"I feel normal here."
That was the quote of the day, whispered to me by my partner. We chuckled over the remark, said during an in-class demonstration where one of the chefs was showing us how to make pastrami, followed by a lesson on curing pork belly for bacon. Many of the students noted how excited they were to go home and try it themselves. I was one of them.
I had to smile because her comment was so true. For me, one of the coolest things about attending culinary school is that people are here because they want to be here. Of course, you'll always get the student who was forced into the field, but most genuinely have a love affair with food. It's great to be around people who feel the same way I do.
One guy who certainly has a love for it is Daniel Holzman, executive chef and co-owner of The Meatball Shop in New York. I was so excited when I heard he would demonstrate how to butcher a lamb that I signed up for his event prior to the the first day of class. In general, I imagine most people wouldn't care to see a lamb taken apart. In culinary school, it's abnormal if you don't want to have a look.
If you haven't heard of Holzman, it's about time you do. Long story short: His cooking career began at age 15 at Le Bernardin, when renowned chef Eric Ripert suggested he head to The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He eventually opened his first restaurant, SPQR, in San Francisco and received a 3 1/2 star rating (out of 4 by The San Francisco Chronicle) for the laidback Roman cuisine; later he created a novelty ice cream company, KB, where his crispy rice marshmallow ice cream sandwiches were picked up by Whole Foods; and most recently, he debuted The Meatball Shop, which sells sliders, heroes and the balls themselves as well as sides like risotto and polenta.
I love that Holzman has reinvented classic comfort food in such a way that people wait hours to eat it.
I think much of Holzman's success lies behind his willingness to try anything. Today, he used virtually every part of the lamb, spitting out experimental remarks like "Why don't we try this?" and "I've never done this before, but it might be the best thing we eat all night." Eat we did: The list of lamb parts I tried included belly, shoulder, tenderloin, tongue, liver, heart and brain. All were worth a shot—especially the brain, which had the texture of cream cheese.
Hopefully all that iron will provide lots of energy for tomorrow so I can bring my "A" game to Day 10. I won't be the lamb that is led to the slaughter.