"Anything dealing with the kitchen, I want no one to touch it."
Nacho explains that he is getting frustrated.
Nacho auditions for the Texas Ranch House.
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Ignacio, nicknamed Nacho, is a tenacious character who has faced and overcome some very real challenges in his life. He was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, but ended up living on the streets in California. But Ignacio has survived and triumphed, receiving a grant to attend New York's Institute of Culinary Education. Today, getting up at dawn to cook for 200 people is a regular event for this chef. Ignacio lives in a New York apartment decorated with cowboy paraphernalia that he collects from auctions and eBay. Ignacio's interest in the Wild West extends to a documentary he is producing on black rodeo cowboys. "I'd like to make sure that all the voices get heard," he says.
"I want to make something clear. Anything dealing with the kitchen, I want no one to touch it. In the cook shack, it's off limit unless I know that you are going in there. If you take anything out of there without my permission, you're stealing. That's the end of the story."
Nacho is a seasoned cowhand who now has the opportunity for steady employment as a ranch cook. His main responsibility is to prepare and serve three hot meals a day, come rain or shine, with enough grub to go around twice. As cook, he will serve as caretaker to the young cowboys, dispensing medical remedies, the occasional shave, and sound advice.
Nacho's direct superior is the foreman, although his responsibilities lie outside of the foreman's realm of knowledge. While the foreman may give the cook orders and instruct his daily duties, it is up to Nacho to manage the food supplies, notifying his superior when they need replenishing. If he is feeling overwhelmed, the foreman may allow the most inexperienced cowhand to become a cook's assistant.
Nacho must strive to produce meals of quality and quantity with modest resources. He has his own "cocina," an outdoor range off the rear of the bunkhouse. There is also an "horno" for baking bread as well as a garden of fresh greens and vegetables to be shared between the bunkhouse and the main house. He must establish a rapport with the ranch owner's wife and her "girl of all work" to gain greater access to the food supplies kept in their domain, which may be finer than what is stored in the bunkhouse.
On the ranch, the cook is the first to rise, before the break of day. In the darkness of the morning Nacho will prepare a simple, but hearty breakfast and wake the cowhands when it is ready. Lunch, the second meal, is served under shade while the sun is hottest. For the men working on the range who are unable to return to the ranch for lunch, Nacho will prepare provisions to take along. Nacho should have dinner ready when the vaqueros are quitting work for the day. The exact time is dictated by the work schedule set out each day by the foreman.
On the trail, the cook must wake up every day at about 3:30 in the morning and make a simple breakfast of coffee, biscuits, and bacon. It is his responsibility to wake the cowboys at around 4:30 with the call of "Roll out!" When the meal is finished, the cowhands will shove off and the cook is left in possession of the wagon. He must wash up, put out the fire, reload the wagon, and feed and water the team. When these duties are attended to, Nacho should hit the trail and ride ahead of the herd to the next camp, as determined by the trail boss.
Nacho should arrive at the next point a few hours ahead of the herd and get ready to cook lunch. After the midday meal, the cook might rest a little bit, as will the cowhands, though there are always some taking turns holding the herd. After the heat subsides at about four in the afternoon, the vaqueros get up and start moving the cattle again. Nacho will go ahead and set up the night camp, put out the bedrolls, start a fire, and cook supper. When the meat is fried and the coffee boiled, the word is given: "Grub pile." Every man washes his face and hands, helps himself, and eats. The cook will hand around the coffee at this point. At night, Nacho will bunk down with the rest of the cowboys. The next day, the process begins anew.
Produced by Thirteen/WNET New York and Wall to Wall Television.
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