You provide the food and I will provide the perspective." – Anton Ego, 2007



Learning What it Really Takes to Make Food: Substitutions and Compromise

Hundreds of years ago the colonizers spread across America and put down roots, both literally and figuratively. Agriculture was their life: crucial to their survival but also demanding nothing short of total participation.

I have been contemplating this topic for nearly a week. It manifested during the days following this post. I began to realize the amount of work – labor, effort and sheer strength – required to produce an acre of food; it was astounding. Fertilizing with compost, tilling, weed management and pest control had the potential to impose upon each second of a farmer’s life. In colonial times, I’m certain it did. Even with families of six to eight children the work was perpetually incomplete. Over time, the advent of agricultural technology helped eliminate the need for so many physical bodies by replacing them with mechanical ones instead. My purpose of coming to pepperfield was to learn where food came from, but after this last week it has evolved slightly. My understanding of food is one of a conventional sense where, even organic, products are mass-produced with massive tractors and combines. Each task completed in mere seconds by robotic behemoths rather than the the hands of a person. My real purpose had more depth than that; sure I came to see where food comes from, but the honest truth is that how we grow food at Pepperfield is not really the way. We have simplified processes and sacrificed time to create something that transcends conventional agriculture. But we too make sacrifices and compromises, although very different.

Farming in the time of the settlers involved many more hands. Each tasked with completing a fragment of the puzzle to create a larger, beautiful picture. Horse and plows tore through the Earth to loosen the soil before manure – collected from the farm itself – was placed on the land by hand. It was then turned into the soil with a spading fork by a person. Rows were furrowed and trenches were dug with hand tools, not machinery, before seeds were sown piece by piece with delicate care. The ground was moved over the seeds to give them a new home and a potential for life. Water used for irrigation was pumped from wells by cranks that required a human’s touch. Once everything was in place the same eyes and hands watched and waited vigilantly to combat both weeds and pests. No Round-Up, no electric fencing, just dedication and a desire to survive.

At Pepperfield we form a team, albeit smaller than our pioneering counterparts, to reach the same goals. Our horse – aptly named Troybuilt – is a bright red roto-tiller that turns the task of preparing ground from a day’s work to a few short hours. Our three goats and dozen chickens produce our manure for compost and fertilization but we still haul in more from a neighboring farm. Again our red horse turns this “black gold” back into the Earth where it sits as a vein of nitrogen and other essential nutrients. With shocking authenticity to the settlers, we still furrow our rows with hoes and dig seed trenches by hand. We walk the rows hand sowing seeds with the same delicate care that these heirlooms received so many years ago. The trenches are filled and seeds are covered in the same manner before being watered. This time though, our electric pump draws the water from the well through hundreds of feet of hoses strung across the garden. Electric fences are set, organic pesticides of various powdered plant matter are dusted on crops and we too watch almost as diligently as our colonial counterparts for the first sign of life, weeds or seedlings; each strip is carefully purged of weeds as they surface by hand or hoe.

The modern systems eliminate the need for many children or a team of farmers. Tractors pulling massive disks can loosen acres of soil in mere minutes. Petro-fertilizers are spread far over the required amounts as yield insurance; a faster, simpler and cheaper process that allows the step turning fertilizer into the Earth to be skipped entirely. Seeding apparatuses are dragged behind the same tractors planting hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds in a single pass, no furrowing required. Irrigation is made simpler by rolling sprinklers that create a cascade of water down onto these seeds. As they spring to life, petro-chemicals are sprayed – although not always if the GMO seeds have genes that repel potential pests – and weeding is managed much to the same effect.

Over the last 8 weeks, I have grown, just like the plants, at Pepperfield. My understanding of agricultural systems increases each day and I am beginning to identify the various input substitutions that are made on many different levels. Each day brings new surprises and thoughts to contemplate. The environment promotes this physical and mental expansion and offers living examples of natural processes. At Pepperfield we practice food production as close to its original roots as possible, still considering needs to maintain an efficient but low impact system. I believe that it is one of the reasons I enjoy Pepperfield so much. It isn’t preaching or practicing unrealistic methods to achieve a goal. But rather managing tools and techniques to create a wholesome product. These practices promote a key element for a prosperous future, in farming or life: Learn the complexity of a system and manage and manipulate it with compromises and sacrifice to reach a personally satisfying result.

