Yeah man, I’m learning so much on here. Technology and the internet is an awesome thing, but what’s really awesome is that through it we meet all these amazing and skilled people around the world. I love it. I’ve been surfing for 20+ years but this info wasn’t widely available back then, I would do the odd ding repair and use a lot of stickers lol, but it’s like I discovered this new whole new thing and I want to work on my board s when I’m not surfing which is more often than not in Florida.
Right? Tragedy inspires inaction, paralysed inaction, humor makes me ( at least) stand up and do something useful.
I was never a chef, just a prep cook/seafood guy, signed on one spring to run a high end fish market and- well, what had been there was cool, great fish market, lots of varieties, very fresh, run by a friend who had decades in the biz. He sold it to another friend who had decades in the restaurant biz and couldn't care less about anything beyond three fish species, lobster and a couple shellfish. Fish market got de-emphasized, fast, down to a very few species and those not great quality, became a source of inexpensive fish for his other, flagship restaurant. And I went from underpaid expert fish salesman and market manager to overpaid prep cook and dishwasher. That lasted about a year, I found something else to do. Restaurant work kinda sucks.
My real trade is boat carpenter, wood commercial fishing boats 40' and up, extinct trade. Trained as an engineer, peddled surf stuff, did production repairs, house building ( also sucks) , commercial fishing ( loved it, body finally gave out this year) , growing shellfish and teaching about it, did clambakes and raw bars,small production runs of furniture, lets say holding a steady job wasn't something I did. As social security is beer money and not much more, looks like furniture, shellfish growing, teaching, prototyping shellfish gear and so on are gonna be what gets me by.
Sauce mousseline, yeah, if you sweetened it, mebbe added some egg white, it'd make a fair lemon mousse, right? Funny old world it is.
(on topic content- making sauces teaches you a LOT about mixing resin well, especially epoxy, adding things like thickeners, thinners, pigments and tints. Plus you can impress girlfriends to no end with a nice Bearnaise, something that's always useful)
That's one heck of a resume, doc. I can count on one hand the different jobs I worked. First was in fact in the restaurant business as a steward. I know you said restaurant work kinda sucks, but I've always found it exciting. My old boss used to say if you can't get laid working in a resturant there's something wrong with you, and there was definitely a lot of that going on haha.
I'm no longer in it, but at the peak of that stretch I worked at the National Hotel in Miami Beach, Fl as a sous-chef for a semi-famous Chef by the name of Marvin Woods, learnd tons from that guy but man, what a jerk. I guess it's not just a cliche that a lot of chefs are like that. After that I had a ten year stretch in Marketing, and that's about it, man. These day's I'm kind of doing my own thing. BTW- my girlfriend loves my cooking, but she's simple so I can impress her with spaghetti bolognese, one of my favorite things to make.
(chuckling) - oh, there's way more than that in my checkered career. ADHD, Aspergers, low threshold of boredom, I don't know what gets the credit but here I am. Followed my curiosity for six decades plus. Might not have been conventional, but I've had a lot of fun.
I agree wth you on restaurant work. Maybe to run the brigade in the rush, maybe you need to be something of a pric#, but Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert don't seem to be. Then again, they are dealing with better than 'just wandered in off the street' types like me.
Something that has surprised and disappointed me over the years- how many waitresses there are who, in spite of being around food that much, simply cannot cook to save their lives.Give or take desserts, that is.
Obligatory surf content - in much the same way, it surprises me how few surfers really understand how boards are built, what the materials are and how they work together and so forth. Well, hey, welcome to Sways, we can fix that, right?
For what it's worth, clambakes/lobsterbakes are a great way to make decent money on the cheap. Some big stock pots, some burners, paper and plastic and not much more, do one a week and you're looking good and surf the rest of the time. Was lobstering until this spring, a lot of ours got shipped to Florida.
And- Hollandaise, over a poached egg, over smoked salmon, over an overly buttered English muffin. A smear of cream cheese on the muffin is optional, if she likes cheesecake go for it. Make her morning.
Obligatory repair content- you want your aerosil-cabosil-resin mix to be about the consistency of a good Hollandaise for the filler in a taped off poured/molded repair, otherwise go to the consistency of cream cheese ( warmed) to push into the repair. As McDing says, they both shrink as they harden and go real light on catalyst lest it overheat and crack or worse, like Hollandaise curdling over too much heat. Unlike Hollandaise, once it's cracked, you can't bring it back with a tablespoon of hot water and vigorous whisking.
