In this business we have to work hard, but we also like to play hard. Getting that rare time away from the business is important, especially when we get to do it together, over good food, good drinks and good company.
Last week I was given just that chance to get some of my team together for the premiere of Jon Favreau’s new film, Chef. Given the title and the storyline how could we not make a night of it and check this movie out? Before plopping in a theatre chair for two hours of escape we needed a little sustenance to ensure we wouldn’t need to settle for theatre snacks mid-show.
Being the carnivores we are, a stop at the newest addition to the Whyte ave. area, Meat, seemed the perfect choice. The concept is the brainchild of the team at The Next Act Pub, and prides itself on delivering an authentic BBQ experience. The room is cool and modern, with a collection of communal tables, encouraging people to come together and break….meat. I will leave the detailed dining review to the experts, but will say this; they do BBQ justice. The smoked chicken and the Andouille sausage were two of the meal’s highlights for me, and the rest of the table seemed to fight over the brisket. If you are a meat lover you won’t be disappointed. Get there early though, this is sure to become a hipster haven!
With food in our belly and a few frosty suds knocked back we made our way to the theatre to see if Hollywood finally get it right when it comes to describing what really takes place in a kitchen. Sure, they’ve had talented chefs consult on movies like Spanglish, No Reservations, and The Five Year Engagement, but these were movies that included chefs, and didn’t really hit the mark.
Given my past experience with movies like this, and my sheer terror of what usually happens when Hollywood gathers “a stellar ensemble cast” , my expectations were low going into the evening, but I am pleased to say that they were actually surpassed.
The story was that of a successful L.A. chef, working for an owner who was content for him to keep doing what he was doing. When the chef got wind that he was going to be reviewed by L.A.’s top food critic e wanted to flex his culinary muscles and impress, but the restaurant owner, shall I say encouraged, him to “play the hits” rather than go out on a limb. To no surprise the chef was lambasted when the review came out. The chef, lacking any social media savvy, then got into a pissing match with said critic on twitter, which led to him paying the restaurant another visit. Again, the owner pressed the chef to not change the menu, which led to the chef throwing in the towel and walking out, only to return later that night, through the front door to face his critic. In what might have been the highlight of the film he proceeded to feed it to the critic, both figuratively and literally, something most every chef has dreamed of doing, with little having the fortitude to go through with it. That scene was worthy of a slow clap.
Where the movie touched me most was the accurate portrayal of how we in this business often choose to sacrifice our time with our family for the sake of our careers. It also allowed for Hollywood to work it’s magic and tell a touching story of choosing family over career as this chef was able to find his passion again and well, you can probably guess what comes next. Yes, the plot was pretty predictable, even down to the redemption piece with the critic, but I guess they couldn’t spend two hours following a chef around a kitchen, telling crude jokes and swearing at service staff could they? All in all it was really good movie that had some good laughs, painted a fairly accurate picture of our lives, if not romanticizing it a little too much. If you’ve spent some time in this business it’s definitely worth watching, as you will definitely relate. Don’t go getting any ideas about leaving your job and opening a food truck though! I don’t want to deal with any hate mail from your bosses! With that, I will now end my illustrious movie critic career almost as soon as it began.
After watching the movie and salivating at the memory of this sandwich, how could I not throw one together for you. Try it, you’ll never make a plain grilled cheese again.
Classic Cuban Sandwich
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Special Tools: A Panini press would help, but isn’t necessary
Feeds: 4 people
This is the perfect simple sandwich to put together and enjoy on the deck on a nice sunny day with a cold beer. A true Cuban sandwich usually only has mustard, but I like the addition of a little bit of mayo to help mellow out the mustard and provide even a little more richness.
4 ea. French sub buns, or Cuban loaves, but they’re hard to find
12 slices ham, I like black forest, but it’s not necessary
12 slices roast pork
12 slices Swiss cheese
4 ea. large dill pickles
½ cup regular mustard
¼ cup mayonnaise
Butter, don’t be shy!
- Remove the butter from the fridge to ensure it is soft
- If using the Panini press, plug it in and warm it up
- In a small bowl combine the mayo and mustard
- Using a knife or a mandolin, thinly slice the pickles into medallions
- Using a serated knife, slit your buns in half lengthwise
- Smear a tablespoon or so of the mayo mix on each side of all of the buns
- Now, lay the sliced pickles down, splitting them up evenly between all of the buns
- Place 3 slices of Swiss on each sandwich, followed by 3 slices of the ham and the roast pork
- If using a frying pan, place it on medium heat now
- Close the sandwiches and then smear the top generously with softened butter
- Place the buttered side down in the pan or on the Panini press
- Butter the top side generously
- If using the Panini press, press down the top and allow the bun to crisp up and brown nicely
- If using a frying pan, use a spatula to press down the sandwich and let the bun crisp up, it should take 2-3 minutes brown on either side
- If your timing is right the bun will be nicely browned while the meat is heated through and the Swiss cheese is nicely melted
Enjoy this sandwich with some plantain or Yuca chips and a cold frosty and it will be sure to hit the spot.