Yesterday was chaotic after Chef left for the event along with Sous Chef J and a few cooks he had recruited as helpers (I guess they had worked here in the past because some of the guys recognized the familiar faces). As soon as they drove away, just half an hour before service started, the kitchen erupted into pandemonium: the testosterone levels were palpable from the pent-up energy of all the guys, restless from the slowness and free from Chef’s watchful eye.
Two of them were play-fighting near my station as I was plating up some dishes, and when I turned to walk them to the window, one of the guys had backed up and stepped on my foot. I had had enough and shouted a loud, single, commanding “Hey!” that caught everyone’s attention. They apologized profusely and took it down a notch. Thank god for that.
Sous Chef S had a great surprise for me – when he ordered pork butt to make salumis last Sunday, it arrived fresh (not frozen and certified). This meant that he measured out a batch and put it in the freezer so it would be ready for me to make my first batch of salumi today (Saturday)! He told me the duck salumi I’m making is even easier than the mortadella that I had just made yesterday. However, since it will be dry curing (white “good” mold and all), I have to make sure my gloved hands and all of my equipment is absolutely sanitized. Super excited for this next adventure, as I knew I would not want to move on from Charcuterie without making salumi first.
The past two days (Wednesday and Thursday) Chef took it upon himself to work with the Pantry Boys. I considered myself lucky to be able to watch him plate dishes with such finesse while being a far enough distance to not suffer his wrath quite as much. He said that he’s gotten bored with just standing around at the pass so he was looking forward to some hands-on work. Plus, he added, the Pantry Boys have been abysmal during service with what he considers to be an inefficient station setup and (what we’ve all observed) really slow ticket times.
With Chef lingering on the Cold Line, there was an element of added pressure. His watchful eye sees all and he’s definitely quick with criticism. Sigh.
On the bright side, he will be gone today working an event, the same one he took me to last year on my second ever Saturday in the kitchen. Yesterday he and I worked in the walk-in to get everything ready – almost 800 frozen squid ink beignets had to be placed into little muffin tins in preparation for being baked just before he and Sous Chef J head out for the event. I didn’t mind helping but man, it was so freaking cold!
I’m a little bummed about not going, but we’re all needed to hold down the fort in Chef’s absence.
Yesterday was (again) slow. Man I can’t wait for summer to be over so our busy season can ramp up. On the bright side, this means that we schedule the bare minimum number of people on the line, so I had the opportunity to give Pizza Guy J a hand on Hot-Apps from time to time. Pictured above is the prosciutto bolognese with bone marrow and escargot, made by yours truly!
Chef declared today a 1pm day which is great since I have Late Night. Yay!
Sunday (August 24th) marked exactly one year since that first fateful Saturday that I stepped across the threshold into the kitchen. My workiversary, if you will.
So much has changed in just one year! It’s mind boggling.
But I’ve got to get ready for work, so more reflection on this later.
Saturday was dreadfully slow but one notable thing did happen. Meat Guy pulled me aside the other day and told me that if I wanted to move on to another station, especially the Hot Line, I should let Chef know and constantly remind him. There have been people coming and going lately and this could be my window to move up. So, I worked up the courage and spoke with Chef. He was surprisingly receptive (rumor has it that he is not fond of having female cooks on his line) and said that he already did the schedule for this coming week but perhaps the next he could give me a day or two on Hot Apps. YAY!
I was thankful that Chef made us all come in at the normal time because I literally spent all day on the lovely dish pictured above. I found my order of two medium-sized octopuses (octopi?) had arrived safe and sound sitting in the walk-in atop the ice on the fish station.
The first thing I did was get them into the pressure cooker. I had read a handful of terrine di pulpo recipes, some involve boiling the octopus and others even cooked it sous vide in an immersion circulator. When it was done, I was left with this:
RELEASE THE KRAKEN! Anyway I had to work quickly to break it down while it was hot so I could compress it in a porcelain terrine mold. I crossed my fingers that the natural gelatin would set in time for dinner service. Meanwhile, I moved on to the accoutrements.
I consulted the sous chefs to see if they had any ideas or recipes for the sauces I planned to make. Armed with their input and what I had googled the night before, I started squeezing an assortment of citrus fruits to be heated into a syrupy reduction, the base of my citrus emulsion. (Not gonna lie, I felt pretty cool being a professional cook in a professional kitchen making an emulsion.)
Next up was the shiso leaf oil. I had always wanted to make a green herb oil and this particular one looks so lovely. I briefly blanched the leaves before whizzing in a blender with oil and passing it through a coffee filter. It retained its color through service and looked stunning against the white plate.
The rest of my day was spent taking care of the beef tongues that needed to get into some brine, making the rest of the garnishes (brunoise fresno chilies, orange segment supreme, microgreens, etc.), and getting ready for service… in the middle of happy hour, a slow one at that, Chef and I unmolded the terrine and we played around with plating ideas.
The chorus of approval from passers-by was unanimous: that looks so badass. It was an awesome feeling to have proposed and created a new dish from start to finish. That’s the cool thing about the Specials Board at our restaurant – you never know when a new addition might be one of our line cooks trying something new with Chef’s blessing. It was a good day.