looking beyond

November 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I last wrote here. It’s also been a really long while since I felt happy about myself. We’ve been working many hours in the kitchen. While we try to create a balanced life, there seems to be less of a balance and more of a struggle.

Recently, we launched Sunday Feast. A communal way of eating whereby a vegetarian soup is accompanied by either a meat or vegetarian dish, finished with a dessert. Everything is made from scratch. Handmade tortilla, vegetable stock for the soups/risottos, puff pastries and maple butter. Thus we start prep on Wednesday and take every opportunity we have between services to chop, slice, proof, stew and so on for the weekend feast.

The idea this started from an experience G had in a very small cafe in Belgium. There was the basic simplicity of it, sincerity of produce and effort put into the meals. There was also the trust that customers would embrace the family meal.

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The responses have been amazing. Regulars are taking the approach with an open heart and most importantly a good appetite. After every Sunday, they look forward to the next. And after every Sunday, we get more inspired to do more and explore our culinary ideas. And after every Sunday shift, we get really tipsy at our favourite bar and sleep in until the sun shines brightly through the curtains.

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There have been days when our differences meet and they just don’t want to get along. No matter how hard you try and no matter how hard to put yourselves into other’s shoes, to look at their perspectives and give the benefit of the doubt. They disappoint. Is it the lack of understanding or expectations we put on each other? Is it the irrational thoughts or simply just stubbornness of everyone to get their own way?

No matter how close parallel lines travel together or how much they share in common, they will never meet, have any intersections and commonplace. But when lines meet, that is where the complications begin. There are bigger things to look forward to. There is a common goal. The little things may seem niggling and unpleasant. But can we all look beyond that?

2341, 17 hours shift, 5 hours sleep

October 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Great restaurants should not define things, they should be the catalyst for things to happen – Jeremy King

It’s quite late now. I have to be up in a couple of hours to bake for the cafe later. But there like the inkling of a bad cake that came out of the oven, I am eager to share this. The last two weeks have been a struggle. Heck, the last year has been. It’s been a turmoil of bad representations, perspectives, lack of passion and interest on a whole.

I remember having a goal to work towards to. To create a space for people to feel comfortable, to be part of the community, to embrace our presences like we take theirs. These days, I question the respect, the craft we hold so dearly to ourselves and how are we going to share that understanding without creating any hostility.

We stand our grounds of trying to make work personal. To not draw lines. To take pleasure in laughing at each other’s flaws, but get work done. To treat one another like brothers or sisters, share food over the table and build strong bonds. Not to say there aren’t any right this moment. In fact, if anything I’d learnt the last couple of days during my 17 hours shift was people loved the bonds we have. It is true that while we try to want to make others feel welcomed and comfortable, we want them to join us.

After being in the kitchen for a year, it was so refreshing to be a buzzer again. People took on the jokes, suggestions and little banters so well. They just feel so at home and I could feel the sense of belonging once again. The little ounce of hope took a leap of faith. The faith in knowing we are doing our best to keep it together.

I could barely stay awake today. But auntie came by again and made lunch. While we were all in our grumpy moods, she bared with us in the silent kitchen and made us her usual homemade dishes.

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Another great quote from René Redzepi

“…trusting our impulses and handling our failures well. what’s certainly made a big impact is how much better we’ve become at collaborating with each other. in our business you’re always taught that there’s one captain who makes the decisions, and that’s how I used to run this place. but now the cooks no longer act like little soldiers, uncritically ready to obey any command. this has made everybody stronger and more confident. I realized people can only be as good as they’re allowed to be.”

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New kitchen hours next week. New Sunday menu and desserts are up! It’s going to be a quite a ride from here on.

on the bus thoughts, 2331

September 23, 2014 § 1 Comment

It started off simple, in fact almost too simple. It was just a local beer on tap, a display siphon machine, a beast-like coffee machine, very few cakes and a couple of sandwiches. We were getting by merely on caffeine, the friendly pet store owners next door, the hair dresser down the road who sends her maids for iced-lattes and authentic carpet store which brought rugs from India that looked almost too pretty to put on the floor.

