Being in strong pursuit of culinary consulting work, I was recently offered a recipe testing gig for Essence Magazine. I was ecstatic, to say the least.
After accepting the offer on a snowy Thursday, I was happy to hear that I would see the 10 discussed recipes in my inbox by week's end (this provides for plenty of time for ingredient shopping and timeline creation for the following Wednesday's presentation). Between pre-holiday school exams, uneventful work days, pesky holiday shopping, massive holiday shopping crowds, and the few hours of sleep that slipped in, I was obsessively checking my email. Saturday-nothing, Sunday-nada, Monday morning-zilch. Is this assignment still on? I worriedly questioned while typing in my password yet again.
On Monday evening, with extra high hopes, I logged into my inbox once more, during my brisk sprint to class that evening. YES! An email from the editor! As I swiftly scanned the email, I noticed only six recipes. I breathed a sigh of slight relief. Perhaps the assignment has changed? Now I'll actually be able to finish...right? Not so fast, I said to myself, while reading the title of the email, "Recipe Testing, Part 1". Ahhh...yes...part1, which inherently implies: more parts to come.
While preparing the poultry, spinach, potato, and sauce for my final practical in class, all I could think of was grocery shopping (at least both encompassed food). The instructor thoroughly inspected my dish and was thankfully satisfied with my presentation. As my classmates were heading out for a celebratory libation extravaganza, I sadly declined due to the magnitude of my to-do list. I accelerated to the locker rooms, striped off my chef uniform, and ran out of the building (luckily remembering to robe my street clothes). Thankfully, not too many New Yorkers are interested in pursuing their grocery needs at 9:45pm on a Monday evening, leaving the store only semi-populated for me to ransack through. After my arrival at home and unpacking of the goodies, I began my timeline and mise en place list (after which I keeled over in bed at 1am).
It's Tuesday, 8am, I'm up. While waiting for 'part 2' of the recipes, I began to fulfill my mise en place list for the six I already had. Chopping, slicing, butterflying, etc. As 'part 2' flashed on my screen (containing 5 more recipes, with the exception of yet another one, which was 'on its way'), I instantaneously hit print and, like lightning, was down the stairs and out of the door, onward, to the store! Upon my return and unpacking of more goodies, my kitchen slightly resembled a vomiting grocery store (poor thing needs some Pepto). For the next 8 hours I prepped, pre-cooked, organized, and waited for the last recipe. Once more, after the receipt of the finale (which was actually four recipes in one), I was off to tackle the holiday shoppers and traffic to finalize my purchasing.
What's next you might ask? Well, class of course! I still had class on Tuesday evening. Needless to say, I was unable to concentrate on the poaching, candying, and drying of fruit that night. As the instructor, lethargically explained the various processes and techniques, I fidgeted with my papers and frantically eyeballed the clock. Must get home to cook! After packing up my figs and pineapples, I once again torpedoed into the locker room and was the first one out and on my train home.
At this point, there were a total of 15 recipes, which made me extremely nervous, due to severe time constraint, lack of sleep, and having to look presentable the next day. Although I was determined. Tuesday evening's bed time befell at 3:30am and the presentation day's rooster squawked at 6am (which, I believe, is standard squawking hours at local farms, however, not so much typically at my apartment in Brooklyn). I reserved a cab for 11:10am, to make an early appearance for the 12pm exhibition. While finalizing the last few recipes, my next challenge was packing and transport. Fitting most dishes into ever-so-elegant disposable trays, I was able to condense my baggage into four, medium sized carry-ons (however, having only two hands was a slight setback in the hauling process). With 15 minutes to spare (which involved bringing my kitchen back to its orderly state), 15 recipes were completed in 24 hours.
My timely driver arrived as planned and after climbing over the snow banks with my bags, twice (due to the two hand setback), I was on my way. The traffic complied and, upon arrival, the building's greeter was nice enough to lend his two hands to accommodate my transferring needs. I greeted the incredibly pleasant editor with excitement and was shown to the conference room where I was to display my hard work. As the flavorful aromas filled the room, employees passed by in awe. While setting out and plating the 15 delicacies, I smiled. Did this actually happen? Was I the one to accomplish this assignment? Or was this some sort of odd dream? As delirium was slowly setting in, my growling stomach nudged at the fact that I hadn't eaten in quite some time; but no time for such minuteness now. The presentation was on its way. As the editors and photographers discussed the dishes, plating, and garnishes, my culinary input was requested. How was the preparation process? What worked? What needed tweaking? What can be altered? I felt relieved and satisfied with the notes I had made just a few hours before, while going through the testing process. I was commended on the feedback and noted as having excellent suggestions and input. At the end of the discussion, the staff couldn't wait to dig in. Ahh success! Everything was to their liking. I couldn't help the joy and giddiness that overcame. I did it!
Having only few hours of sleep, very few nutrients, and even less sanity, I walked out of the rendezvous with a huge grin (which I'm sure concerned and/or offended a few fellow train passengers on the way). An incredible sense of accomplishment collided with me (as a divine healing might in a crazy, mid-west, religious seminar). I will never forget this experience and surely look forward for more to come! I love this profession! As for now, it's bed time.