Today was a strange day. It started with my 11:30 arrival, a compromise between Chef’s offer of a noon start and my worry about not finishing everything in the shortened amount of time. My prep list was full of little items that had finally culminated to the point where they just had to get done. Things like rendering beef fat for the base of the drippings on each charcuterie board, cutting pickled cipollini onions into quarters, slicing fresno chilies for deviled eggs… and sadly, more potato poaching for the next salmon terrine (oh joy).
The heat has been getting to everyone and even Chef admitted to being especially irritable due to the uncomfortable climate. I blame the heat for why I forgot about my potatoes and overcooked them… twice. Thankfully I was able to salvage enough usable slices between the two failed attempts. It was just not my afternoon.
That is, until Singing Hot-Apps Guy called me over. He was blanching live lobsters in order to loosen the meat (to be sautéed in a seafood pasta dish) from the shells/bodies (to be used for making stock). He offered to let me drop one in, an act he referred to as “getting the evil out of your system.” I have to admit, it was a lot more fun than it probably should have been. We said a quick prayer for our souls afterward… Highway to Hell comes to mind.
Our restaurant does not offer lunch service but there was a special party at 3 pm… with two charcuterie boards to start. Since I knew in advance, I started taking my time to build them around 2:45, well before they arrived let alone were seated. I kept them in the walk-in so the pates and prosciutto wouldn’t melt. When I got the green light, I cooked up two fried eggs and fired my toast; everything went like clockwork.
The strange part came after. The interruption required me to regain my focus. Where did I leave off? Am I forgetting anything? We were all thrown off and 5 pm really crept up on us as we scrambled to the last minute to get set up.
Happy Hour kept me busy and I was anticipating yet another party at 6 pm, also with two boards. I love the low boy refrigerator at my station and the fact that it is mine alone to organize and use as I please. They offered a cold respite for the boards as I awaited Chef’s inevitable announcement.
After I delivered those boards, I asked Chef whether he had tried the dried cherry sauce I made for the boar terrine. He said no and enthusiastically requested that I bring it over. Tasting spoon always handy, he tried a bit. His response? “Oh that’s REALLY good.” I was ecstatic! As you can probably tell by now, I love how this station gives me opportunities to add my little twists to the menu. And Chef seems receptive to my ideas so far. Yay!
The rest of the night continued to be busy and Pantry especially got slammed with first course appetizer orders. I stepped in and helped where I could, though the boys had to keep running back to the walk-in to refill their mise. They even ran out of items fairly early in the evening, thoroughly unprepared for the pummeling of Friday night madness. Sous Chef J had to step in and get them under control – their ticket times (the time from when the ticket is rung up and when the food leaves the window to be served) were exceeding 10 minutes which, when I was trained on Pantry, was simply unheard of. Station Lead may be an arrogant SOB but he pushed me hard and I learned to haul ass while keeping up with Chef’s exacting standards. These boys on the other hand….
Big parties mean that Pastry Girl alone gets slammed at dessert time. Just as Chef was asking me to go help her, I had already rounded the corner and was setting up bowls and plates for the first 17-top. She too was well-prepared and had scooped the ice cream for the a la mode desserts in advance, making it an easy plate-up. She and I make a pretty good team, if I do say so myself.
As the tickets slowed their relentless pace (we got our last dinner ticket at 10:16, despite the restaurant closing at 10 for dinner), Chef got ready to leave. He came over to me, looked me in the eye, gave me a fist bump, and said, “Great job today. You rocked it.”
Today was also payday, perhaps the single depressing part of this whole venture. But that’s what amazes me about cooks. You work long hours, shedding blood, sweat, and tears (but only around onions of course) for very little pay, all driven by passion. Passion to create beautiful dishes, to discover and share new flavors, to make people happy through food.
I’m proud to be a cook. (And I look forward to the day when I will be deserving of the title, Chef.)