All these memories came back tonight while riding on the bus, en-route to the 24 hours grocery store. There were times when I hated the route, after the 12 hours shift, I didn’t want to wait for another 20 minutes for the bus to come by. But I waited anyways. I didn’t want to do much at that time except to wait for university acceptance, which I turned down twice. Was I silly? Were we all so naive? Perhaps we were… Looking back at this hour, on the brightly lited and chilly empty bus, I really did not want to stay or remain where I was, but I did so anyways.

Mainly because I found a great friend, who happens to give me a pay cheque every month. We never regarded each other with any hierarchy or social status, which was very clear from the beginning. There were things to learn from one another.. Cooking, baking, making coffee, brewing tea, meeting people, making more friends, cleaning the small space etc. We had our stubborn ways, each to our own but respected one another for actions and making everyone comfortable. Every one that came through the door were treated equally. Regardless of where or how they came from. The door mat was our neutralizer, it was like an airport body scanner that transmitted all of you and you enter a place where you are just like everyone else. Except that there was no technology, no x-ray and no metal detector that beeps annoyingly until you remove all belongings. If there was anything we told you to remove at our door step was any judgements, any worries and negativity.

We had little to offer, simple food and coffee/tea/beer. Each had their meaning to its own and gave someone something to bite on until they got drunk enough and leave.

The brains, or rather I would like to think, behind them all are two guys, both with no culinary or f&b experience but were willing to learn the trade.. The focus was quite clearly different but they always had a good laugh with some beers and when without, they still laugh at one another. There was also an accountant. Slowly, two more jumped on board. A creative director and a day time project manager/part-timer farmer. The rest of the crew, a retail & customer trainer, a hospitality graduate (finally some hope), another creative graduate, a kitchen nazi and a culinary school graduate who wants to write/photograph about food/lifestyle.

And like how it all started before, we learn from one another, laugh at each other and be so closely acquainted with our daily routines that we finish each other’s sentences. Some like to plan more than the others, some like structure, some like flexibility, some wants order, some wants discipline, some needs more sensitivity than the other and so on. Structure in any flexible form is flexibility in any structure form, if you get what I mean.

Some just wants to know about coffee, some just wants to make sure the dishes are washed, some wants to keep the knives sharp enough to slice your flesh without realizing, some wants to save money and environment, some wants to make themselves known and you get the gist of it.

These days, I look behind the glass window and think to myself how did we all come together and how can we keep ourselves going. We all jumped on the bandwagon, like the brady bunch family, dysfunctional and idiosyncratic. We tell one another, I want you to be better or you could do it this way or that way, without realizing perhaps, they are already at their best. At their best and comfortable enough to learn more at their pace. Surely enough, with wars, fights, unrest and tension happening everywhere else in the world, we need a place that signifies comfort, friendliness and basic human respect.

We sit back and talk, sometimes, like it was Henry days. About giving space, giving time or understanding where everyone comes from, sipping our coffee or beer, sharing a bit bowl of potato chips and serving customers. We set ourselves far from the rat race or society, observing how they get on each other nerves for selfish reasons and ignorance to each other’s needs. Belittling one another with name callings, berate each other with hand languages and so on. We sit back and laugh at them and tell ourselves we will not be one of them. What’s the point anyways?

Funny how we plan things, how we think we are doing the right things, and end up exactly where we don’t want to be. Caught in the rat race, giving in to the masses and creating tensions. How we planned to simplify things but to complicate them, and get back to the whole cycle of simplifying life again.

But here we are on the bus, with more people on board, trying to reach an unknown destination, trying to get along with one another with pure respect, understanding and accepting. And not kill one another on this already bumpy ride. I stayed on the ride, and found love eventually.

Everyday is new. Everyday we learn and teach. If anyone can do better at something, share the goodness of it; sometimes you will be surprised to even learn something with sharing. About yourself, or the other person, or just to keep the camaraderie going. Everyone has their ways of trusting each other, through keeping the knife board clean, the portafilter empty so the next barista will be ready of the next shot, through the orderly manner of a storage room for the benefit of everyone or simply by greeting a customer with a warm welcome.

