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Philadelphia food folks’ first jobs.

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A day in the kitchen with chef-charcutier Nick Macri.



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QWbg^O^S`\Sb[SOZbWQYSb Contents copyright Š 2013, Metroweek Corp. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. Metroweek Corp. assumes no responsibility (other than cancellation of charges for actual space occupied) for accidental errors in advertising but will be glad to furnish a signed letter to the buying public.









































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g]cbVObbVS`SO`SQS`bOW\bVW\Ua bVObVO^^S\ObPO`a]\ZgOTbS` OQS`bOW\V]c`4]`SfO[^ZS([S bSZZW\UbVS@]RAbSeO`beWUUSR >WQYZS;O\bVOb7bVW\YVS¸aV]b T]ZZ]eSRPgVWa`WRW\UVWab]WZSb PWYS]TTW\b]bVS\WUVb0cbbVOb Q][SaZObS` Before landing this sweet gig as City Paperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s food editor, I put in a solid decade serving, bartending, managing and cooking in all sorts of restaurants. And while I could regale you with tales of working with Food Network stars, toiling alongside Top Chef-testants and spending a particularly memorable year slinging drinks in rural Sicily, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not going to â&#x20AC;&#x201D; frankly, it feels like a lifetime ago. So when I decided to pull a shift behind the bar at South Philly Tap Room, my local, I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t coming in as a total novice. But I was, without a doubt, way out of practice and more than a little nervous. South Philly Tap Room is a place I go more than I care to admit; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s comfortable in a way thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dangerously close to conjuring up an anal-

ogy to a certain Boston-accented â&#x20AC;&#x2122;80s sitcom. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve spent long sessions at its bar chatting with staff members, regulars and random weirdos. But I wanted a taste of the other side of this familiar place. What would the perspective be like from behind the bar? I sign on to spend an entire evening there to find out â&#x20AC;&#x201D; from happy hour through dinner rush and long past last call. Not wanting to ruin anyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s money-making weekend-night shift, I opt for a Thursday â&#x20AC;&#x201D; busy, but probably not too crazy. I walk into a full bar and am struck by a case of the nerves, that sweaty-palms feeling that crops up on the first day of a new job. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something particular to the firstday anxiety of a restaurant job that comes from the performance aspect of the service industry: When youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re bartending or waiting tables, you truly are on display in front of an audience. The faces might change over the course of a night, but they never stop watching. The few-andfar-between breaks come in the form of ducking into the bathroom or hid-

ing in the kitchen. I had arranged to work the bar with South Philly Tap Room bartender Candace Fisher, a long-time friend, but even after greeting her my case of the nerves is going nowhere. If it hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been so dark, the embarrassed flush on my cheeks would give me away. I chicken out and decide to assume the role of barback and start washing glasses. In retrospect, this is a good decision. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been a long time since Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve plunged into the three sinks behind the bar (detergent, rinse, sanitizer) but thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a meditative quality about the process. A sense of calmness borne from the familiar comes flooding back in a way that is, well, enjoyable. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d always assumed that the phrase â&#x20AC;&#x153;absence makes the heart grow fonderâ&#x20AC;? applied to significant others on business trips, or perhaps unruly preteens shipped off to summer camp. But standing there in front of the sinks, the clichĂŠ seems suddenly applicable to my years working in restaurants. Which is surprising continued on adjacent page

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â&#x20AC;&#x201D; at the end of my service-industry tenure I never thought Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d miss it, but within 10 minutes of being behind a bar, I do. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an energy, an orchestrated flow that happens in a busy restaurant or bar that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t happen anywhere else. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Cameraderieâ&#x20AC;? isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the exact word for it, but the spirit is along the lines of a military sense of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re all in this together.â&#x20AC;? Patrons can feel that energy to a certain degree, the staff much more so â&#x20AC;&#x201D; especially when the rush is happening. Which occurs around 8 p.m. at the South Philly Tap Room this evening: glasses begin piling up at the bar, the printer keeps buzzing with drink tickets waiting to be made, and every seat at the bar fills up. Head down, diligently washing glasses, I look up for a second. An older fellow catches my eye. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got to be stoned to listen to this kind of music, right?â&#x20AC;? he asks. It takes a second for the

