By: Brice O’Neil
“Look down!” he said, in his now familiar German accent, slurred from hours of drinking. As I looked towards the floor, my Chef — aka ‘The Boss’ — leaned in closer to my ear, which he did regularly for added effect. “Your apron…it’s filthy!” he hissed. As my gaze shifted downward to my apron, I noticed that it was, indeed, stained from the hours I’d endured in his kitchen before my in-laws arrived for dinner. And here I was, standing in front of them in what should have been a proud moment. My father-in-law came to my defence “It just shows he’s been working,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Not missing a beat, the reply came “Any @$$-h*le can go into the back and rub stuff all over his apron to make it look like he was working.” He shifted his gaze in my direction. “Go in the back and change!” That was my introduction to wearing the ‘Chef ’s Mask’. Have you ever wondered why Chefs wear white? You’d think that with all of the sauces, boil-overs, every possible array of staining, airborne food, and the occasional frying pan flying past your head, we’d wear dark colours. Well, truth be told, it’s simply because it looks clean. And clean is important if you are selling food to the public. We chefs wear our masks not only on our face when we smile at the customer, even though we hurt bad enough to cry, but on our body as well. A nice, clean, white jacket and clean apron says,
“Hey that’s awesome. He looks clean and it’s okay to put stuff he gives me inside my body (yes, you can insert a joke here).”
Since this is after all a food column, I thought I would give a few tips and tricks of the trade. They may seem simple, but you would be amazed how these easy-to-do things can make a world of difference in the quality of your cooking. So let’s start with the simplest thing I know. How to make a perfect boiled egg. What, you may ask, is so hard about that? How many times have you cracked off the shell only to find a black ring around the beautiful yellow yoke? Or worse yet, it’s slimy and not cooked through? Here’s the trick. Start the egg in COLD water. Turn up the heat on high. Bring it to a boil then turn down the heat until no bubbles are present. Yes, that means below a simmer. So basically it’s sitting in really hot water. Set your timer for 12 minutes exactly and when the time is up immediately run under cold. I put the pot in the sink and turn on the cold water tap and run until you can grab it comfortably. This takes a few minutes, so be patient. Trust me. The salmon will forgive you for wasting water because you are, after all, making better food. Now that you’ve made the perfect boiled egg, you can make things such as deviled eggs in an array of flavours including everything from curry to smoked salmon. A simple egg salad sandwich goes like this. Two eggs mashed with a fork, one tbsp. of mayo, salt & pepper to taste. Add some finely minced dill pickle and a pinch of onion powder. Mix it up, slap it on two slices of your favorite bread and enjoy.
Join me next time for more stories, tips, and tricks from “Outside the Fridge”.