Monday, September 21, 2009

Simple yet nice looks if the plate is right

I attended The Seattle Food Styling and photography group meetup on Sunday. I cut vegetables to make pretty shapes. I was in hurry to grab a plate and didn’t inspect it well. Unfortunately my black plate had scratches. All photos showed the imperfection when the light reflected to the surface of the plate. All 7 other photographers had the better camera than mine and the problem of the plate more likely shows in the photos of my dish. All my work to create nice looking food was spoiled by the imperfection of the plate. I failed the food styling at this time. Hopefully I can do the better job for the next time.
I recreated some of my vegetables and selected the better plate. My photo is OK but could be better.
<-- Check out this Italian YouTube video. Even though you don't speak Italian, you will learn how to make rose as I did.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The arm of a Tempura cook

This photo of my arm shows oil spattered burn spots. Hajime at Mashiko joked about an earlier time in his career, when his arm had burned marks which were cause from making Tempura. John said he had a similar experience and made his arm protection by cutting his long sock.
I often make Tempura at home in a regular frying pan, and I hardly ever burn my arm. The pan used at home is shallow, where as at Mashiko, I use a deep fryer. I dropped vegetables with Tempura batter a bit too high above the oil in the fryer from my nervous unsteady hand. This caused the oil to splash burn spots on my arm.
My husband told me that he had seen people’s arms like mine. He thought that the people were drug addicts, as they had burn marks on their arm similar to the ones on my arm. He was surprised to learn that maybe those people where really cooks working at a deep fryer instead of drug addicts like he thought.
I didn’t know that people with drug addiction problem had skin problems. I found some image of arms badly spotted by drug addiction. Hopefully soon I am able to fry Tempura without splashing oil. I should wear long sleeve shirts or cover my arm.
When you see someone with small blisters on one of his/her arms, it may be caused from splash from the deep fryer not from drug addiction.
<----The photo shows my potential arm protection. Left: Japanese farmer's arm cover, Right: Leg warmer

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Working at a Popular Sushi Restaurant

Can an experienced home cook survive working in a busy kitchen of popular Japanese restaurant?
After 3 days of work, I am doing fine and happy.
Two weeks ago, on Craigslists I found that the Sushi restaurant, “ Mashiko” in West Seattle was looking for a cook. It was a week after the advertisement was posted, but I decided to go Mashiko to see if I can get hired for the position. The worst case scenario would be that I didn’t get a job, and that I would be happy to meet and talk to the owner, Hajime.
I updated my resume for a cooking job. I packed up my cooking knife and my apron and headed to the “Mashiko”. I asked about the Craigslist job listing and if they found someone. Hajime met me and I spoke to him in Japanese for a while. It seemed that we had a similar idea about cooking and food.
He told me that they were testing some candidates that day, and asked me to come back at 4:00pm on Saturday to be tested. I left my resume with him. It seemed that I passed the first interview.
On Saturday, I brought my cooking knife and wore casual clothes for cooking. After I got there, Hajime told me that John in the kitchen would tell me what to do. John told me to help skewer chicken for Yakitori. Then he showed me how to cook rice, how to mix Sushi rice, how to prepare Tempura batter. I cut some vegetables for Tempura. John showed me how to fry Tempura. I mixed rice by adding Sushi vinegar with a large rice paddle and frying Tempura of various vegetables, shrimp, prawn, Sushi rolls, and brownies under John’s instructions. I washed pots and pans. At the end of the day, I helped clean the floors. I worked until past mid night.
I had expected a “cooking test”, i.e. a short time showing that I could cook. Hours later at the end of the evening of hard work, I was exhausted and I still didn’t know if I had passed the test. I didn’t know if I would be would be paid or asked to come back. Then, Hajime asked how the evening went, and I said it was hot, but I liked it. Hajime told me to write my name to a time-card and come to work the next Friday and Saturday. I was happy to have my time-card and the ability to return to work.
Friday came and I was still anxious. I got to Mashiko at 3:00pm as Hajime requested. Under John’s instructions and supervision, I mixed Sushi rice, checked fish, cut vegetables and cooked Tempura. John told me to cook faster and make more Tempura for each vegetable tempura order. It was hard work but I managed to work through the day. I helped clean up and I was done working before mid night.
On Saturday, John told me to set up my Tempura station then to cook rice. Rice was measured and put in the very large container. I set up my work station and started cooking rice as he instructed the previous day. I made Sushi rice and fried Tempura. The hardest work was to move a large container full of Sushi rice. It was very heavy. Carrying a heavy wooden sushi mixing container to the sink was also hard. I carried it with outstretched arms to the sink while walking around various obstacles. Cooking requires a strong body and muscles.
I confirmed with Hajime that I would be back to work next Friday and Saturday, I told him that at the end of my third day of work, that I was not as tired as the first two days.
So I managed to complete 3 days of work with only a couple of minor mistakes, including almost dropping container full of Sushi rice, and a mixed up an order. I look forward in learning much more about Mashiko’s way of cooking. I think that my Tempura does not look as good as John’s, and I need to learn to cook faster. The work is hard but I love cooking and it is fun working with John and Pablo in the kitchen. . Check out my future blog posts to find out what will happen to me at Mashiko’s.

The following video was produced by Christopher Boffoli for the West Seattle Blog Mashiko Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar.