Jump to content


Photo

A Chat with Rachael Harriman


  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
65 replies to this topic

#1 DonRocks

DonRocks

    leviathan

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,133 posts

Posted 11 December 2008 - 03:44 PM

I'm honored to welcome our next guest, Rachael Harriman, Sous Chef of CityZen.

Rachael was born in Fairfax, but grew up in Rochester, NY. She originally studied nursing in college, but decided that wasn't for her, so she signed up for the Walt Disney World College Program. Placed in a kitchen, she loved it, and when she went back to Rochester she began taking culinary classes at the community college to make sure cooking was the profession for her.

In 1998, she enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute. "I had a lot to learn to catch up to the people who started working in kitchens when they were 15," she says.

After graduation, she spent time at Everest in Chicago where she worked pastry, garde manger, and entremetier. However, she did her research and decided that The French Laundry was the best in the country at the time. She left for Yountville where she worked as a commis for a year, then left to go to Paris for two years, where she worked at Helene Darroze (2 Michelin stars) and Maison Blanche, which is owned by Jacques and Laurent Pourcel.

Before Rachael left for Paris, she had heard about a new restaurant opening in New York City to be called Per Se. She told Thomas Keller she really wanted to be a part of the opening, and he said he'd call her when he needed her to come back, which he did after two years. She went back to The French Laundry and became the canape chef de partie, and then a year later went to New York and opened Per Se. During her ten months there, she worked canape, entremetier, and as a fish butcher.

After the opening, she returned to The French Laundry for a third time, where she stayed two more years, working both fish and meat. In 2006, Eric Ziebold called her, looking for a sous chef. She came to CityZen where she worked side-by-side with Ron Tanaka, and after Ron left to open Cork, Rachael has been the only sous chef at CityZen.

Rachael wrote me and said she left out a lot of "little stuff," like when she worked as a hostess at Bouchon, and the nights she worked a Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena ("the best burger in the valley, no matter what Eric says!")

Welcome, Rachael! And thank you in advance for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here with us.

Rachael will be here beginning on Monday, and I'll be asking her a series of questions, trying to get to the bottom of what makes her tick - please feel free to chime in if you'd like!

Cheers,
Rocks.

dcdining.com - Restaurant Reviews - Facebook <--- LIKE Meeeeeeee! Twitter <--- FOLLOW Meeeeeeee!

If you're a member here, please Friend me personally on Facebook (send me a message with your screen name, please, so I know which member you are!)


#2 DonRocks

DonRocks

    leviathan

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,133 posts

Posted 14 December 2008 - 01:13 PM

Rachael,

First of all, THANK YOU for being here! It's truly an honor to have you here with us, and I'm really looking forward to everyone getting to "know" you this week.

And now, a question. Walt Disney World? What is THAT all about?

dcdining.com - Restaurant Reviews - Facebook <--- LIKE Meeeeeeee! Twitter <--- FOLLOW Meeeeeeee!

If you're a member here, please Friend me personally on Facebook (send me a message with your screen name, please, so I know which member you are!)


#3 Mark Slater

Mark Slater

    @WinosaurusRex

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,871 posts

Posted 14 December 2008 - 01:17 PM

Rochester, NY? Oh, you poor girl!

Mark
(Brockport alum)

Beverage Manager, Bastille 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria, VA

manager@bastillerestaurant.com

http://www.bastillerestaurant.com


#4 zoramargolis

zoramargolis

    leviathan

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,806 posts

Posted 14 December 2008 - 05:52 PM

Welcome Rachael! With all of the time you spent in Thomas Keller's kitchens, it's obvious that he had confidence in you. What was it like at the beginning, when you first went to work for him? What are some of the most important things that you learned, in order to be able to survive and thrive in that milieu?

My college freshman daughter, whose primary relationship to the kitchen has been: "Mom, would you fix something for me to eat?" has developed an interest in cooking, now that she is away from home. (She called today, asking if I would find and email a recipe for gnocchi to her!) Needless to say, I am delighted--I was hoping it would happen eventually, but wasn't expecting it quite this soon.

My second question to you is -- when you were growing up, what were your important influences as regards your interest in and relationship with food and cooking?

#5 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 14 December 2008 - 06:38 PM

Rachael,

First of all, THANK YOU for being here! It's truly an honor to have you here with us, and I'm really looking forward to everyone getting to "know" you this week.

And now, a question. Walt Disney World? What is THAT all about?

Hello everyone!

Thank you to everyone (especially Don) for having me. :lol:

I never knew "what I wanted to be when I grew up" like some people did when they were in high school. When I decided not to finish nursing, I took a ton of beginning classes, like geology, anthropology, psychology....nothing really stuck. I had a lot of friends that did the Disney college program. From anyone who hasn't heard of it, it's for students to spend 6 months at any of the Disney theme parks, you all live in an apartment complex called Vista Way (this is starting to sound like an episode of Real World, and sometimes it felt like it!)

I was told that when you apply if you put food and beverage as your top choice for placement, then you were a shoe-in. That's exactly what I did.

First, I worked at the Sunshine Season Food Fair in the Land pavilion at Epcot. I was a cashier, at what was basically a food court. I hated it, I asked if I could transfer and they had an opening in the kitchen. I thought I would try it out. Now, I was never into cooking. I remember when I told my dad I wanted to go to culinary school, he looked at me like I was crazy. He said the only thing he ever saw me cook was hot dogs and Raman noodles. For some reason I really took to working in a kitchen - a professional kitchen - I struggle at home.

Disney wasn't inspiring at all. It was just a starting point. Inspiration came later...

