Alex Kinderman Summer 2019 Blog
by Alex Kinderman, September 9, 2019
This past quarter I have been fully invested on my internship at Rick Bayless’s restaurants Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. I was hired on the team as a prep cook making recipes for both restaurants and it has truly been an amazing experience. This was my first time working in a kitchen focused on Mexican Cuisine and I finally felt like I was home.
Starting out on the prep team I was quick to learn and memorize the many recipes we made. Each time I made a new recipe, chef would show me how and after getting through most of the recipes, it really just took off from there. Sauce work is one of the most crucial parts to any restaurant and it is what I spent the majority of my time doing. I can definitely say I have grown and learned tremendously when it comes to making an excellent sauce. Mole Negro, Mole Poblano, Mole Xico, Squash Blossom Cream, Salsa Guero, Poblano Cream, Tumbada, and plenty plenty more are just a few of the sauces I would make on a weekly basis.
Not only have I grown tremendously in sauce work but in understanding the complexities behind the beloved chilies of Mexico. There are hundreds and hundreds of chilies native to Mexico alone and it is such a fundamental flavor profile you must understand if you want to master Mexican Cuisine. Many people think all chilies bring is spice, but much like a wine they all have their own unique flavor notes. You need to look past the spice of chilies the same way you must look past the smokiness of mezcal. Once you look past the spice you truly see that chilies are – smoky, sweet, earthy, floral, and fruity.
I can write and talk for days about what I have learned in the kitchen, but one thing I want to touch base on is how much I have surprised myself when it comes to being a leader in the kitchen. I started only three months ago as just an intern and within that short period of time I have become the one in charge of the prep team. Often times my chef would have to take a back seat and leave for expo or office work and I was the one left in charge. This led me to guiding the prep team through telling them what recipes to make and in what order as well as showing them how to make them. Apart from the prep team, I also took charge of training two new interns being an intern myself, consolidating our walk in cooler every morning, filling out inventory, and making the official prep lists.
Towards the end of my internship, chef offered me the head prep cook position because of how impressed she was with me leading the team. As much as I yearn to be in the kitchen, it was a very difficult decision to turn down this position in order to focus solely on my studies. Despite not taking the position, I agreed with chef to come back and stage under new positions in order to learn as much as I possibly can. I am excited to come back with the tortilla ladies, pastry, grill, and anyone I can so I can soak up the knowledge they have to offer.