I shudder when I think about my early days of “professional” cooking. Everyone has to start somewhere. But without having gone to cooking school or gotten any real world restaurant experience, I was particularly clueless and ill equipped for my first few private chef gigs.
Shortly after I quit my day job to blog and work on my cookbook full-time, one of my family friends in a gesture of good will hired me to cook for a dinner party. Not only did I have no idea what to charge him, I wasn’t even an experienced enough host to know the right kind of thing to serve a group of adults that was creative, easy to execute and didn’t feel like I was trying too hard. I was 23, so it’s arguable whether I could have even been considered an adult myself.
I ended up making these ginger salmon burgers, which had been a good one-off dinner experiment I tried on my parents. Though they were always polite and encouraging about whatever I was trying out on a given evening, you could tell that on this occasion, they actually didn’t have to fake it. And that was a good enough endorsement for me.
Salmon burgers are an easy option for a weeknight dinner for 3, but searing off 10 patties before dinner service proved to be slightly more pressure than my limited skill set could handle. Especially since I’d already burnt my arm on the oven and was running an hour behind schedule and desperately trying not to cry. Also, no matter how big and beautiful the kitchen, in a New York City salmon cooked stove-top has the tendency to leave everyone who enters the apartment smelling just a little bit fishy.
Lou Reed was one of the dinner guests, which only intensified my panic attack as funky smoke wafted out from the open kitchen into the dining area. Luckily, the food all tasted pretty good and the guests were equally skilled in positive encouragement as my parents, even if the presentation deserved little praise. And Lou ate two salmon burgers, so I counted the whole experience as a win. Continue reading