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Tag Archives: summer 2011

Among the many things I learned this past summer from my chef and sous chef at the golf club was the importance of working cleanly. This sounds like a no-brainer, a given, a goes-without-saying element of cookery. It is — though “working cleanly” doesn’t really capture the paramount importance they place on it.

For working cleanly isn’t just a means to avoiding a run-in with the health inspector; no, working cleanly — and I mean crystal — is the foundation of their overall philosophy about cooking. And it’s one I now share, even if it means my hands are dried and cracked, having been exposed to various cleaners, soaps, sanitizers and disinfectants on a daily basis for months.

Working cleanly means being organized.

A disorganized cook — who doesn’t think about how she or he is doing something, anything, even the simplest of tasks — will inevitably prepare messy food and produce even messier plates.

Being organised requires planning, foresight and attention detail.

For every action — be it peeling carrots, transferring a hot liquid from one vessel to another, handling raw meat — the organised cook considers all aspects of it: what’s involved; how best to use utensils and other necessary equipment; ensuring these tools have been gathered in advance; moving deliberately yet carefully to avoid spillage, slippage, seepage or stupid mistakes.

Of course, all of these measures mustn’t impede swiftness.

And therein lies the great great challenge of working cleanly: doing so as fast, if not even faster, than the cook who cuts corners for the sake of expediency.

Have I mastered the art of working cleanly? Am I supremely organized when I cook? Do I move with the speed and grace of a cheetah? Hell no!

Am I a fierce adherent to my chef’s philosophy? Absolutely.

If only I could find a holster for my can of Comet

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What a weekend!

As I already mentioned, I made a quick trip to Chicago to attend a friend’s wedding this weekend. And even the fact I went straight to work from the airport upon returning to Winnipeg, hangover still lingering in my head, didn’t diminish the sheer delightfulness of it all.

What wasn’t to like about the past 36 hours?

Great food.

As always, Chi-town didn’t disappoint: a fantastic rehearsal dinner at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Snow Crab; a quick breakfast at Rick Bayless’ fantastic short-order Mexican joint, XOCO; a surprisingly wicked Moroccan lamb burger at Sable; and, best of all, an absolutely stunning dinner at the wedding itself.

Great weather.

Sure it was hot and humid and the risk of showers ever present, but, for a better part of the day on Saturday, we were able to take in the sights and sounds of the Magnificent Mile and the even more magnificent Millennium Park without a drop.

Heck, I even managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Art Institute and, along the way, glimpsed Seward Johnson’s latest sculpture along Michigan Avenue.

Great times with old friends.

The best part of all.

On the heels of nine straight days working, I find myself sitting in the international departures lounge of Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

No, I’m not fleeing the country for a non-extraditing South American refuge. I’m off to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. And by my count, I’ll be in the city — and what a city! — for no more than 36 hours.

Jaunt, indeed!

I’ve been to Chicago before. It’s a first-rate city and one of my favourites. Sadly, my tight schedule means I’ll have less time to sample the city’s remarkable culinary delights than I would have liked. (Alinea continues to elude me. Grumble.) Still, I’m hopeful I’ll have enough time to squeeze in a quick visit to the city’s eponymous Art Institute.

More to the point, and more importantly, I’m incredibly excited to witness my dear friend’s nuptials.

Chicago, here I come.