Day 12: The Return of Shrimp Cakes

Late Night Banh Cuon with Boba

Late Night Banh Cuon with Boba

Today was too busy to take any photos, so I decided to post a picture of my victory dinner, courtesy of Honey Bunny. He knows I love banh cuon (steamed rice sheets rolled around meat filling) so he surprised me with a late-night, post-work dinner. Woot! It was perfectly paired with our routine boba. Really, a great way to unwind.

Anywho… the return of Shrimp Cakes. Not the dish, but the nickname. We had a party of 35 tonight that wanted passed hors d’oeuvres, so while our pantry prep list was relatively short, everyone pitched in to prepare the extra goodies. It seems the entire kitchen played a game of “nose goes” because I had to pane (dredge things in bread crumbs). No one wanted to do it. In fact, Chef even said to me, “You’re setting up the pane? Good. I hate pane-ing.” LOL.

Some people, actually just the station lead (who is back after a few Saturdays of not seeing him!), remembered my previous encounter with pane when I had to bang out those 50 shrimp cakes. This time I did blue cheese stuffed olives as well as salmon and dill croquettes. First in flour, then in beaten eggs, and finally in panko bread crumbs. I followed the “proper” technique (one hand for wet, one hand for dry), though it became cumbersome reaching over with my “dry” hand for the final crumb coating while my “wet” hand dripped egg yolk all over my station. Oy. Each time my station lead walked by, he made sure to say “How you doin’, Shrimp Cakes?”

I also made the tricolore skewers, just like last time. Basically a caprese salad on a stick, I really enjoy making these because they’re so pretty. Heirloom cherry tomato, basil, mozzarella, avocado, basil, tomato. I like it when I’ve been around long enough to know how to do something with minimal instruction, so I jumped on the opportunity to handle these for Chef.

The guys love to (metaphorically) whistle while they work, and today they finally stopped apologizing for making dirty comments in my vicinity. Well, except once or twice. The butt of many of today’s jokes was my station-mate, whose lip balm was (apparently) tinted so he looked like he was wearing lipstick. SO hilarious. Statements like “Dude, don’t say things like that – there are TWO ladies on the station today.” They were also mocking one of the guys on Hot Apps because he drinks his coffee out of a mason jar and claims to not be a hipster. Right. But it was okay. We all made up over doughnuts and a few “That’s what she said” jokes.

My station mate tried to show me how to use the meat slicer to make thinly sliced croutons, but I was concerned I would lose a finger or two so I supremed some oranges instead. And before we knew it, it was time for family meal! Family meal today was quite good. Buttery mashed potatoes, though not Thomas Keller buttery, and herb marinated chicken. Yummm. Coupled with two shots of espresso, I was ready to tackle service.

We only had 150 on the books, but it felt like more. Or maybe it was just the pattern that the servers entered orders into the POS. The rush came in waves but when it hit, it was torrential. The board would fill up before our eyes and as soon as each of us started plating something, we were told to prepare two or three more “all day.” I think Dishwasher-turned-Pantry made seven beet salads in a row as I put out three or four hamachi crudo plates. I love the hamachi crudo. The plating (same as last week) is so intricate and colorful and everything tastes delicious.

You would think that having four people working the same station would get hectic and crazy, but we have excellent communication with each other. And if the station lead has to step away to help another station or to go take a break, any of us can step up and run the board to keep the flow going. It’s awesome, especially, I think, between me and my station mate. We have no problem giving or taking direction from each other and it helps us stay on top of everything.

Chef left around 8 or 9, though before he left, he came over to me, gave me a side-hug, and said “Great job today.” What a nice pat on the back that was! It was a small gesture but to me, it meant a lot. I hope he sees potential in my abilities and I really hope to grow here at the restaurant. As I mentioned before, the more time I spend in the kitchen, the more I find that I enjoy The Life. I like spending time with these guys, and most importantly, I love working hard to make delicious and aesthetically-pleasing creations to make customers happy.

I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs from accomplished chefs lately. Two of Bourdain’s books (Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw) and currently working on Grant Achatz’s Life, On the Line. Michael Ruhlman got permission to post an excerpt from Medium Raw that I read and re-read on a fairly regular basis. I find it both inspiring and humbling at the same time. Not everyone is suited to The Life. But despite working a 9-5 Monday through Friday and coming in for a twelve-hour shift (for which I make no money but am “paid” in invaluable experience), I could not be happier. I think that’s a good sign. With Chef expanding his portfolio (read: opening new restaurants within the next year or two), I can see that he’s promoting from within. Many of his sous chefs will be executive chefs or chefs du cuisine in his new restaurants while his line cooks move up to sous. I’m secretly hoping that this will open up another opportunity for me! I’ve been asked hypothetically by friends before, but I can say confidently that if Chef offered me a full time position, I would take it in a heartbeat. Cooks don’t get paid much and benefits are largely unheard of. So why do it? Love. Passion. And just a little bit of insanity.

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