Watch Your Tongue Young Man…

So….It has come to my attention that a certain “fellow restauranteur and Chef” (I use the terms very loosely by the way) has begun to talk a little smack about the old man here in Winnetka. This “child” has recently opened in a space previously occupied by an old friend and mentor of mine in Highland Park. The gentleman that I refer to as a friend and mentor is a talented Chef that I was lucky enough to work for at Cafe Provencal in Evanston waaaaaaay back in the day. Shortly after my time in France and somewhere in between a slew of very talented and well-known Chefs I was able to land with him for a time. His cooking is every bit as good as any other Chef I worked under either here in the states or abroad. I don’t like to mention names directly as I’ve learned it is not always the best practice, however, the info I just laid out will be enough for any foodie to go on especially on the North Shore. Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that I am also lucky enough to have his former Chef de Cuisine Miguel working with me in Winnetka. This guy is an absolute gem. I’ll blog about him in detail in the coming months to be certain.

Getting back to my friendly, loose-lipped neighbor, I hear through the grapevine that this sprout, this arrogant upstart, has mentioned in passing to those I know well in the industry that he has a certain lack of respect for my cooking. I’ve not been able, thus far to ascertain in what regard he lacks respect. I can only assume that the logical choices would be either style or execution. The grumblings I’ve heard thus far are a bit primative but strangely consistent which leaves me to believe that there may indeed be a bit of truth to the rumors I am hearing of this boys practice of spouting off and show of disrespect.

Son, let me say this, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Pulp Fiction, ” Well allow me to retort” My first inclination at this point in my career would be to simply dismiss you with a half-hearted, and lack luster “go fuck yourself”. But alas, something else comes along with the feeling of security and satisfaction in my work that only comes with age and the “chops” one earns with time logged in their own kitchen.  That something is the ability to stand behind my cuisine and execution of same. Not so much a need to do so but rather a responsibility.

For you see, Ass Head, the ability to open a restaurant, sustain life for 5 weeks AND still retain the ability to talk shit about a Chef’s cooking that you don’t even know (let alone me knowing who the fuck you are), is a special talent.  A talent in fact, bestowed upon only the most rare of God’s culinary luminaries. They (and you) are known in the industry as “Chefus Jagoffikus”  or loosely translated “Stroke Chef”. This term has been translated in a number of different ways over time, but for the sake of decorum I will leave it at that.

I mean after all I don’t really know your silly ass and I am, for all intents and purposes, a gentleman. Now unlike “Chefus” here who feels it is appropriate to bash a fellow area businessman in a fragile economy while having been in operation himself for an amazingly stellar month and a week, I prefer to keep things civilized. By civilized I mean I will not speak poorly of his choice of a rib eye steak cooked on a fucking hot hunk of salt on your table. Perhaps the kitchen is too busy to finish the dish before it arrives at your table. Which sounds to me a lot like “fuck you, finish it yourself”. (Of course I am speculating here). Nor will I  speak with any disregard whatsoever about the lump of shit in a gratin dish topped with merengue that masquerades as some sort of bread pudding. Clearly a ground breaker in and of itself. Certainly you will hear not a peep from me about the oysters graced with….now listen closely…watermelon caviar. That’s right folks, watermelon caviar. Not only can this guy cook but he has discovered and retrieved, from a strange unknown world, a watermelon that lays fuckin eggs! Alert the media! The boy is working with one of a kind flukes of nature here. You will forgive me I’m sure if I refuse to be impressed until our young, testosterone ridden hero unveils his discovery of a line cook that gives birth to veal!

Shit! See, I fear I may have overstepped the boundaries of correctness once again. I’m sorry. (sob… pause for effect….)

You fucking asshole. What did you think was going to happen? You clearly are a special breed of idiot if you thought I wasn’t going to get wind of this trash talk. There was a time when those of us coming up, trying to make our own name in a business made difficult enough by sheer attrition, had some respect for those that came before them. Well I guess that unspoken rule has been thrown out the window. Once again, no memo was issued so how was I to know the that the gloves are off? Damn, I need to get back in the loop. I suppose this is as good a way as any. I will pose a challenge my friend. When you have had a 15-year track record of successful restaurants from Glen Ellyn to Winnetka and a couple of spots in between, all self-financed (and sold off for profit each time by the way) then and only then will I allow you to speak of me with anything other than reverence. Keep in mind, I don’t rattle kid. So keep your head in the kitchen and your mouth shut and some day I might even respect you. No, on second thought, probably not. However, you may just learn to respect yourself enough to be careful not to speak poorly of those you do not know. Especially if that person can administer a culinary spanking by way of his own cooking the likes of which you could not begin to fathom. Better still, I will extend an open invitation to have you learn proper cooking in a real kitchen. My kitchen. A kitchen in which my cooks will make you their bitch.

Until then, I guess I was wrong, I will simply write you off with a half-hearted “go fuck yourself”.   Just kidding! I am after all, a gentleman.

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I Go, You Go, We all Go with Ego

The Great Gazoo

 

I had a  strange experience last week with a Chef that I greatly respect and in many ways have been compared to. I do not agree with the comparisons to be honest, I truly believe that he has forgotten much more than I will ever know about French Cuisine and cuisine in general for that matter. That being said, I was a little shocked and actually pissed off by the way this event came to pass. This was a tease, I will return to this topic after I expound on the what drives the title of this entry.

