Today was a slow day as far as prep and dinner service went. It seems there was a ton of leftover mise en place from the Thanksgiving buffet preparations, and there just were not many people going out to eat tonight. Perhaps the LA-transplants that make up a chunk of our population went home to visit family elsewhere. So there was not much prep, lots of cleaning, and plenty of time to talk to the guys and hang out.
The morning started out with the discovery that it was (apparently) the day after payday. Charcuterie Guy had just had the rude awakening that he lost his ID at some point when he asked for help to cash his check. I drove him over to the bank and it turned out that he (and some other guys from the restaurant) go there so often that the tellers recognize them and would have let him cash his check even without his ID (or bringing an account holder – me). Hilarious. We did get to chat more than we would have been able to at the restaurant. Most memorably, he told me about this piggy bank he is working to fill for his son’s college fund. It’s almost full, he told me with much enthusiasm.
Back at the restaurant, I pitched in and helped to scrub down our station, dice up some beets, supreme oranges (my station likes the way I segment them – much like how they preferred my frisee picking over the others’!), and set up for service. I also got to help Singing Hot Apps Guy with ravioli again. I was telling him about how whatever songs they happen to sing on Saturdays often end up stuck in my head all week long when he decided to sing the Jurassic Park theme song. That’s right… there are lyrics. They are not particularly poetic. Something along the lines of “In Jurassic Park…. there are dinosaurs…” HAHA! But it seems that the song had made it around the kitchen on many occasions because everyone chimed in and throughout the day, I would often hear someone whistling or humming the tune to themselves. Oy. Haha.
Family meal tonight was actually pretty good. I thought so, anyway, since it was the first Saturday since I started staging that we did NOT have chicken & rice for dinner. A hearty ground beef based bolognese sauce, al dente elbow macaroni, and crispy French fries. One of the guys was on an elimination diet (to test for allergies, including gluten) so he piled on the fries and topped them with the just the bolognese sauce… it was like an order of Italian chili cheese fries. Amazing. We had more time today so I didn’t have to shovel down the food quite as quickly as I usually do.
Service was unfortunately slow tonight, with the tickets trickling in from time to time. At least it was only me, Station Lead, and Dishwasher Turned Pantry Guy. Station-mate had his second Saturday off in a row – lucky him! The hamachi crudo that I had enjoyed plating these past few weeks is no longer on the specials board and was instead replaced with a tuna tartare. We pushed through Happy Hour without a hitch, and Chef, who had gone home for a stretch during the afternoon, came back for a bit to chat with us.
He told me that I will continue to work the Pantry station until the new year, at which point he will place me on another station. I was incredibly excited because 1) he was thinking of the future (MY future), and 2) he must have seen some potential in me because he is genuinely interested in having me learn more. It would be easy for him to just use me as free labor but I’m glad he’s not that kind of person. In fact, he said he suspected that I shouldn’t be giving up my Saturdays just to toss salads and make tartare. He asked me what I would like to move onto next and I mentioned charcuterie (I’m not sure I am quite ready for the hot line yet). He laughed and replied, “Why does everyone always ask to work Charcuterie?” I told him that that’s what he is known for, to which he retorted, “Not my dashingly handsome looks?” (You really need to imagine him speaking in a British accent to get the full effect.)
At one point during the lull, the New Hot Apps Guy asked me how long I had been staging. He told me he knew a guy who did the same thing I am doing; that guy was a banker and staged in a kitchen every Saturday. That guy, however, decided that life in someone else’s kitchen was not for him and instead partnered up and invested in a restaurant, actually a popular and trendy one. It seems he’s the chef there now. (If you’re curious which it is, just message me!) I was just pleased to hear a success story. That someone like me could really make it.
Because it was a slower night, Fish Guy came over to me and Charcuterie Guy to discuss a new dish he had been contemplating. He was looking for input regarding the elements he planned to include in the dish, and I really enjoyed being part of that collaborative, creative process. Charcuterie Guy came up with what he thought Fish Guy was missing from his dish, and I made a small suggestion that slightly tweaked it. It will be interesting to see if it works!
I think another reason why this evening seemed to pass slowly was that the guys were all eager to get out and go drinking to celebrate Hot Apps Turned Fish Guy’s birthday. More than one of them invited me out to join them, and even the birthday boy, at the end of the night, lowered his voice and asked me “Did someone invite you tonight? It would be really messed up if they didn’t.” It’s nice to be treated as one of the guys, although I did respectfully decline the invitation (but not before slipping one of them a twenty and entrusting him to buy the birthday boy a drink or two, on me). Since they all planned to go out, we were able to clean up and break down in record time.
As I was saying my goodbyes to everyone, Fish Guy waved me over. He asked me how long I plan to keep doing this. I told him about how I really enjoy coming in and that I learn something new every time I’m in the kitchen. I also told him that I would love to spend more time here but I’m not in a position to quit my day job yet. He just nodded and changed the subject — earlier, he had me try a bite of his new quiche and I told him I thought it was too cheesy and not eggy enough, though it was really delicious. He had made a funny face and then took away the last bite, joking that if I didn’t like it I didn’t deserve to eat it. But now, he told me that I was right — the cheese was stringy (like the melted mozzarella on a hot-out-of-the-oven pizza) and that was not what he wanted. It felt casual at the time, but now in retrospect, I can’t help but wonder if he had me try his dish and asked for my opinion because he somehow does value it. That I am a good person to bounce ideas off of and to help conceptualize a dish. Possibly wishful thinking on my part, but one can hope!
He ended our conversation with “See you next week?” I said yes and he replied “Same time, same channel” with a wink.
I usually name my post after something I did or ate at the restaurant that day. Tonight’s post is called Alive because the song of that name by Krewella (and its acoustic version) has been my jam lately and the lyrics (though I suspect they are about being in love) are appropriate for how I feel about this double-life I’ve been living and loving.
Every second here makes my heart beat faster
Finally think I found what I’m chasing after
All alone, just the beat inside my soul
Take me home, where my dreams are made of gold
In the zone where the beat is uncontrolled
I know what it feels like
Come on make me feel alive