Digging in the Dirt with Chez Panisse


Today was my first day as an intern at Chez Panisse. There is nothing that can describe the beauty of the kitchen or the way that it functions. When I arrived the head pastry chef was not there yet, but others in pastry knew I was coming and began to show me around. The restaurant itself is within a craftsman house, the interior is hardwood, and the kitchen spans what seems to be longer than the dining room.

The kitchen was stunning, warm and inviting. Wood and marble were woven together as art, a place where artisans created the desserts for the day. I was excited to get started, it was still hard to imagine that I had somehow found myself in the epicenter of the culinary world. My first task was to separate egg yolks from egg whites for tart bases. Not too difficult of a task, but 9 cups stretches the project for over an hour. I was then assigned to take the darks skins off of the pistachios with a pairing knife and when it occasionally flaked off at the gentlest knife scrape I felt a sense of joy…its always the little things that get me.

After I was done with the pistachios it was time to have lunch, and what a decadent staff meal it was. Strewn across the counter were various dishes from meats to vegetables all looking and tasting amazing. The lettuce was fresh, divine, and perfectly dressed. The pastry people sat outside on the steps and I was able to get to know the people I was working with a bit more. I had made it to lunch, and I was ready to finish my day strong. I returned to the kitchen to begin peeling, quartering, and coring Pink Lady apples for a beautiful tart. I had a stack too big to fit into a deep hotel pan, and I found myself overwhelmed with apples. But I noticed that with each task, after a few times, I would get a rhythm and the kitchen meditation I love would send my mind internally. Baking is a pleasure, and even the simple and sometimes monotonous tasks are therapeutic. Who wouldn’t rather knead dough or pick huckleberries than sit in a cubicle?

The head pastry chef sent me home with some pistachio cake which I knew my boyfriend would eat in the car on the way home. Next time I go in I will be shadowing one of the more experienced interns to learn a day in the life and continue to get my bearings. Overall the day was a success and I am thankful to have begun working in the uniquely wonderful environment.

The staff members at Chez Panisse work differently from any restaurant I have worked in, they don’t yell, or tell you what to do in a do-what-I-say-or-else sort of way. It felt more like a school, where the professors were understanding, informative, and patient. The head pastry chef told me that they try hard to be a teaching kitchen, maybe other restaurants should take note…their protege have gone out and made some of the greatest restaurants. Every time I look in any cooking magazine Chez Panisse pops up several times, it is no wonder, their methods are flawless, and their staff is passionate about food. I am excited to soak up all the information I can get from this internship, excited for the experiences that await me, and excited to begin this new chapter in my life.

Bon Appétit!

In other news, Brendon and I have been working the garden soil to death! It seems rocks were deterring any growth and we had to excavate a foot deep. Today we drove up to Marin County, just north of Oakland, to get some free aged horse manure. And after today the garden is finally coming together!

These are the two rows we finished today and pictures of the ranch where we went to get the compst:photo-16 photo-17


And coming up soon, tomato soup and french bread. Delicious!photo-20photo-18

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