Taking Charge

Happy Hour Salmon Tartare

Happy Hour Salmon Tartare

Thursday morning it looked like it would only be Station Mate and me tackling the restaurant week prep and service (a daunting task for sure). Shortly after we said our good mornings, he told, or rather warned, me about a new stage that had started with us this week. Let’s call him Sassy Stage for now… he is already notorious among the entire kitchen for his bad attitude. (On a side note, Musician Stage whom we met last week was formally hired and will be joining us on Pantry.)

Chef was there bright and early and overheard plenty of the not-so-flattering feedback about Sassy Stage. As Station Mate and I were divvying up the prep list, I noticed a new face that must belong to Sassy Stage. Chef noticed his presence as well and walked over to him for a stern pep talk. “You really need to be at the top of your game today. Listen to what these guys tell you. No attitude. Besides,” he paused to point at me, “she’s a tough one.” Station mate chimed in, “Yeah, [Matcha Bunny] runs a tight ship.” :) Pleased to hear their affirmations, I didn’t know what else to say other than “Thank you, Chef!”

We got Sassy Stage started on a task. It took him 3 hours to pick frisee. He spent the first hour doing a poor job, his excuse being that he got away with similar quality the day before. Charcuterie Guy saw that Station Mate and I were busy, so he did his part with helping us mentor the new stage. He checked his work, declared it insufficient, and called me over asking me how I wanted to address it. It was pretty bad. I showed Sassy Stage how to do it right and asked him to go back and fix what was already “done.”

It was then that I realized… not only was I to run the board later that night during service, I was also in charge of keeping the station organized and maintaining quality control during prep. Not gonna lie, I liked it when even Station Mate (who has been here much longer than I) would come over and ask me to taste the avocado mousse he made and provide feedback. I welcomed the opportunity to learn this station backwards and forwards. More on this later.

Service was a madhouse tonight with the influx of restaurant week diners. It was also hectic because of having the special dishes from the restaurant week menu in addition to the regular repertoire. But I managed to keep control over the board. The sous chefs stepped in periodically to make sure we weren’t in the weeds, but I think they were a bit impressed when I had delegated the correct dishes and set out the appropriate plates to match the tickets on order. A few minor hiccups here and there, but nothing that couldn’t be ironed out. At least Chef didn’t yell at us.

At one point in the midst of the chaos, Sassy Stage asked me something and I asked him to say it again, gesturing to my ear to show I hadn’t heard him. He sighed, rolled his eyes, and raised his voice in an aggressive tone. Not something that anyone should have to deal with during the dinner rush. I stopped what I was doing, stood up, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Look. If I ask you nicely to repeat yourself, it’s because I could not hear you over everything that’s going on. Don’t get frustrated at me.” His face turned a bit ashen. I realized that Sous Chef had witnessed the whole exchange and gave me a little “good for you” smile for keeping my station in line.

Later when things calmed down, he apologized with the excuse that he has trouble controlling his tone and inflection. I had been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but to be honest, working a 12-hour shift with that kind of attitude, intentional or not, is difficult. I told him that Station Mate and I are the nicest people on this station and that he had better figure it out before meeting the relentless Station Lead tomorrow.

At 9:45pm, Chef made an announcement to the entire kitchen. “Let’s play a game,” he said as he set a timer for 7 minutes. “Anyone who is not completely done breaking down and cleaning their station by the time this timer runs out is fired.” It was an amazingly effective scare tactic to make 15 guys haul ass and clean. Two tickets came in for our station while we were packing up, so we barely missed the 7 minute deadline. Luckily Chef was, of course, joking. But we all moved quickly anyway on the off-chance that he wasn’t.

I asked Station Mate if he could show me how to make the prep list and do the ordering of ingredients, the last task of the night. He grabbed the clipboard and off we went to check the walk-in, dry storage area, and the back fridge. How many pounds of radishes would yield the 3 quarts we needed for Friday night service? How many cases of arugula will we need?  Do we have enough beets? What do we need to prep tomorrow to get us through the next few days?

In the walk-in, we started to talk about his “promotion.” He was recently given notice that he would be moving onto Charcuterie when Charcuterie Guy leaves. I am really happy for him and I think he truly deserves it. I did also admit to him that I was a bit jealous because of my own ambitions (if you’ll recall, when I told Chef I would take this job, I had stated my interest in moving on to that station). He is a really nice guy though… He said he knows how much I wanted it, and he told me that he wants us to learn together. In the meantime, he mentioned that I would be leading the Pantry station. Learning the ins and outs. Perhaps even taking over for Station Lead entirely (he is actually one of the sous chefs as well but has always been on Pantry on the days I worked). While disappointed that I won’t be moving on to another station as quickly as I had hoped, I am grateful for the leadership opportunity and what it means: Chef, the Sous Chefs, and Station Lead all have confidence in my abilities as a line cook and a leader. All in due time.

[Also — yesterday Honey Bunny sent me the sweetest “just because” text message. It was so nice to read it at the end of my very long day. In an effort to spend more time together, he adjusted his work schedule to stay home a bit longer in the mornings and make up for it by leaving the office later. Thank you so much for your support, Honey Bunny! I love you!]

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