Monday, March 21, 2011

Day One In The Hearth Kitchen

This is going to be a very tough post to write because I don't really know how to capture everything I feel in words. First off, I'd written about my tremendous dinner at Hearth a couple of weeks ago and how I had the sincere pleasure of meeting Chef Marco Canora. In my post, I outline the fact that he offered the unique and priceless opportunity of trailing or "interning", for lack of a better word, in the Hearth kitchen. I must admit, I didn't think he was serious. I'd gotten the proper contact information for George Kaden, chef de cuisine, before I left that night and had every intention of calling, I just kept thinking there's no way this guy is for real. I called a few days after to schedule the trail but ended up leaving a message for George. I didn't want to be obtrusive so I decided to wait a couple of more days to follow up.

In the interim, I'd gone on to that post mentioned above with the intention of sending it to my brother and sister-in-law since I hadn't yet told them about meeting Chef Marco. I noticed there were comments left and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this very kind post:

Hi Valerie,

Great post--I just posted it to Chef Marco's facebook page! Thanks again for your visit, and we can't wait for you to join our family for a few days.

Hearth and Terroir

Um, WHAT?! Of course I dropped what I was doing and looked up his Facebook page and there it was, my blog entry posted to his wall with this lovely added note: Check out Valerie's great blog post about her recent visit to Hearth--we look forward to her next visit and Marco's challenge. People, I'm still pretty sure I had a mild heart attack right then. I felt so humbly thrilled that Suzanne would a) re-post my entry to Chef Marco's page and b) that she thought highly enough of what I wrote to do so. That is such an honor. I reached out to her to thank her and felt truly elated by that.

As if that wasn't enough, that same day (last Monday in fact), I called to follow up with George but guess who wanted to speak with me instead? Yep, Chef Marco. Um, WHAT again?!? Let me be clear too when I speak about how excited I am to have met him, etc. Yes, he is now a tv celeb and yes, he is a very big deal but I deeply respect him for his food and hard work, not because I got to watch him on Next Iron Chef or anything related. Don't get me wrong, it's a huge thrill to meet and talk with a man who is as well known as he is but I admire who he is as a chef far above his fame or noteriety. I admire him for the things I can learn from him. I admire him because he's real, genuine and completely dedicated. So, you can imagine my excitement when he remembered exactly who I was on the phone and when he confirmed me joining them in the kitchen on Saturday. Holy crapola. Definitely didn't cry when I got off the phone nor did I freak out. Nope, not me...

Come Saturday, I couldn't wait to get there. It was so cute because I got "walked to school" and Allison took this photo, heehee: 
I was so thrilled for this gracious opportunity and, when I stepped foot in the Hearth kitchen, my nerves immediately vanished. The familiarity of a restaurant family came back to me in a blink and I felt at home. My years of waiting tables were really combined with a lot of kitchen stuff because I was very good friends with our executive chef, John, during my five years at Houston's. I was constantly back in the kitchen watching him, asking questions, helping him - I mean, it's nuts to me that it didn't click before now that I want to be a chef. While I have never cooked on the line myself, I've been fully exposed to each aspect of it and I'm quite familar with what goes into it. I've always loved the restaurant world and the adrenaline that comes with it. You can't really explain it to anyone if they haven't experienced it much like I can't understand what it's like to be an ER doctor or the like. I can only say there's nothing like it and experiencing it from the kitchen side vs. serving was thrilling. I worked hard during the day and did my best to be efficient and truly helpful to everyone. Here's a quick glance into the kitchen starting with George:
Adam, who was very helpful and nice to me:
 Yoshi working hard:
Meeting George and the rest of the Hearth team was fantastic and those guys just know what they're doing, period. Chef Marco came in as well and talking with him again was terrific, of course. I worked from 2:00pm til a little after 7:00pm and I loved every second. The best part is that George has graciously extended the offer to return and I plan on it just as soon as I can clear my schedule for another day. I can't thank everyone at Hearth enough for warmly welcoming me into the kitchen and I am ecstatic to go back and work even harder.

One of the best parts of the day was meeting Suzanne and giving her a hug, simply thanking her for being so kind to a stranger. She enhanced this experience for me because of how nice she was before I even went in there and that seems to be so rare (sadly!) these days. I look forward to seeing her again in addition to the kitchen team.

I'm still on a high today from my experience. This is a huge and very serious deal to me and I intend on working hard to where I can become a true asset to the Hearth family. What a fabulous and invaluable experience even one day was so I cannot wait to spend more time there. Thank you Suzanne, Yoshi, Adam, Fisher, Mike, Chef George and of course, Chef Marco. You are all simply great and I look forward to seeing you again, soon.

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