Gee

BY CHRIS OKORIE, NYC: Well folks, it’s almost over. Nine months in this amazing city for myself and Calvin have basically come down to just a few days left. I’ll be honest that it’s almost a bit unsettling just how swiftly my time in New York has flown. The difficulty of it all is finding myself trying to wrap my head around not only these past nine months, however these past 23 years of my life. Last month was a pretty rough one, and  I’d found myself reflecting heavily on the decisions that I’ve made during my time on this earth. The what if’s, or as my “gee” would always say “should’ve would’ve could’ve”. Last month, I had to take an unexpected visit back to my home in New Orleans.

New York had pretty much gone relatively smooth for myself up until June, like  people understand me when I say “smooth” I mean like Parkay or Mrs. Butterworth smooth like not one big hiccup at all. Understand me people I’ve learned more skills, terminology, techniques that I’ve ever learned in my life about the culinary field. I’ve lost weight, made new friends,  I can now speak very very very very bad spanish, and thanks to master Calvin I find myself watching food network shows like “Top Chef” and “Chopped” stuff I was never really into (also Calvin is a huge Vampire Diaries fan, weird right)?

Man as I’m writing this stuff, the more I realize New York has really done WONDERS for me; and not one day passed by that I didn’t call my grandmother, and talk to my “Gee” as I’ve always called her.

Not one day went by in my life that woman has not been apart of mine. ‘Through good times and bad” from when I had my first crush on Sydney in kindergarten, from when I got in my first fight with Milton in 3rd grade (My good friend now). From when I received my first A on my volcano project that she helped me with, or when I had to go to summer school caused I failed the LEAP. From seeing momma buy that 03 Honda Civic to witnessing us lose it, and everything we owned, in hurricane Katrina. Having a flashback now of my mother, grandmother and I all walking through that water together. From us all making it out of hurricane Katrina alive, to losing my mother (her daughter) 3 months later. From seeing me receive my high school diploma, me stumbling upon Cafe Reconcile, from seeing me get my first car. And my greatest accomplishment, her being there when I won the John Besh scholarship, she’s always been there.

“Should’ve would’ve could’ve” I should’ve noticed my grandmother was sick these past 3 years, is what I was saying to myself at the time, I would’ve been there for her even more, I could’ve helped her in whatever way she’d needed.  The love of my life passed away the night before I arrived to see her in June. She never told me anything, as usual she didn’t want me to worry, and to echo the words she used when my mother passed “Be thankful that god gave you 15 good years with yo momma, because some children never got a chance to see their mothers  at all”. And I am so thankful that god gave me 23 amazing years with you Gee. So as of now I’m truly counting my days people, New York has been truly amazing and I’m going to miss it.

Emery:  You are an amazing person, I love you thank you so much for everything. Many days go by that I just can’t believe that this has happened to me, and none of this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for you, Jessica, Chef John, Lauren, and the rest of the crew, one mo time…… Thank you so much and I love ya’ll

Calvin: Homie these past few months with you have been really fun and I can’t wait for that to continue when we head back to the city……. Calvin “I’m no longer a one man wolf pack, My wolfpack has grown by one” (Hangover 1) I love ya homie.

I’m hitting the old Dusty trail people……… I’ll catch ya’ll next time!

In loving memory of Marilyn “Gee” Davis

Copasetic…….. Coco-Stetic???

BY CHRIS OKORIE, NYC: “WHAT IT DO PEOPLE”? I’m back with another blog, this time on Cinco de Mayo, about to deliver to you (the reader) the “lowdown” on what I’ve been up to for the past few week; a.k.a “Chris and Calvin’s ghetto stories”. Nam sayin? Believe it or not, I’ve never known exactly what Cinco de Mayo was so I googled it, and some really interesting stuff. Not trying to give a history lesson, but for people like me who didn’t know it’s just a day to celebrate Mexico’s freedom and democracy. The “Battle of Puebla” took place in Puebla, Mexico where mexican armies defeated french forces during the time of the American Civil-war. Pretty interesting stuff right? I celebrated Cinco de Mayo last night after work watching the “Pretty Boy Floyd” vs. Robert Guerrero fight…….. 44-0 BABY!

    Oh yea, so let me talk about what I’ve been up to for the past few weeks. How should I put this…….. everything has been pretty “coco-stetic”.  My Uncle Mark who is an avid reader of my blogs sent me a text with a  link to webster dictionary’s definition of the word Copasetic along  with a caption that read….  “Please stop running around the Big Apple trying to use words that you can’t spell boy”. So the word is……. Copasetic, not Coco-stetic. And to be honest these past few week has been everything but unsatisfactory.  Jessica Bride took me out to eat Sushi at an amazing restaurant “Sushi of Gari” which easily was the best dining experience of my life. Everything was delicious: we sat at the bar and we did what is called omakase. The chef just basically started whipping up a bunch of different types of sushi and sashimi for Jessica and I, it was AMAZING!