Hendrix track playing in the background to come into focus over the din of a busy restaurant. I had kind of forgotten about the small-talk aspect of working behind a bar. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Aw, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think so,â&#x20AC;? I answer. â&#x20AC;&#x153;But it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hurt.â&#x20AC;? Then a young-looking couple sits down at the end of the bar. Right away, Candace IDs them. Over the course of the evening, more than a few under-21s come in trying to get served, causing some of the staff to wonder if some Liquor Control Board sting is afoot â&#x20AC;&#x201D; something bar workers always have in the back of their minds. As the night progresses, a few feelings keep popping up. The first one is a combination of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Goddamn, my feet hurtâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is by far the most physical labor Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve done in, well, I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even remember how long.â&#x20AC;? The second is how easy itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been to get back into the groove of being behind the bar.

I do my first real bartending of the night for a couple who comes in from the Phillies game and are introduced to me as regulars, and pour them my first drink of the night, their usual: two Allagash whites in 12-ounce glasses and two shots of Jameson, a double and a single. Allagash white is usually served in a pint glass â&#x20AC;&#x201D; why the change in glassware? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s neither here nor there, just one of the benefits of being a regular. Another regular comes in a little later whom I recognize from evenings spent on the other side of the bar. Somehow Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve retained his regular order: a can of Budweiser poured into a chilled pint glass and a shot of Sauza. Hours into my shift, I am actually having fun. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d approached this preparing for the worst-case scenario, complete with shattered glasses in the ice bin (a true tragedy at a busy bar), spilled drinks and slip-and-falls. But my continued on page 8






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fears of being a bumbling bystander and stepping on toes have dissipated, and although Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m still pretty sure sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just being nice, Candace keeps assuring me sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s glad Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m there to help out on this busier-than-usual Thursday night. Another thing Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d forgotten about restaurant work is how quickly the night goes by when youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re busy. I check the time as I notice the tables suddenly clearing out, and am surprised to find that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s past 11. This is the portion of shift Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been looking forward to: late night, when the weirdness happens. But the night stretches on, and fortunately (or unfortunately) the mood remains relatively tame. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not sure exactly what I had been expecting â&#x20AC;&#x201D; awkward pickup attempts, slurred arguments over ludicrous topics or any of the other wild things that happen in a room full of drunk people â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but it turns out to be an evening with almost no


drunken weirdness. Almost. Because when a pearshaped fellow wearing an oversized Looney Tunes T-shirt and a matted â&#x20AC;&#x153;Young Turksâ&#x20AC;?-era Rod Stewart wig walks in, you know things are going to get good. I get some of what I was hoping for in the form of Steve Slutsky, otherwise known as the Pickle Man. As it turns out, local stand-up comedian Slutsky is a Tap Room staple â&#x20AC;&#x201D; he sells them all of their pickles. He also rides around on a bike with a toilet for a seat. On this evening, he dives into a rant about his mother (according to him, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been in and out of jail for cheating at bingo and has pierced nipples) and then asks me repeatedly if I think heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hot. The answer, obviously? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Of course.â&#x20AC;? Tap Room chef Scott Schroeder tells me that although he could potentially make his own pickles in-house, he likes the Pickle Man too much. Plus, the pickles are pretty

damned good. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s getting near closing time, and the Pickle Man rides his toilet bike off into the night. The barâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nearly empty now, though thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a guy still sitting at the bar who, when he arrived earlier, looked like he was about to fall asleep. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d eaten and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d poured him more than a couple shots of Jack Daniels. Now heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s staring at me in a way that feels a little creepy â&#x20AC;&#x201D; another forgotten aspect of the job. Eventually he, too, leaves. The bottles get wrapped up and the last glasses get polished. I sit down on the other side of the bar, totally beat and very pleased to be sipping a martini I poured for myself. Candace informs me that the manager told her that I poured shots a little too heavy, but had good speed. I feel reassured to know that, whatever happens with print journalism, I can always go back to the bar. (

