Hey, Good Looking, Whatcha Got Cooking___________________
“Chef Talbot rarely uses processed sugar or preservatives and is committed to sustainable food. ‘At the Mondrian,’ he said, “every fish I use, I know the name of the vessel, the captain’s name, the exact time it was caught and the ocean it was caught in.’” –”A Chef is Cooking,” The New York Times (3/9/211)
First fish I ever caught, I was thirteen years old, and growing up in North Carolina that meant sand dabs. Schooner was named, “Daisy’s Folly,” named after Captain Mark O’ Malley’s first wife, Daisy. They had been high school sweethearts, married when the test came back positive, but when the child, Michael, named after Mark’s paternal grandfather, started to grab Daisy’s attention, and when Daisy no longer wanted to go out drinking with Mark like she used to, the marriage hit the skids and Mark took to fishing more often.
He took me and my dad out on Tuesday, September 9th, 1991, at 6:12 A.M. Water was choppy and he saw storm clouds rolling in, which is how we ended up fishing in shallow waters.
The Atlantic is fickle, like most oceans, and without patience it can be frustrating waiting for the fish to bite. But dad had a case and with a, “Don’t tell your mom look,” he and Captain O’ Malley made a big dent. By noon, there was half a six-pack left.
These days, cooking professionally, I maintain the same interest and integrity in fish I had as a boy. You don’t know the fish, you don’t how to cook it. It’s not folksy, it’s common sense.
Is it harder now to keep track of the fish? Of course it is! That’s just one difference between being a professional chef and an amateur. I am a professional chef. You don’t what that entails, look it up.
Let me ask you something now: When’s the last time you cooked fish at home? Last Friday. OK. What do you know about that fish? Sole. OK, good. What else? Atlantic ocean. Good, good. Anything else? I didn’t think so.
Now let me tell you about my week:
Friday, we get sixteen branzino, farm raised from Greece, harvested at 7:12 A.M. Greek time, 1:12 A.M. Eastern Standard Time. Man who killed the fish? Nikolaos Gelesthathis, age 41, wart on his right cheek, receding hairline, left handed.
Busy weekend, shipment of line caught cod sent down from Gloucester, boat is named Sasquatch, captain is named Stevie Petersen, cod caught at 1:12 A.M., off Georges Bank, packed on ice, FEDEX to me in time for service on Saturday night! Now we’re talking!
You see, the thing is, cooking–being a chef, being a top chef, that is–it’s not just about standing behind the stove, posing for the T.V. cameras, and talking to people like you. It’s about knowing where things come from, who caught ‘em, and then getting a team in the restaurant to work on what I bring in.
What are the names of my prep cooks? That what you’re asking? How the Hell should I know?