If you are looking for something different to do on Valentine’s Day, break away from the chocolates, and take your sweetheart outside. Spending time outdoors with your special someone, whether it’s your spouse, your best friend, your closest family member, or even yourself, is a great way to build memories, get fresh air, and enjoy this love-oriented special day. We have a few tips to make it one to remember:
Try a new activity.
Although many activities are limited and on lockdown due to COVID-19, there is still plenty you can do outdoors. If you can, select an activity that you’ve never done before. Whether it’s kayaking, rock climbing, or hiking, choose something new for you both. Call in advance to anywhere you’ve decided to plan for any preparations you need to do in advance.
Go for a picnic.
We can certainly say, picnics haven’t been canceled yet. You may have to be flexible with your picnic location choices, but it’s a wonderful way to enjoy tasty food with someone you love. Don’t forget the flowers and the wine, of course! If you can’t find a safe locale to have your picnic, get creative and do your picnic out in the backyard.
Have a luxury campout.
With Canyons and Chefs, you can go on an adventure for a day. You’ll be able to create memories in the outdoors with tasty food made by acclaimed chefs. You can enjoy comfort, solitude, and fresh air with our camping accommodations without skimping on the luxury.
Enjoy the snow.
One wonderful thing about Valentine’s Day being in February is that there is plenty of snow around for those that live near mountain areas. Enjoy the ski slopes or rent some snowshoes and have a day enjoying the crisp cold air. Suppose you don’t live near the mountains but get your share of snow, considering renting a sled for Valentine’s Day and find a nearby hill. It’s a great way to get in touch with your inner child and have a day to remember.
Visit a National park.
Many National Park’s are open right now, so now is the time to have your dream Valentine’s Day vacation. Rent an RV or schedule a road trip to visit the one nearest to you that’s open. Plan to make a special dinner at home or a dinner out in the outdoors, and don’t forget a special bottle of wine to commemorate the occasion.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you’ll want to make it a day to remember. Likely we’re all looking for a healthier way to celebrate your loved one, so have a day outside with the fresh air.
If you’re not familiar with Canyons and Chefs and what we do, finding the answer to this might have you scratching your head. Our exploration and glamping trips combine the beauty of the natural outdoor scenery with the comfort of good home cooking on the road, out under the open sky.
If you’ve never combined these two things, you should try it and see how it works. It’s a unique kind of experience that has many of our guests coming back as often as they are able.
The Joy of Outdoor Cooking
Outdoor cooking is a lot of fun, and the food often tastes better when you’re sitting outside.
For example, take the humble onion. When you’re chopping it in your kitchen, it’s kind of unappealing, until you get it onto the heat. In the outdoors, you get less of that onion-y smell in your nose, and by heating it the right way over an open flame, you get a nicely caramelized result, with all the sweetness and flavor that you crave.
Gem Hunting And More
After you fill your belly, you can explore some of the ancient infrastructure of our natural environments around Death Valley’s beautiful canyons and desert plateaus. These are just part of what you experience as you run around in this Utah area. You can also go hunting for gems!
Although it’s fun, rock hunting isn’t the only thing you can do outside, not by a long shot.
It’s really fun to hike some of these gorges and experience the majestic views that you get out in the fresh air.
One of the things that we think about when we put these trips together is finding an itinerary that works with our cooking schedule. By taking the extra time to get the details right, we really improve the experience for our guests, and that’s part of what distinguishes us from any other similar tour groups, not that there are many of them around.
The more you learn to understand the natural vistas and ecosystems of the area, the more value you’ll get out of one of these interesting trips around the wilds of Utah. And of course, you’ll do all of this with the assistance of professional chefs who know how to whip up a good spread – just take a look at what we did for Thanksgiving this past fall to get an idea of the kind of cuisine you can expect.
Time to step up and and crush it this Thanksgiving. Although this year may not quite remind us of Thanksgiving day’s of yore, it’s still a great opportunity to spend time with those closes to us, watch some football, eat some food, and celebrate the things we (even in 2020) have to be thankful. Also relax knowing that dinner doesn’t have to be some crazy nightmare this year. Follow Chef Billy Woods’ simple step-by step recipes to create the ultimate and impressive thanksgiving feast, with everything from the perfectly moist turkey to a luscious pumpkin cheesecake. You can pick one or two, or go for it and do the damn thing! As always, it makes things easier and more enjoyable to have a friend to cook with, some good music, and a great bottle of wine. Step into Chef’s Kitchen! All recipes serve 8 with great leftovers (the best part of Thanksgiving)
Caramelized Apple and Brie Potstickers — Why not bring a little non-traditional into your tradition? Classic American Thanksgiving flavors with a little eastern flair….