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QVO`QcbS`WS7bVW\YWabS``]`3dS\ T]`a][S]\SeV]`SUO`RaVS` aSZTOaOUS\S`OZZgTSO`ZSaaV][S Q]]YbVS`SOZ[]TQc`SR[SOba OZeOgaZWSaXcabOPWbPSg]\RbVS ^OZSEVS\7eO\bSRb]abO`b[OY W\UQO\Rg7XcababO`bSRO\RbVS S\RSOd]`bc`\SR]cb^`SbbgeSZZ UWdS\bVOb7P`]YSW\b]bVS[]Z bS\acUO`UO[SeWbV]\ZgO[W\]` O[]c\b]T_cSabW]\OPZS`SaSO`QV c\RS`[gPSZb To bring that same attitude to aging a hunk of flesh for a year and then ingesting it, however, felt unwise. Beyond the fear of poisoning my loved ones, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the concern over the expensive waste of creatures I firmly believe have souls â&#x20AC;&#x201D; not to mention the worry of becoming one of those people who define themselves by the pricey kitchen clutter they amass. Still, curing and sausage-making always seemed like exactly the kind of practical magic I could really get into â&#x20AC;&#x201D; I just needed some guidance from someone familiar with the difference between, say, mold that is

delicious and mold that turns your vital organs to mush. I never got around to seeking that someone out. Then my editor here at City Paper handed down the assignment for this piece: learning charcuterie from Southwarkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Nick Macri, one of the brightest stars in our local constellation. She posed it as a nonchalant shrug of a question: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Would that be cool?â&#x20AC;? Uh, yeah, I could get out of bed for that. Even the most basic products under the charcuterie umbrella take a full day or two, though â&#x20AC;&#x201D; how would my too-brief stint go down? A few hours didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t sound like enough time to learn the first thing about the craft. Still, I dutifully made my way through the muck of a dreary morning, tracked down the perplexingly remote kitchen-access door, tied on the supplied apron, and headed to wash up. Pretty much the first thing Macri said was, â&#x20AC;&#x153;This isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t going to be nearly enough time for me to teach you much about charcuterie.â&#x20AC;? At Southwark, where an exten-

sive, heavily praised cast of cured meats and terrines is made in-house weekly, rotating according to season and whim, even the simplest preparations are multi-day affairs. Before I arrived on a Friday morning, pounds of pork shoulder had seen knives and brines, liver had been cleaned and seared and precise weights and proportions had been calculated. Maybe if Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d had a few more days, I could have done more than scratching the surface of the basics. But seeing as how I had only one day, I figured Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d try to work my way through a portion of the process of some simple, fresh, entry-level charcuterie: a spicy fennel sausage and a rustic pâtĂŠ grand-mère. I ground bus pans full of meat, delighting in the slightly macabre pop-and-squelch soundtrack and nervously watching for smear. (â&#x20AC;&#x153;It should come out clean,â&#x20AC;? cautioned Macri, â&#x20AC;&#x153;like those Play-Doh things you had as a kid.â&#x20AC;?) I smushed the panade â&#x20AC;&#x201D; bread soaked in eggs and milk, which acts as a binder â&#x20AC;&#x201D; into the pâtĂŠ mixture by hand. I used a continued on adjacent page

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hand-crank mixer to mix the sausage to create the primary bind â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the sticky protein magic that defines the end productâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s texture, integrity and even flavor. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sure I was more of a nuisance than anything. I wrestled with plastic wrap while lining terrines, occasionally losing the battle despite Macri kindly demonstrating a helpful shortcut. (Use water to weigh down the plastic and ease it into the corners â&#x20AC;&#x201D; brilliant! Still, cling wrap and I are not pals.) I kept forgetting to turn the water off after washing my hands, despite having used a sink at least a few times before. When he handed over a length of sausage to let me try twisting it into links, I swear I somehow tore through the casing before I even touched it. The chef likely wouldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve preferred Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d stop helping so he could get some actual work done. Macri is used to working solo. The kitchen at Southwark is run by

just two men in total, and the chef does the bulk of the work himself. Hearing this, I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t help but wonder what motivates him to do so much of this exacting and timeconsuming work in-house. After all, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s math involved, and a healthy dose of goop and months of aging. Meanwhile, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s plenty of good product, both domestic and imported, that could just be dropped off at the service entrance. For the answer, letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s back up a little bit. Macri grew up around charcuterie. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My family made coppa, soppressata and salami every winter,â&#x20AC;? he told me. In his estimation, his parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; motivation was more in the social aspect of â&#x20AC;&#x153;putting up the pigâ&#x20AC;? and sharing it with loved ones than in perfecting the product. Many steps along the way were guided by feel alone, and â&#x20AC;&#x153;everything was aged in our cellar or garage, so seasons had a big effect on the final products. Needless to say, I saw a lot of mistakes and less-than-perfect product

