Thursday, 19 May 2011

Final Blog!

Hotel Etxegana! What an experience is all I can say! I came in with dozens of expectations and they were all surpassed after a week. I came to this Hotel: 1) having never in my life worked in a kitchen 2) never spoken Spanish. Before I came to this hotel I was used to work that was the complete opposite of what I did here. I think that was something hard for the people at this hotel to understand, but I never complained. Whenever I was yelled at or insulted, it more so helped me to do better and for that I am thankful. I am happy for every single minute that I have been here in Spain, because this is completely different from anything that I have ever done before. Right now, these are the moments I need to take advantage of  because you never know when the opportunity will come again. 

Basque Region is a unique part of the globe. From what I know it borders northeastern Spain and southern France. I can honestly say that a lot of what I have been able to see and experience here were all for the first time. I have been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places around the world, but this trip has showed me that there is just so much more out there for me to see. It makes me despise "Anthony Bourdain" that much more, but he too must have faced many hardships before landing a job traveling the world in the show "No Reservations."

If you have followed from the beginning you have been able to see how my daily routines were on  a busy, slow, and free days. Every minute of it has been an adventure especially in the sense that I was never bored here. My head Chef Mauricio loves to call me out when I don't look motivated or if I'm moving slow, but I think that is more so b/c of the lack of sleep . I have always been up for any challenge that was asked of me at this hotel. Even if I didn't know what it meant, I did my best. I wish there was a way to let the people at  the hotel know that, but I plan to show them with my how hard I work day in and day out until the day I leave. No matter what Mauricio or anyone says about my experience here, I have learned a lot! I cannot wait for what's next in my Culinary Journey and in Life. To think almost 3 years ago I was one step away from applying to Law School and now I'm in Spain enhancing my skills in the art of Gastronomica (as they call it here)! All things happen for a reason and its important to take whatever life gives you and run with it. 

Thank you to all the followers, 

Adios, Agurd, Goodbye!

Sunday, 15 May 2011


Hola Famillia y Amigos!
Sorry it's been so long since my last post, but i've kinda just been spending more time enjoying the rest of my time in Espana! It looks like I will be coming home a little earlier than expected, but It's ok! I'm ready to  be back in Chicago! The new roommates are great and they are helping me with my Spanish, but at the same time I'm getting used to speaking english again and I just depend on them whenever I need to say something to the Famillia at the hotel.
Things have really slowed down at the hotel. Since there are less clients they have me doing different chores necessary for the hotel. I don't mind doing any of the chores b/c it's good to get out of the kitchen once in a while. And the weather has been great, So I love being outside. I keep telling Mauricio that he needs to develop a Menu for me, So I can bring back all the cuisines of the Basque Region to Chicago! Hopefully me and Omar (My Friend from LCB) can put together a little fiesta for everybody and have "Taste of Spain"!

Mauricio has done a great job showing me what it takes to work in the kitchen and telling me the specifics of making certain dishes that he makes. He is also the "King of Salsa" and has been teaching me some moves during our free time! I feel bad for our roommate Inga (From Iceland) b/c she has practice Salsa with all the guys in the house since she is the only girl. But she is pretty much a pro now that we have been to a salsa bar almost every night we've gone out.

Mac is our other roommate from Philly. He also speaks spanish really well and is taking a year off from school before he goes to the University of Delaware. I always here the family (employees of the hotel) talk to Inga and Mac about my first weeks at the hotel. How I spent a lot of time repeating things said to me and just staring at them with a blank face. I'm not even embarrassed anymore and all I can do is laugh. When I laugh, everyone laughs b/c they all realize that I understand they are talking about me. The good thing is my spanish has improved from 6 weeks ago, along with all the skills I will take away from what I have seen in this kitchen.

This trip to Spain has been more than I could have ever asked for and unforgettable experience. I hope to bring back all that I have learned here: food, culture, language, kitchen skills, and even salsa. I wise man once told me that "It's important to put yourself in a position in life where you are out of you comfort zone, and uncomfortable. Because only then can you truly see what you are capable of"-Liebs
Those are words that I have learned to live by during my time here. When things got tough, I wanted to just give up and come back home, but I stuck with it and now I could not be happier and ready for what's next!

