Thursday, October 29, 2009

Speaking like Crazy

One of the things I've found truly rewarding in the past year or so is getting the opportunity to speak to large groups of people. What do I talk about? Anything really, but mostly my story involving my battle with high blood pressure, swimming, and starting a business in the food world...and cooking of course. I've spoken to swim teams, USA Today, Rotary Clubs, Synagogues, schools, businesses and more.

I always tell people there are life lessons I truly don't believe I would've learned without swimming. I share those lessons as well as many of the most important quotes I've been exposed to over time. One of those quotes, as many of them are, is from my coach Eddie Reese..., "hard work and sacrifice always pay off if we're patient." I believe this to be utterly and completely true.

My schedule with speaking has been pretty crazy. I spoke to a journalism class on Tuesday. I'm speaking at a large conference tonight in Austin on behalf of disability awareness month. Finally I'm traveling to Milwaukee tomorrow where I'll be the keynote speaker to 1000 people at a black tie event on Saturday night. Lot's of fun! Gotta go practice my speech one more time...oh and find out what time I'm speaking tonight too...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bread & Women

Baking Bread & Women.

Two very complex things of which, in large part, man is still trying to figure out. The variations are endless. You think you might be on the right track...but you're not. You think this might be the one...but you mess it up. You think, for some odd and insane reason, you think...that you are beginning to understand...oh but how wrong you are! Even after listening to all the experts and following all the directions somehow, SOMEHOW, you still can't get the final product you're looking for.

Bread & Women.

The outside has no bearing on what lies within. Don't judge it...there's no way to tell the texture, flavor, warmth or any variation therein by looking. Gentleman (and some ladies), for that
there's only one way...get your hands dirty...experience. You may experience the hardest, most rough crust on the outside, but on the's all soft. Some have that hard crust and stay hard to the core, while others are soft all the way through. Am I talking about bread or women??? Who knows? What I do know for sure is that an outstanding bread, and especially a good woman can be completely out of this world. You all know what I'm talking about...that warm and wonderful feeling you get inside when you find one. It can change your world buddy.

While I can say that in large part, women, as most men could say, are still a bit of an anomaly to me. However I've recently acquired a book which has made the complex task of creating 'good' homemade bread quite easy. The book is called "My Bread" by Jim Lahey. It describes his revolutionary new technique which involves simply mixing the ingredients together and letting them sit in a bowl to do their magic for 12-18 hours. Then the product is finished off in the oven in a cast-iron pot. The yield is something truly wonderful.

Maybe this guy should figure out women guess is he'd win the Nobel Peace Prize for that one;)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"The Morning Swim Show"

Check out this interview of me on the Swimming World "Morning Swim Show"...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Feeling Something Incredible...I'm Floored!

I'm not sure what has changed or if there is a new fire within me but my love for swimming seems to be back! The past couple weeks have been wonderful. After having a bit of a disappointing summer I wasn't sure how I'd feel about getting back into hard training. I began to work out at home when I was back in Wisconsin and didn't have a very easy time. Training by myself in Wisconsin was both difficult and say the least I was less than enthused. However, the minute I got back to Texas and dove into the pool at the Texas Swim Center that all changed in a big way.

Yesterday I had one of the best practices I can remember having in a long time. I brutally demolished my legs in the weight-room so by the time I got to the pool I was already a bit fatigued. As I expected...we did a hard kick set to start things of. Good thing my legs were warmed up:) What happened next I'm still smiling about. We did a set that was perfect for me and is a sprinter's dream...Fast swimming with some rest and easy swimming in between.

The set. A 150 swim on 2:15. A 50 fast on 1:00. A 100 swim on 1:45. Two 50's fast on 1:00. A 200 kick on 3:45. That is one do four rounds to complete the set. As we went along I got faster and faster. Towards the end of the set I felt something in my freestyle I never have before. There was a link between my core and my arm strokes that either I'd never felt to this degree or my mind had never yet recognized... Sure I always engaged my core strength with my swimming and used it to my advantage...but this was different. This was serious power. If this link was a twig before, it has now grown into a full blown log. Hello Paul Bunyan. The first time I got to the wall after doing it I gasped in excitement. When I get excited like this look out...I will talk and talk and talk and smile and laugh and joke and be crazy until a long enough time has gone by for me to actually calm down and think about it. I couldn't have been more floored!

Swimming is going great. My plan is to make this last as looooooong as possible!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Arrival to Lone Star

Home sweet home. I'm settling back into my "normal" routine down here in Texas and I couldn't be happier to be back. I'd been gone from Austin for over three was time to return to this thing called reality. It's been quite a whirlwind since arriving in the Lone Star State...I lost my house key, my car was dead, my bike tires were flat, I had no food to eat, tons of stuff to unpack and organize (still in the process of doing this), many people to reconnect with, get back in the weight-room and pool, oh and cook some too.