Never Give Up, Just Try: Planting the Future through Perseverance

The simplest, maybe easiest, approach to dealing with anything is to not try. Surrendering is appealing to some because it requires no further effort. This can be compounded if the fight or battle against or with someone or something repeatedly ends up unsuccessful. Striving to actually “do”, whether it be in life, work or any other capacity, requires an investment. It might be financial, but more often it is time or energy oriented. One of the most strenuous elements of combating an issue or goal is to maintain a path of advancement. Simply, to try. I have always revelled in the feats of humanity. Each time I witness something amazing – cars in space or an egg cooked, then reverted back to its raw state – my belief to “Do my absolute best even when facing adversity because I can do anything as long as I try”, becomes even stronger. Humans have the ability to do anything. But that’s not to say there aren’t physical and mental limitations.

About a week ago I witnessed one of the best living examples of trying, more aptly called perseverance. It was a warm afternoon and David and I went to the upper vineyard. Our plan was to plant some new vines to replace others lost to winter kill. I watched as David meticulously planted the new Blue Bell grapes for future harvests. As he completed the series of plantings I asked him a few questions. “How much will these vines grow? Will they double in size?” Looking at these skimpy twigs I was curious how they could ever turn into the massive vines that dominated over two-thirds of the vineyard. David told me that if we had proper growing conditions they had the potential to double, possibly even grow more than that. As I gazed across the vineyard another spark of curiosity ignited within. “How old are these vines up here”, I asked, observing some of the behemoths with trunks thick as my wrist. David pondered for a second and I interjected, “Are they as old as the vineyard?” He quickly replied, “yes”, and followed it up with an explanation. He told me that he put this upper vineyard in about five years ago. Without any inquisition, he also added “These guys” – the vines we just planted – “will take about that much time before they set good fruit”
This is where my amazement peaked. David is 76 and yet he’s still planting vines. He’s looking to the future with optimism that he will still be around to care for them – although I’m sure he will be – and with hopes to enjoy the fruits of his labor. I’d like to talk about David. Author of several books, entomologist, and photographer, although he claims these are just hobbies, teacher, naturalist and farmer, he has lived his life in a similar fashion for its entirety. Even at 76 this season he planned – without any real knowledge of my participation on the farm – to manage his own life and land, the gardens of two of his neighbors, an edible landscape at the local hospital, oversight of a bed and breakfast, with efforts predominantly spearheaded by Ellis, countless donations to local non-profit organizations, and teaching people about growing in body, mind, and spirit. This testament alone demonstrates his drive to persevere: to never give up. But he isn’t a god, just a man. He has made countless sacrifices, which I applaud and respect, to achieve these feats; each carefully calculated to maximize his success and efficiency.

It would have been significantly easier for him to decline these supplemental garden projects; he could have taken a year off with the hospital landscape; hell, he even could’ve just brought me out here as a body for work and kept his philosophies and teachings to himself. (I’m extremely grateful he didn’t) He could’ve forsaken the grape vines and the vineyard and chalked it up as a loss. But that’s not David. Instead he is going “full boar” – one of his favorite euphemisms – looking beyond his daily tasks and comfort to plan for and plant his future.

Pepperfield – but moreso the man behind it – has taught me something everyday, ranging from farming to philosophy. It has given me the chance to be introspective and determine how I plan to live my future. One of the biggest components here at Pepperfield is the work. Laboring for countless hours, hauling pounds of manure and expelling gallons of sweat for a fabulous finished product. A living example planting the future through perseverance. David understands this so well because he has lived it for his entire life. He has seen the conversion of raw physical energy and mental determination transform into a beautiful bounty. David knows how much easier it would be to call it quits and lead a different life. The most intriguing point is that he doesn’t want to. The best part of this lesson is understanding it physically as well as mentally. I have only gotten a taste of David’s teachings and the work involved but each day as I grow, just like the vines we planted, I continue to experience what is like to try. Life isn’t easy, if it was it would be boring. Hard work, determination and perseverance are only a few of the keys to success. The biggest proponent is you! Next time you want to quit or surrender, don’t. Just try, strive to achieve more, plant those grape vines: plant your future.

