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Posts Tagged ‘Alma’


The Marchesi Code.

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A great deal has transpired since my last post on April 23, 2012. On May 9, after several very disappointing months I closed Calle’s Cucina. I had counted on business picking up in April and it did not. So, with great heart ache I locked the doors. I was disillusioned and a bit depressed. So, I jumped on a plane and spent so soul searching month in Sweden. Great weather and no stress was just what the doctor ordered. While in Sweden I contemplated my future and applied to a few random Craigslist ads for employment as a chef in Baltimore.

I returned on Sunday June 10th with renewed positive energy flowing in all directions. On June 11 I received a response to one of my employment applications. I had applied to a blind ad for “Executive Chef needed for upscale Italian Restaurant in Baltimore”.

Since there are many Italian restaurants in Baltimore that consider themselves “upscale” I had no idea who was needing an Executive Chef. The call came at about 1:00 pm and I said I was in the area and could come right over and the GM said sure, so 30 minutes later I am meeting with the General Manager. Another 30 minutes later we agreed that I would start the next day, Tuesday June 11th at 10:00 am. I worked 7 straight days including serving 225 + on Saturday and Sunday, Fathers day.

Needless to say I have landed firmly on my feet. I held off writing this post thinking that I might just wake up and find out it was all a dream. I have secured pretty much my perfect job. How did it happen? After a 12 hour day I go to sleep looking forward to going to work the next day. I like the people I work with and they seem to like and respect me. I wake up in the morning anxious to get to work rather than being anxious about having to go to work. A 12 hour day, which is normal, flies by.

I am teaching a crew of 10 hard working, non-complaining kitchen staff how to make a stock correctly, how to properly portion fish and how to taste each dish to make sure it is properly seasoned. All the things that are second nature to me because of what I learned in New York and Italy I am teaching others and I am getting paid for it. Wow!

Of course, it is not all easy or stress free. I am responsible for ordering thousands of dollars worth of ingredients and supplies each week. I must source and negotiate prices on seafood, produce, meat and cheese. I need to reduce food costs, reduce waste and increase productivity and profitability. I have started working on a new menu which is planned to come out in September.

I am a true Executive Chef at Della Notte, one of Baltimore’s finest Italian Restaurants. www.dellanotte.com. We seat 250. Have a piano bar and 1300 bottle wine cellar. I have 6 line cooks with 4 to 13 years of experience at Della Notte and they are good and have accepted me totally. There is no screaming or pot throwing in the kitchen ever.

Two years ago I had been in Italy for just one month. I started my journey from Lawyer to Italian Chef two and one half years ago and now I am an Italian Chef. If I am dreaming I hope I don’t wake up. Thanks to everyone who believed in me along the way. Along the way  there were times when I was sure I would succeed and other times when I was sure I wouldn’t. It was not always an easy road. Passion and courage are meaningless without determination. And passion, courage and determination sometimes fall short without a good bit of luck. But one thing I know for sure is that hard work paves the road down which good luck travels and I did work hard, very hard.

So, while this is not the end of the big journey, it seems, quite unexpectedly, and out of the ashes of a failed Calle’s Cucina, I have reached my goal of becoming a real Italian Chef at a first class restaurant. A Swedish-American, Italian Chef.

I could not have accomplished this on my own. So many people have contributed to my success that I won’t try to name them all, but you know who you are and thank you from the depth of my heart. Ciao for now!

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Raspberry Cream Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Gelato.

I am using Open Table to schedule on line reservations. Each customer who reserves on line is asked to describe their experience at

Calle’s Cucina. Some of the reviews, all unsolicited by me, are really uplifting for a chef to read.

OPEN TABLE REVIEWS.

Window at Calle's Cucina courtesy of Simon.

 

 

 

 

Ravioli with Carrot Cream

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So, posts two days in a row. A recent record. I learned today that last Thursday night a food critic from the Baltimore Sun dined at my restaurant. I remember the table as we were not that busy on Thursday so the service was excellent. I had time to give each table a couple of samples (chef’s gifts) of dishes they did not order so that could not have hurt, I think. I learned this because I was contacted by email today to schedule a photographer and for some follow up questions.

The reviewer dined on my Artichoke Scallop appetizer which is a number 10 scallop (meaning 10 to the pound) very large wild sea scallop harvested off the coast of Rhode Island I believe.  The single scallop is gently seared and served with a confit of artichoke, raisin and orange. This dish was a big hit so I am thinking this is good so far.

Next she had the Braciole which has been a big seller and one of the few dishes on the menu since the day we opened. A somewhat Italian  culinary school friend of mine known as Cip, short for Cipriano Illiano actually tried my recipe and he liked it so I think I am good on this one too. The Braciole was taken from  the oven about 30 minutes before service so it was really fresh.

