Hello, friends! Not much excitement over here other than finally getting the hang of my new station. It’s been tough without the ticket monitor on our station functioning properly, although it did magically resume working on Friday and lasted the whole night… until one of the cooks turned it off. It never turned back on and my station partner and I wanted to kick his ass for it.
On the bright side, even though I feel like I’ve been struggling a bit, I am still getting a lot of positive feedback from the sous chefs. The one who runs the Expensive Private Dining Room (whose work area is right next to my old station) said he missed me and wants me to come back because he doesn’t like how the boys over there run things. The sous chef who is most senior and seems to be Chef’s right hand man is always glad to see me working on my new station. “It’s so much cleaner with you over here!” he says. And since we’ve been completely verbal on our tickets, I think I’ve impressed him with my ability to remember, keep track of, and execute the dishes. I believe the words he used were, “I trust you” along with the mutual respect that comes with having the experience of working in a “traditional” “old school” kitchen without the fancy computer screens.
In case I’ve lost anyone with the phrase “verbal fire” or “verbal tickets,” imagine any episode of a show like Hell’s Kitchen. The chef just shouts out the orders one after the other, “Checking in: one scallop, one risotto, followed by one lamb, one welli” and the cooks pause from whatever they’re doing to reply “Heard” or “Yes, Chef”. One table is easy enough to keep track of, but then another table walks in… “Fire two scallops.” Now you’ve got three all day and he’ll want to know how much time you need for the first one (or the next two, or if you’ll send all three at the same time). You should be producing top quality dishes every time and rest assured, more tickets will be coming in throughout the night.
Keep in mind that I’m juggling this for eight dishes on our station, two of which require communicating with other stations, and we did 400+ covers on Saturday night. On more than one occasion, I overheard a guy over on the Cold Line wondering out loud, “How the hell do you keep track of all that?!”
This station has really put me to the test but I think I’m rising to the challenge and earning respect from my peers. I didn’t realize it at first but Plancha 2 is like the Fish Station in our kitchen. That means that in under 2 years in the industry, I’ve not only made it onto the Hot Line, I have worked my way up to Fish. That’s pretty badass if I do say so myself. :)
I forgot to mention that the display monitor for the ticket system on our station has been broken since Wednesday night and we’ve been running verbal tickets old school style all week. It’s already an added layer of stress to keep track of your board in your head but what made it worse was that the sous chefs didn’t always call out our tickets to us, causing us to miss some dishes entirely and needing to pick them up on the fly. Tonight was a rough night for me, primarily due to doing 300+ covers without a working ticket monitor. But I also blame those Norwegian lobsters. They’re a pain in the butt and we ended up selling 18 orders back to back.
Toward the end of the night, the sous chef turned to us and said to fire 25 orders of the langoustine special. I was just about to panic (and maybe cry) when he said he was just kidding. So not funny :(
I’m still alive! Sorry for the lack of updates. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks working 7 days then off for 2, 6 days then off for 1, 2 busy days and then I got a very, very rare 3 day weekend! Those are almost unheard of in my line of work, but I had requested Saturday off for Honey Bunny’s fundraising gala (which was a HUGE success by the way!) and they happened to give me my “usual” Sunday-Monday for the following week. So after the stress of planning, organizing, and executing such an awesome event, Honey Bunny and I wanted to unwind so we took a quick getaway to Vegas!
On Tuesday, I came back and found that I would be both teaching and learning. There’s a new guy on Plancha 1 so I had to show him the ropes while also learning Plancha 2 which will be my new station starting this week. This means I moved within 4 months of working here and I’m still on the Hot Line. All good signs. While Plancha 1 was frustrating at times because there’s no “flow” (people call it the random or “reheating” station since we’re searing off sous vide meat, sauteing vegetables, pan frying chicken wings, toasting bread, and baking eggs en cocotte), Plancha 2 is all seafood: sauteed shrimp, rossejat (which is basically a noodle paella), sauteed crab, grilled octopus, seared scallops, seared fish. The chaos of having to balance my time between teaching the new guy and learning everything I could on the other station left me exhausted!
On Wednesday, my station partner was there to float so I got to try my hand at focusing just on Plancha 2 while he paired up with the new guy on Plancha 1. It’s always difficult getting used to a new station, so I’m still at the stage where I feel like I’m too slow and hesitant. The confidence will come in time, they’ve told me. The scallops were a great seller that night… it reminded me of this gem from an old season of Top Chef:
Last night was just insanity. We had a buyout in one dining room for 80 people, a private party at the bar, and regular dinner service of about 250 covers. The buyout was having our tasting menu which meant we had to send out about 20 of each dish simultaneously. Running large parties like that when I’m new on the station left me feeling a bit overwhelmed and “deer caught in the headlights” from time to time. But the important thing is that we pushed through and it went as smoothly as it could.
We also got a cool special on our station (apparently it’s actually a throwback to an old dish we used to have on the menu): salt-grilled Norwegian lobsters! We only sold a few but hopefully it will ramp up now that Friday and Saturday are here. Wish me luck!
Wooooooo! I finally get a day off tomorrow! It’s been interesting working 6 days in a row (and 7 just before that) because I get to work with three very different dynamics: when we’re fully staffed, when we’re half-staffed on Sun & Mon, and when we’re half-staffed on Tues & Wed. Since we are such a huge kitchen, I like observing how the overall vibe and attitudes vary depending on which set or subset of people are scheduled to work.
Tonight was pretty hectic though. We were hosting a private foie gras event with 5 guest chefs for 75 people, an unrelated party of 25 out on the terrace, and regular dinner service of about 150 covers. We were all on edge because El Jefe was in town and we were all under his watchful eye. On top of it all, I started training on the other Plancha station as well!
One of the guest chefs is a chef-hero to me for her accomplishments in the industry. I was thrilled to get to meet her and it was awesome because there was so much foie left behind that I got to try her dish too. She runs a very small restaurant seeing no more than 40 covers a night and she likes it that way; “good things come in small packages,” she said. It was funny though because she came back at the end of the event to collect her belongings from my station’s cubby and she told me she was very drunk. Haha! It was just awesome seeing her so down to earth.
Throughout the night I heard the other guest chefs expressing awe and appreciation for our team. They all have much smaller restaurants and were impressed that we were able to juggle the event, the large group, and regular dinner service simultaneously. Just another Tuesday night really. And I saw jaws hit the floor when Chef casually mentioned that we do 500 covers on a busy night; it’s not easy to do the volume we do with the quality and complexity of our dishes! I’d like to think that this speaks to the caliber of the kitchen staff. ;)
Tonight’s service was one to be proud of and I’m glad that my week ended on a strong note.