Stress vs Pressure

Merriam Webster defines these as:

Stress: n. A physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes inner strife, unrest or imbalance
Pressure: n. The constraint of circumstance; the burden (or oppression) of physical or mental distress
I believe these two words have always seemed synonymous. So much so that I used them interchangeably. As an individual immersed in the culinary industry for nearly a third of my life I can attest to an environment laden with both. But it is crucial to note that, while similar, these terms are different. Stress derives from the unknown or uncontrolled, exterior factors, although not exclusively, whereas pressure is the application of these factors, that can occasionally create stress.

The expectation to complete a task quickly, safely and comprehensively is a mainstay. “Sense of urgency”, as it is more often referred, is a characteristic demanded from anyone in the food industry. This creates situations or tasks where any participant will feel pressure. But when verbal abuse or physical provocation are applied as a motivator or disciplinary action, the same participant will feel stress.

One of the greatest satisfactions for any chef is executing a service with no mistakes But, just like pitching a no-hitter, the level of synergy and teamwork must be superb. Chefs who have experienced and executed such a night knows the feeling. Metal is clanking, burners roar; in some kitchens the communication between stations can be almost deafening, while in silent kitchens, the work and focus creates its own noise. The pressure to execute a perfect night is perceived by all participants. To some its anxiety, others adrenaline, but at the core each person is striving to achieve the same goal. Inevitably there will be mistakes and its how they are handled that really matters. A plate comes back, the steak is undercooked: the pressure is felt by that section to, with a sense of urgency, produce the same another dish to correct the issue. But when the section is hounded for the steak by anyone – who more than definitely understands the reality of cooking food and its time constraints – the pressure dissipates and is replaced by stress.

It’s seldom that anyone pushes as hard as possible. Some strive to do their best but when the pressures on, even their best can be outclassed. It’s one thing to, through various practices, push someone to give more. It is something else entirely to attempt the reach the same conclusion by creating stress. I previously believed that I enjoyed stress; the butterflies in the stomach, mind accelerating to its terminal velocity of processing, and heartbeat racing, sometimes far above healthy levels. But after much consideration I realized i was wrong. I really enjoy those sensations but they really are derivatives of pressure. I don’t enjoy frustration or anger, spite, contempt, toxicity, and pettiness: all components of stress.

These observations aren’t only relevant to the food industry; I have concluded they apply, more generally, to life. Next time you encounter a situation that makes you feel pressured, persevere. But recognize when pressure – and that fine line quickly fades – becomes stress. I believe pressure really comes from within and stress comes from external factors. Pressure can be used as a tool or motivator, but stress is nothing more than a distraction – a distinction that I have failed to make for a large part of my life, but now recognize and won’t forget.

My Chicken

This post may have disturbing content to some.
The night’s sleep was interesting. I had about three separate episodes of dreams where I was late to get up. One of them I found myself back in Rhode Island and after glancing at the time I knew I wouldn’t make it back to the farm. David had expressed that he wanted me ready by 8.00am. We had a busy day but our first farm chore was lengthy. Before feeding the chickens and checking for eggs we needed to grab a rooster.

I held the old wooden door as David slipped in and plucked the white bodied rooster from the mass of birds. Disapproving squawks resonated through the valley. David eased the door open, rooster tucked snugly under his arm, and walked across the pen. The cool morning breeze rushed through the valley catching the budding walnuts and burr oaks creating a whooshing that resembled the ocean. Was I still dreaming, back in Rhode Island? David inverted the bird, to much of his disapproval, and placed him snugly in a metal funnel shaped apparatus. He turned toward me and held out the worn wooden handle of a knife, one that his father had used in his lifetime. With a quick gesture towards the bird he told me, “You’re up.” David grasped the bird’s temples and exposed it neck so I could get a good view.

The rooster was calm, as calm as any inverted bird with its head sticking out of a metal cone could be. The breeze pushed the earthy aroma of manure into my nostrils and the valley – song birds still asleep – was almost silent. I’ve never seen fear in an animal, but I am confident that the rooster wasn’t scared. David drew and invisible line with his finger to show me where to make my cut. With him holding the birds head still I made a swift cut deep enough to severe the artery. The exsanguination took no more than a minute, the crimson blood flowing steadily out of the bird’s body. After the flow decreased to a slow dribble the body seemingly came back to life. David had forewarned me about this; it wasn’t the animal struggling to live, rather the cells, starved for oxygen, going into shock. As the bird went through its final throes, I turned away.

