I’m a guy who has made his life in the food world by unusual means, I don’t always get the opportunity to spend time in traditional kitchens. When you are in a business that requires you to seek consistent, well organized plan of attacks, you are going into a battle, not armed with weapons of force and steel, but with heat and flavors to win over your critical foe.
I had the chance to join up with some peers and was asked to be the photographer and videographer of a fundraising event that took place at the now closed Six89 main restaurant which was a Chef Mark Fischer concept in Carbondale, Colorado.
These events are always a ton of fun to be involved with. If you have never been to a James Beard event or a Slow Food event, you are missing out on something special.Each one of the organizations do amazing things for the food world.
The James Beard Foundation’s mission: ” is to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America’s culinary heritage and future”, from the James Beard Foundation website. In the food world, to receive a James Beard award is like winning an Oscar.
Slow Food’s mission: Slow Food works to defend biodiversity in our food supply, spread taste education and connect producers of excellent foods with co-producers through events and initiatives. This is world changing stuff.
As a guest, you get the chance to sample a selection of different dishes prepared by a number of different chefs who took time away from their own restaurant to be involved. 99% of the time, the Chef will be there cooking and not sending his or her minions, which is always a good thing.
As chefs, we get the chance to create something special, unique and inventive at these events. Not only to wow the guest but to throw down some culinary ego just to get favorable response from our peers. Sure, we all go in there with 100% good intentions but no one will show up with that “caesar salad” the restaurant got famous for. That would be just stupid. We have a chance to work with and not just sit and bullshit with, other great chefs and try to WOW them with a cool new idea or a inventive presentation. Yes we are a territorial lot, bitches.
I love these events and have been involved with many of them. I find them inspiring and a chance to get to know other ‘like kinds’ with a purpose.
I made this short video to share the teamwork of a working kitchen during a plating of one of the dishes. Just take note that this is the first time that many of these chefs have ever worked together. Watch the rhythm of how they assemble the plate and the focus and joy everyone of them is experiencing. Enjoy this and please leave your comments. Please be sure to follow this blog and share it with your friends.
(I know I have forgotten to mention a number of people in this video to this list, Please contact me and I will add you and your links to this blog.)
The City Guide
It’s 7:10 in the morning not so long ago and I am headed into work. A year ago that would have meant getting out of bed, maybe taking a shower, putting on my guide shirt, grabbing my vest and rods, load up the truck and be at the fly shop with a total of an 8 minute commute. I would meet my clients for the day and go fishing wherever I felt it would be great on the Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers. That was my “work” for 18 years.
Today, I get out of bed, definitely take a shower, get dressed in my monkey suit, grab a coffee, get stuck in traffic, get aggravated and then try be the best employee I can be in the new city job I have recently taken on. I like the first paragraph of this story much better.
The changes I have made to move to the big city are all for good reason, I was fishing for love and I landed her in Denver. So I made this commitment and moved from the Roaring Fork Valley to the “Big D” to begin my life with my bride to be. All of that is good. Here’s the catch though. This change of lifestyle does make guiding and my love of the river a bit, if not a lot, more difficult. So, it begs to be asked, how does a mountain guy, fly fishing guide adjust to his new surroundings?
He doesn’t. What he does do, is try to view the world through trout colored glasses.
This summer, I was pining to go on the Fryingpan River, remembering the how the water rushed around my waders with the occasional caddis fly going up my nose. I had to get a fix. So I went down to South Platte River right here in downtown Denver and found an eddy behind a trashed grocery cart freshly thrown into the river. I took a number of big inhales through my nose to get a whiff of the fresh smog from a nearby factory to help transport me back to the place that I love. To my surprise it didn’t work. But I was still optimistic.
Just the other day on my way into work, I stopped in the coffee shop directly across the street from my house called Stella’s. I go there every day to get a medium cup of danger monkey dark and chat with whoever is behind the counter. This place is just like any other coffee shop in any other small town. The other morning I noticed a pick-up truck with the license plate ‘6X20RS2’ (referencing the fly pattern, an RS2, and the size of the fly and tippet). Now that is a very specific vanity plate. A big smile came across my face and I just had to go and find out who this person was. I strolled around and found the only guy (this is not sexist statement, there was only dudes in the coffee shop) that fit the “I like getting a line wet” look.
Let me stop here for a moment. There are always two perspectives when you live in a destination resort area; the locals and the tourists. I have always been a local, very rarely a tourist. So, it is not uncommon for us locals to strike up a conversation with someone that you might not know and talk about anything – fishing, skiing, biking, whatever. They are often just excited to be there and to get an inside scoop on what’s going on out there and what bug is hot.
