New Kid On The Block

Yesterday was my first day at the new restaurant, and while it turned out to be pretty awesome, it was also quite overwhelming. I started with a two hour orientation with HR to fill out paperwork, sign documents, and watch safety videos. The HR girl also walked me down to the dry cleaning area to pick up my chef’s coat and then to the locker room to get changed. By 3pm, I had arrived in the kitchen, in full uniform and with knife bag in hand.

The next two hours flew by in a whirlwind. I was partnered up with one of the guys on saute, and he gave me the grand tour of the kitchen. It is HUGE. We walked through dry storage and the prep kitchen through to the walk-in and the dish pit, then we wove around the ten stations set up throughout the main kitchen. He also showed me the two smaller stations by the bars and the other restaurant’s kitchen in case we ever needed to borrow anything from them. I know I’m going to get lost at least a few times this week.

The HR girl told me that my first day would be primarily tasting the food… (“you probably won’t be doing any actual cooking,” she said) but I knew better. Sure enough, I was assigned to a station (a hot one at that!) and set to work right away with prep. We prepped until 5:30 and then everyone goes on their mandated “lunch” break until 6pm when we open for dinner service. Everyone divides up to either go out to the patio to smoke or go to the cafeteria for staff meal. I felt especially first day of school ish then and decided to sit at a small table by myself and catch up with Honey Bunny by text.

On Plancha I, we had one pan-fried dish, one seared, and four saute dishes. It is part of the “front line” which means that we are on the side that is visible from the dining room. Luckily, it wasn’t too busy so I was able to get some hands-on learning experience. It was hot hot hot and I definitely got a few small oil splatter burns on my hands. Each of the dishes are intricate with many components and garnishes. But I picked it up quickly and by the middle of service, I had gotten into the rhythm of managing the tickets and plating the dishes while my partner cooked. If we had multiple items on fire, I would help saute as well. And the ticket system! It’s so cool — they have a digital system so the tickets show up on a little computer screen near our station. It even starts a timer whenever a new ticket checks in so we can track how long it has taken.

We kept prepping throughout service as well. I got to use a “combi oven” to sous vide (rather than using an immersion circulator) so that was cool. More importantly, their cryovac machine actually works so we can vacuum seal the bags properly. Our reach-in refrigerator was freezing up and my partner was advised to fill out a form to request Engineering to come look at it. Engineering! At the old place, Chef (or one of us) would just crawl in with an oyster knife to jiggle the knob until we fixed the settings. Little things like that really impressed me.

Throughout dinner service, my station partner would duck around and ask the other guys (and gals) to make some of the items for me to try, so I did end up getting to taste some of the food. The kitchen favorite seems to be the mushroom special on our station. Whenever we send one out, passersby reach for scraps of bread and fight over the remaining cream sauce at the bottom of our saute pan. SO good!

Anyway, the end of the night could not come soon enough as I was feeling exhausted. It was a lot to take in, and I don’t think I can even remember half of the people’s names (and we were only half staffed yesterday!). It was great to finally come home to Honey Bunny and regale him with my stories.

I’m scheduled to work the rest of this week so I’ll have plenty of stories to share. But so far, it seems like a great fit and I’m really happy to be part of this kitchen!

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