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November 29, 2007

Kitchen Ninjas

The last Hackie story, "Cooking For Life." is an appreciation of a local head chef. I've always thought of great cooks as rock stars.

When I was a teenager I worked after school as a messenger for a building corporation in Manhattan. Before my shift started, I would often eat lunch at a diner located on the ground floor of my employer's office. I would look for a counter seat where I could watch the short-order cook in action. He was a squat, powerfully-built black man, who, with just one assistant - a younger guy who manned the fryolator - would turn out all the meals, including take-out, for a restaurant that seated at least 75 people, taking orders coming in rapid-fire from four waitresses and the counterman:  Cheeseburger - in the well. BLT Down. And, I kid you not - he kept it all in his head, nary an order slip!

This man moved like a martial artist in constant fluid motion, his arms methodically carving air with effortless efficiency. I would sit at the counter, eating my burger and watching the plates of food appear on the shelf, "order up." It was mesmerizing.

Gordon Ramsay, an English chef with a world-class reputation, has a reality TV show in which he comes to the rescue of failing restaurants. The show is called, "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares." (Of course, I watch it regularly, in lieu of an actual life.) What impresses me is his presence in the kitchen. The guy is General Patton with a spatula, his sheer energy and charisma lifting the cooking staff to new heights of culinary achievement. Yeah, I know these reality shows shoot umpteen hours of footage and edit it down to create the desired storylines, but nonetheless . . .

So, I guess my point is, I dig cooks, and I relished this opportunity to write about one. I feel so spoiled as a writer:  the "Hackie" column allows me to write about everything and everyone that turns me on.

November 29, 2007 at 10:59 PM in Hackie Unplugged | Permalink


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