Tonight’s service was off to a slow start and we could all tell that Chef was getting anxious. Each minute ticking by without orders checking in meant no money earned and yet still wages to pay for the dozen guys (and gals) on his brigade. So I noticed he started looking around to see where he could send someone home and save a bit of cash. He called me over and I was nervous. Was I the dead weight in the kitchen? Then he told me, “Get over in the corner on Hot-Apps; Pantry will cover Charcuterie.” (There were two sous chefs and Sassy Stage tonight so the Cold Line had more than enough staff.) Now’s my chance, I thought, just as Station Lead voiced the same sentiment aloud.
I grabbed an extra towel and spoon and ran over to join Station-mate. It turns out that Chef had decided to send home Honey Badger, a guy who had worked for him previously and would come in just to work service on Hot-Apps a few nights a week. And so began my new adventure in the best way possible: by getting thrown in the deep end. From my visits to check out Hot-Apps in recent weeks, I wasn’t completely clueless about what to do. Still, I really appreciated that Station-mate would walk me through the steps as I would sauté the sauces for our pasta dishes and man the fryer — add the chopped rosemary next, maybe this needs more chicken stock, perhaps more butter (never too much butter, it seems!), don’t forget to taste and season, your pasta is just about ready, can you drop the truffle fries into the fryer, Chef needs you to fry off this soft shell crab too. It was a lot to take in but I think I managed to stay focused and not get too overwhelmed. There was a lot going simultaneously which I absolutely love. That’s when I perform best, with the adrenaline pumping and the muscle memory kicking in to do the cooking while your brain focuses on the tickets hanging from your rail.
At the end of the night, we still had to make some balls of pasta dough for the next day, so I helped Station-mate weigh out the ingredients while he finished up the last few dinner tickets. Then we switched so that I was scrubbing down the corner while he borrowed Pastry Girl’s mixer to knead the dough (we used to do it in the Robotcoupe but it’s still broken).
I didn’t get home until 11:30 and by then, Honey Bunny was already asleep. Probably for the best though, as I felt like I smelled extra funky today. That seems to be the case as you move up the proverbial ladder – first you start with the greasy smell of fryer oil and sauna-sweat from the steam of the pasta boiler, then you get the aroma of fishy splatter, and finally, you know you’ve made it when you come home with the blood of cow, lamb, rabbit, and whatever other red meat or game happen to be on the menu that night caked under your fingernails. We’ve only just begun.