Alex Kinderman Winter 2020 Blog
by Alex Kinderman, March 22, 2020
I would like to reflect on a specific experience I had recently this past February. I was hired as a jamonero by a friend to work 2 nights cutting jamón ibérico for a Spanish flamenco event at Instituto Cervantes. I was very eager to cut an entire jamón ibérico, however, I was a bit nervous as I had only seen a demo before and never cut one myself. I really spent a lot of time researching how to cut an entire jamón and I learned that there is so much that goes into it. There are six different sections found on a jamón and they all vary in texture and flavor profiles; they are the maza, contra, punta, babilla, jarrete, and caña. In addition to the different sections, there is a proper order in cutting a jamón as well as a certain technique used to slice it. I also watched many videos of master jamoneros breaking down and slicing entire jamóns. All of this research made me feel more confident and more nervous all at the same time.
The day of the event I had a few other tasks before getting to the jamón; I had to make a cheese board, slice the breads, and receive a catering order. Once I got to the jamón I had a massive moldy and fatty leg before me and the nerves really struck. I got to work immediately and began by trying to mount the jamón on the portajamones which is the stand that holds it. I couldn’t get it to stand still and we were nearing service. I asked my friend who hired me for help on how to get it to stay standing still and she told me just to stand it on the other side. I told her that was the wrong way, but she kept affirming to me that it was okay to cut starting that way even though it contradicted everything I researched.
After mounting it how she told me, I cleaned up the excess fat around the part I would be slicing that day. All ready for service, I began slicing away during the event and felt fairly confident that everything was going well, however, I kept getting many critiques that it was the wrong way. This is what I kept hearing all night and it was simply frustrating. Although the filets I was slicing were done well, the whole base and principle of how I started the jamón was wrong. Although I was rushed, I should have taken the time to figure out how to mount the jamón on the right side. Even if I would have been late for the event reception it would have been better to have been late and correct than on time and mistaken and I should have realized that.
This is such a grand principle in the food industry and in the majority of the restaurants I have worked in. It is better to sacrifice a bit more time and give the best product you can then to speed through and end up producing something below your standards. I have always held myself to this, but through the time crunch, stress, and push from a colleague, I faltered. This teaches me that one should always hold true to their values and standards even if outside influences push you to do otherwise.
Despite this, cutting the jamón, conversing with amazing people, and overall celebrating Spanish food and flamenco at Instituto Cervantes was an amazing experience. I wish to learn from a professional jamonero one day in Spain so I can truly get the technique down. The experience was also amazing for me in that it has opened my eyes to the realization that I can never falter like that again. When I know what the right thing to do is and I know what my standards are, I should hold myself accountable to uphold them no matter what.