For the past year, coming home unquestionably means showing my family what I’ve learned at school by cooking the meals. While working and learning, I always take mental notes of things I can realistically do at home to impress everyone. I’ve learned that I have to choose carefully because sometimes there are recipes that work better in an industrial kitchen and require more practice using home tools and ingredients. Even in my mom’s kitchen, which is set up very professionally for her private chef job, I’m adjusting back to the way it felt when I first learned to cook.
When my mom cooks for clients in our home, I have the chance to help her out with some of the prep work. There are also a few recipes that have become my specialities, like focaccia. Yesterday, she had a busy menu and to take a small load off her back I made my favorite focaccia dough. It has a mashed potato folded in to make it fluffy on the inside but still nice and crunchy on the outside. To proof the dough, I simply wrapped the bowl in a couple of towels and left it next to a sunny window and let the heat activate its growth. Before baking it, I topped it with sea salt, burst cherry tomatoes, fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, and of course, more olive oil. When it came out, we all wished we could take a slice, but it was a perfect loaf ready to be wrapped up and taken to a good home for her clients.
The food that goes to my mom’s clients needs to be visually beautiful and neat, so there is an emphasis on knife cuts, meaning that inevitably we’re going to have a lot of produce waste while trying to achieve that uniform look. We keep a container of zucchini sides and eggplant slices that were too thin for cooking up and another container for fennel tops, onion ends, and parsley stems for stocks.
My mom also makes incredible relationships with the fellow food service workers interacts with, like the local grocery store clerks and butchers. She sees them every day, and has become so close to them that people like the butcher send her home with extra meat. So, with the gifted meat and the vegetable scraps, we fire the grill to cook outside. My brother tends to the steaks and lays the veg down to get one solid grill mark across each side while my mom and I clean up from the day of work. Our house, like any productive kitchen on a midsummer day, gets unbearably hot, but especially so because our AC just broke. We all sat in the dining room with the screen door and windows open to let the air in but avoid the mosquitoes, just happily but sweatily enjoying a meal that my brother and I claim ”is what summer is all about, baby!”