Well it’s official – I’m at a crossroads in my career trajectory. If you are an adherent to this blog then you can tell I love food. Whether it’s indulging in dinner at Michelin star gems or entertaining my friends with seasonal fare, there are limitless things to talk about when food is at the center of attention. That being said, lately I’ve been highly considering a transition into the food industry. Sorry mom and dad, I don’t want to be a patent lawyer or a cardiologist. I enjoy my job but I don’t think working in a science-focused industry can capture my interest for the long-run. Wouldn’t it be great to work at a job where food occupies my energy? (I realize this decision may ruin my hopes at attaining a 6-pack) Food-related brand marketing seems like the first logical choice but I really don’t know if that’s the right move and I crave to learn the ins and outs of the profession before taking a leap of faith. Where better to network than a culinary capital of the world?
You see, the beautiful thing about this gleaming city is that opportunities are within reach if you’re diligent and persistent. Having spread the word of my desire to explore the food industry, Nance’s daughter JaJa mentioned the possibility of connecting with Donatella Arpaia. Wildly successful restaurateur, Food Network personality and frequent judge on Iron Chef America, Donatella is a bonafide food celebrity. In a New York minute, within a week actually, I was sitting across the table from Donatella, as she asked for my availability as well as an invite to our next dinner party… It’s funny how life works.
So here’s the deal: I’ll be helping Donatella and her team – supporting on recipe creation, blog upkeep, food photo shoots, and whatever else my schedule allows. Although I’m not going to be reckless and quit my 9 to 5, I want to push myself to take full advantage of this great opportunity. The first assignment? Come up with recipes to be cooked in a woodburning pizza oven for an upcoming shoot. AMAZINGGG, though… I’ve never cooked a pizza, let alone in a wood-burning oven.
Needless to say I had to try recipes before giving my stamp of approval to an Iron Chef America judge. I did my research and essentially these ovens use very high heat so I cranked up our stove to its highest 500 degrees. I then invested in a ceramic woodburning slab from Zabar’s and had Ivanka and Faye over as guinea pigs (NOTE: Betches of NYC there will be many more upcoming impromptu occasions to come over to Chez C&C).
First thing I learned? Pick your dough carefully. I used a recipe that uses all-purpose flour which lends for a chewier crust (Bread flour apparently leads to a thinner, crisper crust). However I think I need a lesson in kneading because I failed to knead enough and the dough was entirely too sticky when I took it out of the fridge. However, I was resilient and added flour liberally to get it to the right consistency. Net-Net I’ll be experimenting with a new dough for the next round. I first served a traditional margherita with San marzano tomato sauce. It was adequate though I must say it suffered from the lack of a perfect crust.
I got the next recipe option from my sister. It’s a beet pesto pizza with kale and goat cheese. I’m all about the beets and all about the kale. Not to mention they’re two ingredients that are so IN VOGUE right now. I altered the recipe by adding orange juice instead lemon juice in the pesto for a sweeter variation and used the same dough used for the margherita pizza. Possibly due to sitting out longer, the dough on this round achieved a better consistency. This pizza checks out for a Donatella recommendation.
Lastly, I made a nectarine crostata. I used Julia Child’s sugar pastry crust, which was probably a miss. In the high heat the crust did not bake altogether evenly. Although all of the flavor was on point and the pie crust resembled a shortbread cookie, I think I have to cut the sugar in the dough for high temperatures. The filling itself was great. I soaked the nectarines in honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, cardamom pods, vanilla, cinnamon, and syrup of poppies. It can’t be a total disaster with ingredients like that.
Clearly I had some woodburning oven snafus but it’s exciting testing recipes, sharing time with friends, and working toward a change. My culinary prowess has always been by the books, stemming from my start in the regimented world of pastry. It’s good for me to try new recipes, fall on my face a little, and learn the “do-nots” for next time.
I realize that I’m about to give up most of my free time, but from my point of view, why not pursue the things you love? Don’t we all strive to do the things we truly enjoy, and at the end of the day call it work? As this is my year of clarity, I think what I’ve decided is that I need to follow a passion, trusting that with that passion as a guiding principle, success is just around the corner. And hey if all else fails, there will be a lot more C&C test kitchen recipes and extravagant dinner parties for all to enjoy.