I am so proud of my accomplishments, both professionally and personally as of late. Professionally, I started in the restaurant business at the age of 14. It was in 1976 and my Dad, the second Yankee Chef, owned his 2d or 3d restaurant, I don't recall. Regardless, I did every menial task asked of me. I washed dishes mostly, but peeling potatoes, cleaning the dining room, sweeping the parking lot and scrubbing the toilets were on my list as well.
I will never forget an old lady Dad hired by the name of Edie. She was the dishwasher and had to have been 70 if a day. Believe it or not, there is an art in washing dishes at a restaurant, especially in the days of single door electric dishwashers where you had to scoop the white soap powder onto the door and shut it.
She showed me how to soak certain types of baked-on messes and the easiest way of removing coffee stains from ANYTHING. She was a peach and I will never forget how she showed me the proper way of peeling potatoes. I got so good that I could(and still can)peel a 50 pound bag of potatoes in 20 minutes.
Next were the dreadful deeds of making coleslaw, slicing meats and cheeses and the dreaded hand-cut French fries. This was in the day when Dad had us cut large cabbage heads in half, core them and slice them on the thinnest setting possible on the slicer. He often compared my slicing to his turning of the whetstone when he was a child.
My grandfather, the first Yankee Chef Samuel Bailey, would have my father sit at a whetstone(or foot peddled grindstone) and keep the stone turning while he sharpened his axe bit or scythe. Samuel told Dad that he would turn out to be a hard worker because he was always able to keep that whetstone moving at a constant rate for long periods of time. Of course, back then it Dad slowed down, the ol' bark of an old timer would scare the devil into ya' so that your feet kept 'a movin'.
At any rate, Dad told me the same thing his father has told him, I would grow up to be a hard worker because I never slacked on the slicer. It may have taken an hour to fill 4 bus buckets up with shaved cabbage but I never slowed down until it was done.
Eventually, I moved to the prized place in the kitchen, the line. I absorbed everything my father taught me. He was my idol, mentor and I still(to this day) don't think anyone could touch him with regards to his knowledge of the basics and speed of the plating. He grew up in the old tradition as well and I don't think I would ever change it.
Sure, there were times when I used to get so ugly at the fact that I had to go in after school almost every day to do dishes, cook, prep, clean or simply help in any way but it gave me a work ethic I would stand up against with any ANY chef out there.
There are local and celebrity chefs who think that because of their classically trained background, they rise above all others. Not so. not by a long shot.
I have worked at 'hole-in-the-walls' to fine dining, and in every single aspect of the restaurant. I am considered the fastest, yes...the FASTEST, line cook here in the Northeast and if there is one thing I can boast, I believe that is it. I not only am the fastest, but the most accomplished, the most well-versed and the most knowledgeable with regards to origins and history of New England food.....period!
Why can I boast? I have never been the one to boast. Heck, I abhor 'holier-than-thou' attitudes but I am that confident of my background in the restaurant business that I would pit my skills against anyone out there.
Let me back up just a bit. Morimoto is the exception. He truly is a master, along with several others, but I feel comfortable that I could execute well above any local chef and any celebrity chef.
You know, there have been times that I have had to hold my tongue. I have received comments from chefs that weren't very nice. My Dad would always tell me to walk the other way. But the boxer in me wants to holler "Put your money where your mouth is and step in the ring with me!'' Whether it is out of jealousy or not, I can't say that but when someone demeans you in any way, especially about your livelihood, it is a temptation. I keep thinking if these people can be rude, obnoxious and just plain mean-spirited, can they take that same attitude in the ring? I think not so I will keep my mouth shut, as my Dad always told me.
On a personal level, I have 4 great minor children that I am trying to raise with the same business tenacity that I hold. I am proud to really be one the great Dads who is lost without them. Heck, I have had to cancel many appearances simply because I can't and won't spend a night away from them. pretty sad, huh?
In any event, restaurants such as Millers, Checkmate, Perry's, Killarneys, Treadwells, Canaan Country Kitchen, Oak Pond Restaurant, Peters Candlelighter, The Candlelighter, Dickey's, Governors and many more made me the chef I am today. Dad made me the worker I am forever.
It's Just That Simple!™