Rachael

#6 Waitman

Waitman

    leviathan

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,957 posts

Posted 14 December 2008 - 08:53 PM

It appears that women in the kitchen often get shunted towards -- or chose to move into -- patisserie. With some obvious and talented exceptions, that seems to be the case here in DC. Did you feel any pressure in Orlando or Yountville to stay out of the heat, as it were, and stick to the cooler part of the kitchen?

On a similar note, a friend of mine has had the good fortune to dine at Helene Darroze and considers it one of the finest meals of his life. If I ever get back to Paris, I am obligated to eat there even before the jet lag clears up. On the other hand, there seems to be a klatch of critics who consider her second star something of an affirmative action gift. What do you think? Is there a double standard? Do women who want to get out of the pastry cul-du-sac continue to face testosterone-based prejudice here and in France?

And, finally, did you have anything to do with the Rockfish Friday night? It was extraordinary.

"Don't go braggin' about how cool and clean your kitchen is. 'Caus if your kitchen's so cool and clean, ain't nothin' cookin'!"

-- Jesse Jackson


#7 qwertyy

qwertyy

    leviathan

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,326 posts

Posted 14 December 2008 - 08:58 PM

On a similar note, you've worked for some extraordinary talent. Do you think your experiences as a woman in these kitchen has differed from those of your male colleagues? Do you see a difference in working for a female executive chef as opposed to a male executive chef? Or do you think any differences are more a result of personality than gender?

Thank you for coming to talk to us!

#8 DanCole42

DanCole42

    Zinc Saucier

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,075 posts

Posted 14 December 2008 - 09:08 PM

Rachael. While everyone else asks insightful and interesting questions based on an in-depth read into Don's review of your background... allow me to get the boring "chef interview" inquiries out there...

Favorite food to cook?

If you could plant a food in the ground and have it grow (like a hotdog tree!), what would that food be?

Favorite food to feed to others?

If you were a food, what would you be, and why?

I had my first oil fire yesterday. Any kitchen horror stories to share?

I'm really tired from hosting my annual Christmas party today. Do you want to come over this week and cook?
-Dan

GChat: DanCole42

MORBO: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside.

#9 Tweaked

Tweaked

    Hungry

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,908 posts

Posted 15 December 2008 - 09:14 AM

Dan you left out the infamous "The Last Meal" question!

Rachel, what is your final meal?
Meat is Murder...Tasty Tasty Murder

#10 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 15 December 2008 - 10:51 AM

Welcome Rachael! With all of the time you spent in Thomas Keller's kitchens, it's obvious that he had confidence in you. What was it like at the beginning, when you first went to work for him? What are some of the most important things that you learned, in order to be able to survive and thrive in that milieu?

My college freshman daughter, whose primary relationship to the kitchen has been: "Mom, would you fix something for me to eat?" has developed an interest in cooking, now that she is away from home. (She called today, asking if I would find and email a recipe for gnocchi to her!) Needless to say, I am delighted--I was hoping it would happen eventually, but wasn't expecting it quite this soon.

My second question to you is -- when you were growing up, what were your important influences as regards your interest in and relationship with food and cooking?

Hi Zora, and thank you for your questions.

Well, my first day at The French Laundry, as you can imagine, was nerve wrecking. It was 9 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I arrived at 5:30 in the morning; this is the time the commis and butchers start. One of the commis was out sick, so I had to fill that spot, luckily a sous chef, Lisa, was working with me, and training me. I tried to make everything perfect, though nothing was. I remember making potato diamonds. When I finished, I showed Lisa my work. She looked at it, shook her head, and then threw it in the trash. I tried again. A couple months later, Lisa told me she was surprised I lasted as long as I did. She said she thought for sure I wouldn’t make it.

Learn fast. That’s one important thing I learned in the beginning. Next, I learned that in this business, you really need to want to learn. So many people go into restaurants, like The French Laundry, and act like know it alls. Confidence is good to have, and very important, but to be over confident is sudden death.

Questions are always important. I asked a lot, I still do. You just have to know which ones to ask and when. For example, Thomas once told me that I asked too many questions. Not meaning that it was a bad thing, but imagine someone would stop you from what you were doing, 3 or 4 times a day, to ask a question. With all the work you would have I am sure you would find that annoying. I learned to consolidate, and ask 1 question in a way that would answer 2 questions that I would have. I still try to do that with Eric. If I have a few questions I try to hit him as soon as he gets to work before he starts his day. That way when I can’t find him, because he is in meetings or on the phone, or writing a menu, I don’t have to bother him.

For your second question, I did not have a lot of influence growing up. My parents were very young when they got married, and I was born a year later. My mom worked, my dad worked as well as went to college, though my parents say that when I was a kid, I LOVED to eat. They have embarrassing stories of me eating too fast. The only thing I can think of was when I was young - my grandparents had a small garden in their back yard. In the summertime, any vegetables we had for dinner always depended on what was ready. They had a blueberry and blackberry bush. I would get excited when I was told it was ok to pick some berries. I would eat more then I brought in. I guess I always had some sort of relationship with food, cooking was another story.

Rachael

#11 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 15 December 2008 - 12:14 PM

It appears that women in the kitchen often get shunted towards -- or chose to move into -- patisserie. With some obvious and talented exceptions, that seems to be the case here in DC. Did you feel any pressure in Orlando or Yountville to stay out of the heat, as it were, and stick to the cooler part of the kitchen?

On a similar note, a friend of mine has had the good fortune to dine at Helene Darroze and considers it one of the finest meals of his life. If I ever get back to Paris, I am obligated to eat there even before the jet lag clears up. On the other hand, there seems to be a klatch of critics who consider her second star something of an affirmative action gift. What do you think? Is there a double standard? Do women who want to get out of the pastry cul-du-sac continue to face testosterone-based prejudice here and in France?