4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cored
1/2 C. Brown Sugar
4 tbsp butter
1 Round of Classic Brie Cheese, rind removed and roughly chopped
1/2 C. Chopped Walnuts
1 Package circle-shaped Wonton Wrappers
Small amount of neutral-flavored oil
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over high heat. Add in the apples, sautéing over high heat until just beginning to brown. Add the sugar, toss to coat, and turn down to medium heat. Continue to cook the apples until they are deeply brown, about one hour. Remove from heat, combine in bowl with the brie, and set aside to slowly cool. When cool, add in walnuts and stir until well combined. Take a spoonful of the mixture and place in the middle of a wonton wrapper. Fold the top down and pinch shut, making a half-moon shape. Press down on your work surface, making a flat bottom to the potsticker. Repeat this process until the mixture is gone. Heat small amount of oil in a large saute pan, and place the potstickers flat bottom-side down, cooking over medium heat. Once the bottom is browned, remove the pan from heat and add a small amount of water to create a steambath. Once steamed, serve immediately.
What’s for Dinner?:
Anise, Honey, Apple Cider, and Ginger Brined Turkey
— Worried about your turkey being dry? Brine to the rescue. This delicious brine ensures every bite of your turkey (even the hard-to-deal-with breast), is most and memorable. Another secret? Chef’s Honey and Herb Butter deeply massage into the turkey!
1 18lb, free-range young turkey
For the Brine:
3 gallons water
1/2 gallon apple cider
1c. brown sugar
1c. kosher salt
2 tbsp each of star anise, fresh ginger, black peppercorns
2 large bay leaves
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to boil and let cool. When FULLY cooled, add turkey. Store in a 5-gallon bucket with lid firmly attached. Brine for no less than 24, but no more than 48 hours. When ready to roast, remove from brine, pat dry, and remove any spice fragments that may be stuck on.
For the Butter:
1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup herb mixture of fresh, chopped parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage
Whip vigorously until combined. Just before roasting the turkey, insert fingers under flap of skin on breast and massage deeply into breast flesh.
Cooking the turkey
Preheat oven to 375
You will definitely want to truss you turkey for most even roasting results. Watch this short tutorial video to familiarize yourself with the process:
Chop 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 4tbsp unsalted butter and toss into a large roasting pan with a rack. Place the trussed turkey on the rack. For every pound of stuffed turkey cook 18 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165 according to your kitchen thermometer.
Chef’s Clutch Pan Drippings Gravy
— Trust us, this is worth the wait. The key is to make it a priority at the start of the day instead of a mad scramble at the end. Frankly, you’ll want this as a condiment for everything!
1 package of liver and giblets from your turkey
1 each onion, large carrot (peeled and chopped), and celery stalk
2c. good-quality chicken stock
1c. good quality sauvignon blanc or other crisp, dry, white wine
Drippings from turkey roasting pan
4 tbsp corn starch, 1tbsp water, combined (this is a slurry)
In a large sauce pot, place a small amount of butter in pan heated on high. Melt the butter, and add in the giblets making sure that a single layer is achieved (do not overload the pot). Brown each side, remove from pan, and deglaze with stock (pour in a small amount and stir until the bits from the bottom of the pan “unstick”). Continue this process until all giblets and such are browned and set aside. When this process is finished, add in the chopped mirepoix vegetables with a small amount of butter and season lightly with salt. Sauté the vegetables on high until beginning to brown, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until vegetables become deeply brown. Add back in the browned giblets, stir, and add stock and wine. Bring to slow simmer, and continue to simmer until turkey is done roasting and liquid is reduced by half. Add drippings from roasting pan (ALL of them, everything), and continue to simmer until ready to serve. When ready, strain and thicken with corn starch slurry (add slurry, bring to boil). When desired consistency is reached, serve.
Chef’s Disappearing Stuffing
— Seasonal fruits and crunchy nuts are the star of this stock and pan dripping-soaked stuffing
4c. Bread scraps or cubes (French, sourdough, rye, cornbread or some combination are all acceptable)
2 pears, chopped
2 apples, chopped
1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, chopped
1c pecans, chopped
2 c. Good-quality chicken stock
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and thoroughly combine. While wearing gloves, stuff into body cavity of turkey. Don’t be shy, get in there!
