Monthly Archives: September 2015

Just Don’t Cry

Last night’s dinner service was an absolute shitshow.

So Cold Station has two sub-stations: Cold 1 and Cold 2. Cold 1 does more volume – easy to plate, small bites. There are only 5 dishes, 3 of which are big sellers: the eel taco, jicama-wrapped guacamole, and tuna ceviche. Cold 2 has the more intricate dishes with a bazillion elements – eight dishes including beet salad, white asparagus, gazpacho, apple & fennel… each with 10-15 components and require finesse and a delicate hand.

Usually, a new person will start on Cold 1, trained by the previous newcomer, while the two most senior cooks transition to Cold 2. However, with the station rotations, the most senior person on Cold got moved to Fry and the second in line is out of commission after having cut his hand on the slicer. Thankfully, the third one had spent at least a handful of days observing Cold 2, knew what the dishes looked like and consisted of, and had some idea of the prep. Ideally she would have been trained by the guy who injured himself, while I started on Cold 1 getting trained by the former-newest guy.

So on Thursday, the chefs expected it to be a slow night and would have made cuts anyway, so we didn’t get an extra pair of hands to replace the injured guy. We ended up doing nearly 200 covers and I also ended up closing both stations by myself. Still, we survived.

Yesterday, however, a cook who had left a few months ago to go travel and work in Spain just came back. Since he was an extra pair of hands, I got to have him to help me open Cold. This is when things got kinda chaotic. Cold 2 had changed so much since he left that he felt more comfortable working Cold 1. Without anyone to properly train me/us and not having a clue on how to prep a lot of the items on either station, I thought it would be best for him to take Cold 1 while I figured out Cold 2.

It all went somewhat decently until the middle of service when we started running out of literally everything and I had to scramble to make things on the fly. We even ran out of things like gazpacho which needs to be marinated overnight. I had to run around gathering ingredients for something I’d never made, blend it as fast as humanly possible and send out an order for a ticket we already had on the board.

We were running 20-30 minute ticket times which really frustrated me because this is the freaking salad station. Even when I was deep in the weeds on the Hot Line, I NEVER ran a 30 minute ticket. The chefs understood because it was practically my first day on the station and my partner’s 4th (and she’s only worked with us for less than a month). At some point though, I told myself to keep going, do your best, and JUST DON’T CRY.

Survived to 11:30pm and then went home to drink heavily. (Just kidding, I stress-ate an order of McNuggets instead.) Praying tonight will be better.

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Next Challenge

Saturday was my last shift on fish plancha (for now anyway.. they could always schedule me in if someone requested a day off or something). This latest schedule was highly anticipated as many of us would be changing stations! I’m a bit bummed; I like my plancha team, both 1 and 2. I also really liked working fish plancha, but on the bright side, after only three months on my station, the chefs felt I had mastered it and it’s time to move on. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be on Cold.

I’m just excited to be moving around so quickly. (It’s not going unnoticed by the other cooks that I’m, quite frankly, a force to be reckoned with. I already have a bit of a chip on my shoulder since I was placed right on the Hot Line from my very first day!) Since my goal is to be lead cook then sous chef someday, I know I’ll have to work every station at some point. Some of the cooks teased that it’ll be too easy for me, and others remarked that the chefs probably assigned me to Cold so I can whip the newbies into shape.

It is a tiny blow to my ego to be relegated to the Cold Line, but it’s probably for the best. I had to fill in on Plancha 1 for the past two days and my arms are already covered in lovely little splatter burns. Plus, the Hot Line is hot as dicks.

Onward and upward to the next challenge!

Pushing Forward

I’ve been feeling better since my last post, mainly thanks to the many comforting words of support I received, including a Dr. Seuss quote from my mom that have helped me get past this speed bump:

“Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)” — from Oh, Places You’ll Go!

And a few messages from friends who reminded me of how far I’ve come in the past two years. Not just as a cook learning culinary techniques but also as a person (I’ve definitely had to grow a thicker skin and toughen up to get by in this line of work!).

I know that this is going to be a constant battle; after all, my ultimate goal is to excel in fine dining and that will certainly mean working nights, weekends, and holidays for as long as my feet can carry me. I just have to keep my eyes on the prize… and maybe slow down now and then to remember to pat myself on the back for what I’ve accomplished.

Saturday was an especially rough day as my usual station partner requested the day off and I was stuck with The Jerk again. I won’t go into detail but long story short, we had a confrontation which ended with him sulking in a corner picking crab while I worked a 350-cover Saturday night dinner service by myself. It was frustrating but I was proud that I stood up for myself against his immature tantrum and that I was able to get through service without his help.

I can totally do this.

Moment of Weakness

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(I started writing this entry last night but fell asleep before posting it.)

A dear friend (and dedicated reader) pointed out to me that I have been neglecting this poor blog for over two weeks now! Sadly, a lot of the reason why I haven’t been writing is that work has been feeling like a bit of a grind. Like if nothing new or noteworthy is happening, I don’t feel inspired to write. As I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this journey, it’s entirely possible to love your job and still have a case of the Mondays, or feel like you need a vacation, or simply not feel up to the task of going to work (that’s when copious amounts of coffee come in handy).

Today was one of the first times that I’ve started to feel burnt-out by my job. I sat outside during break and just thought to myself — what am I doing this for? I am always working weekends and evenings and holidays, when normal people get to go out and spend time with their friends and loved ones. My schedule varies from week to week, making it difficult to plan things in advance unless I remember to put in a request for the day off (even if it’s just a Sunday… nothing’s guaranteed). I leave for work just a couple of hours before Honey Bunny gets home from his job, meaning our schedules barely overlap. That’s probably the biggest thing — trying to make time to spend together. My feet hurt all the time, and while Plancha 2 (fish plancha) is significantly less hazardous than Plancha 1 was, I still often have cuts and burns on my hands.

So back to sitting outside, taking in the last shreds of sunlight and cool almost-autumn breeze, I asked myself, “What are you doing all this for anyway?” “After two years in the industry, what do you have to show for it?” “Is this lifestyle worth it…?”

I briefly entertained the thought of going back to my old office job – 9-5, weekends and holidays off, much higher salary. I also thought of other fields I could get into… ways to stay involved with food but with a better work-life balance. But the ideas that came to mind made me feel like a sell-out; to paraphrase: those who can, do and those who can’t, well they would do whatever these jobs are.

So I was filled with quite a bit of self-doubt until I got to chat with Honey Bunny and was reminded, in just a few short phrases, of his endless support for me and my dream of running my own kitchen someday. I could feel the anxiety start to melt away. And in the kitchen, it’s a small thing, but it made me feel better — service was slow so I helped the junior sous with prepping family meal for tomorrow. We had a whole pork shoulder at our disposal so she asked me to whip up a brine to soak it in overnight. Again, it’s just a little thing, but it’s the first time in a long time that I had the opportunity to use the skills and techniques I’ve learned over the years without being forced to adhere strictly to the recipe binder.

Maybe cooking at home more will help keep the creative side more engaged. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to the farmer’s market; with the busy schedule, I’ve found that my produce goes bad before I get the chance to use it so I stopped buying.

TL;DR (too long, didn’t read): I had a moment of weakness and want to get excited about cooking again because this lifestyle just does not get any easier and you need passion in order to keep going.