Until next time Hilo Bloggers!

Agurd (that is Basque for Good bye)

PS. Go Bulls!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Pacquiao Fight time!

Everything has  calmed down here a lot! The new roommates are awesome and It's great to speak English again. Although my Espagnol has probably gotten weaker since they got here, I could not be happier to have some other people in the house for a change.

Enough about them though, Pacquiao fights tomorrow. It will probably be 3am Spanish time, and 9-10 pm in Chicago! Ok people, let's get serious! I respect Mosley and he is a legendary fighter. No matter how much grief Pac gets for taking this fight, Sugar Shane is still one of the best fighters out there. If you disagree, look at what he did against Margarito two years ago and he was one or two punches away from taking out Pretty Boy Floyd. So I hate hearing all the mess that this is a bad fight. It is a great fight for Pacquiao  and Mosley and It is just hours away. Unfortunately, no one will get a mass text message from me b/c it is $1 a text from Spain, so just feel my text in Spirit.

Prediction: Sugar Shane will be knocked down a couple times before he is down and out. I hate to say it, but Pacquiao is the "Real Deal" and needs to prove a point. He is simply too fast, and Pacquiao has made it clear that it doesn't matter how big the fighter is after Margarito outweighed him by nearly 20 lbs. last fight. Mosley has speed, power, experience and a heart of a champion. Bottom line, Pacquiao is simply better than all of that at this point of this career and he is ready to go. He seems to have had less distractions this camp and there are no excuses for him to not to be the best Pac Man that he has ever been.

I just don't think Sugar Shane can last more than 5 rounds with what Pacquiao is capable of. He has too much speed, energy, and that killer instinct to put fighters away when necessary. With Roach in the corner, you know Roach would rather have the fight end sooner than later. I hope to see as much of you there during a skype or gchat sessioin. Time for Pac Man to add on to his legacy and fight for the pride of the Philippines.


Saturday, 30 April 2011

Basque Country

There really is nothing else like the cuisines of the Basque Region. There are similarities with the food they make here, but they are few and far between. Not only are the ingredients different, but it is the way they prepare their food. I am still struggling with the language here and I am constantly getting laughed/ yelled at but I feel that in the end it is all worth it. I plan to leave this part of the world having the last laugh in the sense that there is nothing that will take away from the the experience of everything I learn, see, touch, taste, and smell. It is hard for me the describe the differences that this place has to offer therefore I plan to let my pictures do most of the talking. I will post all the pictures of the sites and the food the rest of the food that I have seen and tasted since I have been once I get the chance.

My first day off was great because I got the chance to just kick back and relax with Mauricio. Basically just  went to nearby town, walked around a little bit. The area seemed to be the closest similarity to what I am used to in the sense there was a big mall/ movie theater along with a Supermarket nearby. Kept things pretty simple and easy that day. I went out and bought some new clothes b/c I didn't really pack much for this trip. Nothing major, just a couple shirts. Then Mauricio wanted to go to a Sushi Restaurant in the mall because I have been constantly talking up the restaurant "Fusian" (Sushi Restaurant, that I cannot wait to be a part of). Great food and finally got to have food that I have had before. After, saw the  movie "Scream 4" En Espagnol. Besides the "bonita Chicas" as Mauricio would say, I did understand the movie at all. It helped my spanish a little bit though. We went bowling and had some brazillian food after and called it a day.

The best part of my trip so far would have to be my second day off where we had the opportunity to travel to San Sebastian. It is about 1 and half north east of Bilbao  and it the landscape of the city is beautiful. It is located directly on a peninsula that makes up the entire city. The buildings and beaches are all lined along the coast and it is a site to see. Although it was a day off, it was one of the most tiring days of my trip thus far. We had to walk everywhere since there is no bus route or train  capable of lining the coast. But walking is what made everything better. That way I did not miss any part of they city of San Sebastian. Mauricio told me about how it was so rich in history and culture and it has lived with city from centuries ago. From the way the people live to the way they eat of course. This week is still considered holiday b/c of the overlap and there were plenty of tourist around. What I really like is how the stores and shops are built within narrow roads all trapped within each other. The city is built like a maze of narrow roads that can barely fit the width of a car. Thankfully, it seems to be understood that the roads where all the shops are, are mainly for the pedestrians and tourists of the city. You will occasionally see a car or two but not much.

