Cooking French Cuisine with an Ex-Sous Chef

Cooking French Cuisine with an Ex-Sous Chef

It's not a mystery why I don't seem to cook often: I don't have kids, I don't like spending money on groceries and I hate washing dishes x) LOL! Those three factors basically disqualify cooking as something necessary, inexpensive or fun for me. Howeverrr... lately I've been inspired to revisit this potential hobby, particularly because the boyfriend has been dying for a home-cooked meal after eating out almost every single day - wompz :(. 

Almost as though he heard my silent plea for help, my old high school friend reached out to me randomly to hang out. I quickly found out that he worked as a sous chef at a French restaurant for several years, so I jumped on the opportunity to cook alongside him! French food is my absolute favoriteee cuisine, so there was no way I'd let this opportunity slide.

I originally intended to document the cooking process to inspire you to get creative in the kitchen (and I hope it does, since we literally just figured things out as we went along and it all turned out amazing), but as I learned about my friend's story during our cooking session, I realized how much more important it was to share about the sous chef himself rather than just the food he cooks.

We'll share bits and pieces from his story as we move from dish to dish. Let's gather round the kitchen for some cooking tales!

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My friend's name is Runiev Maralit. We were in high school choir together but parted ways after graduation. After not keeping in contact for about 8 years, we've suddenly found ourselves walking down the street to grab fresh ingredients together for a dual cooking extravaganza xD. He told me about his passion for cooking and exploring new taste profiles the same way a painter might experiment with different strokes or ideas. I was amazed to see how far my friend had gotten after high school, but at the same time, I was curious about why he stopped pursuing cooking. Surely, if it was that amazing, he would still be pursuing it passionately, right?

So, I asked. And the answer I received was honestly much more realistic than I had anticipated.

 Runiev slicing the potatoes for our  pommes boulangère,  a creamy potato dish that's light and easy to bake.

Runiev slicing the potatoes for our pommes boulangère, a creamy potato dish that's light and easy to bake.

 Fun fact from  James Beard : " pommes boulangère  originated in France centuries ago when people in rural areas did not own ovens of their own. On their way to church, women would take the Sunday roast of lamb in a dish, surrounded with sliced onions and potatoes, to the baker to be cooked in his oven while the family prayed. Afterward, they picked it up and took it home for lunch, perfectly done."

Fun fact from James Beard: "pommes boulangère originated in France centuries ago when people in rural areas did not own ovens of their own. On their way to church, women would take the Sunday roast of lamb in a dish, surrounded with sliced onions and potatoes, to the baker to be cooked in his oven while the family prayed. Afterward, they picked it up and took it home for lunch, perfectly done."

Runiev explained that in a perfect world, he would love to keep pursuing his passion for cooking... but there's an underlying reality that not many people know about or care to admit: most chefs are overworked and underpaid, with plenty not receiving 401k's or any health benefits. The culinary industry is as cut-throat as it's shown on Gordon Ramsey, except you don't even get the glory of being on TV (most of the time). 

While working as a sous chef, he received the opportunity to cook alongside a few Michelin-starred chefs at a charity event and he used the opportunity to ask them about their lifestyle, hoping to hear that it gets better once you "make it." Keep in mind that the charity gala was incredibly huge and required said chefs to work tirelessly for 14-16 hours every day. The answer he received from the Michelin-starred chef was basically, "It's just like this. You work tirelessly for 14-16 hours a day for passion pay." He was then advised to leave the industry.

 The finished product of our  pommes boulangère.

The finished product of our pommes boulangère.

Runiev didn't quit right then and there, but he couldn't shake off that experience. That wasn't just any know-it-all person off the street - that was a Michelin-starred chef that basically confirmed his worst fear: working towards a downward spiral that would inevitably kill his passion.

 A wide variety of citrus fruits for our salmon crudo.

A wide variety of citrus fruits for our salmon crudo.

A few months later, a friend from New York Life offered to help him with financial planning. There was so much he didn't know about finances and the benefits that he should be receiving/setting up for himself, and this eye-opening experience showed him that he was keeping all his eggs in one (very unstable) basket. It sealed the deal for Runiev and he decided to get out of the culinary industry.

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As luck would have it, there was an opening at New York Life right when he was job searching. He's now made it his mission to help people in all walks of life (but especially people in the culinary industry) plan their finances intelligently and get the benefits they deserve. He still cooks as a hobby, but his life mission is to make a profound impact in the lives of blind-sighted, hardworking individuals.

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 A second rendition of our salmon crudo, using a mixture of blood oranges, lime and lemons as base. Excellent.

A second rendition of our salmon crudo, using a mixture of blood oranges, lime and lemons as base. Excellent.

One thing that really stood out to me about his story was when he reminisced on his late father's impact on the community. His father was also in the finance sector in the Philippines. When he passed, there were so many people attending his funeral that the entire cathedral reached its maximum limit and people had to crowd outside on the steps to commemorate the man who helped changed their lives. Runiev said that working at New York Life makes him feel closer to his father, who used his financial literacy to help the entire community.

 Salt-baeing the steak.

Salt-baeing the steak.

 Slushing on that buttuh

Slushing on that buttuh

 The perfect steak IMO.

The perfect steak IMO.

After not talking to an old friend for so long, you could only imagine how touched I was by that story. It's times like these that I'm so glad I have a blog so I could share his journey with you guys!

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I hope you enjoyed the little cooking tale we told :)! There aren't any exact recipes because we just eyeballed everything and added what we thought would taste good in the moment, including weird stuff like an aioli made on the spot with Chinese bbq sauce, creme fraiche and some other yummay seasonings to taste. The point is to not be afraid of cooking, but treat it like an artwork. I've since changed my perspective on cooking and tried a few more dishes on my own. I'll keep ya'll posted for more!

Also, if you or anyone you know need help with financial planning, here's Runiev's contact: rmaralit@ft.newyorklife.com

I've known Runiev since high school and he's always been the type to give 110% into everything that he's passionate about. I have no doubt you'll gain a lot of valuable insight from my talented friend!

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