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Now, if there ever was a rant page, this may very well be it, eventually.
I've been a home chef for many years. Inspired by any idea I can get my
hands on, food just flows out of my hands. Between burns and scalds, I
occasionally come up with some interesting stuff. I started cooking a bit later
than Joseph, around the age of 15. I was pretty good with a wok in those days,
and would make Chinese food for my parents. Somehow, my sister was never around
for it. One day, maybe I'll relate the infamous "Welcome home, I made a cake for
you while you were gone, and here's the remaining slice" story.
My training is pretty informal, if anyone is really interested: learning to
make apple strudel on my bubby's knee; trying to eek out techniques from my mom,
who, by the way, may be the best Jewish cook on the planet; attempting to steal
my dad's kosher pickling technique, let me tell you that this is hard, because
he sneaks in a few tricks when no one is looking; taking over a sushi kitchen in a
restaurant of a friend of ours in Houston for recipe development; and
studying briefly in France. Mostly it's been trial by fire.
The biggest challenge I've had
is coming up with recipes that the whole family will eat, and still not be
boring. Heck's Kitchen actually started years ago when I cried out, after having
to make four separate meals for four people, "What is this place, a restaurant?
I'm in Hell! No, I'm in Heck!" I decided at that point that if I had to make
dinner, I would do only one menu. If the kids wanted to help, well, that would
be different, and we could get elaborate.
But let's be serious. I do know my limitations and I'm certainly not on the
calibre of a top-tier restaurant chef. Those chefs have my deepest respect. My
day job, which I've been told I shouldn't give up, is as an indestructible
computing consultant. That's where I think I'm needed, so that's where I'm
staying, until someone says otherwise. Of course, a Heck's Kitchen bed and
breakfast is not out of the question some day.
- November 29th, 2008
- I did my first attempt at an urbanite kālua recipe
last night. I'd have to rate it about a 5 on the
yummy scale, but only about 3 on the
got-it-right scale. Some things are
just not safe, though. And probably not sacred either. I've managed to
recreate a pretty decent Salmon Ceveche, which is a common dish at luaus in
Hawai'i. Recreate may not be the right word, because I use equal parts
salmon to the other stuff, which appears to be a close relative of the
Bruschetta, while the luaus use what can only be considered essence of
salmon. Apparently, my Tuna Ceveche was pretty good, but more than that, the
Sansei Snow Crab Ramen has been very closely reproduced. I've cut down the
richness somewhat, but the dashi I use (mostly fish bits that are around +
wakame + bonito + shrimp shells + dried anchovies), is close enough to
theirs that my family was pretty impressed.
- November 25th, 2008
- We got to experience some of Hawaii's best this month, with a visit to
Oahu and The Big Island. This included some very interesting Local Food
including: kālua, laulau, oxtail soup, manapua, and malasadas. Already in
the works is a Heck's Kitchen Hawaiian dinner, where I'm going to try to
adapt our local ingredients and techniques to produce as close to authentic
as I can get. I've managed to borrow some recipes from local restaurants,
including a delicious snow crab ramen, which is now motivating me to
resurrect my efforts to make pulled noodles. After all, if you're doing for
authentic Local Food, don't waste it on the mass-produced haolified stuff.
From what we tasted, Local Food is a fusion of many cultures and a practical
simplicity of preparation steeped in over a thousand years of history.
- A big Mahalo! to Matthew and Keira of
Hawaii Food Tours.
If you're going to Hawaii, go early in your trip, not at the end. They're a
well-spring of information and loads of fun.
- May 3rd, 2008
- Today was Heck's First Birthday Party. We had friends over, and made
quite the dinner. More to come later, but special birthday wishes to Joseph
and our friend Krystal.
- August 4th, 2007
- I've been out of the commission for a while having my wisdom teeth out.
It hasn't stopped me from playing with foams and ice creams, though. We
promoted Kris to Sous Chef today, about time, if you ask me. Now I can relax
- after the Beef Wellington tonight.
- July 12th, 2007
- Guess what taste combination made the top-ten for the year?
Maple/Wasabi! Amazing. I've been doing it for years, and Toronto finally
caught up. Actually, it made me feel like I was on the right track. The
Molecular Gastronomy experiments are coming along nicely. I think I'm going
to stick with a nice old-fashioned gelatine and agar for foams for the time
being. I need a pure supply of lecithin, rather than soy lecithin. The
latter is not flavour neutral, or perhaps it's just not scent neutral,
despite the some literature to the contrary. The strawberry foam was pretty
nice. I'm working on pineapple foam.