She finished with the Panna Cotto topped with a hot raspberry sauce. I had made the Panna Cotta a few days earlier so it wasn’t brand new but it holds well in the fridge so I am hoping she loved it. I remember giving her a sample of my orange marmalade gelato which was really tasty.

THESE ARE MY MENUS FOR THIS WEEKEND

Dinner 2 2 12        Seafood Specials 2 2 12

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Must Have Been a Chef

So, again it has been awhile since my last post in mid December. So much has occurred it is hard to describe. I am sitting alone in my dining room working when every sane person has called it a day. No one in this business can be sane so I am in good company. Everyday is a new challenge waiting to be overcome. Or perhaps I should say every hour is a new challenge that is trying to flatten you. I know this sounds negative but it is not. I love it. My mind and body are totally occupied at all times except for the hours I am sleeping. I wake up with a jolt of energy and do not quit until every calorie has been expended. Isn’t that the way life is supposed to be lived?

A mere two years ago I was cleaning out my barn and dreaming of culinary school, New York and Italy. I set out to change my life and I think it is fair to say I have succeeded. Hardly a single aspect of my life is as it was. I have met so many amazing people. Eaten a great deal of amazing food and am still 35 lbs thinner than when I started.

I have a real restaurant in a real city where real customers come and pay to eat my food and I am in charge. Its not New York or Italy but I am here in Baltimore with a place to call my own. I have a great assistant chef, Kenny, a masters degree student at Loyola University. He has been working in kitchens longer than me. I have a couple of solid dishwashers and wait staff and my business increases each week without the help of Restaurant Week fire sale pricing or Groupon discounts. So far people recognize my food as high quality and they are willing to pay for it. My prices are not high but they are respectable by Baltimore standards.

In culinary school I talked of opening a restaurant and was met with a great deal of skepticism. After all at 52 years of age I was being trained as an entry level line cook with kids 30 years younger and all my instructors, accept one, had little faith in my abilities to open a real restaurant. None of them said it to my face but the look of skepticism, doubt and disbelief is not difficult for a seasoned trial lawyer to discern from facial expressions and lack of enthusiasm of a unwilling witness.

I have received a couple of brief congratulatory emails from a couple of my cooking school  instructors and young colleagues but for the most part this is a lonely business, a really lonely business. Competitors/colleagues in the industry  are hoping you fail and of course there is a good chance of that happening. At this point I have no choice but to succeed because I have risked everything and lost most of what I once had to pursue this dream. One thing I will say is that my journey is never boring.

The one instructor who did not look at me with doubt was Chef Bruno Ruffini. We became friends, I think, without really working at it. I was the same age as his parents and he shared my passion for food and thought I had courage to attempt what so many viewed as a ridiculous endeavor. I may yet fail but no one can say I did not give this my all.

What Chef Bruno realized, that others did not, was that I, at the not so tender age of 52 did not learn what my young colleagues learned even though we stood next to each other and watched and heard and read the same material. For better or worse we are all defined by our life experiences and the more you have the more you can observe, distinguish. compare, quantify, retain and reuse. So thank you to Chef Bruno for giving me so much. If he were to eat my food he would recognize his gifts.

One thing I could not do as well as my young colleagues was to learn Italian. Thanks to Giulia for trying so hard.

And, thanks to Francesca for being Francesca. I am not sure she saw it but I so admired her ability to remain calm in the face of such chaos and daily drama.

I have been open for 6 weeks and Saturday is my official grand opening. To date my place has been written about in the Baltimore Sun food blog, the Urbanite Magazine, on-line version, the Baltimore OutLoud, a newspaper for the gay and lesbian community and an article will soon be published in the Daily Record, the legal weekly in Baltimore. I also received a front page article in the Olean Times Herald, my former home town daily newspaper. Chef’s may claim not to care about publicity but with it we can succeed, if we are lucky and without it, regardless of our talent we are destined to fail so, yes I am sucking up to every reporter I can find.

If you are in Baltimore on Saturday February 4, 2012 please stop by from 3-5 pm. for the grand opening. I would love to see some familiar faces.

Much more to follow. The journey continues………………………………………..and where it will end I have no clue.

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Over nineteen thousand hits on this blog in a little over a year. That got me thinking about what I was doing a year ago.
This is where I was one year ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A small vineyard in Emilia-Romagna where the Trebbiano grape is converted into the the world’s finest Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio-Emilia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And after that this fellow, Renato Brancaleoni, explained to us how a very special cheese was made and aged in a hay filled hole in the ground as it has been done for hundreds of years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But we did not see the cheese hole until after we ate this:

Braised Rabbit.

CHECK OUT THIS OLD POST with video.

 

 

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Salmon Crudo with Strawberry, caper and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia.

         

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