A Second “Friday”

The New and Improved Tomato Side Salad

The New and Improved Tomato Side Salad

A message from one of my dear friends (and loyal reader) reminded me that I forgot to update my schedule for this week. I got a call on Sunday from Sous Chef J who informed me that I would have Wednesday and Sunday off this week. So today (Tuesday) was another day at the restaurant. Still no “real” weekend for me.

Today was a good prep day, although there was a bit of nervous energy since Chef was in the kitchen. He had been on vacation for the past week and returned refreshed and inspired to create. We chugged along and were more or less finished by 3pm. Chef came over and asked me if I had any ricotta for the tomato salad. I replied that there was plenty that Sous Chef J had made. Together, he and I worked out a new way to prepare it — as always, he runs through a very quick list of things to do and ingredients to include. Sometimes I suspect that he does it to see how much of it we remember. Or just for fun. Maybe a bit of both.

Anyway, the new ricotta is a mixture of ricotta, chevre (goat cheese), and fines herbes, rolled into little spheres the same size as the confit cherry tomatoes also on the dish. These ricotta balls are then marinated in an herb-infused oil, similar to mozzarella for antipasto. Chef came by my station periodically to check on my work and he seemed pleased each time. First when he saw me rolling the ricotta balls, even he couldn’t deny that they were “cute,” Then after I made the oil, I brought it into the walk-in to show him and he said that it smelled lovely – fragrant and vibrant from the copious amount of rosemary and thyme. I packed them away, proud of my new finished product.

My "Cute" Ricotta Balls

My “Cute” Ricotta Balls

During service, we had exactly ONE order of tomato salad. But no matter. I set to work plating it and he watched as I arranged the ricotta balls in an alternating pattern with the confit tomatoes. When I brought the dish up to the pass (see picture above), he remarked, “That looks stunning.” I gave myself a little pat on the back.

I found it strange that during prep today, Chef seemed especially hard on Station-mate. He still had some catching up to do during service, so I covered for him, plating the charcuterie dishes as the tickets came in. Chef can see the charcuterie station from where he stands at the helm, so I was sure he noticed. It was later reaffirmed a few hours later when Station-mate got swamped with a charcuterie board and, when I delivered to the pass a dessert that I had made to help out Sous Chef J, Chef lowered his voice and asked me to make him an a la carte charcuterie dish that had just come in on the ticket printer. When I brought it to him, he said that it looked great and gave me that approving smile + wink that he does.

I had many opportunities to cover the charcuterie and pastry stations because Fish Stage joined us on Pantry today during service. He’s a quick study and, after watching me plate and explain a dish only once, took it upon himself to handle the next one that came in. He and Musician Stage were fine without me, which is perfect since Fish Stage will be coming on board with us next week. This also gave me the spare time to learn a few things on the other stations. I even did an order of doughnuts from start to finish!

But at the end of the night, I heard a really… interesting piece of news. (I say “interesting” because I’m still not entirely sure how I do or should feel about this situation.) Station-mate said that Chef talked to him and proposed moving him to Chef’s other restaurant instead. The implication being that it’s just not working out having Station-mate on charcuterie and they know that he is in over his head; at the same time, they do care about him and want to help him find a job elsewhere rather than simply fire him. Station-mate seemed a bit slighted but also optimistic about the chance to seek out another kitchen to work in.

Throughout the day, I caught bits of hushed conversations that I suspected were about me. About whether I could handle charcuterie. Even though Station-mate got his big (bad) news, I had yet to hear anything either way. I even saw Chef and Station Lead (who was on Meat tonight) chatting and glancing over at me. I really want this opportunity so badly, but I had not expected that it would involve Station-mate getting fired… Station-mate has been very kind to me since I started at the restaurant, and I would feel guilty (though still excited) if I were offered the gig. A bit of a moral dilemma.

I have the day off tomorrow, so today almost feels like another Friday. It could also arguably be the end of my first 5-day week if you count from Thursday (but I will wait until Saturday to truly celebrate). Wednesday, I’m in love!

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