10 life lessons I learned working at restaurants

I made Tona’s garlic edamame recipe because I was craving them like crazy, and this is my favorite way to eat edamame, I got nostalgic and I was thinking about all the things I’ve learned working in restaurants, so I compiled a list, wanna hear it? If not click on the highlighted word “recipe” above to get Chef Tony’s method for edamame bliss or if you are up for it, read on…..
I was raised in the kitchen, if we weren’t at our family restaurant we were eating at the local Chinese restaurant my mother was a waitress at before I was born, or visiting my Greek relatives at their respective tavernas (my parents met working at my Uncle Speros supper/dance club). I sat dutifully on the cutting board and watched my mother grill cook, dad tend bar, and siblings doing prep. I could use a deep fryer to make my own french fries and pour a proper keg beer, with help from standing on a milk crate, by the time I was four. I made my first steak dinner at home (mom was working at the restaurant) when I was nine. I was taking to go orders and hostessing at 11, waitressed at 12, prep and dishes by 13 and was working in other restaurants besides the family’s by 15. I feel that although these statements are legit from a lifetime of experience they are alas….opinions….so take out of it what you like:
10. Making stock is a good analogy for life….fill it with good quality, simple things, take it low and slow, pay attention to the details, skim it of impurities and the fat, often, don’t rush it and you will have a great thing.
9. Cooks are rockstars….well because 50% of them are usually musicians(may differ in your area, but very true in Portland), and those who aren’t can school any music aficionado with their music expertise. A good playlist can make a bad day great. Never underestimate the power of music.
8. Chef/industry experience owners are the BEST owners. The worst places i’ve worked are places where the person running the joint never worked in the industry…the pay is lousy….the owners think you are low class for the career you’ve chosen. These types abuse the art, the morale is low, they are never in the establishment, they have the worst Christmas parties, they fire people by group email, and they usually skip on quality and blame the staff when customers are unhappy with the product. Don’t dedicate your life to the pursuit of cash over something you are actually passionate about everyone suffers in the process.
7. Cooks are tough, no bullshit accepted…. if you wear make-up it will run off your face while you sweat over a steaming pot, your hair extensions will be set ablaze when you light the pilot light, and don’t even get me started about fake nails and bacteria! Your expensive shoes will suffer the wrath of garbage juice leaking from the bag, or a dropped sauce bowl will stain your fancy pants if you wear em. Be prepared to look your worst in the climax of the rush, this job is not for the faint of heart, the precious, or the high maintenance this shit is real, and I realized I respect people the most in heat of the battle. Unkind words will be exchanged, blood, sweat, and tears……you must have a thick skin! Then you have to clean the whole mess up together and drink a beer. In short….don’t put on airs.
6. Clean kitchens are the best kitchens. The product is only as good as the effort you put in, a clean kitchen nets better food, and the best places I have worked have the best health inspection track records. Note: perceived fanciness and pricey are not necessarily indicators of quality or cleanliness. Expensive doesn’t equal quality, effort does.
5. You gotta have a sense of humor, and usually a macabre one. Appreciate folks while they are around and get their points of view even if you don’t agree. Some folks are huge mentors and teach you many things in a very short period of time, and sometimes you never see them again, people come and go, lessons stay with you….as do good dirty jokes. Not everyone will like you….and that’s ok. Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can, keep an open mind to be the best version of you.
4. The customer is not always right, they are in fact usually wrong, but they do pay the bills, so smile through the annoyance, do your best to make them happy. Make others feel welcome even if they are annoying or maybe just uninformed. But remember you can’t please everyone all the time. Take nothing personally.
3. Stay hydrated…yeah…and make sure you have coffee.
2. Respect whoever does the damn dishes! It’s an under appreciated gig and it may be one of the most important! No plates….no food.
1. At the moment you want to quit the most, is usually the time you are growing and becoming better. Don’t give up.

