2 Minutes OR 2 Bites

Stuff I Ate

Crawling Out of the Cave

I knew this day would come. I have been mentally preparing for it. The donning of long pants and a collared shirt. Socks AND shoes! What the hell is the world coming to?

The main hustle of appraising has become the MAIN HUSTLE period. Side Hustles are more like Sidelined Hustles. It’s working out though. My subscribers are making that difference.

I work best when I work backwards. It’s a cooking/catering thing. When you know it’s showtime, just work backwards to arrive at the starting point. It’s why the checklist works for me - their utility happens in forward and reverse. 

My publishing routine of posting on Fridays fits nicely into this paradigm. I need to start a 2000 word post at least the Thursday prior. Which means I need to shake those words out of my head. In a semi-coherent fashion. Let me know if that’s the case.

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Work Routine

The pattern that has been most successfully repeated consistently is as follows: 

  • Jot down random scribbles in my notebook

  • Wrestle my thoughts around at night 

  • Take tons of photos of everything

  • Work on Craft and Cook food

  • Write on Thursday

  • Post on Friday

As I fine-tune my platform, and as Substack adds features that allow readers to customize their experience, you will see some new bells and whistles around here. 

My new Section, which is really more of a branding umbrella, is called Compass Star Wordsmith. Stand by for the first post under that umbrella. 

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How I Became a Great Cook (and a decent chef)

The essence of cooking to me is love. One is literally putting their physical hands onto something that came from the natural world. And transforming that into a new thing that gives life and sustenance to others and self.

Some history here is in order so new readers become familiar with my culinary point of view. The aphorism I employed as the title of this post is an instructive to the server to check on the diner after two minutes or two bites.

If that were universal, the send-backs would diminish greatly. You pretty much know if it’s good by a couple of minutes, but certainly by two mouthfuls! With a meal. Or in Life.

My Great-Grandma Waelbrock and her daughter Grandma Ces were my two greatest influences in the kitchen. For completely opposite reasons, and with diametrically opposed cooking philosophies.

My bio dad was a firefighter for most of my childhood, and I grew up in a firehouse. Firemen are some of the best cooks on earth. This was the 1970’s in a small town of under 30,000 residents in the Four-Corners of New Mexico. 

Surprisingly, or maybe not upon reflection, this was a most diverse group of guys. All skin colors were repped and the fusion of food flavors is one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. 

They say that God created firefighters so cops can have heroes too!

Holidays were a smorgasbord buffet of new and unknown delicacies. I learned about prepping and timing and flavor profiling from all of those people. Then I went to cooking school.

I learned some of the habits I loved were bad! According to the French and Escoffier. But that dimension was extremely important in my food progression. I learned the technical skills there and I employed them at Dickenson-West. DW is closed now, but click the link to explore their typical menu.

DW was owned by two partners, Derek Dickenson, who is exclusively catering now. And Barbara West. I worked at the stove of Chef Claud Beltran now running Bacchus Kitchen in Pasadena.

My six degrees story - Chef Claud worked for the famous French Laundry Chef Thomas Keller (recently in the news for some mask things, lol).

Eventually, I landed at Barbara’s at the Brewery, a funky eclectic fore-runner to today’s fusion gastropubs. DW was pumping out 500 plates on weekends. I worked 18 hour days at Barbara’s. I fired a stove for over four years. I have plated a bunch of meals. 

Stuff I Ate

I focused on taking photographs of at least one meal every day for the past few weeks. Some are just the plated meal. Others are meal prep. A few deserved a photo-journal approach. 

Most of what we eat is scratch-made. We supplement with fresh-prepped components. Pre-cooked protein has been known to make an appearance on our table as well. Packaged sides are fine, we look for the healthiest ones.

Leftovers play a vital role in our meal planning. Grandpa Smitty renamed them “LefTovers.” The ART of upcycling food is truly enjoyable. I spent many years cooking in other people's kitchens, and teaching their domestic staff how to prepare more nutritional meals. 

In some kitchens, I created the menus and sourced the product. In others, I walked into a blind challenge. In some ways, it was those challenges that I learned the most. Actually, in most ways.

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Let’s Kick the Tires and Light the Fires!

Chicken and Corn on the Cob Grill Board

The perfect easy summertime patio meal. It’s a Go-To when it’s too hot and you just want to sit under the misters on the patio.

LefTover white rice is the perfect bed for this charcuterie of Mediterranean Chicken Ka Bobs. Throw in some pita triangles and hummus. 

A Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes from Mom’s garden, Thai Basil from my planter, and some fresh Mozz from the middle-Eastern market.

Finish with grilled corn on the cob with garlic mayo-butter. Note: Par-boil the corn in the husk, drain, grill with husks on. 

The Perfect Pork Chop

Rosemary Pan-Seared Pork Chop is super easy for weeknight dinner. This is a meal where any store-bought side or pre-prepped component keeps the work level low. Mashed potatoes and sautéed squash work really well with this. 

Smoked Hatch Chiles Rellenos

This one is a tease. I made a photo-journal out of this meal. The Wife led the brigade on this one. The Mother-in-Law (RIP) made the world’s best rellenos ever. We come close. 

Growing up in New Mexico, I have been eating Hatch Chilis since forever. If you’ve never had one, you’re missing out on something great. 

I smoked for about an hour over some mesquite chips. After we fried the rellenos, I assembled them in a pan and topped them with cheese and broiled till bubbly. They were divine! Look for the whole process in an upcoming post.

I hope you enjoyed this post. My readers are very important to me, and the next best thing to cooking you all a meal is to show you how to cook that meal.

Or maybe it’s more important. If I catch you a fish, you eat for a day. If I teach you to fish, you eat for a lifetime.

I passionately believe that everyone can cook. The degree and level to which one rises is only proportionally related to the passion for food one has.

Keep cooking, and eat well my friends…

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