So as we walked into the city, Mauricio asked if I was hungry. We walked passed a dozen restaurants that had a wide variety of small single serving portions the lined the entire countertop of the restaurant. They were all bars, but just lined with food from one end to the other.  I assumed, we would pick one place and be there for one meal and be done. The best way to describe what we did is, It was basically a bar crawl but with really great food. All the portions  were not only visually appealing, but completely different from anything I've ever seen before. These restaurants all served what is known and "PINTXOS" which is similar to tapas, but strictly single serving basically like appetizers. When you walk into each different restaurant, all the food is just visually appealing. Not only are you thinking about how good the food taste, but for me I kept asking myself "How the heck did they make that"? I was egg yolks poached and clear gelatin casing shaped like an egg, different fish carefully decorated, and vegetables put together that you would be perfectly content just looking at it rather than eating it (yea right, I still ate everything I bought). Each portion ranged from 1-4 Euros on average depending on what you got, but it was all worth it. Mauricio's only rule was that "Pintxos (pronounced Pinchos)" is best eaten with a glass of wine. So even if we went to one place just to have one single small Pintxo, it was necessary to have wine which was fine with me until we got to 5 or 6th restaurant. What a great experience I will never forget and I told him that I need to go back at least one more time before I leave to go back to Chicago.

The drive back I was in such awe with the entire experience of the day I just had all these questions for Mauricio to how some the dishes were made, certain ingredients, and more about the history and culture of not only San Sebastian but Northern Spain (Basque Country) as a whole.  Can't believe almost one month has passed since I left, and there is still much I would like to do before I leave. Work is still tough and still getting very little sleep, but all the good times make up for the bad, which really aren't all that bad. I got some new roommates today. Inca, she is from Iceland and knows English and has been really great to talk to, since I haven't used English in over a month and there is another student from Philly comin in shortly. I will try to give another update soon.


BY THEY WAY! Dont think just b/c I'm in Spain and distracted by all that is around me I have forgotten about what is in a little over a week. Yea that right! Mannnnnyyy PACQUIAO!!!!! WOO!!! Cannot wait to be up at 4 in the morning watching the fight with all of you. My professional prediction is that it will be a KO of course. I will give my round prediction later this week.


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Day 20 (Ian Hilo)

I may have reached a point where I feel like I have very little energy left. Hard work and lack of sleep has been tough these past couple days, along with the fact that I have yet to have a single day off. Physically I am fine, but right now it is important for me to stay strong mentally. Something that has really helped on this Easter Sunday is knowing that my family is safe at home and my friends are all OK. It has also helped me a lot to think no matter how tired and exhausted I may be, it doesn't even compare to anything my cousin Ian is going through right now. 

For those who do not know, he is boot camp in Virginia and he left over a week ago. I have small idea of what boot camp must be like but at the same time, what I am doing right now does even compare to what he must be going through at the moment. If you get to read this Ian, just wanted to say thanks for being my motivation for today. Stay strong and know that we are all thinking about you as you are hard at work for our country. 

I'm going to be just fine, just as long as the Bulls stop losing and I can stay in contact with you all one way or another through: Phone, Facebook, GChat, Blogging, Email, Carrier Pigeon, Pony Express, or Skype. Happy Easter to all and will be in contact soon. 


In the words of Chef O

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Top Ten "Mauricio No Gusta!"

