Did you know?

29Sep09

…egg comes from an Indo-European root meaning “bird”

…the white cords around the yolk you see when you crack an egg are called the chalazas. They help anchor the yolk to the rest of shell and help it stay suspended in the middle of the egg.

…there are 3 different grades of eggs according to the USDA. the highest being AA to B.

…an old egg will float when suspended in  water because its air cell will have expanded and have gotten less dense.

……you’ll get creamier scrambled eggs if you add vinegar as you scramble them? The acid helps tenderize the eggs by  lowering the egg’s pH (thus reducing the negative charge) and helping the egg proteins coagulate much earlier on in the cooking process. At this point, the proteins are still balled up and haven’t fully unfolded and thus do not intertwine as tightly to each other as they would if no acid were present.

This is what I’ve been doing for the past month. Reading about eggs.


Sunday Supper

21Aug09

This is a post of five cooks with five POVs, picked to be on the menu for one day only. To work together and be scrutinized by all…find out what happens when imaginations run wild and flavor combinations run unrestrained… Sunday Supper.

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1. Pickled beet and Persian feta salad with duck confit and crostini

IMG_08172. Korean-spiced foie gras dumplings with a pork consomme and snow pea sesame salad

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3. Seared scallop with a warm salad of bacon, grapes, and frisee

IMG_08204. Duck and foie gras ballotine with braised lentils and cabbage, and marinated potatoes

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5. Vanilla and black olive semifreddo with a passionfruit curd, chardonnay sorbet on an almond tuile “spoon”

created by me!

I originally thought of combining black olives with vanilla when I had a black olive ice cream back at Sona in Los Angeles. Then drawing inspiration from the countless hours I’ve spent peeling soft-boiled quail eggs for work, I thought it’d be a clever idea to mold the speckled ice cream into eggs. I had to purchase the egg molds at a cake shop on my own, and the entire process ended up taking a few days, but it was worth it. I had to make the top and bottom of the semifreddo separately so I could fill each half with the custard, then fuse them together once they hardened a bit. Then I cut them in half with a hot knife as they came to order.

IMG_0822“Quail Eggs”

Some people were turned off with the idea of tart black olives being in their vanilla semifreddo, but I was also surprised to hear that a few thought they were chocolate chips when I asked them what they thought the black specks were. I loved the idea of biting into tart bits of saltiness in a sweet and creamy dessert, but never thought to think of cocoa nibs as having the same effect.

I was initially going to make another batch of eggs with the white wine sorbet and pair it alongside a whole semifreddo egg, but due to the lack of time and extra egg molds, I thought against it. Although my initial reason for using the white wine was for its color, it ended up giving a nice refreshing contrast to the creamy vanilla semifreddo.

The almond tuile came last minute when it was noted that I needed to add another textural element to the dish. After trying several options (crumbled pralines, toasted slivered almonds, blueberry compote…), I opted to make some tuiles a few hours before service started. I loved the idea of creating spoons out of the tuiles and having being able to lift the sorbet in one lift (or at least conceptually). I designed the shape I wanted out of a plastic lid and spread the tuile batter on the baking mat (sorry, no picture.. unfortunately. snapping pictures of your work is considered mildly unprofessional).

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So there you have it. My first official dish. Now, to tackle something savory. Just give me a week to unload my brain.


I’m staring at a mirror leaning against  the wall behind my desk, with a post-it from my roommate that says, “You’re a nerd (really).” I’ve kept the note in plain sight so I can see it every morning when I get up to use my computer. I like it keep it there because it’s a reminder of how I’m completely obsessed with my new profession.

One probably shouldn’t need to be reminded of their “passions,” but sometimes when you’re scrubbing grills or your knees start to give a little, a neon-yellow reminder can definitely brighten your day. In a weird roundabout way, the statement reinforces how proud I am to be a food nerd. I’m completely obsessed with the idea of becoming a food professional and knowing everything there is to it. To that end, I’m single-mindledly focused on food for the majority of my time. It’s an obsession that guides my desire to not only be the best cook, but also to absorb as much knowledge about food as possible. My desk is laden with food magazine tear-outs of recipes, cookbooks I’ve barely opened, and one study guide that I’ve been meaning to rip the plastic off of and start working on. How I manage to have the time or the curiosity to do all this is still beyond me.

