Life is too short for a bad meal.
"Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself."
I have been cooking since I could barely reach the stove. My Mom was a nurse and did shift work, so when she'd be home in the early afternoon, her greatest joy was pulling down the Joy of Cooking and making something new. Her experimentation shaped how I approach the kitchen - each meal is a new journey of exploration and a celebration of creativity.
When I was 20, I had my first cooking job, making bacon and eggs, burger and steaks and learning what it meant to work harder than I ever had in my life. I worked at a variety of places until I was thirty and found myself at the Jesuit Kitchen in Montecito, California. It was there that I learned why I preferred cooking for groups in organizations, like Westmont College, rather than single meals in a restaurant. In a restaurant the food stays the same, the menu is mostly fixed in place - whereas an institutional kitchen has a fixed population, students, employees, members, so the menu has to change, a lot. For a chef, this is a hidden treasure.
When I was 30, I changed careers and got into the animation software business, yeah, I know, talk about a right turn. At Wavefront, I was the guy at the company parties and picnics that had more fun at the BBQ than on the ball field. I also turned the art of dining with clients into an adventure. As a chef, it was fun to wander with a friend into the kitchen while meeting in Hong Kong to talk with the chefs and explore.
At 60 I decided to get back into the game a bit. I turned my love of writing, photography, and teaching into a year-long experiment called the Gentlemen's Dining Club. Each month, I'd write a 20-page booklet that outlined the cuisine of the month, a five-part menu, with 5 ingredients for each plate and five steps. I'd have 8-10 friends help prepare a feast while teaching them tips and tricks along the way. At the end of an afternoon of cooking, we'd have our guests arrive, usually wives, girlfriends, and friends of the family. They'd enjoy the fruits of our labor and celebrate the fact that they didn't have to help clean up or fuss in the kitchen. I taught them everything, including how to clean as you go.
If you're interested in cooking and learning more about it and finding some interesting recipes, take a look at my site ChefMarkSylvester.com. There you'll find my favorite kitchen tools, recipes in every category you could imagine, with an emphasis on fresh, simple ingredients. There's an entire section on raw, vegan foods and plenty of gluten-free, sugar-free recipes for those that are watching what they eat.
The site is called 'til we eat again and reflects my philosophy about friends and meals.
til we eat again.