Italian Lemons

I was staging in Florence at a fine dining restaurant. They didn’t let me touch the pans, I was working for twelve hours a day just washing salad and cleaning after the chefs. I also had the very important task of squeezing fresh lemon juice to dress the salad. For three weeks I was doing it as normal – grabbing the hand squeezer.

One day when it wasn’t so busy, the chef looked at me and asked how I was doing the lemon juice. He said it was wrong and he showed me how. He grabbed three pots and said there were three different ways of extracting the juice, it all depends on how you want the end result to be.

I was astonished by it, I couldn’t believe there was such thing. Other apprentices gathered around, they were all as curious as I was.

The chef sliced three halves and said that you can squeeze it normally, you can squeeze it sideways and you can squeeze it upside down. The first juice came out fresh, but slightly bitter. He explained it was because when you rub the sides of the pulp and the inside of the skin it mixes the citric juice with the bitterness of the skin. If you want that, great.

If you don’t want that, if you just want the citric taste you should just push the sides of the half lemon into the squeezer, so you extract purely the juice. It tasted just as he had said so.

The last and most important way of doing it was surprisingly amazing. He said, if you want the sourest taste of all, you do it upside down, because when the juice drops out of the lemon, it carries with it all the essencial oils that come out of the outside of the skin.

It may sound so silly, but with that simple share of knowledge, a tear drop came out of my eye. It was one of those eureka moments where I realized why I wanted to be a chef.

The smallest details can change everything, even a tiny drop of Italian lemon juice.