Wherever anyone one of us wants to go from here it entirely up to them, but for now, we are here. With finite and infinite limits & personal and non-personal agendas, doing what we do at our best, to build a community that takes delight in our spirits.

Sometimes, contentment is a matter of will. You have to look at what you have right in front of you, at what it could be, and stop measuring it against what you’ve lost. I know this to be wise and true, just as I know that pretty much no one can do it.”
― Jonathan Tropper, This is Where I Leave You

on flaws

September 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

there is a deep connection when we make food, the way we like it and the way people like to eat, to tell them who we are and get to know their preferences.

We may not be good at many things in life, with small talks, with relationships, with our strong characters, bad tempers, stubborness, but we at least try to communicate through food

A place where we dont allow faults, or when we allow faults, because it can be forgiving and yet inspiring at the same time.

We see flaws and imperfection but that’s the charming bits. These days, I question myself with the people around me, trying to perfect their daily lives. To even out the very fine creases on their pants, the little drip of oil on the plate or one spelling error in a long paragraph. We are human, with human errors. I question whether they see the charm or take pleasure in the race. The demands, the pressure, and what really comes out from it. They take pride in things, I do too. But when more is more, and less is always more, where do we draw the line?

“I can get my head turned by a good-looking guy as much as the next girl. But sexy doesn’t impress me. Smart impresses me, strength of character impresses me. But most of all, I am impressed by kindness. Kindness, I think, comes from learning hard lessons well, from falling and picking yourself up. It comes from surviving failure and loss. It implies an understanding of the human condition, forgives its many flaws and quirks. When I see that in someone, it fills me with admiration.”

― Lisa Unger

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The book deadline is over, I am back in the kitchen at full throttle. The neglect has been overdue and I find myself picking up the slack all over again. The kitchen is taking a quiet change, we’ve been testing and testing recipes to refine our repertoire. To taste food, find good reliable suppliers and feed people genuinely.

Again, I question myself whether we are doing things wrongly, whether what people say should affect us and rock our boats, how do we protect ourselves from not straying away from our identity and staying true. Day by day, these things reassure us that we are doing something right. Not to feed the masses but by making a difference with little changes.

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farewell letter from a part timer

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our newest addition to the cafe family; they have been our customers since Henry, he has espressos, she does her piccolo, he has the chicken sandwich, she does the sardine melt, sometimes they get the pandan cake & blueberry pancakes; her mum said one day the little boy will grow up to have my baked goods

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really good article written by Corby Kummer on Puglisi way of cooking after Noma and now at Relae
“If Puglisi is carrying forward a revolution, he’s doing it deliberately taking two steps back to one forward”

25

August 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Recently, there have been thoughts about balance. Finding the right way to juggle every aspect of life. Not that it is difficult or easy, not that I don’t have the right things or fundamentals to make it balanced, just that I have not allowed most of it to happen. For the past couple of months unexpected events have unfold, both good and bad, instead of adapting to them, I’d fought against them.

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A week or two ago, I laid on the hospital bed pondering for a long time. Immobilized after being sedated from a gastroscopy procedure, I could only think about good things. You know as a kid, when you fell ill, you thought about happy days, in hopes to get better so you could go out and play. But instead of dreaming of cycling around or playing catch with the dogs, I reflected upon happier days. Days in California or working in Henry when life was more carefree. Eat fresh produce, live a more sustainable lifestyle; talk to customers, get to know their lives, bake cakes and pour coffee. It was simple. I had wanted to leave the island again and pushed journalism school, not once but twice. Each time there was a chance to take flight, I held back. There was love. Unconditional some might say, or unrequited some might believe. There was hope. Hope, we all know, is a dangerous thing.

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Each time I face a downfall, I wonder if I made the right decision. Each time I reach a milestone, even within a few yards, I smile to myself. Reassuring that I am doing the right things. The ups and downs of emotions and feelings were presented but were not taken heed of. I would want control but could not control the consequences. Worse still, I dwell in them, which explained ending up in the hospital.

