Here is an insert taken from my upcoming cookbook, ‘Mexican Recipes of a Journeyman Chef’:
"My particular skill set as a chef is the product of the total of experiences and training absorbed throughout my working life. I look forward to tomorrow's lesson. The first steps of my professional journey began when I started at 15 in Westport, Connecticut working weekends and summers at a popular local Tex-Mex Restaurant as busboy and prep cook. This proved to be the beginning of a lifetime relationship professionally with cooking Mexican Cuisine and Tex-Mex.
Decades later, just a few months after 9/11, I took the Executive Chef position for the new W Hotel Mexico City, a world class Starwood hotel. I arrived on property during pre-opening construction which due to delays extended to a six month duration. During this time period I gained a great deal more fluency in Spanish.
My tallest hurdle at the outset of my employment in Mexico was learning more Spanish, as I had largely faked my way through the job requirement of Spanish fluency. I would be conversing and writing in Spanish, and that was that. And I did, gaining the ability strictly through on-site cultural immersion and having very little fear of embarrassing myself in the process.
Thankfully it turns out I have a pretty good ear for the language. You know you're getting there when you start catching the jokes and side comments thrown about in the kitchen, especially helpful when you realize the butt of most jokes turns out to be you. Learning the language can be seen as a largely defensive measure when as the chef you're surrounded by the typical 'pirates and characters' of the industry as often described by the late great Anthony Bourdain in his all-too-true tell all 'Kitchen Confidential'.
Naturally there were a few interesting moments that came about during those first few months as I developed my verbal skill set. To be fully truthful, one or two of my most embarrassing (and hilarious in the telling to others) moments occurred through my linguistic mishaps along the way. These vignettes are scattered through the recipes as they too have become touch stones along my path.
Things went very well at The W. During the pre-opening months I travelled across great swaths of Mexico – making culinary sojourns to the four corners of the country. I was chasing down dishes, recipes, and traditions, studying ingredients which shaped Mexican culinary tradition. I learned essential moles from Oaxaca and Puebla. I tasted veracruzano in Veracruz, and watched Mexico's best chorizo prepared up close and personal in the markets of Toluca. And all the time learning dishes, filling notebooks and a stack of moleskin journals.
Funny what you pick up along the way – eventually I was able to read which police, security personnel, body guard or federale was only looking for a payoff, and who actually was going to lock me up and/or impound my car if I didn't get a member of the US Consulate on the phone that very minute. That's for a book not yet written, but trust me, don’t offer a bribe to any federale.
These events are touch stones; guideposts along a heavily traveled career path. I hope these words provide an appropriate overview of the chef I am today."
To close, I’d like to express why for years on end I've considered myself a ‘journeyman chef’ and why it’s the name of my business and website. In the introduction of my upcoming cookbook, ‘Mexican Recipes of a Journeyman Chef’ and before the first recipe is shared, I provide a definition of the term, as I will here.
Definition: 'journeyman' a trained worker at a skilled trade.
The word does not come from journey: trip, but from the French journee: day, reflected in the basic sense of the word, a day worker.
So this word has and does still resonate with me on several levels. Consider the French origin of the word; throughout my career, with all my travels, working with and among the best chefs and professionals of the culinary world, I have always represented myself as a skilled worker, working at a skilled trade. And again, looking to the English, the word ‘journey’ seems all too appropriate when considering a chef that has lived and worked his entire career among five or six of the world’s most vibrant and exciting metropolitan cities.
Indeed, in a very real way, and in every sense of the word I am truly a journeyman chef.
I’ve been a chef for more than thirty five years, much of that time centered around the expansive and varied cuisine of Mexico, including the favored dishes and bold flavors influenced by the Mexican tradition on both sides of the Rio Grande. My culinary experience spans the Interior and Border Cuisines of Mexican, Louisiana Acadian Creole, Mississippi Delta Basin, barbeque, and wild game, and French and Italian. I’m working on two cookbooks at the moment, one of which will be coming out this year. I would love to make you part of my journey as a chef, and share my stories and culinary experience with you here on Journeymanchef.com.
‘Top Chefs of Mexico City’ – DF Magazine
‘Top Chefs Mexico’ – Donde Magazine
‘Best Mexico City hotel restaurant’ – Quatro Magazine
‘Featured Chef and Restaurant’ – Playboy Latin America
‘Best Brunch Bergen County’ – Bergen Record
‘Best New Steakhouse 2008” – Bergen Record
‘Top Seafood Restaurants Jersey City’ – Zagat’s 2008
‘Best Steakhouse Yonkers 2007’ – Yonkers Gazette
‘Best Brunch in Manhattan 2002’ – Where Magazine
‘Houston Chef of the Year 1997’ – Houston Chronicle
‘Favorite Dishes: Top 10 1997” – for Black Opal Duck at Mick’s Gulf Coast Grill
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