Once all the life had drained from the rooster we took it inside. David had put a pot of water on the stove, now at a rolling boil. He plunged the bird into the pot for about 60 seconds and removed the bird handing it to me. After a quick demo, I plucked the bird, removed the feet, and, with David’s help, eviscerated it. Once extracted, I placed the warm offals in a small dish to be used later. I asked David how I should process the meat and he gave me a fabulous answer, “It’s your chicken, you do whatever you want.” He was right, it was my chicken. I quickly butchered the bird just to separate the parts to make them cook faster. After a quick sear, I dropped the meat into the soup and let it simmer for a few hours. I used the bones for stock. The offals – liver, heart, gizzard and testicles, which I found to be delicious- and meat in the soup. The remaining pieces of meat clinging to the bones were cleaned and I gave them back to David for his dogs. All told not a single part of the bird went to waste.

We dined the following night on my chicken and it was amazing. The rooster had such a strong ‘chickeny’ flavor, that when I mentioned it to David he jested, “It almost tastes like rabbit.” He wasn’t wrong. I have never been able to make a dish from an animal I knew; something I processed from the beginning to end. As a chef it was one of the finest experiences I could have asked for. As we enjoyed the meal I fully understood what David meant: “It’s your chicken.” I certainly felt like it was.  If anything my dreams that night may have been an indication of my apprehension. I had asked David, when he first told me the plan to slaughter a rooster, that I wanted to participate. I wanted to understand a process of the food system that happens hundreds of miles away from any kitchen. From start to finish I felt a myriad of emotions. I was nervous that I wouldn’t deliver a swift death; anxious about the killing itself; remorseful that I was taking life; but most of all humbled to be able to witness and participate processing a chicken from start to finish in a humane, responsible and respectful manner.  But not just any chicken: my chicken.

The Purpose: Why I Came to Pepperfield Farm

This notion, titled above, began and evolved before my arrival at Pepperfield.  From its inception this trip was intended to expand my knowledge of food. I desired to learn how many of the products I use on a regular basis are created. I had interests in acquiring some of this knowledge for both future applications and to begin to further develop my respect for food. One of my goals was to participate in all the steps – intensive labor and intimate care – required to propagate plants, specifically fruits and vegetables, and animals. Being in the industry for the last seven years I believe that I began to lose sight of some of this. It’s easy to become disconnected from food when its acquisition is boiled down to a basic interaction; rather than going to a store or market to look at products, I would just pick up the phone and place an order to one of the purveyors. I wanted to correct my mindset: food doesn’t just come off the shelf or off a truck. This trip was also to act as my sabbatical. I noticed, unfortunately later than desired, that my environment – high stress and pressure – was beginning to transform me into someone else. For better and worse I developed and grew, learning a lot about myself and the world around me, at the expense of my happiness and that of my co-workers and acquaintances.

As I took the 1600-mile drive across the nation my brain began the transition. A combination of reading and thinking helped me realize that I wanted to make changes in my operation as a chef, but as an individual too. Subconsciously, this was where the refining of my food philosophy commenced. These thoughts perpetuated even further during my brief stay at my uncles for Easter. I prepared the evening’s meal and shared my methods and thought processes with anyone interested. But it wasn’t until the actual meal that I began to observe the potential growth I could achieve. Sitting among a lawyer, theoretical physicists, writers, a naturalist, and a clergyman, all new acquaintances, the evening unfolded into discussions about food, politics, religion and philosophy. I remember saying to my uncle, “I don’t think I ever have participated in conversations stimulating as those.” I realized I was in an intelligent environment where I could learn about topics and ideas about food and life that never had occurred to me.

But that wasn’t the end. The next day I drove out to Pepperfield and began to settle in. I was given a warm greeting, with some delicious snacks, by David. We proceeded to talk for the rest of the day about my history and what I hoped to achieve while here. I told David my goals – same as detailed above – and left it open ended by stating, “I don’t know what else I want to learn, I’m here to take it all in.”  The week that followed was where my ideas about my future, both at Pepperfield and in life, were rocked to their core. David asked me brilliant thought provoking questions that caused me to delve deeper into my conscious than I have previously. He has made me question my beliefs, the natural – and unnatural – universe, my predispositions, strengths and flaws, and my capacity in the food and hospitality industry. My understanding of what I hoped to learn began to broaden and my mind has never been more open.

