Friday, May 30, 2008

More Mad Chef Press

Hey people, James will be off the blog for a few days while dealign with some family issues, so I'll be taking it over. I'll start by posting (in a few pieces, it's long) an article on James and Sea Catch by freelance writer Seth Hoffman. It's a great look into life at a restaurant and we think you'll enjoy it...

James Chase trudges down the back alley, passing delivery trucks, passing the back entrances of Georgetown’s ritzy stores and restaurants, attracted by the smell of salmon smoking in the cool air of a Saturday morning just off the C&O canal. He opens the smoker, surveys the salmon that he’ll use that night, and enters Sea Catch Restaurant, where he is, for now, the tired sous chef, at least before he drinks his first cup of coffee.

It’s just past 10, but he’s been up since 6:15 a.m. because the three young children in the apartment above his get up early, and they stomp across the floor, a much earlier alarm than Chase prefers. He didn’t work the night before, but he’s 27 years old, and he still likes to have fun, which means late nights. And it means, today, he’s tired.

Chase enters the kitchen, a muggy stainless steel haven, and greets the mostly Hispanic staff in Spanish. Never mind Chase nearly failed his only year of Spanish at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., he’s been working in area kitchens for more than 10 years and has picked up a suitable vocabulary. First came the curse words, then the rest. The thing is, though, they all speak English. They just speak Spanish to annoy him.

Chase checks the inventory, checks the deliveries, checks the night’s reservations (130 people at the time), changes into one of his bleached white chef jackets, and takes a sip of his first cup of coffee, now cold after sitting on the counter while Chase runs around.

Edgar Garcia, a giant of a 20-year-old, stands across from Chase, cutting thin strips of tomatoes and hacking globes of squash for the spaghetti squash. Garcia arrived at 6 a.m. to snatch one of the few free parking spaces near the restaurant. He keeps a blanket and pillow in the car, and he slept for three hours before work. He’s not as tired as Chase, maybe even a little peppy, maybe even a little too peppy.

Chase is in charge of the kitchen until executive chef Chris Sgro arrives at 3 p.m., so he has to think of a special for dinner. It quickly comes to him: herb risotto cake with a sweet corn black pepper broth and “whatever fish Chris ordered.” He enters the walk-in refrigerator, where all the produce is kept, and grabs the bagged corn, sage, parsley, rosemary, any other herb he can find, onions and garlic.

Meanwhile, the morning deliveries roll in: $235.74 worth of lettuce, scallions, mixed vegetables; $510.33 worth of live lobsters; $916.63 worth of oysters, scallops, shrimp, mussels and crabmeat; $342.42 of oysters for the raw bar; $441.84 of sunfish and pacific swordfish, an overnight delivery from Hawaii; $82.16 of sourdough bread.

In the first five days of April, Sea Catch has spent $15,404.04 for food.

Chase adds oil to a big pot for the risotto, contemplates beginning, then takes it off the stove. It’s lunch time: cheeseburgers and homemade potato chips for the staff, grilled salmon and zucchini for Chase, because his girlfriend thinks he’s getting fat.

More later...

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