So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Tag Archives: gluten free

New link added – Steamy Kitchen

Are you a foodie? Do you like food porn photography? Need some upscale recipes to kickstart your rather tired kitchen repertoire?

Have I got the blog for you – “Steamy Kitchen”.

Jaden Hair is a Tampa-based food writer and personality who captures the joy of the kitchen through words and pictures. Her colorful site is rife with her own photography, and professional quality food porn it is. Her use of focal planes really highlights and focuses the attention on the main elements of the dish. She’s a Canon 40D gal for the moment (I’m a 20D dude myself, but my camera has been dead for almost a year now, and I just don’t have the bucks to send it back to Canon for repair). Here’s an example of how good she makes even the simplest dish look:

Photo of Baked Parmesan Garlic Chicken Wings © Jaden Hair 

Note the nice bokeh (the blurred, out-of focus background) – the shape and color of the basil makes a nice counterpoint to the foreground shape. This recipe is duly credited to  PizzAmore, Mount Dora, Florida so it’s clear that not only does she concoct her own recipes, she shares bits of her world with the rest of the world. Note the very subtle use of Photoshop. The photo is sharpened just so; the natural tonal balance preserved.

She’s spunky and fun to read and the site is really easy on the eyes. I recommend this blog to all latent and overt foodies in my audience.

Here’s one of the many reasons that I’m becoming besotted with this site:

Random Stuff

Confucius say:

1. One who has harmony in seasonings need no recipe. Know basic combinations of seasonings in types of cuisines Chinese: soy, sugar, wine, sesame oil Japanese: mirin, soy, sake

2. She who marinates meats – even a quick 10 minutes – will be rewarded with flavorful dish

3. Hot Wokky = No Stikky

4. Cooking not only taste. Use all 5 senses.

5. It is honorable to share your food with friends. Cook more than enough and bring to hungry neighbor.

Ok, ok, Confucious really didn’t say that. I made that shit up.

Oh yeah:

Legal Blah-Blah

Recipes, videos, photographs and text on SteamyKitchen.com by Steamy Kitchen, Inc. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Attribution: You must attribute the work in the manner specified by me (author/licensor), but not in any way suggests that I endorse you or your use of my work.

Non-Commercial: You’re prohibited from using my work (photographs, text, and recipes) for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works: You may not alter, transform my work.

  • For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of my work. The best way to do this is with a link back to this web page.
  • Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from me (the copyright holder).

Violate this and forever be cursed by the food gods – your souffles will never rise and eggs will always be rotten”.

End of Legal Blah-Blah

First of all, non-commercial. So far at least. So no problems there.

I would never presume that Jaden Hair endorses this blog. Until now, I’m sure that it’s unknown to her. I imagine that after she examines it, it will stay that way.

I admit to having altered her banner to make it fit. I’m hoping that this affront will only cause the miso in my fridge to turn (as if the long-expired expiration date hasn’t helped that along).

Already often cursed by the food gods, I only acknowledge all of this legal blah-blah out of courtesy and fear of court action.

PS, having mentioned gluten-free issues here in the past (no I don’t suffer from it myself), I note that the author is gluten-free aware and labels recipes that are, or can easily be made gluten-free with the initials GF. 

PPS, she’s also written a cookbook. Perhaps I will get a copy and review it in a future “Cookbook of the Day” post.

Let’s raise a glass of fresh lemongrass ginger ale as we welcome her to ye ole blogroll! 

 Photo by John Revisky, Sarasota Magazine 

Waiter’s guide to gluten-free

Waiters are used to the “I’m allergic to garlic” thing. Waiters are used to “I’m on the Atkins Diet”. Waiters are used to “I’m pregnant so I need to avoid undercooked meat” (which is weird when coming from a guy…)

Increasingly, waiters are being confronted by “What do you have that’s gluten-free?” and “I’m gluten intolerant. Please make sure that I don’t order anything that contains wheat”.

What is this gluten thing and why does it need to be eliminated from some peoples’ diets? Here’s a short primer.

Gluten is a couple of proteins commonly found in “grassy” grains like wheat and barley. In some people, their immune systems have a problem processing this long-chained protein combo. When someone suffers from this affliction, it’s called celiac disease or tropical sprue or just plain sprue.It’s also described under the term “gluten intolerance”.

For most people, gluten is a very useful thing. It forms the structure of bread – it needs to be “developed” through kneading –  repeatedly stretched until it develops the crumb of the bread. It’s a very elastic material and this tendency needs to be exploited by kneading. Otherwise, it’s similar to a tightly wound spring – great for storing energy but not a very good structure for forming the framework needed to support the crumb of bread.

