On the hunter-gatherer divide, I’m decidedly a gatherer. However, when Chef de cuisine Taylor Desjarlais invited me to Chae: Modern Korean last week to watch him break down 200 pounds of pig, I couldn’t resist.
Taylor was one of the last interns to graduate from the Coach House internship program with renown-everything Chef Fleischfresser. Taylor's food is incredible; his passion for cooking is even bigger than his Iron Bibimbap. On this late night, Taylor invited friend Dan Do of Vast to hang out while he taught two of his younger chefs: Luke Cathey, 18, and Bryan Ong, 19. Hunter, Chae's Front-of-House Manager and Taylor’s wife, prepared a new drink recipe while the rest of us tucked into the back area of the kitchen.
“If they wanna learn, this is when they’re gonna do it” Taylor said, “same as the Coach House. If I wanted to learn things, I had to show up on my day off.”
This is still true today; Taylor showed up at 10 pm on his day off and spent the next four hours teaching his young chefs the art and order of butchery. Was is worth it? When I put the question to the young chefs, both of whom have graduated from the Culinary Arts program at Francis Tuttle, they agreed that it was.
“I prefer working hands on, it’s easier to remember. I’m always here to learn and the extra steps are worth it” said Bryan.
“This isn't something that happens around here” said Luke, “you don't really get this opportunity.”
Taylor broke down the first half of the pig, talking and teaching his way through it, giving guidance on where and why. After a smoke break, the crew headed back in and the young chefs were turned loose on the second side of pig with Taylor gently reminding and assisting.
Taylor has top secret plans for the pig, but this night was all about teaching his chefs the bigger picture that can’t be addressed on the line during dinner service. They're not expert butchers yet, but they were willing to stay out until 2 a.m. to try and learn something that the rest of us only see on Iron Chef. And me? I’m still a happy gatherer, but thrilled to eat any of the food prepared by anyone in that kitchen that night.