I expect my purpose for coming to Pepperfield will continue to evolve, like it already has. I am excited to learn about the intricacies of food through direct participation and learning to develop a legitimate understanding and respect for everything that is responsible for the creation of food. I’m thrilled to begin the process of defining who I am and identifying who I hope to become. And anxious with anticipation to see what my future holds. I have felt more relaxed, grounded, open and happy then I ever have. I have concluded that my only real purpose is to – as the Pepperfield mission states – grow my body, mind and spirit.

My Quest to Slow Down (and Ultimately Calm Down)

Intense.  Wound-up.  Excited.  These are just a few of the adjectives used to describe my personality.  In the kitchen these traits manifest themselves in different ways.  Almost acting like the flour in the dough that is, what I recognize, as the chef attitude or mentality.  But in the “real world” for lack of a better term, this perpetual state of being “amped” can be quite a hindrance.  It lends others to believe that I’m angry or upset, when in reality, I’m focused or serious.  Where it really causes my issues is in calm social interactions.  Let me give you some insight into my perspective of what happens when I get excited talking to anyone.

My pulse starts to increase, and my adrenaline levels climb.  My forehead gets almost electrified as my mind starts to race searching for details, facts and stories relevant on even fringe levels.  My vocal volume drastically increases while the pace with which I launch words, at whoever has the fortune (or misfortune) of being in my line of fire, climbs proportionally.  At this point, which may have only elapsed 60 seconds, I’m “In the shit”.  I begin to interrupt my own thoughts and sentences creating a jumble of almost unintelligible words tossed together like a pot of stew.  The final product or thought might be amazing, but the preceding dialogue can be confusing and sometimes intimidating.  Somewhere along this ascent, my emotions become quite overturned, and this is sometimes a contrast to my resting demeanor.  Normally when I get excited this is fine.  In fact, it helps further involve the participants of the conversation.  But, I’m sure to some extent gives them some uneasiness as well; there are times when all of this becomes quite overwhelming to all parties involved.

The magnitude of these traits is amplified when I get frustrated.  Take what has just been detailed and tune it up further by 50%.  I begin to obsess, usually over the insignificant, I stop listening both physically and emotionally and as a result, my judgement lessens.  I tend to become impulsive, or as I have been told, explosive.  By the end, my frustration has usually evolved into full blown anger.
I am embarrassed, but grateful, to say that it has taken me nearly a decade to identify this.  Partially because of my own ignorance, but I believe because it has been comfortable.  “Comfortable” is an interesting word choice because it is by no means comfortable for myself, and I’m certain anyone who gets involved.  I mean comfortable in the sense that it has been my mode of operation for quite some time.

As I have mentioned Pepperfield and David promote the idea of growth of body, mind and spirit.  I personally refuse to allow my time spent here to be wasted because of my known, and unknown, limitations.  David has observed, as have I in the past, that this erratic behavior and attitude that I demonstrate on a nearly daily basis never occurs when I cook.  I have said frequently that cooking and food provides me with a rush incomparable to that of anything else.  It is something where I can transcend beyond my faults and channel this state of mind into something spectacular.  In fact, it is one of the areas where external pressure doesn’t matter.  I am proud to be able to field problems and conflicts on the fly when I’m cooking, especially during a busy shift of service.

Using all this information I have begun creating a plan to, as the aptly named title implies, slow down and calm down.  David has recommended a few things.  First, that I slow down my speech, something that is naturally quick and further exacerbated when I get excited.  By constantly thinking about this I can use it to remind myself to remain calm.  Next, is to recognize my triggers.  I can use them to warn myself that I will be interacting with something that has the potential to make me excited.  This can additionally help as a preemptive measure to avoid becoming excited in the first place.  This is probably the most crucial piece of advice because I have identified that I struggle to observe my responses as they build.  It’s only after I have plateaued with excitement or anger that I realize what has happened.  One of my personal goals is to remain constantly aware of how I feel and sound to gauge and manage my overall intensity.  The final point seems like the most difficult to employ: Let time take its course.  Think about a watch.  The spring starts off wound extremely tight, but as time flows the, tension lessens until it is relaxed.

