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Reader's Cooking: Mousse de Poivron Rouge -- Kazuko Takeuchi

NI Club Cooking

Last summer I had a great chance to spend my vacation with a professional French chef. He is known as one of the three most prominent chefs in Japan. Noboru Inoue is his name, and he is a chef at the Restaurant Cez Inno. As you can easily imagine, this was really an unusual experiment for a housewife like me. A friend of mine was kind enough to give me this opportunity. But I couldn't imagine what the coming days would be like, as it seemed as though I had begun a journey to an unfamiliar foreign country.

My kitchen was filled with a kind of nervous flurry when this professional guy went to work in it.

He always had a cute smile on his face, but whenever he started to pick and choose the produce, meats and fishes at the store, he would suddenly get strict and serious. He was in the habit of touching his hair, and he spoke to his assistant, Mr. Abe, like this: "Abe-chan, we gonna use this for Ratatouille. And the others for . . . ." It was impossible to pick up every word they were saying. Only a so-called pro could follow their talk. Unbelievable recipes filled his mind, and he could combine any number and variety of ingredients in a second.

Shopping didn't take much time. Everything was done so quickly! But you can't imagine how much food he bought. Though we were 12 persons in total, an American-size shopping cart was too heavy to push, and we couldn't even see the person in front of us. A sack full of potatoes and onions, and big boxes of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and lettuce. A big salmon, four whole chickens and a big chunk of beef. Wow, so many things were bought! But this was the way of his shopping.

Honestly, I was worrying whether we'd be able to eat all this stuff in only a week or not. But to my surprise we had to go back for more shopping every day after that. My kitchen was so filled with all these things that it was getting hard just to walk around.

Almost half of the chickens were fried in the pan. The cooking started. I was excited to meet a chef in my kitchen! The aromatic smell couldn't stay in the room and went outside through the fan. Every neighbor seemed to be envious. He didn't stop frying for how long? It's hard to remember; it was really maybe over an hour. 'Cause I, as a housewife, would not keep doing this one step for so long. But a professional chef won't let up. Just keeps frying and frying. Maybe this is some typical French dish with good-smelling delicious sauce on it.

Soon a big pot of water was ready for these chickens. OK, now this should be for stew, I thought. But all the remaining small pieces of vegetables for Ratatouille disappeared also into this pot. Now what's going on?

The chickens that went into the pot never came out. He took so much time to cook it, and it turned out that this was just for making a soup stock.

I learned that cooking is not only the things you see on the dish in front of you, but the things in the pots and pans, too, and that they could take much more time to prepare than we think. Especially, soups and sauces. Usually, at home, I like to skip this step, because it's easy to buy these things ready-made.

Those days were like getting a "hole-in-one" at the golf course: Just too happy! Hors d'oeuvre, soup, main dishes and vegetables. A week later all this food had disappeared from my kitchen! It was just like magic! Where did it all go? No need to explain. Well, we did put something in the freezer, though. But . . . .

Mr. Inoue is a man who knows the characteristics of every ingredient in detail, as well as the best way to whip them all into delicious dishes while respecting the age and health condition of every guest at the same time. Not everyone did this, but four of the guests weighed themselves on the scale after dining on the chef's cooking for a week. The results: reduced weight. Hard to believe, after you've enjoyed a whole week with a French menu everyday. This is really a sign of a professional chef, I think.

Probably, to be a professional chef one needs a hunch and good sense, but a lot of effort and hard work are needed too, of course. Further, the most important thing is a nice personality and a love of people. This is common among those people who are "first-class."

Recently, very complicated problems have appeared in many fields around the world. Half of these serious problems could be solved if everyone could possess a kind of professional sense. The very smallest unit is the family. Grandfather, grandmother, mother, father and also children should try to be a pro in each situation. These days, the "individual" is too strongly emphasized, so that many people have forgotten to accept their proper position in society.

It is really nice that one can learn a lot from one's attitude who is working as a pro. Anyway, it doesn't matter how young or old you are--you can feel the emotion after meeting with a "first-class" person, that always makes you happy.

Kazuko Takeuchi

Fig. Caption

Mousse de Poivron Rouge

soup stock 200cc

red pepper 3

gelatin 3 tablespoon

fresh cream 200cc

salt, pepper

1 Prepare soup stock.

2 Put shredded red pepper into the soup and boil until soft.

3 Put everything in the mixer.

4 Add some salt and pepper.

5 Soak gelatin in water. Add to red pepper.

6 Dip the bowl in iced water and wait until it becomes thick.

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