Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crossing The Bridge...How A Good Chef Becomes Great

Each morning, on my way to school, I pass 7 bridges along the Chicago River -Franklin, Wells, LaSalle, Clark, Dearborn, State and the Wabash Avenue Bridge.Sometimes, I will randomly take a detour to see what is happening on the other side of the bridge. Is passing seven bridges a lucky omen? Sounds like it to me!

When I am in the mood to daydream, I jump on the water taxi. The water taxi operates between my train station at Madison and Canal and Michigan Avenue. For $2.00, you get one of the best boat rides in the city. It’s one little secret I can’t keep on getting around in the city. Sometimes it’s fun to pass underneath a bridge so you can see it from a different view.

In cooking, crossing the bridge is defined as passing over an obstacle to a place where you will try absolutely anything. Give me a recipe and I will master it – better yet – I will perfect it.

Crossing the bridge requires a lot of reading and study to prepare for what is on the other side. I read and “google explore” anything and everything I can about cooking, restaurants and the food scene in Chicago. I always try to stay abreast of new cooking trends. You must be an engaged adventurer to survive the other side of the bridge.

I use to hate baking but baking is another bridge for me right now. I suddenly have a passion for creating “to die for” desserts. I have two ways of defining great things to eat – there are those “to die for” recipes and those to “kill for” recipes. And although I am not ready to kill for any of my desserts just yet the more I learn about pastry, the closer I get.

With a lot of trial and error, I became confident in knowing how to pick both my recipes and substitutions. It takes a long time to get here and a lot of racked up failures to learn the art. But once you do, your friends and family will be begging you to cook the next family dinner…or the party celebrating something but they can’t really remember anything except how great your food is, how soon can they eat it and isn’t this a reason in itself to party?

I am planning on my brother Terry – the brilliant chef in our family- to cook dinner tomorrow on Thanksgiving day. I only see him a few times a year but I can always taste his food when I close my eyes and remember the many great meals I have shared at his table. Part of the fun for my brother is that he always has a great time in his kitchen. Rock and Roll and out of control – he will try anything. That is the sign of an amazing chef. Chefs always take risks and cross the bridge. And taking risks is what makes a good chef great!

With My Family from Minnesota – Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving!

Bon Appetit!