Monday, May 24, 2010

An Unforgettable Facebook Message

I have always stood away from using Facebook, but after continuous teasing from friends and colleagues I decided to be the last person on Earth to join the mix. Like a lot of us, I don’t have the time to be on all the time, but I try to post pictures of what I am doing, places I have visited and just things that I am a part of....all things culinary naturally!

Today I opened my page and realized I had a message from a former (child) student and it completely warmed my heart:

Julietta V.
Hey best teacher in the world I miss u so much and I hope that one day I get to c u again I have been cooking a lot like that I made banana bread yesterday and that I am making a birthday cake for my cousin Jolie for her birthday I will post pics of the cake on FB l8tr. MISSS YOU CAN'T WAIT TO C U AGAIN!!!!!!!

I couldn't help but be touched by the lovely note. Not to mention feeling grateful that I actually enrolled in FB as it truly does allow me to keep in contact with the many people I have been fortunate enough to have taught and met in the culinary field.

Julietta, was an AMAZING student, even now that I am not her cooking teacher it feels great knowing that she is still cooking and moreover, that I had a impact on her life. For all the Julietta's out there I am privileged to have taught you and you will forever be remembered in my heart as well.  I love you guys! And please continue to update me and Happy Cooking!

Love Chef Raquel

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Our Inner Brenda Awaits us at Benihana's

A few weeks ago I finished reading Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. It's an extremely fun read where Ruth—reputable food critic for the NY Times--decides to visit restaurants in disguise in order to provide an unbiased report on NYC restaurants to her readers. One of the characters Ruth transforms to is Brenda, a happy-go-lucky individual who takes enjoyment in life's simple pleasures. Ruth's son Nicky also seems to adore her new down-to-Earth character. By the end of the chapter he asks if they as a family could go to "chop-chop" aka Benihana—a place where any respectable restaurant critique wouldn't step foot in, but a place where Brenda would surely be happy to go. (Garlic and Sapphires p. 165) Brenda is greeted with smiles from fellow patrons as she easily takes enjoyment in the moment.

Similarly to Brenda, we recently had dinner plans at Benihana's in celebration of a friend's birthday party. When I told my friends (fellow chefs) about this dinner plan they giggled.  They pretty much see it as a tourist attraction where it’s only cool to drop in for drinks or little nibbles. While it's totally true that you don’t go to Benihana for the food,  it’s definitely worth a visit. From the 45 minute wait (if you neglected to make reservations), to the sharing of tables with other guests, to being rushed to place your drink orders even though you were given your menu minutes before makes this place unique….all this before your chef actually arrives. When he does the chef begins doing tricks that are cheesy, but still captures you. The onion "volcano" and the flicking of shrimp in his pocket are among the few. The fact that other tables are simultaneously experiencing similar tricks at their tables is unreal. I guess what I take from both the book and my experience at Benihana, is that you have to just live in the moment. Okay, there are hundreds of better restaurants out there, but the environment is such that you can't help but be entertained. Rather than sit there thinking “Why am I here?” just soak up the moment, clap, eat, giggle and embrace your inner Brenda.