I’m having a hard time thinking of a way to start this entry. It honestly blows my mind, even now, that I had a chance to work in a kitchen that I respect so much.
I showed up a few minutes early, and a bit over-caffeinated, to ensure I knew exactly where I was going. The pink awning and round lights I quickly recognized from the many photos seen whilst Googling everything Prune. “Do I just walk-in or should I knock?” I thought to myself. The door was unlocked and I didn’t seen anyone moving about. “There’s a bench, I’ll just wait there if no-one shows up or hears my hello.” A girl came in behind me and introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Tirzah, I’m a cook here.” Instantly, I felt at ease. She was nice and offered to take me downstairs to meet the chef and my contact for the stage, Dara. I could tell Dara had her shit together from the moment we shook hands. The shake was professional, and she looked very in charge in her uniform. “Just change over here in the hallway, we all do, unless you want to use the bathroom.” I tried locating the correct sizes of my chef coat and pants. First pair of pants was a 36 which I didn’t realize, so I stood embarrassed trying to keep my pants up while looking for another smaller size. Feeling as if this was already the start to a day where I looked like a bumbling bafoon, in walks Gabrielle Hamilton. “Hi, I’m Garbrielle. You’re Joe from Seattle?” I nearly died, but tried to play it cool. “Yep, it’s nice to meet you,” was all I could muster. She informed that she wouldn’t be staying as one of her kids was home sick from school. Bummer, but understood. She looked exactly as she did in every interview I’ve seen…great silver and brown hair pulled back, cool glasses, puffy vest and jeans. As she walked out, Grace, another cook came by to grab her uniform and offered a smaller pair of pants, a 32, for me to wear that day. Saving Grace. Grace has that very Claire Danes from My So Called Life look to her, and reminded me a lot of my pal Allie, so I was instantly endeared. Mashama was the last of the group to arrive at the prep table. She’s the sous chef with a super inviting smile and laugh. We got cutting boards set up and went straight to work.
That day I helped with various things, cutting a lot of vegetables, including cardoons and fresh cranberry beans which I’d never worked with before. I was asked to make the crème anglaise for the evenings dessert, a delicious chocolate brioche bread pudding served on a pool of the creme and dusted with confectioners sugar. Family meal that evening was fried chicken with an assortment of salads. Dara and Mashama said for the remainder of that day I’d be watching dinner service, like standing in the kitchen watching the magic happen. “Do I need to do anything?” I asked, “Just take it in.” Unf*&$%ingbelievable. I was being asked to do nothing but learn how Prune rolls, to watch the techniques, platings, the flow of a kitchen that is busy and food that is taken so well taken care of. I was afraid to snap too many photos to not appear unproffesional, but got a few just so I could remember what I was experiencing. The evening was showcasing the new early fall menu which includes a whole roasted rabbit, pork chops with braised cabbage, grilled Branzino, and seared duck breast with braised cippolini on top of dandelion greens. I didn’t get a chance to write the whole menu down, so the plan is to head back this week for dinner. I have to be thorough, right?
The remainder of the evening watched and gathered prep items as the line needed them. Around nine Moshama said I could grab a drink and a snack since they wanted me back at 11 the next day. I had a glass of red wine and the monkfish liver which I believe was soaked in soy with buttered crostini. So delicious. The monkfish tasted extremely ocean-like with a slight recognizable liver flavor. Super creamy and so-so-good. I waved my goodbyes and said my thank yous and headed home with my head in the clouds.
Friday is a delivery day so I helped Paola, one of the brunch cooks, prep items for the EXTREMELY busy weekend brunch. She says they do something like 200+ covers a day. WOW! The prep list is intense as there are so many elements, everything from ranchero sauce to pancake batter, Russ and Daughter’s smoked and cured fish, etc etc. One of the project Dara had me start on was the boiled cow tounge which is used for dinner service. This was my first time doing this but it came together really easily with a basic mirepoix, just enough water to cover, a bay leaf, peppercorns and a little salt. It cooked for about 2 1/2-3 hours until really tender. Once cooled, I peeled the skin off and covered with the strained braising liquid. It may sound a bit strange, but it’s really delicious. I’m planning on making it for friends when I get back to Seattle. I also helped make the flatbread dough, breadcrumbs, clean oysters, and prep items for and event Gabrielle had over the weekend. Around 6 Dara sent me home, but offered a glass of wine downstairs. Her, Paola, and I chatted for a bit before saying goodbye for the day.
On Saturday, my friend Kim and I woke up early and made our way to the restaurant to experience the brunch. By 9:45am you could already tell the place was going to be full, with a few of the end of liners having to wait a bit. We sat up at the bar, and ordered a couple mimosas. They have an extensive and impressive bloody mary menu that features pickles and beef sticks, etc. I was feeling like a bloody might fill me up but next time, I’ll try for sure. Kim ordered the Spicy Stewed Chickpeas with butter crumbed eggs, preserved lemons and olive buttered bread. I went with the Huevos Rancheros which included two baked eggs in a tomato, garlic, and chili sauce, black beans, avocado, cilantro, tortilla chips and lime. To share we had the super crispy potato rosti. Everything was so incredibly good and really was one of the best brunches I’ve had. I purchased the book before leaving as a memento, said by to Dara who was busily working the line with Paola, and headed out for a day with Kim in the city.
My extreme gratitude and thanks to Chef Gabrielle, Dara, Moshama, Tirzah, Grace, Paola and the countless other folks I met during those two days. Your kitchen has won my heart and I can see why Prune continues to charm people over and over again. Opening up your kitchen to someone who cold-emailed one day with big hopes of maybe getting a glimpse into your world made my entire trip. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m really looking forward to the Prune cookbook next year and hopefully cooking with all again in the future.
Inspired and ready to cook,
Note: The quality of the photos are not all that great. Again, was trying to not just be standing around taking photos the entire time.