I say to this guy, “Dude, is that your truck? You must fly-fish. That’s pretty light tippet.” This is when I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. A curt “Ya-and…?” is all I got. Nothing, zilch, nada. I found myself standing there awkwardly, not as a knowledgeable local guide with an information starved tourist or as tourist with tourist getting ready to swap fish stories, but instead as the guy interrupting said dude with newspaper. Awkward. So I mentioned that I was a guide – still nothing. I got my coffee, did the customary guy head nod and went on my way somewhat jaded.
But I am not discouraged; there is hope.
The great part of moving here is that I live by Wash Park. An incredibly beautiful open space in the center of Denver, filled with volleyball players, freshly parented 30 somethings with BMW baby joggers, yoga pants and iPhones. Off in the distance I see two people, both with fly rods, casting on the grass, horribly. “A-ha” my inner guide senses whispered to me. I walk up and ask, “How’s it going?” sheepishly, doing my best not to look like weird random park conversation guy. “Where are you going fishing?” I ask. They look at me and mutter, “Nowhere yet, just practicing.” the worst caster say’s. “That’s cool. Can I show you a couple tricks that might help? I do a lot of this……I’m a guide out of Basalt.” I say. “Ya, so you fish in the pan? Come on over.” they reply. The guide in me is satisfied.
I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I said it has been easy to be so far away from the activity that I love so much, but I will say that it will always be a part of me. Guiding is so much more that just taking somebody fishing. It’s about relationships and sharing common interest. I may not be near gold medal waters anymore but I can still share and teach the art of fly fishing. That is, if fly-fishing in a random patch of grass, doing my best to be a city guide counts.
18 year Taylor Creek guide, 1st year city guide, life time teacher
It’s has been just a week since my last fly fishing article was posted online and to my surprise, it received a ton of traffic. Thank you for reading and sharing it with your friends.
The article is called “The City Fishing Guide”, it is just a brief account of a geographically misplaced Fly Fishing guide trying to make connections in a big city. Call it a treasure hunt if you will.
Here is a taste: “…….I had to get a fix. So I went down to South Platte River right here in downtown Denver and found an eddy behind a trashed grocery cart freshly thrown into the river. I took a number of big inhales through my nose to get a whiff of the fresh smog from a nearby factory to help transport me back to the place that I love. To my surprise it didn’t work. But I was still optimistic.”
I will be posting the entire article here in just a few days. Please check it out on their blog and leave me a comment of your thoughts and if you have had any similar experiences, I would enjoy hearing your stories.
Those of us that would prefer to hear the river report instead of a progress report NEED to stick together.
Please hit the ‘follow’ button, I appreciate you support and you will be the first to catch the freshest stories.
Thank you again,
Aspen. The mere whispering of the word congers up images of Paris Hilton, Man-Furs, Range Rovers and million dollar homes. And for the most part, that would be 100 % accurate. But Aspen, like any mountain resort town, is also filled with mountains and rivers that provide great outdoor activities. Many wealthy people enjoy that – as a matter of fact, most people enjoy that. Unfortunately, that “access” to the great outdoors, indirectly costs money.
You have to find a creative way to live in one of the most expensive places in the U.S.. Common sense told me that since I loved the outdoors and mastering legendary trout waters like the Frying Pan, Roaring Fork and the Colorado, becoming a professional fly fishing guide for a living was an obvious choice. But we guides are dealt a difficult set of cards.
First card: Getting on the shop roster is not always an easy task, even if you do happen to be one of the best anglers in the valley. I have been a guide with Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt for the last 18+ years and I only landed it because a) I got a good referral from a buddy that was a guide there, b) I spent so much money there on new rods, flies and every other thing I needed to “fish properly” (besides, I felt it gave me a bit of credibility) and c) I was able to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk”.
Second card: You need money both for a place to live and so you can eat. This lifestyle can be especially difficult if you are on the bottom of the guide ladder. It’s only when the senior guides are not available when you get the trip. Being the low man on the totem pole, you have to hope for a last minute booked trip or wait by the phone all day hoping you’re next on the list to call. The lack of consistent last minute trips or senior guides calling in sick or being on vacation, can lead to financial stress and inconsistent diet. The only known consistency for a guide is understanding that the last minute bookers are not typically the seasoned fishermen you hope for. And chances are, these people will have recently watched “The Movie” and now they want their spoiled 5 year old daughter and disinterested 14 year old son to experience what catching a 20 inch rainbow is like – “just like the one Brad Pitt caught in A River Runs Through It” while yelling across the river, “You haven’t caught one yet?” only ten minutes after hitting the water.
