Saturday, September 26, 2009
No Reservations and [worries over] Pardus' Soul
Last Wednesday I drove up to New Paltz to the Mike Pardus house for a barbecue that was to be taped for an episode of Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations. Although I would have loved to have gone up earlier in the week and helped with prepping the food and setting up, I could not because my wife was away on business and I wasn't able to get someone to watch the kids until the day of the BBQ.
I arrived at 1:00PM to find Megan Jesse (Pardus' much-better half) and their friend Caitlin McNally bustling around the yard setting up tables and chairs. A pile of bricks waiting to be laid was on a newly built terrace, and the air had that smell that I always associate with the build up to dinner service or a big catering gig. The smell is a combination of the aromas of food and sweat and something that is less olfactory in affect and more tactile and cerebral: subdued panic.
In the kitchen I found a bunch of loaves of bread that had been baked by Michael Ruhlman -who'd come down the previous Sunday to help out and costar in the No-Res episode- and all sorts of plates and platters and food stuffs piled onto every horizontal surface. I wasn't surprised by the prep-list that was lying on the dining room table with my name on it , but I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud when I saw that Pardus had signed me up to mince garlic, julienne carrots, and chiffonade savoy cabbage and much more.
The reason I laughed was that I realized that, unlike other professionals, we chefs almost never go to a party without spending time in the kitchen. Firemen don't usually go to parties and get asked to put out fires and medical doctors don't go to barbecues with the expectation of examining patients, but we chefs are often tapped to help out in the kitchen. I can't speak for anyone else, but as someone who lives to cook, I'm thrilled to be able to help out.
Three hours and one change of clothes later, Bourdain, Ruhlman and the production crew rolled in and the taping commenced. I'm not going to bother to describe the party in detail. But there were a few stand-out moments that deserve to be aired.
At one point Pardus' 10 year old daughter started chatting up Tony who must have immediately realized that the kid was a ringer because in an instant the cameraman was on them. They talked on camera for about 30 minutes. I'll be very surprised if at least some of that conversation does not survive the final cut.
Another high point of the event was when Ruhlman and Bourdain praising Trent Hendrick's cheese (a 3 year old "parmesan," 2 yr old "Swiss" and a 10 day old "Camembert") and my salumi. I sure hope that dialog finds air time.
But the coolest part of the whole deal was was seeing Pardus getting so much attention. Dude's a wonderful parent, a great chef, a serious gastronome, and a fabulous teacher. It's very, very gratifying to see that I'm not the only one who knows it. It choked me the f---k up.
You might think that now that Mike Pardus is going to be on the boob tube -and probably the YouTube- that we need to be worried about it all going to his head. Well, don't be. I've known Mike for a long time and I'm confident that his ego reached its maximum allowable size long ago.
Still, I am uneasy about the state of his soul, although I'm not sure why. Let me explain.
Earlier in the evening Ruhlman came into the kitchen where I was prepping and told me that he had to make a dish with celery root for the shoot and what did I think about making celeriac remoulade? I thought it was a fine idea but when he told me how he was going to build the sauce, I suggested adding Dijon style mustard which, I believe with all my heart, compliments celeriac in same way that butter justifies bread. He agreed and we started to search the kitchen for mustard. Mike's cabinets and fridge were loaded banana blossoms, fish sauces, chili pastes, noodles and wrappers from Viet Nam, Thailand, Cambodia, China and Japan but no mustard.
There is something about the absence of mustard in Pardus' kitchen that worries me. It felt kind of like going into a house where there are no books: damp, empty and creepy.
I've heard that the show will air in February or March of 2010. Let's hope Pardus buys some mustard by then.