There was nothing wrong with the gut, apart that it is sensitive with dairy/gluten. So rather than taking medication to ease the pain after eating them, I would rather avoid them. Sticking to a plant based diet, staying grounded on the mat and running.

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shared meal, veggie fried rice & homemade fig jam

That aside…

Two years or more passed, hoping to put both lives together and letting things be. Learning mostly. With enough conviction, fight for values. Have an open mind, give the benefit of the doubt, even when you think you know it all, most of the time, there are still things to acquire. Like it or not, you are not going to be right all the time, and that is perfectly fine. Where is the fun or challenge if you are?

Until the day comes when we can have things our way, for now, we’re learning to find that harmony.
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sometimes losing balance for love is part of balance in life – elizabeth gilbert

taking a moment

August 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

The last visit to Sydney was rather heavy. It was the last time I got to see Sam, a family friend I’ve known for the last 15 years. I was just a little girl when we first met. We’ve lost touch and been in touch since, the back and forth, occasional messages on special events or family gatherings.

The last couple of days with him and his close friends were really special. I got to know the love of his life, S, who has a great heart and gives more than he takes. Three of us got to laugh at silly things, watch the horizon from their little cosy apartment, where we saw whales, waves and the endless blue sea, we cooked, had quiet dinners, took very short walks and even with the unbearable pain after the surgery, Sam was as cheerful as a three year old.

Somehow, with all the hope, we know letting him go from the pain will be good. Nevertheless, letting go of him is difficult.

Since a few of us couldn’t make it for his funeral, we’ve decided to light a candle and reflect on the moments we had with him. Thank you for showing us the strength that we never thought anyone would have and sharing your spirit with us.
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Live life to the fullest, always give more than you can take. What you have today, might not be what you have tomorrow. Be grateful for simple joys.

2248

July 25, 2014 § 1 Comment

Learn what harms you, and let it go; desire what you love and that is honestly, good for you. Respecting the body, honor the thoughts, be kind, leave the negativity, and manifest goodness.

there are three things that cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth. – buddha

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You either get it or you don’t. You either accept it or you don’t. Whatever that is in between is a grey area that can bridge the two together or separate them apart. Patience is one of them, it clearly isn’t in everyone and you can look at the person getting tensed and raising their voice. Worse still, they think they aren’t doing it, because unconsciously they are always right. Perhaps we had experiences, good and bad, and carry them with us like a huge burden that hinder moving forward. We take them along with us like baggage and carry it from one relationship/career/homes/cities, and seem to search for a better perspectives.

I am one who travels light, or attempt to. Believe in having just the essential to get by and capturing every possible moment with the heart and thoughts. I had good experiences, good moments, and bad, some very bad ones and laugh about them now. Do we ever learn? Do we ever go beyond the self and search for something that better?

Stubbornness. In all honesty, I am one of them. I can get fixated on something and not look through the situation from another window. Recently, the thoughts have slowed down a little more to rationalize events more. To keep in perspective that we need to be patient with others as much as we should be patient with ourselves. That time given, can vary from a second to twenty years.

love what is good for you, do not desire what harms you.
There is a repetitive pattern in us human beings that is hard to break. Vices. Bad habits. It’s almost like tasting a really greasy plate of fries or saccharine sweet treat and keep on going back for it until the doctor place a red light. Or getting into relationships that hurts and having to face the same arguments but with a different soul. One day, you will get fed up, and try to learn why by back tracking what had been done.

Sometimes, when things can be avoided momentarily, and the time is missed, just take it with a pinch of salt.

Sometimes, when things cannot be avoided momentarily, and the time has passed, take it with a pinch of salt too.

Either way, give the benefit of the doubt.

These days, the other half has been stretching his culinary repertoire at the cafe. While, I go back to basics at home.
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honey-glazed endives, smoked beef flank and salsa verde

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cinnamon apple sauce and blood orange marmalade

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almond milk gluten free pancakes and homemade nut butters with agave

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