But I digress. What I am trying to say is that guides need money. So I’d like to share with you my ten survival tips on how to live, eat and breathe fly fishing as a professional guide when you are broke and have to make it in an expensive area.
Tip # 1: Be nice, polite and humble. Nothing will keep you from getting trips or moving up the ranks more than arrogance. Chances are, you are not the greatest fisherman alive and you didn’t really “land a hundred” or “get the biggest cut-bow in the Pan”. The fact is, the guides in “real” fly shops are ALL great fisherman. The best thing you can do is go fishing with the senior guides and prove you know how to fish. But most importantly, be cool about it! This will pay off in spades. You are more likely to be the first one asked to accompany the senior guide on group trips. That equals no bottom of the totem pole which means more money.
Tip #2: Top Ramen is not all that bad. Really. Throw in some fresh vegetables and soy sauce and you’re golden.
Tip #3: Having a truck is helpful. It provides a comfortable ride for your clients as well as a great place to sleep. The forest service provides camp areas for up to 10 days or more. Not only is it a practical mode of transportation and lodging, but that it just makes for a good story when you decide to give up guiding in order to finally use your Political Science degree.
Tip # 4: Beer is not food. Once you get a couple of trips and you make your first tip above and beyond your guide fee, try not to turn that extra money into a series of cocktails for the boys. You need that money. It won’t be there in a few months. (Note to the veteran guides: hang around the new guides, they’re rookie enough to always be buying! By doing so, you can keep your tips.)
Tip #5: Network and always carry business cards. This is a must. Anybody on the river that isn’t already a fishing guide, wants to be. That instantly makes you the most envied and the coolest person they know. Use that to your advantage. Your perceived coolness, especially if you make the client think they caught that brown all on their own, equated to referrals, shop status and money. Don’t be a slacker trout bum, it’s still abusiness. Always be selling (yourself)!
Tip #6: Remember, the rich are different. Embrace it. It is likely that a fleet of Range Rovers show up and they all step out with enough gear to stock a new shop. That doesn’t mean a thing. The fish don’t care and nor should you. They’re people – just like you (but with a lot more money). There’s no need to suck up. Treat them like you want to be treated and, trust me, you will be rewarded by either a great tip or a new regular repeat client.
Tip# 7: Practice the three “T’s” – Teach, Therapy, and Tolerance. Being a great guide is not how good of a fisherman you are (although it helps), it’s more about how well you understand your client. I did a trip one year with a client that I had guided a few times before. This trip she wanted to fish a little bit, but what she really wanted to do was to learn how to drive a stick shift. So our day was planned out where we fished for an hour, teach her how to drive my stick shifted-car for three hours, then fish again for an hour. She was a client for years. She booked consistently and always tipped well but what I found the most rewarding was never knowing exactly what we were going to do the day I was fishing with her.
Tip#8: Don’t sleep with any of your clients (see fishing above). Nothing good can come from this. Worst of all, you have turned a paying client into a non-paying client with “benefits”. And if it turns bad, like it always will, and their husband or wife finds out, there goes all of their referred client friends and any potential for new referrals from them.
Tip# 9: Have another skill. It can be anything from tuning skis to bartending to instructing snowboarders to practicing law. Also, being a trust funder, salt-water fly guide, or a chef, will work. It is not only important to have a plan, but as a fly guide in a touristic, seasonal, resort destination, with unpredictable run-off and conditions, you must also have a Plan B, and C all the way up to Z. Sure, some people can and do make it as a full time guide, but only if you are willing to budget. Unfortunately, most guides are fiscally inept and easily led astray by being surrounded by pro-deals and new gear in the shop – there is always that new reel or new 9-weight rod you might need for that Christmas Island trip you’ve been saving up for. This one I know from experience.
Tip # 10: If you really love fly-fishing, you love the river and everything it offers. Remember that you weren’t born an expert fly fisherman and your clients want to learn from you. You’re on the right path. It’s not hard to survive if you’re smart about it.
So if your ambition is to become a wealthy, full-time fly fishing guide, traveling around the globe and living the lifestyle, go for it. The fact is, I live that life style. I may not wear Man-Fur or have enough money to date Paris Hilton, but I am rich in experience and I have made a bank load of friends. The only cash I have is a CD in my truck of Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison Blues. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Just like most people in the food world, I am taken in by the car wrecks and the killers of the culinary arts world. I’m speaking of the competition cooking shows. It doesn’t really matter which one specifically, just any of them that contains a screaming british guy or chefs without hair.
