Wild for Olives & Sexy Scallions
While taking care of some JeremyCook’s business, I visited Todd English’s Wild Olives, which recently opened up here in Boca Raton. For those of you who are not familiar with Todd English, he is a well-known chef and restauranteur. You might have seen him on Iron Chef a while ago when he made a Mozzarella Balloon. (he’s also been on Top Chef and stars on his own PBS program called “Food Trip with Todd English”) His first restaurant, Olives, (he now has close to 20 around the country) is located in the Boston area and is widely known for its hearty Italian cuisine. Todd is also renowned for his famous thin flat bread’s. Ok, back to the “business trip”, I had met with Rich Leadbetter (Executive Chef at Wild Olives) to discuss writing a blog and possibly shooting a Cookisode with him (stay tuned thats coming soon). What I didn’t expect was that he asked me if I would be interested in working at the restaurant, and without any hesitation I jumped at the offer. Although my internship at Stonebridge County Club has been a great experience which I will carry with me forever, it was time to move on and try something new and different. As you all know my plan is to one day open my own restaurant so this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
During the past few weeks, I’ve worked in the Wild Olive’s kitchen amongst some extremely talented people. Working in a restaurant kitchen is very different from cooking at a country club for banquets where you’re cooking for big numbers all at one time and much of the food is prepared in advance. In restaurants there are certain items such as dough and a few sauces that have to be pre-prepared, however, the majority of their food is cooked right on the line, the garde manger [gard-mahn-zhey] area (cold food preparation), or in the back near the pastries.
One thing I have learned is that the ticket printer (which prints out the orders), is the heartbeat of the kitchen. When the first order prints out the cooking begins, and things don’t stop until the printer does! My first night at Wild Olives I got to work in the back with the flatbread maker. I learned to prepare all of the flatbreads such as the Fig and Proscuitto, Bronx bomber, Bianca, Margarita, Shrimp and Chorizo and a couple of more. They stretch their dough out and flash bake them (meaning you bake the dough for only a couple of minutes and then bake it again when your topping’s are on), which gives the crust a fresh crunchy texture. They dust their dough with semolina flour to elevate the pizza when its cooks so it doesn’t stick. The Fig and Proscuitto pizza is mouthwatering and its finished off with a balsamic syrup and “sexy scallions”! That’s what Todd English likes to call his scallions, so I guess when there isn’t enough scallions on the pizza its just not sexy enough!
Last Saturday I got to work with a real life wonder women. Marie, who works the Garde Manger area and is originally from Haiti. She can put out 50 orders in a timely fashion and not break a sweat. Her speed is incredible, (and everything comes out perfect and beautiful) when I’ve segmented 2 orange’s she’s segmented 20 in only a matter of minutes. She taught me how to prepare all of the salads such as the Boston Bibb, Classic Caesar, and the Tuna Tartar. I also learned how to prepare the desserts such as Cheese Cake, Cookies and Cream and a lot more. Jamie who is the Sous Chef is very enthusiastic and he oversees the whole operation when Chef Rich isn’t in. He stand’s in the pantry (the other side of the line) and makes sure all the orders come out in a 20-minute time frame. He also garnishes most of the dishes but he’s the one that gives that extra boost of energy to the kitchen. All of the waiters have incredible personalities, they always greet each other and always have a joke to tell, it’s like a big family. Hopefully I’ll be meeting Todd English at the upcoming South Beach Food and Wine Festival. , which I will be covering for JeremyCooks. Well, it’s off to another day of work, I’m so excited, I’ll have more stories to dish up soon enough! Keep on cooking.
Posted by Jeremy Salamon