- July 2nd, 2007
- Kris and I spent the weekend at The Millcroft Inn. What a truly
spectacular place! It hasn't changed much in appearance in twenty or so
years since I was last there, but the food sure has. Chef Roberto made a
remarkable meal for us, and demonstrated a bit of his experimental side on
me. Interestingly enough, his foams had the same taste as my
recent attempt. He and I
are going to have a heart to heart about suppliers. The kitties were very
good on their own, but neither of them is speaking to me right now. I made
elk on the 30th for Kris - not sure she's ready for that one.
- June 19th, 2007
- This has definitely been an experience. I didn't blog on the elk or
bison, but oh my, you're all so not getting any. I had a nice peaceful meal
of elk, with no cats around. After Kira found out, I got Heck, six
ways from Sunday. "You had elk?" could be clearly discerned from her screams
aimed directly at me.
It's also been fun watching Hell's Kitchen lately.
No comments on that on this web site. Uh uh, but you are free to read the
blogs over there. Between it, Restaurant Makeover, Top Chef, and now, Iron
Chef America, and Superstar Challenge, I'm constantly hungry. The chef I
miss most, though, is Emeril Lagasse. Of course, Paul and Julia, I truly
miss you both as well.
Heck's Garage Sale planning is well under way. We're getting rid of all the
old junk. Finally. Maybe we'll be able to move onto Heck's Basement soon. I
have such plans, including a sushi bar theme. No kidding.
- June 9th, 2007
- Brazilian food is wonderful, you know. It's too bad that there isn't
much of it available in Canada. Well, that can be fixed. We had a really
good meal tonight, with sirloin, flank steak, and chicken, with chimichurra
sauce and marinades. An amazing discovery, and apparently, I'm now
officially an "Experimental Home Chef", is the mint chimichurra sauce. It's
made like the standard, but with extra lemon to balance the sharpness of the
mint. It was a big hit, but I'm not posting this recipe. Sorry. It's
- May 21sh, 2007
- And, so what else does a chef make for himself when he's alone? Stuff
his wife won't eat.
Dijon and Cranberry Lamb! Hmmm. Now, I'm going to throw down the
gauntlet and hope that another chef will pick up the challenge to convince
me to eat at your restaurant.
- May 19th, 2007
- So the ultimate question (no, not what is 6 times 9) is: what does a
chef make for himself, when he's alone because his wife is traveling on
business? The answer? Experimental recipes, of course. That way, there's no
fear of rejection. So tonight's dinner was a first attempt at recreating an
Italian seafood soup, Zuppe de
Pesce. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to make this in a single
serving, apparently. I'm pretty stuffed. If you try the recipe, please let
me know what you think, and how I can improve it. Enjoy!
- April 22nd, 2007
- It was birthday weekend for me, and I started by playing with a few new
and old recipes. Our new stove got its official break-in test with my French
Canadian Pea Soup. It worked out truly amazingly. Kris took me to my
favourite North-Toronto restaurant, which we haven't been to in over a year,
and they treated us very well. Pasta trials are the phrase of the week. I
- April 14th, 2007
- Heck's Kitchen helped Rhys with a school project today. He wanted to do
a video about sushi, so we got the production going with miso soup, tuna
tataki - ok, not sushi, but yummy - two different maki, some awesome salmon
and hirame, and way too much food. We're trying to figure out how to put the
video on our website, but it just won't fit.
- March 25th, 2007
- We had our first guests to experience the magic of our new kitchen last
night. First, I'd like to thank my kids for being fantastic sous-chefs and
helpers last night. Everything timed perfectly and was delicious. Second,
Kris, you're the best and I love you. The work we've both put in on this has
been worth it, even through the occasional freak-outs. Third, but not least,
are our guests, who volunteered their taste-buds and blessed us with
partaking in what can only be considered a labour of love. The menu is
- March 20th, 2007
- Well, finally, we where able to do a real meal in the new Heck's
Kitchen. All the kitchen equipment works, and I've very happy about it. We
did a teppanyaki meal tonight, with all sorts of grilled meat. Here's a
picture of Joseph and the little volcano I did for show. The kitchen has
exceeded my performance expectations, and I'm pleased as heck!
- February 25th, 2007
- This is a special blog day, to explain the real reason why we're doing
this kitchen renovation and why I've had to take responsibility for becoming
the chef of this place. I had an allergic reaction to food served at a supposedly reputable restaurant today and am in a lot of pain.
