Employee meal is a great challenge for a chef, especially when you are starting your training. If you were working at a restaurant in Japan, each employee would take turns to make Makanai. The challenge is to use what’s available, use something you normally throw away like stems from vegetables and use cheaper ingredients and make something that satisfies the taste of all other professional chef co-workers.
At Rock ‘n Hollywood Sushi, the owner Saito told me that I could use anything in the walk-in refrigerator except fish and expensive ingredients. I was thrilled. I could make virtually anything I wanted, unlike, if I were working at a restaurant in Japan. Cooking maknai sounded like a great training program, yet, how they did in Japan, sounded like a lot of pressure and I never enjoyed that type of pressure anyway. I felt so luck to have such a freedom in making Makanai than many chefs at other restaurants, though, I never knew what they did at other restaurants
During the first week or so, I made what was on their menu – tempura dinner, teriyaki chicken dinner, teriyaki beef dinner, udon noodles, yakisoba noodles, even okonomiyaki, the Japanese pancake. After I got used to making what was on the menu, I started to make extra for other sushi chefs. I even made some extra for kitchen chefs like Pedro but not for waitresses because they came in around five o’clock and we thought, if they wanted to eat something, they could eat at home before the start of their shift, or they could order something from the menu. Both sushi chefs and kitchen chefs was working at least two to three hours before they came in, so that was how we saw it.
After making just about all the combo dinner meals on the menu, I got tired of making it and eating it and so did the other chefs. I thought what I wanted to eat, what I wanted to cook, what cuisine I wanted to try cooking. I automatically thought I had to make something from the menu but because the owner said I could use anything in the fridge. When I asked myself which cuisine I wanted to learn, then the answer came to my mind. Thai food!
I’ve been to Thailand a couple of times, and I loved it there. The food was excellent and enjoyed street food like noodles, curries red, yellow, green, Panang just about everything I tried tremendously. I especially remember the crab curry I had in Patong Beach, south of Bangkok, a famous beach resort. I could still remember the fresh Papaya Salad I had at a shopping mall in Bangkok. After the first bite, I was sweating with tears in my eyes because the salad was filled with Thai “Hot” chili peppers called Prik Nu, known as one of the hottest chili peppers in the world. Later I learned that being able to eat Papaya salad was used as a test to see if a boy becomes a man in Thailand- to stand the heat of Thai chilies. No wonder it was hot. Everyone in the food court was watching me, laughing at me (or more like being amused) crying yet still eating and enjoying the salad. Or, perhaps, they did not think I was enjoying it because I was crying.