Week 4: Changes in the Kitchen

The Calm Before the Storm (Also, I didn't have time to take a picture of the dozen oysters I had shucked so here's the ticket)

The Calm Before the Storm (Also, I didn’t have time to take a picture of the dozen oysters I had shucked so here’s a picture of the ticket instead)

Survived and thrived through another three-day week of Kitchen Life. We were all thrilled that Restaurant Week was over, but we were still in for a busy Saturday night including a party of 20… which I had not realized until an hour before service so we had to scramble last-minute to boost our mise en place. I was in charge of our station today so that oversight made me panic a bit. I did felt a teeny bit of relief when I explained the situation to the Sous Chef who was helping us and it turned out that the party had slipped his mind as well.

We had a heavy prep list today so it was a focused day of work from the moment we got in all the way to the last moments before service. Sous Chef handled all of the dressings we needed to make as well as the fish butchery, and it was up to me and Musician Stage to divvy up the rest. Station-mate was on Charcuterie with Singing Hot Apps Guy… so Charcuterie Guy decided to end his last day earlier than anticipated. He starts his new job tomorrow and it was really sad to see him go (although after he had left, we were all too busy to dwell on the loss).

That was only the beginning of today’s transitions. Rather than seek out a new sous chef or hot appetizers cook, Chef decided that he would “promote” Pizza Guy to Hot Apps and hire a new Pizza Guy instead. And today, on a super busy Saturday, I was in charge of our station during prep, service, and ordering. With the guidance of Sous Chef, of course. He is a much more compatible mentor to me than Station Lead was. To be honest, working with Station Lead had started giving me some anxiety, so while the situation is less-than-ideal, I am grateful for the change. Sous Chef encourages me to speak up when I need to and asks me questions that make me think about the way I lead the station. Things like, “Did you taste this first?” and “Does that look good to you?” and “What do you need [Musician Stage] to do?”

We ran into a snafu when we discovered that one item on our mise (croutons for the beet salad) was incomplete because it was not listed on the prep list made by Station-mate. We managed to finish it on the fly, and I offered to edit the prep list to include that item. Sous Chef told me I should go ahead and restructure the list as I see fit. It was then that I realized… this really was MY station now.

Most of dinner service ran smoothly. I shucked a hell of a lot of oysters, especially after Musician Stage cut himself on the oyster knife. I am getting faster, although it still takes me longer than I think it should. I shucked one dozen (ticket pictured above) in about 8 minutes. Sous Chef recommended adding an oyster knife to my kit, so I’ll definitely be picking one up soon. (The one we have at home is a souvenir keepsake so I wouldn’t want to risk losing it in the kitchen.)

Then the party came. It was another day of laying out plates across our station, the charcuterie station, and even the pizza station. Thirteen Caesar salads and seven tuna tartares. As we were plating the appetizers for the party, a flurry of other tickets came in. Honestly, I was pretty overwhelmed. Sous Chef took the helm and made sure we kept up with the other tables simultaneously. I was relieved for his assistance but a bit disappointed in myself that I needed it. Oh well… every day is a chance for improvement, right?

At the end of the night, I went upstairs to borrow the communal laptop to revise our station’s list. I reformatted it for ease of use and I triple checked each of the ingredient lists to make sure no item was missing. Chef came up to the office, saw me working at the computer, and struck up a conversation. He asked me when I was planning to completely quit my other job (I told him end of February). He said he is very glad to hear it because he would love to have me around full time (his words!). He continued, “You’re very smart and I like how you can boss the guys around. It’s important that you can take control, especially with the younger ones.” I told him that I really appreciated his sentiment and that I am very much looking forward to doing this full time. The pep talk and his encouragement renewed my energy so I could tackle the list.

The list! The infamous prep list. Until now, I have only read the prep list in the morning to see what needs to be done. Today was the first day that I actually got to make it. To dictate what will be done tomorrow (and the following day). I printed out my newly revised prep list, grabbed the clipboard and a pen, and went into the walk-in to evaluate the remaining inventory after the night’s carnage. I checked off what we have, what we need (and how much), and what products we would need to order. I asked Station-mate for his feedback before I presented my work to Sous Chef. He thanked me for my efforts, complimented me on my penmanship, and sent me on my way as it was already 11:45pm.

This week reaffirmed that working in this kitchen has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life.

(Speaking of amazing parts of my life — I LOVE YOU, HONEY BUNNY!)

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