Classic Homestyle Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes — Easy and delicious, a great combination!
5lb bag of Red Potatoes
1/2c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
Kosher salt to taste
Put all the potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Salt water liberally. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium simmer, and cook potatoes until a knife slides into them with little to no resistance.
Sweet Potato au Gratin with Chipotle and Gruyere
— Your guests will beg for more of this, and it’s waaaaaaaay better than that marshmallow freak show you’re subjected to every year!
3lb bag of Sweet Potatoes, peeled
1+1/2 c heavy cream
8oz smoked gruyere, shredded
5tsp Dijon mustard
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. With a mandoline (slicer) slice all of the potatoes into very thin slices, as thin as you can. In a 9×9 baking dish covered with parchment paper (pro-tip: using cooking spray makes it easier to mold the paper into the baking dish), layer the potatoes in this order: potatoes covering the bottom , pinch of salt, small handfuls of cheese, mustard 1tsp at time, cream to cover, press down and repeat until all potatoes are used. Dispense the chipotles into a small bowl. Remove 1 chili and mince, sprinkle on top of the potatoes along with 1-2 spoonfuls of adobo sauce. Finish the top with cheese. Cover the dish with foil, place on baking dish and put in oven. Bake covered for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for additional 30 minutes. Cool completely, remove from dish and cut into squares.
— I always hear people tell me that they *hate* beets and brussels sprouts. That’s because that canned nonsense is hot garbage. Prepare to eat some real, delicious food
2lb Brussels sprouts, root cut off, halved
2 purple beets, stems chopped off
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, halved
1 yellow onion, julienned
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2lb pancetta, chopped
1c walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350. Place beets in baking dish, squeeze lemon and add to beets. Salt liberally, add 2tbsp of the olive oil and add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish half a finger in height. Cover with foil and bake 1.5 hours. Remove from oven and cool. Skins will peel off easily. Dice the beets into 1/2in x 1/2in cubes
Begin the Brussels as the beets are being done. Place halved sprouts in a large mixing bowl, add 2 tbsp of olive oil, and salt liberally. Place “Face down” on sheet pan, put in oven, and roast until faces are golden brown.
Heat a small saucepan and add pancetta. Cook until meat is golden brown and fat has separated from the meat. Strain the meat and add the onions and garlic. Sauté until golden brown, add back the pancetta and turn down the heat to medium-low. Cook slowly, stirring often until onions are deeply brown and sweet.
To finish, combine everything (brussels, beets, onion/garlic/pancetta) and heat. Serve immediately
Velvet Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Gingersnap crumble
— take a break from the standard pie and slide into this luscious, unforgettable cheesecake made with fresh pumpkin, which makes all the difference.
1 pie pumpkin, stemmed, halved, and seeded
1 tsp canola oil
2 two kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350. Coat pumpkin with oil, salt, and roast until soft, about 45 mins. Remove flesh from skin and puree.
For the custard
2 8oz packages of good-quality cream cheese, room temperature
3/4c white sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1+1/2c sour cream, at room temperature
All of roasted pumpkin purée
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
10 gingersnap cookies, crushed
Preheat oven to 350. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, whip cream cheese with sugar and salt until creamy and well-whipped. Add eggs and yolks one at a time until combined, scraping down the bowl each time. Add the remaining ingredients, running your mixer on high until well combined. Scrape down the bowl for good measure. Grease a springform pan and pour batter into it. Wrap the outside of the springform with foil, covering the sides. Place pan in a large container, and fill container about halfway up the side of the springform pan with warm (not hot) water. Bake for 1-1.5 hours, or until custard jiggles very slightly when shaken. Cool completely. Remove custard from pan, sprinkle with gingersnap dust, and serve.
Now you’ve got all the necessary recipes, time to make a plan and get it done. Here is a basic outline of how your week should progress. Try to do a few small tasks each day do you don’t get overwhelmed. For any overwhelmed times, there’s wine for that! Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving Day Plan:
Stuff and roast Turkey
Even though Thanksgiving might feel a bit different this year, it actually presents a great opportunity. Many years, we have massive gatherings that might overwhelm a home cook saddled with gigantic responsibility, chaos, and stress. This year, our smaller gatherings might lend us a chance to try something we haven’t before without worrying about the scope of the crowd. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Think about trekking to some remote canyon or mountain area, and enjoying a professional culinary experience amid the rocks.
