Tag Archives: chef

Go Switzerland!

Scotch egg -- isn't it gorgeous?

Scotch egg — isn’t it gorgeous?

We opened the restaurant early yesterday for the Spain vs Netherlands game. Just like Thursday, we were serving a special menu of snack dishes including cold sandwiches, sausage rolls (bangers wrapped in puff pastry), and scotch eggs. Let me tell you right now: scotch eggs are a pain in the ass to make.

Scotch eggs feature a boiled egg encased in sausage, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep fried until golden. But the difficult part is that a proper scotch egg features a runny yolk, a fragile SOB that has many opportunities to explode during the process. However, after a frustrating 45 minutes of my day, I did it! And I made ten for the next time we offer the snacks menu.

Because we were open for service (however small the menu) during our usual prep time, it added an extra level of stress and everyone was on edge. Meat Guy and I got into a dispute when I had asked him something and he snapped back an answer to which I replied, “I was just asking a simple question.” His reply was that he “didn’t need [my] attitude” (right, like I was the one with attitude) and I was livid. I went to my safe place (in the walk-in) and ran into Fish Guy who reassured me that Meat Guy is just being a little diva. Sigh.

We had a typical Friday night’s service (busy, that is). Things were going smoothly until I heard Chef blowing up about a guest who had sent back the steak dish because he had a gluten allergy and claims he could detect gluten on the fried potato garnish. Our restaurant is very accommodating of allergies, special dietary needs, what have you, but what really set Chef off was that the same guest had ordered (and eaten) the truffle frites as a starter… also potatoes that were fried in the same oil as the garnish culprit. So the conclusion was that the customer was full of it and Chef did something I had never seen him do before — he refused service to that guest. No offer of an alternate dish, nothing. WOW. But I’m glad he stood his ground. We have some strange requests as a result of the food scene we are part of, but complaints like that, from people who just seem to be picking a fight, make me worry for those who truly are debilitated by food intolerance (ones who really do have Celiac disease, for instance). Sigh again.

But in brighter news, we had our drawing for the World Cup betting pool after service. We were all envious of those who had drawn Brazil and Argentina and laughed at the slim prospects of the others. So, with no rhyme or reason other than the hope of winning the $320 pool, I will be cheering on Switzerland for this World Cup! Hahaha.

We’re opening the restaurant at 2pm today (Saturday) for early happy hour during the England vs. Italy game, so we had to plan our prep day around that (prioritize happy hour dishes, expect to lose time prepping in order to do service, etc.). It’s going to be an interesting few weeks!

Knowing When to Ask for Help

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I had originally planned to write in the morning, but as I lie in bed with Honey Bunny telling him about my day, it would appear that my regaling tales have lulled him off to dreamland. The funny thing is, before he passed out we were talking about the restaurant’s plans for Restaurant Week and he had asked me about the menu. I went through describing the entire thing – three courses with varying options, a total of eight dishes – before realizing that I was just talking to myself. And to the cats; surely they understand and are thrilled by the thought of having an heirloom tomato and burrata salad as an appetizer selection.

Today was exhausting and a firm reminder that Charcuterie is no joke; there is a LOT of work and organization involved. Prep was strange since we were opening up the bar for a screening of the first World Cup game. I had an inkling that I would be responsible for making the Scotch eggs, but it seemed like Sous Chef S and J were planning to split all the work between the two of them. This turned out to be ambitious and they enlisted my help. I am always happy to lend a hand, but today I already had an extensive prep list of my own to worry about. Now that I think about it, I was the only cook working on this special menu in addition to Sous Chef S, Sous Chef J, and Chef himself. Man, I am dreaming of the day when I’ll earn the role of one of Chef’s sous.

Possibly sensing that I was getting increasingly stressed out, Sous Chef J offered to split my prep list with me. He was floating today and felt it was more fair to help me (since I’m always on my own) than to babysit the Pantry Boys (who at least have each other) yet again. We looked over my list and split it fairly. I was so grateful and together we managed to knock off every item on my list, despite his leaving the kitchen from time to time for breaks with Chef to watch the game. AND I made my fastest salmon terrine to date, clocking in at just over 1.5 hours. Wooooo!

To say tonight’s service was “busy” would be an understatement. I couldn’t believe it was only a Thursday; it felt like a Saturday we were slammed so hard! I don’t think we did a huge number of covers, but the dinner reservations were in large groups… an 8-top and 9-top checking in at the same time, a walk-in 6-top… it added up and bombarded us with tickets. Plus we were swamped with a wave of last call Happy Hour tickets at 6:58pm. My ticket rail was completely filled up!

There was no floating for me tonight either. At one point I had three charcuterie board tickets on order. I saw Sous Chef S wandering by and called out to him, “If you’re not busy right now, I could REALLY use your help!” I had just started to feel overwhelmed from being deep in the weeds (when that third ticket checked in I was ready to flip out) but I kept my cool, swallowed my pride, and asked for help in the nick of time. Lesson learned: it’s okay to ask for help. :)

Busy Week

Chef's dish for a charity event: Veal Tongue Ballantine with Apricots and Foie

Chef’s dish for a charity event: Veal Tongue Ballantine with Apricots and Foie

As expected, no one left me a list on Tuesday. It was just as well; I quickly discovered that there are a lot of things that need doing this week in order to replenish my mise. Luckily I had the foresight on Saturday to leave a note and ask whomever covered for my station to order the ingredients I would need for a 3x recipe of the duck & walnut pate so that they would be waiting for me when I came back on Tuesday. I arrived to fairly bare cupboards but a good supply of duck tenderloins, pork butt, and back fat to work with, so I was happy about that.

