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IMPRESSUM

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  • Steve Lynn

Chapter 4 - The Food Reviewer


The server stares, focusing with anticipation as the fork swirls across the plate. Scooping bits and parts of the dish that lays lazily in front of me, I glance towards the server, my eyes narrow and tension grows. Anticipation both with hope but also with dread, the server with a casual thoughtlessness had brought the food and dropped it on the table as though she was feeding a wild animal, the dread. I glance past the server and find a spot through the glass windows and across the open ocean. The waves breaching the plane and push towards the sky, the sun lovingly warming the beach goers but fading moment after moment while the moon starts to find its way through. The peak of the far away volcano standing firm through all the changes as visual reminder to all, that she alone is the true Head of this island, pure majesty.

I look down again at the cream colored plate in front of me. Tired and weary of what life as become as an endless lonesomeness pushes on my bones, the food. Always with the food. Everyday, seven days a week and fifty-two weeks a year, I eat this food and always alone. Today, beet risotto with parmesan chips and smoked tofu with caramelized onion and roasted peppers. I grab the parmesan chips, thinking this isn't a good first sign, not strictly vegetarian...or even in a non-strict sense. I make a note and place the chips on the side of the plate and cross my fingers, as the fork lifts towards my mouth, pink rice isn't a particular appetizing idea to me. Noticing that every bite is monitored and looked at, servers and cooks waiting to see if there would be a reaction so that the will know what I will think before the column gets written. I place the concoction in my mouth.

Everything wrong with the modern day cooking world can be found in that first bite and even before I can swallow I am transformed to my cooking school.

The manual opened to the correct page, my stock having been heated and resting at just the right amount of heat. Butterflies are boxing in my stomach and nausea is forcing its bile into the back of my throat. Chef Smyth was to put it lightly challenging but today with a mushroom risotto, one of his favorite dishes, he will demand nothing less then perfection. With a great shake of the hand, I add the butter to the saucepan, then the shallots, garlic and the mushrooms, no yelling, so far so good. I pick up the wine, splashes of the wine linger on the tip of the glass as my hands continue to shake, noticing the mistake and thanking God for the moment of clarity, I put down the wine and grab the risotto and place it in the pan and roast it a bit. Adding the wine in a steady motion while stirring, my confidence starts to grow. Feeling that I know this dish, I close my textbook and continue to cook. I let the rice absorb the wine and begin to add the stock, a little at a time waiting for the liquid to disappear before adding more, being careful to wait so as not to ruin an otherwise perfect risotto. The risotto is almost done and the liquid is no longer being absorbed and the rice is the perfect blend of softness and firmness. A work of art. Pride gleans from my mouth, as I grab my tasting spoon and adjust the seasonings to reach the perfect level of salt. Causally thinking that the dish needed a bit of something extra, I grab the black pepper and toss it into the mix. I taste it again and know just how perfect I made it. With a great confidence I take the garnished plate and place it in front of the Chef. He looks at me, places his spoon into the risotto, stirs it around and places a bit in his mouth. His eyes immediately find mine and I think he going to stop the class and have all the other students try this risotto so they know what it should taste like. There is a moment of a pause. An embarrassment of pride already turning my cheeks to a bright red color, he asks, "is this black pepper?" Confused, I nodded thinking of course it's black pepper. He grabs the oversized bowl and with great force throws it against the wall. The plate shatters with the contact of the wall, sending bits of mushroom across the room and onto the ceiling. His voice reaching new levels of pitch and tone, "What the fuck did I say at the beginning of the class, no fucking black fucking pepper! So what the fuck are you giving me, black fucking pepper! Do your ears not work or are you fucking dumb? Huh, what is it? Go to the dish pit and clean up, you are done today a waste of food and time" A stunned silence deafens me, the other feel the pain and know that this was my day to take the wrath. I thank the Chef and walk meekly back to my work station and start to clean up.

The manual opened to the correct page, my stock having been heated and resting at just the right amount of heat. Butterflies are boxing in my stomach and nausea is forcing its bile into the back of my throat. Chef Smyth was to put it lightly challenging but today with a mushroom risotto, one of his favorite dishes, he will demand nothing less then perfection. With a great shake of the hand, I add the butter to the saucepan, then the shallots, garlic and the mushrooms, no yelling, so far so good. I pick up the wine, splashes of the wine linger on the tip of the glass as my hands continue to shake, noticing the mistake and thanking God for the moment of clarity, I put down the wine and grab the risotto and place it in the pan and roast it a bit. Adding the wine in a steady motion while stirring, my confidence starts to grow. Feeling that I know this dish, I close my textbook and continue to cook. I let the rice absorb the wine and begin to add the stock, a little at a time waiting for the liquid to disappear before adding more, being careful to wait so as not to ruin an otherwise perfect risotto. The risotto is almost done and the liquid is no longer being absorbed and the rice is the perfect blend of softness and firmness. A work of art. Pride gleans from my mouth, as I grab my tasting spoon and adjust the seasonings to reach the perfect level of salt. Causally thinking that the dish needed a bit of something extra, I grab the black pepper and toss it into the mix. I taste it again and know just how perfect I made it. With a great confidence I take the garnished plate and place it in front of the Chef. He looks at me, places his spoon into the risotto, stirs it around and places a bit in his mouth. His eyes immediately find mine and I think he going to stop the class and have all the other students try this risotto so they know what it should taste like. There is a moment of a pause. An embarrassment of pride already turning my cheeks to a bright red color, he asks, "is this black pepper?" Confused, I nodded thinking of course it's black pepper. He grabs the oversized bowl and with great force throws it against the wall. The plate shatters with the contact of the wall, sending bits of mushroom across the room and onto the ceiling. His voice reaching new levels of pitch and tone, "What the fuck did I say at the beginning of the class, no fucking black fucking pepper! So what the fuck are you giving me, black fucking pepper! Do your ears not work or are you fucking dumb? Huh, what is it? Go to the dish pit and clean up, you are done today a waste of food and time" A stunned silence deafens me, the other feel the pain and know that this was my day to take the wrath. I thank the Chef and walk meekly back to my work station and start to clean up.


My mouth still full from the beet risotto, I glance to the server again and this time he is standing with the Chef, dressed in his whites wearing a unflattering hat. Soggy, overcooked rice, with little to no flavor disintegrates into my mouth and with only a great effort push it past my teeth and down my throat. Stunned silence deafens me.

I hold up the smoked tofu, examine it and hope that that this was with a bit more care and as I begin to chew on what could have been easily an old car tire, I take a deep breath. Alone. I place my fork down, no longer could I torture my taste-buds with this, amazing display of nothingness. I need some thing different, a different life, someone whom we could have shared this and laugh as we casually walked out of the restaurant, feeling both in shock of the horror of what we just ate and amazement. I reach into my pocket and grab my cell phone and call my editor and let him know, I quit. Food was supposed to be joyful, fun and like a great movie transport one to a different world. But sadly, with today's environment there was no longer Chefs like Chef Smyth, one who drills home the basics and holds students to the highest standards.

Overcooked pink slop was becoming the norm as students skipped past the basics and danced with the idea that they are the next Thomas Keller, so they combine an odd assortment of ingredients thinking they are edgy, while forgetting that Thomas Keller and those that are like him, first mastered the basics before they reached and experiment and not the other way around. I stand up, smile towards the staff and pay my tab. I close the door and walk to the beach and sit down, I let the sun fall into the ocean and the moon roll up to the peak of the world. Thoughts bounce, I lay back in the sand and feel for the first time in a long time, peace.

#TheBrad