The title begs the question, “Are you joking? a Chef that points the dirty end of the ego stick at anyone but himself!?!!?” Nope, this is not the case at all.  I will, for the sake of fairness and disclosure, disect my own big, ego- driven ass first before I turn, in rabid fashion on the rest of the world. Okay, me, well it’s rather obvious if you look closely at the facts of the matter. I own and operate a restaurant held in rather high regard. (Even if I do say so myself…and I do!) I ride up to this restaurant on my sparkling new, Black Harley Davidson. (Did I mention that I named the restaurant after myself?) Well, I kind of assumed it went without saying.  Anyway, I pull up to this fabulous establishment on my trusty steed, adorned with very loud exhaust pipes wearing no helmet as it may disturb my carefully arranged, wind blown, mid-back length, salt and pepper hair. I do, by the way realize that this lovely “Lord of the Ringsesque” hair style will look even nicer splashed with shades of red and bits of brain should I ever take a spill on this classic, beauty. No helmet can be worn, of course, because in my sick, fucked up, ego driven head, when wearing said helmet, I look like “The Great Gazoo” from the original Flintstones cartoons. Remember Gazoo? “Hello Dum-Dums” He was the little green alien that appeared to Fred with the big head and tiny body. Okay, perhaps the tiny body is a bit of a stretch but the helmet makes me look like an orange on a fucking tooth-pick so give a chubby brother a break!!!

Now that we’ve covered my work, my mode of transportation and my hair, let’s talk about my wardrobe shall we? I never, unless I can help it, go anyplace when I am not in a Chefs coat. Why you ask? Because, I AM CHEF DAMN IT!!!! The statement of who and what I am must proceed me and for that matter, my belly at all times. Now we can cover the press. Let me begin by saying, if you want to know how great I am simply ask me. I am not the least bit shy on the subject and for the record, if I don’t feel you are duely impressed with my proclamations I will make some shit up. Done it… Trust me… Ask the ex’s… But I digress.   The local media has blessed me over the years with a substantial amount of great press for which I am very thankful. However, if I find myself going more than a couple of months without inclusion in something media driven and unsolicited, I begin to shake uncontrollably, tear up and lash out at those I love and respect.   I mean come on, I’m the one that carries this family…friendship…love affair…business relationship…(I can go on and on I promise you) Until, that is, someone is driven to wave a piece of past written press coverage before my straping, handsome mug thereby assuring me of my self-worth once again, if only briefly, while I get on the phone to my publicist. At which point I proceed to blame her for not doing her job. How dare she charge me for time when nobody is paying attention to me!!! Don’t they know who I am for God’s sake? I’m Michael-The Fuckin’Chef-Lachowicz!!!

Get the picture yet? Well I did, about six months ago. See, with all of this fabulous shit I just listed above and with the promise of even more possible success with the addition of a private room for the restaurant. I, a 430 pound, drunken, drugged, pathetic excuse for an uncle, friend, son, brother lover, boss etc… EVEN CHEF, checked myself into a rehab center. Now don’t go getting all sappy and empathetic. I deserved exactly what I got. In fact, I got off easy. Trust me, if I was a bit further into this fabulous lifestyle I just described I would be fuckin’ dead. So here I am, not dead, in fact happy. Happier, to be honest, then I have ever been. Also, and I can’t believe it myself sometimes, thankful. Yep, that’s right, thankful. Thankful for what you ask? I’m thankful for my life and for my ability to recognize how my ego was driving me. Driving me, as a matter of fact, right off a cliff. We all do it right? True, most are not such assholes as to drive ourselves near death only to end up in a rehab center that makes you go to meetings where you have to be honest. And, are you ready for this? Hug other men! What the fuck!? Sorry, still not used to that ritual but while it’s not exactly growing on me, I can now do it without having to talk about the days sports events, breasts and cars and shit. See, even now, ego, ego, ego…all about how I look to others.

This all brings us back to the opening paragraph. I sent out an email on Thursday to proclaim the virtues of the weeks special. It was, as it turns out, an eye opener. I wrote in grand fashion about the special I was featuring and I felt it needed grand writing because of its very lineage. I made a terrible judgement call that was actually disguised as a gesture of respect. You see I mentioned the name of the Chef that made the dish famous in this country and the establishment in which it was showcased. Well fuck me! Never should have done that because the very next morning, I get a fax from Chef stating that he is upset that I took the liberty of using his name in my advertising for the restaurant as there are those that would assume that he is cooking in my kitchen. I will repeat that because it sounds like an oddly important fact to miss.  He said it would seem as if he were in MY kitchen cooking. Hmm…it smells like it’s about to “ego” in here.  Well, truth be told, I was ready to unload on this guy until I realized he was correct. I had no right to mention his name in the same breath as my restaurant. I should have asked his permission. I am more than reasonably certain he would have said yes and had he not, I would have done without and sold just as many on my own merits. But, you see, I needed to indulge my ego once again by making sure everyone knew of my association with him. In the long run, none of this amounts to a pile of salmon shit. (salmon was the focus of the special by the way) His ego drove him to fax me his distaste for my marketing ploy, my ego pushed me to include him in the first place and yet another Chef’s ego drove them to call me and righteously proclaim that he was the one to share the preparation of the dish with me to begin with.   Holy Chef shit Batman! Someone let me off of this crazy ego trip!!!! And if I get a fax from Batman or Fred Flintstone tomorrow morning I’m not writing anymore fucking blogs!!!!!

Just kidding, my ego won’t let me stop……..HA!