How's that for a segue
Conventional is overrated. You remind me of someone, my friend Jamie, who has high functioning Aspergers. That guy is a true riot, always makes me laugh, has a wonderful way with words, he's highly intelligent and I love the man to death.
You're right though, there's tons of chefs who are nice guys, I've never worked with one personally but I've seen them on tv, and I never thought about what you said; that they kinda have to be strict in managing the kitchen, I mean it's obvious, but I never put two and two together. I'm a dumb guy.
So the swell has been great here in Florida these last past couple of days, but I'm reading your comment an hour before midnight and I'm thinking about lobster, so if it's not so choppy over the weekend I might get my scuba gear and get go me some. It's on!
Thank you for the tips on cabosil-resin mix, I'll need it for my next repair. We're getting some crazy winds down in florida and it knocked over two boards so there's more repair work I'll have to do. One got a busted fin, and it happed to be glassed on. The other got a bunch of hairline cracks in the topcoat, so it must be a polyester board? I never know the difference, but that was a 10 year old board. I'll have to do some research on hairline cracks, not sure how to tackle that one. Anywho, I'm liking your segues.
(chuckling) Right? Not like I have any real perspective, or much more than the opinions of disgruntled exes.
Now, wandering oddly on topic- the problem a lot of restaurants have, and a lot of surf businesses, is they hire people cheap and treat them like crap. Or hire people who started off as friends. You get low end people, for the most part, and they are neither motivated nor do they stay long. There are exceptions, working for Keller or Ripert or back in the day in surf biz Brewer or Becker- first, you have way more motivated people, they know it's an apprenticeship and not permanent, most importantly they are there to learn. You pay them as you pay them. Similarly, you read about Jaques Pepin's apprenticeship, or Marco Pierre White, and yeah, they initially busted ass for little or no money, constantly catching hell and otherwise lousy treatment, but that system moved people up if they could demonstrate they had the chops to do it and not that slowly. And they definitely learned.
I mantioned I help teach a course on growing shellfish small scale? Part of the thing I do is on labor. From that-
You hire cheap, they're usually unreliable, they miss tides and show up stoned as rats if they show up at all, which screws you up. You need to provide them with simple stuff like rubber waders and working gloves. And if you give them something meaningful to do, you have to watch them like a hawk, so that they don't screw you up completely, so your own productivity goes to hell.
Or, you can pay decently. In my shellfish business, you need to be there when the tide is right, that's when you get the job done, in most cases you can't do the work when the water is in. And at the same time, you're taking not-a-full-day in the middle of what might be a work day, lits as bad as split shifts in a kitchen. You need to give them a decent day's pay in that shorter time.
Well paid people show up at the dock on time or better yet early. With their own gear. With skills. And a desire to learn. Maybe most important, they know when to ask questions, so you are not suddenly confronted with a disaster. The other thing is that if you pay well, you have the right to expect the above and if somebody isn't up to it, well, somebody else is. You swap them out. The really good ones, you lose them too, but they move up and get their own scene going. You help them do that because....
The best labor is what you trade with others in the biz, you work with them on their bigger stages and they work with you on yours. Not only do they show up completely equipped, they may have better stuff than you do. You learn from that. Likewise, they may have picked up tricks you didn't know. You learn from that too. Some really smart guys do a little voluntary lending a hand work with others, to pick up a few things, and learning that somebody else's approach is lousy qualifies as picking something up. Plus, the guy you're helping now owes you a favor. You may need that some day.
It's the same with commercial fishing. Some people never get beyond half share/greenhorn pay, no matter how long they stay with it. Some really motivated people go from absolute greenhorn to full share in under a month, making very nice money. Again, there's a defined apprentice path, where you move up or are eased out.
And someplace in the archives is stuff we did a while back on how to open and staff a surf shop - including the 'surfer labor' problem.
Anyhow- lobster, yeah, I had six, perk of being an ex lobsterman, and after I gave a couple to Hot Oyster Girl I steamed what I had over two nights. But with the ones you have there, I imagine you grill them a lot - any particular tricks you like?
Dunno if I mentioned it before, cracks aren't hard, Clean them, acetone is your friend there with white rags - acetone can dissolve dyes in colored rags and give you an interesting crackle finish or permanent stain. Then, your resin needs to be thinned from, say, heavy cream to 1% milk so it'll penetrate, brush it in and work it into the cracks with your brush.
Epoxy boards of some time ago- if they came from a labelled maker, lets say, they usually had 'epoxy' on there someplace. Failing that, they tend to feel different. And failing that, well, polyester resin does awful things to styrene foam but epoxy is just fine with most anything. I haven't worked with it enough to know all the tricks, but RAKA is pretty much in your back yard (Raka, Inc. 772-489-4070, Epoxy-Fiberglass-Carbon-Kevlar Raka, Inc ww.raka.com ) and they would know, like how to thin the stuff or get it to penetrate better. I haven't dealt with them in years, but they were nice folks when I did.