growing up.â&#x20AC;? Witnessing those mistakes would only help his education. He might never have taken up the study seriously, though, had it not been for his formal training at Drexel and a class in charcuterie taught by Alan Segel. Macri also nods toward chef instructor Chris Koch, who helped instill in him the discipline of â&#x20AC;&#x153;being prepared and organized.â&#x20AC;? And heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still learning all the time, from books and from fellow chefs. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In a weird way, I feel like Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m continuing a family tradition,â&#x20AC;? says Macri. It doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t seem weird at all. Despite having significantly broadened his repertoire and embraced the precision of ratios and scales, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nonetheless following in his parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; footsteps. And while his set-up may be a bit more sophisticated, the end result is still about drawing in crowds who seek to commune over the meat plate. Ultimately, though, Macri says he just continued on page 12

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likes â&#x20AC;&#x153;the method and the challenge.â&#x20AC;? But what about the audience? While offal has garnered plenty of buzz in recent years, I sometimes wonder how much variety the typical restaurant patron is truly willing to embrace. Macri, however, doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t overthink it. â&#x20AC;&#x153;You have to be happy with what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re doing and hope people are receptive to it,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I notice most people arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the hugest fans of terrines,â&#x20AC;? he goes on, but adds that a minority are fervent fans, â&#x20AC;&#x153;so why make them suffer at the hands of some lame people?â&#x20AC;? He concedes that while something like andouillette will never sell like a chocolate dessert, he still might be motivated to try it on the chance that heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be making â&#x20AC;&#x153;a small section of Francophilesâ&#x20AC;? very, very happy. (To be clear, French andouillette, not to be confused with Cajun andouille, is a sausage made of chitterlings thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most often noted for its â&#x20AC;&#x201D; how to say this politely? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; funk.)

What strikes me the most about Macri is an easy coexistence of selfassuredness and endearing humility. I ask him if charcuterie is actually the thing he wants to be known for. Well, not exactly: â&#x20AC;&#x153;I would like to be known for being fair and working hard and having the respect of my peers. So if charcuterie is a way to achieve that, then sure.â&#x20AC;? (Is it what he originally thought heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d become known for? â&#x20AC;&#x153;I cook. Honestly, I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think I would be known for anything at all.â&#x20AC;?) Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that attitude, more than anything, that I take away from my very short stint in Macriâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s kitchen. The way he talks about charcuterie is grounded and reassuring. While extensive dry-curing may remain a bit out of reach at the moment, I can absolutely start to work through my fear of charcuterie right now. To that end, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll leave you with a few recommendations picked up from Macri himself. While much specialty equipment is not neces-

sary, at base, you will likely want to get your hands on a meat grinder. You can purchase an attachment for a stand mixer if you have one, or look for a solid hand-crank grinder that clamps onto your counter. If you would like to encase your sausages in link form, you will also need to purchase a stuffer â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but plenty of sausages donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need casings. And, of course, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll want books. Asked for recommendations, Macri was nice enough to lend me a few. Terrine, by Stephane Reynaud, is full of recipes you could likely get into right away. Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, is a more heavy-duty instruction manual. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Paul Bertolliâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cooking by Hand that gets the most enthusiastic recommendation, even though just one section is devoted to charcuterie. Macriâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eyes lit up while talking about it. Try Charcuterie for the thoroughness, Cooking by Hand for the bigger picture. (