A few weeks before that, I had my first on air radio interview which was really exciting. Ms. Michel Martin was the host and Chef Besh and I talked about the scholarship. I loved every minute of it and if you didn’t hear it http://www.npr.org/programs/tell-me-more/ Enjoy!

WARNING……….  I’ve been told that I sound like a young Billy D Williams on the mic.

Oh and how can I forget meeting Mrs. Rachael Ray the other day? I was invited on set to cook for the staff of the show, I had an awesome time meeting Rachael and her staff was hilarious and funny people.

What else??? ummmmm……. Oh yeah, duh! School, it’s been very fun as of late, I’m finally in the kitchen at L’ecole and currently on Garde Manger. Work at Ai Fiori has been awesome as usual.

So I guess it’s time to hit that old Dusty Trail…………. Good Day People…… I hope your weeks have been as “co-co stetic” as mine.

Also, my and the entire Chefs Move! program’s hearts go out to the people affected by the tragedy in Boston.

Good Friday

BY CHRIS OKORIE, NYC: Hello there readers! I’m back with another blog highlighting my life in April. So far so good I must say, April has been pretty “co-co stetic”. Balancing work and school for these past few months had been a breeze, however with both school and work are becoming a bit more demanding, I must say that now its becoming more of a tougher task. It’s all about finding that balance however, just as with everything in life.

So, I’m in charcuterie class in FCI right now and it’s going really well. The way this works is we basically came together as a team, and basically all costed out a menu for two buffets, our charcuterie buffet and our grand buffet. They fun part is that whatever we costed out, we also cooked! So with the help of Chef Brian Landry (my mentor) I made chorizo boudin balls with a charred tomato aioli. Everyone loved it and it came out really well. And for the grand buffet I’m making (drumroll please) GUMBO! This is going to be my first gumbo (believe or not) and it turned out pretty well. Friday is the day of our Grand buffet (hence the name, good Friday) and I can’t wait, everything that our whole class worked so hard will be on display to taste for the whole school.

So I’m going to hit that old dusty trail a bit early this time folks, and “holla at ya” next month. PEACE!

March Madness

BY CHRIS OKORIE,  NYC:

Hola! Me llamo Chris y este es mi blog de marzo. Translation: Hello my name is Chris and this is my March blog. Si senor, Spanish 101 is officially in effect. Learning Spanish (the language of love) has been a long time goal that I always wanted to accomplish; and my roommate Eli is helping me kick start that by teaching me the basics. These past two weeks have been fun, Eli has been drilling different words and phrases into my head every day. I mean seriously people we have been going through everything from how to count (Uno, dos, tres), how to say wassup (Que Pasa), how to greet a beautiful lady (Hola bonita), How to say curse words (……….) It’s weird however, though I always wanted to learn the language, it seems as though since moving to NY, learning Spanish went from being a future hobby in my free time, to almost a priority. As far as diversity goes in America, New York City is really stirring that “melting pot”. In NYC you’re bound to run into different ethnicities of people that either speak more than just english, or don’t even speak it at all. Spanish people aren’t the only ones speaking Spanish; Caucasian and African-Americans aren’t just speaking English; Everyone speaks a bit of everything in NY which I find amazing.

Other than learning Spanish I’ve also been cooking (duh). School has been dope as of late. OH WAIT, forgot to mention that I’m now in level 4 of the culinary program at ICC. To pass from level 3 to level 4 I had to take my mid-term. So the way that it worked was I moonwalked into class at 5:45 p.m., and chef made me draw from a hat. In that hat contained two different recipes either Pot au Feu and Salad Nicoise, or Skate fish and Apple tart. So not only did I not know what dish I was going to get prior to class, but I also didn’t know what time I was going to have to present these dishes also. So I ended up getting the fish and apple tart (much harder by the way) and I had to present the fish by 8:45 and the dessert by 9:37 to judges, former alumni of ICC. So how was it? Exciting! The entire experience of trying to rush and meet the deadline without missing a single component and still making sure to season and taste your food was so much fun. I definitely won’t say it was easy, nor would I say the judges thought my food was perfect because for one I forgot my lemon supremes on my fish  Although I made up for that big time because two of the judges said I had the best apple tart in the class (nodding at Calvin). And level 4 is family meal so basically we are cooking for the entire school staff along with the students.

