A few nights ago we had an awesome work “team-building” event. We went to this cool restaurant on the water and a dozen of us divided into two teams. Our mission was to, well, make dinner. I was pretty skeptical that we’d do anything worth munching, but hey, it would be fun to try. They had one of these massive kitchens, and here’s the kicker – it was stocked with EVERYTHING you could ever want to cook stuff (utensils, veggies, seasoning, meats, ovens . . . and fire extinguishers). Let’s be clear, my cooking skillz are right in line with my hair gel skills. Here are the top five things I’ve been known to “cook” (and the Mrs HTF will keep me honest on this):
- Pancakes with chocolate chips (the mix is one of those that you just add water to – highly complex)
- Assorted meat products dropped on the grill and heated until . . . black
- Cereal – I have been known to do both Life AND Honey Bunches of Oats
- Mac ‘n Cheese – but the kids have taken over the adding of cheese, milk, butter and stirring, so I pretty much just pour the Mac in the agua
- Microwave Popcorn
So you can see why I had some trepidation about cooking for people I had to work with. My main assigned task was the cooking of the steak. I was assigned to create a “dry rub.” There was a shelf with roughly 654,987 different bottles of spices. So I grabbed a few and gave them a highly-scientific sniff. Then I started dumping spoonfulls in to a bowl while pretending that I had some idea of what I was doing. We were going with a Latin theme, so I found a little Cayenne Pepper and added that for a bit of a kick. At the end, I again sniffed my creation and didn’t feel immediately nauseous, so I had a coworker sniff it too, and she said it was alright. As a final check we took it to the supervising chef who was a pro helping both teams. She asked if we’d tasted it. “Um, no, but we smelled it.” She looked a little confused at my answer. Then she took a pinch of it and put it in her mouth. She then smiled and said, “how much Cayenne Pepper did you add.” I gave the same answer my kids would’ve given: “I don’t know.” She then told me to taste it. I did. Very quickly portions of my tongue turned into Little Flaming Taste Buds (good name for a rock band). The stuff was disastrously hot. She suggested a do-over, and I dumped it in the trash can . . . defeated. I called it my Dry Rub Dry Run. I thought my screw-up would be kept quiet until I turned around to see my boss with A VIDEO CAMERA! So I’ll probably get to relive that funness a few times. My second attempt actually worked quite well, and I was pretty happy with how the meat eventually turned out. By which I mean everyone who ate it survived. My team actually won the competition in spite of my involvement. So it was a fun night.
But I’m sure glad for the chef who taught me that the best way to know how something will taste is to, well, taste it. The sniffer isn’t totally accurate sometimes…