That’s the type of opportunity that we offer at Canyons and Chefs. As an outdoor company, we guide our guests on awe-inspiring tours of some of the area’s best natural landscapes. As a company founded by chefs, we offer these adventurers high cuisine in the outdoors, with a backcountry kitchen well-equipped for turning high-quality food far from the electrical grid or the shelter of a conventional kitchen.
An Excellent Primal Experience
When you think about it, enjoying food in the wilderness is the way that we have lived for millions and millions of years.
In the modern era, you can think about all of those cowboys and cattle movers and other couriers who routinely camped out, cooking over a fire: how did they do it?
The answer shows you how appealing it is for people to outdoors and enjoy well-cooked meals far away from the bells and whistles of human civilization – out in the open, under the sun, moon and stars!
Refining Outdoor Cooking
As we brainstormed how to set up this trail-blazing business, we invested in specific equipment that gives our portable backwoods kitchen the ability to really shine. Whether it’s using a double oven for roasting or searing over a campfire grill, our experience and investment in tools allow us to really bring a new level of flavor to the campfire side.
In a way, it’s exciting to deal with the limitations and challenges of cooking on the open road. When you don’t have a lot of the comfort of city living to fall back on, you rely on your own ingenuity and expertise. Turning out excellent tastes and textures in the wild is a challenge we’re proud to embrace.
Merging Two Great Companies
How did this get started?
When Red Rock Culinary met Blue Marble Adventure GeoTours, a new kind of company was born.
Previously, the chef business was responsible for elevating food for diverse audiences, while Blue Marble’s outdoor tracking service focused on introducing guests to natural wonders. We took these two businesses and threw them together, and the wonderful result is a new kind of company that you rarely find anywhere. Check out the web site for more on how we delight guests, and ask us any questions about logistics or anything else! There’s nothing else like this around, so if you’re coming by here, be sure to look us up!
In my years of travel and travail through mountains, deserts,Michelin- starred restaurants, backyard barbecues, culinary schools, canyons, parks, summits, and walk-in refrigerators, I have learned one thing: Cooking matters. This is an overarching idea that covers many different philosophical subsets: good food matters, good company matters, happiness matters, smell matters, taste matters, sight matters, texture matters, memories matter. All of this coalesces into why food is so important in our lives. It is not simply a vehicle for sustenance. The renewed farm-to-table food movement of the past decade has proven that human nature rises above TV dinners and microwaved hot dogs. Internally, we are all chefs, and we all crave to cook and eat food that is fresh and has some measure of humanity within it. Being phased out are the days of the industrialized food conglomerate of processed “cheese” and mystery meat patties, and back are the days of fresh produce, locally sourced meats, artisan breads and cheeses, and the rekindling of the Farmer’s Market.
Nowhere can this movement be found more evident than when one cooks in the outdoors. Gone are the days of beanie-weenies and food-on-a-stick, and in is the day of the Fireside Chef: a person who cares about the food they are serving, a person who has a deep connection with their surroundings, a profound respect for nature, and an understanding of how the stars have aligned so that we may be here to create and enjoy gorgeous and delicious food. If you can, take some time to ponder the profundity of geologic time and the steps that were necessary throughout the course of history to put this power into your hands. Cook on my friends: May your coals be hot, your drinks be cold, your company welcome, and your experienceunforgettable.
*House Seasoning = 1 part Kosher Salt, ¼ part coarse-ground black pepper, Dash of mesquite
>Beer-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Caramelized Apples, Bacon, and Sage
Short ribs are the second pair of ribs on a cow that lie justbeneath the main pair. They have a rich flavor and tender nature, with an extravagant amount of meat for such a small bone.
1 lb. bacon, chopped
3 lbs. (12) short ribs, trimmed
½ cup bourbon
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 cups beef stock
1 cup apple juice
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 12 oz. can lager-style beer
10 leaves fresh sage, chopped
Crisp the bacon in a dutch oven until golden brown. Remove from the pot, and reserve ½ of the fat in the pot, discarding the rest (it’s great to save for later). Season the short ribs with house seasoning, and add to the pot, searing until browned on all sides. Remove ribs from pan, and deglaze with bourbon, reducing by ½ . Add more fat, and add onion, carrots, garlic, and apples. Saute slowly until golden brown, add back bacon, and cover with beef stock, apple juice, and vinegar. Add chopped sage leaves, cover the dutch oven, and place in the simmer pit for 4-5 hours. Remove from the pit and take out the ribs. With a slotted spoon, fish out apples, carrots, onions, garlic, and sage and spoon over ribs. Pour a small amount of braising liquid over the ribs and serve.