That help any?
No, you never mentioned teaching a course on growing shellfish small scale, but that sounds interesting. You're into some interesting stuff, I'd like to learn more. I love shellfish, any kind of shellfish, although it's not something I prepare that often, except maybe the occassional paella or lobster pasta, I love fish pie, but that can be made with canned tuna. Every now and then my buddy will take me out and we'll catch lobster, and that's great.
For those occassions I will steam it and serve it with butter, or I'll make Lobster tortellini. I don't have any tricks for preparing lobster. Sounds like you could teach me more than I could teach you. For tortellini I use a filling of lobster meat, egg whites, heavy cream, shallots, garlic and chives. You can throw everyting in a food processor and get it to a fine paste. For the pasta infuse some saffron in about 4 ounces of water and use that instead of plain water. Then you can prepare a ginger-lime sauce to go with that. Ginger, shallots, lime juice, dry white wine, fish stock arrowroot, heavy cream and lime zest. Even my picky two year old loves it, but he won't touch steamed lobster. It's okay, more for dadda. Haha. I do grill lobster, but not as much as I steam it.
Doc, you're a tremendous help with the board stuff, really. I wasn't expecting hairline cracks to be so easy to fix, but I'm going to try your suggestion next weekend. I'm preparing to go out of town for the week so unfortunately surfing and working on boards get the back burner. Bummer, but at least I'll get to spend Thanksgiving with my crazy family.
Oh wow, dating back to my time in the '70s. Have I got a book- or several- for you.
See, I'm from Cape Cod up here in the northeast. At the very end of that cape is a place called Provincetown, which was once a fishermen's town, then the art types infested it, now it's LGBT world. And it was and still is a good restaurant town.
Now, half a century back there were not so many restaurants, but the ones thata lasted more than a couple of years were pretty good. Even the dive-looking places, you could get a good soup, maybe a baked or sauteed fish or shellfish dish and of course shellfish a lot of ways. And one of the local cooks of repute was a guy called Howard Mitcham, deaf from his youth, like a lot of cooks he had a tendancy to get utterly ossified, but he could definitely cook and he could definitely tell a story.He assembled some of that into Howard Mitcham's Provincetown Seafood Cookbook.
Now, it was a local favorite. Locally published in big paperback format, it had a lot in it, including inexpensive fish unloved by the white bread types. There was one kicking around, I dunno that my mother ever cracked the covers but I did, and liked it. Didn't have the skills, then, to make any of it, of course, but I could see what it was and it started that process for me where eventually you can read a recipe and taste it and adjust the spices and such.
And in it are, among others, the second best paella and bouliabaisse I ever had. The best were from a place called the Wellfleet Oyster House, and it took me years to reverse engineer those, and annoyingly my best buddy turns out to have been the sous there and it turns out I was all wrong. Figures. Orange zest, by the way, is the trick.
I wasn't the only one who liked it. Tony Bourdain ( who started his kitchen journey there in P-town) raved about it. And it got to where a good used copy was fetching $500 at auction. Owning a copy was the ticket in the kitchen I worked in, if you didnt own one you were just ordinary. Thankfully, it was reprinted recently, with a foreword by and kind of because of Tony Bourdain. About $15. Mitcham also did a few others, on shellfish and a good one on New Orleans cooking, he wintered there, summers up here.
Which leads me to my first surf and surfboard on-topic digression for readers in general. If you're a young-ish surfer, chasing the seasons and the weather, well, unless Daddy was rich you're gonna have to do something to pay for your wax. Waiting tables, not so great, especially if yer ugly. And you're disposable. Pushing a broom or whatever, naaah, even worse and it doesn't pay much. But cooking, not running the show but being a good reliable line cook, you can find a gig anywhere, your skills are in demand, especially in-season, And unlike waitrons, you get paid the same for every night except when it's more, you eat, you drink, surf or sleep in the sun. , work nights, do dings or build boards on your nights off. You might wind up buying a few good knives and a knife roll and a sharpening stone, or two, still cheap money. I'm not gonna tell you about the addiction of owning good knives, you'll find out soon enough. I've written that the restaurant biz sucks, it doesn't have to, there are good places and if you have skills you can work there and not at Chez Misery..
