We know what we know.


There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.
–Donald Rumsfeld

(Donald cracks me up.)

Drew asked me a question at work the other day, that I couldn’t remember the answer to. After a bit of research, it turns out that the reason why we don’t cover a pot of boiling water while cooking vegetables is because an acid released by the vegetables builds up in the water rather than evaporating. This acid then reacts with the chlorophyl in the vegetables, causing them to change to a less attractive shade of green.

I brought in my copy of McGee’s book the next day for him to have a look at. But while I was browsing through my shelves for the book, I also came across another book I had forgotten about. I happened to read Letters to a Young Chef at a time when I was feeling a bit over the whole chef-ing thing and regained some inspiration from it. It was like a novel version of that REM song; the chef’s version of which would go something along the lines of “..When the day is long and the night, the nights are just as long, When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this job, well hang on. Don’t quit your job, ’cause everybody burns and everybody hates service sometimes…”

Sometimes I wish I’d had a chance to read Letters.. when I was starting out in the industry. I’m even amazed that I decided to get into it in the first place.

I’d just graduated from uni, studying something unrelated to food. When I got out, I decided I wanted to learn how to cook professionally. My first job was at a busy cafe in Crows Nest. The floor was always understaffed so I usually found myself waiting on tables, in between washing lettuce leaves. My second job, which I consider to be my first true cooking job, was at a restaurant further up the road. At this point I still had absolutely no idea about the industry or what was expected and turned up to my trial (and later when I got accepted, on my first day of work) without a uniform or knives. I did everything the way I used to at home, so there was a lot of learning to be done. When they eventually decided that they wanted to keep me, the owner/chef gave me a few of his spare knives and told me to enrol in Tafe. Having started in the industry much later than most people would have, I’ve always felt like I needed to catch up quickly. It took until the last year of Tafe for my teacher to finally say one day, “You’ve made an improvement. Good work.” The comment actually caught me my surprise because I thought I’d been doing ok all along. 😀

I still have that chef’s spare knives. They aren’t the best quality but they are my favourites amongst the F.Dicks and Globals that I now also own, and I use them every day.

If I know the answer I’ll tell you the answer, and if I don’t, I’ll just respond, cleverly.
— Donald Rumsfeld

The macaroons in the picture above were made for an American function we catered for recently. My favourite is the Lemon Poppyseed macaroon, but I also made something more in the American spirit, a Peanut Butter and Jelly macaroon – a peanut butter ganache from Andrew Shotts’ book, piped into a circle on the base macaroon, with some rhubarb jam piped into the middle of the circle. The third macaroon flavour, not pictured, was Vanilla Rose.

I’m off to Tokyo for a couple of weeks of food and fun, so there will be the sounds of silence on this blog until I get back. Hopefully there will be more than enough photos and stories to share with you by then.


  1. Duncan | Syrup&Tang said,

    October 13, 2007 @ 10:52 am

    Enjoy Tokyo… every blogger in Australia seems to have been to Japan this year, excep tme (sniff!). Nice reading about your journey to chefdom too.

  2. Y said,

    October 13, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

    Funny, that’s the impression I’ve got about Vietnam at the moment. A lot of my friends seem to be going there, have been there, or want to go there, this year.

    Oh, and I also forgot to mention how horrified my parents were when I told them I wanted to get into cooking. There didn’t seem to be any precedent for this kind of .. rebellion, from either side of the family (asian; where academia is highly prized). I got the “We’ll support you in whatever you choose to do” speech, but I don’t think their hearts were really into it then, or even now, especially with my dad.

  3. quick said,

    October 14, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

    That unknown unknowns speech is a classic. Bit scary too.

    Cool thing, you still using those old knives.

  4. chocolatesuze said,

    October 15, 2007 @ 10:57 pm

    japan! oh you lucky thing be sure to eat lots of ramen and fantastic cheesecake for me! have a safe trip dude

  5. Susan from Food Blogga said,

    October 19, 2007 @ 8:22 am

    PB & J macarons? That I’d like to try! I hope you have a splendid and safe trip in Tokyo.

  6. Anh said,

    October 22, 2007 @ 10:25 pm

    Y, I can relate to your story a bit, although mine hasn’t reached the conclusion I want as yet… I hope that the love for food and its inspiration will always keep you going in this industry. But really, isn’t it the best thing that you do the things you love?

    All the best to your Japan trip. I hope to read more form you!

  7. Y said,

    October 29, 2007 @ 7:20 pm

    chocolatesuze: oh no! I’ve somehow managed to eat everything BUT ramen and cheesecake! Saw lots of both around though !

    Anh: Thanks! I can’t imagine not ever loving food or working with food, so I think I’ll be alright for the time being 🙂

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