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Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Formative Years

When I met Tom about 4 years ago, I had no idea that the person I was talking with was going to give me the opportunity of a lifetime, and, worse, that I was too dense to realize it. As we sat in his office, we discussed the “opportunity” and the conversation came to a close. Tom addressed me from across the desk and said, “So, what do you think?” I said, “About what?” “The job,” he said. “What job? I don’t know what you’re asking me to do. I don’t know what the job is.”

Without hesitation, Tom said, “Well, what do you want to do?” I was stunned. “what does that mean?” I thought. I gave some kind of rambling answer. I was completely uncomfortable with this very general and open-ended kind of negotiating, and then silently vowed to stay away from Tom and his mystery project.

See, I am a very specific person. I like lots of rules and boundaries and routine and expectations. I hate surprises and hate mistakes even more. My communication style is clear (should read, “sometimes abrupt”), and I like to know everything. EVERYTHING. Every detail, every nuance, everything newsworthy, every movement of every person essential to maintaining order in my universe (and even those not so critical), every potential liability and every potential loophole.

Tom, on the other hand, is very open. Tom is open to ideas in ways that I am not. Tom is open to business in ways I am not. Moreover, though, Tom is open to relationships and people in ways that I am not.

Tom likes to say, “yes”. I like to say, “convince me.”

His mind is open to everything. Because Tom is open to everything, Tom views situations in a light that is very, very different than mine. Mirepoix is an example of Tom’s openness, but more importantly, Tom’s intelligence. Mirepoix is past its infancy, and moving past “toddlerhood”. We’ve had the proverbial “growing pains”, and all of the ups and downs that come with operating a new business.

When Mirepoix opened its doors, there was nothing like it. There is still nothing like it. Mirepoix is like a beautiful, classic, timeless dish that pushes boundaries but still appeals to those looking for warmth and comfort. In that way, Mirepoix is a portrait of its owner. I wish I could say that I instinctively knew all of these things about Tom before I accepted the job, but as I stated earlier, I was way too dense to realize what Tom was actually proposing.

I came to Mirepoix almost 4 years ago after working in professional kitchens as a garde manger, pastry chef, and apprentice at Schoolcraft for Joe Decker, CMPC, Kevin Gawronski, CMC, (International Cuisine) and Dan Hugelier (a la carte, restaurant operations).

In culinary school, I was yelled at by one of my chefs a total of 4times: Twice by Chef Decker (once for using the wrong tool to stir something, and once on an unrelated matter), once by Polcyn (for interrupting him during a butchery announcement about some lobsters that we needed for restaurant ops), and once by Gabriel for over-cooking some green beans.

As a 17 year old culinary student, needing order in my life, I was drawn to what Anthony Bourdain refers to as “the absolutes” of the business. Culinary school and the restaurant industry, though rife with its own type of chaos, debachery and outrageous antics brought a sense of order, pride and direction into my young life. I made it my priority to learn everything anyone had to teach me, ask as many questions as possible, and WATCH EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. The detail obsessed over-achiever in me was determined to be one step ahead of absolutely everyone.

Early influences include each chef who taught my classes, the lore of Milos (who we,even those of us who were too young to have worked for him, to this day, revere as a god among men), Bourdain (and the fabled Bigfoot who remains my hero to this day – I read that chapter at least once a week) and the brilliant and under-appreciated James Beard.

In business, I’m known as a perfectionist, an obsessive, over-the-top detail freak, control fanatic, colorful, descriptive, direct and outspoken communicator, an ambitious director of projects and people. I can be demanding, with standards that have been considered to be “too high” (even by some of my employers) , picky and intolerant of laziness, apathy, self-indulgence, poor-performance, and disrespect pointed towards me and my business.

Demanding as I can be, though, I will do some things that many people will not do. I will set you up for success from the beginning and let you know right off the bat, where we stand. I’m specific about my expectations, likes, dislikes, and rules. I am patient with the eager & willing to learn. I am loyal and protective of those who earn my respect.

I am constantly multi-tasking, 3 months ahead in my mind of wherever we may currently be on the calendar, and making plans for the next three months after that. I’m specific and want to know all of the information upfront. I don’t like surprises so I’m always going to try to be ready and expect you to be ready too.

I love food, I love reading about food, talking about food, and more than that, I love food theory. I love writing about food and I LOVE the food business. I love the organized chaos, mayhem, and banter. I love the angst, adrenaline and pace. I love cooks and chefs and I love dishwashers more.

I love Mirepoix as if it were my own. I hope you love it too.


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