As I packed my knives to go home today (and not in the bad way like when Padma announces it on Top Chef), I felt a slight tinge of sadness knowing that I would not be staging next Saturday. Putting in my twelve hours here has quickly become the highlight of my week!
But first things first. Today was the first day I did not see herb salad on the prep list. It has (finally) been rotated out. On the other hand, it meant my easy go-to first task of the day is now gone. So I decided to tackle a challenge that (I feel) bested me last week — shaved cauliflower. Thin slices that resemble a two-dimensional image of a tree with bushy branches, these require pushing florets of cauliflower gently over the mandoline. It makes a huge mess and yields little success, but this time, I was able to create a good amount of presentable, I’d even dare say perfect, slices. Matcha Bunny: 1. Cauliflower… 1. (Last week’s weren’t so pretty.)
Did I mention that these guys love to sing? It’s fascinating. Cooks come from many walks of life, but when you give them repetitive tasks to work on for hours on end, the songs of Backstreet Boys start to fill the room. Imagine five or six guys belting out, “EVERYBODYYYYYY! (Yeah) ROCK YOUR BODYYYYY…” Hilarious. It’s not always so rowdy though. Occasionally it’ll just be one or two guys humming the tune of “Build Me Up Buttercup” or a lone vocalist singing under his breath, “What the world needs now… is love, sweet love…” Definitely lifts spirits and helps the time pass.
Today’s “cool task” was making cucumber gelee, sheets of pale green jello that would later encase the tuna tartare torchon-like rolls. Luckily, since I had made that concord grape jelly a few weeks ago, I had some idea on how this process would go. Gelatin bloomed in ice water, cucumbers pureed in the Vitamix and strained to yield a clear, bright green juice. Once the gelatin is mixed in, we had to work quickly as it would start to set in minutes. After pouring it out in a thin sheet (seriously, it was millimeters thick), we sprinkled it with a confetti of fresh mint and transferred it to the walk-in to chill and set. Mission accomplished.
We knocked out another dozen or so items on the prep list before it was time to set up for service. Family meal was an ethnic mash-up affectionately nicknamed Mexican Curry Jambalaya. Surprisingly delicious and awesomely spicy. It paired nicely with the limeade my “station-mate” made for us using a found lime. Before service got too crazy, he stepped out to get some coffees for us as well. I thanked him for it, and his reply was “No worries – you’re part of the team now!” Not gonna lie, that gave me warm fuzzies.
Speaking of being part of the team… funny story happened today. So last week, the charcuterie guy had briefly brushed past our station and later admitted to me that he was close to slapping my booty (like the baseball players do) thinking that I was my station-mate. My station-mate and I do have similar figures after all. I thought it was hilarious and he said he would be so embarrassed. Well, today I was reaching down to grab a slice of parmesan for my arugula salad when I felt a whack. I knew it was him so I laughed and said “Nice one!” He turned toward me, face completely ashen. That’s when I realized (and exclaimed) “YOU THOUGHT I WAS THE OTHER GUY, DIDN’T YOU?!” I nearly died of laughter much to his chagrin while he kept apologizing profusely, looking absolutely mortified. One of the guys indeed… hahaha!
Service was intense though — the POS just kept printing more and more tickets. Since it was just the three of us again, I had many opportunities to plate the dishes. I got many proverbial pats on the back for my plating, which I’m quite proud of since that’s one of the skills I really wanted to refine. The only criticism was that I often “over-thought” the presentation, taking too much time, but by the end of the night, I worked quickly while maintaining the quality. It feels great when I hear “woah – that looks awesome!” or “nice plating!” or even just a knowing thumbs-up.
My station lead wasn’t feeling well today, so right at 10pm, we packed up our mise en place at lightning speed. I handled a last minute order of tuna tartare before helping them scrub down and clean up our station. I bid my goodbyes and told everyone I would see them next week… on the other side. ;) Although I won’t be staging, I will still be at the restaurant (it’s like I can’t get away!) but I’ll be in the dining room, showing off the amazing menu with some of my nearest and dearest to celebrate my 25th birthday. And most importantly, eating instead of cooking.
I’m excited for my first Saturday off in nine weeks, but I couldn’t help but feel the teeniest bit wistful seeing the weekly schedule without my name on it… A good sign that this adventure has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, right?
(Getting out early meant that Honey Bunny and I were able to go get boba at a decent hour. The guys there definitely recognize us now. No free cheesecake this week though :P)
Update 10/13 8:30pm:
I totally forgot to mention another interesting event of the day. There’s a new girl in the kitchen. I asked my station-mate about her and apparently she’s being trained on pastry. He also added that I “shouldn’t worry” and that “she’s got nothin’ on me.” Haha! To be honest, the thought did briefly cross my mind that maybe there was a new stage moving in on my turf, but either way, I found his comments reassuring. It also made me all the more determined to stick it out and someday make it on the hot line. I want to be the girl who makes it and holds her own against the guys. It took some time for them to accept me as one of their own, and now that I’ve earned that place, I am all the more determined to do well.