>Sonoran BBQ and Pepper Bacon Burger
This one could really be called the Sonoran Smokehouse, as it is truly our high desert version of a burger that can be found on burger joint menus. Smoky, delicious, just what you need.
For the Burger:
1 lb. 80/20 Ground Beef
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
For the BBQ Sauce:
1 c. Good-Quality Ketchup
½ c. Apple Cider Vinegar
⅔ c Light Brown Sugar, tightly packed
¼ c worcestershire sauce
¼ whole-grain mustard
2 Chipotle Peppers in adobo, finely minced
1 c. beef stock
House Seasoning, to taste
Combine all ingredients, whisking together. Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low heat heat until it reaches a thickened, saucy consistency. Cool.
2 Jalapeno-Cheddar Burger Rolls
8 slices pepper bacon
2 Poblano peppers, roasted, skinned, and seeded
4 slices smoked gouda
2 leaves Romaine lettuce
4 slices Roma tomatoes
6 pickle chips
Fry the bacon until golden brown and crispy. Liberally season the patties with house seasoning and place on a hot, oiled grill directly over the coals. Rotate for grill marks, and flip when edges are crispy and browned. Place peppers, then bacon on patties, and top with smoked cheddar cheese. While cheese is melting, toast buns until crispy, then remove from the grill and slather with sauce. When cheese is melted, place the patties on the bottom bun, and garnish the top bun with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles.
>Grill-Blackened Halibut with Roasted Garlic and Chile Salsa
Blacking spice is typically used when searing fish or meat with oil. Halibut is a flaky whitefish that stands up well to the bold flavors in the blacking spice and salsa. The salsa for this recipe takes some time, so it is wise to plan ahead.
For the Blacking Spice:
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. House seasoning
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. Mexican oregano
For the Fish:
4 6oz. Alaskan Cod fillets, skinned, scaled, and pinboned
Apply desired amount of spice to cover the entire fillet. Add to hot, very well-oiled grill (cod may stick if grill is not properly heated and seasoned) over the coals, turning to obtain deep grill marks until the blacking spice is black. Transfer to indirect heat side, and cook through.
For the Salsa:
1 whole head of garlic, cut off bottom so that cloves are exposed
1 tsp olive oil
2 poblano chilies, roasted, seeded, and chopped
2 tomatoes, halved, grilled, and chopped
1 small red onion, halved, grilled, and chopped
2 limes for juicing
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
House seasoning to taste
Enclose garlic with oil in aluminum foil, place on the grill over low heat for 45mins-1hr.
While garlic is roasting, roast chilies according to procedure, and grill onions and tomatoes until blistered with grill marks on all sides. Remove everything from the grill, and let cool slightly. Remove garlic from foil, and squeeze cloves out of skins onto a cutting board and chop roughly. Chop your remaining vegetables, and place in mixing bowl. Finish with lime juice and chopped cilantro, and season to taste with house seasoning. The salsa should be chunky. Spoon over cooked fish.
>Spicy Pistachio-Rubbed Elk Tenderloin with Savory Cactus-Blueberry Compote
This is a dish we sold quite a bit of at an acclaimed restaurant in Vail, CO during ski season. The tart spicy-sweetness of the compote cuts nicely with nutty, spicy pistachio rub, and the unctuous, earthy flavor of elk.
4 8oz Elk Tenderloin Steaks
1 C. Pistachios, shelled and ground into a semi-fine powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp ancho powder
½ tsp mesquite powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
For the Compote:
12 oz. organic blueberries
3 fresh nopal cactus paddles, spines removed (have the butcher do this), chop to size of berries
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced
2 tbsp sugar
1 c. beef stock
1 tbsp lime juice
Begin the compote first. it will take at least one hour. Roll the blueberries in the sugar and set aside. Place your small dutch oven over the fire and heat until a drop of oil produces smoke. Add the cactus and peppers, season and saute until beginning to brown. Add sugared blueberries, reduce heat (move away from coals/flames), and saute until blueberries begin to break down and turn slightly syrupy. Add in beef stock and simmer until mixture becomes slightly thick, coating the back of a spoon. Add lime juice, and season to taste. Set aside, but keep warm.