And, finally, did you have anything to do with the Rockfish Friday night? It was extraordinary.

Waitman,

I agree, there are more females in the pastry department rather than savory. I never felt any sort of pressure to get “out of the heat” though. I do, however, wish I spent more time learning pastries. Not that I ever want to be a pastry chef, but I think it is important, as a chef, to learn all aspects of the kitchen. There are many times where pastry and savory overlap. For example, on the CityZen menu we have a “clam chowder” dish. It’s a parsnip crepe soufflé, with a tarragon veloute, clams, bacon, potatoes, etc. A crepe and soufflé are most commonly found as a desert, but with the understanding, you can apply it as anything.

Going to France was something I didn’t mentally prepare for. I never studied French. You can get by ordering a meal or trying to take a bus, but in a busy kitchen, people screaming orders, it’s crazy. It’s a small kitchen, 1 sous chef, 1 pastry chef, 6 cooks, and 2 pastry cooks. In the first week I learned my numbers between 50 and 80. Why?? Because, when I asked how many covers there were for that night, it was always somewhere between those two numbers. Cooking is cooking though. The cooking was the easiest part.

Helene is very talented. I did hear about the rumor that she got her second star because of her father. He had a Relais & Châteaux in the south of France for something like 30 years. When he died, he left it to her. She sold it, went to Paris, and opened her own place. People say that the relationship between her father, Michelin and Relais & Châteaux, is why she is succeeding. I ate there before I started, she deserves every star.

I think now, diners treat women the same as men. If you go to a restaurant, have dinner, are very happy, and the chef is a woman you would talk just as highly about it as you would if the chef was a man. (At least I hope so!!!) Actually, when I first started at CityZen, the male to female ratio was equal. Plus, there were more women on the hot line than in pastry. I think it all has to do with what the woman wants for her career. Some may be happy in a small comfort type of place; others may prefer a large, corporation. What ever makes you happy and successful!

Rachael

PS. I can't take any credit on the rockfish dish, that's all Eric

#12 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 16 December 2008 - 09:30 PM

On a similar note, you've worked for some extraordinary talent. Do you think your experiences as a woman in these kitchen has differed from those of your male colleagues? Do you see a difference in working for a female executive chef as opposed to a male executive chef? Or do you think any differences are more a result of personality than gender?

Thank you for coming to talk to us!

Thank you for your questions qwertyy,

First, I never felt that my experiences differed from the men in the kitchen. I saw men pass by me, however I also saw myself excel past some men. If women have trouble getting respect in the kitchen, they most likely need to be more aggressive, confident. There isn't much time for a timid personality. I can see how for some women " It just isn't worth it", but I truly believe you get out of things what you put in them. When you produce a product that is exactly what was asked from you, what can they say, really.

It is a bit different working for a female chef. It is hard to explain what is so different, but there is something. I have only worked under 1 female, so I am not an expert. I really think that the personality of the person has everything to do with it. No matter what industry you are in. Some people are easy to get along with, some are not, male or female.

Rachael

#13 DonRocks

DonRocks

    leviathan

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,133 posts

Posted 16 December 2008 - 11:56 PM

Rachel,

Thanks for your interesting answers so far. I suspect many people here (including me) have no idea what a "typical day" is for a Sous Chef at CityZen. Is there such a thing? And if so, how would you describe it? Let me take a guess:

You arrive at 5:30 PM (with the prep cooks having everything ready to go), walk over to your station, help cook during dinner service, and then head over to Bistrot du Coin at 10 PM. Or is there more to it than that?

Also, what do you think are your biggest strengths and weaknesses as a chef?

Cheers!
Rocks.

dcdining.com - Restaurant Reviews - Facebook <--- LIKE Meeeeeeee! Twitter <--- FOLLOW Meeeeeeee!

If you're a member here, please Friend me personally on Facebook (send me a message with your screen name, please, so I know which member you are!)


#14 synaesthesia

synaesthesia

    I <3 Bawlmer.

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,527 posts

Posted 17 December 2008 - 07:52 AM

Thanks for your interesting answers so far. I suspect many people here (including me) have no idea what a "typical day" is for a Sous Chef at CityZen. Is there such a thing? And if so, how would you describe it? Let me take a guess:

And how would you compare to this to a non-fine dining restaurant? I imagine there is some difference...
Jamie

Brian: Stewie, if you don't like it, go on the internet and complain about it.

#15 goldenticket

goldenticket

    Oompa Loompa

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,953 posts

Posted 17 December 2008 - 11:05 AM

Not to keep coming back to the issue of gender....but...

Do you feel like you bring a different sensibility to the kitchen than your male counterparts? Is your approach to cooking or creating dishes different in any way or are there differences in technique, etc? As you replied above, personality is a key component (as I assume skill and training are also), so it would seem that any differences would be driven by those things more than gender.

When you produce a product that is exactly what was asked from you, what can they say, really.

One would hope, not much, other than 'good work' :P - but do (or did) you have to work harder to get the same respect?

Jackie B.

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
Wonka/Dahl/O'Shaughnessy


#16 Waitman

Waitman

    leviathan

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,957 posts

Posted 17 December 2008 - 12:25 PM

Do you ever wish you could do more of the Adria chemistry-set thing? Or, conversely, more of a Chez Panisse low-impact cooking approach? The French Laundry and CityZen both seem to take a different road, almost classic, than the styles that get the most press (if not the most customers) today.

"Don't go braggin' about how cool and clean your kitchen is. 'Caus if your kitchen's so cool and clean, ain't nothin' cookin'!"

-- Jesse Jackson


#17 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 17 December 2008 - 06:18 PM

Rachael. While everyone else asks insightful and interesting questions based on an in-depth read into Don's review of your background... allow me to get the boring "chef interview" inquiries out there...