Gluten free strawberry cobbler

School’s out for Summer (In Alice Cooper’s voice)! So I am pulling out a fun recipe using seasonal fruit and the Hogson’s mills gluten free muffin mix. This month’s Degustabox has been very fun for me. The products we have tried so far are; Sir Kensington’s Ketchup, i made a batch of my Jojo recipe and served this ketchup as their dipping partner. I would describe this ketchup as classy…..it’s a less sweet, more tomato richness, more refined. I used some of the Brianna’s cilantro dressing to garnish fish tacos, the lime added a nice element of acid. The Julian’s recipe waffle thins were good,I received the Meyer lemon quinoa, I liked them plain, but they would be really good with vanilla and lavender ice cream. The Entenmanns’s mini apple snack pies were a hit with the kids, a little sweet for me but the apple filling was really good and full of real apples so they are a step up from the hostess variety I grew up eating. I’m really into the Brooklyn Organics Ginger cola its a great mixer with whiskey and it has no calories or artificial stuff, it is sweetened with Stevia! I think I have a plan for the Korean bbq sauce I received and plan on blogging that idea as well..so stay tuned!
Things have been a bit busy with the end of school, work stuff, personal things, and just being me with my odd “Larry David” interactions. I have had a full load of things lately. As I get older and time goes faster my ability to tolerate anyone who isn’t willing to be real is zero, I appreciate internet love, we all do, but if I know you in real life, and we got history….but when it comes to actually showing up and you can’t fit it in…then I don’t need your “thumbs up” on facebook….that would be my advice for everyone out there…don’t forget that your time is the biggest gift you can give, and if others won’t give you theirs, put you off, make excuses, break off plans with short notice,they aren’t really your friend regardless of what they broadcast on the internet…as tough as it is…you gotta move ahead, and for those who think your instagram/facebook following is more important than those folks that have been there for you in the flesh…I feel sad for you. At some point you realize that aside from some “likes” the real folks are the ones you should’ve appreciated….cuz when shit gets real (and it always does at some point)it ain’t gonna be your “followers” who will be there. Being real means being honest (FYI: honest is not a full make up photo shoot with all your best angles, looking as casual as you can trying to portray your #reallife with a humble brag explanation) we are all human, we are flawed, but I will no longer let anyone make me feel like their time is more important than mine because it isn’t…and if they feel that way…then you have to realize maybe they weren’t ever really a friend, they just needed you for something. Quality, not quantity. Adulting can really suck sometimes, but the clarity from it helps you utilize your precious time a bit more wisely.
Recipe time:
You will need:
1 box of Hodgson Mill Gluten free muffin mix
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 Cup milk
1 1/2 Cup fruit filling, I made strawberry filling (1 pint hulled strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar,1/4 cup water, cook together till thickens and berries break down) but you can use any pie filling you like, jam, even canned peaches are good in a pinch, just add a little almond extract.
4 4-6 oz ramikens or an 8×8 pan.
Preheat your oven 375.
In each ramiken add 1 Tablespoon of butter, or add all of it to 8×8 vessel, place in oven.
Mix up the rest of your ingredients except fruit filling.
Pull pan or ramikens out of oven, butter should be melted, spoon your batter into each equitably, then spoon on fruit, making sure not to mix them together as your batter will “puff up” and make that classic cobbler effect.
Cook 15 minutes, if golden brown and the fruit is bubbly they are good to go, serve warm with whipped cream, ice cream, or naked….its all good. And never forget the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have other do unto you, treat others how you like to be treated…or don’t be a self centered jerk…there are many ways to say it but its so important for humans to remember and live by. Happy cooking!

