Week 2: Heart and Sole

Family Meal: Spicy Tomato Soup with Cheese on Toast

Family Meal: Spicy Tomato Soup with Cheese on Toast

This was my second successful week with three days in a row at the restaurant. I’ve fallen into routine with the guys, in a good way, except for my aching feet. I have slightly flat feet and I knew coming into this industry that I would be among the cooks with plantar fasciitis, but nothing could quite prepare me for the excruciating pain in the soles of my feet by Hour 12. Still… totally worth it.

Today was a bit difficult in the sense that Dishwasher-turned-Pantry did not want to do a damn thing. I don’t dislike him, but I recognize that there is a clear personality clash — he likes to talk a big game and act like a tough kid from the ghetto. And usually, that’s fine by me as long as he still finishes his share of the work. But today, he literally did three things from our prep list… by comparison, Station Lead and I each knocked out about a dozen. Charcuterie Guy could sense my frustration though and assured me that working hard to make up for his slacking off will only make me a better cook/chef.

On top of it all, I got my first burn in the kitchen. I was carrying a full sheet tray of beets (about 10kg worth) that had been roasting in the oven when my towel (aka pot holder / oven mitt) slipped and my bare palm made contact with the hot metal. AHHH! I was just glad I didn’t drop the beets. That would have spelled disaster adding salt to the literal and figurative wound.

Luckily, I had a game plan. I knew I couldn’t stand all day running cold water over my hand (as I would have done at home) because sooner or later, the guys would notice and call me out on it. So I moved on to a carefully selected task — poaching the eggs. It was the only job that would give me a very legitimate excuse to stand next to an ice bath (into which I dunked my injured hand). Unfortunately, it continued to sting for a good hour or so before finally forming a blister. (I wish I had remembered to pack the burn cream that L had gifted to me.) Sigh. Also I later discovered, while tossing a salad in an acidic vinaigrette, some random nicks and cuts on my hands and arms… casualties of the work environment. Just another part of becoming “one of the guys,” I suppose.

It seemed as though every station was busy today, and family meal was a bit of an afterthought. Station Lead whipped up a spicy tomato soup paired with cheese on toast. The toast was especially good — mozzarella, gruyere, and parmesan tossed in worcestershire sauce, sprinkled onto slices of white bread, and left to broil until the cheese was melty and golden. Yum… I went outside to eat, and coincidentally Station Lead was on a smoke break. He said that he knows it’s frustrating to work with Dishwasher-Turned-Pantry, but that I was doing a great job picking up his slack and to just keep doing what I was doing.

Service came in waves again today, with the occasional lull abruptly broken by a full board of tickets. Dishwasher-Turned-Pantry seemed to have found his focus because we barreled through those tickets with no issues, despite Station Lead leaving to help Pastry Girl. Someone had advised that if I want to work the Hot Line someday that I should take every opportunity I can to observe them at work. So when we had finally cleared our board and I could hear the printer go silent for at least a few minutes, I wandered toward the pass. Chef was not here tonight so I was watching Sous Chef (expediting), Meat Guy, Fish Guy, New Fish Guy, New Hot Apps Guy, and the other Sous Chef. They moved seamlessly as a unit, grabbing this pan and that sautoir and reaching into their low ovens. I watched as the expediting Sous Chef plated up dishes… when he could, he would describe to me how they prepare the ingredients or where the inspiration came from. He was particularly proud of a dish he had developed and gotten on the menu. After he plated the customer’s order, he added a few scraps and put together a mini-dish for me to sample. I thought it was a nice gesture (and it was really good — an elevated spin on southern shrimp & grits).

We broke down our station and cleaned up around 9:30 but sadly, a few last minute orders trickled in at 9:45 and we had to scramble to assemble those. I had stayed around to help some people with their cleanup when Fish Guy approached me and gave me his last order of a fish dish from his mise – sole with a brioche crust. He explained how to prepare it and I was excited to take it home and make it for Honey Bunny!

Anyway, today made me realize that not everyone is cut out for Kitchen Life. Some people can’t last more than an hour and some people keep sticking with it even though they could not care less about the quality of the work they create. But I gave up a lucrative career in the office (not to mention my free time at home that could be spent cuddling with Honey Bunny) for this. I love this life — the cooking, the teamwork, the adrenaline rush during dinner service, the beautiful creations I get to plate. So I realized, earlier I was frustrated with Dishwasher-Turned-Pantry because we look at our lives differently. To me, this is not just a job. It’s a life-changing opportunity for which I have given up so much in hopes of gaining that much more (and so far, things are looking pretty darn good).

I’ll let y’all know how the fish came out when we make it tomorrow night ;)

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