Monday, June 4, 2018

PMQ Taste Kitchen Experience: After

"Will you do it again?" is the question I was asked most often after my brief stint at the PMQ Taste Kitchen was dusted and over. For the first few times I thought about that, feeling totally shattered after consecutive days of clocking 18 hours standing in the kitchen or running around, I was like… "no freaking way!" and I was just happy to play my old role of judging and criticizing chefs instead of being one.

But looking back, the whole process of preparation to execution to wrap-up of the PMQ Taste Kitchen residency has been a great learning experience for me, both in terms of cooking and writing. I always knew being a "home chef" is totally different than being in a professional kitchen setting, but now I have a better grasp of what those differences are and identified my skill gap that I could further work on. During the week at the pop-up, at times I felt I was being pushed to the limit beyond my ability, but at the end, there were the indescribable satisfaction of serving over 150 paying customers that came through, and many positive feedback and constructive advice received which was precious to me as well. There were also many techniques and tricks that I picked up which I could apply elsewhere in the future, something I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

And I think now I became more understanding of what chefs were like in their daily routine and that certainly helped my writing as a food blogger, with a new perspective. With my own experience of all the tough work being a temporary chef in a small set-up there’s a whole new level of respect for those working diligently day-in, day-out in the kitchen, many of them in a much bigger scale, with the level of consistency and precision that the job demands. So I think I did manage to accomplish my goals I set before taking up this project - to cook and learn, and make sure no one got sick from the food. Phew.

I jokingly told people perhaps one of the good things I have contributed to the PMQ Taste Kitchen project was to show even for amateurs like me managed to survive a few days doing it, so hopefully that might encourage others to step up and give this a shot. So yes, for those who might be considering, it's worth it and I think everyone who’s aspired to be a restauranteur or chef should seriously consider doing this or something similar. You can spend days and weeks and months working on a drawing board cooking up the next hot concept that you think is going to fly, but you won’t know whether it works until you put that into action, and the set-up like PMQ Taste Kitchen provided a great platform for such without having to risk your arms and legs or your lifetime savings into something uncertain.

The amount of help (and tolerance of me being the most clueless one in the kitchen) from the PMQ Taste Kitchen team, from the kind folks at Twins Kitchen (especially J and C who actually let me run this) and my sous chefs D (who's the one that actually cooked most of the stuff to be honest and kept my sanity throughout) and K was tremendous and I owed them a big one. Also thanks to G for supplying the best brioche buns in the whole town and for bearing with the trouble of dealing with multiple small orders from me, often in short notices (we did get asked a few times where those buns came from!), and CYY for making the chocolate cakes. And before this turning into some kind of speech one made after winning some kind of award, it's also touching to see friends who stopped by, visited and supported, some even for multiple times, and for those whom I didn't know before who happened to be coming through - I am glad for the opportunity to share my dishes and ideas with them. Okay, I better stopped my sentimental mumbling here.

So, going back to the initial question of whether I would do it again after dealing with over 30 pounds of beef, steaming more than a dozen live lobsters, cracking 200 eggs, spending hours taking out the beans from the edamame pods, and running up and down Graham Street Market for about 2 dozen times, now my answer is “Maybe, after I forget how tiring and stressful working in a restaurant kitchen could be”. And I shall leave it at that. In the meantime, you will find me working in the good old "Kitchen at 17A", a.k.a. our pad, experimenting on the next set of new dishes in a much more "normal" scale, or being in a restaurant, this time seated comfortably in the dining area rather than standing inside the hot, action-packed kitchen, enjoying my dishes and leaving the hard work to those who actually know what they are doing.

PMQ Taste Kitchen Experience: Before
PMQ Taste Kitchen Experience: During

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