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[]`\W\URSS^W\bVSeO``S\]T Q`O[^SR]dS`VSObSRacPYWbQVS\a bVObac^^ZgTO`ST]`Q]\X]W\SR aWPZW\Ua4]`YO\R4]`Y3bQO\R7 O[`O^WRZgPSQ][W\UOQ_cOW\bSR eWbVbVSTcZZP`SORbV]T[gW\Q][ ^SbS\QS7O[bVS\SeSabaV]`b SabbS\c`SRO\RZWYSZgbVSe]`ab P`SORPOYW\UW\bS`\SdS`b]PSZZg c^b]bVS]dS\ObbVSZ]\USabZWdSR TW\SRW\W\U`SabOc`O\bW\=ZR1Wbg ´O\ROa]TZObS]\S]TbVS[]ab dS\S`ObSRbVO\Yab]bVSO``WdOZ]T <SeG]`YQVST3ZW9cZ^7QO\¸bVSZ^ bVW\YW\UÂľ7b¸aOU]]RbVW\U9cZ^ Wa\¸bVS`Sb]aSSbVWaÂś Instead, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m seconded to head baker Sam Kincaid, who works under Kulp and pastry chef Jonathan Saliba. By noon, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have churned out around 10 different types of bread, for a kitchen that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do mass production but does do daunting variety in order to supply Fork Etc.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sandwich-heavy cafe menu and retail bread sales, plus Forkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s regular lunches, dinners and high-end tasting menus that are served complete with haute-bread pairings, like the animal, vegetable,

fish elements that debuted in March and instantly made foodie bucketlists across the city. It features beeffat brioche, a roasted-beet-and-sunflower-seed sourdough pumpernickel rye, and black squid-ink bread carved into jagged pieces like hunks of coral reef run aground. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not the counting mini bialys that start every meal at Fork. Kincaid also has to do the house specialty Genzano bread, pizza dough and those factory-perfect Pullman loaves that are essential to Forkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mise en place, used for everything from your standard sandwich foundation to a crust for the branzino entree, which comes miraculously welded to a thin Pullman slice for a satisfying crunch. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And,â&#x20AC;? says Kincaid, grabbing a tray, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I almost forgot that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Friday.â&#x20AC;? That means challah, so Kincaid gets busy weaving egg dough into a six-stranded braid, with a deftness that would have made my bubbe proud. Kincaid has been here since 5 a.m., and wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t leave until at least 6:30 in the evening â&#x20AC;&#x201D; after sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s printed out the next dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recipes, scaled according to anticipated demand

using Microsoft Excel, and mixed the dough. By the time I arrive at a positively lazy 6:15, more than a dozen loaves are nearly ready to come out of the oven: sesame levain, a chewy fruit-and-nut bread and the multigrain loaf, imprinted with a concentric basket weave. What I walk into looks a bit like my home kitchen â&#x20AC;&#x201D; or how it would look if it stayed the same size, but everything inside it was magnified by a power of 10 (the resulting effect is that I feel a bit like the clumsiest of the Keebler elves). There are 50pound bags of flour and sugar, a chesthigh dough mixer, a type of refrigerator called a retarder to put the brakes on dough rising too fast and an oven that can accommodate two dozen baguettes at a time and still have room left over for a pizza. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all familiar, but also foreign â&#x20AC;&#x201D; much like the ingredients listed on the recipes, a thick pile of printouts tacked to Kincaidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s clipboard. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re based on various permutations of your household basics: water, yeast, flour and sourdough. But those essencontinued on adjacent page

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tial elements are transformed, mixed into fermentation starters like poolish and pâtÊ fermentÊe, made a day in advance and mixed into the dough to add complex flavors of lactic acid and sourdough, and create an open crumb. But all that is advanced stuff. It turns out that being a decent home baker makes me an abject beginner at a place like Fork. After all, at home I often keep things simple. My go-to bread recipe, if you can call it a recipe, is the one my friend Patrick brought back with him from southern Spain, where he lived with a local family while interviewing retired Marxist rebels for his doctorate. It has four ingredients (water, flour, yeast and salt) and four instructions (stir together, wait a day, shape into a loaf and bake at the highest temperature your oven will allow). It may not be for the bourgeoisie (or, Pat would note, the fascists), but as far as I know it is un-fuckupable. Not so, the baguettes at Fork, which are as tall, skinny and as tem-

