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Posts Tagged ‘Italian Culinary Academy’


So I have retreated to my home town of Olean to mend my financial fences after three years of globe trotting, business and personal misadventures all of which is chronicled in this blog. And the best thing is I am really feeling good about it.

Kate Sager at the Olean Times Herald wrote a really nice article OLEAN TIMES HERALD ARTICLE and I have been landing several new law and mediation clients each week. All good right?

knivesTomorrow I am teaching my first culinary class at Cutco Cutlery Company. Knife skills, because they make some hot ass sharp knives and Intro to Italian Cuisine because that is what I know. And, I am actually getting paid.

I must admit that I am still more excited about Italian cuisine than legal affairs but I have to pay the bills and I get to have some fun cooking at the same time.

I hope to get some good photo’s to use in my next post.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Well readers it finally happened. I finally opened a restaurant after 2 years of career changing, mind bending, relationship destroying, life altering activities that took me from Olean NY to Hells Kitchen to Soho, to Alma, to Baltimore and finally to Calle’s Cucina in the Heart of Charles Village.

So much has occurred recently that I have to say it would take several days to write in detail about it all.

I am now the owner/chef of Calle’s Cucina at 2431-2433 St. Paul St. Baltimore Maryland.

From the time I took  possession to opening took 60 days, quite quick actually in the world of restaurant openings.

Cleaning, painting, remodeling, equipment purchases, furniture purchases, staff recruitment and hiring, menu development, HAACP plan writing, vendor research and selection, to creating the first dishes.

Calle’s Cucina is about 2000 square feet located on the first floor of two adjoining townhouses. We are BYOB and have an art gallery. We serve lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.Check out our website for all the details.

CALLESCUCINA.COM

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So much to talk about but so little time. Below is a chronology of the past two months. I will now be updating this blog frequently. Thanks for following this adventure of a lifetime.

Let me start with a chronology of the past 2 months.

October 9, 2011. Sign lease for my restaurant in Baltimore. Two empty rooms painted hideous colors.

October 15, 2011. Take possession and begin cleaning and renovations.

October 20, 2011. Meet Deon Brown who has since become my right hand.

October 24, 2011. Paint exterior.

October 27, 2011. Initial health department inspection.

October 28, 2011. Begin remedying health department identified issues.

November 1, 2011. Begin painting interior.

November 7, 2011. Begin floor cleaning.

November 9, 2011. Begin researching kitchen equipment and food vendors.

November 13, 2011. Begin purchase of kitchen equipment and furniture.

November 14, 2011. Apply for Fire Prevention Permit.

November 15, 2011. Rent U-Haul and begin picking up equipment and furniture.

November 16, 2011. Fire Prevention Permit obtained.

November 17, 2011. HAACP Plan approved.

November 18, 2011. Health department final approval. Begin work on menu and HAACP plan.

November 19, 2011. Fire Department initial inspection. Begin remedying FD issues.

November 22, 2011. Obtain Food License.

November 24, 2011. Initial Building Inspector inspection.

Thanksgiving.

November 26, 2011. Begin remedy of Building Inspector issues.

November 27, 2011. Purchase of dishes, silverware, pots, pans and smallwares.

November 28, 2011. Obtain Building Permit for removal of 23 recessed lights which pose fire hazard.

November 30, 2011. Obtain Building Permit for replacement of stairway. Begin interviewing vendors.

December 1, 2011. Begin interviews for servers and kitchen staff.

December 8, 2011. Receive approval for lighting modifications.

December 9, 2011. Complete 30 inch deep concrete footer and reassembly of steps.

December 10, 2011. Purchase sound system for dining room and make meatballs for freezing.

So, I have been very busy in a very good way for the past two months.

The Building Inspector should, higher power willing, give final approval tomorrow or Wednesday and we should be open by Wednesday or Thursday.

WE OPENED TODAY. 12/14/11

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1705 Eastern Ave. Fells Point Baltimore Maryland.

Owner and Co-Chef Claudia prepares the German specialty dishes and fabulous cakes and desserts and I prepare the Italian fine dining menu on Friday and Saturday nights.

CAFE EINSTEIN MENU FOR SEPTEMBER 23 AND 24, 2011.1705 Eastern Ave. in Fells Point, Baltimore, Maryland.

The Cafe Einstein Websites contains all of the menus for the past 7 weeks so take a look at the range of amazing fare. WEBSITE.

Why Einstein? Claudia was born in the same town in Germany as Albert Einstein.  Ulm, Germany in Bavaria.

And if you were wondering about the header it is a Focaccia we learned at Alma from Chef

Chef Antonella Ricci from Puglia who I wrote about on June 15, 2010. PAST POST.

It is on the menu tonight!

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Here is an instructional slide show for building a better summer sandwich. I start with fresh pumpernickel, butter, canned Albacore tuna in water, drained. Italian tuna in olive oil would be better but I didn’t have any. I mixed the tuna with home made mayo, wild fennel and chopped apple instead of the usual onion and celery. Then comes the New York aged extra sharp cheddar, sliced tomato, bread and butter pickle, fresh basil from my garden, capers, leaf lettuce and extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper on the top slice of bread.

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What would go perfectly with this sandwich. How about a one of a kind potato salad. Recipe to follow in a few days.

Custom Recipes for all occasions. This is the Caroline and Anders Wedding Potato Sallad. Italian theme but made and consumed at a wedding in Sweden.

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