Now, grilled lobster. Get your lobster and with a heavy knife, split them lengthwise, In the processor, garlic, orange zest ( or better, tangerine or lime) , a little ginger, a little parsley, whirr to a paste. Add softened butter, blend, smear on the exposed lobster meat, then meat side up on a slow low grill. It's like snail butter on acid, has zing to it. When the meat is nicely almost done and nicely opaque, tasty butter worked its magic on the meat, flip over briefly to caramelise the meat a little and there ya go. Works with big prawns too. Change as you like, of course.
I like your tortellini, thinking raviolis with that would be delightful, in a very lightly parmesan cream with finely diced lightly caramelised ends of lobster meat and perhaps a smidgin of nutmeg? Also, if you have Amazon Prime, James May, the car guy, has a new cooking show believe it or not, no glitz, including his very celebrated Fish Pie.
Surf and building digression Number Two- You have guys that surf and know little beyond that. You have ding repair guys and you have shapers/glassers/sanders/polishers.You can think of it as a hierarchy if you like, in cooking it might equate to the hungry hordes, say next you have somebody doing one thing- fish and chips?- and then you have somebody running a kitchen. And the thing is, there are people who do one thing, fish and chips or steaks or sushi or that nice Japamese grilled chicken I can't remember he name of lets say, and they can be hacks or good journeymen or really really good, masters of it. In the same way you get guys building boards who are not very good, never will be, but their egos have them making perfectly good foam into ....things.
Now, I'm gonna say that there's nothing at all wrong with being a good ding guy. Do good work, keep learning, get better and better. You can take a lot more pride in that, or making really fine fish and chips, than in making bad fancy dinners or hacked poorly made boards.
Stay safe, man. It'd be real silly to catch this thing when a vaccine is on the near horizon.
That Howard Mitcham story was great. Just bought a copy of Provincetown Seafood Cookbook. It seems that with every one of your comments I read I end up spending money haha, but seriously, you had my attention for sure when you mentioned the paella recipe. Orange zest, that's interesting. I'm excited. And I'd really be interested to hear about any other books that you can recommend. I'm always trying to be a better cook.
I'll be honest with you, I don't consider myself a great cook, although I always make great efforts to be one, either by owning good cook books, or learning a new recipes, mastering a technique, etc.. but I'm always humbled by what a real professional can do, I don't know, maybe I'm to hard on myself. But I've always loved cooking, since I was a kid. But what some chefs can do seems almost unatainable to me.
Once I read that people find cooking mysterious and believe that all chefs have a bag of special tricks and closely guarded recipes, but really it's just relying on a few basic principles and techniques that makes it work. Thanks for the tip on grilled lobster BTW, I will try that on my next catch or maybe I'll just swing by the market and pick one up becuase it sounds too tasty to wait. That would make a great thanksgiving day meal instead of turkey.
BTW I know very well about the the addiction of owning good knives. I have a nice little Japanese knife collection, along with some JNATS. I've actually sold JNATS to fund board purchases. Some of those are hard to let go, they grow on you. You're probably a member of kitchen knife forums I take it? You'll find some insane collections on there.
So, I don't know where this new obsession of wanting to repair boards will take me. A buddy of mine who is a art designer mentioned wanting to start some kind of business. She would do the artwork and I can fix the boards? Maybe buying up some cheap boards to practice on. We're just throwing ideas around at this point. She's deep into surfboard history. Any tips? I never got into it with the intention of starting a business, but if an opportunity presents itself why not?
So regarding travel, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of flying for the holidays, but luckily we all opted for a rental van. Stay safe, doc.
Okay, combining replies to both you and Lowel here, but I'm gona tackle yours first-
Yeah, orange zest, it's a Spanish touch, or maybe French mediterranean , but it works. Chicken stock rather than fish stock too- and yeah, I just go with Minor's stock base paste.
Cookbooks are cheap, and good used are fine. Which ones do I like? Jacques Pepin of course, his technique is just a joy to watch. Elizabeth David, Julia Child, the classics. A paralell example: any dip with some money can set themselves up as an 'arteest', doing what some might call 'individualistic' and I call self indulgent crap. Yeah, Picasso went off and did some very different things, but he could draw and paint with a near photographic skill. Master the essentials, you can go from there. Develop a sense for flavors, so you can have a flavor-picture in your head and play with it, thinking about what it would taste like with lime zest rather than lemon, say, the earthy tones of lime versus the bright tones of lemon and how they'd go with what you want it to taste like.
But you get there through practice, practice and poverty helps too. Poverty so good or bad you have to eat it. Kinda drives you to get it right.