I had a few moments before dinner service, so I said what the heck! Why not give you a peek at the things Chef Mauricio does not like or gets angry with when I'm in the kitchen:

10) David No Espagnol:
9) David No Rapido
8) Everytime we drive past a herd of cows or sheep and it smells like Dun, he plugs his nose and says "Oh Daveeed, Bano"
7) Never touch his garbage and always make sure that it is back or emptied by the time he gets back
6) Clean, Clean, Clean
5) Energy, Energy, Energy (Those may be the only 2 words he know in English, and he uses them both very well)
4) Whenever I'm using the wrong tool for the job he will grab what I am using, act like and talk like a girl then he will grab a more efficient tool/ knife and say "Esta es por Chicos, Tu Es Chica!"

*I usually try to hold all my tears for when I get back to my room, but sometimes it's just so hard!
3) He likes to ask me to get things from the Freezer, fridge or Pantry and I have trouble for the most part translating b/c I have never used Spanish in my life. He will usually continue to yell the same thing over and over in hopes that I will run back and forth to the Kitchen with exactly what he needs. From a spectator point of view, I would imagine this would be pretty hilarious, but from my point of view it is absolute mayhem. He will then finish by yelling :"Pincar" (think) or "Memory!" I guess he know more than 2 words in English.
2) "David No Intiendo Espagnol"
The # 1 important thing that helps run a good kitchen is communication, and that is hard to do when you can't communicate. So I again say how the fact that I don't speak Spanish really gets his Jets Burning. I'm learning everyday and hope to be fluent by the time I get back!

and the "# 1 reason Chef Mauricio No Gusta":

I made the mistake of using it once, and I know to never use it ever again! Let's just say I'm lucky to have all my fingers still, haha!


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Muy Bien!

Nothing beats the peacefulness of sitting in the gazebo after a tough morning of work for Sunday! Yes! It's Sunday! Sorry blog followers I know it has been a couple of days, but now I know how much you missed me posting. I didn't realize I had any followers until people showed concern after I missed post for a couple days. but to be honest, since Wednesday I have been in the kitchen for a minimum of 13-15 hours a day,  with 2-4 hour breaks in between Breakfast/ Lunch and Dinner. Is it Tiring/ Exhausting? Yes! Is it Stressful at times? Si! But I'm having a great time, and I'm just doing my best to keep up with fast pace of this kitchen. 

I think it was Wednesday of this week when I just stopped being so stressed and uptight about my duties here and realized, it is simply important for me just to have fun! If I look at this job as work, It's going to be along 2 months. If I walk into the kitchen with the attitude "I get to be here!" It makes the time that much better for me and faster as well. 13-15 hour work days seem long on paper, but the time flies in the kitchen. With exception to breakfast or when I'm eating dinner, I am constantly moving in the kitchen. There is always something that needs to be done at any given time and it is important to move from job to job. Whether it is: cutting vegetables/ meat, Setting up cooking utensils/ burners, Cleaning, or running to get ingredients in the fridge or freezer. There is always something to be done, if I'm sitting for a while, I begin to worry that there is something that has yet to be done and Mauricio is not happy if something isn't where it needs to be. My first couple post, I explained my daily routines and that is basically how my days have been. It's different every day b/c the menu changes and amount of people changes as well. But now that I have got everything down to a tee for how the kitchen operates, I need to continue to get everything done in a timely manner. It's like my instincts have taken over from what I have learned in school and now is the time to apply it all. 

Week 1 I was lost and didn't know what to expect and what I needed to do. I have never in my life really worked in a kitchen. I mean the few months I was in Pinocchio's is much different from this place. Pinocchio's I didn't really do any of the cooking, but I got the feel for what it takes to work in the food service industry (Thank you Lauren and Ian). Here, it is much faster pace. You have to take into account that people are waiting on your order, that food be served warm, properly cooked, and presentation is everything. As people, we first eat with our eyes. If it doesn't look good, the perception of how we taste it will be completely different. So, not only is their a lot of physical labor that takes to running this kitchen, but it is just as much mental. That may be why Mauricio is constantly pointing at his head and yelling "PENCAR" at me. I used to think he was just scratching his head at first from how hard he was pressing his finger against his head, but it became really clear that he was telling me to think. 