Favorite food to cook?

If you could plant a food in the ground and have it grow (like a hotdog tree!), what would that food be?

Favorite food to feed to others?

If you were a food, what would you be, and why?

I had my first oil fire yesterday. Any kitchen horror stories to share?

I'm really tired from hosting my annual Christmas party today. Do you want to come over this week and cook?

Hi Dan, you actually have the most difficult questions so far. It’s hard to pick favorite foods, I have so many.

I guess my favorite food to cook for myself would be homemade pizza, not frozen.

I would have a popcorn tree, always warm, buttery, and salty.

My favorite thing to make for friends would either be pasta, or gnocchi.

I am going to have to get back to you about what food I would be; I have no idea on that one.

I have one really HUGE kitchen horror story. Just after we finished a week of test dinners at Per Se, we were finally open for our first service. Lunch went well. However, while I was getting ready for dinner, and I was no where near ready, the kitchen filled up with smoke. Now, earlier in the week the front of the house was having trouble with the fireplace in the dining room, and the room would fill with smoke. A few of us thought the smoke in the kitchen was another fireplace disaster.

At one point I did find it strange that there were only 2 people in the kitchen, another line cook and I. When Thomas Keller came in screaming followed by firemen, I high-tailed it out of the kitchen, and out of the building.

What had happened was a small electrical fire began in the wall, but because the support beams were wood, it turned into a very big fire! When the firemen came in to put out the fire, they kept burning themselves on the bonnet stove. They had asked to turn it off, and it was, but it had been on since 5:30 that morning and it holds a lot of heat. So the firemen decided to hose down the stove to cool it down. A sight I wish I saw.

And to answer your last question, you'll have to fight that out with Eric! :P
Rachael

#18 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 17 December 2008 - 06:38 PM

Dan you left out the infamous "The Last Meal" question!

Rachel, what is your final meal?

Hi Tweaked,
This is an easy question
A clam bake.
No doubt about it.
My family is from Cape Cod, Ma. Even though my parents don't live there any more, a summer hasn't gone by where I haven’t gone for a visit. Clam bakes are a meal we have for every big occasion, even after my high school graduation. My grandmother is from Portugal so we always have to have linguisa or chourico with all the other fixings.
Rachael

#19 DonRocks

DonRocks

    leviathan

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,133 posts

Posted 17 December 2008 - 11:09 PM

[I want to chime in and say how much I'm enjoying this.]

dcdining.com - Restaurant Reviews - Facebook <--- LIKE Meeeeeeee! Twitter <--- FOLLOW Meeeeeeee!

If you're a member here, please Friend me personally on Facebook (send me a message with your screen name, please, so I know which member you are!)


#20 ladi kai lemoni

ladi kai lemoni

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 414 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 09:46 AM

Two questions:

1) What foods do you have extreme aversions to?

2) Is there a food that you're really curious about but have never tried? (i.e. natto beans, durian fruit, etc.)

Alex

"Who ordered the bathtub mint julep?"


#21 lion

lion

    hammerhead

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 506 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 03:04 PM

Hi Rachel,

My favorite cooking utensil is a stainless steel grater. It's perfect for producing french fry style ginger root that is used in a regularly made dish and it's always missed when cooking in someone else's kitchen. Definitely extra work to get the right consistency.

What is your favorite cooking utensil?

#22 DonRocks

DonRocks

    leviathan

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,133 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 03:08 PM

Hi Rachel,

My favorite cooking utensil is a stainless steel grater. It's perfect for producing french fry style ginger root that is used in a regularly made dish and it's always missed when cooking in someone else's kitchen. Definitely extra work to get the right consistency.

What is your favorite cooking utensil?

[FWIW, MY favorite cooking utensil is a telephone.]

dcdining.com - Restaurant Reviews - Facebook <--- LIKE Meeeeeeee! Twitter <--- FOLLOW Meeeeeeee!

If you're a member here, please Friend me personally on Facebook (send me a message with your screen name, please, so I know which member you are!)


#23 MBK

MBK

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 436 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 03:17 PM

Hi Rachael :P

So we were talking the other day about missing Paris - but here's a question I didn't ask you: If you could put together a perfect day (or few days) in Paris, what would it include? (I'm assuming this is food-related enough, since I am sure at least part of your answer will have to do with markets, food shops, or restaurants!)
DC Food for Thought

*****

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

#24 Rieux

Rieux

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 352 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:15 PM

Hi Rachel,

Where on Cape Cod are you from? I grew up spending half my time in North Eastham. Any favorite restaurants on the Cape?

#25 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:25 PM

Rachel,

Thanks for your interesting answers so far. I suspect many people here (including me) have no idea what a "typical day" is for a Sous Chef at CityZen. Is there such a thing? And if so, how would you describe it? Let me take a guess:

You arrive at 5:30 PM (with the prep cooks having everything ready to go), walk over to your station, help cook during dinner service, and then head over to Bistrot du Coin at 10 PM. Or is there more to it than that?

Also, what do you think are your biggest strengths and weaknesses as a chef?

Cheers!
Rocks.

Hi Don,

A typical day starts at 9 am (Currently I am on the morning shift. Eric has me switch every so often - sometimes I'm in the morning, and sometimes I work side-by-side with him during service). In the morning we have a prep cook, meat butcher, pastry cook, and Amanda, the pastry chef all working. We start by setting up the kitchen, turning on the ovens, putting down the floor mats, and getting our stations together. Produce usually arrives just after we have finished, so we have to put that away. 9 times out of 10 they forgot to send us something, or what they sent us was wrong, so I have to call them to get it right. Also if there are any engineering issues, such as lights out or ovens not working, then I have to call them to come and fix it. Now to prep…I write myself a list of things I’ll need to do the night before, and then depending on the night’s service, Eric will add on to it. I’ll start with any sauces and risotto that is needed. I do a lot of the fish butchering, with Sara, our prep cook. So for this menu, I have tuna and perch to portion, clams and scallops to clean, lobsters to cook, clean and portion and lobster stock.

