Last night was my first service by myself with Andrea in the kitchen.

I’d like to look on the bright side: all dishes were cooked on time, sent out on time, and plated like they should.

Now for my real response: I was completely frazzled. I spilled all of the hot pepper sauce that we had on the floor. We had to make a very quick, probably less flavorful one, at that second. I was beyond upset. That was one of the things I didn’t want to do- stupid little things like that.

Chef Flavio recently changed the entire menu. I was struggling to remember which sauce goes with which dish. There are about 30 different sauces for our menu. Each dish has up to 3… whether it’s a foam, mousse, reduction, bisque, essence or demi glace.

Everything in the kitchen is so fast that for me to get every sauce right with each dish with a new menu was very frustrating. I had to keep referring to the menu that was tacked on the wall, which by the way had scribbles, cross outs, and random notations. Because it’s not like Chef Flavio changes the menu once every season, or twice every two weeks… the menu constantly changes. At least every Saturday night (when we’re at full capacity, mind you) Chef Flavio adds a new salad, or amuse bouche with a bajillion different elements. Take this salad, for example (see photo): to make this salad you need to heat up the caramelized pumpkin, beet cubes, peas, fava beans, spinach leaf, zucchini flower, asparagus tips and sugar snap pea pods. THEN you also have to steam cook the shrimp, cod and langoustines, heat up the curry-martini dressing, or is it the grapefruit dressing…?I’d like to call it the “salad of doom.” Anyway, it’s a lot to do. And this salad was impromptu. How can I remember all this stuff for 1 stupid appetizer salad on a fully-packed Saturday night, on my first days of being completely by myself as the sous chef’s sous chef?

To me it seems somewhat impossible to remember 3 or 5 dishes like this that just come to chef Flavio “in the moment.” I will just need to learn how to keep up and exercise my memory span. I hope the next few days are easier. I am glad, though, that Andrea doesn’t get furious when I screw up. At least that’s a positive.


Market Weekend

This weekend only was the Made In Liguria market. I went Saturday and again Sunday. I ended up buying some really good Chinotto honey and some artisan walnut-pinoli pesto. I tried the pesto out on some pasta for lunch today. AMAZING!! All it is are walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, evoo and Parmigiano cheese. You head up the sauce with some pasta water, sauté the pasta in the pan with the sauce, and eat!!!!

Am I Obsessed?

Is it a bad thing if the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning is food? Is it bad that after making my caffe` latte in the morning, I go searching my neighborhood for artisanal Pasticcerias (pastry shops) and try to find the best croissant I’ve ever eaten in Savona?

Is it bad that when I’m home on Sunday, my only day off, I stay in my apartment’s kitchen, putz around, read culinary magazines, bake bread, make vegetable stock, perfect a frittata con Parmigiano, look up cooking terms, create my own mock menus for my dream restaurant, and make strawberry jam all in one day????

What about if I told you that at 1am, after a double shift working at Arco Antico I made sun-dried tomatoes, an apple pie and a starter for bread? Is it a bad thing? I ask you, my readers: am I obsessed?????

Dinner Event at Bologna

“Quanto ho mangiato ieri!!!”( I ate so much yesterday!) was the main thing I was saying yesterday at work. Being in Bologna on Monday was definitely a treat. If you want to eat savory Italian comfort food, go to Emilia Romagna (the region of Bologna, Parma, Modena).

Chef Flavio, Andrea, Renato and I took a 3 hour car ride to Bologna to do a dinner party for CHIC- Charming Italian Chef (http://www.charmingitalianchef.com), an organization of all the Michelin starred chefs in Italy. It was held at Locanda Solarola. We were told there were supposed to be 70 people. So early this morning we packed up the BMW with all the fish, at least 15 different kinds of sauces, various veggies, tools and aromatic herbs. When we arrived to the restaurant we were told there were to be 30. At the end of preparation at the hotel, that number dwindled down to 15. I was both happy and annoyed. Happy because we would finish sooner, and get home sooner… and there would be leftovers 🙂 Annoyed because we spent 2 days prepping and going semi-crazy in the kitchen for this event. Oh well, such is the life of a chef.

The amuse bouche that we were supposed to make was missing “erbe spontanee” (wild herbs) so Chef Flavio told Andrea to go in the back yard of the restaurant and gather some “spontaneous herbs.” I was also sent to gather some wild mint.

Chef Flavio had to prepare at least 2 dishes that were typical Emilia Romagnan. For an appetizer he made an oxtail fritter with almond breading on potato mousse and candied mandarin.

He also made tomato-stuffed tortelli with parmiggiano reggiano sauce with a crunchy guanciale garnish. We all ate the leftovers 🙂

It was really fun. The kitchen was really big. There was even a pastry section!!! We were all given the chance to plate an element of each course. There were 6 courses in total (full menu here: http://www.charmingitalianchef.com/eventi-chic/flavio-costa-a-la-solarola)

At the end of service, we quickly cleaned up and left Bologna at 12am. We all got to Arco Antico at 3am to unload the car, then to finally get home at 3:30. I realized I was absolutely exhausted, but I really enjoyed myself. I felt important that I had contributed to the dinner… that I made certain elements of each dish, like the stuffing and sauce for the tortelli.

