Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chef Alex: See My Display in the Meat Deartment!

A while back I shocked a few readers by revealing that, besides being a writer and critic, I was also a teenaged tramolining (sic) enthusiast, so I figured I should disclose some of my other lower-profile activities.

I am the the sushi chef at Matherne's on Perkins at Bluebonnet. Not long ago, I read that Anthony Bourdain would choose sashimi tuna for his last meal, and I decided that was a sign that I should one day be the one to make it. See, Bourdain and I have a lot in common: we are both writers about quotidian subjects (he food, I music) but we both inject our writing with a rapier wit, a devil-may-care charm, a life-force other 'experts' eschew. Tony (I like to call him Tony) references music a lot in his food writing, so I thought my learning the art of sushi so that I could inject that into my discourse will provide a balancing agent in our twin-titan oeuvres.

Some say that you should apprentice under a renowned sushi chef to learn the Way of the Fish and Knife, but I say fuck that. I learned about religion and sex on the street, among the people, and it worked out fine for me. In a mid-priced grocery deli setting, one learns to live by their wits. No salmon-infused ricotta for the California rolls? Get some Philly and some Season-all. Out of nori? Get some spinach from the salad bar; no one ever touches that stuff anyway.

It's a good gig. I arrive in the quiet morning hours, weaving among the stock boys with my green tea in a travel infuser, perusing the shelves for inspiration. One morning, Davy knocked over a display tower of canned pineapple, and I saw some ham on the salad bar that needed using up and - kenichiwa! - Gourmet Hawaiian Rolls. You never know where good ideas come from, or, as Lao-Tsu states:

The sage wanders without knowing,
Looks without seeing,
Accomplishes without acting.

They wanted to give me a snooty air, kinda dress up the place, especially since a Fresh Market is about to go in across the intersection, but again, I always think about the people. One of my greatest joys of this gig, besides when someone bites down into my product for the first time and remarks "My God! Why I have been such a fucking idiot and never tried sushi before! This is like manna!" is when they chuckle at the double meaning of see his displays in the meat department on the sign and they give me an "Oh, you...."

If you can't make it fun, no matter how good you are at it, why do it? I figure that when Tony is approaching the flickering candle we all must one day face, he won't call on me simply because I am a prodigy with the raw fish, but because he knows that I will make him laugh, with his final chuckle blowing that candle out.

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