However, in people who have celiac disease, the body has trouble with this very lengthy molecule due to a problem interacting with it. Basically, the enzyme responsible for processing this food material freaks out and because of this inappropriate reaction to the protein, screws up the intestinal villi (those little hairs in the intestines that aids in absorption of nutrients). This in turn leads to inflammation and can cause malnourishment, bloating, abdominal distention, weight loss, and other nasty gastrointestinal difficulties. It can even, in extreme cases, affect other organs of the body, cause depression and mimic other diseases and syndromes.

It is not an allergy. There is such thing as wheat allergy, but that’s a different animal. It’s an auto-immune disease. Yes, so are allergies to a lesser degree, but this is a full-blown auto-immune disease. In layman’s terms, an allergy is the body’s reaction to a pathogen or irritant, whereas, an auto-immune disease implies the body actually attacking itself instead of the irritant (very dumbed down, I know).

Fortunately, most restaurants can accommodate diners afflicted with this ailment. Unfortunately, gluten can sneak in if you aren’t familiar with the potential sources of gluten.

Obviously, people with celiac disease must avoid most bread products (soy and rice flour breads are fine, but how many restaurants offer this option?). It’s also not difficult to realize that pastas are out as well, since they contain wheat ( although Asian noodles such as rice noodles are fine as well as true buckwheat noodles like soba, although, even then you can’t be sure that wheat flour isn’t part of the mix, so it’s generally advisable to give it a pass in a restaurant – it might very well be safe for cooking at home if you’re able to verify that it’s pure buckwheat, which doesn’t cause problems like “true” wheat does.)

What isn’t obvious is that most soy sauces are forbidden because they are often fermented with wheat – La Choy soy sauce is apparently safe, but it’s not a very good tasting soy sauce. Most people will substitute tamari, which is a similar product without the presence of wheat. Kikkoman also claims that their soy sauce is gluten-free, but the jury is out on this.

Many things that you wouldn’t expect might contain gluten.  Here’s a list of things that celiac-suffering people should avoid:

http://www.celiac.com/articles/182/1/Unsafe-Gluten-Free-Food-List-Unsafe-Ingredients/Page1.html

The list is rather staggering, isn’t it? If you work in a restaurant that uses a lot of “pre-manufactured” bases and sauces like bullion veal stock concentrates and the like, your ability to serve your guest is  more limited (many of those use ingredients like caramel color, emulsifiers and seasonings that are on the banned list). If you work at P. F. Chang’s, Bonefish Grill or Chili’s, you’re in luck because they have a dedicated gluten-free menu (see bottom of post for a link to restaurants that have a gluten-free menu available to their guests). Be aware that all gluten free menus aren’t on the same level – Chili’s won’t really guarantee absolute gluten free. If you work in a kitchen where the cuisine is focused primarily on combining natural ingredients, you’ve got better luck than the first example. The chef will be able to tell you what sneaky ingredients go into his or her dishes and chefs are increasingly becoming celiac aware. You should also be careful with your modifiers if there isn’t a gluten free screen to order from. If you have to ring in “no croutons” or “no bun”, for instance, you really should take extra care that this is what the guest actually gets, even if it means talking to a food runner. It’s much easier if there’s a GF designation on the actual order because this means that the kitchen should make the item according to gluten free standards, not have to rely on a printed modifier.

No, you don’t have to memorize the whole list. There’s only so much you can do. Sometimes, the guests themselves can give you important information and can help you help them avoid bad ingredients.

Things that are usually OK are burgers without buns or special seasoning, steaks, from scratch marinara sauces, grilled, pan-seared or broiled chicken, fish and other unaltered meats, olive oil and balsamic vinegar cruets for salads or any dressing known by the chef not to contain anything from the banned list – many made-from-scratch dressings made in good kitchens qualify but if your kitchen uses prepackaged dressings or seasoning packets in the preparation of those dressings, then you need to be wary.

Also be wary of dishes that might use soy sauces as seasonings (many Asian-type dressings and sauces use it). Orzo is out because, even though it looks like rice, it’s actually a wheat-based pasta (as a well-informed waiter, you should already know this!)

1% or less of Americans suffer from this disease. So you won’t see many guests who need your guidance. However, you can really impress the table that needs gluten-free food by knowing what it is and being able to guide them through your menu.

Here’s a current list of restaurants as of this date that offer a gluten-free menu to their guests:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/850639/2008_guide_to_gluten_free_restaurant.html?cat=22

Celiac.com is a great source of information and every waiter to should at least pay it a visit.

gluten free menu