One of the pangs of having an obsession, is that you’re never satisfied.  There is a constant air of frustration because you can never meet your expectations. But how can you, when they’re always changing? The violinist, Isaac Stern, once stated that the more you practice something, the more impossible your standards become because of the endless possibilities you set yourself up for. And of course, there in lies the motivational danger in one’s pursuit: the obsession will cripple the work itself.

This also speaks to the idea that it’s not so much one’s technical skills or “talent” that helps you succeed, but something a little more inherent. That’s why success stories are so inspiring-because people can succeed by channeling a motivational drive that is more deeply-rooted and self-induced than knowledge you gain from a book or learn through years of training. It’s what gives us hope and let’s us believe the “anything is possible” spiel. 

The key to maintaining a healthy motivational drive whilst not driving yourself insane with endless standards and criticism is to organize your obsession and “keep it in check.” Don’t let minor flaws deform your work. Think “big picture.” Understand that imperfections are not failures. Believe that emotional rewards will always outshine tangible compensations. Then, you’ll be perfect.


It’s happening. Work is starting to penetrate every facet of my life.

For example, I had a dream the other night I went to a Chinese restaurant with a couple of friends for dinner. There was a pre-fixed menu and for our 3rd course, the waiter swooped in from behind and presented me with my plate. The plate consisted of two bright red, gigantic lobster claws perfectly placed to face each other on each side of the plate and a mountainous pile of lobster meat in the center. I was horrified.

Another example was when I walked into a shoe store to pick up some socks before work. I was on Broadway so it was undoubtedly swarmed with tourists. I noticed the socks were all the way in the back of the store, but my path was blocked by Europeans jibber-jabbering about who back at home needs a new pair of shoes. Already late for work, I rushed in head first and without thinking, started saying, “behind” every time I tried to squeeze behind someone. “Behind” is kitchen jargon for “excuse me.” It probably comes from when a cook had to walk behind the other line cooks during service and had to warn them they were walking behind them because the hot stoves were on the other side of them. Anyways, they probably thought I was being quite the rude American yelling strange words inside of a discount shoe store.

The last example was when I had to go to the bathroom during work and right before I opened the door to go back to work, I knocked on the door 3 times.  I really did catch myself by surprise with this one. You see, our walk-in fridge is right next to the pantry so in order to not slam the door on someone when walking out, you’re supposed to knock on the door to warn anyone perusing the pantry that you’re coming out. With all the trips to the walk-in throughout a shift, you can imagine, knocking on a door becomes quite the common practice. Sometimes I have the energy to shell out 3 distinct knocks. Other times I just throw my palm at the door hoping any indistinguishable sound is sufficient.

Aside from the body aches and sore muscles I get every morning, these instances are revealing just how much my life will change in the coming months/years (?!). No more jokes about Excel or stories about the time So & So forgot to put himself on mute during the company conference call. Now we joke about the difference between jam and jelly (trust me, the answer isn’t sweet at all) or my artistic ineptitude when it comes to plating.

Work Work Work Work Work Work Work Work.


I went to a bar the other night after work to meet up with a few friends. I had a knife in my purse because I had brought one from my own kitchen to sharpen it on a stone at work. This turned out to be a very dangerous idea. After about an hour of bumping into people in the crowded bar, I realized about an inch of my knife’s point was sticking out of the corner of my purse. The knife had come out of its sheath and pierced the fabric.

I could have stabbed someone in the stomach on the crowded dance floor. I can just imagine the front page news. “Korean American Female Stabs 5 Strangers in a Local Night Club. Reasons are unknown, but friends of the mass murderer describe her as quiet and amicable. One unidentified friend tells us the accused’s sudden jerky dance moves have been known to cause quiet an disturbance among friends, but never have they caused this much hurt. All victims are expected to survive.”