peramental as supermodels. The baguette recipe calls for both poolish and pâtĂŠ fermentĂŠe, and has been problematic lately, prone to overproofing â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that is, being left to rise for too long, which can ultimately mean the baguette will fall flat. I help use a razor blade to put long slashes in the tops of the loaves ready for baking (yes, even this it is possible to bungle). And â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the best bakery trick I learn this morning â&#x20AC;&#x201D; I get to use scissors to snip triangular flaps along the top of one imperfectlooking baguette, then quickly fold each flap to one side, creating an Epi bread shaped like a wheat stalk. Apparently, if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re Fork, you can charge 25 cents extra for this. When the gorgeous, golden-brown baguettes come out of the oven, though, Kincaid sighs and points out a few imperfections, slight hollows resulting from the overproofing. (Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s kind of like when your most stunning friend insists she has a huge zit. Right there. On her nose. Oh, you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see

it?) I tell Kincaid if I baked baguettes that looked this beautiful at home Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d cut up my good napkins for confetti and throw myself a tickertape parade. Still, Kincaid decides to work extra-fast to roll out the next dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s batch before they overproof, so Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not allowed anywhere near them. The baguette dough, made in large quantities, is also used for burger buns and hoagie rolls. In this kitchen, the seething, very much alive nature of the raw, yeasty dough is striking. Kincaid pries the lid off the plastic bin filled with rising dough and reveals a looming air bubble, a foot in diameter and looking nearly capable of a carnivorous, The Blob-style attack. Unimpressed, Kincaid punches out the bubbles and â&#x20AC;&#x201D; as with every single ingredient used or dough baked in this kitchen â&#x20AC;&#x201D; precisely weighs, not measures, dough for the hamburger buns. I quickly learn that these buns may be humble, but theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not easy. Each one must be rolled by hand into a continued on page 16


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compact tennis ball, using a circular motion that works out the air bubbles and packs the dough into a firm sphere. To do it properly requires constant tucking under with your fingers, requiring a level of hand-eye coordination that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exactly jibe with my idea of whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feasible at 7 a.m. But after a few failures, I manage to keep an even pace with Kincaid â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that is, churning out one successful roll to every 10 she has assembled. At a standard bakery, I mightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve stayed at this long enough to halve that embarrassing statistic, but before I can get there weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve moved on to hoagie rolls, which must be rolled out on the floured butcher block into long, tapered tubes. By around 8 a.m., Kincaidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s intern, Rebecca Kronz â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a pastry student at New Yorkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Culinary Institute of America â&#x20AC;&#x201D; has rolled in. I decide to demote myself and become the internâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s intern. Kronz has been here for four months, and by now she just about


has a doctorate in bialys. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We do a lot of bialys,â&#x20AC;? Kronz says, in the understatement of the morning. She estimates sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s made 20,000 of them by now. Mini bialys have become a signature item on Kulpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lunch and dinner menus at Fork â&#x20AC;&#x201D; served with hay-infused, house-made cream cheese in the winter, grass-infused cream cheese in the summer â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and Kronz makes 80 of them on a slow day, 360 on a busy one. For a home cook like me with a minimal regard for measuring cups and a tendency to adjust recipes on the fly, a key lesson of this bread kitchen is discipline. Kronz is rolling out bialy dough to be sectioned off in a halfcentury-old metal dough press that divides out 40 even pieces with one satisfying thunk. But the extra bialys not carved out by the press need to be weighed out into identical pieces. Then, each one is rolled into a ball (see: the tragicomedy of the burger buns) and gently pulled into a bowl shape, which will later accommodate

a dollop of onion-and-sea-salt filling. Kronz has learned to be meticulous. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It took me a month and a half to get it right,â&#x20AC;? she says. The bialys were sensitive: If they overproofed, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d â&#x20AC;&#x153;puff up, and just look like rolls with some onion sprinkled on top.â&#x20AC;? Kronz tried everything from tearing big holes in the middle (â&#x20AC;&#x153;then they just looked like bagelsâ&#x20AC;?) to removing the little guys from the oven and desperately pressing the middles back down (â&#x20AC;&#x153;theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d poof right back up againâ&#x20AC;?) before finding the balance. She figured it out, though. In Kronzâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; case, she found the key was part science, part intuition. The dough, she notes, is â&#x20AC;&#x153;technically living, because of the yeast, so you have to feel out its temperament.â&#x20AC;? And generally, its temperament is rather fickle: slight temperature and humidity changes have a vast impact. She has learned to compensate. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nice to be good at it â&#x20AC;&#x201D; after such a long time of being so bad at it,â&#x20AC;? Kronz says. So, maybe thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hope for me, too. (

