Always Improving

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As soon as I arrived today, I was greeted by Chef frantically announcing that we all need to get set up ASAP as we will be starting with the happy hour menu at noon and nixing the snack menu. It sucked, but at least I had anticipated not being able to get much done while trying to work around nonstop service from noon to 10pm. I managed to finish my light prep list and even help Fish Guy with some of his prep (returning the favor for his help with the daikon and carrots the night before).

I was bummed that we nixed the snack menu after having put in all that effort to make those damned Scotch eggs, but Chef suggested frying them off to accompany family meal today. They were gone before I could even bring them out to the dining room, snatched up eagerly by the guys in the kitchen. At least they all seemed to enjoy it. It kinda makes my effort worthwhile… kinda.

The noon game was stressful — we knew that if England lost, Chef would be in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Noon is VERY early to already experience Angry Chef, so we were all silently praying for the UK. Sadly, they lost to Uruguay and the vibe was a bit off for the rest of the day. Service was slow and instead of getting angsty, Chef just called it a day and went home early, leaving us in Sous Chef S’s capable hands.

The mood immediately improved as everyone relaxed a bit. We still run like a well-oiled machine (the Henry Ford quote “Quality is doing it right when no one is looking” still hangs in our kitchen) but without the added stress of Chef’s watchful eye. It was an interesting dinner service as Sous Chef J was assigned to the pizza station! I liked watching him pull and stretch the dough; he has intense focus and deftly moves his hands as though he’d been making pizzas for years (this was apparently his first time working the station). Again he brings his zen-like demeanor and calm aura, much appreciated in the chaos that is the Kitchen. I’m still working on not getting too frazzled when I start to get overwhelmed with tickets.

But the exciting thing about today is that I was able to make the proper pickling liquid per my dad’s recipe, using this cane sugar based coconut vinegar that he likes. I also sprinkled the vegetables with kosher salt and let it sit for a few minutes, purging all the excess water, before pickling them. The result tasted great, and passers-by did tell me that it reminded them of eating banh mi (which was the idea). Also, I cut into my second round of the five spice pork liver mousse today; this was the batch where I had soaked the livers in milk overnight to mellow out the iron-y flavor. This too was a huge improvement on the first and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

The 19-year-old (I had previously referred to him as Fish Stage because the first day I met him, he had been shadowing Fish Guy, but he was since hired to work on Pantry and I most often refer to him as part of the Pantry Boys…) asked me an interesting question today: if I were offered to move up to Hot-Apps now, would I accept? I really want to work on the Hot Line, but I really, really love Charcuterie. There is so much to learn and so much room to experiment, and I am making a product that I am truly proud of (follow me on Instagram to see my frequent posts of new projects). I am a bit envious that Musician Stage skipped the rest of the Cold Line to start working a few days a week on Hot-Apps, and I heard that Station-mate is coming back and will be working on that station as well even after his disastrous difficulties with Charcuterie. But that’s not the point, is it? I don’t need to move at the same pace as them, and going onto the Hot Line doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re “better” than I am. Plus, what I am learning is a more unique opportunity. After all, every kitchen has a Hot-Apps/Saute station, but how many have house-made charcuterie? And so, my answer was that I am happy to spend more time on this station. My perfectionist desire to adhere to recipes (weighing out ingredients down to the gram) coupled with a creative urge to experiment makes this the perfect station for me, with or without a stove to stand in front of.

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