The Chef Apprentice

Join a self-taught cook as he trains at a top restaurant

swine3 (2).jpgNext to his desk in the Oliveto back office, Chef Paul Canales has taped a diagram that captures the restaurant's reverence for pork.

The diagram shows a hog divided into sections, such as the shoulder and the leg. All of these sections are labeled "good," except for the belly. It is labeled "real good."

Pork is a constant at Oliveto. The menu revolves around it.

On any given day, prep chefs can be seen breaking down a hog into various cuts - shoulder, loin, leg - and then processing them into porchetta, pancetta, scallopine, sausage or salumi.

Paul and Kelsey.jpgFor an uninitiated guest to the kitchen, it can be startling to see a pig's head simmering in a stock pot or a chef hefting a hand saw on one half of a 200-pound carcass.

Yet if you want restaurants to be respectful of the meat they serve, extracting every ounce of flavor and using all parts of the animal, then these scenes shouldn't shock you. Many chefs run far tidier kitchens by relying on industrial meat processors to do their butchery, delivering meat cuts that are shrink-wrapped and ready to cook.

To read the rest of this post, with more photos and a rundown on how Oliveto processes a whole hog, go here.
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About The Chef Apprentice

Stuart Leavenworth, an editorial writer for The Bee, will spend the next several months in the kitchen at Oliveto, a highly rated Italian restaurant in the Bay Area. As an apprentice, Stuart will start as a prep chef, preparing vegetables, soups, sauces and pasta fillings. Then he'll move on to more challenging assignments. He welcomes your questions. Read his first installment here. Email him at

March 2010

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