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N8]aVcO:OeZS` QVST]e\S` BVS4O`[O\R4WaVS`[O\( ;gTW`abX]P was when I was about 14 years old working at an Outback Steakhouse in the â&#x20AC;&#x2122;burbs. I worked with a bunch of great guys who all happened to be ex-convicts, and I was in charge of prepping the Bloominâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Onion. The bread crumbs would get everywhere, so every night Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d Saran-wrap my entire work station for an easy cleanup once my shift was done. I remember telling the GM that I was leaving for college, and he told me, â&#x20AC;&#x153;College? You donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need to go to college. You already have the magic, baby!â&#x20AC;?


N5`SUDS`\WQY QVST]e\S`DS`\WQY4]]R2`W\Y( EVS\7eOa! years old my parents told me I had to get a job and my only experience was helping out at my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s restaurant in Haddonfield. So we mocked up a fake resume, drove down the shore and dropped it off at a bunch of restaurants. I ended up getting a job at Lucy the Elephant in Margate. It was a little snack bar right on the beach, and I worked there for about four summers. The first summer I was scooping water ice, washing dishes, taking hot dogs off the roller. I remember from that first year, I was taking out grease from the fryer and I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really know what I was doing, so I accidently poured hot grease down the chefâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leg, and the skin ended up peeling off (he always wore board shorts and flip flops when he cooked). That was a learning lesson.

and in love with every single one of the line cooks. Then I went onto work at Frog and the Redneck. We made a weekly pot of veal reduction that I was in charge of â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and it once accidently got thrown out by the dishwasher. The chef, who was relatively calm, went to grab the pot to make sauce 15 minutes before service. And when he realized what happened, he freaked out and got so mad that he threw a ladle across the kitchen at me. It just missed me, hit the sink and it made a dent. I still have that ladle in my kitchen.

N;WQVOSZA]Z][]\]d QVST]e\S`HOVOd( 7R`]^^SR]cb of the University of Vermont after a few semesters and headed to Israel. I spoke terrible Hebrew, so the only job I could get was cooking at a bakery. During a 2 a.m. rush of people coming from the nightclubs, one of the guys I worked with cut his thumb really badly. Without a word, our head cook cauterized his thumb using a hot cast-iron skillet, and they both cooked for another four hours. It was the night I told myself I would be a chef.



;gTW`abX]P was as a â&#x20AC;&#x153;salad girlâ&#x20AC;? at Riordanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in Annapolis, Md.; I was 16

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story (to be honest, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not that interesting). Doing my summer externship at a restaurant called Canoe, I was tasked with the usual busywork of picking herbs, straining soup, scraping veal bones and cleaning the walk-ins. I worked the a.m. shifts and was gone shortly before dinner service started (I was still hanging on to that last-gasp hope of making it in soccer and working at another restaurant at night). Right before leaving one hot summer day, the p.m. sous chef pulled me aside in a panic and asked if before I left if I could juice and strain 30 lemons and 10 limes into a clean five-gallon bucket. I obliged, no questions asked, juiced the fruit and cleaned up as fast as I could. Halfway down the hall, almost out the door, I realized I left my knife roll and went back to grab it. I walked into the kitchen only to see the entire dinner crew sipping icecold lemonade! I learned from then on to always ask what something


was going to be used for.

N>ObAh]YS QVSTBVS7\Rcab`g( A][gTW`ab restaurant job was at the tender age of 14, bussing tables at the local private country club. I worked weekends and was responsible for bussing and setting tables as well as water and bread service. I enjoyed it until one if the elderly old ladies insisted on calling me â&#x20AC;&#x153;boyâ&#x20AC;? whenever I came near her table. Doing the bread (which was only reheating) gave me a glimpse into the kitchen â&#x20AC;&#x201D; it was hot and loud, but they always had music on and seemed to be having fun. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s when the kitchen bug took hold of me. They had a dishwasher quit one night, and I asked the chef if I could have the job. He said yes and I started later that week. Once I was in the kitchen I was able to eat whatever I wanted and drink all the Jolt cola my body could handle. I spent my time scrubbing pans and occasionally smoking a cig â&#x20AC;&#x201D; or the funny ones as

well. At 14 making 10 bucks an hour, it was the best job ever.