It's all about managing what goes into my body and
those of my family. What gets to me more than most of you can imagine is the
pervasive lack of responsibility taken by the restaurant industry for
protecting the rights and health of their customers. Having allergies is not
pleasant for me, but I am very clear when communicating with you, restaurant
owners, managers, chefs, and servers. The fact that you either don't care, don't
know, or don't take precautions, is going to make someone very sick some day. I
can only assume from this lackadaisical attitude, that your conformance to
health regulations is equally shoddy. Frankly, people, if you ignore
someone's allergy, or serve substandard food, you are, in my opinion, guilty
of assault, and should be prosecuted. Today was the last straw, and I can
tell you that there is a Chinese restaurant in the Sheppard/Yonge corridor
in Toronto that will never, ever, see another dime of mine.
To the point, then. I cook because I don't trust you. I cook for my family
because I will not risk their health because you choose to put your profit
margins against the safety of the people who pay you high prices for you to
put our health at risk. You are a danger to everyone you serve. I know that
the reputable chefs out there are not deserving of this obvious ire on my
part, but your cohorts are ruining it for you. Take some responsibility for
stopping them before they kill someone. What happened today will cause me to
question whether I want to spend hundreds of dollars to eat at your
restaurant. And, it's mostly likely that I will choose not to. As a
customer, there is nothing I can do but express my distrust by not eating at
your restaurant. Prove to me that you are worthy of my trust, and I will
frequent your establishment. Demonstrate that you don't care about the
health of your patrons, and you will have to live with the consequences.
The reason I chose to devote so much time, study, money, and effort, to
being the best possible cook, hobby chef, whatever you want to call me, is
to be able to eat the way I want to eat, using the freshest of ingredients,
and the best techniques, without having to live in fear. I fear your
attitudes. I fear your apathy. I fear your ignorance. Now prove my fears
unfounded. I live in Heck, because of you, not because of me.
- February 2007
We're deep in the throws of renovation right now, so not much is
happening in the way of food at Heck's Kitchen. However, with the limited
setup we have in our dining room and laundry room - the make-shift kitchen -
we've pulled off a chocolate soufflé. If I can pull off a
chocolate soufflé in a toaster oven, maybe I'll get a little respect
<smile>. Here are some of the pictures of it:
|The Make-Shift Heck's Kitchen
||Beating Egg Whites on the Floor
|The Unhappy Excluded Heck's Kitty
||It actually worked!
Incredible as it may seem, we appear to be pretty close to schedule. Talk
has now begun for the opening gala. If we were in Ottawa, I think HGTV.ca
might actually have picked us up. The invitee list is growing. Now, if Chef
Gordon Ramsay would be in Toronto, I'd even let him try my Brussels Sprouts
- guess what's been requested for the menu.
- January 2007
Well, New Years came and went and the Tapas plan went wonderfully. It
was actually pretty fantastic, and we all stuffed ourselves silly. The
problem was the time it took to do everything. The whole event is on our
Tapas page. We have one more mean plan for the month, and it's a celebration
of the end of Heck's Kitchen Version 1.0. Just prior to the renovation,
we're going to do a final meal in the old kitchen.
- December 2006
It's holiday time and I'm pretty well wrapped up in the whole "Kitchen
reno" thing right now. Here's a big surprise: Did anyone think the rest of
the house was any better than the kitchen? You wouldn't believe the horror
of the 1980's wallpaper. So off with the wallpaper, and on with the custom
wainscot. This gave me the excuse to get a collection of power tools that
equips my workshop almost as well as the new kitchen will be.
Given Joseph's request for teeny stuff for New Years, I'm thinking Tapas.
We'll just have to see. Next step is to get him to research what tapas is,
and let him start planning. Watch the menu page to see whether he comes up
- October 2006
Halloween was pretty funny at Heck's Kitchen. The pumpkins came out,
and the costumes, and the spinach. My sons encouraged me to dress up as a
scary person, so donning my chef smock, and blond highlights, I transformed
into Chef Ramsay (no offence meant, Chef). I'm not sure whether the
trick-or-treaters were more scared of the outfit or the
creamed spinach I tried to serve
instead of candy. I only had one taker for the spinach, and that was a
parent. Wait until next year: Brussels Sprouts. Here's a picture, of our
place, for the festivities:
This recipe was first made on Halloween.