Instructions To The Cook

‘After the noon meal the tenzo should go to the tsūsu and kansu to get the rice, vegetables, and other ingredients for the following morning and noon meals. Once he has these, he must handle them as carefully as if they were his own eyes. Renyong of Baoneng said, “Use the property and possessions of the community as carefully as if they were your own eyes.” The tenzo should handle all food he receives with respect, as if it were to be used in a meal for the emperor. Cooked and uncooked food must be handled in the same manner. 

Next, all the officers meet in the kitchen or pantry and decide what food is to be prepared for the following day, for example, the type of the rice gruel, the vegetables, the seasoning. In the Chanyuan Qinggui it says: “When deciding on the amount of food and number of side dishes for the morning and noonday meals, the tenzo should consult with the other officers. They are the tsūsu, kansu, fūsu, ino, and shissui. When they have chosen the meals, the menus should be posted on the notice boards in front of the abbot’s room as well as in front of the study hall.” When this has been done, preparations for the next morning’s meal may begin. You must not leave the washing of rice or preparation of vegetables to others, but must carry out this work with your own hands. Put your whole attention into the work, seeing just what the situation calls for. 

Prepare those vegetables that will be used in a side dish for the following morning’s meal. At the same time, clean up the rice and leftover soup from the noon meal. Conscientiously wash out the rice container and the soup pot, along with any other utensils that were used. Put those things that naturally go on a high place onto a high place, and those that would be most stable on a low place onto a low place; things that naturally belong on a high place settle best on a high place, while those which belong on a low place find their greatest stability there. 

Clean the chopsticks, ladles, and all other utensils; handle them with equal care and awareness, putting everything back where it naturally belongs. Keep your mind on your work and do not throw things around carelessly. After this work has been done it is time to prepare for the following day’s noon meal. First of all, check to see whether there are any insects, peas, rice-bran, or tiny stones in the rice, and if so, carefully winnow them out. When choosing the rice and vegetables to be used, those working under the tenzo should offer sutras to the spirit of the kamado.  

Then, begin preparing the ingredients for whatever side dish and soup there might be, cleaning everything thoroughly of any dirt or insects. When the tenzo receives the food from the kusu, he must never complain about its quality or quantity, but always handle everything with the greatest care and attention. Nothing could be worse than to complain about too much or too little of something, or of inferior quality. 

Both day and night, allow all things to come into and reside within your mind. Allow your mind (Self) and all things to function together as a whole. Before midnight direct your attention to organizing the following day’s work; after midnight begin preparations for the morning meal. After the morning meal, wash the pots and cook the rice and soup for the noon meal.’ (Dogen, from the Tenzokyokun)

‘Climbing into a taxi on Broadway, I decide that the fish special will be grilled tuna livornaise with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. It’s a layup. My overworked grill man can heat the already cooked spuds and the blanched asparagus on a sizzle platter; the tuna will get a quick walk across the grill; and all he’ll have to do is heat up the sauce at the last minute. For the appetizer special, I’m thinking cockles steamed with chorizo, leeks, tomatoes, and white wine—a one-pan wonder. The meat special is more problematic. The tuna will be taking up most of the grill’s time, so the meat will have to be prepared at the sauté station. Not easy. Les Halles features classic French bistro food, and at any one time the sauté station has to be ready to turn out moules à la marinièreboudin noir with caramelized apples, filet au poivre, steak au poivre, steak tartare, calf’s liver persillé, cassoulet Toulousain, magret de moulard with quince and sauce miel, the ridiculously popular mignon of pork, pieds de cochon, and a navarin of lamb that comes with baby carrots, pearl onions, niçoise olives, garlic confit, tomato concassée, fava beans, and chopped fresh herbs. But I’ve got a leg of venison and twelve pheasants coming in. I decide on the pheasant. I can par-roast it ahead of time, so that all my sous-chef will have to do is take it off the bone and sling it into the oven to finish, then heat up the sauce and the garnishes before serving….

Before noon, I cut and pepper pavées and filets; skin and slice calf’s liver; caramelize apples; blanch baby carrots; make garlic confit; produce a livornaise sauce for the tuna and start a currant sauce for the pheasant; and assemble the navarin. Then I write up the specials so that Camélia can enter them into the computer and set the prices. At eight-thirty, my butcher, Hubert, arrives, looking as if he’s woken up under a bridge. He unloads the meat order—côtes de bœuf, entrecôtes, rump steaks, racks of lamb, lamb-stew meat, merguez sausages, saucisson de Toulouse, rosette, pork belly, onglets, scraps, meat for steak tartare, pork tenderloins larded with bacon and garlic, pâtés, rillettes, galantines, and chickens.’ (Anthony Bourdain, from the New Yorker)


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