Dinner with the chef
The boys were sharing a tiny apartment in the basement of a brownstone just a couple of minutes from work. I stopped at HoFoo to pick up flowers (what to get for guys? I ended up with a bunch of dark-red-and-cream carnations and an assortment of lush tropical greenery), and by the time I arrived, the brothers were in the galley kitchen with another office-mate, hanging out and drinking green tea.
Or at least two of them were. The chef was busy, chopping, stirring, frying, whisking. It was fascinating to watch him work; moving quickly, efficiently, not a gesture wasted, almost like a dancer: step left, salt water, step right, chop lemon, bend to cupboard, drop trimmings in trash-and-two-and-three-and-check the fish.
I like to think of myself as a pretty smooth operator in the kitchen, but watching this guy made me realize the difference between a professional chef and someone who just likes to cook. His every move seemed instinctual--I guess that's what happens when you've had years of training and practice.
Especially impressive was that he was working in a very limited space, using just a small chopping board and the stove.
"Not a problem," he said, slicing butter into a saucepan, "I've worked in smaller kitchens than this."
In less than an hour, dinner was ready: neat squares of pan-roasted haddock sitting on a bed of cabbage braised with oranges, tiny potatoes (which I think he turned himself), and a dab of lemon beurre blanc, beautifully presented.
Over dinner, we talked about food, restaurants, chefs. He mentioned "the Laundry."
"Oh," I asked innocently, "have you ever eaten there?"
"No," he said. "I tried three times to get resevations, but no luck."
"I worked there for six months, though ..."