What awaits me this week is a fully packed restaurant and being the only assistant in the kitchen. YIKES!!! Im very nervous.

These past few days have been rough. I’ve been the only stagista in the kitchen with Andrea. I cut myself twice, and at home the washing machine doesn’t work.

Renato took a 2 day “vacanza” which meant that I took over his responsibilities, as well as doing mine. Thank God the restaurant was not fully booked. I had to think fast and act faster. Besides the space issue, I had to make sure all the fish for the dishes were defrosted and prepped for cooking for the orders. I had to reheat sauces, plate the new amuse bouche and on top of it all the menu was ALL NEW!!!

During prep (before service) I was peeling off lemon rind with a very dull potato peeler. Needless to say how I cut myself the first time. The second time I was cleaning off the stainless steel counters and stove. I was in a rush to get out of the restaurant because my back was killing me. I gashed my right ring finger on the corner of the stove. It hurt a lot.

Take a look at this picture. I am beginning to have chef hands. My thumb and nails are tainted brown because I had to peel a kilo of what I think can be translated as celeriac (“scorsa nera” in italiano). It’s a root that oxidizes immediately once it’s peeled. The jagged skin on my thumb is from deshelling 6 kilos of red langoustines and scaling/deskinning the most dangerous I’ve worked with so far. It’s called a sugarello. Besides its scales it has a sharp spine on the outside, and attached to it are other bones that are razor-sharp. See photo.

Finally, our washing machine at the apartment doesn’t work. This is a problem because on Monday we are going to Bologna for an event with Chef Flavio. We’re cooking for 70 people at this beautiful hotel (www.locandasolarola.it) and I want my uniform to be white and clean.

This weekend every single museum in Italy is free. I really want to go to Milano and check out the Goya exhibit. It’s a bit far from Savona. Maybe I’ll take the trip. I have a very hectic week ahead of me. Renato’s leaving for good in less than a week. I’m so nervous. I hope I can keep up, and Maria can stay at a distance. Ugh.

(C)lean Cuisine

In Liguria the cuisine is so clean and pure. All they add is salt and olive oil. It’s awesome because I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so healthily before. I actually taste how produce and products naturally are.

Fresh fruits and veggies are very present in the Ligurian cuisine. Purple asparagus are typical to Albenga, spiny artichokes, borragine, chinotto from Savona, olives from Imperia, basil from the Genova area, and lots of pinolis and walnuts. Forget the Mediterranean diet, I’m going on the Ligurian diet!

This is why I admire, actually, Chef Flavio’s dishes. All his sauces pretty much only contain extra virgin olive oil (evoo) and salt blended with the product. His famous cream of zucchini soup with cuttlefish and candied lemon zest is so simple to make. Besides the ingredients in the title of the dish there’s salt, evoo, shallot, and cuttlefish ink. That’s it. There’s no cream. Just evoo and salt.

Speaking of veggies I took some pics of some while in the kitchen. Take a gander!


I realized that I haven’t been really writing about the kitchen of Arco Antico, and my experiences during service, etc.

Since Emanuele left, I’ve been busy in the garde-manger/pastry kitchen/wash room/ fish section. The kitchen is so small that my maybe 20 square foot space is used for all these purposes. I prep the fish for the fritto misto, the fish appetizers, and pasta dishes. I also weigh the pasta, ravioli and gnocchi so Andrea can give an equal portion to each diner. I also plate most of the desserts in this little space.

Since the dishwasher also uses this space, when it comes time to do a sorbet platter it’s very challenging to time when the scoops of sorbet hit the plate. They melt instantaneously because of the humidity and high temperature.

This tiny space drives me absolutely crazy!!!! With only a 6 foot long chef’s bench I struggle to do everything at once. If there’s a sorbet order and a fritto misto order at the same time, I have found myself plating the sorbets on my forearm as I let the fish come to room temperature on the bench, as well as the sauce for the fritto. I wouldn’t say it’s chaos, but it comes close.

I’ve already destroyed 4 amuse bouche fish fritters because the frying station is right next to the very tight passageway from my space to the main kitchen space. How did I destroy the fish fritters? As I was going through the passageway my apron flap knocked all the fritters on the floor, obviously so that they were nearly unsalvageable…

 Anyway, this is just a little depiction of my life as a chef’s sous chef’s apprentice.

Oh yeah, and then there’s Maria. Maria is the Chef’s mother. Maria is the one who goes around, who’s always looking over your shoulder at the most inopportune times. She makes sure you are getting every last leaf off a thyme branch, every single gram of pasta is weighed out exactly, and makes sure that the sorbets are always taken care of: that they are fitted properly in their corresponding bins, that each sorbet has a corresponding flavor with which it matches, and that each garnish is properly corresponding with the flavor, the color and the order of the preceding and proceeding ball of plated sorbet… those damned sorbets.

I know it seems that I am more negative than positive when it comes to describing the kitchen. It’s really just a superficial explanation of how it is. Other than these things, I feel like I have learned key techniques, like how to properly make a fish fumet, a strawberry coulis, and how to fillet a spatula fish, a 6 foot long fish, almost like a very long barracuda!!! SO COOL!!!

I will have other description and tales of the Arco Antico kitchen. But for now I must leave and get ready to head out to the kitchen once more.