papaya thief in portland: updates from the west

Hi, it’s been a while. Here’s what’s going on:

When I get to work there’s a list waiting for me. I fold my towels, set up my cutting board, start collecting all my tools for the day. I weigh out my mise en place. Flatbread, olive oil cake, vanilla, almond, and/or hazelnut ice cream. Chocolate cake, panna cotta, chocolate. Pâte á choux, crêpe and custard batter, emulsify dressings, cut cucumbers or tomatoes for salads. I hammer through most of the prep in three hours, cut veggies for salads, start setting up my line. Service starts at 5 (usually there’s a line before we even open the doors) and the restaurant stops seating at 10, but I’ll most likely be cooking until at least 11. After that is clean up. Pack up all my sixth pans in plastic quart containers, scrub all surfaces, filter out the fryer oil, wrap cakes and ice cream and cheese. Roll up the mat, take out the trash. Then we make our lists for the next day.

It’s usually about a twelve-hour day. On Fridays I prep in the mornings: process fresh produce (roast beets; cut and wash and dry lettuces, spinach, chard; clean padron peppers, haricots verts, runner beans), roll out pastas and empanada dough, clean sardines, grind meat for burgers and sausages, makes sauces, stock, roast nuts, season oxtail and lamb shoulders for the next day’s braise.

This is one of the busiest restaurants I’ve ever worked. I’ve learned a few things, the biggest being able to handle myself under extreme time restraints. I never thought I would make cakes and panna cotta and ice cream plus all the savory items within a few hours. This is a young man’s job. Traditionally the garde manger is fast and smart and young. I think maybe I’m getting too old and jaded and slow.

Anyway, there was a point to this story. There’s a tropical storm headed through the Caribbean. Puerto Rico got some rain and wind but nothing too serious. In fact it sounds like everyone was enjoying the cool. Sixty-five degrees is snuggie weather down there. I do miss it, which makes my bad news bearable:

I’ve turned down my spot at the MFA Program at Portland State University. They only offered loans that would only cover tuition, not living costs, plus I don’t want to take out that much money for an MFA in writing. None of the scholarships I applied for came through, mostly due to PSU’s bureaucracy. The required forms they were supposed to submit on my behalf were past the scholarship deadlines.

Good news: I’ve decided to go back to Rincón unless something incredibly amazing happens in the next couple of months (money for school, perhaps?). I’ve been in contact with Lauren and the crew and we have some awesome new ideas about menus, the winter schedule, special events and the like. Going to keep our cards close for now, though. Last season was our busiest and most successful season in the six winters we’ve been running the restaurant at Casa Isleña, so if there’s a seventh, be sure that we will try to out-do ourselves once again.

See you there. Here’s a picture of the Little Man, Pedro.

Smell everything.

5 Replies to “papaya thief in portland: updates from the west”

  1. Good luck Brendan. I’m sorry to hear that graduate school didn’t work out, but I know you will be successful in your endeavors. Plus, your the best chef I’ve ever met!

  2. Sorry to hear about the lack of money for graduate school but Portland’s loss is Rincon’s gain.
    Look forward to great food at Casa Islena.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s