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.