulling members of the audience (your truly included) to do 10-minute  “Iron Chef” competitions AND to be tasting judges!

I’m officially posted on the San Diego Fair blog as a Finalist!

The San Diego Fair has updated their blog on the Tour of Tastes Exhibit competition for The Next Food TV Network Star! I’m the #4 Finalist out of 8 total competing. Note that my Lumpia recipe posted is merely a framework, and I often change the proportion and ingredients according to market price and mere whims. Enjoy!

My godson Kevin is now a graduate of Cornell & the C.I.A.!!!

My godson Kevin has just graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Hotel Administration and a degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America!

When I first found out about my godson’s aspirations to become a chef, I proudly thought, “Wow, my godson takes after me!”  But then I told his mother my cousin that she may not like the results and lack of grandchildren.  Even the executive chefs work long hours from before breakfast (even if your place doesn’t serve breakfast, somebody has to start the stock simmering) to long after the dinner service planning menus, checking on food orders, profits on menu items, managing kitchen staff, etc.   So what kind of women are available to socialize long after the restaurant & bar has closed or before the breakfast or lunch crowd?  Barflies, cocktail waitresses, strippers, and hookers.  I like to think that I helped plant that seed about going to the Cornell University’s School of Hotel Management.

Some people, including some aspiring culinary students, don’t realize that being a chef is not all glamour and media accolades.  Earning your chops in a restaurant is a bit like being in the military.  However, at least in the military, a college degree will get you a start as an officer.  Even a B.P.S. in Culinary Arts from the C.I.A. will have many starting out as a garde manger in some restaurants.  Not only do you work long hours, but also plan to work all weekends and holidays – – the big-ticket days for restaurants.  And with the economy these days, it’s getting even tougher.  I spoke to a chef yesterday (he was cut after 12 years of service) who said that many chefs are getting sous chefs cut out from under them, and have had to get back on the line themselves as well as their office duties.  Another chef he knew of, was cut after 17 years of service!  So I am definitely glad that my godson chose the route of a chef AND a scholar with a degree in hotel/restaurant management.

You Heard It Here First!!!

I just got the phone call that I have been selected to be one of 8 Finalists doing a cooking demonstration for The Next Food Network TV Star competition at the San Diego Fair Tour of Tastes Exhibit! I’ll be doing my demonstration on Sat. June 19th 11:30am, so get there EARLY to get a seat and cheer me on!!!

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