By this time the night crew has started to arrive. Once I finish my prep work, I start any projects that Eric has lined up. It could be anything from a menu idea he has that he wants tested, or pickling and jarring summer vegetable to use during the winter months. We have our staff meal at 5, after I fill out requisitions for products we may need from that hotel for the next day. Then I start ordering. I take care of the fish, cheese, any dry goods, and produce. By the time I finish, Eric has already started service, I tie up any loose ends, and then say goodnight.

I think my strengths would be organizing my day. It may take writing things down, working faster, or not talking very much on the busy days, but I get it done. Also, I would have to say, working service. I like the pressure on a busy night. I am comfortable enough on the line that I know if something is wrong I can fix it, and if I can’t, I know I can come up with something to replace it. I have seen a big difference in the way I expedite now from when I first started at CityZen.

As for my weaknesses, I know there is still a lot for me to learn. Talking to purveyors and getting the product I ask for the first time, when there is an issue with the food runners working through it with them, managing staff etc. I know I am very far from being the “perfect” chef. For me, the job is only fun when it is mentally stimulating as well as gratifying.
Rachael

#26 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 07:03 PM

And how would you compare to this to a non-fine dining restaurant? I imagine there is some difference...

Thank you for your question synaesthesia,

Actually there is a lot of difference between a restaurant like CityZen and a restaurant a bit more casual. The food, service, décor, and staff. If you are paying a high price for dinner, you want exactly what you paid for. If you go out to eat and pay 20 dollars for your meal, while your meal could be excellent, in order for it to be so cheap there are certain necessities left out that are needed for a fine dining meal.

For instance, you could go to any restaurant and get a sturgeon with potatoes, bacon, apples and beets, like you can at CityZen. The china probably won’t be very expensive, and the sturgeon may have been previously frozen. The apples may have been blanched rather than sous vide. The potato would probably be sliced on you plate rather than a millefeuille layered with bacon. The time, hard work, and money we put in to your meal as a whole is what makes it fine dining. Also, there are the products; wild fish, fruits and vegetables from small farmers, truffles from France and Italy, wagyu from Japan, and cheese from all over the world. These are luxury items that if done well, anyone would be happy to have the opportunity to experience them.

And then we can’t forget the front of the house. When you go out to eat at a fine dining restaurant, you should feel taken care of. The service is always your first and last impression of a restaurant. Polite staff, correct explanations of dishes, the proper wine, anything you need to complete the experience.

#27 B.A.R.

B.A.R.

    hammerhead

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 984 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 08:11 PM

Do you buy anything.....and I do mean ANYTHING, used in the restaurant form SYSCO? Or US Foodservice. Even a skewer. I just saw a post in another thread that someone was shocked to see a SYSCO truck at a fine restaurant and I thought, maybe even CityZen buys bleach, foil, et al. from th evil empire? :P

Brian Reymann
I'm in the business but content here solely my own and is not associated with my employer at all.

Sometimes, I try to disassociate myself from my own opinions.


#28 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 09:51 AM

Not to keep coming back to the issue of gender....but...

Do you feel like you bring a different sensibility to the kitchen than your male counterparts? Is your approach to cooking or creating dishes different in any way or are there differences in technique, etc? As you replied above, personality is a key component (as I assume skill and training are also), so it would seem that any differences would be driven by those things more than gender.

One would hope, not much, other than 'good work' :P - but do (or did) you have to work harder to get the same respect?

Hi goldenticket,

In all kitchens there is something that male and female colleagues both bring to the table and a talented chef can take those positive ideas and put them towards the good of the restaurant. However, I think that sensibility is not only weighed between females and males, but male to males, or female to female. I think the best way to look at the kitchen staff, is not at groups of males and females, but a collective group of cooks.

My approach to plating and thinking of dishes is different than some of the cooks, but that only has to do with my history. I learned a lot from working for Thomas Keller, I took from it what I wanted to continue through out my career. Other cooks spent time working for other chefs, and have adapted those ideas for their own.

I never felt that I had to work harder to gain the same respect. I think I was to busy trying to learn everything I could to really notice. I really felt that I had the same chances as all my male colleagues. There was even an event in France that I was asked to do with Thomas Keller, none of the males came!!

Rachael

#29 Waitman

Waitman

    leviathan

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,957 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 10:07 AM

For instance, you could go to any restaurant and get a sturgeon with potatoes, bacon, apples and beets...

I think not. :P

"Don't go braggin' about how cool and clean your kitchen is. 'Caus if your kitchen's so cool and clean, ain't nothin' cookin'!"

-- Jesse Jackson


#30 Eric Ziebold

Eric Ziebold

    Gold

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 80 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 10:47 AM

I couldn't help but notice a lot of postings have been about the fact that Rachael is a woman in what was historically a "man's world." I think most professionals would agree that for everybody its an extremely hard profession to get into and stay in. I think Rachael really summed up the attitude that all young cooks should take making their way up through the business, and I think its that which has most influenced the path she has travelled. "I think I was too busy trying to learn everything I could to notice."
I can remember the conversation like it was yesterday. Rachael was commis at TFL and I was the Chef de Cuisine. She was to finish her externship and pulled me aside to ask what I thought would be her next opportunity if she were to continue in our kitchen. I knew what she wanted to hear, but that wasn't in the picture at the time, so I told her what I thought would be the reality for her. A couple weeks went by Rachael put in her notice and ultimately moved to France. Was I disappointed, yep. Was I sad for us, yep. Was I happy for her, yep. She was looking for the next challenge to continue learning, and we couldn't offer her enough at the time. Sometimes thats the case. I don't regret my decision, and would make the same one today that I did then, and I'm sure she would make the same decision as well. Its not about regrets, its about moving your life forward, always striving to continue to learn, and not getting distracted by what goes on around you. I have to repeat it again, because I think its one of the great traits about Rachael that has carried her down an amazing road and its what I wish most cooks had more of. "I think I was too busy trying to learn everything I could to notice"

EZ
Eric Ziebold

Chef,
CityZen

#31 DanCole42

DanCole42

    Zinc Saucier

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,075 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 10:57 AM

I guess my favorite food to cook for myself would be homemade pizza, not frozen.

