Frank Chen

Frank Chen

pizza without cheese and meat swaps

"Fuck no" is usually the first reaction I get from folks.

I'll share some anecdotes to start the conversation.

As a kid, I always enjoyed pizza with extra tomato sauce, pepperoni, and sausage. When the pizza was eaten hot and straight out of the oven, cheese (usually mozzarella) was a great addition. Mozzarella adds body, stretchiness, and fattiness, all unique properties that we've come to expect from softly aged cheeses.

About a half-hour out of the oven, the cheese starts to cool down and get hard. This is about the time that things start to get a little wonky and less appealing. I'm not eating muh "fresh" pizza nowadays, so waiting too long makes the mozzarella slide off like Pangaea and lends itself to a chewy texture.

In my younger days, as crazy as it sounds, I would constantly go back to the microwave to mimic the "fresh out of the oven" scenario. I'd be eating pizza slice by slice and before consuming each slice, I'd blast it in the microwave until it was hot as lava, and then I'd quickly gobble it all down as fast as possible while it was piping hot. "Optimal consuming temperature" is what I called it. Needless to say, I had a fair amount of upper soft palate damage. 😂

So to avoid all the mouth damaging, microwave blasting, semi-solidified cheese, maybe we just skip all the cheese pre-text and order pizza without the cheese. What do you say?

meat swaps

I've been listening to some podcasts talk about the future of the restaurant industry after the pandemic. We're all hoping for a normal recovery but those more well-versed in the restaurant world suggest that the trend will break into several paths. At first, there will probably be a resurgence of folks who eat out, since we're all tired of being alone and in our sweatpants. This may revive restaurants. However, there are some hypotheses that suggest otherwise:

  1. Eating out will become a high-fashion, extremely expensive endeavor, with "ticket" prices rivaling in the thousands of dollars, but it will come as a complete package experience (food, ambience, location, entertainment).
  2. Mid-level restaurants will all but be dead. On Yelp, these might be classified as the three dollar sign restaurants. Think about the nice bistro down the street with the delicious ribeye, or the minimal hipster place serving fusion tapas.
  3. The rise of takeout and foods that "last" in transit will rise, due to the lingering fears of the pandemic. A Thai curry fares much better than fried chicken when eaten some period of time later.
  4. Ghost kitchens for the efficient cooking and delivery of food will become the norm for any type of "eating out" that doesn't fall under number 1 and 2. An add-on to this point might be that "kitchens" and "where you eat" will separate and curated outdoor eating areas will become the norm (I guess you can call that a "park"?).

The last possible development is my own hypothesis revolving around community. The reason why I always wanted to eat out was to have a good time with friends and try the latest dishes from chef creatives. However, technology and social media has made it extremely easy for what we would call "amateur" cooks to share their creations. They can do it as hands-off as just sharing on social media, or they can go whole-hog and create an entire supper club experience serving blue fin tuna from fucking Japan and using dry ice smoke to create an ambience.

The key is that there will be more micro-cooking from friends to friends. Smaller communities that trust one another will transcend any pandemic fears while keeping the "fun" essence around.

During the pandemic, I did cook for my friends on occasion, and in the latest installment, we swapped meats. I made smoked ribs for a batch of friends, and in return, they offloaded a frozen chuck roll they didn't know what to do with. Maybe I'll eat it myself, or turn it around again and turn it into a picnic basket for a hike or something. This is doing what I was envisioning - being a cook in service of your friends.

a need for clean

Life cycles in the grey areas. I know the feeling when a kitchen is spotless and immaculate, and I don't want to do any cooking just to preserve that cleanliness. The result is me eating shit out of the freezer or finding meals that involve super minimal preparation.

I've also experienced an extremely dirty kitchen. Oil splatters everywhere, every dish we own in the sink, trash can full to the gills, but this usually results in an array of amazing dishes that rival creations I've gotten in restaurants.

You can imagine this tradeoff on a sliding scale - dirty and complex or cleaner and simpler. You can't have one without the other. Even if you efficiently clean while you cook, you still sacrifice attention and effort.

Life cycles in the grey areas. Pick your tradeoff for the day and understand you can't optimize for everything.

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