Now, if there ever was a rant page, this may very well be it, eventually.I’ve been a home chef for many years. Inspired by any idea I can get my hands on, food just flows out of my hands. Between burns and scalds, I occasionally come up with some interesting stuff. I started cooking a bit later than Joseph, around the age of 15. I was pretty good with a wok in those days, and would make Chinese food for my parents. Somehow, my sister was never around for it. One day, maybe I’ll relate the infamous “Welcome home, I made a cake for you while you were gone, and here’s the remaining slice” story.
My training is pretty informal, if anyone is really interested: learning to make apple strudel on my bubby’s knee; trying to eek out techniques from my mom, who, by the way, may be the best Jewish cook on the planet; attempting to steal my dad’s kosher pickling technique, let me tell you that this is hard, because he sneaks in a few tricks when no one is looking; taking over a sushi kitchen in a restaurant of a friend of ours in Houston for recipe development; and studying briefly in France. Mostly it’s been trial by fire.
The biggest challenge I’ve had is coming up with recipes that the whole family will eat, and still not be boring. Heck’s Kitchen actually started years ago when I cried out, after having to make four separate meals for four people, “What is this place, a restaurant? I’m in Hell! No, I’m in Heck!” I decided at that point that if I had to make dinner, I would do only one menu. If the kids wanted to help, well, that would be different, and we could get elaborate.
But let’s be serious. I do know my limitations and I’m certainly not on the calibre of a top-tier restaurant chef. Those chefs have my deepest respect. My day job, which I’ve been told I shouldn’t give up, is as an indestructible computing consultant. That’s where I think I’m needed, so that’s where I’m staying, until someone says otherwise. Of course, a Heck’s Kitchen bed and breakfast is not out of the question some day.
My posts are here.
- I did my first attempt at an urbanite kālua recipe last night. I’d have to rate it about a 5 on the yummy scale, but only about 3 on the got-it-right scale. Some things are just not safe, though. And probably not sacred either. I’ve managed to recreate a pretty decent Salmon Ceveche, which is a common dish at luaus in Hawai’i. Recreate may not be the right word, because I use equal parts salmon to the other stuff, which appears to be a close relative of the Bruschetta, while the luaus use what can only be considered essence of salmon. Apparently, my Tuna Ceveche was pretty good, but more than that, the Sansei Snow Crab Ramen has been very closely reproduced. I’ve cut down the richness somewhat, but the dashi I use (mostly fish bits that are around + wakame + bonito + shrimp shells + dried anchovies), is close enough to theirs that my family was pretty impressed.
- We got to experience some of Hawaii’s best this month, with a visit to Oahu and The Big Island. This included some very interesting Local Food including: kālua, laulau, oxtail soup, manapua, and malasadas. Already in the works is a Heck’s Kitchen Hawaiian dinner, where I’m going to try to adapt our local ingredients and techniques to produce as close to authentic as I can get. I’ve managed to borrow some recipes from local restaurants, including a delicious snow crab ramen, which is now motivating me to resurrect my efforts to make pulled noodles. After all, if you’re doing for authentic Local Food, don’t waste it on the mass-produced haolified stuff. From what we tasted, Local Food is a fusion of many cultures and a practical simplicity of preparation steeped in over a thousand years of history.
- A big Mahalo! to Matthew and Keira of Hawaii Food Tours. If you’re going to Hawaii, go early in your trip, not at the end. They’re a well-spring of information and loads of fun.
- May 3rd, 2008
- Today was Heck’s First Birthday Party. We had friends over, and made quite the dinner. More to come later, but special birthday wishes to Joseph and our friend Krystal.
- I’ve been out of the commission for a while having my wisdom teeth out. It hasn’t stopped me from playing with foams and ice creams, though. We promoted Kris to Sous Chef today, about time, if you ask me. Now I can relax – after the Beef Wellington tonight.
- July 12th, 2007
- Guess what taste combination made the top-ten for the year? Maple/Wasabi! Amazing. I’ve been doing it for years, and Toronto finally caught up. Actually, it made me feel like I was on the right track. The Molecular Gastronomy experiments are coming along nicely. I think I’m going to stick with a nice old-fashioned gelatine and agar for foams for the time being. I need a pure supply of lecithin, rather than soy lecithin. The latter is not flavour neutral, or perhaps it’s just not scent neutral, despite the some literature to the contrary. The strawberry foam was pretty nice. I’m working on pineapple foam.
