CHEFS and WEDDINGS
On the evening of our wedding neither my new bride nor I was allowed to sit down and eat, though
everyone all around us was shoveling it in shamelessly—supposedly in our honor. Decorum demanded
that Sylvie and I go around shaking hands and smiling and exchanging quips—or at very least listening to
them—instead of partaking in the extraordinary repast the highly creative, always somewhat unpredictable
but undeniably great chef had produced (supposedly in our honor). I had passed by the huge display of
cold dishes many times, admiring each tantalizing offering with the eye of the famished, but had only
managed to pop in two shrimp quickly during those brief few seconds when nobody was hauling me off
here or yanking me around there, to nod and smile and just generally pretend to be everything I normally,
naturally, am not.
There was a lovely looking rice sort of thing—really just the bed upon which the crab claws and craw-dads
lay resplendently sprawled—which I knew to be absolutely delicious, and which I knew my wife enjoyed for
its elegant simplicity. So, when the warm dishes had come out and everyone was fighting their way in
toward the lovely little mignon with truffle sauce, I slipped quietly into the kitchen where the always
somewhat unpredictable chef was bending over something that looked like a very large, goofy-eyed
salmon made of aspic. I waited for him to complete what he was doing and to stand back and admire it for a
bit before I cleared my throat. He spun around and glared at the unexpected, uninvited, unwelcome
intruder, the groom, me. I smiled.
Up until that point, I had known this man to be one of the most incredible chefs whose work I had ever had
the great good pleasure to continually be astounded by. I also knew him as the man who called from
France on July 13th to tell the owner that he would not be available to complete the preparations for our
little (sold out well in advance) Bastille Day celebration.
“Do you have any more of that rice?” I asked.
“You want rice?” he boomed.
“Well, if you have it, yes,” I said meekly. “I’ve always enjoyed that rice…and Sylvie loves it.”
Without further exchange of any sort the always somewhat unpredictable chef took a plate down from a
shelf, strode quickly over to a corner of the kitchen that was full of large covered pots and selected one.
Tossing the cover aside, he returned and in one wide overhand motion turned the entire pot upside down
onto the plate.
When he lifted it, rice spilled all over the counter top, leaving a pile about 9 inches deep covering that plate
entirely. That beautiful rice was scattered for two feet in every direction. He then took the empty pan and,
using the same overhand technique, flung it across the kitchen in the general direction of the stainless
steel sinks—where the dishwasher (after years of working with this great artiste) was quick enough to
dodge it—before it clattered into the growing stacks of Madame’s lovely precious, irreplaceable ancient
He turned to me with fury in his eyes. “You want anything else?”
“No,” I said.
“You sure? Chicken? Lamb? Beef?” He glared at me.
“No. Thank you,” I said somewhat stunned.
I found a small bowl and I spooned some of the rice into it, and was about to pick it up and leave the
kitchen when he stepped over and blocked my path. He stood six inches from my face and said quietly,
“Rice is all you are wanting?”
“Yes. Thanks,” I said.
He moved in closer still, looked me in the eye and snarled, “I’m not afraid of you.”
I took a breath for the first time since entering that kitchen. Finally something I could understand!
I snorted. I looked him unflinchingly right in the goddamned ice cold eye.
“I’m not afraid of you either,” I said good-naturedly.
Then I picked up my bowl of rice and left the kitchen.
I was delighted to find my wonderful new wife sequestered in the back, in a booth, far away from the
madding crowd, talking with some childhood friends of hers who had come from France for the occasion.
“Where have you been?” asked my lovely bride quietly.
“Riding the roller coaster to Hell,” I said.
My wife, who even then understood my every thought, explained to her friends, in French, that I had just
been in the kitchen with the always somewhat unpredictable chef.
“Oh,” they nodded knowingly. “He is quite good; no?”
|THIS is the Chef who is now teaching me to make Pizza.
(This story is kind of interesting unto itself.)