March 20, 2011
On March 17, 2011 I arrived at Pampas Palo Alto to shadow Chef Nicole (Nikki) Baverso for the day. Pampas is a modern churrascaria style restaurant. They have a rodizio style of service with fourteen different types of meat.
Chef Nikki graduated from Johnson and Wales in June 2006 with a Bachelor degree in Culinary Arts. She did her internship at Casanova Restaurant in Carmel, CA. At the end of her five month internship she was offered a permanent position in the kitchen at Casanova however, she returned to Johnson and Wales to finish her degree. When she graduated she returned to Casanova where she worked for Executive Chef Didier Dutertre, alongside fellow sous chef Anna Marie Bayonito for two years. At Casanova, the kitchens produced approximately 150 covers at lunch and sometimes nearly double that for dinner.
In 2008 the owners of Pampas hired Chef Nikki to be their executive chef. Nikki hired her friend and co-worker from Casanova, Anna Marie Bayonito to be her sous chef.
When I arrived in the kitchen at Pampas prep for lunch was in full swing. Line cook Carlos was doing prep for the ala cart lunch service. Another person was grinding meat for the house made Linguica and lamb sausages. The Salad chef was prepping ingredients for the side bar evening service.
Chef Nikki was prepping her corned beef for the sliders she was planning for the lounge happy hour. She was also making pickles in house as a side for the sliders.
While I watched we talked about her background and she answered questions for me. She took me into the walk-in to show me around. Her walk-in is meticulously organized. Since the restaurant’s main staple is meat that takes up most of the space.
The lunch service was a little slow until almost 2:00pm at which time lunch service ends. There was a rush that came in right at that time. 23 orders came in all at the same time. As I watched the orders come in from the POS, Chef Nikki moved to the line to help Carlos with the last orders of the lunch service.
Watching Chef Nikki and Line Cook Carlos working together was almost magical. They meshed so easily to get the orders completed without even having to say a word to each other.
After all the lunch orders were out, Carlos moved to switching out the line for dinner service. Chef Nikki and I went to the walk-in to take inventory. Because it was Thursday a large order had to be placed for the weekend. We went to the storeroom and inventoried there too. Then we went to the office to place the order. After that was done, we went back to the kitchen to sample the sliders. They were delicious!
I chose to do this report on Chef Nikki because she is already an executive chef at the tender age of 27. In a male dominated field she has worked her way to the top of the field. I find that very inspirational because I started my career so late. It makes me feel like there is hope for me to be successful in the field. In fact, Nikki said I can come back and work for her anytime!
|Me with Chef Nikki|
What's your regular comfort meal?
Pizza or plain old Mac & Cheese
You're stranded on a desert island. What five foods would you want with you?
2. Reese’s cups
5. Dried Cherries
If you were being executed tomorrow, what would be your last meal?
Manicotti with Béchamel, Marinara, and Spinach
What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
What's your favorite kitchen tool?
If you weren't a chef, or in the food business, what would you be?
I would be a dentist.
What ingredients should every home have in the cupboard/refrigerator?
Paprika! It is such an under rated spice.
If you had 30 minutes to cook a meal for the president, what would you cook?
Seared Ahi tuna, Parsnip puree, Arugula salad
What is the longest you ever worked without a break in the kitchen?
15 hours for 7 days straight.