Rub the elk steaks liberally with the pistachio spice. Be sure your grill is hot, and your coals are gleaming. Oil the grill, and place steaks directly over the coals flat-side (butchered-side) down. Rotate 45 degrees to obtain grill marks, then flip, obtaining grill marks on the other side. Cook to desired temperature (120 is rare, 160 is well done). Dress with compote.
>Desert Canyon S’mores
Whoever conceived of this toasted mallow and chocolate sandwich should be given the Congressional Medal of Honor. Spoiler alert, it was me! This recipe makes it true canyon country-style with a sweet and spicy prickly pear sauce, which is slow-simmered and used to dress the chocolate-marshmallowy goodness.
Stash of Graham Crackers
Stash of Chocolate Bars
Stash of Marshmallows
Prickly Pear Sauce
1/2 c. Prickly Pear Syrup (Cheri’s Desert Harvest is our go-to)
2 mangoes, peeled, cored, and rough chopped
1 c. pomegranate juice
1 tsp dark brown sugar
1 habanero pepper, seeds removed, finely minced
House seasoning to taste
Over low heat add mangoes to dutch oven or small saucepan with a small amount of oil. Add sugar and stir until begging to brown. Add pepper and continue to saute until brown and caramelized. Cover with pomegranate juice and simmer until reduced by ½. Add prickly pear syrup, season to taste. Enjoy!
Bonus Side Dishes
>Dutch Oven Cauliflower au Gratin
This is an incredibly flavorful, comforting and easy dish; especially under the stars, by the fire with a glass of wine or snifter of fine scotch. Be careful of heat control, you do not want to burn the bottom.
2 heads fresh cauliflower, broken into reasonably-sized pieces
2 cup heavy cream
2 cups good-quality cheese (none of that yellow stuff; I like a blend of smoked gruyere and parmigiano-reggiano)
House Seasoning, to taste
Good quality hot sauce to taste (Arizona Gunslinger is quite tasty)
Oil for cooking
Place dutch oven over the fire and heat. Toss cauliflower in oil, and season with house seasoning. Place in the duthc oven and cook slowly, until caulilfower florets have begun to take on a deep brown (this will take 30-45 mins). Pour cream over the cauli, and the cheese, and cover with top. Put on a relatively cool part of the grill, so as not to burn. Check and stir, if necessary. The gratin is done when all the cheese is melted and has thickened the cream, perhaps 30-40 minutes depending on the grill temperature. Season to taste and serve.
Marinated and Grilled Asparagus
Simple, easy, and delicious. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, and grilling it gives a wonderful, smoky flavor that pairs well with almost anything.
3 Bunches Asparagus (good, fat ones), trimmed
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 “inch” of ginger, grated (this should equal 1 tbsp)
Combine all ingredients and let stand for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 4 hours. On a good, hot grill, lay down the marinated stalks, do not allow them to overlap. Grill for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness. The stalk should be tender, still snap when bent.
People ask me from time to time, what’s it like to be a chef? That’s a complicated and deep answer, worthy of more than just the stock “it’s cool” answer. You work long, odd, hours, oftentimes for underwhelming pay and an overwhelming work load. Your environment is hot and filled with dangerous hazards such as razor-sharp knives, searing hot oil, and unpredictable personalities. The stress level during a busy service in an acclaimed restaurant can be off-the-charts, complete with angry cooks, frustrated servers, and a monstrously hectic environment. Being a real chef is very little like it appears on the Food Network, and even less than it looks like in a culinary school brochure.
Being a chef, a real actual chef, is not for the faint of heart. It is for those with thick skin, laser-like focus, an unwavering work ethic, and a serious mind. It is often far less like being a rock star, and far more like being a factory worker. But if you ask most of us, we wouldn’t trade it for anything else. It’s in our blood, it consumes us, and putting out that next stunning plate is what drives us. The line is our operating room, our court room, the knife our scalpel, the plate our artist’s palette, the presentation our architects blueprint, the foundation of flavor our all-consuming master work.
Is Being a Chef a Good Career?
Sure! If you love food, have a passion for art, creativity, and enjoy the rush of adrenaline produced from a 300-cover Friday Night in a professional kitchen, then this is the career for you. It can be a highly rewarding career; making people happy with your art is a feeling like no other. There are also many career avenues that can be taken as a chef. The most obvious, of course, is to work in restaurants with the eventual goal of owning your own place. This is the goal and aspiration for many young chefs, but it is far from the only path. For example, the path that I’ve taken is quite unique. I’ve created a company that brings together my two worlds; fine food and outdoor adventure. Of course, it took me many years to get here, but this is no different than most chefs who want to get ANYWHERE.
