Monthly Archives: May 2015

Transition

My schedule is weird this week since I requested Saturday off to attend a big fundraising event that Honey Bunny has been planning for work. It was annoying though since the schedule was just posted yesterday and that’s when I found out I’d be working today (Wednesday and Saturday off). Ugh. Hopefully it will be slow since it’s no longer a holiday weekend.

Coming back on a Thursday is strange, but at least it gets me to hustle with prep for the busy days ahead. Plus, it was slower than it had been on Sunday and Monday (when I was working solo) so I got to go home early and get more much-needed rest. Friday and Saturday nights were busier though strange because I worked with different people each night while my usual station partner was on grill to cover for someone else.

Last night was interesting because my partner conveniently disappeared during the first (and busiest) rush leaving me to push through it by myself. The silver lining was that I saw Chef and the sous chefs took notice of how I was able to handle it on my own without panicking or falling behind. I had literally just cleared the board when my partner finally showed up. Sigh. Luckily the rest of the night was slower.

This week I’ll get to start training to transition to Plancha 2, the other front hot line station that handles our seafood dishes: sautéed shrimp, rossejat (basically a noodle-based paella), seared scallops, etc. I’m excited to finally get to learn a new station and more importantly to stay on the hot line. Woot!

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Endurance

Endurance… I don’t got it. When I work up this morning, everything hurt. Working seven days in a row is no joke. My feet hurt (more than normal), my back ached, and my left wrist was sore from all the sauteing action. When people asked me what I planned to do with my weekend, I jokingly replied “Not a damn thing.” But since my body doth protest, I ended up taking it easy — I lounged at home watching old re-runs of Gossip Girl while a half dozen patches of Salonpas worked their magic.

Sunday was by far the worst day in the kitchen yet. We arrived to find out that the freezer had crapped out overnight. I noticed when I went to fetch a quart container of frozen harissa broth only to find a liquid soup where a solid icy block should be. I asked the guys on Cold Station because they work next to the freezer and are responsible for it. “It’s OK – it was like 70 degrees when we came in and now it’s down to 60-something so it’s cooling down…” I couldn’t believe how naive they were. THERE IS THAWING RAW MEAT IN A FREEZER THAT HAS BEEN HOLDING AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR GOD KNOWS HOW LONG. IT’S NOT OKAY! I alerted the sous chefs in charge and at first they tried transferring the items to a speed rack and rolling everything into a large walk-in freezer… but to no avail. We re-temped everything and it was 50 degrees F at best. (For reference, frozen should be 32 degrees F and refrigerated at 41 degrees F or lower.) That meant we had to throw everything away. All 18 quarts of harissa broth that I had JUST made two days ago. Six (very expensive) terrines of foie gras mousse. Quail. Butifarra (sausage). Rabbit. Five types of jus. It was painful to watch all of that food go into the trash, like it literally made my heart ache. So on top of prepping for a 300-cover night with half-staff (one-man stations), we had unexpected extra prep work to restock our inventory.

Monday was physically demanding for me because it was harissa broth day. Making harissa always involves heavy lifting, especially on days when we’re short staffed and it’s just me myself and I. A huge stock pot that I could literally bathe in, big pans of chopped vegetables (that I had scrambled to put together the day prior), cans of tomato and garbanzo beans, and a 22-quart Cambro of stock… it was definitely one of those days when I felt too short or small for the kitchen. haha. It was another busy night thanks to the holiday weekend (250+), but since it’s a federal holiday, at least I get double pay! I was just relieved that it was my Friday and after waking up as sore as I did today, I don’t think it would have been physically possible to work an eighth day if I had to. I feel like I had just run a marathon!

Career Day

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Thursday was a super long day starting bright and early at 8am at a middle school for Career Day. I thought it went fairly well, and it was fun to represent a recognizable occupation (i.e. there were many older men in business suits but the kids’ eyes lit up when they saw me in my chef’s coat and apron). Each of us spoke to 4 groups of kids who would rotate into our classroom; my first two sessions were great! The kids were engaged and asked thoughtful questions. But, since they are middle schoolers after all, their attention span waned by the third session and the final one was like pulling teeth to fill the awkward silence. Still, it was a fun experience!

I went in to work later that day and was thrilled to discover that one of the sous chefs used my extra chicken liver mousse terrine as the pate for banh mi sandwiches for family meal! SO GOOD. Totally made my long day more bearable.

