Genesis of the Grumpy Chef
Step aside Gordon Ramsey, your nemesis has arrived… and his vocabulary extends beyond ‘f*ck’.
I don’t quite know where it all started…my own grumpy love of food. Maybe it was the mounds and pounds of brussels sprouts I was forced to peel on Christmas at three years old. Maybe it was my first corporate kitchen experience, dissecting and quartering forty frozen, pre-roasted chickens leaving my entire torso and brand new pristine-white clogs covered in chicken fat, hen skin and soggy giblets. When I returned home after my delightful first day, my Father, who’d never so much as run a vacuum cleaner in seventeen years guarded the front door until I stripped to my boxers in the street and binned my uniform.
I remember now, it was my first ‘real’ kitchen job in a two-rosette restaurant. I was the Commis Extraordinaire, lowliest of the low; the bottom rung of the ladder, Orwell’s plongeur: a young target for every Jolly-Jack-Tar to push, pull, punch, cajole, kick, and once, even try to ram an entire Salmon up my young a— . With this, came the realisation that most, if not all, Chef’s are nasty, sarcastic, drunk, narcissists with a penchant for depravity (see: ‘Salmon’). This was the beginning of my evolutionary process; where it all began. But one incident in particular made me the crabby cuisinier I am today—when ‘The Grumpy Chef’ was born.
First, take a flavoursome Pâté de Foie Gras: finished with a vibrant caramelized red onion chutney and robust slices of airy Brioche toasted to perfection; followed by a salad of peppery Mizuna and fresh cilantro, gently dressed with extra virgin olive oil, cracked black pepper and crunchy rock salt. The result: a plated orgasm, erotically enticing any lucky recipient to dine in sublime ecstasy.
Next, add the f*ing “customer” who sent the dish back. ‘Why?’ you may ask. Why send back a wonderfully crafted plate of delightful flavour and texture that took such a great amount of time and skill to create? Answer: his girlfriend, who’d decided that right then, there, at my table six, would be the perfect time to tell him l’origine de foie gras — that a goose had its bill opened, a tube shoved down inside, and then had been force-fed until its liver was on the near point of exploding just so we could cut it out and enjoy. So what? I worked long and hard on that pate, first time on my own without one of those Chef de Partie numpties screaming in my ear and down my neck, which, I could stand—but a plate return, never!! A dish created lovingly and brought to your table at the zenith of perfection and you send it back? To that ‘person’ I say this … to this day I hold only contempt for you, and your kin — which only fuels my passion.
Today, I beg of you my delectable daikons, when ordering in a restaurant, think before you pick your courses. If in doubt, swallow your pride and ask the moron ( moron: see ‘waiter’) about the dish if you are unsure. It may save a young Commis from a life of grumpiness. And remember don’t insult your Chef, or believe me that won’t be Garlic Aioli on your Rustic Petit Pain.
So…you want a few secrets, you got ‘em. The dish above is simple. Foie Gras is damned expensive and illegal in Chicago, (yes, we have Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the economy to worry about, and they’ve banned choking geese in the home town of PresidentObama) So, if foie gras is off your budget, or you live in the Capital of Prohibition, substitute chicken liver — it’s cheap and versatile.
The pâté consists of 5 main ingredients — 1 pound of chicken livers, 6 rashers of bacon, 1 block of butter (250g), a large splash of brandy (don’t buy a massive bottle, the small ‘one shot’ bottle will do) and a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly.
Hold the brandy to one side and put the other 4 ingredients in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, splash the Brandy. When it begins to bubble, place a naked flame onto the mix to ignite it and stand back! I am not liable if you burn yourself; .it’s your fault — like me in my younger days! Once the inferno dies down, let it simmer until it is reduced to a thick consistency and remove from the heat. Not onto your formica surface or freshly placed oak work top, (I hate working with Commis), but onto a tea towel or pot stand if you have one.
Place the mixture into a hand blender and blitz the bejeezus out of it. After about 5 minutes you will have lovely warm hands from the motor on the hand blender going full tilt and a reasonably smooth mix. Take a sieve, place over a bowl, and pour the mix into the sieve. Push through with the back of a wooden spoon. Once all the mix is sieved (you will have a rough residue in the sieve — bin it), place in a suitable container, let stand to cool for the industry standard 1 1/2 hours and then place in the fridge for about 4 hours. Now once it has set either quenelle (if you can) or use an ice cream scoop to mould the pâté before serving…or just eat out the bowl. I know which option I prefer.
Onto the caramelised red onion chutney, which is so simple. Take 4 sliced red onions, 4 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly and enough balsamic vinegar to just cover the onions. You can add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, if you like sweet food. Place everything into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cool in a suitable container and place in the fridge.
As for the mizuna and cilantro salade, any pre-packed mixed leaf salad will do. A hint of extra virgin to dress it and finish with a good helping of salt and pepper. If you are flush and actually enjoy cooking, always have a small jar of seasoning made up: either crush black peppercorns and rock salt with a mortar and pestle or place said items in the middle of a folded tea towel and belt the crap out of them with a rolling pin.
Brioche is quite tricky to make, so just buy some. Present artistically on a nice plate and serve to your foodie friends. Most restaurants and pubs will charge about £5-6 for this, unless you put the word ‘parfait’ instead of ‘pâté’ on the menu description, then the cost goes up to £7-9. Charge them whatever you want and make a fantastic profit. And if anyone sends it back, let me know – I’ll bring the salmon.
Mason Black aka The Grumpy Chef is the Resident Chef of a kitchen near you so be warned…BE NICE! After 15 years in a trade dedicated to ruining your social life, alcoholism, drug abuse and extremely low wages, The Grumpy Chef is dedicated to revealing the trade secrets of pub and restaurant kitchens.