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)


JK said...

Why do I enjoy this blog so much? You remind of all of the humor in life (tweets are hilarious), and the blogs make you think outside of the box. BTW, I liked today's tweet (BIG LOL!), and great presentation of the duck! PS, I liked your your thought about taking a look back to review the big picture, how true and how well worthwhile to remember! Keep inspiring!

LisieMern said...

My grandmother use to say what a wonderful school we've been given in this life. I think that's why I follow this blog.

Garrett, I don't know you from Adam's cat, and it is strange to think I follow the blog of someone my daughter's age (I take only fashion and music advice from her)but you seem to learn so much from your experiences and that helps me keep perspective as I head out into my "schoolday."

Teresa said...

Congratulations, Garrett! You are blessed with curiosity & creativity, two of the greatest gifts a human can possess. I am vegetarian, but found myself wishing that I could at least smell the aromas of your creation.

What makes you a great swimmer, makes you equally successful in all that you do, including cooking. You continue to strive to learn, grow, and be your best. You are truly inspiration.

I do hope that you will apprentice, for lack of better phrase, at Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia. Somehow, I sense that this would be an amazing experience for you.

May you always be able to live through your passions.


Garrett said... is really important to always take a step back and look at the big picture.

Well I must say it means a lot to me that you follow my it does when everyone does. I really try to put things on here that are meaningful in some way or another. I hope I keep meeting your expectations;)

Thanks for the recommendation of the Inn at Little Washington. I've heard several people say great things about it. I need to check it out.

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