Friday and Saturday night service were busy as expected. I was partnered with someone else since my station partner went out of town. He and I switched off so I cooked while he plated on Friday and he cooked today while I plated. It was nice since usually the guys I work with prefer to do the pan-slinging sautéing and such while leaving the finer, more delicate task of plating to me.

Anyway, I’m upset about the schedule this week because I’m working tomorrow and Monday. Seven days in a row already sucks but I felt especially shitty because Honey Bunny is off for 4 days for Memorial Day Weekend and I’m not off for ANY of them. :( Sigh. Can’t wait for Tuesday to get here…

Catching Up

I feel like I’m still catching up on sleep from last week… working basically six days, one of which was a double shift, takes its toll on you! On the bright side, Saturday’s presentation on pink salt went really well. I came in half an hour early to meet with Chef and go over my presentation with her. She had only good things to say, that I kept her engaged throughout my 10 minute speech, that I explained the science behind curing salts well without delving too far into the boring chemistry, and that I had an edible example. Everyone LOVED my chicken liver mousse! I had made two pyrex baking dishes so we are saving one to use as the pate on banh mi sandwiches for family meal tomorrow.

Yesterday and today were relatively easy. I think they scheduled extra staff because of how busy both Tuesday and Wednesday were last week, but this week’s numbers were not nearly as impressive. It was nice having extra pairs of hands around to help here and there.

I gotta get to bed though. My friend is a site coordinator for a local school district and asked me to volunteer for Career Day at one of his middle schools. Of course it starts at 8am. Oy. Time to go tell these kids to stay in school and don’t do drugs, as Honey Bunny so helpfully advised. :P

14 Hours

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This morning I went to the second day of the paella workshop, again bright and early at 9am. The difference is that I then had to work a full dinner service shift afterward instead of going out and drinking copious amounts of sangria with my friends. Ugh. It was a long, exhausting day (14 hours on my feet!) but one of the best days at the restaurant so far!

We ended up making three paellas today, for a total of five distinct paellas over two days. This time we made paella negra (squid ink paella), iberico secreto and butifarra paella (the famous Spanish pork meat and sausage), and verduras y conejo (seasonal vegetables and rabbit). The day was already off to a good start when I volunteered to break down the rabbits (whole ones, with even the head still attached!). It seemed I was the only one in our group (other than the chefs, of course) with any experience in rabbit butchery so I ended up guiding a few of the others to show them how to separate the offal (liver, heart, kidneys), front legs, back legs, and saddle/loin.

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My favorite paella of the day was definitely the squid ink paella negra, but the most memorable moment was tasting secreto for the first time. Secreto (Spanish for “secret”) is so named because traditionally, butchers would save this special cut for themselves. It is a flat, rectangular cut just under the pork shoulder and it has amazing marbling. More importantly, the pork comes from iberico pigs, Spanish pigs that feed exclusively on acorns. This gives the meat and fat a distinctly nutty flavor and even the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids! Because the meat is so high quality, it is the only pork that is safe to eat medium-rare… and it tasted like a delicious, juicy steak. Life changing, as R&D Chef had said.

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And speaking of R&D Chef… he had seen me make my chicken liver mousse yesterday and remarked that he really likes that stuff and wanted to try mine. However, he will be flying out before my presentation tomorrow and we were all so full today from devouring three paellas. But, since he was planning to have dinner at our restaurant, he and I asked Chef if I could send him some of my mousse on toast when he came in. She agreed and I did, and I was nervous because this is the first time I’ve made chicken liver mousse outside of the old restaurant. I made a small sample for the sous chefs to try as well, a quick preview. Sous Chef M teased me, “Are you happy with it? Is it something you are proud of?” and it made me a bit worried because while it is good for 100% chicken livers, I know it could be even better with foie gras. But after tasting it, their faces lit up. “This is fucking delicious,” Sous Chef M replied.

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Later when I finally got home from work, R&D Chef befriended me on Facebook and what he said to me just completely made all of the extra time and effort over the past two days worthwhile. He said that he loves how passionate I am about food and cooking. And he said that my chicken liver mousse was “life changing,” “amazing,” “the best [he’s] ever had,” “perfectly cooked,” 100 times better than one that he had the other day at another restaurant.

I was smiling from ear to ear as I read those comments. It’s all about making people happy through food and when the positive feedback comes from a talented chef like him, it especially means so much to me. I excitedly shared the news with Honey Bunny and he seemed proud of me (or at least, happy to see me so happy)!

Anyway, time for some much-needed sleep. One more day until my weekend!