Now, some do really really amazing food, or surfboards. They combine ability they were born with with experience and learning from people who were good at it as journeymen. I mentioned Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert and I'll add the guy at that place in Denmark, Rene Redzeppi. His wife, by the way, wrote a cookbook that's great but more accessible to the likes of you and me. Anyhow, the three I mentioned, they have gotten to a point where they have a giant staff of highly motivated and highly skilled people, who can put in that last tiny detail and a scene where they can charge what that costs. Adria too, if cooking has a Picasso it's Fernan Adria.
And yeah, it is attainable. If you want to put in the man-hours on one meal that they do, them and their staffs. Or, don't, instead do a great soup, or a stew, or that damned Japanese grilled chicken thing that slips my mind, cannot for the life of me remember the word.
In surfboards- Jim Phillips comes to mind. Lovely, lovely work, when he has the right customer he does things that blow me away.
Heh- knives. I have my issues, but I haven't gone overboard. Japanese, I have globals, their sashimi knife made me a lot of money, their santoku is my go to right now, I have some others but I don't know why sometimes. Also some lovely od French thin carbon steel stuff some idiot threw away because they rusted, I get in a mood for those now and then, and then there's the German pattern heavy knives Tramontina makes that float my boat sometimes. Like, say, beers, sometimes you want a canned run of the mill ( but never an Anhauser Busch product) and sometimes you want an ale with the grapefruit hops singing at you and sometimes it's bag beer, a dry still hard cider does it for me. Oh, and, a plain $15 Dexter Russel 'stamped stainless cooks knife' works fine too. I look at the Damascus knives, lovely, but I have a buddy who collects Filipino swords, rich guy, I have access to a forge summers, might be fun to make one, in my copious spare time.
Anyhow- umm, I kinda dread anything that has 'art' involved. Best example I can give, well, shop I worked at sold Plastic Fantastic surfboards. Mostly they were amazing, functional, well made, went like hell. But there was one we got in, and the airbrush fairy had definitely waved the wand at that one, hard. Gorgeous work on it, the universe in many dark, dark colors, stars and moons and planets. I have never seen an airbrush job to compare with it. But the board itself sucked. Rails were just not right, outline shape strange, rocker....yeah, it was a canvas, not a surfboard. Stoners would come in to sit on the sand ( we had a sand floor) and stare at it and mutter 'cosmic' a lot. I hope it's hanging on a wall somewhere. And that I don't have to fix it. That really deep dark sky deck would delam in one good July day in the sun.
Now, what I'm thinking about is just what does your art friend bring to this church supper? Yeah, she can throw design at it, but overall does it justify itself? If you're repairing boards, adding all that on, what does that get you to make it worthwhile and who's gonna buy them for what it has to cost? I knew a guy from Florida, what, 30-40 years back, only surfer I ever saw wear a toupee in the water. It didn't go well. He built boards...for displays, for the entertainment industry as props. Saw one he built as a surfboard, and it made a great coffee table, it absolutely sucked as a surfboard. He had his market, he knew it and he was specific on what he did. If you're aiming for a market like that, well, buy blanks, sand them a little and glass them smooth and spray paint them for further paintwork. Nothing wrong with that, it's like doing the catering for an art gallery. The food doesn't have to be particularly good, just non-poisonous and priced right. Gallery owners are cheapskates, they give out low end box wine at those things. Art types eat ramen out of styrofoam cups and overload it with Sriracha or else go to big name hipster places when somebody else is buying, they don't know the difference.
Dunno if that makes sense- in any event, yeah, staying safe, I'm old and fragile, at least in this scene.
Lowel- you waded through that, thanks - me, I like just about anything that comes out of the ocean. Just about, mola I think I'll skip. Just a question of what you do with it. Here, things come and go, some of them. Lovely little sweet bay scallops, mussels, couple flavors of clams, some years they're here and some they are not. And some are here all the time. Oysters are getting so cheap that I'm getting out of them, everybody and their brother Fred is growing the things and the high end half shell market is saturated, price has dropped so that I'd be better off stocking shelves, going over to a couple of varieties of clams instead, maybe some high end niche mussels , maybe see if I can grow laver seaweed to make Nori out of. Gotta roll with the punches.
Myself, I think my favorite is the good old blue mussel. At the risk of sounding like an out-take from Forrest Gump, I like 'em steamed, sauteed, smoked, roasted - versatile little guys, and the ones we get here are extra sweet and meaty, a function of the particular plankton blend they get here. And cheap when they are plentiful. Oddly, deep frying them doesn't really work.
Anyhow- I need to get on the road, want to load up the pantry, it's gonna be ugly for a while and I want to limit my exposure