Required reading before starting a hospitality business!
September 24, 2007, 2:38 pm
Filed under: Opinion

Man this industry can be fickle. I was out for dinner the other night and decided on “the hot new place” in town (there’s always at least 2 or 3 at any one time). I’d heard fantastic things and thought it’d be a bit of fun (I don’t tend to get out much in “normal” hours) to have a meal somewhere special, just for a change.

This particular place (which shall remain nameless for the sake of it’s owners reputation) has been having what some might call the “golden luck” in the run-up to it’s launch just a few weeks ago. A full feature article on it’s chef/owner in the local rags, a quick t.v snippet the other night and… as it has had the good grace of opening its doors during auckland fashion week: a nice long string of local and international celebrats (spelling intentional) to grace its fine floors upon open night. All pretty special attention for a small, tucked away, 30-seater downtown. So imagine my suprise to the response I got when ringing for a reservation just a few weeks after launch night:

Nah, not too busy tonight… just pop in any time before 10pm

Pardon? Not too busy? Even back on the home-front we had a good set of bookings tonight! And this… of all the places in the world to be “not too busy” on a Saturday night, this was the last! This required some thorough investigating!
Continue reading


All hail! Part I : The Pig
September 10, 2007, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Opinion

WELCOME: to part one of Rise’s new series “all hail!” I’ve never really come across a good explanation of the unique heir achy and and associated terminology that encompasses the modern kitchen. In this series I will try and lay out all the positions in their true (sometimes ugly) reality including some of my own experiences (I have, at some point of my career so far, occupied almost every level). Please excuse some of the language, this is just another reality of working in hospo. Till next time – James


“Be wary the pig, for he has nowhere to go but up”

Almost everyone can recall the “first-day-jitters”, well, for the pig, life is one long first day! You’re the newbie, the last in the gate, no-one quite knows your name yet (in the pigs case, no-one really wants to) you’re there for one, and only one reason: “wash the dishes pig!”

Continue reading

A rare tradition
September 7, 2007, 1:39 am
Filed under: Opinion


I was just going over some monthly reports the other day for the cafe when I noticed something interesting: 60% (approx.) of all steaks ordered are requested med-well to well done.

Why is this? Are we scared of a little blood? Has mad cow disease got us all in a paranoid tizzy? I’m dying to know (no pun intended) why we don’t seem to appreciate our meat products anymore.

Personally, I love a bloody steak, if you read my about section you’ll see that’s why I got into food in the first place! To me, a well done steak is just a dead piece of meat with all the flavor and life grilled out of it!

I’d like to quote a line from Bill Buford’s “heat” that i think captures my love affair with the bloodied steak perfectly:

It arrived, a steak 5 inches thick, sitting in a pool of blood. Dario started cutting it up with a pocket knife he carries with him and distributed slices around the table, until he grew impatient and tore off a chunk directly from the serving platter and speared it with his blade and ate it rapidly, re-enacting the evening’s earlier furious outsized chomping

Doesn’t that passage just stink of carnality? Just like a good bloody steak, it’s all about primal urges, blood lust and impatience.

There’s plenty more (comment below on your favorite reference to meat if you like) and it always seems to reference steak just the way I like it dripping with blood, barely touched by flame.

I’m not trying to change attitudes here but I might suggest one thing: next time you’re out to dinner and you decide to try the steak, try turning it down a notch if you usually go for well done, go for med-well (etc etc). You might just be surprised!

Basic recipes: Hollandaise
September 6, 2007, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Basics, Opinion, Recipes

Hollandaise header

Excuse the rant, but why do so many cooks find hollandaise so difficult? How many times have I sat down to a Sunday brunch in some new eatery to find some semi-transparent goo dribbling off of my eggs benedict? Well, the answer is too many! So now, I feel I must do my part in combating this perilous plague of horrendous hollis by presenting you with mine own way… The truth about hollandaise!

This recipe was initially shown to me by a wonderful cook I worked under many moons ago (it may even have been my first hospo. job!) and, to this very day, I still use this recipe with very little variation in my own cafe. Now you may say, “sacre bleu! hollandaise must be hand whisked over heat to be “proper” (oh poo poo!) well, my answer is: show me a cook who has time to use the traditional method, and I will show you a cook with too much time on his hands! No, my (by proxy) recipe uses that all time favourite kitchen implement: the stick blender!


  • 5 egg yolks (organic eggs produce a thicker darker yolk which helps to avoid this catastrophe)
  • 1/2 a block (that’s stick for the Americans) of full fat butter (it’s hollandaise, not exactly prime dieting material!)
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of pepper
  • 1 tsp. whole-grain mustard
  • 1 whole lemon (extracted lemon juice is an option, if you must)

So, pretty simple really. Start melting your butter (re: zap it) and whilst this is going on, place all your ingredients into a cylindrical container. Now, the shape of this container is all important, you need something that will keep all of the ingredients close together whilst blending, but it must also be wide enough to allow your stick blender to get all the way to the bottom. I find a medium sized milk jug seems to do the trick best. So, once your butter has become fully liquid, take your stick blender and start to blend the contents of your container, once combined, pour just a slight drop of the melted butter into your container whilst continuing to blend.

You should hear a slight gurgle as the contents combine, this is good, pour just a little bit more butter into the mix. When you hear this begin to gurgle you should start to pour the butter in in a small but steady dribble. Continue to increase the flow (slowly) until just before you have reached your desired consistency (somewhere around the consistency of p.v.a glue, not a nice thought) but it must be stressed, stop pouring before you reach the solids in the bottom of your butter container (that’s the little white bits of fat), if this goes into your mix; it’s all over!

So there we go, just a few notes though to finish off:

  1. Whole-grain mustard is not 100% necessary (I simply like the taste) and could be substituted for any other ingredient of choice (parsley is quite good, or maybe you could go the opposite route and add fresh garlic?).
  2. Make sure you use your hollis reasonably soon after making it, firstly, it will taste better but, you probably also want to avoid the possible food poisoning that can come with leaving raw eggs out in the open.
  3. Do not refrigerate your hollis! Its melted butter remember? You want it to stay melted.
  4. This is, most obviously, one of the least healthy components to food you could ever hope to come across so, no it doesn’t have the heart foundation tick and no it probably wont help that heart condition either.

As always: practice makes perfect so keep giving this a go until you get it right. At that point it’s just like riding a bike, it will stay with you for the rest of your life!

Till next time…