Hell Week: Day 3

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Today (Thursday) was rough. I noticed during prep that Chef was constantly checking in on the other guys multiple times throughout the day (“What are you working on?” “How are you looking?” “Do you need help with anything?”) and yet he hardly said a word to me. Maybe it was the stress or perhaps the heat, but I was starting to wonder if I had done something wrong or somehow got on his bad side. But later in the afternoon, he stopped by my station and said, “You’re in good shape, right?” with his little wink that he does. It was a sigh of relief as I realized he just has enough confidence in me to know that I can handle my work solo and that I can stay focused to get it done. Of course, he never comes out and says these things…

Still, the “tough love” that I had mentioned many moons ago (about how Chef only yells because he cares about helping you do better and how he doesn’t bother with lost causes)… it’s getting old. I feel like I’ve really become one of the guys over these past several months, to the point where Chef doesn’t feel the need to be awkwardly nice to me anymore. Which is fine, except on days when he just seems to be looking for reasons to blow off steam. I can handle being yelled at for something I’ve done wrong, but tonight he barked at me because I started to put away the chaotic mise on my station after finishing my plates early rather than hopping over to Pantry and somehow reading their minds that they need help. Is it my fault that they don’t know how to ask before they get in the weeds? Is it my fault for doing my own work quickly and for wanting to keep my station clean so I can continue to be efficient? It felt like being stuck between a rock and a hard place and there’s really nothing you could say but “Yes Chef.”

I was so livid in the moment, especially since there have been so many times when I had multiple tickets on while the other guys would be blatantly dicking around and Chef wouldn’t say anything to them. I took out my aggression on a poor defenseless stick of salumi that I was slicing. In retrospect though, I know it was a stupid incident and that it’s really nothing personal. A few minutes after, he seemed to have totally forgotten that he’d even said anything. And after all, he and Sous Chef S routinely go head to head in shouting matches and they’ve been a great team for many years! That’s just how he is (and if I want to become his sous chef someday, I’ll just have to get used to it). They weren’t kidding when they say Kitchen Life can resemble the military in many ways.

But, on a semi-related note, there are changes in the brigade afoot. Musician Stage gave his two weeks’ notice yesterday as he found a better-paying opportunity at a new restaurant that is opening near his apartment. I suppose at this point, I could refer to him by his real name: Mophead. Okay, that’s not his given name but it is a real nickname we all actually use in the kitchen.

And, perhaps most devastating, we all learned that Fish Guy gave HIS as well tonight just after service (literally as Chef was sitting in his car, with the door about to swing closed). Panda, also a real nickname, had worked for Chef at this restaurant for four years. FOUR. He started on Pizza, then Pantry, Charcuterie, making his way onto the line with Hot-Apps followed by Fish. He had been recently training a bit on the Meat station, but I guess there’s just not as much advancement opportunity for him (and I don’t know the details of the new job he’s going to). As Pastry Girl remarked, it is just time to move on. I’m going to be so sad when he leaves for good. He’s been like a big brother to me in this kitchen and it will be really hard to see him go. :(

Sorry, I didn’t intend this post to be so full of rants and sad news. It was the first day since this whole adventure began that the thought of going back to a secure, peaceful, air-conditioned office job crept into my mind however briefly. But everyone is entitled to a bad day once in a while, right? And having one less-than-stellar day is no reason to panic. In a funny way, it just means that this life as a line cook has finally become more like a “real” job (which as we know too well, is never all sunshine and daisies).

Tomorrow will be a better day.

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