Heard! – A kitchen conversation

A true story, with fairly accurate quotes. Setting: an anonymous Chicago restaurant (not mine) on a slow Sunday evening.

Server to line cook: “Hey man, that big bowl o’ dicks isn’t gonna make itself.”
Line cook: “I’ll get right on that big bowl o’ dicks.”
[Manager overhears conversation from office, telephones the kitchen line]
Manager to Sous Chef: “How much longer on that big bowl o’ dicks?”
Sous Chef, calling out to kitchen: “How much longer on that big bowl o’ dicks?!”
Line cook: “We’re dragging on the big bowl ‘o dicks!!”
Prep cook: “All day, big bowl ‘o dicks!”

Ate at Green Zebra tonight.


A meal of spectacular mushy peas by colleagues at Pleasant House Bakery; sour “feral” orange; and bran-flecked sourdough from Peerless Bread And Jam. Combo and cameraphone photo by yours truly.

The Green Zebra meal was pretty great. It wasn’t all perfect, but now that I’m in the industry, I think I’m going to stop calling out chefs publicly on any less-than-stellar products. If I were a chef, I’d rather someone give me suggestions one-on-one. So that’s what I’ll do for now.

The name of my Twitter feed has changed to reflect my change in philosophy. Instead of posing as a facetious resto snob, I’ll be a journalist hack who sometimes talks about food. Find me at twitter.com/muckrakery.

For the record, my favorite dishes at Green Zebra were the barley “risotto,” the mushroom pate, and a sour cherry dessert. And an orange cream soda.

Oh yes — I work in the restaurant industry. I can definitively say that now. Before, sure, I worked at the late City Provisions. (May it rest in peace.) But I wasn’t really planning for an “industry career.”

Now I can say I’m in it. Like, in it all the way. I work in the kitchen and dining room at Pleasant House Bakery—your friendly neighborhood savory pie and British food emporium. And mid-week I train as an expediter at Ruxbin Kitchen.

I need to continue the journalism life. By now, after five years, it’s in my blood. But while some ink-bloods I know mope waiting for the editors to come a-calling, I’ve found something I love. And I’m gonna fucking do it.

Postscript: Isn’t it silly to have such a golden domain name and not milk it for what it’s worth? I think I’m gonna dump a lot of ideas here in the near future. I’ve been acting like a businessman, keeping my cards near my chest. But who cares if someone takes ’em. I’ve come to think it’s all about the implementation.

Which means if I’ve given you ideas in the recent past and you’ve sat on them, you’d best get a move on.

A little poetry from the northwest side

Going Down, a free-form paean to investigative journalism

(and how so-called social media can spread it but not replace it)

they say
poets can say anything
a filched purse’s energy
for instance comes across
or the traffic lights at night downtown
that keep blinking when no one’s around
but the they who do the saying
decide who hears about them

the fucked newspapers
going down on TV
as a harbinger of some new era
wherein I matter and
to just talk, and be
satisfies for civil disobedience

no mistake, we’re at odds
with they, schmucks
who were themselves writing once
and now pretend scrolling’s
something it’s not.

maybe cash’ll do it to anyone
but me and my house,
we’ll write about the smell
of apartment lobby carpet
never cleaned but always dusted with that
coverup powder you love to inhale
but know is killing you

Julia Child


In honor of Julia Child’s 100th birthday this week, I read her 2004 New York Times obituary. From it, a lesson carried on today by a lot of good journalists and, in this field, America’s Test Kitchen:

Mrs. Child was always a star, never a spokeswoman. She prided herself on not granting endorsements because she was devoted to public television, and she was not afraid to mock corporate contributors to her advertising-free programs. She once demonstrated how to break off a part on a Cuisinart food processor to make it less cumbersome to use even as the manufacturer’s representatives sat in the audience.

Happy birthday, Ms. Child.

(Photo licensed Creative Commons and scanned by Flickr’s Krista76.)