It was ok for me to ask lots of question the first couple days and he actually encouraged it (hard to do when I don't know Spanish). From then on, he expected to me to figure out mostly everything on my own. I may have lots of duties to complete, but he has just as much that all needs to get done!

But let's get to why I titled this blog "Muy Bien!" After almost 2 weeks of Mauricio yelling and screaming at me whenever I did something wrong or I was wasn't "Pencaring"(wrong conjugation for thinking, but it's my blog so what), out of the blue there came a random lunch rush. We don't typically have that many people in for lunch and it usually just appetizers served. Dinner is the main part of our day and bulk of our workload. Esther walked into the Kitchen and said 30 people just came in and they are all expecting the full dining meals. So let it be known, that before dinner, we usually spend 2-3 hours of prep to get everything ready for dinner, but now we were expected to do an entire service with no prep and nothing else completed except for the cleaning we had just done for breakfast. When Esther said this I had not fully understood any of it yet, all I heard was "Trente!" and Mauricio repeated it surprised. He took a step back for 5 seconds, then he looked at me and said "Vamos!" I immediately realized that this was really happening. It was exactly like a scene from Hell's Kitchen but En Espagnol (I'm  sure I've said that before). All I did was do everything I had been doing for the past week, but I had to work twice as fast. Mauricio gathered a ton of different vegetables and just said "Cortar! (cut)" I knew exactly what to do with each individual ingredient b/c I knew the menu looked like and it was time to do work. I sliced, diced, brunoise, julienned, everything that was in front of me. I was cutting so fast that I actually cut through my fingernail. Mauricio stopped for a second, looked over at me and I lifted the Knife. 
Thank you God, it was just the tip (That's what she said!) "Balle (OK)". It took me around 30-40 minutes to cut all the vegetables. I did this while Mauricio put together the appetizers for the guest and got all the meat ready. 

The appetizers were out and now it was time Mise en place for the main course. After that was done, I had to make 30 salads. Sounds really easy, but not so much! Once I post my pictures, you'll see how complex some of these salads get. Mauricio was solely focused on dinner, and in the back of my head I just kept thinking how long it was goin to take for those people to eat their appetizers, turns out, not that long. This must of been a hungry group of 30 people, b/c the dishes came back into the kitchen just as fast as they were sent out. I ran to the salad station and just started putting them together. There was no time to ask Mauricio what should go in each salad, I just had to make them as I was taught. As soon as I got done with each one,  new server came and brought it right out. After salads was dinner, got all the plates threw them into the oven to warm them up and threw the other half in the dish washer b/c there wasn't enough space. Dishes once again started coming back and now it was time to plate. Each dish went out one after the other and the intensity in the Kitchen was complete chaos. The oven was going, the blender was spinning,  Mauricio threw me on the grill station while he took care of everything on the stove. This part is usually the most stressful part for during the past services, but there was something different. I realized that I was more calm and composed, but still aware of the 10 things going on at once. Mauricio is always yelling Tranquille (calm) whenever I seem flustered. I also realized for the first time since I have been at Hotel Etxegana I was just having fun with it all and it made everything that much easier to complete. 

All the food went out and the final step is Dessert. It's usually easy when you have everything baked before hand, but since we were limited Mauricio  grabbed everything we had and scaled everything out to make sure we would have enough for everyone in service. He plated one dish and I immediately got all the plates out and copied the exact plate that he had done. It looked delicious, it was hard for me to plate w/o eating the dessert it looked to good. He grabbed a chocolate coulant (basically a brownie muffin filled with chocolate, one scoop of Helado (ice cream) and a strawberry apple crepe cut in quarters to serve each plate. Once again plates started rushing into the Kitchen and I just started to plate 30 desserts alongside of him. As soon as all the desserts went out Mauricio had a look of intense relief on his face and looked at me raised his hand in the air to give me a high five and just said "Muy Bien!" That was the first time I heard a compliment from him the entire time I had been here and it definitely fired me up that we just got through that service in 90 minutes give or take 10-15 minutes. For the first time Since I had been here, I finally realized everything just clicked. 
That's enough for now, until next time TEAM PAC HILO blog followers