Father, I have a confession to make. Today I killed 10 lobsters. 10 lobsters that were barely alive, scrambling to get out of the wet cardboard box They were trapped in for the past few hours. They were helplessly shuffling across each others backs with their claws closed shut with rubber bands. 

I couldn’t do it at first. I was terrified, petrified to even bring the box out of the refrigerator. But everyone made me do it, they kept yelling at me, hassling me to kill one or I wouldn’t be able to call myself a real cook. I stared at the box, then the knife, then the box, then the knife. Frustrated with my hesitation, Adam snatched my knife with his right hand and grabbed one lobster out of box with his other. As he held the fidgeting lobster down with his hand, he stared me in the eyes and asked me, “Do you know how to kill a lobster?” I cried, “No.” 

Slowly, he drew the tip of the knife towards the back of its head. He held his position enough for the lobster to see there was a sharp metal blade sitting between his eyes. Then, with a quick stab to the back of its head, Adam split the head in half, allowing for a fountain of water/blood/my overwhelming sense of guilt to spray out of its head. As everyone stood motionless, I felt like I just witnessed the murder of a crustacean child. 

I had to take a few minutes to compose myself, because there was just no way that I would be able to do this without having a rush of emotions wage war inside my body. As Adam passed the knife to me, I realized this would be my unofficial initiation into our kitchen mafia. I grabbed a kitchen towel and threw it over a lobster that seemed the least alive. I squeamishly held the lobster down with my left hand; I felt all kinds of scared, even though I realized I was the murderer, not the murder case. I held my victim at knife-point and said a silent prayer. I stood on my toes and nervously held my knife as I roused up enough bravado to make the initial stab. And then I jumped back. There it was, a half dead lobster being used as a knife holder for my 8 inch chef’s knife. I immediately realized how much worse that looked than finishing the job, and grabbed the handle and brought the knife all the way down to the cutting board. And, of course, it would happen that the lobster’s eyes got stuck on the cutting edge of my knife, staring back at me as I drew my knife back up.

I’m too nervous right now to even begin explaining the metaphorical meaning of that moment, but I will say that I stared back at its detached eyes for a good minute, before I cried a little inside. I wish I could say that I felt accomplished and victorious of having killed my first lobster, but I actually felt horrible. I was riding the biggest wave of guilt at the moment and I couldn’t get off. Meanwhile, I had 8 more lives to end.

I forced myself to get into a state of energized focus and discipline (does this feel like reading a diary entry of a mass murderer?…cus I sure felt like one). I took a deep breathe and I fully immersed myself into the task of stabbing 8 more lobsters.

What a day.


Day 2

04Jun09

Out of the 2 days I’ve worked at The Restaurant, I’ve gone out after work both nights and came home around 4 AM. This is especially worrisome because I’m still mentally running on a 9-5 schedule, making me wake up at 7 AM on average. That leaves me having functioned for the past two days on 3-4 hours of sleep. I’m terrified of what’s to come.

These late nights also don’t make for a pleasant wake up as I’m completely exhausted by the time I get home and fall into my bed, pieces of food in hair and all. Some children hide teeth under their pillows in hopes that the tooth fairy will replace them with money. Does anyone know of a fairy that will pay for the pieces of dried pad thai under my pillow?

Another note to self, is to buy some loose fitting black pants. Either skinny jeans or my insistence to be fashionably conscious need to go out of style because sweating in tight pants makes for really uncomfortable bending of the knees. 

Oh, and a note to you patrons out there. Please stop telling your waiters that you’re allergic to garlic. Because if you were, you’d probably be allergic to onions, chives, shallots, leeks, all foods part of the allium family. And us cooks have nothing better to do than be smart asses about your supposed allergy and will remove all traces of the allium family from your food, leaving you with a boiled steak and a frisee salad. You can just say you don’t like garlic. We get it.   

I’m exhausted.