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Day Three as a Stage at The Fatted Calf

It’s All About Your Attitude…

My day started in a pretty ominous way – with a text then phone call describing carnage in our Seattle backyard.  Apparently, a raccoon, opossum or chupacabra came in the middle of the night and ate one of our chickens.  The flock that was five is now four and I’m a bit annoyed that the hen I’d dubbed ‘Bad Motherclucker’ has been eaten by some vermin.  It didn’t even have the decency to do it while I was in town.  The cowardly bastard.  Hopefully it’ll wait until I return to beat the hell out of it with the 3/4 length souvenir baseball bat I obtained with my children at a Mariner’s game earlier this year.  I’ll be waiting for you…

Anyway, back to learning the meat business.  And a short lesson about attitude.  In a conversation with the production manager we discussed the importance of having a good attitude in the kitchen and particularly as a stage.  It doesn’t matter if you are an excellent home cook without experience working in a commercial kitchen, a pro, a wannabe or someone who used to cook for a living and is returning to your roots.  One thing is clear – if you are a prick and have a bad attitude your skills don’t matter.  Nobody wants to work with you or be around you.  So, have a good attitude and things might just be easier for  you and others around you.  Which leads me to…


What I Accomplished Today

It seems as if the amount I’m being tasked with and accomplishing is increasing every day.  Today I felt like I was actually contributing in a more material way as my list of things to-do grew longer.  I don’t know if I was just more efficient but it felt good when my production manager left ‘early’ with me today as we’d banged out everything on the list by 4.  Either way, I considered it a small victory.  Now onto the list:

Jerky – every day.  Same time, same amount – several pounds of marinated, cold smoked beef round into the two dehydrators for 4 hours.

Then, my least favorite tasks of the day – grinding 3 cups of garlic into past with a mortar and pestle and then fine dicing a quart of rosemary for both pork tenderloin and porchetta later in the day.  These are a menial, necessary pain in the ass tasks at The Fatted Calf.  I asked about whether or not they ever used a Robot for anything and the answer was ‘I don’t think I’ve ever used it’.  It’s all about the manual, personal touch here and it keeps with the philosophy of making everything by hand.  Plus, it does wonders for working out your forearms.

Next up – unloading 2500 pounds of pork and 3 whole lamb into the walk in.  Oddly enough this kind of labor was a welcome diversion for about a half an hour as we loaded up the walk-in assembly line style throwing hams and belly’s from one person to another.

After this, I boned out two pork shoulders, took out the glands, seasoned with 1.3% salt and black pepper, added mostarda and tied them for vac seal.  Later in the day, I did the same except with peperonata and without black pepper.  The pork I was working with was beautiful Red Wattle.  The meat was a dark, rich, fatty red.  Awesome product.

Then came pork tenderloin.  We did 20 with a sprinkling of S&P, brush with a mustard marinade, sprinkled with some of the aforementioned rosemary, and then wrapped in pancetta.  Then vac sealed for sale.

We then did about 25 country roasts which are half racks of pork, butterflied, seasoned with S&P, quince, walnuts and sage.  They are then tied and this is where attitude came in.  I am not an expert knot tie-er.  I can tie a butchers knot but there’s a big difference between tying a roast for your family at home vs. tying 25 for retail sale.  The second one I did had the ribs in a weird place and I was just tying it wrong.  Once, twice, thrice.  I was frustrated with myself.  Instead of taking 5 in the walk in I slowed down, took a series of deep breaths, and plowed on.  I finished and while I didn’t nearly tie off as many as my partner, I did my fair share.  Slow and steady wins the race.  I didn’t tap out and go away to hide.

The day ended with a series of small tasks – pulling hocks from the brine we made yesterday, hanging about 40 piccola diavolo salami, trimming casings on boudin noir.  It was a welcome, simple end to my most difficult but productive day yet.


Gearing Up for ‘Hell Day’

Before I left I was warned about tomorrow’s docket.  Breaking down the 3 whole lamb, breaking 40 ducks, and a series of other butchery.  I don’t mind the work and I do look forward to improving my knife skills.  Through repetition I’ll learn the process and will be able to remember it well enough to carry it forward.

On the drive home tonight I saw a huge, full moon hovering over the California foothills.  It was stunning.  It reminded me to be thankful for the simple beauty of the world we live in and for things I take for granted.  I’m thankful for patience (mine and those who are teaching me), for the opportunity to learn from some of the best, and for the fact that we still have 4 chickens in the backyard and only lost one.  And I will get revenge on that chupacabra…

To read about the beginning of my journey as a stage at The Fatted Calf click here.

For Day 2 – click here.

For Day 4 – click here.