Playing With My Food ~
A journal about food, thought, travel, and life; by Chef & Raconteur Chaz French.

The Practical Interview…

So, I’ve been interviewing for jobs, there’s one in particular that’s progressed nicely.  It’s a part-time Chef’s position for a small private Persian language school.  My first interview with them lasted for two hours and it included  talking about food, education, art, music, culture, language, a tour of the school and the garden that would be mine to plan, for the kids to plant, and I had lunch with the founder of the school.  That’s what I’d call a good interview.

They called me back, arranged a day to cook with their departing Chef, that went well, but I was cooking her food with her, (really as her assistant).  They asked me back again, this time I was first told it was going to be one dish that was all me…  Then on Friday night I got a call from N. (the departing Chef),  and here comes the curve ball… I was to plan a menu, but not for the kids, I was to come in and cook (today) for their staff meeting, 20 adults….

I shouldn’t have been caught off-guard by that, but it threw a little change to my weekend plans.  I can be a little obsessive about my food.  Okay, maybe more than a little obsessive.

N. was kind enough to mention that she rarely gets to make a salad (cooking for kids and all) and suggested I take the opportunity to make one for the adults.

Before moving forward we have to go back… When I was there last week N. & I were talking about the flavor profiles that Persians like and she pulled a jar of kashk from the fridge and let me taste it  (Wow!)  Kashk is a cultured yogurt whey, and it’s incredibly potent.  My palette was blown out, but it was really good!  As soon as I could speak again, I said that I thought it tasted like a really strong, liquefied Parmesan cheese, and that’s when I knew I was going to find some and play with it.      When N. mentioned the salad, I decided that’s where I’d use kashk, in my salad dressing.  When I found the kashk, the woman at the store showed me photos of how Iranians use it and seemed ruffled a bit by the idea of it being used in a salad dressing. C’est la guerre…

Recently my roommate made Chicken Marbella, and it was good, but requires an overnight (at least) marinade, and I had 2 hours to make this entire meal, so that was out, but it got me thinking…  Saturday in addition to finding the kashk, I also went to Berkeley Bowl West and I picked up some dried sour cherries (@devbear, if you’re reading this, I saw some in your cupboard and tried a few… So, Thanks for the inspiration!) while nibbling away on them I decided they’d be much better than prunes (which are in Chicken Marbella) and then, I remembered seeing dried nectarines and it all came together from there.  Without the benefit of a long marinade, I decided to just go for it.  I created a dish in my mind, one that wouldn’t even be tested before making it for the school staff.   Go bold, or don’t go at all… So what did I make for this “The Practical Interview”?

I went with something I know very well my Rigatoni in Gorgonzola Sauce for Emily. A mixed green salad with roasted golden & red beets, and toasted chickpeas (gluten-free crouton substitute) thanks to @steamykitchen for her recent post on crispy roasted chickpeas which were my inspiration there.  The dressing for the salad was ‘creamy parsley’ which I made with the kashk (and which will get it’s own recipe post).  And then the chicken which was only a dish in my mind until this morning when I started shopping for ingredients, and preparing them.   It needs a name, ‘Chicken a la Chaz’ is a bit too much, even for me.  The dish (which I will share the recipe for just as soon as I make it again and measure shit so I can write it down…) was fairly simple.  Chicken baked/braised with some stock, butter, olive oil, dried fruits and olives, and a little bit of seasoning. The juices and some of the fruits were reduced to a chutney like sauce that was poured over the top before service.

Rarely do I ever comment on my own cooking… That chicken was fucking phenomenal!

N. mentioned afterward, that everything tasted great, and that I showed ‘good time management’ …. I think she said more, but at that point the meal was over, my heart rate and blood pressure back down, and I was spent.  What I enjoyed the most aside from the cooking, was watching the reaction of mostly strangers eating MY FOOD, and liking it.  On days when the kids are at school they sing a little song to the Chef after lunch, today the adults (and one child) sang it.  It was in Farsi, so I couldn’t understand it, but one of the teachers told me that in one part the translation would be ‘thanking me for the work of my hands’ and  I can’t think of a better compliment than that.

I won’t know if I nailed this job or not, for a few more days.  I certainly hope I did, because I think this school is special in their approach (they call it ‘progressive’) and that I could really do some good work there.

  • Jaden

    Good luck!

  • emilyhanhan

    Your meal sounds amazing, I love playing with new and different ingredients. Going to have to track down some dried sour cherries. And good luck! You sound excited at the job prospect, and the school sounds pretty awesome.

  • Jackie Gordon Singing Chef

    That sound like a wonderful job!!! I am so thrilled fr you! Congratulations again. I want to taste this kashk. I wonder where I can get it in NYC…

  • Colleen Coplick

    Looking forward to seeing the chicken recipe for sure. Plus, I LOVE roasted chickpeas. Seriously amazing, esp with a cucumber/red onion/yogurt salad. /swoon.