Archive for May 1st, 2008

My food history

May 1st, 2008

I started washing dishes at my uncle’s German restaurant when I was thirteen years old because my cousin and I had decided that we would travel to Europe.   Our parents had immigrated to America and so held no fear of travel for their children.  We came back wise-ass fourteen year olds with pierced ears and a longing to experience more food and wine pairing.

I bussed tables and sold peanuts at ball games to help pay for private high school.  It felt good to buy my own car, and I loved meeting the crazy people that fed the public!

I worked my way through college at various restaurants around Oregon.  After I graduated I thought that I would relax for a year.  Only for one year.  After that I would get a “real” job and things would take off.

I spent 4 years working for the McMenamin brother’s at Edgefield.  The future of the property was very much still in doubt at the time, but Mike and Brian McMenamin were throwing all their energy into the creation of an epicurean oasis.  I drank bourbon with Booker Noe;  I drank Armangac with Huber Germain-Robin; I drank and ate with all the vinters, brewers, gardeners, distillers and had the time of my life.

I grew impatient and hit the road.  From Portland I went to the Virgin Islands.  I bartended in Honduras. I managed restaurants in Alaska.  I waited tables in Atlanta.   I picked apples in Ontario and lived out of the belly of my ’69 VW bus.  I exulted in the flexibility that my life held using the restaurant as a medium for survival.

In 1999 I lived with my dad a Native American Reservation on the North West coast of Washington State.  I chopped wood, fixed toilets and played horse shoes with the native kids all summer.  My dad was in charge of the native store and so we set up a business for the tribe.

We would buy salmon from the fisherman for $2.25 a pound.  My dad and I would skin and fillet the fish, brine the fish in brown sugar and salt, and smoke them over alder wood over night.  We sold the smoked salmon to the tourists for $17 a pound.

That summer my dad and I cooked for our community members every day.  My dad set me up and I smoked and poached black cod; I roasted marrow bones and made bordelais sauce.  I began to understand how easy it really was to cook good food from scratch.

For a few years I thought that restaurants were what I loved and I worked for MGM-Mirage Casinos managing restaurants.  But restaurants weren’t quite what I was in love with.  Not as a capitalistic vehicle anyway.   It was the creation of community through food.