And so it begins. Today was my first Monday at the restaurant. I was told that it is generally a slow day. Luckily the prep list was manageable between me and Sassy Stage. I even butchered the salmon for our tartare dish (usually, for the sake of time and accuracy, one of the Sous Chefs will do it for us). The meat had more marks in it than I would have wanted, a result from my short, hesitant knife strokes, but I’m getting better at slicing off the bloodline, fat, and skin. Practice makes perfect, so I was glad to have this rare opportunity. The hamachi (yellowtail) is more tricky, so Sous Chef J handled that.
During prep, Sassy Stage mentioned something unique about Mondays. We have a skeleton crew in order to keep labor costs down. This means one guy on Fish and one guy on Hot Apps (both demanding stations that have two cooks each on Fridays and Saturdays). This also means the Cold Line only consists of Pizza Guy and two cooks on Pantry, one of whom floats to handle the Charcuterie station as well. Since Sassy Stage had yet to even work a Late Night shift, Charcuterie was left to me and I could not have been happier. I had been waiting for this chance and happily set up the charcuterie station to get ready for service. (I received multiple compliments on the aesthetic arrangement of my jams, mustards, pickles, etc. — my OCD is finally paying off!)
Despite a fairly slow service overall, I was kept busy on charcuterie. Salumi plates, duck terrine, chicken liver mousse… the orders kept rolling in. (Although to be fair, the ticket printer for the Cold Line is located closest to Charcuterie so it was also my responsibility to check and distribute duplicates — that really kept me on my toes!). By the end of the night, my fingertips had a seemingly permanent vinegar smell from constantly diving into my mise of cornichons, pickled cipolini onions, and caper berries.
The highlight of the night was when an order for a Charcuterie Board came in. This was a deluxe offering of three terrines (Chef’s choice), the infamous chicken liver mousse, and a selection of house-cured salumi. Having assisted Charcuterie Guy and Station-mate more times than I can count, I was excited to show off my very first board from start to finish. I proudly showed Sous Chef J and he said it looked great. His only criticism was that the slices were a bit too thick (too generous). Better luck next time.
Halfway through service, during a lull in the kitchen, Sous Chef J called me over to the pass. He lowered his voice and asked me if I thought I could handle working the charcuterie station. I replied that I would like to, but his response was, “That’s not what I asked.” I rephrased myself, more confidently, Yes, I can handle it and I have been wanting this opportunity ever since I decided to sign on full-time. He confided that while he likes Station-mate as a person, Station-mate has been having trouble focusing and organizing himself, two key factors for a station where prep needs to be planned out days in advance and there is little room for error. Sous Chef J said that he felt I had the organization skills needed to run the station. He made no promises, but I feel honored that he is considering me, as I know Chef relies heavily on his sous chefs for their feedback when it comes to making this sort of decision.
Sous Chef J’s faith in me was later reaffirmed at the end of the night when I met with him to review my prep list and order for tomorrow. I asked for white anchovies, a garnish for our Caesar salad of which we were running low. He put down his pen, looked me in the eye, and said, “In the history of the restaurant, no one on Pantry had ever remembered to order white anchovies. You are the first.” (Note: the sous chef in charge of ordering will scan through the walk-in, back fridge, and dry storage to double-check for other items that may be needed but were not ordered.)
So, on my first day working in the restaurant full-time, I got that much closer to my next goal of moving up to Charcuterie (the next milestones being the Hot Line, Sous Chef, and someday, running my own kitchen). All in due time.