Monthly Archives: July 2015

Work Hard, Play Hard

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Today was the second of nine days I’ll be working in a row before Honey Bunny and I go on our vacation. I can’t wait to just get this extra long week over with!

Yesterday was stupidly busy for a Tuesday, with 200 covers and three 16-top parties. Luckily the parties were spaced out and we had one cook on “rounds” (meaning she went around helping out every station as the rush rippled through the kitchen). It mostly sucked that the last party was at 9:45pm and wanted to do the 20-course tasting menu (usually a many-hour affair) before our kitchen closed at 10:45. Needless to say, we all got a bit of overtime pay that night.

Quick recap back to the weekend though. On Sunday, Honey Bunny and I went to a bottle share where we ended up sampling 30 different craft beers. I was most excited about the one I brought; it was developed by Ferran Adria, the father of modernist cuisine. So cool!!! It was made to be paired with food and tasted clean and crisp like a good Chardonnay. I’m a huge fan.

After we had gotten home, I was surprised with an impromptu visit from my BFF! It’s always great to see him, and since he is an avid reader, I wanted to give him a quick shout-out.

Lastly, on Monday night, we took advantage of an expiring Groupon gifted to us by a friend and signed up for swing dance classes! Our first lesson went well… they taught us the basic steps and a few turns for lindy hop, east coast swing, and west coast swing. We are super excited about this new hobby and opportunity to try something new together (that surprisingly doesn’t involve food!).

Anyway, just working for the weekend (even though it’s still 7 days away…). Cheers!

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Our Empathetic Cat

This week has felt pretty stressful. I ended up working 7 days in a row with Tuesday and Wednesday as my days off. Midweek weekends always feel weird since Honey Bunny still has to go work; it’s basically the same as any other day until 2 or 3pm when instead of getting ready for work, I’m grocery shopping or finalizing dinner plans for me and Honey Bunny. Then the worst part is coming back from my “weekend” and starting my week with our busiest nights – Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Since my station partner is leaving for greener pastures soon, he’s been pushing me to get as much practice cooking as possible so I can really master the station, especially on the busy nights. We did about 375 covers tonight and I was exhausted by the time my shift was over. Sadly, I went home with a pretty bad headache that left me irritable and (probably) unpleasant to be around – sorry, Honey Bunny.

I lay in bed trying desperately to will the effects of ibuprofen to activate faster. Not even one second after I wiped a tear of frustration from my eye, our older cat hopped up onto my chest and plopped down. His inquisitive nose sniffed the saline on my fingers and he immediately launched into a barrage of rhythmic, soothing purrs. We’ve had him for five years (he’s 10 years old now) and he’s been amazing at not only detecting when I’m upset or sick but also actively trying to comfort me during my times of need.

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Kitchen Life is a stressful one, and especially on days like today, I am so grateful for our empathetic cat.

History Lesson

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Yesterday was a slow Thursday for us so Chef cut about 6 people before the day even started and gave a few more (myself included) the option of working a half day, 4 hour shift. Sure, money is a bit tight, but I was so stoked about getting to go home at 7pm and spend some unexpected quality time with Honey Bunny that I jumped at the opportunity. We ended up going out for dinner and a movie (yay Minions!) and had an awesome evening.

Today at our 4:30 meeting, R&D Chef finally gave a presentation, after months of us all trying to get the chance to pick his brain. It was a history of influential chefs and their impact on modern gastronomy, from Taillevent to Escoffier to Bocuse to Guerard to Robuchon to Adria, just to name a few. I found it absolutely fascinating and the whole time I was reminded of Sous Chef J who also was very knowledgeable about famous chefs and got me interested in places like noma and Arzak and El Bulli.

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The best part was when he brought up Brillat-Savarin. I knew the name was familiar but I could not quite place it until he read the quote, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Am I the only one who thought of the opening intro to the original Iron Chef TV show?

Service was intense. We only had 280 on the books but with a ton of last minute walk-ins, we ended up doing 350 or more. My partner is leaving soon for a job at a Michelin starred restaurant (so jealous!) so in the interest of getting me as familiar and confident on my station as possible before he leaves, he had me cook today, while he did the plating. It was ridiculous. Junior Sous J told me that he had to set up a second ticket rail in order to accommodate the influx of tickets. And my station still doesn’t have a working ticket monitor so we continued to keep track of our board the old school way, by memory and by “all-day” counts. So as you might imagine, it was a rough night. At least we survived!

An Offer I Had to Refuse

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In the middle of dinner service tonight I felt my phone ringing in my back pocket. It was an unexpected call from Station Lead. I inadvertently hung up on him and sent a quick text to let him know I was working. He called me after work and it was nice to catch up. After the old restaurant closed, he found an opportunity to be the head chef at the restaurant right next door.

Anyway, it would seem that his small team was having trouble, a conflict between his sous chef and a line cook. In the end the sous got fired and he’s putting out feelers for a new sous and additional line cooks. He asked me firstĀ  if I knew anyone looking for a job… but then he asked if I would be interested in quitting my current job to be his sous chef. I didn’t know what to say. I was flattered and honored, but ultimately I had to turn it down. I have a good thing going here, great opportunities to learn cool techniques and to climb the ladder within the restaurant empire. Plus, I’d want to stay for at least a year so that my 401k matching will vest. He understood and was dumbfounded that I had a 401k. “Are YOU looking for a line cook??” he jokingly asked, willing to shed his hard-earned title for better pay and benefits.

We chatted more about gossip among the old crew – drama among Panda, Sous Chef S, and himself. He also bragged about making a salmon terrine in half the time it used to take me. I sarcastically thanked him for the reminder when he said something that resonated in me: “You have to remember where you started. Just two years ago, you were running computers in an office. And now you’re working for one of the best chefs in the world. You should be nothing but extremely proud of yourself.”

After last week’s drama, I needed to hear some words of encouragement like that. And his job offer gave me a bit of an ego boost (after all, wouldn’t it be amazing to earn that title so early in my career?); even though I’m not taking it, it still means a lot that he thought I would be deserving of it. It also made me miss the old crew. They weren’t just coworkers; they were my friends. This kitchen now is so big that it’s hard to really connect on a deeper level with any one person the way I did with, say, Pastry Girl. Oh well, all in due time.

Zen Bunny

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I follow a blog called Bunny Buddhism on Facebook which often posts graphics featuring modified quotes about life, happiness (“bunniness”), and other words of wisdom. I thought this one was appropriate since I had a little bit of anxiety before coming in to work today. After Friday’s service, things never really got resolved between me and that kid. On Saturday I had my regular partner back (although it turned out that he was giving his two weeks notice to pursue another awesome opportunity). Plus, since it seemed like everyone in the city would rather BBQ, watch fireworks, or light illegal ones, it was slow at the restaurant and I got to go home around 9pm. Woot!

So despite having had two days off to recuperate, I was still seething from Friday’s conflict and was nervous because we would be working next to each other (though not directly working together). Would he try to apologize for being an ass? (He didn’t.) Would he bring it up and confront me about “being slow” again? (He didn’t.) Would he pretend like nothing happened and just move forward? (More or less.)

So today was largely uneventful and it turned out that I was feeling anxious for no reason. Hopefully this week will go smoothly.