In some of our “Wine Time” discussions, David has mentioned how young people lack patience.  Living in an age where I can research the scientific name of asparagus, play –  in my case mock –  the latest video of our “President” delivering a speech and simultaneously download the latest app, I have noticed patience and the respect for time have been thrown to the wayside.  I, alongside my generation, live in the perfect storm of variables that breeds impatient, instant gratification seeking, entitled individuals.  My excitement or intensity is exacerbated even more by being in an industry that is notorious for being stressful.  But, I am no longer making excuses because I want to actively change this part of myself.  My intent over the next year is to: maintain my level of intensity but manage it so it is both appropriate and beneficial; enjoy life at an appropriate pace; consciously unwind so I can further appreciate and create a future that doesn’t move at the speed of light.

Cellular Enhancement – The Wim Hof Method

Feel free to enjoy this article at your own discretion but I recommend reading before you click some of the provided links.

Imagine living with superpowers: increased healing capability, heightened immune system, muscles that don’t fatigue as easily and immunity to cold.  Would you believe me If I told you this is all possible?  Months ago, I was made keen, Through this video, about a system designed to enhance my body.  No experimental injections, special pills or genetic predisposition required.  Instead, strong mental focus, breathing exercises and…well I can’t reveal all the secret quite yet.

You may have heard about Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman.  He holds several world records such as marathons in the arctic as well as scaling Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and boots.  I’d like to stress that he isn’t some freak or statistical outlier, just a man with great dedication and resolve.  He has created this method, as its name suggests, and now teaches his method to anyone who is interested so they to can push themselves to be the best they can.

I have had this program earmarked since my initial viewing and have been planning to start this regimen when I came out here to Pepperfield.  (You will get sick of hearing this, but remember growth of body, mind and spirit.)  I am pleased to say after nearly two weeks I’m already seeing results.  The best way to describe this process, as well as how it works, is first through detailing the method.  I start each morning by sitting up in bed.  This is important because I made the mistake of waking up the first few days and starting while still lying down and I frequently found myself dozing off.  By sitting up just for a few seconds I was able to set my intent, which I later discovered is crucial.  Next, I begin by deeply inhaling and exhaling.  Not so fast as to hyperventilate but quicker then normal breathing pace.  I do a set of 40 of these deep breaths.  After this first set my face feels somewhat tingly, my arms and hands feel slightly buzzed and sometimes my hand will clench.  This is all okay.  After my breathing set, I exhale all the air in my lungs and hold my breath.  At the start I was able to last for about 15 seconds, but just the other day I managed to make it to nearly two and half minutes.  For some perspective, try just exhaling fully and holding.  When I reach this point it feels almost as if I’m floating.  After I have held my lungs empty for as long as I comfortably can, I take a deep inhale and hold that for at least 15 seconds.  The inhale period can last longer but I have found that 15 to 20 seconds is optimal.  I then repeat this process two more time for a total of three complete sets of breathing.  I then move on to the next phase.   On the held inhale I complete as many pushups as I can.  I can usually muster about 25, I’d say more so because my upper body strength is lacking.  Some days I will also add on some crunches.  After this I continue by stretching my body starting with a butterfly stretch and toe touches.  I then move up my body to my waste and back doing a variety of contortions and poses to help limber up and finish by stretching my farms, shoulders and wrists.  Most days I repeat this set again, mostly to continue to develop some more strength and flexibility but also to start perspiring.  The last part is – still, even after nearly 2 weeks – the worst: a cold shower.  Not a tepid or lukewarm rinse, only cold water.