Throwback classics: Spaghetti Supreme Potluck salad


Nelly once rapped “Sweat, wet, gettin hot up in this joint”, welcome to Summer! With that comes the time to make recipes that won’t heat up my 100 year old Portland four square house basically no use of the oven…we still haven’t bit the bullet and got central air yet. Part of me feels like my PDX lifestyle would lose a bit of grit in the process if I start refrigerating the air, then again I think I need to soften my persona a bit anyhow….soooo…next home improvement is A/C!
I am going to start off by talking about the era in which this salad made an entrance into my life. I was in jr. high. I was a rather chunky, outgoing, social outcast, clad in ill fitting thrift store duds. Grunge was the buzzword du jour and I was stuck smack dab in the middle of my awkward formative years with GenX leading the path (I am oddly not quite a genxer but not quite a millennial…a “Genennial??)! I was active with a Masonic girls youth group and whenever we would have a potluck one of the moms would always present a version of this salad and it was always the first bowl empty. Not only is this salad delicious, it is simple to prepare with the help of our secret weapon: “salad supreme seasoning” , it and “lemon pepper” were (and are still in many homes) all the rage in spice blends. I used Johnny’s salad elegance it’s a local version whose company is based in the PNW, but you can use one of the other varieties, the original I remember being “McCormick’s”. This seasoning has poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salty Parmesan or Romano, paprika, and other stuff including a touch of MSG, which really isn’t as awful for you as it was made out to be, everything in moderation, it’s what gives food that umami that makes you want to dive in for more. You do actually get some vegetables with this one, and you can pick and choose to your liking. Mine had:
1 lb Angel hair pasta (sub in any kind of pasta)
4 cups diced veggies:
I used bell peppers, shallots instead of traditional onions, olives, carrots. Other options: cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, broccoli, zucchini, really whatever is fresh and in season would be good bets, I would include the onions of some sort as they add a certain zest. But for folks who hate onions, you can leave them out with good results.
1 cup of olive oil
½ cup of vinegar, choose your own adventure here, plain old white vinegar works great, or go for red wine if you fancy.
¼ cup of salad supreme seasoning mix, sounds like a lot but trust me on this.
2 tsp sugar
I topped ours with fried salami cut into strips, kinda like a bacon-y vibe, you sure don’t have to add this especially if this is going along side whatever you be grillen and chillen on that day.
Cook your pasta in salted boiling water till just past al dente but not mushy, doing the longer suggested cooking time is a good way to do it. While the water is coming up to boil, chop your veggies and put in a large bowl. Mix up oil, vinegar, sugar,
and salad seasoning, mix well. When your pasta is done, drain it and rinse with cold water. Combine the pasta, veggies, and dressing and mix well. Serve chilled, can be made a day in advance and refrigerated overnight. Watch it magically disappear at your next potluck!

Alambre shrimp

We have all been to the family friendly, Tex-Mex cantinas, where things like chimichangas, frozen margaritas, and enchiladas reign supreme….we have all certainly had our heads turn when a big, sizzling plate of fajitas comes past us wafting its mouthwatering aroma from the a hot skillet carried skillfully by the server. I always figured fajitas like other things were an American invention, when in fact I have come to realize they are a take on a authentic recipe called alambre which actually has origins in Arab cuisine. Basically like fajitas, it is grilled protein, seasoned, with onions and bell peppers, frequently served with avocados. For my take on this authentic dish popular in Mexico City, I used shrimp, often times a traditional version with seafood will also feature squid, octopus, or other seafood…I stuck to wild caught pink shrimp, but beef or chicken would work as well. This dish was so popular with my family that I would consider serving it to guests or even as a passed appetizer using small tortillas. Its super easy and quick, with the whole process from start to finish taking about 30 minutes. This can easily become a weeknight staple at our house changing out the protein as one sees fit. I do like to find the origins of dishes that have gone through the process of becoming Americanized, if you do your research and respect the cultures that inspire your appetite you get a full appreciation of where the food you love comes from and the people and process of making those recipes. Food is a great catalyst for expanding your diversity.
Serves 3 to 4.
You will need:
1 lb. Medium shrimp, shelled, de-veined, tails removed.
1/4 of a red onion sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic minced.
1 sweet red or green bell pepper, sliced.
2 tsp. tomato paste
.5 tsp each: cumin, Oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup cheese of choice, I used feta, but queso fresco is a great choice, mozzarella, or jack cheese would all be delicious.
6-8 taco sized tortillas I used the the white corn and wheat variety by La Tortilla Factory that I received in my May Degustabox
half of a lime cut into wedges
a handful of chopped cilantro for garnish.
In a large skillet heat oil over high heat till shimmering, add onions, garlic and spices. Toss around in the pan till onion become soft, about three minutes. Add tomato paste, stir to coat onion, garlic, and spices. Add bell pepper, toss, for about a minute. Add shrimp, making sure to coat the shrimp in the spices. Cook three minutes, remove from heat. Heat broiler, top shrimp and peppers with cheese of choice, place under broiler till cheese melts and brown a bit, about two minutes. Remove skillet from broiler and squeeze on lime and top with chopped cilantro. Serve with warmed tortillas, you can also serve this over rice with black beans in a bowl topped with salsa verde, sour cream, or guacamole!
Happy cooking! Until next time…..
P.s. if you end up making any of my recipes, please post a pic on instagram with the #lollipopsicle, I would love to see what y’all are cooking up! Thanks for reading!