You also like to make pizza at home? Hmm. So, are you seeing anyone?

And before anyone else brings up issues of gender again or says I'm being disrespectful, I'd just like to point out that I've asked Michael Landrum the exact same thing on several occasions.

...

Ahem.

If you had to do it all over again, would you still have taken a shot at nursing, or would you have launched headlong into a culinary career right out of the gate? What else would you have done differently?

Deep dish or thin crust?

One of the reasons I never wanted to pursue cooking professionally were the crazy hours and high pressure, high energy, exhausting environment. How do you relax after a hard day? How do you keep your cool? Have there been days where you've just said, "Oh my god - what am I doing here?" Do you find it's possible to balance a social life with your demanding job? How?

Thanks again, Rachael. :P
-Dan

GChat: DanCole42

MORBO: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside.

#32 synaesthesia

synaesthesia

    I <3 Bawlmer.

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,527 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 10:58 AM

I couldn't help but notice a lot of postings have been about the fact that Rachael is a woman in what was historically a "man's world." I think most professionals would agree that for everybody its an extremely hard profession to get into and stay in.

I also wonder if it's just a very different situation and decision once you reach the fine dining level. I would think in order for a woman to have made it that high, clearly requires a lot of chops/cojones and that merits a lot more respect and allows them to stand on more equal footing. I imagine if it were not fine dining the situation might be very different.

Or is it also something we see less of in kitchens run by American chefs - as many European chefs seem to have the @$$hole with a cleaver mentality (as opposed to the @$$hole with a keyboard =D)
Jamie

Brian: Stewie, if you don't like it, go on the internet and complain about it.

#33 Eric Ziebold

Eric Ziebold

    Gold

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 80 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 11:04 AM

Rachael:
Can you let me know when you get the buttery, salty popcorn tree? I'm selling my house so I can be your neighbor!
I went to the movies in Fairfield CA with this girl once. It was one of those butter your own popcorn places. (I'm not sure what the movie theaters were thinking!!) So she orders a popcorn and a drink tray. I'm a little confused as she has no drink but whatever. I order my popcorn, a coke , and we move over to the butter station to drain all the imitation, butter flavored, fatty substance they give you to put on your popcorn. It was at that moment I witnessed genius. She dumps the popcorn into said drink tray, creating more surface area, and then begins dousing the popcorn with the imitation, butter flavored, fatty substance, then pours it back in the bag. As she finished, I had tears in my eyes as I looked at my bag of popcorn with its 3" of exposed popcorn and meekly asked "Rachael, can I borrow your drink tray?"
For the record everytime I go to the movies and ask for a drink tray I announce to everyone "its the Rachael Harriman technique"
Just so you know, I'll bring the DVD's when the tree starts to bear fruit, errr....popcorn.
EZ
Eric Ziebold

Chef,
CityZen

#34 synaesthesia

synaesthesia

    I <3 Bawlmer.

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,527 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 11:29 AM

Oh... we forgot the obvious question... where do you go in the environs for food? Especially guilty pleasures - excluding the obvious oleo-laden popcorn.
Jamie

Brian: Stewie, if you don't like it, go on the internet and complain about it.

#35 DanCole42

DanCole42

    Zinc Saucier

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,075 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 11:57 AM

Can you let me know when you get the buttery, salty popcorn tree?

Don't they already have that at Alinea? :P
-Dan

GChat: DanCole42

MORBO: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside.

#36 thistle

thistle

    leviathan

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,315 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 02:47 PM

I think it would be great to see someone from Cityzen on Top Chef, I could also understand why a serious chef might not want to do it. What would you do for Wed.'s challenges?-the quickfire was a 45 minute one pot dish, guest-judged by Martha Stewart, & the elimination challenge was an hors d'ouevre or appetizer prepared for 250 guests at an Amfar benefit the next night. The cheftestants had 3 hours to prep the night before, not sure how much time the day of the event(edit-1 hour for prep& transport), I think there were budget constraints as well, & their theme was a verse of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. What would you do for that challenge for '5 golden rings' (just picking one at random, you could pick another one)?

#37 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 06:18 PM

Do you ever wish you could do more of the Adria chemistry-set thing? Or, conversely, more of a Chez Panisse low-impact cooking approach? The French Laundry and CityZen both seem to take a different road, almost classic, than the styles that get the most press (if not the most customers) today.

Thanks for another question Waitman,

I really haven’t been too interested in the molecular gastronomy movement. I have dabbled a bit, as I think we all have, but I still prefer food I can sink my teeth into. I think it's great that it’s getting so much press right now, but if the power in the world goes off, I want to still be able to cook an amazing meal using just a wood-burning stove.

I had my reasons for going to work at The French Laundry, and CityZen, but my reasons for staying have been because I'm inspired by the chefs thought processes, especially when it comes to food. I think if I wasn't, I wouldn’t have lasted very long at either place. It’s really important to find a restaurant producing food that inspires you. Remember, you will be there all day, everyday, until you leave.