It may be a bold statement but I have my reasons. I will be the first to admit that I had a major hard-on when the first Top Chef show was aired way back in the day. It had everything. Hack cooks, great cooks, Padma, challenges, real cooking situations, new ideas and some really bad ones. I remember you could sit and watch the show and actually say “I’ve worked with a dude like that” or, in my case ,”I’ve work with that dude” and claim rightly, “and he sucks!”. I wanted to be a contestant. But now the purity has turned on these shows.
I was watching TV the other night in a hotel and Master Chef or something like that was on and Gordon Ramsey was, as always, involved. The contestants were given the challenge of recreating a dish from another chef restaurant. OK, not a bad test but here is the rub. The dish was described as “this is the dish President Obama ordered ” as if it gave the dish more credibility. WHO GIVES A SHIT?! This is nothing about Obama, it’s about name dropping and creating pointless self promotion for a chef to feel good about himself because someone of importance ate his or her dish.
Call me old school, but isn’t presenting a perfect dish reserved for ALL of your customers? Really, do you change how you cook or put more effort into a dish that you are serving to a celebrity than you would for your tried and true clientele? If you do, you’re a dick and a suck up.
I have never been a big fan of the restaurants that put up pictures of the famous people that they fed. It seems…..cliche’. The ONLY restaurants that can get away with it are 60 years old or older with an owner that looks like he belongs on the Sopranos or Goodfellas and that’s about it. That’s when it’s cool…period.
I was reading our local Alt mag the other day which comes out weekly called The Westword. They cover all of the happenings in music, culture, entertainment and food. I grab it every week to see what’s up and to read the food section. They usually do restaurant reviews, which is pretty much always the same (hated it, loved it, I slept with the chef, would have tasted better if it was free) and then a short Q and A with a local chef. It can be interesting (until the terms ‘fresh’ and ‘local’ get used too much) but it always bugs the hell out of me when they ask ” So…what celebrities have you cooked for?” or something along those lines. Why? What if he said Geets Romo? Would you care? I bet not.
My question is simple. What makes any celebrity endorsement a key to a chef’s ability? Does Brad Pitt have a more sophisticated palette than you? Is VP Joe Biden more educated in how a piece of Ahi should be sliced? Why should they get preferential treatment because they made a good movie or that one hit on the radio? I would love to hear Mr. Ramsey say once, “This dish is the exact dish chef fill in the blank has built his reputation on. Can you duplicate this?”
This will never happen so I now placate my TV addiction with The Walking Dead…at least it’s realistic.
It has been a very interesting couple months in my world. In short I had a job drop into my lap perfect and not perfect all rolled into one. I’ve been cooking my ass off. I have been attempting Stand Up comedy in Denver with moderate success, but I made my charity, LOVE HOPE STRENGTH some money, I’m happy about that. I have been collecting more than my share of speeding/parking tickets. My cars been hit. I am in the best shape I have been in….let’s see what else?
It’s been a pretty good end of the year, everything and skill I have, I did!
So here is my big plans. 2013 is the year of getting out of all of my comfort zones. I am going to do ANYTHING, all pride aside, all ego aside and live this midlife crisis to the max, as we used to say way back in the day.
Here is my list of 2013 tasks;
a) Start a design firm
b) Restore at least 2 vintage motorcycles
c) Get my foot in the door of a custom furniture maker
d) Get to know Brooklyn better
e) Get even more fit
f) Help somebody and do good
g) See one Deepak lecture
h) Learn one song on the piano
I) Get a one man monologue show written
j) Continue to prove to my lovely bride to be how much I love her
k) Get my niche in the food world (I can assure you oddly enough, that it won’t involve working a line anywhere)
l) Get off Facebook
This is just a small starting list for the next 365 days ahead. All I can hope for is that the Mayan weren’t correct in their prediction. I’m looking forward to next year.
Dear diary, 10/16/12 morning
It was a beautiful sunny day, kinda warm but not hot but kinda chilly but not bad really and then I got up and had granola and yogurt for breakfast and the dogs sure enjoyed the leftover steak I gave them and I hope it agrees with them, that might be a problem, but thats ok, I am sure that it was worth it to them..and
BTW, New and very exciting things have made their way to life Completely unexpectedly and out of the blue. The stars aligned and opportunity was presented in a major way.
Dear Diary 10/18/12
Denver, I am looking forward to becoming part of your amazing culinary scene. The dogs are ok
Check out this article on Eater.com today