- July 2nd, 2007
- Kris and I spent the weekend at The Millcroft Inn. What a truly spectacular place! It hasn’t changed much in appearance in twenty or so years since I was last there, but the food sure has. Chef Roberto made a remarkable meal for us, and demonstrated a bit of his experimental side on me. Interestingly enough, his foams had the same taste as my recent attempt. He and I are going to have a heart to heart about suppliers. The kitties were very good on their own, but neither of them is speaking to me right now. I made elk on the 30th for Kris – not sure she’s ready for that one.
- June 19th, 2007
- This has definitely been an experience. I didn’t blog on the elk or bison, but oh my, you’re all so not getting any. I had a nice peaceful meal of elk, with no cats around. After Kira found out, I got Heck, six ways from Sunday. “You had elk?” could be clearly discerned from her screams aimed directly at me.It’s also been fun watching Hell’s Kitchen lately. No comments on that on this web site. Uh uh, but you are free to read the blogs over there. Between it, Restaurant Makeover, Top Chef, and now, Iron Chef America, and Superstar Challenge, I’m constantly hungry. The chef I miss most, though, is Emeril Lagasse. Of course, Paul and Julia, I truly miss you both as well.
- Heck’s Garage Sale planning is well under way. We’re getting rid of all the old junk. Finally. Maybe we’ll be able to move onto Heck’s Basement soon. I have such plans, including a sushi bar theme. No kidding.
- June 9th, 2007
- Brazilian food is wonderful, you know. It’s too bad that there isn’t much of it available in Canada. Well, that can be fixed. We had a really good meal tonight, with sirloin, flank steak, and chicken, with chimichurra sauce and marinades. An amazing discovery, and apparently, I’m now officially an “Experimental Home Chef”, is the mint chimichurra sauce. It’s made like the standard, but with extra lemon to balance the sharpness of the mint. It was a big hit, but I’m not posting this recipe. Sorry. It’s proprietary!
- May 21sh, 2007
- And, so what else does a chef make for himself when he’s alone? Stuff his wife won’t eat. Dijon and Cranberry Lamb! Hmmm. Now, I’m going to throw down the gauntlet and hope that another chef will pick up the challenge to convince me to eat at your restaurant.
- May 19th, 2007
- So the ultimate question (no, not what is 6 times 9) is: what does a chef make for himself, when he’s alone because his wife is traveling on business? The answer? Experimental recipes, of course. That way, there’s no fear of rejection. So tonight’s dinner was a first attempt at recreating an Italian seafood soup, Zuppe de Pesce. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to make this in a single serving, apparently. I’m pretty stuffed. If you try the recipe, please let me know what you think, and how I can improve it. Enjoy!
- April 22nd, 2007
- It was birthday weekend for me, and I started by playing with a few new and old recipes. Our new stove got its official break-in test with my French Canadian Pea Soup. It worked out truly amazingly. Kris took me to my favourite North-Toronto restaurant, which we haven’t been to in over a year, and they treated us very well. Pasta trials are the phrase of the week. I have ideas.
- April 14th, 2007
- Heck’s Kitchen helped Rhys with a school project today. He wanted to do a video about sushi, so we got the production going with miso soup, tuna tataki – ok, not sushi, but yummy – two different maki, some awesome salmon and hirame, and way too much food. We’re trying to figure out how to put the video on our website, but it just won’t fit.
- March 25th, 2007
- We had our first guests to experience the magic of our new kitchen last night. First, I’d like to thank my kids for being fantastic sous-chefs and helpers last night. Everything timed perfectly and was delicious. Second, Kris, you’re the best and I love you. The work we’ve both put in on this has been worth it, even through the occasional freak-outs. Third, but not least, are our guests, who volunteered their taste-buds and blessed us with partaking in what can only be considered a labour of love. The menu is here.
- March 20th, 2007
- Well, finally, we where able to do a real meal in the new Heck’s Kitchen. All the kitchen equipment works, and I’ve very happy about it. We did a teppanyaki meal tonight, with all sorts of grilled meat. Here’s a picture of Joseph and the little volcano I did for show. The kitchen has exceeded my performance expectations, and I’m pleased as heck!
