Proof I wasn’t born yesterday!

Well mom can’t take all the credit for this one, since In New York, Paris Tomorrow did give me some stellar advice when I mentioned a perspective client just didn’t add up. I’m sharing this with you, because many people do fall prey to this kind of vermin, and it can actually cause a small business to fail. What I didn’t know is it can also land you in another whole world of bother, too!

It all started when a man called Paul Klee (first red flag since I do know my artists) sent me an email request for business through my website. He claimed to be an independent petroleum geologist from Barbados, currently working in Scotland, and wishing to spend a six week holiday in Des Moines, Iowa (second red flag). No offense to my home town, but what sane person from Barbados would choose Des Moines, Iowa in October and November for a holiday? He’d obviously done his background research on me – a fact that did not go unnoticed, but I decided to treat it professionally just the same, and asked him to send me his family food preferences which he did in great detail.

Des Moines in October

I figured as long as I don’t give out any pertinent information that could be used for identity theft, and he really does cough up the deposit I should be fine. After all, it could be a free trip home to visit the folks. I quoted him a hefty fee (red flag number three when he agreed without question) since it would mean blocking off my busiest time or year, plus a great deal of commuting back to LA to keep my regular clients fed. Then I sent him the service agreement to sign and send back – using only a post office address, of course.

My social father in action

First I got an email stating that since his account is not a US account he would have a client in Texas send funds owed to him (not totally a red flag in my mind, but should have been). I got “the check is in the post” excuse for a couple weeks. It must take time to research a real, yet small, local bank, their sort codes, and then to make a very convincing looking counterfeit check. In the meantime I received another email asking if the Texan could just send one check for me containing money for a chauffeur in Des Moines as well (red flag number four – my family run in social elite circles there, and no one is that pretentious). I figured, okay – I’ll send a cashiers check once his check clears, to protect my own account identity, and said yes. The check arrived drawn on a small New Orleans bank, yet the return address on the envelope said Texas (red flag number five).

Fraudulent check

Here’s where my friend’s advice comes in – I mentioned the story to her, and she said be careful to walk that check through the bank rather than just deposit it. When it arrived I called Privacy Alert for advice, then asked the bank manager to confirm the check was indeed drawn on a valid account before depositing it. Bank and sorting code were both valid, but the account did not exist.

Unless he is reading this post, which I hope he is, I will most likely receive an email asking me to wire transfer the funds to some account under the guise of it being the chauffeurs’ account for payment before the deposited check would have had time to clear (or in this case not clear). The scam was not to steal my identity, but to rip me off the extra money they had supposedly sent. I would have lost that money, but that’s not all.

Didn’t yo mama teach you not to mess with a chef holding a knife?

If I had deposited that check, it would have made me complicit in the fraud, and I would have been flagged by financial institutions for it! Luckily it only cost me a few jobs I turned down, but just think about what a fraud tag would do to your business!

Sorry Paul, I prefer my eggs on a plate, not on my face. Here’s my brown butter omelet recipe for my readers who will now be eating their eggs instead of wearing them, too. Not a good look.

Brown Butter Omelet

It was Lord Anthony Snowden that actually taught me to use brown butter when making an omelet. He was in Des Moines for a photographic exhibition at Younkers, the chain of stores where my father was president, as part of an English promotion dad dreamed up. He came to our house for dinner, but my mother was horrified to learn he was vegetarian (she had prepared steaks), so he made us all omelets instead. Be sure to have all your ingredients prepped in advance, because eggs cook quickly.

Serves: 1

Ingredients

2 large eggs
1 tablespoon cream (for a richer more decadent omelet) or milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon brown butter (see note below)

Directions:

1. Whisk the eggs and cream in a small bowl until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste (plus any herbs…thyme, chives, dill, basil etc…you wish to use).

2. Heat the tablespoon of brown butter in a 6 inch nonstick skillet. Add the egg mixture. Once the eggs starts to cook, use a spatula to gently ease the corners of the omelet to allow most of the uncooked mixture underneath.

3. If adding further ingredients, do so while the egg mixture in the center is not quite set and remove pan from heat. The ambient heat will finish cooking the omelet. Gently fold one half of the omelet over, slide onto a plate, and serve immediately.

My Flavor Combination Suggestions:

Gruyere cheese + smoked turkey (ham or cooked bacon) + pinch nutmeg
Feta + roasted red peppers + spinach
French brie + steamed asparagus + black truffles
onion + chopped red pepper + chopped green pepper + diced ham + cooked bacon + sprinkled with hot sauce
goats cheese + fresh thyme + smoked salmon
Mozzarella fresca + seeded and thinly sliced tomato + thinly sliced avocado + fresh basil
Fontina cheese, stemmed arugula, and Italian turkey sausage (cooked, and crumbled)
sharp cheddar + broccoli + pinch of cayenne

Serving Suggestion:

Serve toast with butter and/or jam, croissants, or muffins; 1/2 grapefruit, strawberries and cream, or fruit salad; tea or coffee with milk and sugar, and fresh squeezed orange or grapefruit juice.

Note:

To brown butter, melt butter as you normally would over medium heat in a skillet. Butter goes from brown to burnt very quickly, so keep an eye on it and stir constantly to distribute the heat evenly. The milk solids will separate, then the butter will begin to turn color…once it is a deep golden color and you can smell the nutty scent, pull it off the heat immediately. Strain the browned butter to remove any bits. In addition to omelets; brown butter (also known as Beurre Noisette) adds a wonderfully complex, rich, nutty flavor to fish, pasta, vegetables, and baked goods such as cookies and butter cream icings.

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