Chez Panisse continues to amaze and teach me more than I could have ever hoped. The chefs I work with are utterly inspiring, making the most incredible food night after night, with smiles on their faces and minimum fuss. Why aren’t all restaurants this way and how on earth did I get lucky enough to be here? I have been really fortunate that they have so much faith put in me, as they not only let me help prep the meals with them – teaching me about the fantastic produce they use and showing me lots of great techniques – but the head chef Jean-Pierre and and sous chef Jerome (yes, I am back in with the French) have put me on the line each night, which means that I am actually part of the team of cooks getting to execute and serve the dishes to our guests each night.

As the set menu changes every day, I am constantly seeing new dishes, from amazing fish such as Catalina spiny lobsters served in a ragout with leeks and chervil or grilled Monterey squid and scallions with grilled peppers, aioli and salad, to wonderful locally-sourced meats, like grilled Sonoma duck breast with roasted fig relish, green beans and turnip and potato gratin or grilled rack, leg and loin of Elliott Ranch lamb with autumn vegetable tian and rapini. It’s a masterclass in the best of Californian-French cuisine. Although I don’t work on the pastry section, the girls work alongside us, always happy and proud to show me what they’re making and offering samples. I didn’t think I had a sweet tooth, but they are doing a good job of changing my mind…

But it’s the core restaurant family to whom I will be eternally indebted: patient, wise, talented, brilliant and gracious (even with the relentless mocking of my English pronunciation, which seems to cause constant amusement, especially to the boys when I am calling out orders to the front-of-house team). Only a team of cooks as devoted to great food, to each other and to the restaurant that they love so much – and as confident and secure in their collective ability and experience – could be so generous with their time and energy. I am one very, very lucky line cook right now.
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