Yesterday I was telling someone how part of me wishes I was still in Italy. Elaborating upon how much I loved traveling, learning and experience everything there. My friend wisely remarked that getting back into the grind is what makes those times like in Italy so special. Travels like that are few and far between...that's why they are so thrilling. I think he's right. It was time for me to get back into serious training, and normal life. So far I'm absolutely loving it. After training in Wisconsin by myself it is so refreshing to be around the TEAM again, Eddie and Kris too. I no longer have only myself to push me but 35 other guys who are all supporting each other and busting their butts too. Yesterday was my first full two hour swim practice. My lifts in the weight-room have been good and the swimming is getting better everyday. There really is no better feeling in the world than BEING IN SHAPE... I'm not there yet but I'm working hard to reach the level of fitness Eddie, Kris and I are looking for. All it takes is some time and a lot of hard work. I'm used to it....let's do this!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stage at Daniel Part 2

My final day at Daniel I was given a whole duck, head and feet included. Greggory, the sous chef I was working with told me to prepare it any way I wanted. At this point I didn't realize what his intentions were. I figured he'd eventually help me get it ready. I was wrong. His intention, which I found out later from another sous chef, was for me to prepare the duck for a family meal after the dinner service. He wanted me to have ownership and prepare something on my own for the rest of the cooks.

(My Masterpiece)
I went to work having no idea what I was going to do. I stood in the refrigerators for what seemed like forever, searching for ideas. I ended up making an orange glaze. Oh, and I was not going healthy on this meal... In a pot I combined fresh-squeezed orange juice, orange zest, ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon, cloves, duck fat, and butter. I reduced this down to make a sauce. Then I made a syrup of vinegar and sugar, and reduced that down (I had a little help coming up with the syrup idea...). I then added the reduced orange glaze to the syrup and reduced that down further. The purpose of the syrup sauce was to cut some of the sweetness of the orange glaze. I buttered and seasoned the duck, browned it on all sides and put it in the oven.
(Me and Executive Chef Jean Francois)
Let me clarify that I didn't do all of this alone. I had some guidance in cooking the was my first time cooking a whole duck like this. Along with the bird, I prepared mini-carrots and zucchini. Finally, to top the veggies I created a sauce from duck jus and the orange glaze. Up to the main kitchen I went, holding a huge silver platter with my masterpiece. As I entered the kitchen I had a huge smile on my face and was laughing inside. I was so excited I probably would've jumped in the air or something if I hadn't been carrying the tray. My mind raced wondering what the chefs would think. Talk about a tough crowd...there's no way you can fool these guys (nor would I want to)... My creation was in front of some of the most talented and well qualified chefs/food experts in the world...LITERALLY!!! If my sauce had a hint too much cinnamon, lemongrass, cloves, salt, pepper, butter...whatever, they would know it, and tell me. I wanted the critique but holy cow this could be intense! They liked it. My dish was a success. Two critiques...the Executive Chef Jean Francois thought my orange glaze was a little too sweet. Second, the legs on the bird were not fully cooked. I learned this is common with duck. It is near impossible to cook a duck to perfection when it is whole because the breasts will finish before the legs. Generally fine restaurants will cook the duck until the breasts are done. Take the duck out, carve the breasts off, and take off the legs. Then finish the legs in the oven and bring them out to the table a few minutes later. Just one more thing I learned! I was on cloud nine when they genuinely liked my dish:)
(Me and Corporate Chef Fabrizzio Salerni)
As I'm sure you can already tell, my time spent at Daniel was superb. The days were long...12-13 hour shifts. The first day I didn't sit down at all...the second and third day I sat down once. We even ate lunch and dinner standing up. By the end of my shifts my knees hurt and my ankles were swollen from standing so much. Regardless of the fatigue, I adored being in the kitchen. It was a true honor and privilege for me to be around such great talent. However, what I love most about many of the people at Daniel is their passion for their food and their craft. Nothing is more refreshing and pure to me than people who are truly in love with what they do and what they create. I left Daniel thinking, "I hope my long-term career is as passionate and fulfilling as the chefs at Daniel seem to experience on a day-to-day basis." Solely due to the fact that this seed is already planted in my brain...makes me confident it will! (Getting ready to carve)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stage at Daniel Part 1

Last summer in Beijing I was lucky enough to meet famous chef Daniel Boulud. Shortly there after I dined at his newly opened restaurant in Beijing and then at 'Daniel' in NYC. Throughout the year I built a relationship with Daniel through email and through visiting his restaurant. We even had some joking words about the rivalry between the French and American relay teams! It has been a true honor to know Daniel. When I was given the opportunity to work in his restaurant 'Daniel' for a few days I was out of my mind excited...

