Dumb Asses, Please Order Sirloin—Not Rib Eye

Anthony Bourdain
Photo: Melanie Dunea

The entrecôte, or rib eye, and its big bone-in brother, the côte de boeuf, have perhaps the perfect balance of fat, lean, and marblingthe best mix of flavor and texture.

Dismayingly, all too many restaurant customers complain that it’s “too fatty,” as they are just too dumb to appreciate the best steak on the steer. They should probably stick to the leaner but very flavorful sirloin, which is what their dumb asses were probably thinking of when they put in their order.

Anthony Bourdain

Les Halles Cookbook
Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking
“Beef”
page 121-122

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The Beauty of Burnt

My seventh crème brûlée attempt, on13 June 2018, with the kind of brûlée, burnt top I had been chasing: sexy, lace-like, sheet-thin, and elegant . (Photo: viv)

NOT all food memories are transporting or transcendent like the kind that the villainous food critic Ego encountered at his first taste of the Thomas Keller-inspired ratatouille by Remy the rat. Some are just so vague and distant you search hard for that first encounter only to find nothing, just the hopelessness of a time passed and a record all but lost at sea. 

Crème brûlée is one such memory. 

For a long time now, this simple, elegant custard dessert has held a special place in my heart. It’s one of several I would name if you were to ask me what my favorite desserts are. 

Did I first have it in Paris, at Le Marais, in the fall of 1994 during my very first trip to France, or was it at this chic French restaurant at the Hyatt called Hugo’s? No, maybe it wasn’t Le Marais, but Le Quartier Latin, I don’t remember. Then, the memory would get a little messy — could it be that it wasn’t  even crème brûlée I had at that bistro, but Tarte Tatin? All I remembered clearly of that soirée was the fromage du chevre, the weird bug-like back note and plastic taste of goat’s cheese from that deadly morsel I had picked from the plate of my dining companion, Richard, a long-ago friend with whom I’ve lost touch. 

Such annoying quandaries of a foggy brain could well have been avoided if I had kept a journal. It’s a habit I still don’t keep, alas, which is not to say that my memory is poor or sluggish . . .

Continue reading the rest of this essay here

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We invite you to visit us at our two writing blogs:

. sucker for butter – our adventures in the kitchen, baking and cooking

. all the rivers – our adventures studying Hebrew

Tuning In to Ambition

On the road to becoming a chef (Image: Pixar)

AMBITION is a large word. It encapsulates career, social status, starting a family, building assets, growing wealth, and ultimately growing old gracefully with a bundle of grandchildren, or possibly even great-grandchildren, squealing about in the home over festive seasons.

As a teen, though, my vision of ambition doesn’t take into account that far-out silver-haired future. In fact, it doesn’t even accommodate any space for family. I can’t imagine myself being a wife or a mother. In my present world, the word ambition is not singular, but plural. Here’s where I’m the greedy girl: I want to do many things and be many things—a pilot, an officer in the Air Force, and a chef.

The first is an impossibility. I don’t have perfect vision, and sadly—I am not thrilled to admit this—I’m not a guy. The second is out of the question too. Just because the job sounds incredibly cool doesn’t mean that I can handle it. Besides, I’m not a genius at math, and wires and circuitry aren’t really my thing.

Now that I have struck off two ambitions from my bucket list, I’m glad I’ve overcome one of my greatest challenges—that of focus. Which leaves me now to tackle just one thing: becoming a chef.

Even here, I must bring all my focus to bear because like ambition, chef too is a large word that branches into a million other things. What type of chef, for instance? Culinary or pastry, savory or sweet? Then, there’s the cuisine style? Classical French, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, fusion (so last season!). Then, there’s the question of money. Can I not be a chef, but a chef/owner?

These are big questions, questions that should rightly be addressed before I find my way to a culinary institution. But these questions aren’t going to test me physically the way it would if I were standing hours on end prepping, washing, carting and fetching stuff, receiving supplies, and cleaning, always cleaning.

I am acquainted with that kind of exhaustion, having clocked many hours and days in an international cuisine restaurant in Myanmar whenever I return to my other home over the year-end vacation. The queasy, achy ankles, the sore lower back, the burns from the hot, splattering oil, the boiling water, and the oven singes at the stove. Oh, and the cuts too!

Hardship can be cool.

Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, all these culinary celebrities have never had it easy. And why should I? If I want to be a chef, I need to be friends with hard work. In the meantime, while I’m slogging away at my present academic pursuits, I spend my weekends playing around in the kitchen.

It’s steak one week, Tom Kha Gai another, pasta the next. I have a schedule going, sometimes I keep repeating a dish to get it right. When I slip into a lazy mood and don’t want to fuss in the kitchen, I’ll go food hunting and café-hopping.

Pizza, sushi, Wagyu beef, Korean fried chicken, kimchi soup, Korean barbecue, fancy cakes, pancakes, soufflés, and sexy tarts. No, I’m not gorging, I’m just training my palate.

(528 words)

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Jiji Setavoraphan, Secondary Four
August 2017

For more essays by Jiji, visit Jiji Writes.


This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2016 exam, Question #3:
What are your ambitions for the future? Explain how you plan to achieve them, including any possible difficulties.

For more ‘O’ Level essays, visit:
Student Essays
2014 ‘O’ Levels Essays by Viv

How to Pronounce “Culinary”

I never knew there were two ways of pronouncing “culinary” until I noticed Anthony Bourdain stretching his first syllable on the word: KYU-luh-nare-ree. It was in one of the episodes of Mind of a Chef, where he paid homage to the great sushi chefs in Japan, among whom was that smiling-faced sage from Kyoto’s legendary Kikunoi restaurant, Chef Yoshihiro Murata. Continue reading

When “Stupid” and “Idiot” Are Fine Words Indeed

STUPID and idiot aren’t two words you would hear in an interview or see in a news article often, but when you do, they tend to send shudders that could either trigger shock and outrage on the one hand, or pleasure and approval on the other.

Last week, I came across these two words uttered by two very different people—one, a German fashion icon, and the other, a retired four-star general. Continue reading