Rachael

#38 mdt

mdt

    @#$%#^&*!

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,050 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 06:40 PM

Many restaurants change their menu with varying frequencies and CityZen is no different. Can you give us some insight into the dish creation process? Is it a solo effort by Chef Ziebold or a group exercise?

And something less serious, why has the mushroom fritter had such a long run as an amuse?

Thanks for taking time to do this.

#39 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 06:47 PM

Two questions:

1) What foods do you have extreme aversions to?

2) Is there a food that you're really curious about but have never tried? (i.e. natto beans, durian fruit, etc.)

Good evening ladi kai lemoni,

I eat everything (at least once :P ), except figs. I found out that I am allergic to them. I was at Everest, and Thierry, the chef de cuisine, asked if I’d ever had a fresh fig. I said no, and was excited to try it. It was good, and almost instantly my mouth began to itch. I went home and all the unpleasant reactions began. I have tried to just handle the figs, wash them or cook them. That doesn’t work either, I break out into hives.

There aren’t many foods I haven’t tried. I am lucky because Eric likes to try everything, and makes us try them as well. The CityZen team went to Japan 2 years ago to cook at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, and I tried a lot of interesting foods there like whale, and sea cucumber intestines (I do not recommend). There aren’t many foods that I know of that I haven’t tried, but that doesn’t mean I have tried everything. It’s one of the best parts about traveling; discovering new foods that you never knew existed.

Rachael

#40 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 06:54 PM

Hi Rachel,

My favorite cooking utensil is a stainless steel grater. It's perfect for producing french fry style ginger root that is used in a regularly made dish and it's always missed when cooking in someone else's kitchen. Definitely extra work to get the right consistency.

What is your favorite cooking utensil?

Thank you for your question lion,

A rubber spatula.

I can’t cook without one. It makes so many jobs in the kitchen go faster, and cleaner. Scraping around the sides of a pot, getting every last bit of a product from your bowl or pot, or even using it to pass something through a chinois or tammi (as long as the food product is a bit thin or loose)

Rachael

#41 Jarad Slipp

Jarad Slipp

    clam

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 22 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 11:39 PM

Given your New England upbringing (like mine) does a little piece of you die inside each time certain colleagues refer to the clam chowda as chow-daire? :P

#42 zoramargolis

zoramargolis

    leviathan

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,806 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 01:01 PM

:P Chow-daire you, my good sir!

#43 JPW

JPW

    Big Poppa Pump

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,403 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 01:42 PM

Rachael,
I'm flying solo tonight. Where should I go and what should I have for dinner tonight?

But seriously, what chefs in DC do you particularly admire and why?

Joe
skewing old


#44 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 03:04 PM

Hi Rachael :P

So we were talking the other day about missing Paris - but here's a question I didn't ask you: If you could put together a perfect day (or few days) in Paris, what would it include? (I'm assuming this is food-related enough, since I am sure at least part of your answer will have to do with markets, food shops, or restaurants!)

Hi MBK,

If I only had 1 day in Paris this would be my list of must see’s……

Must start by eating a croissant aux amande.

I would have to walk around almost every arrodisment. Walking is the best way to see Paris, I never took the bus when I was there, metro or taxi if I was in a real hurry.

Hot chocolate at Angelina. I was never a big fan of the pastries there, but the hot chocolate is to die for.

My favorite park to walk around in was always Jardin du Luxembourg.

I am a big fan of Jules Cheret lithographs, so I would have to stop at the flea market Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. While I was there I would try to find some silver kitchen spoons. The ones I have now are a matching set that I bought at a yard sale for 5 euros on rue Mouffetard.

I would stop at my favorite tea shop, Nina’s, near Vendome. It’s very small, but the teas are amazing, and the shop is very elegant.

Lunch would be a ham and cheese baguette (with butter) from Paul. I know, I know, Paul is a chain of sandwich shops, but their ham and cheese is perfect!!

Dinner would be at Ma Bourgogne. It’s a small bistro on the corner in Place des Vosges. It always has been my favorite place. On a nice night you have to sit outside, and then you can walk over to a bar and have a drink in the Bastille. If I was in town for a few days, then I would have to add another restaurant, but more like Pierre Gagnaire. I have never been, and would love to go.

Rachael

#45 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 05:48 PM

Hi Rachel,

Where on Cape Cod are you from? I grew up spending half my time in North Eastham. Any favorite restaurants on the Cape?

Hi Rieux,

My parents are from Marion. My father's parents still live there, and whenever I go for a visit we always make a stop at Mikes, on route 6 for linguisa pizza!!
There's always the Lobster Claw in Chatham.

Rachael

#46 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 05:59 PM

Do you buy anything.....and I do mean ANYTHING, used in the restaurant form SYSCO? Or US Foodservice. Even a skewer. I just saw a post in another thread that someone was shocked to see a SYSCO truck at a fine restaurant and I thought, maybe even CityZen buys bleach, foil, et al. from th evil empire? :P

B.A.R.,

The hotel purchases all the paper goods for all the outlets, and then I requisition them.

Yes, they either buy from Sysco, or US Foodservice.

It's hard to find a small organic producers for plastic wrap!! :D

Rachael

#47 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 06:30 PM

You also like to make pizza at home? Hmm. So, are you seeing anyone?

And before anyone else brings up issues of gender again or says I'm being disrespectful, I'd just like to point out that I've asked Michael Landrum the exact same thing on several occasions.

...

Ahem.

If you had to do it all over again, would you still have taken a shot at nursing, or would you have launched headlong into a culinary career right out of the gate? What else would you have done differently?

Deep dish or thin crust?

