Richard Blais

Richard Blais talks alliances.

on Jan 18, 2009

Sorry I'm a touch late this week. Ironically, it's because I spent the better part of the week at the Pennsylvania farm show, hanging out with the exact type of people that were featured in this episode. Farmers. And, well, animals. As a matter of fact, I milked my first cow! You can go to YouTube and find it if you're interested.

I've been on a few farms. I actually did an internship at Cabbage Hill, in Mount Kisco, New York. There I minded huge fish tanks of Tilapia. They swam in water that nourished lettuces. The lettuces and compost fed the vegetables outside. The vegetables were eaten by pigs, and goats, and cows. The animals were raised for meat. You get the picture -- it's the circle of life.

For a chef, it's most important to understand our ingredients. It's really easy to blow a few thousand dollars at a cheap culinary school and cook meat that arrives pre-portioned in airtight bags. It's even easier for the masses to think of lamb, chicken, and pig, just like they do a candy bar. We unwrap it, we eat it. Or maybe we even unwrap it, eat some of it, and throw it away.

Tonight reminded me very much of our pig challenge in Puerto Rico. That day we were treated to a fiesta where a whole pig was roasted. It struck me that day how that pig didn't just represent a party, or great flavor. It represented feeding a village. It was much more than food. During my training, I had quite a few chefs tell me how every stem and peel, from anything, represented money. "How could you throw 5 bucks away like that?" they'd say as they scoured the trash bin for scraps. But it's about more than business. While those guys are surely getting their monthly food cost bonuses, they still don't get it. Do our chefs tonight?