Monthly Archives: June 2014

Week 24: The Longest Short Week

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I was reminded of my old office days pre-vacation (or even just some Fridays depending on the week), making checklists to ensure that everything was in its place before my departure in order to minimize chaos upon my return. In many ways, things are different and the same now. Though I am no longer the only person with expertise in my field (or station), the others who are most familiar will be unavailable and additionally the person covering for me on our busiest night of the week (Saturday) is not able to come in for any prep. So, I enjoy a bit of job security (Chef made sure to teasingly guilt me about leaving him short-staffed, which really just means he values my contributions to the kitchen brigade… right? haha).

Anyway, all this means that I’ve spent my short week cramming in five days’ worth of work… including a last minute scramble during service tonight to whip up a batch of happy hour jars. Not because I was running out tonight but because I knew there wouldn’t be enough for tomorrow. Sigh.

I got two gnarly burns today too, the most notable having been caused by a spoon. That’s right, a spoon. It was a MacGyvered repair for the faulty latch on the oven door on the Meat station. Anyway, I had cradled the spoon on my apron and unbeknownst to me, it slid toward my elbow and seared a distinctly round mark on my flesh. I swear I could hear the sizzle.

Happy Hour started off slow, but by the time 6 o clock rolled around, it seemed like normal people had finally gotten off work because the bar was bumpin’! Dinner too started off quiet but little did we know, it was just the calm before the storm. At 8:20, it appeared that the Front of House seated the entire dining room all at once because we were suddenly swamped by literally 25 back to back tickets. Endless haunting printing sounds, and they weren’t small tickets either… dates ordering three full courses, parties of 5 and 6, and the 13-top that had called ahead. Two consecutive charcuterie boards plus a dozen a la carte terrines for me, and that was relatively tame compared to all the salads that had checked in (it IS a warm day today).

At the end, I felt the quintessential Kitchen Life experience – amped up but exhausted all at the same time. Just another day in the Life.

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Crazy Week

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We all expected yesterday (Thursday) to be a little better than the day before, but it was just as busy… for some of us at least. I don’t think we’ve been doing a huge number of covers these past few days, but there have been a lot of large groups and parties. And as I’ve come to learn, large groups love to share charcuterie boards.

After work, I met up with Honey Bunny, his BFF Z, and our friend R at a local gastropub to celebrate BFF Z’s birthday. It was nice to see friends and enjoy a beer and poutine at the end of a long day. :)

Today’s my actual Friday so I’m super excited even though I’m also anxious about leaving my station for three whole days. TGIF! 

Charcuterie Kind of Day

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Yesterday was unexpectedly busy for a Wednesday during service,  at least for my station. I did more boards than I have on some Saturdays and the day felt especially long since I had arrived at the usual time (despite it being a noon day) and I worked the Late Night shift.

On the bright side, I felt really productive yesterday and got a lot of work done, even though I was pushing into my setup time just before service. It seemed that everyone was still scrambling to finish prep around 4:50pm so it wasn’t just me.

I finally had my chance to assemble my own lobster terrine without Chef taking it over. He walked by as I was working on it and smiled approvingly at my technique (which, of course, was his).

The leeks are so pretty when fresh so I snapped this quick photo of them before they got blanched and turned yellow-green.

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Apologies for the quick and scattered update; I have some errands to run before work this morning. More later. :)

A Tale of Two Stations

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Today really felt like a Monday to me; Honey Bunny and I had just returned from a short road trip (he was able to take a Monday off so we could sync up a “weekend”!) and it was the beginning of an especially prep-heavy week. I miraculously scored a Saturday off, only the second Saturday away from the kitchen since my staging adventure began last August (the other Saturday was to celebrate my 25th birthday… at the restaurant haha). The caveat is that no one will be able to prep my station on Saturday (Chef could only find someone to cover service) so by Friday afternoon, I will need to be ready for both Friday AND Saturday night service, our busiest nights of the week. Again, the importance of organizing and planning rears its ugly head.

