Am I Home Yet?

I realize it has been weeks since my last guest blog, but to make up for it, I think I feel a bit more like a Chicagoan now, having secured employment and a sense of humor about the weather and the CTA. A little more than a month ago, while still searching for a job, any job, I ran across two unexpected things, things I feel, if I may be such a bold newcomer, perhaps only Chicago can offer.

The first of these surprises came in the form of a job offer. Oh finally, someone wanted to hire me! I had an interview, which in my industry they call stages. Essentially, these eight hour working interviews are a way for chefs to evaluate whether a person is an idiot or not through observation. I am not sure why all industries to do not practice this custom, because it seems like a much better way of assessing a worker than talking to them for an hour. But, here's the thing, I didn't want the job. Me, worrier extraordinaire, moving to a cold-ass city in a recession, in the hospitality industry in January, didn't want the cooking job I had been trained for and that would look great on my resume. Arrogance, was that it? (If you are thinking stupidity, please keep that to yourself.) If so, Andrea the Arrogant, Andrea the I Want Something Better, was the surprise that Kansas City, home, could not offer, had never offered.

The second surprise, something perhaps a bit more interesting, was the discovery of the Issacson and Stein Fish Market just off Halsted near downtown. In order to get said job I ended up turning down, I felt like I needed to hone my fish butchering skills, as I was applying for the fish cook position. I asked resident food expert Allison where I could get great quality whole fish retail (expecting a "you know you're in the Midwest, even if it is Chicago"), and was directed unblinkingly toward the best fish purveyor I have ever seen, be it wholesale or retail. Retail quality fish for cheap in the Midwest?-huge surprise. Housed in an unassuming warehouse was a veritable ocean explosion of clear-eyed, clean-gilled sea bass, red snapper, live eels, sardines, anchovies, arctic char, rainbow trout, pompano and grouper, not to mention, like, nine kinds of oysters. I would say sixty percent of the fish they had were wild caught. You walk in, you grab gloves and a bag, and walk around overwhelmed. I wanted a mix of small and larger fish for practicing on, so I picked out one red snapper, two wild mullet, and two rainbow trout. My total? $15.65. Most of the fish I looked at were between $3.00 and $4.00 per pound. Oh, yes, you Whole Foods shoppers, look at that one more time. Though I did not request these services, the fish monger offers to clean your fish at no extra charge. I immediately went home, and while drinking a bottle of Gewurztraminer, cleaned, cut up, cooked, and ate all of the the fish I bought. This was, by far, the best part of the interview. Little by little, this big city is beginning to feel like a better version of home.

Issacson and Stein Fish Company

800 W. Fulton Market,

Chicago, Il

Ph: 312.421.2444


Andrea said...

I love this place too! Beside the awesome selection of fresh fish, you can get white fish scraps here for awesome fish stock. Buying the scraps is way cheaper then buying a whole fish.

Back Garage said...

Wow -- I had *no* idea this place existed. Jem and I must go here.