The First Days [of our lives]

This is the end of day two at Martin Berasategui’s 3 star michelin restaurant in Lasarte, Spain. I’m exhausted and have to wake up early so here’s a short recap:

We arrived with Amaia of Sammic to Martin’s restaurant. Unfortunately he was away at Madrid Fusion for our first day. No biggy because we’re supposed to mingle and blend in with the rest (probably 60 or so) stages (kitchen vocab for intern). Unlike the other stages, Athena and I were allowed to pick our stations. I chose pescado (fish) and she, meat (carne). I was tempted to pick pastelería (pastry) but I was just in Paris for pâtisserie so I figured I’d jump back in the water for some fish action (my last ‘swim’ was at o ya in April 2010).

Surprisingly, for day 1 I was allowed to do a lot! Holy mackerel, I’m allowed to actually touch fish? Maybe I have a trusting face? No idea but my day consisted of: breaking down monkfish (de-skin, remove eyeballs, remove bones and hack up in quarters, and de-gut), stacking rectangles of portioned squid, chopping and weighing vegetables for mise en place, de-boning red mullets, breaking down pigs’ tails and cleaning. I thought I was just going to observe everything and take notes but I got my hands dirty. And fishy. Oh boy! I was so busy I unfortunately did not get to watch service.

For lack of photograph:

fishy monkfish

Or you can google ‘monkfish’ and see how creepy they really look. Imagine prying open that nasty, slimy, fishy mouth and cutting out the jaw. Yup. Been there, done that.

Today, day 2, we made squid ink ravioli. While this may sound simple because I’ve made pasta before and I make chinese dumplings all the time, it is not. We took the stacked squid from yesterday, froze it and shaved it thin to create ravioli ‘skins.’ The thin-shaved squid resemble rice-paper material: translucent, sticky and necessitating time and patience to work with because is so delicate. The fillings were the frozen, molded squid-ink emulsion we had made earlier today. Basically we took a small block of frozen ink, the size of a boxy truffle, and wrapped it inside squid paper like a present. Steady hands, mini-raised spatula and patience are three key ingredients as well. Oh, and two Asian girls. It was frustrating at first but a few boxes later the chefs were calling me a professional. I’ve wrapped more squid ink in an afternoon than I can presents in a lifetime. And it reminded me of pastry because it required scrupulous attention to detail and fine craftsmanship…oh butter, how sweet you smell compared to monkfish…can you tell I’m planning moves to pastelería next and it’s only day 2? Jajaja.

Oh and for dinner service, Martin returned back from Madrid fusion. He had a meal inside the kitchen dining area with a few friends. Having looked only at squid ink raviolis for the extent of my evening, it was nice to look up from the dishes at the end of service and see Chef Martin smiling and waving to me. He gave me a big thumbs up and said “Sammic!” Then we talked about Japanese knives for a while. It’s humbling to see a chef shake his stages’ hands at the end of the night and chat like buddies. Here’s to many more nights.

One thought on “The First Days [of our lives]

  1. Pingback: the first week:new stations and pintxos | BasqueStage

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