Alright yes, I might be, slightly, crazy.  Who would subject themselves to this kind of torture, especially right at the crack of dawn?  Believe it or not, many people, including the ice man as well as myself.  It will make more sense though if I explain why.  Think back to the start, deep breaths.  By inhaling and exhaling deeply I am pumping my blood full of oxygen and expelling massive amounts of carbon dioxide.  This alone has to the potential to bring the blood pH from an average of 7.4 all the way up to 7.75, with some people even achieving an 8.  All this oxygen does a few things.  Because the cells are flush with oxygen they don’t require other methods of respiration.  These other methods produce lactic acid and will usually make the blood more acidic.  Also, the internal sensors that detect acidity within the body stop functioning.  This blocks the nociceptive pain inducing receptors, making the perception of pain lessened.  After all this, upon the holding of the breath on the exhale, the adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body spike – this is why I feel like I’m floating – and the autonomic nervous system, being influenced by all these factors, stops producing inflammatory proteins.  This reduction of proteins also is caused by a suppression of production that’s normally caused by white blood cells.  Upon moving to the next phase all this oxygen has provided the cells with massive amounts of energy – making cell division and healing easier for the body – and as a result both the pushups are easier.  Stretches are now quite easy as well thanks to the alkalinity of the blood.  The final phase, the cold shower is where the magic happens.  Epinephrine levels rise and help suppress the immune system.  This stress causes the production of more white blood cells and in turn helps strengthen the immune system.  Additionally, both the body and mind become quite invigorated (who wouldn’t when being doused with cold water?)  Homeostasis kicks in to try to correct this temperature imbalance and in doing so begins to target brown fat.  This is energy rich fat used by the body solely for producing heat and energy.  The cardiovascular system also ramps up to warm the body.  This rapid increase of heart rate helps to strengthen the entire cardiovascular system.  Lastly, cellular metabolization goes through the roof and more oxygen start to be consumed and eventually the shower doesn’t even feel cold.

Why?  I wake up each day with tasks designed to push me, to make me better.  And, while the effects of the Wim Hof method are clearly more physical it further helps me exercise my mind.  I commence my day with the satisfaction of completing something that is difficult.  If not anything else, it helps serve as a daily reminder to push myself to be all I can.  Life, and my morning routine, aren’t necessarily easy and the slow but steady results have helped me understand that things take time.  But by investing the effort anyone can develop these “superpowers” and even greatness.

[If you are interested in beginning this program please do some of your own research as well.  Doing these exercises have the potential to be dangerous if not done properly.  But, don’t be intimidated, it is well worth the sacrifice]

At least the consomme’ was clear…

Today was the worst day I have had at the school.  My team and I earned a 50% for our daily grade meaning that we failed the day.  Now I want to preface this by saying that we are a team of three.  Now I am don’t want to seem like I am making excuses but it seems difficult to work with such a small team.   Chef said that during extern we would be working one station making double the prep.  So I guess I just have to get used to it.

The day started of alright.  We got into class and I had the consomme on around 8.00 am.  After completing that I jumped on some of the various prep work we had to complete for that day.  About 30 minutes before final inspection, this is where chef comes around and checks our prep work to make sure we are all set for service, shit hit the fan.  Sorry for the foul language, but that is the best way to describe this next series of events.

I had to finish cleaning the stock kettle because our team was assigned to make stock for the day.  As I was wrapping up my team had someone else jump on the kettle so that I could finish our prep. We had decided on vegetarian chili with cornbread for the day.  I began to make cornbread but shortly after measuring out the cornmeal chef came by and told me that it was to coarse and that it wouldn’t properly cook.  This was only a minor setback, so instead of cornbread I decided on making polenta.  Within minutes of me informing my team of the change I discovered that our chili, the body of our dish, had been scorched because someone had turned up our burner.  Chances are it was a mistake and we should have been watching it, but it still was frustrating.  So as it stands, no cornbread and now no veg entree.  In the midst of this confusion Laura remembered that we had not made our consomme garnish.  We were already 5 minutes late and had little to no prep work done.  The last few hours of work had been for nothing.

It gets better.  We knew we had lost all of our prep points for the day so we decided to be creative and use the polenta as our vegetarian option.  We spiced it up with cheese to give it a creamier and richer flavor and then we decided, after what seemed like and eternity that we would top it with tomato ragu and fried shallots.  “We played chopped in the kitchen…” This was Laura’s evaluation of our days performance and she couldn’t have been more spot on.  We made our entire dish from miscellaneous items we found in the kitchen.

We were nearing family meal and we still weren’t ready.  Service was going to be starting in 45 minutes.  Chef came by our station and told us that we needed a side for the poleta as well.  At this point we really had no more ideas, we used carrots that we cut and blanched.  As we presented our demo plate chef made a comment about how we needed something else.  He told us to make small garlic crostinis.  We were about 10 minutes out from service before we started these.  We cut french bread, made a garlic butter compound and then spread it and toasted them.  If only to make matters worse the first batch burned.  We had no more bread in teh kitchen so I had to run up to Bakeshop 1.  The chef was kind enough to give me a baguette to use for service.  About 5 minutes before service we were just getting the second batch in only to find out that they burned within seconds of being placed under the salamander.  Poor procedure but it was the best we could do with our time constraints.  Service itself went smoothly but our prep left about 2,000,000 things to be desired.