I stayed focused and quiet for most of the day, just trying to get things done. Marinate the duck pate, harvest the meat from my braised pig’s head, reduce the braising liquid, make my headcheese torchon-style terrines, poach lobster for a second lobster & leek terrine… I killed two lobsters today. Dispatching a lobster on your cutting board is very different from simply dropping one into a boiling vat of court bouillon. Rigor mortis sets in and the muscles continue to twitch and move, independent of the previously attached and functioning brain. It freaked me out, but Sous Chef S refused to help, insisting that I must learn to do it myself. So I manned up and did it. Do what you gotta do.

Service was slow as expected, so Chef left early. Usually one of the sous chefs would have been floating and could seamlessly take over at the pass. However, we were understaffed today (and probably for the rest of the week) so when Sous Chef S went to run the pass, I had to take over Pastry (which he had been covering) in addition to Charcuterie. It was only for a few hours since we switched to the Late Night menu early, but I had fun running around making a salumi plate and then firing a welli, slicing into the chicken liver mousse before grabbing the sticky toffee pudding from the Telly.

Another long day ahead tomorrow… time to get some rest. Till next time!

Week 23: Paying Homage to Classical Technique

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My freshly honed MAC knife held poised and ready to slice through anything with little resistance. My hands shaking from nervousness and excitement. This was it. I had just turned out the pressed lobster & leek terrine from its mold and it was time to cut it open and see how it looked inside. To me, this wasn’t just any ordinary terrine. It represents years, decades of haute cuisine and classical French techniques that forever changed the culinary landscape. And so, I was quite anxious about slicing through the delicate form for the first time.

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The mosaic looked absolutely beautiful, though the guys sympathized with me after I had told them that Chef basically did it all. They likened him to an overly-eager dad who ends up doing his child’s science fair project himself instead of just “helping.” Haha. Still, the finished product reaffirmed my decision to not only work in a professional kitchen but to work in this one and to learn and study everything I can. It was just so freaking cool!

Sous Chef S helped me whip up a lobster vinaigrette using my infused lobster oil and some reduced lobster stock. It was intensely flavored, a great contrast to the ever-so-delicate terrine. (I preferred the terrine on its own; you could really taste the sweetness of the lobster and the mellowed, faintly onion-like flavor of the leeks.)

He also helped me with my major project today: mortadella! I measured my ingredients carefully and followed each step as instructed up until the stuffing of the casings. Now they are resting overnight in the walk-in, waiting to be poached tomorrow by the kind soul who is covering my station for me. Apparently, letting the stuffed casings sit yields a better salumi, so I’ll have to wait until my return on Tuesday to see how it turned out!

Service was slow for a Saturday and less stressful without Chef’s presence. I do admire the brigade system though; because of the pressure to not let your team down, every single person worked hard despite the absence of Chef’s watchful eye. Not a common sight — a dozen 20 and 30-something year old guys (and gals) coordinating in unison without the ringmaster. I was impressed.

It just so happened that Honey Bunny and his BFF Z came to the restaurant tonight to hang out at the bar at the same time that our dear friends L & A were seated in the dining room for a dinner date. Honey Bunny wasn’t eating, but L & A had ordered a charcuterie board and I was excited to show off my mise. After checking with Sous Chef S at the pass, I went ahead and put everything on it, including the new lobster terrine! I think it looked really cool and couldn’t resist taking a quick photo before walking it up to the window.

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I got to go out to the dining room to say hi/bye to L & A as they were leaving. It was really nice to see them and always fun to have friends come support my work and my new life. Making beautiful food and having that be an integral part of making people happy — that’s an amazingly rewarding feeling. What a great way to kick off the weekend!

PS: If anyone wants to see the man himself preparing the terrine, check out this Youtube video of Marco Pierre White cooking for his mentor Raymond Blanc. (All amazing names in the culinary world.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-D8Wzqs-xc