Umm let me think, what else happened? Work at Ai Fiori is going really good. Chef PJ is still one of the coolest chefs that I ever met, and my sous chef Gordon is always having my laughing at his sporadic 2 chainz rap quotes at random times of the night (“Yea it’s going down so get up, I might valet park a brinks truck”) . My grandmother and the rest of the gang in New Orleans is doing just fine also. Well people I guess its time to “hit that old dusty trail people” talk to you guys next month!

BUENAS NOCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

February Blues

BY CHRIS OKORIE, NYC: This has not been a good way to start a month. “Sniffle” “sniffle”, I’m not sure if I’ve been battling with a cold or the T-Virus from Resident Evil, however up until today I’m finally getting the best of it. “Cough” “Cough”, Being Sick ain’t fun, nor is it something that I’m accustomed to. There has always been two things that I’ve brag about in my life when it comes to myself; my devilish good looks and my immune system, thank goodness my face hasn’t let me down yet. Although, prior to getting sick I’ve been having a ton of fun in NY so if y’all don’t mind I’ll pop a Nyquil and get right into it.

So what should I talk about first? Oh yea, New Orleans Hornets vs. New York Knicks. Yup! I went to my first Knicks game, (Thanks again Jessica) and it was awesome. Madison Square Garden was vibrant and exciting, and though my Hornets lost I still had a darn good time. We hung in there in the first half, however once Melo got hot it was way too much for my “soon to be” Pelicans to withstand. Basketball has always been my favorite sport, and to be fortunate to watch a great team with all sorts of history as the Knicks play in person at MSG, that is an experience and a memory that I’ll cherish forever.

As usual school has been super exciting also. I’m now officially in Level 3 of the culinary program at ICC. In this level, we are given a set of recipes and are assigned stations. Depending on what station I’m on, I’ll have to make that assigned dish (4 plates) and it will be critiqued at the end of the class by chef. The best dishes get put on display at the end of the class to show students how the dish is supposed to look and taste. I get so tired of chef putting my food on display, I be like “ yo chef come on man not today you’re embarrassing me”. chef be like “but it’s like so perfect ya know” and I be like “It’s nothing to a boss chef”

I’ll be totally honest about something also, this cold ain’t the only sickness that I’ve been having to deal with. As awesome as New York has been to me over the past few months, I’ve been missing N.O. like crazy. Missing hanging out with my friends uptown, missing catching that Broad bus to go downtown (transfer to the streetcar), missing the food, missing my old job at Cafe Adelaide, heck I even miss the smell of Bourbon street walking home at night, (on second thought) And of course on top of everything I miss my grandmother and the rest of family the most. However I realize that I’m only here for a few, and have been blessed with an amazing opportunity so I can hold for a while longer and continue to pray for everyone back home.

Well once again my brothas and sistas! It’s been real but I gotta hit that old dusty trail……

Good Night People, and talk to you next month!!!………….. “HA CHU” “HA CHU”!!!!

Bringing in the New Year!

BY CHRIS OKORIE, NEW YORK CITY: Thank you Lord Jesus for letting me see another year. It’s 2013 which means its another year to get more wise and make better choices for my future. The year 2012, where do I start? From finally getting on the “hot line” at Cafe Adelaide, taking a road trips to see my friends from high school, DESTROYING! my Uncle Mark in pool twice in the same night (it never happened again) and of course, how can I not talk about the one event that changed my life for the good, winning the scholarship to NY. So to sum it all up, 2012 was AWESOME! (LOL @ Mayans)  I’ll get this out of the way now while I’m at it also….

My New Years Resolution: read the darn weather reports before I leave the apartment.

So since I’m not sure what 2013 will have in store for me, I’ll talk about my experiences in our final month in 2012. So I’ve noticed that I haven’t really talked a lot about school in my blogs so I’ll devote some time towards that. It’s going great. I’m in Level 2 of the culinary program at ICC (easily passed level 1) and for the most part Level 2 was basically all about the basics of desserts. How to make your basic tart dough, Souffles, Creme A’nglaise (custard) and we even made some beignets!!!! So basically Level 2 was pretty laid-back, however very informative. Level 2 basically gave all students a basic foundation in the wide world of pastry. Pastry is really awesome because if you know the basics of it, the rest is just you using your imagination to create almost anything (though I will never get to Master Calvin’s level of pastry creativity).

Christmas in NY was fun, or should I say Christmas at Ai Fiori. Though I had to work my coworkers and I really had a awesome time, by the end of the night we did 450 people in one day! It was great!

