Officially unemployed and working hard

It’s my second day of unemployment, a state I haven’t been in since 2001. Sure, I’ve transitioned from job to job, but rarely with more than a weekend in between. Even my vacations have been used to stage, or work for free, harder and with much longer hours than most of my paid positions. So here I sit, my second cup of coffee going down with ease, lingering in my pajamas.

So what am I doing with my days of no purpose?

Working of course.

I may not be punching a clock, but I can’t keep myself away from the kitchen. With my “free time” I am planning the menu for a barbecue party I was hired to cook for this weekend, complete with a birthday cake at the end. This kind of work seems like play though. Yesterday I visited the Columbia City farmers market researching what exactly I could build a menu from.

My time consisted of strolling through the crowd, petting two Alpaca’s (so cute!), and visiting my sister who sells stone fruits each year. I tasted, purchased a few irresistible tomatoes and flowers, and adjusted my radar for this weeks crop. And here I sit, no whites and checks in sight, sans shoes, and I am “working”.

However, there is a more serious side to this day, and that is in developing dishes for a tasting. This tasting, taking place next week, is comprised of desserts, and makes up the physical portion of a pastry chefs interview. Gaining a new pastry chef job is time consuming, full of various meetings and stages of inquiry.

It begins with the initial introduction, resume in hand. Then there is the get to know you chat, where you talk about yourself endlessly. It feels much like a first date, selling yourself, accentuating your high points in history while showing your individuality. Then comes the in kitchen walk through, where you interview them. Is this a kitchen you can function in? How big is the walk in? Where would the pastries be produced, plated, stored? Who do you order from, and how much freedom do I have in ordering? What kind of ice cream machine do you have, and would you be open to getting a different one?

Finally, provided that they like you, and you like them, it’s time to put the proof in the pudding, so to speak. Sure, you worked in some great places, you talk like a pro, and you are well versed in desserts. But what really counts, what makes or breaks you, is what everything tastes like. When everyone mouths stop talking, and take in that first bite, your job is either secured or lost.

So I am working on a tasting, showing a little bit of each side of me, custom fit to the restaurants profile. Me plus them.

I have been talking with 3 restaurants over the course of the last month, and all of them offer the same unique opportunity. Two restaurants in one position. Each operation has both a fine dining restaurant, and a casual restaurant that would function with one pastry chef. While I have narrowed the search down to just two, rejecting one restaurant because of a hefty commute across a 2 mile floating bridge that often takes an hour, I am still between two.

Luckily for me, both restaurants would be a great fit for me, and I can use the same tasting for both. Here’s the menu so far, consisting of two desserts for the casual restaurant, two for the fine dining, and a trio of petite fours, the final bite, an added touch that is delivered with your check.

Vietnamese coffee ice cream; espresso granite, cocoa sable

Apricot and cherry crumble; brown butter and toasted almond streusel, cherry stone ice cream

Peanut Butter and Jelly Tart; Raspberry pate de fruites, peanut butter powder, frozen milk, carnation raspberries, salted peanut sauce, candied rice crispies

Tahuya River Honey Parfait; Bruleed stone fruits, toasted financier, late harvest Riesling fluid gel, crisp honey leaves

Petite Fours; Coconut haystack cookie, white chocolate coconut truffle dipped in dark chocolate, chocolate caramel chew.

I’ll be working for the man soon enough, meanwhile I’m loving every moment of being unemployed.

10 Responses to “Officially unemployed and working hard”

  1. Sounds unbelievable! As George would say, I’m drooling over here. What is cherry stone ice cream though?

    Vegetarian Foodie Blog

  2. Sean says:

    Best of luck! If you happen to take photos, I’d love to see how it all comes together.

  3. Becky says:

    best of luck Dana! Those desserts sound amazing. What does a girl have to do to score some of the pb and j tart? Perhaps I’ll hold this pretty blue bowl of yours hostage…

  4. Michael says:

    Sounds like a wonderful plan. i’ve been unemployed for 4 weeks now waiting for the operation i signed on to to get the right permits and inspecitons done so we can get moving. I have some advice….take every day you aren’t hussling to work and cherish it. Be one with the day. I spent way to much time strssing about things that where way out of my control, and now, back to work, and a grand opening at that.

  5. Laurie says:

    I’m so glad you’ve crossed off the place across the lake (inconveniently located for us). When Matthew reported that you were leaving the club, I said eagerly, “You mean she’s going to cook at a restaurant where we can eat her food?” I am really looking forward to dining wherever you land.

    “Crisp honey leaves” is intriguing…

  6. Britt says:

    Beautiful menu! Best of luck- I’m dying to hear more about crisp honey leaves!!!

  7. Amazing menu, Dana! Do you plan to use coconut milk or coconut cream for the truffles? They tend to be a pain to work with, since they curdle in a snap. I found Malibu infuses a nice coconut fragrance.

    Do post pictures and Wishing you all the luck.

  8. dana says:

    Sean- Sorry, no pictures! But as I begin to put new desserts on a menu I’ll get a few shots for the blog.

    Becky- That bowl was given to me by my grandmother just before she died. It was a wedding gift to her, and she knew she wouldn’t be her for my wedding, so gave me some of her favorite kitchen pieces for the kitchen I would someday cook for my own family in. Just kidding, I got it at the goodwill, but it is pretty, no? And for you I’d include recipes and lessons in the taste of the pb and j tart!

    Michael- It’s funny, that when grinding away, working as many odd hours as we do, all we can think of is time off. But when we finally do get time off, all we worry about is getting back in the kitchen!!

    Laurie- I can’t wait to feed you and Matthew again!

    Britt- the crisp honey leaves are tuilles baked in the shape of leaves. But it is the only tuille batter I will use, as it is the only one I have ever eaten that tasted good. It turns a beautiful honey gold, a tiny bit translucent, and tastes great! Not like most tuille batters that are really only there for looks, this one can be used as a flavorful and textural component to a dessert.

    Naked Desserts- Again, sorry no pictures. I didn’t use any liquid flavoring, rather shredded unsweetened coconut. The recipe is

    1 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
    1 1/2 cups cream
    1 pound white chocolate
    salt to taste

    Scald the cream, and stir in the coconut. Let this steep for an hour. Reheat the cream and pour over the white chocolate. Stir until smooth and add salt to taste. Let this chill for 4 hours, then paddle with a low setting on your kitchen aid mixer until the mixture stiffens and fluffs a bit. Scoop and roll, chill, and dip in dark chocolate.

  9. almostgotit says:

    I introduced a new feature today on which I’m calling “Recipes for the Unemployed.”

    Desserts are my favorite, and these you’ve just posted are often. I seriously doubt you’ll be unemployed for long! ;)

  10. almostgotit says:

    Your recipes are AWESOME, is what I meant to type! (egads. Not enough sugar in my system yet, obviously.)

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