As a fan of The Walking Dead and most zombie movies, it’s not surprising that as a food writer I eventually wondered just how chefs would cope if shit truly hit the fan, especially since, as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road points out, finding food is a struggle in any type of apocalypse.
During the month of October, I sat down with 4 Philly chefs and posed the following hypothetical: faced with being holed up in your restaurant for months or even beyond a year, how would you prep all the food you had on hand with a presumed 2-3 days before your utilities went and you said goodbye to refrigeration and gas powered anything.
But more than a fun hypothetical, I knew I was tapping into the everyday processes of any kitchen. Survival mode would only amplify certain techniques already on display at local restaurants, as well as the careful planning of chefs who readily monitor the health of food stocks they can hardly afford to waste.
And of course, I asked which piece of kitchen equipment they would use to go all Rick Grimes or Daryl Dixon on some zombies.
I broke it down by category, starting with the most important first.
“If it was going down, cure all proteins without a doubt.”
-Chef Sean Magee Time; Heritage (coming soon)
“The biggest worry is protein,” Chef Corey Baver says. “If you’re just consuming starch, without protein your organs would start to breakdown. One of the things you have to figure out is what to do with what’s [most important and] perishable—chicken, meat and fish,” he says.
“3 days of power, we’re going at it. First thing we’re doing is curing meat,” Sean Magee of Time says. “Just curing whole muscles and sections,” he adds, referring to prep for salamis, sausages, and terrines, among other things.
“Most of the time our proteins are served within 2-3 days to be the freshest they can possibly be. But if I’m trying to survive as a human being I know I can stretch food—like chicken, steak, fish—to ten days,” says Baver (he and his wife Chef Lynn Rinaldi own Izumi and Paradiso on East Passyunk; Baver helms the former,Rinaldi the latter).
But that’s with refrigeration.
When God is about to shut off your utilities, you have to prep accordingly.
For that, Rinaldi refers to the old school way of curing meats that Italian immigrants brought with them to South Philly.
“People would use their basements in the winter time—if it’s the right temperature and low humidity—for curing meats and fish. This is how salt cod baccala came about,” she says.
While Chef Dionicio Jimenez does a lot of ceviches at El Rey, he says he would opt for the certainty of salt curing. The freshness of a nice ceviche would be enjoyed as fuel for getting through a mountain of prep.
As for the work at hand, Baver relates it to everyday survival cuisine: “Once they’re [proteins] cured, you’re set,” he says. “Look at these guys who sustain themselves in the mountains.” CONTINUE READING >
Zombie Apocalypse chef by Evan M. Lopez