- February 25th, 2007
- This is a special blog day, to explain the real reason why we’re doing this kitchen renovation and why I’ve had to take responsibility for becoming the chef of this place. I had an allergic reaction to food served at a supposedly reputable restaurant today and am in a lot of pain.It’s all about managing what goes into my body and those of my family. What gets to me more than most of you can imagine is the pervasive lack of responsibility taken by the restaurant industry for protecting the rights and health of their customers. Having allergies is not pleasant for me, but I am very clear when communicating with you, restaurant owners, managers, chefs, and servers. The fact that you either don’t care, don’t know, or don’t take precautions, is going to make someone very sick some day. I can only assume from this lackadaisical attitude, that your conformance to health regulations is equally shoddy. Frankly, people, if you ignore someone’s allergy, or serve substandard food, you are, in my opinion, guilty of assault, and should be prosecuted. Today was the last straw, and I can tell you that there is a Chinese restaurant in the Sheppard/Yonge corridor in Toronto that will never, ever, see another dime of mine.To the point, then. I cook because I don’t trust you. I cook for my family because I will not risk their health because you choose to put your profit margins against the safety of the people who pay you high prices for you to put our health at risk. You are a danger to everyone you serve. I know that the reputable chefs out there are not deserving of this obvious ire on my part, but your cohorts are ruining it for you. Take some responsibility for stopping them before they kill someone. What happened today will cause me to question whether I want to spend hundreds of dollars to eat at your restaurant. And, it’s mostly likely that I will choose not to. As a customer, there is nothing I can do but express my distrust by not eating at your restaurant. Prove to me that you are worthy of my trust, and I will frequent your establishment. Demonstrate that you don’t care about the health of your patrons, and you will have to live with the consequences.The reason I chose to devote so much time, study, money, and effort, to being the best possible cook, hobby chef, whatever you want to call me, is to be able to eat the way I want to eat, using the freshest of ingredients, and the best techniques, without having to live in fear. I fear your attitudes. I fear your apathy. I fear your ignorance. Now prove my fears unfounded. I live in Heck, because of you, not because of me.
- February 2007
- We’re deep in the throws of renovation right now, so not much is happening in the way of food at Heck’s Kitchen. However, with the limited setup we have in our dining room and laundry room – the make-shift kitchen – we’ve pulled off a chocolate soufflé. If I can pull off a chocolate soufflé in a toaster oven, maybe I’ll get a little respect <smile>. Here are some of the pictures of it:
Incredible as it may seem, we appear to be pretty close to schedule. Talk has now begun for the opening gala. If we were in Ottawa, I think HGTV.ca might actually have picked us up. The invitee list is growing. Now, if Chef Gordon Ramsay would be in Toronto, I’d even let him try my Brussels Sprouts – guess what’s been requested for the menu.
- January 2007
- Well, New Years came and went and the Tapas plan went wonderfully. It was actually pretty fantastic, and we all stuffed ourselves silly. The problem was the time it took to do everything. The whole event is on our Tapas page. We have one more mean plan for the month, and it’s a celebration of the end of Heck’s Kitchen Version 1.0. Just prior to the renovation, we’re going to do a final meal in the old kitchen.
- December 2006
- It’s holiday time and I’m pretty well wrapped up in the whole “Kitchen reno” thing right now. Here’s a big surprise: Did anyone think the rest of the house was any better than the kitchen? You wouldn’t believe the horror of the 1980’s wallpaper. So off with the wallpaper, and on with the custom wainscot. This gave me the excuse to get a collection of power tools that equips my workshop almost as well as the new kitchen will be.Given Joseph’s request for teeny stuff for New Years, I’m thinking Tapas. We’ll just have to see. Next step is to get him to research what tapas is, and let him start planning. Watch the menu page to see whether he comes up with anything.
- October 2006
- Halloween was pretty funny at Heck’s Kitchen. The pumpkins came out, and the costumes, and the spinach. My sons encouraged me to dress up as a scary person, so donning my chef smock, and blond highlights, I transformed into Chef Ramsay (no offence meant, Chef). I’m not sure whether the trick-or-treaters were more scared of the outfit or the creamed spinach I tried to serve instead of candy. I only had one taker for the spinach, and that was a parent. Wait until next year: Brussels Sprouts. Here’s a picture, of our place, for the festivities:
This recipe was first made on Halloween.