One of the reasons I never wanted to pursue cooking professionally were the crazy hours and high pressure, high energy, exhausting environment. How do you relax after a hard day? How do you keep your cool? Have there been days where you've just said, "Oh my god - what am I doing here?" Do you find it's possible to balance a social life with your demanding job? How?

Thanks again, Rachael. :P

Hi Dan,

-If I had the opportunity to do it all again, I don’t think that I would change anything, good and bad. I really think that everything happens for a reason. All the people that I have met, all the situations I have experienced, had some impact in shaping my life, and I am happy where I am at right now. I guess I needed time to realize what it was I really wanted in life (that was when I was in nursing) and then when I realized what it was, I tried to get there as fast as I could.

-Thin crust when I go out for pizza, not the cracker style, and when I make it at home it always ends up thick. (I always seem to use too much dough.)

-After a hard day, a beer usually helps, and a friend to vent to (preferably one who is in the industry). On easier days, I TRY to go to the gym after work, but most of the time I’m too tired and I end up just watching some TV. I always need some down time.

-I can honestly say that I have never been so mad at someone that I just started yelling at them. Whenever I feel my blood start boiling, I keep really quiet, and go through everything in my head. The worst is to blow up at someone, and then come to realize you are the one at fault. Usually by the time I finish contemplating the situation, I can sit down and have a normal “adult” conversation.

-Yes, there have been plenty of times that I thought I may have made a mistake, and should have gone with a different career choice. As the years went on though, I found myself enjoying it more and more, and the stress became a welcome challenge.

-As time goes on, balancing my work life and social life has become easier, especially since I have moved back to the east coast. I can see my family and friends in this area a lot easier. I just wish I did a better job of keeping in touch with some of my friends that are not in the industry, but I try.

Rachael

#48 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 06:52 PM

I think it would be great to see someone from Cityzen on Top Chef, I could also understand why a serious chef might not want to do it. What would you do for Wed.'s challenges?-the quickfire was a 45 minute one pot dish, guest-judged by Martha Stewart, & the elimination challenge was an hors d'ouevre or appetizer prepared for 250 guests at an Amfar benefit the next night. The cheftestants had 3 hours to prep the night before, not sure how much time the day of the event(edit-1 hour for prep& transport), I think there were budget constraints as well, & their theme was a verse of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. What would you do for that challenge for '5 golden rings' (just picking one at random, you could pick another one)?

Thanks for your question Thistle,

I really have never been interested in actually partaking in the Top Chef, or Hell’s Kitchen type of show, but I love to watch them. They definitely are very entertaining!!!!

I did watch the beginning of the episode you are talking about. I thought the paella dish was the perfect dish for the quickfire. Other than that, I think a polenta with a poached egg and winter vegetables would have been good too.

Now, I have to say that I have had a few days to think about this, which isn’t really fair, and this was a VERY hard challenge. If you said lord’s a leaping, I would have done frogs legs. (I didn’t end up watching this part of the show, so if the chef did frogs legs, good job!!) I looked online to see some pictures of what the contestants made. The dishes looked like they were at least 2 bites. So I have to say, for 5 golden rings, I would make small parmesan tortellini, with a tomato water reduction that was buttered out, with some meyer lemon and capers in the sauce. I would steep some saffron in the milk before making the pasta to give it more of a gold color, plus the flavor would go really well with the rest of the dish. Five on a plate of course, they would be small.

Rachael

#49 Rachael H

Rachael H

    Rhombicuboctahedron

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 26 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 07:26 PM

I also wonder if it's just a very different situation and decision once you reach the fine dining level. I would think in order for a woman to have made it that high, clearly requires a lot of chops/cojones and that merits a lot more respect and allows them to stand on more equal footing. I imagine if it were not fine dining the situation might be very different.

Or is it also something we see less of in kitchens run by American chefs - as many European chefs seem to have the @$$hole with a cleaver mentality (as opposed to the @$$hole with a keyboard =D)

Hello synaesthesia,

You are probably right, but before I went to culinary school, I worked at Roadhouse Grill. I was a waitress before I went to Disney, and when I returned home (before culinary school) I worked in the kitchen. I worked lunches and dinners. I made the nacho plate, and worked the grill. It was definitely NOT fine dining, though I was learning. I was the only girl in the kitchen minus a women that rolled egg rolls in the morning that were filled with cheese and jalapeños. Yes, people thought that I couldn’t do it, but when they worked with me, they realized that I wanted to do it, and I did. Again, I can’t stress enough, everyone can do anything they want. If you work in a restaurant that is treating women inferior to men, please leave. Nothing good can come out of it. You also have to think that if the chef is treating women bad, it seems to me that he (or she) is probably treating the rest of the staff poorly. I can’t speak for Europe, they have a different culture and very deep roots, but I know that if I worked in a kitchen, and the chef screamed at me or hit me, I would not have returned the next day.

For your other question, I have a few guilty pleasures. There is a bbq place in Rochester called Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. The first one opened in Syracuse, and most recently NYC. The pulled pork sandwiches are amazing. They smoke the pork and ribs right in front of the restaurant. I have even brought a sandwich back for Eric, with his mouth full he nodded with approval. I don’t get to eat out to much, and when I have the opportunity I try to go to a place that I haven’t been to before. Though, my sweet tooth weakness is a warm brownie sundae with hot fudge and vanilla ice cream. Delish!! (That will be my only Rachael Ray reference)

Rachael

#50 lion

lion

    hammerhead

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 506 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 07:56 PM

Hi Rachael,

Thanks for answering my previous question.

In the past year, I visited both San Francisco and London and was struck by the food markets in both of those world class cities. It was a pleasure to cook with such fine and fresh ingredients.

As a chef, what do you think is missing from DC that could elevate it to the next level?




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users