Well its been real people but its time for me to hit that old dusty trail. Talk to you guys next month!!!

The October Wrap Up!

BY CHRIS OKORIE, NYC: Firstly, time really flies! It seems like yesterday that Calvin, Emery, and I boarded the plane and arrived to New York; Now all of a sudden its been one whole month already. Let’s see, I had a ton of fun and memorable experiences this month in October but I won’t bore everyone with all of my adventures. So I guess I’ll give you (The reader) my October highlights in the “Big Apple”.

My schooling at the ICC has been exciting to say the least. So far I’ve passed both my exams (though disappointed with two B’s) and also learned new techniques in the process. One of those techniques that I’m still mastering is called the tournage. Its basically cutting vegetables; carrots, potatoes, turnips etc. into oval shaped football looking cuts. Sounds easy? Well it ain’t, because first few cocottes (size cut from tournage) looked more like a toe than a football. But one of the many perks of being a student at the ICC is that we are working with amazing chefs who work with all of us students and are constantly making us better.

Probably my most memorable experience as a cook so far also occurred in the month of October. I had the privilege of working at The James Beard House, volunteering with Chef Raul Vaquerizo of Riu Panama hotels. I need to look up a synonym for fun because the 3 letter commonly used word doesn’t do enough justice of describing the amount of it I had. Chef Raul is a hilarious chef who I immediately took a liking to; I had noticed when I was unloading their produce the day before the James Beard, that they had several 6 packs of bottled coke with them. I asked was it for a dish of some sort, Chef says, “Are you crazy, this for us to drink!” Chef Raul did some real dope dishes at the Beard House, and at the end he gave a great speech to all the guests. Thank you Ms. Gina Novak for making all of that possible.

Lastly, and most importantly my hearts go out to all affected by Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the Tri-State area. I went and stayed at my uncle’s home in Brooklyn which received no damage at all, but I can’t say the same for most people in Brooklyn and surrounding areas, and I wish them a swift recovery.
And also a special thanks to Laurie Larson who provided myself and Calvin with Thomas Dean shirts and to Lolis Eli for the DVDs!

Has it sunk in yet?

BY CHRIS OKORIE, IN NYC: A week ago from today I boarded flight 210 at Louis Armstrong International Airport arriving at JFK International airport in New York and starting the most exciting chapter in my life. All the while prior to actually being in New York I was constantly being asked the same question from friends, family, and co-workers, and it was “so Christopher, has it sunk in yet”??? My response to this question almost never changed always my cool laid-back one lining response of “nope” and sometimes I’ll give them the occasional “naaaaaaaaah”.

So after surviving the first week of New York, I will once again respond to the question that everyone wants to know, “Has it sunk in yet” at the end of my blog. New York in comparison to New Orleans is basically another world. There are skyscrapers on every block, food stands on every corner, and a Starbucks & Duane Reade, in every neighborhood. Times Square is vibrant and lively, Chinatown is cheap and delicious, and Calvin Virgil dragged me to a 24 hour Apple store on fifth avenue, in which I immediately asked myself why do anyone need a 24 hour Apple store? I’ll also like to take this time to debunk the myth of the “Rude New Yorker”. I’ve gotten lost almost every single day in need of directions and had no problems getting them from anyone.

Although New York is an awesome city, I’ve been away from my family for a period of one week and are already missing them. Thankfully everyone that is apart of the Chefs Move scholarship have already made me feel apart of their own family. Whether its Emery inviting Calvin and me to go eat bagels, or Jessica making us a home cooked meal, I feel blessed to be in an amazing position surrounded by extraordinary people.

The more I write this blog the more surreal this is all becoming to me. I started my cooking career at Cafe Reconcile which is a restaurant aimed at helping young people like myself get off the street and find jobs in the restaurant or hotel industry. After graduating I worked at Cafe Adelaide in the Loews hotel for 2 ½ years starting out as a food runner and finally getting my shot in the kitchen a year later.  I feel forever indebted to David Emond of Cafe Reconcile who recommended me for the Chefs Move Scholarship in January of this year which I ultimately won.

Chris, left, and Calvin, right, on Jet Blue heading to New York City

Chris, left, and Calvin, right, on Jet Blue heading to New York City

I pray and thank God everyday of my life, and also my mother who is looking down on me who are all helping me achieve this small ounce of success at a young age. I cannot thank everyone involved in the Chefs Move organization enough: Chef Besh, Jessica, Emery, Lauren, and the entire crew I love y’all so much and thanks for everything.

And finally to answer the question that everyone wants to know “Christopher has it sunk in yet”???

My response has finally changed, “Yes it has, and I’m loving every bit of it.”