Featured Contributor: Fred Decker

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer who has written and blogged on food-related topics since 2007. Previously he sold computers, insurance and mutual funds.
FD02School: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia Community College, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
Degree: Two-year culinary arts certification, no academic degree
Approved Sections: Food, Tech, Careers, Business/Personal Finance

instagramAs a Chef, do you cringe when you see people taking Instagram photos of their food? Not at all. I think it’s a compliment if people want to share/memorialize your food, or use it to make their friends jealous.

What are some of the ‘unusual’ things you’ve consumed/prepared as a Chef? I’m guessing things like testicles, eyeballsmonkey brains, feet

Pretty much all of the above. Prairie oysters, frankly, are kind of bland. They need the breading and the dipping sauce to amount to anything, kind of like the dodgier sort of chicken nuggets. Eyeballs, usually in the context of enjoying a bowl of fish heads. There’s good eating on the heads, especially the cheeks and tongues, but if somebody’s visibly grossed out by this I’ll sometimes slurp up the eyes just to get that “EWWWWW!” reaction. I can be childish at times.

temple-of-doom_chilled-monkey-brainsFeet are usually rich in collagen and connective tissue, so they slow-cook to a soft and lush texture. Order the chicken feet sometime in a Chinese restaurant, they’re very good. Calves’ feet in their own jelly used to be considered especially suitable for invalids. Other weird stuff? Seal flippers I guess, I don’t know…I’m a sucker for most kinds of offal, I love the varied textures and flavors. Liver, kidney, heart, tripe, bone marrow…sign me up.

I’m still not eager to eat feet! Anyway, kitchen injuries never seem to be a matter of “if” but “when” — how badly have you injured yourself in the kitchen? Lemme see..I’ve gotten some pretty good burns over the years, and the usual collection of cuts. I took off a fingertip one night with a mandoline (bandaged it, put on a glove, and finished my shift). Once my thumb got infected, when I was shucking a few hundred pounds of lobster, and swelled up to the size of a plum. I couldn’t get in to see the doctor, so I lanced and bandaged it myself and went back to work. That was at my own little restaurant, so there was nobody to cover if I wasn’t there.

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Time and time again Chefs on Bravo’s Top Chef are incapable of preparing a dessert. Can you make dessert? If so, which one is your go to? I’ve been a semi-commercial baker and served as my own pastry chef, so I can certainly get the job done. There are several I’m partial to, but my signature dessert at the restaurant was a simple, unadorned vanilla-bean crème brulee. Among desserts it’s the little black dress, the understated classic.

pumpkinsoup

What’s something you wouldn’t have thought possible could happen but did because you are a Chef? Being on television, I guess. I did a lot of live TV in Edmonton because I was two blocks from the studio, and I was their go-to guy when somebody canceled on short notice. I’ve done a couple of taped, themed programs as well, one of which was carried nationally on cable. 

nourdainWho’s your favorite celebrity Chef? Probably Anthony Bourdain, though I haven’t watched him for a while. He’s always fun to watch or read. He’ll be in my little Nova Scotia town in November as part of a local food festival, so I’m hoping to meet him and get my copy of “Bone In the Throat” signed.

How do you relax? With a book, nine times out of ten. The tenth time I’m cooking, baking, or poking around a farmer’s market.

What are some genuine writing tips you employ?

  • Write first, edit later. Second-guessing yourself as you go is a time sink.
  • “What you know” is a variable, not a constant. Keep learning, and expanding your areas of expertise.
  • Never, ever forget a good reference. A well-tended set of bookmarks is solid gold.

What’s the best part about working with the Studio?
Well, gee…as a chef I worked 110-hour weeks, sweated my butt off, killed my back and knees, and cut and burned myself routinely. As a DMS writer I look up interesting things and then explain them to people. What’s not to like?

Be sure to check out some more of Fred’s work

3 thoughts on “Featured Contributor: Fred Decker

  1. “What you know” is a variable, not a constant. Keep learning, and expanding your areas of expertise.” EXCELLENT advice!

  2. Hi Mr. Decker! I read your blog on anesthesiologist assistants vs nurse anesthetists and I wanted to clarify/add a few things.

    First of all, I am an anesthesiologist assistant (AA) and I know hundreds of AA’s through school and yearly continuous medical education conferences that we attended. In your article you said that AA’s assist both nurse anesthetists (CRNA) and anesthesiologists which is not true. Nurse anesthetists AND AA’s assist the anesthesiologist during surgery. AA’s and CRNA’s have the same job responsibilities, perform the same tasks and receive the same pay when they are working at the same facility. When you stated that AA’s assist the doctors and nurse anesthetists, I think you were referring to anesthesia technicians. The anesthesia techs assist AA’s, nurse anesthetists and the anesthesiologist by cleaning up the anesthesia space after the case is finished and grabbing us equipment when we need it.

    So what does “assist” mean and what is the role of the non-physician anesthetist (CRNA and AA) in the OR?

    Basically, the way it works is there is one anesthesiologist for every 4 or 5 AA’s and CRNA’s. Some CRNA’s can practice under a non-anesthesiologist physician (for example, a surgeon) in some states lacking anesthesia providers. These states are usually rural and non-desirable areas. But the key point is that CRNA’s are required to have a physician that is responsible for them just like AA’s.

    Assist?

    Both the CRNA’s and AA’s will conduct a preoperative interview of the patient and make sure the patient is safe to go back to surgery. They will wheel the patient back to the operating room and hook them up to the monitors and call the anesthesiologist and wait for them to come in the room. Once they are in the room, the anesthetist (CRNA, AA) will then give the patient drugs to put the patient to sleep through the IV. The patient will stop breathing due to the medication and the anesthetist will secure the airway device. Once the airway device is secured, the anesthesiologist leaves the room and will not usually be seen until the surgery is over and the patient is being wheeled back to the recovery unit.

    The reason there are anesthetists is because the hospital can be more cost efficient in providing anesthesia care. The doctors make 300,000 plus while the anesthetists make around 135,000 base pay not including overtime. Also, anesthetists are an important individual in the anesthesia care TEAM. The word “team” is emphasized because the AA’s and CRNA’s are always able to receive quick help from the anesthesiologist if we need it. The doctors are always a phone call away.

    I hope this clarified a few things! Thanks so much for your time!

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