There are myriad avenues available to you. You can become a food writer, for instance. This is becoming a far more competitive field with the advent of the food blogger, but it is a tremendous avenue, nonetheless. In fact, you can do nearly anything you want as a chef. You are, after all, a provider of food and good times. This can be a widely-needed skill set. Cooking is a skill set that will never go out of style, will never be passe, and will always be needed. Being able to conceptualize and execute a delicious meal is something that will be with you everywhere you go, and will always be in demand. As a chef, do not confine yourself simply to the idea of working in a restaurant. Create your own identity, whatever you do.
So, are you going to answer the question?
The answer is yes, being a chef can be a great career. However, don’t be fooled by hype. It is just like any other career; fraught with pitfalls and pratfalls, filled with horrible and demanding bosses, monotony, fear, deep anxiety, and whatever else you can think of. In fact, many chefs suffer from mental health and addiction issues, the pay for the first several years of your career is likely to be minimum wage, and you are expendable at a moment’s notice (no matter what you think of yourself). Not feeling well? Tough, go to work. Broke up with your girlfriend? Tough, go to work. Chef’s screaming at you? Tough, take it or be fired. Want that vacation? Ha, good luck!
Beware that the chefs you see on TV are but one-in-a-million. For every Gordon Ramsey or Woflgang Puck there are 10,000 Bill Woodses. Who’s that, you ask? Nobody, just me. Somebody who “made it”, but is still essentially anonymous. For every Bill Woods, there’s another 10,000 nobodies who may never make more than minimum wage, toiling in failing restaurants before they quit and find another line of work (that was also me (sort of), why else do you think I own this weird hybrid company?)
Being a chef requires a level of seriousness that many folks do not possess as young people. They see superstar chefs on TV and in the media, and think, “hey that seems like a pretty good gig!”. What those shows tell you little of is how they got there. Thomas Keller, a personal mentor of mine and perhaps the best chef in the world, worked over 20 years in a self-styled apprenticeship, often working for free. He shared stories with us about having things thrown at him, having his very manhood challenged by small, angry French chefs, and otherwise being mistreated almost daily.
Should I go to Culinary School?
Personally, I do not think culinary school is necessary, or even wise. Many schools can cost students upwards of $100,000 to go get a minimum wage job. The first time I made slightly more than minimum wage, I had been in the industry for nearly 4 years. I literally could have been better compensated, with better benefits, retirements, and health care working as a garbage man or janitor. Consider this before going to culinary school.
It’s not only the money, it’s also the experience. I can’t tell you how many kids straight out of Johnson and Wales or Culinary Institute of America that I worked with over the years. By and large they were arrogant, woefully inexperienced in a restaurant, and in some cases totally incompetent. You are better off just working in restaurants and learning the craft.
What I would recommend is a paid apprenticeship program, or a self-styled apprenticeship of sorts. Point is, work in real, functioning professional kitchens. Sponge it up, and don’t waste your money and time with some culinary school that makes unrealistic promises.
Is Being a Chef a Stressful Job?
Short story…yep. There are numerous responsibilities that have nothing to do with cooking. There are budgets, costs, staff, and that’s not even to mention service. Managing stress is a major part of the job, and the unfortunate side of the industry is that there is lots of addiction and mental health issues. Be aware.
Do Chefs Make Good Money?
Ultimately you can make very good money as a chef. However, the chances of becoming a Food Network celebrity are extremely low, and it takes years of toil making minimum wage (or even less in some cases). If you own a successful restaurant, your earnings can be significant. In the private game, earnings can be very high, as well. However, entrepreneurial pursuits are far from guaranteed. If you choose to work your way up the ladder, there are executive chef jobs that offer six-figure salaries, just don’t expect to get there one year out of school.
10 Reasons Being a Chef is Harder than it Looks
1. So you want to have a relationship?
So much of your time is occupied by your career. It is also stressful, and often requires odd hours, working on weekends, holidays, and nights. Therefore, relationships can be difficult. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of opportunities to interact physically with the opposite sex, just know that it can be a challenge to nurture a meaningful relationship with someone outside the industry
2. You can forget about holidays
See above. Want to party on New Year’s Eve? Forget that. Want to spend some time kicking it on Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc.? Sure, whatever. Think you want to take out that special someone for Valentine’s Day? Uh-huh. You’ll be working.