In the end what did we do.  We had a decent consomme and a “F” for the day.  The real reason why I think I am writing about this is not to vent and beat myself up.  But rather show that our team had commitment and perseverance.  After failing the day, we could of just left.  Leaving the kitchen short on hands and one less menu option.  I know that my group had the same though as we were stumbling to get ready for service.  In our chaos, I ran to Chef Riley’s room to see if he had extra baguettes.  As soon as he saw me he knew.  “What do you need Nathan?”  I explained that we were in the weeds and he said just a few words, “Keep going.”

I think that we resolved our issues and tomorrow we plan to have a much better day.  The first and second day of A La Carte actually went well.  Our timing was a little off but it wasn’t nearly as bad as today.  I will keep everyone posted.


A champion can win on anyone’s grass. (Chef Reilly Analysis)

This is a quote I frequently heard from Chef Reilly.  He made sure to push everyone in class everyday.  From the start of day one until now, my second to last day of Modern Banquets, I have enjoyed every second of class.

Day one I was greeted by a drill sergeant.   A baritone voiced chef who shouted simple commands and watched us scurry around the kitchen.

-Nathan Buckley

He led with very few words and refused to answer any of our simple questions.  “Chef, where is the cilantro?” , a student would ask, “I don’t know.” , chef would respond.

Chef Reilly started as tough chef but as our class began to work, it seemed that he started to loosen up.  It started with a joke here and there, and after the first week, I think chef knew what our class was really about.  Nearly 3 days into class chef called my team over.  “Alright folks, you are going to be having a potato peeling contest.  There can only be one winner.”  We went through the motions and after a few rounds he said, “Alright, Liz, step forward.  Everyone walk to the left one station and setup. ”  This was were I first heard those words. “I have seen you work with your tools, but a true champion can win on anyone’s grass.”  What chef had done was have us jump over one station and he had us using our neighbors peeler.  The contest went on and Liz was crowned as champion.  I had only acquired one win and I was placed in the final round where I had a DQ.  Chef really showed us who we was and how much he liked teaching.

About half way into the block chef dropped a huge class compliment.  We were sitting down for lecture and he said “You guys really know your stuff, you make me happy to teach again.”  The fact that chef had bestowed this compliment meant so much more then the words.  He had said that our class was one of the best he’s taught in some time.

Chef treated us like young chefs.  We were not afforded the convenience of pity nor help.  We were trained to work on our own and Chef made sure that we stayed on that course.  He made nothing easy and would bluntly let you know if you had failed.  He did not mask how he felt about the work we did.  He watched us cook with great pride.

I was pleasantly surprised in class today when chef took about 5 minutes to speak to me privately.  It wasn’t like my class couldn’t hear us but as I emptied a 2.5 gallon jug of oil into the fry-o-later we had a brief chat.  “So why do you want to be a cook?”  Chef asked me.  My reply was simple “I want to be a food critic, but I want to get as much experience as possible.”  Chef looked at me for only a second.  “You know whats good?”  He paused waiting for any response, but before I could get anything out he said “Many people who like food and think they can write become food critics.  It nice to see that someone who knows how to cook and wants to learn how to become better actually want to write. You seem to know what you’re doing.”  I was very pleased but I knew that I wanted to get any information I could.  “Do you have any tips,”  I asked.  His repose will forever be helpful, “Well you have to think of how to springboard, you know, where will this job help me get to in 10 years, 5 years.” He paused and then continued “You have to think about how to get their yourself.”  He went on to tell me how I needed to make an initiative to develop a network.  I had to be the one that went and met other food writers and learn how they got to where they were.  He even made the suggestion that while in Ireland, which I will discuss in a later post, that I try to find someone there who I can talk to.

Chef gave me a wealth of information because he knew that I could use it.  I really enjoyed modern banquets, even though I was often told to smile.  Chef taught me how to think on my own and really pointed me towards the first point in my career.

Thanks Chef,

Nathan J. Buckley

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