The holidays are upon us and that means that the restaurant industry is INSANELY busy. We have a wall right by the window where they post all of the details for private parties, catering events, and large tables (10 or more people). Yesterday (Friday the 13th), the wall was absolutely plastered with sheets including a 50-top. FIFTY. The banner at the top read, and still reads, “Welcome to Hell.”
So having seen that picture on Facebook, I made sure to arrive early today anticipating that they would have used up most of the mise and that we would have a lot of prep to do today. The only people in the kitchen were Morning Prep Cook, Morning Dishwasher, and, to my surprise, Station-mate! I hadn’t seen him in nearly a month since he started getting Saturdays off. I went to get my cook’s shirt (the shirts, by the way, hang up high in the teeny tiny kitchen bathroom) when a very embarrassed New Guy walked in on me. He was a new stage (today is only his second day) and he worked at another restaurant with New Hot Apps Guy. New Hot Apps Guy suggested that he come check out our restaurant to get some experience while he attends culinary school. I told him I am a stage as well, to which he immediately, without skipping a beat, replied, “Oh, are you on Pastry?” …….. Just because I’m a girl, I thought to myself with a mental eye-roll.
I went up to grab my apron and shoes before running back down to check the prep list. I was pleased to see that it was relatively light! They really overcompensated for the parties so there was plenty of leftover mise. It also seemed that everyone who worked Friday night was planning to come in late today. The next person to walk through the door was Fish Guy, and we all shared a laugh over how all the Asians were there earliest.
The guys had me segment oranges again, so I started with that. The guys started to trickle in, and I got some happy greetings and high-fives out of them. Have I mentioned before that despite coming in only once a week, the guys are often making the same jokes and singing the same songs as the last time I saw them? I actually kind of like it because it feels like I don’t skip a beat or miss out on much. I laughed so hard as one of the guys reminded me of Charcuterie Guy’s misappropriation of Shakespeare from last week (“A rose by any other name is still a rose,” says he).
Since we had four people on Pantry today (Station Lead, Station-mate, Former Dishwasher, and myself), we plowed through our list relatively quickly and proceeded to scatter and help out the other stations. I claimed pasta with Singing Hot Apps Guy, making short rib ravioli and rolling out fluffy potato gnocchi. That was when Singing Hot Apps Guy confided in me that he gave his two weeks’ notice yesterday and would be moving on to the same restaurant as the Sous Chef who left about a month ago. In the nearly-four months that I’ve been staging, I’ve already seen a handful of people come and go. :(
Just before service, I helped Charcuterie Guy make his orange marmalade, which I’d say is progress over what I usually do (that is, steal a piece of toast and a dollop of the orange marm to snack on when it’s not too busy). He told me before that he wants to find another restaurant so that he can be closer to his infant son, and it seems that his personal deadline is the new year. I’m really going to miss him; he’s my homie! (Even after what happened later during service…)
5 o’clock rolled around and family meal was served! Fish Guy spent all day smoking some chicken. He knew everyone (myself included) was getting sick of chicken, so he decided to smoke it so that it resembled pulled pork. Piled onto homemade biscuits and topped with a dollop of coleslaw and it was awesome. I ate three biscuits. One of the Sous Chefs ate six. We definitely needed the nourishment to push through this evening’s rush.
The tickets printed in a steady stream, and in addition to a busy restaurant, we had a 30-top of passed hors d’oeuvres and a 14-top that booked a six-course tasting menu. Tasting menu? I didn’t even know we did a tasting menu! It was intense. When the Expediting Sous Chef fired one of the courses, everything was put on hold and our entire station was cleared off to accommodate the 14 plates (or bowls). But service could not just stop, of course, so while some of us rushed to plate the tasting menu, one or two of us would continue handling the tickets on our board, taking over other nearby stations for precious counter space as needed. In a word: insane.
It wasn’t just the salads and cold appetizers. Oh no. Our station is one of only two areas in the kitchen with long, accessible counter space (the other being in the back where Pastry Girl rules over her domain). So we had to plate up our regular dishes while jostling around Hot Apps plating their truffle capellini and seared quail, Pastry plating the cheese course, and Pizza pumping out four flatbreads at a time. The cheese course was amazing. A wheel of white cheese from the Pyrenees region of France, wrapped in puff pastry and baked so the outside was golden and inside was melted. There was a bit leftover so we passed around samples. I definitely need to get the name of that cheese…
Tonight was really all about communication and lending a hand to keep stations from being in the weeds (falling behind). I stepped over to Charcuterie to help with the salumi plates. Former Dishwasher and I garnished pizzas as Pizza Guy pulled them out of the 600-degree oven. Charcuterie Guy came over to help plate the quail. He was on our station cutting and serving up the sunny-side-up quail eggs on each of the 14 plates… and he subsequently stabbed my knuckle with my own paring knife as I was reaching to get something. Poor guy, he apologized profusely. It’s no bigger than a paper cut, but it definitely startled me. I’m slowly earning my battle scars from the kitchen. haha.
Honey Bunny and I know from experience that eating tasting menus can take some time (we have been blessed with the opportunity to enjoy some excellent 3-hour dinners that way). What I hadn’t really realized until tonight was that it meant the kitchen works later as well. It was a long night tonight as I stayed until the tasting menu desserts were plated, especially since everyone was pitching in. Finally, just a few minutes after 11pm, I waved goodbye to everyone and they all congratulated me on a job well done and made me promise to come back next week. Now I truly understand why the schedule says “Welcome to crazy season…. and happy holidays!”