The first thought that came to my mind was, "I hope they realize I'm not a cook and don't give me something that is out of my league (basically most of what they do at 'Daniel' is out of my league haha)." As the Stage (what they call short learning experiences in kitchens) approached I became more and more crazed with anticipation and excitement but also a bit nervous. I really had no idea what to expect but I knew my genuine interest for what they do and my tenacity towards food and cooking would make up for my lack of experience.

My shift started at 12 noon. I showed up at 11:45 and on the first day I was given a uniform, short tour, introduced to the chefs, and immediately started working. My first task was to make perfect cubes of Chorizo sausage which would be used as garnish on a plated dish. Let's just say my cubes were not all perfect. I felt bad and apologized for my inconsistency but they all assured me it was OK and that I was doing great. What a relief! I moved from task to task...chopping, slicing, helping make sauces and reductions, peeling, retrieving items from the unbelievably stocked refrigerators and freezers, skinning and/or breaking down wild hare, duck and grouse, as well as many other random tasks that came up.

The inventory they have is out of this world. Walking into the refrigerators and/or freezers you'll come across varying things from Iberico ham ($250/lb), truffles, foie gras, whole pigs heads, a plethora of fresh herbs, the most delicious straight-from-the-utter unpasteurized milk, wild game birds, miniature vegetables of every kind, caviar, wild berries etc. I could barely believe my eyes. My first thought was, "I wish I could stay here and work for free for a year to see how they use all of this stuff!" Truly remarkable.

One thing was a questions. I am an extremely inquisitive person and have genuine interest for almost anything and everything. As I worked and bounced around from one job to another I asked question after question. I was literally in awe of their knowledge, of their highly refined sense of smell and taste, and of their grace in the movements they make in the kitchen.

Dinner service starts at 5:30pm. As the service nears you can sense it without even looking at the clock. People come upstairs to the main kitchen from down in the large prep kitchen below. Everyone's movements are faster. There is a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. Everyone becomes more focused on their job. The first order comes in. The chef reads it out over a microphone. Immediately everyone springs into action but with a poise and confidence which can only come from truly knowing what you're doing. What happens next still boggles my mind. Everyone does their job and completes it so that everything is finished at basically the exact same time. Let me remind you that these plates are very complex and often have 15 different ingredients on them...crazy!!! During the dinner service I mostly observed what was going on, helped someone when they needed it, and tried to stay out of the way. Even observing what they were doing provided me with a ton of knew insight into the preparation of food.

Check back soon for part two of my experience at Daniel!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cyclone in NYC

Holy exhausted! The past days in New York have been wild. I've traveled the streets, worked 13 hour shifts at restaurant Daniel, gone out with the chefs after work, spent quality time with my sister, swam, lifted weights, and gorged myself in cuisine most can only dream of. I feel like I've been living in a cyclone of excitement, passion, and learning, and can't tell you how much I've loved being here.

Working at Daniel was nuts. I've never spent more time on my feet in my entire life...three 13 hour days in a row...on my feet literally the entire time working in the kitchen. I chopped, sliced, helped make sauces, reductions, paté, broke down wild hare, grouse, and duck... My tongue was aroused by veal head, foie gras, wild hare, Iberico ham, Sole, figs, chocolates, ice creams, sorbets, rare cheeses and much more...I will explain in greater detail in my next blog. I was surrounded by some of the greatest culinary minds in the world. I loved it. I loved every second of it. My heart felt a sense of honor and privilege that these highly acclaimed, expert chefs even let me get a glimpse of their kitchen and daily life. Essentially I was in heaven.

Now I am going out with my sister to DBGB...Daniel's newest restaurant in NYC. Check back soon for a more in-depth update!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Twitter Updates from NYC

In case you don't follow Garrett on Twitter. He's been working out in the morning and then heading for the kitchen at Daniel.

At left, a photo his sister snapped early this morning. Garrett dead to the world.

Tweet from Saturday morning: "Went to sleep at 5 (w/ swollen & aching ankles & knees), woke up at 9. Swam. Going to Daniel again for next 14hrs. Tough work but love it:)"

Tweet from Friday night: "Working in restaurant Daniel in NYC... Daniel and I just served Lance Armstrong his chicken dish!!! Crazy experience haha."

Garrett will come up for air and post soon!

--Garrett's dad, Mark

Friday, October 2, 2009

New York: Train for Swimming: Train for Cooking

From Garrett's facebook page: Check out where I'll be working 12 hour shifts the next three days!!!

He's also training in the morning before reporting for work at noon. I am sure he will update when he has time to breathe.

--Garrett's dad, Mark

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