NBW[9eSSRS` PSdS`OUSRW`SQb]`OYWbQVS\( 2c`W\U[g high-school career, I used to peddle water ice at Little League games on Saturday and Sunday mornings and was a long-haired, scrawny dishwasher at night at a strip-mall seafood BYO that had a crew straight from the movie Waiting. Washing dishes and pots, cleaning toilets, emptying the grease trap and killing feisty blue-claw crabs were the duties. How I went from a crab slaughterer to selling wine at a restaurant and a retail shop, who knows? How did Michael Bolton transform from metal to whatever the hell youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d classify his popular music as?

N2O\8O[Sa QVSTDW\bOUSEW\S0O`( ;gTW`ab restaurant job was at continued on page 22




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Friendlyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, where I was a dishwasher and worked the ice-cream counter. My first big mess-up was the time I ran HOT water over 20 pounds of frozen fish fillet because the lead line cook said he needed them on the fly. Clearly I was sent home for the day. Another memory fromthat time is of wintertime snowball fights near the dumpsters. A genius co-worker decided it would be funny to cover raw potatoes with snow and chuck them around as snowballs. It was pretty funny until I caught one where the sun donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t shine.

N6OeY9`OZZ T]]RQS\b`WQWZZcab`Ob]`( ;gTW`ab â&#x20AC;&#x153;restaurantâ&#x20AC;? job was at the local chain pizzeria to pay my fine after getting arrested for setting fires in the woods to jump my bike over when I was 15. It was a delivery-andtake-out-only operation â&#x20AC;&#x201D; in other


words, a total free-for-all. The manager was an angry mustachioed guy who worked 90 hours a week, loved pro wrestling and chain smoked four packs a day. Most of the employees were also involved in moving fairly large quantities of marijuana, except one delivery driver who ran a Columbia House-CD-selling scam with P.O. boxes under 10 different names, a pager and a list of available albums that he passed out to customers. For a while, there was also an assistant manager who slept on a cot in the mop-bucket room because his wife kicked him out. Two weeks later he was fired for stealing boxes of cheese and selling them to other pizza places in the area. I was trained on the â&#x20AC;&#x153;make tableâ&#x20AC;? by a straight-edge graffiti/skateboard art-school dude who taught me to just â&#x20AC;&#x153;throw a bunch of crap on there.â&#x20AC;? I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t learn about rotating stock until years later. We just refilled the pans of pepperoni,

bacon and meat pellets on top of the old stuff, meaning the toppings at the bottom were rancid and slimy, reserved for VIP customers like the local police or people who yelled at us on the phone. Believe it or not, the dough was not frozen (although everything else was) and actually involved some proofing and skill to make successfully. The oven was of the conveyerbelt variety, which meant when we were stoned and drunk on a busy Friday night, half the pizzas fell face down onto the floor before being brushed off, tossed into a box and sent out the door. I made $4.15 an hour, but the perks of all the pizza you want to eat (or give to your friends) and a solid weed connection made it all worth it. The place is now a cell-phone store, a few of the people I used to work with there are dead or in jail, and my old manager is still doing pretty well running a Hooters in Pensacola. (



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Restaurant 7402 Germantown Ave Philadelphia, PA 19119 267.385.6857

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The Market & Shops at Comcast Center offer an exciting array of restaurants, specialty food purveyors and high end retailers. Conveniently located on the lower level of Comcast Center, The Market & Shops provides a wonderful dining and shopping location. Whether you stop by for a quick breakfast, grab lunch from your choice of twelve fabulous eateries or pick up dinner to-go, you are sure to find something delicious. 1701 JFK Boulevard | Philadelphia

CheCK ouT our neW WeBSiTe!        



Philadelphia City Paper, Meal Ticket, May 16th, 2013  

Philadelphia's Trusted News and Entertainment Source

Philadelphia City Paper, Meal Ticket, May 16th, 2013  

Philadelphia's Trusted News and Entertainment Source