A Hopeful Return

It has been over half a year since I last updated here on WordPress. As can be expected I have been busy with work, home life, and grumping about the very wet winter here in Oregon. Luckily the sun is shining today so I feel a desire to fill everyone in on what’s going on, as well as establish my (hopefully) return to regular blogging! 

My wife and I are now happily married and moving to Eugene in the next month, which is a nice change of pace for us, both in regards to our outdoor life and careers. I’ve already startedgetting  interviews set up at various bakeries in Eugene and will be very glad to get back into the world of yeast and flour! 

Things at Marco Polo have gone very well and my baking skills have been honed there and also at home. My pan and hearth breads have improved dramatically over the last year as well as my pastries and cake decorating. I feel that it is a great time to go out of the restaurant and back into the bakery to follow the calling of the oven. 

A 100% whole wheat high hydration sourdough I made recently
One of the 3 wedding cakes I made for our reception. A vegan chocolate and mixed berry doberge decorated as Edoras from Lord of the Rings!

Soon I will be posting a few recipes just to let you all know what I’ve been working on at home. Usually whatever I make gets eaten so quickly that it goes out of my mind and I forget to share it so I’ll work on being better at that. Until then, stay sweet!


Old State, New Life

It’s been over a month since I moved back to Oregon. There has been a world of transitions both in and out of the kitchen within that time! Home life has been good so far. A lot has been adjusting to a mutual schedule between my partner and me which happens to include a lot of bread baking at home. In a way it has become my therapy on hard days and my joy when the going is easy. 

A sourdough loaf with my still-fresh starter. It’s already developing a nice flavor!

Oregon is and always has been my home since I moved here in 2003. My family came from Idaho and I soon took better to it than I ever did in the high desert. Produce is fresh, local, and incredibly varied! Every city has a farmer’s market or two and I sorely missed blackberry season the last two years I’ve been gone. It’s good to be back!

Wild blackberries ripen in waves here. Once the first wave hit I was out collecting them. A friend and I got 7 pounds all together in one day. Sweet as candy and best of all: free!

I’ve recently started work as the baker at Marco Polo Global Restaurant in downtown Salem. When I say baker that means the entire bakery: desserts, cakes, breads, and the ocassional savory that I’ll make for crew lunches. There are two sides to the coin of being the only person who runs baked goods in a place; I am always held responsible for any mistakes made but I’m not responsible for anyone else. It really puts me in control! When I first got here I was only decorating cakes and making mousse and cheesecake. Now I make the cake bases, lunch desserts, and breads as well. I might as well mention that I am the first person to do any bread baking at the restaurant since opening in 2001 so that’s given me a lot of insight on how to start my own bakery someday. I had to test recipes, retardation methods, and a few loaf shapes before we could settle on a functional table bread. It’s been an amazing and irreplacable experience that reminds me of how fortunate I am to have moved here and to have been trained in New Orleans. Who knew such opportunity could be had in Salem, OR after working in one of the biggest service industry cities in the U.S.? 

Cake balls are a favorite of mine. They’ve been a huge hit for the lunch crowd!

I do miss some of the life in New Orleans though, particularly the few people there that made me smile every day at the bakery and my close friends that are still there. Hopefully I’ll make a short return to the city in November to hit poboy fest and sling sandwiches for oldtime’s sake. Until then, I say welcome home! 

Charlie: our roommate’s bird

My Journey Begins

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been in the kitchen. It wasn’t that I was helping since I didn’t even make my first Top Ramen until the age of 12 but I’ve always found home where the food happened to be. I remember getting kicked out of the kitchen before Christmas dinner for stealing Pillsbury crescent rolls before my grandmother could put them out. I began to cook as a means for surviving long summers when my parents were at work because we were sadly bereft of Lunchables and other instantly satisfying foodstuffs. Besides, ramen was cheap and easy for my brother and I so we liked it. We eventually got more daring and broke out the Betty Crocker Kids Cookbook but it would be long before I found myself studying the complex tastes of world cuisine and the knife skills of Morimoto. I had simple beginnings and I will never lose sight of that. Now as a young and budding chef I’ve found a beautiful balance in the food that we make; where human ingenuity, creativity, and survival instincts collide. Everyone uses each of these traits to various degrees while cooking and that’s something that ties all of humanity together. You can make arguments for what people enjoy but we can all agree that everybody loves to eat.

I’ve found that humans as a species find comfort in food that goes beyond the sustenance that it was meant to be for our ancestors. We’ve built culture around what we eat and the ambassadors of the world appear in kitchens more readily than in embassies. However, heritage is but a small part of humanity that cooking represents. The beauty of food is in what it means both to the chef and to the person eating it. A dish can bring back memories both happy and sad, it can bring people together in celebration or mourning, and it can be anywhere from an exhibition of culinary excellence to an utter disaster. What’s on the plate at every meal is the human experience. When a cook makes a dish, whether they are proud of it or not, they really are putting their life on the line. Their memories cooking with their family, their personal expertise, and the fire of their spirit are given to a complete stranger in the hopes that their trust has been rightfully placed. It’s so wonderful that someone can make themselves fully vulnerable to another human being in such an intimate way. My goal is to search for people willing to push their passion forward and to share their love with the world using the medium that I know best: food.

I am going to find culinary greatness in every crack of the world that I can; from the proud home cooks of Louisiana to the executive chefs of Paris to the open markets of Thailand. It will not only be a journey of self-discovery but a chance to give that greatness to the world where it has not yet been. So pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine, and smile wide my friends; the next great dish is coming right up!