I Left My Cookbooks In Nebraska

My last two months could be a real life idiot’s guide to how to move to New York City and work at a Michelin star restaurant. (Tip #13: don’t pay for a subway ride until you’re sure it’s going in the right direction.) Carrying two suitcases stuffed with knives, chef pants, white t-shirts, and high heels for abusing my feet on the streets of NYC, I boarded a plane to Newark, NJ. Upon landing, I realized the last time I had been in New York City had been as a financial advisor a few years prior. It was with great pleasure that I deplaned knowing that I would not have to give financial advice or go to a training seminar; I would be elbow deep in sacher torte batter and klimt biscuit.

If you pack two suitcases and move to New York City with no place to live, you are either crazy, naive, or crazy. But then again, it was Julia Child who said, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” What the hell, Julia, let’s move to New York City and cook some bad ass food. I think she would have approved. I thank some good friends for lending me their couch for three weeks until I could find a small spot in Brooklyn with a fantastic roommate who knows the value of enameled cast iron and All Clad-cookware and understands Swiss grandmother wisdom.

So I found myself one day in late September at a Michelin star restaurant in New York City working for slightly above minimum wage in the most expensive city in the world. I spent the first days trying to pretend I was a paco jet master, I totally knew how to make a perfect sabayon with my eyes closed, and knew how to temper chocolate like a champ. None of these things were true of course, so I decided it was fine to just look like an idiot for a few days and remembered Julia’s advice, “…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” Those first few frightening days, I did. And I watched. And I listened. And I tried not to burn the expensive chocolate.

Don’t ever forget the lightness and freedom and potential of being a beginner. The pursuit of knowledge in our passions keeps us alive.

I left my cookbooks at home. I do miss their company on rainy days, or recent nights when I waited an hour and a half in the Hoboken, NJ train station at midnight, but I’m making a new cookbook. It’s called the moleskine: a blank, simple notebook onto which I spill cream and smear melted chocolate, onto which I take notes from years of experience and knowledge, onto which I write valuable recipes. “Don’t get the butter too warm or the hazelnut flour will start to release oil into the batter,” or “Add four eggs at a time while you’re buttering the metal rings for the cake,” or “Fill molds with ganache. Bang on the counter to release bubbles.”

This will be the best cookbook ever.

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  • borracho December 2, 2011  

    Fantastic. I would like to claim dibs on a first printing years from now. Beyond that thanks for letting us all live vicariously through your adventures!

  • catering Conyers December 3, 2011  

    Omg I love your attitude – and what great Julia Child quotes!! Especially love the one about no one being born a great cook- very inspiring and thank you and best of luck on your cookbook – maybe we can use something at Catering Conyers- I’ll be looking for it!

  • michelin star nyc January 24, 2014  

    Thanks so much for linking to my recipe!

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