3. Taking a sick day?
Chefs/cooks are not really allowed the conventional “sick days”. It seems counterintuitive that people who are handling food would be encouraged (see demanded) to work while ill, but it happens all the time. The reason is that each position in the kitchen is of utmost importance. It’s not like an office where work can be pushed back a day or two, or shared. I
If one person doesn’t show, that could be disastrous for the kitchen. Therefore, everyone is expected to work their schedule, regardless of their physical or mental health. To be honest, calling in sick may get you fired, especially in serious restaurants with loads of applications. I’ll put it this way: I once had a my sous chef at a great restaurant blithely tell me “line cooks are a dime a dozen”. I found that pretty insulting and did not want to hear it. However, it was very, very true. If I didn’t want to show up, there would be some warm body who would, and they may even do it for less money.
4. Stay on your feet!
The majority (see all) of a chef’s day is spent on their feet. You may get to sit down for small periods, but by and large you will be on your feet and moving constantly for 8+ hours.
5. The ways of the Kitchen
Kitchens, and restaurants overall, can contain lots of volatile personalities and flying hazards (food, oil, even knives). I’ve seen chefs pick up and throw food. I’ve cut myself, many times. I’ve seen a cook put an oyster knife through his thumb. I’ve watched people slip and fall. I’ve seen boiling water get dumped on feet. I’ve witnessed the drama of people who were fucking, then break up and ruin the whole damn restaurant.
I’ve witnessed rampant drug use and binge drinking, sometimes on the job. Restaurants can be wild places. I’ve witnessed yelling matches between massive egos. Just about whatever crazy shit you can imagine happens in restaurants. It’s wild. That’s part of the allure, especially for young people, just be aware that things will get crazy.
6. Restaurant Customers are a fun bunch
We love the people who patronize our restaurant. Of course we do. However, we also hate them. They want special orders. They want vegan-this and gluten-free that. They want something that’s not on the menu. They want well done filet mignon. They put ketchup on a Kobe Ribeye (Donald Trump is a famously grotesque ruiner of fine food and meat, especially). They demand all sorts of things, then stiff the server. They will leave bad reviews out of spite.
Restaurant patrons can be a fickle bunch. By and large they are wonderful, loyal, and your best marketing tools. However, there are some who are simply unbearably stupid, selfish, and ass-hattish. You’ve been warned.
7. Whatever can go wrong, almost certainly will
Being a chef is essentially being able to manage chaos. Putting out fires, both literal and metaphorical, is a massive part of the job. Dishwasher doesn’t show? That’s your problem. Line cook overcooks a nice piece of fish, that’s on you. Food costs come in too high? That’s your problem. Everything in the kitchen, and oftentimes the entire restaurant, falls on Chef’s shoulders. You will carry a heavy burden.
8. Our friends at the health department
It’s 7pm, Friday night, and you’re doing 200 covers on a multi-course tasting menu. Guess who shows up? Your friendly neighborhood health inspector! Get ready to put on those gloves, temp everything, wipe everything down, and basically have your whole routine get completely fucked for an hour or two while they browse around looking for something that’s slightly amiss. Don’t get me wrong, some inspectors are really great, and the scenario I described is a bit exaggerated (typically they won’t show up during service), but once again, everything falls to Chef.
9. Fame? That’s funny!
You have about the same chance to become a celebrity chef as you do to become any other kind of celebrity. In fact, there are brilliant chefs that are otherwise very successful, that are not famous. If you are getting into this career because you want to be famous, make different life choices right now.
10. People are always looking for something free
This kind of harkens back to the commentary on restaurant patrons, but it also needs a separate section. There will constantly be people wanting you to do appearances, donate food or time, or other “causes”. That’s not even to mention the patrons who will make a complaint simply to try to get a free meal. These are minor annoyances, generally, but still garbage that you have to deal with.
Having worked in some of the finest kitchens in the country and with some of the finest chefs perhaps in the world, I can plainly tell you that being a chef is a truly unique experience. It is both maddening and intoxicating, both frustrating and soothing, both predictable and enigmatic, both hobby and career, both passion and pain, both love and hate, both rich and poor, both, both , both. That, ladies and gentleman, is the true answer of what it’s like to be a chef. It’s cool.
Billy Woods is an acclaimed Private Chef in Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona
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