The First Day (It’s Really Happening)

Orange & Apricot Marmalade on Toasted Brioche (aka: my snack)

Orange & Apricot Marmalade on Toasted Brioche (aka: my snack)

This morning I woke up feeling almost as nervous as the very first day I began staging at the restaurant. A million thoughts raced through my head, ranging from the mundane (man, I hope I have enough clean socks) to the existential (can someone like me really handle Kitchen Life? who am I anyway?). As I munched on a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I forced the nay-saying thoughts aside and told myself it was just like a Saturday. The only difference was that Honey Bunny had already left for work.

Remember how I told you the guys warned me about life as a stage versus life as a member of the brigade? Well before I left last Saturday, Station Lead (half-jokingly) said that I should write a letter to my current self bidding this positive, optimistic version of me goodbye. I laughed it off at the time, but he has been known to actually follow up on these “homework” assignments (he’s made Station-mate write 500-word essays on finesse before). So in the brief period of time I had designated for breakfast, I set to work.

This is what it ended up looking like:

—–

Dear Self,

Last Saturday, incidentally the final day of my stage, I entered the kitchen slightly nervous about how the guys would react to my joining them. Just about everyone had the same reaction – excitement to have me on the team and anxiety over my financial status. They warned me that once I stop being a stage and start working on the brigade that all the special treatment would end. Cue this assignment from [Station Lead].

He told me to write a letter to myself kissing my blissfully ignorant optimism goodbye. Kitchen Life, he told me, would slowly but surely turn me into a cynical, jaded, spiteful human being. Not in so many words. I believe his choice was “prick.” And I will be honest, I am concerned about how Kitchen Life is going to change me as a person. It was just one of the many reasons I had been anxious all week (the other reasons mainly pertaining to money, to spending time with [Honey Bunny], and to my office job).

I will change. There is no doubt about that. Only the toughest survive in the kitchen, and spending twelve hours a day with these guys under high-stress situations is certain to impact my personality. I anticipate making mistakes and suffering the consequences. I also anticipate doing my best and still getting yelled at for not being fast enough, clean enough, soigne enough. I expect to learn a hell of a lot and to become hardened, humbled, and without a doubt, tested.

At the same time, however, I am determined to maintain my positive outlook on life. This is an incredible opportunity and it already has not been easy to choose this path. Now that I dove in head-first, I need to push hard to succeed. I cannot let the naysayers get to me. I cannot forget my passion for cooking, my ambitions for moving up the line as one of the few female savory cooks, my dreams of someday becoming an executive chef, the support of my friends and family who encouraged me to give up my cushy desk job for the difficult but rewarding life of a cook.

So this letter did not turn out quite as [Station Lead] had hoped it would. And who knows, maybe it will turn out that he was right all along and I will miss this pre-employment, optimistic version of myself.

Today is the first day. I have no idea what to expect. I have not even signed any paperwork. But this is really happening and I am embracing this new adventure with open arms.

Regret nothing.

—–

At the end of my first day, I am pleased to announce that I am still a happy person. Life is too short to be unhappy — that’s why I’m taking this opportunity in the first place!

Prep and service today felt more or less like any other Saturday. I got to meet Other Pizza Guy, who has been working here for forever and always gets Saturdays off so I never had the chance to meet him. Oh, and family meal was pretty bomb; New Hot-Apps Guy had toasted up grains of rice to make this crispy pilaf that resembled the delicious burnt parts of dolsot bibimbap that Honey Bunny and I fight over.

In other news, Fish Guy punched me in the ovaries today. His intention was light jab on the shoulder, but, as if it were some sort of divine intervention to “welcome” me to the team, he slipped right at that moment and fell into me fist-first. He felt SO bad about it and I almost didn’t believe it when he said it was an accident (after all, it would not have been out of character for him). I thought it was hilarious, although my lower ribs are a bit sore now.

So it was like Honey Bunny predicted: today mainly felt like Saturday had come sooner, except that the Sous Chef gave me a folder full of paperwork to fill out (tax forms, employment application, etc.). I think tomorrow will be the true beginning of this crazy and hectic path I’ve chosen. I can’t wait. Time to rest up for another long day ahead.

PS: I will try to continue writing every night that I spend in the restaurant, if only to continue building this record… an informal memoir, if you will. Moving forward, I will probably start leaving out details about prep, service, and family meal (unless something noteworthy happens) and focus more on my experiences and interactions with The Guys.

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