Service came in waves. For a day with only 27 on the books, Tuesday was surprisingly busy for periods at a time, but when it was slow, it was SLOW. We all ended up hanging out with Sous Chef J over in the back of the kitchen (he was on Pastry tonight) talking about styles of cooking and food philosophy (mainly, simple & rustic vs. molecular gastronomy).

Yesterday was (apparently) a noon day but it didn’t matter to me as I had a lot on my plate. Chef knew it as well and wasn’t surprised to see me right at 11am. I had made a long prep list knowing that there were some items I could put off until the next day if needed. I didn’t complete it all but I got a lot done — diced and brined back fat, ground the marinated duck meat, cooked off three duck pates, made green paprika (by dehydrating spinach, roasting an assortment of green peppers, smoking them for three hours in our electric smoker, and dehydrating those overnight as well before grinding it all into a fine powder), sous vide cooked 64-degree C eggs for a new special, and of course, sliced bread. It was a bit stressful having to pick and choose what I would do that day and what would have to wait, but man was I pushing hard. I was so focused that people came by periodically to say hi to me, just because they noticed I wasn’t participating in the ambient conversations going in the kitchen!

Service was okay today; Sous Chef J was busy with invoicing and ordering, so he asked me to cover both Pastry and Charcuterie several times throughout the evening. It was fun and I’m glad he feels he can rely on me to help him. It just sucked when a ticket came in like this: cheese plate and salumi plate first course, wellington second course. That meant I would have to run into the walk-in to grab a welli, brush the pastry with egg wash, stick it in the oven with an 18-minute timer, cut some fruit bread (that goes on the cheese plates), warm them in the oven, run over to my station, fire some toast, set up a salumi plate, run back to Pastry to set up the cheese plate, stick bread on both and walk them up to the pass together. It’s a fairly rare occurrence, but it’s already happened to me once or twice.

During service, the boys decided to design a World Cup betting pool with a $10 buy-in. The catch is that you don’t get to pick your team. Your assigned team will be randomly selected out of a hat from the participating countries, and that’s the one you’ll cheer on to win. With 20-25 of us in on the pool, that’s a hefty jackpot to take home on sheer luck! Haha. Everyone’s excited about the World Cup; our restaurant is even opening the bar early today (with some snack foods) to show the game. I don’t know who is available in the middle of the afternoon to come in and watch, but hey — whatever brings in money I guess!

Week 21: My Addition to the Menu

Chinese 5-Spice Pork Liver Mousse with Pickled Carrots and Daikon

Chinese 5-Spice Pork Liver Mousse with Pickled Carrots and Daikon

Greetings, Matcha Bunny readers! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend! I got to spend my Sunday eating delicious Danish pastries at a local bakery, playing board games with Honey Bunny, and binge-eating duck confit at this place in K-town that is known for their duck fat fries. Now I’m all ready to sit down and write up this recap post for Friday and Saturday. (Forgive me if I forget or gloss over some of the details… the days are all starting to blur together.)

Friday 6/6:

Prep was largely uneventful except for the fact that it was the third day in a row that we started late. I didn’t have many tasks to do, which turned out to be a good thing because I royally screwed up one of them and had time to fix it. As I mentioned in my last post, I had started dicing up dried apricots and orange peels for my orange marmalade — intensive and time-consuming work. Well, just as I finished segmenting my last orange on Friday, I threw everything together into a pot and gave it a good stir… when I realized that I had completely forgotten to blanch the peels first. This is a critical step and one we can’t skip, lest you desire super bitter marmalade. I asked for advice but there was no way around it — I had to pick out all of the bits of peel by hand, blanch them, and then cook down my marm. It took half an hour and painstaking work to separate the mixture, and I knew I’d never make the same mistake again! Sigh.

Service was crazy because we were hit with a surprise health inspection right at 5pm on the dot. Everyone was in a frenzy and Chef in particular was on edge. I ran straight to the walk-in to make sure everything was stored properly (raw food on lower shelves than cooked food) and that anything left exposed had a sheet of plastic wrap thrown over it. When I came back out, I saw the inspector over in the Hot-Apps corner. We lost a point because someone had left a wet towel under a cutting board (perfectly fine to prevent slips at home but not ServSafe for the restaurant) and Chef was FURIOUS. He grabbed Sous Chef S by the shirt and shouted in his face. It was intense. But in the end, we ended up getting a 96 – our best score yet!

It was hard to get focused again after the interruption, but we had no choice as a 40-top was scheduled to arrive at 8. Luckily there was no charcuterie on their prix fixe menu so I could lend a hand to Singing Hot-Apps Guy who was plating six orders of ravioli by himself (Pantry already had five people on deck). Crazy night!

Honey Bunny and I went out for late night ramen afterward and it was exactly what I needed after such an exhausting day.

Saturday 6/7:

Since Friday was so busy, there was no way we were getting a noon day on Saturday! We all arrived bright and early and got to work. I buttered my new Chinese 5-Spice Pork Liver Mousse and asked Chef if I could introduce it as the Happy Hour terrine starting that day. He agreed and I was ecstatic!

Just as service started, I plated up a portion of the terrine along with the julienne ribbons of daikon and carrot that I had pickled using my dad’s recipe. This (pictured above) was for the Front of House to try, and I made bite-sized tasting portions for Chef and the sous to sample as well. Chef said that my spice blend was tasty, though he advised that next time I should soak the pork livers in milk overnight to mellow out the livery taste. “There’s a reason we have the best charcuterie in the state, and that’s because we know how to handle our ingredients!” he said. He also had Sous Chef J mix together some fish sauce caramel with lime juice for a quick “dressing” that I tossed the vegetables in before serving. This added a deeper sweet & sour element that complemented the intense mousse. Still, I was proud of my first attempt and this was my first completely new addition to the menu (albeit just the Happy Hour menu). YAY!