Archive for May, 2011

Shaking The Ranks

I’m back at work now, having had a marvelous time on vacation. So marvelous, in fact, that the busy Monday night I worked, which happened to be the last day of the NRA Show, I’d regretted coming back to Chicago. Not much I can do about that, though; I need the money.
By the way, NRA here stands for National Restaurant Association. Did any of you non-culinarians think of the other NRA when you read that? ^_^

Work has been fine, though a little light on my side as we’ve been having stages come in nearly everyday, searching for two more line cooks. Since I took leave, two of our line cooks have left the family. Katie is doing her Outstanding In The Field Dinners. Dylan decided to quit. These stages come in and prep and then inevitably end up hanging out on my station after they’ve finished and therefore I guide them when they try their hand at my side of the oven. Fun at first, and then sort of boring, because all I’m doing really is standing and saying, “Do this, do that, check this, that’s burning, throw a log on your fire,” etc. I never would have thought that I’d prefer to be cooking than standing around watching someone doing the cooking for me. *shakes head in disbelief*

So far, I think we’ve hired one guy. He was a good stage. He was fast, eager, friendly. We’ve also hired an intern. Yay! As for all our other stages… I don’t want to remember them. One girl kept calling me “honey” and didn’t make a very good impression on the others. The latest stage from two nights ago didn’t have much of a sense of urgency despite my saying, “let’s work a little faster!” and even had the nerve to say, “Uh, not to sound like a pussy, but when do these things [stages] end?” Definitely lost any credibility he had when he said that. If you want the job, don’t ask to leave early like that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we won’t let stages go home. If you have to leave, you state you have to leave. But he left because he was a wuss. His statement said as much. Whatever. He was sloppy and slow anyway.

Speaking of these stages like this makes me wonder how people saw me when I first started, even as far back as when I first staged. I’m here now, so I guess there’s nothing to fret about, but still, I wonder if my stage was good or bad. Did they hire me because they needed an intern and my prep skills were good and I wasn’t going to cook anyway? Did I do okay all around and so they hired me? Am I still slow and no one’s saying anything because we’re understaffed and they need me because I’m better than nothing? The last one always makes me feel a little bad because I wonder if the rest of the guys just grit their teeth and bear with me despite all my inadequacies. I don’t want to be a burden on the line. I don’t want to be “better than nothing”. I want to be as capable as Elliot. I want to be a pillar of strength like Jorge. I want the other line cooks to feel pumped and confident and that they’re in good hands when they see that I’m on the schedule with them.

I hear that I’ll be learning station 3 sometime soon. At first I wondered if it was because I was doing well on 1 and getting promoted. But after a little mulling, it became obvious that it was because we’re understaffed and when we hire two more line cooks, they’ll naturally be on station 1 and you can’t have three line cooks who ONLY know how to sling dates. So in my case, it’s more like I’m being moved up (ready or not, but more ready than not) because it’s the only way to go. Koren says she has faith in me, but only because we all know I’m not an idiot. I have some reasoning within me. Armanzo put it like this: “Dylan and Adam could do it”. Okay, so Dylan was never on 3, but he worked his way into opening for the restaurant which is eventually what happens when you move to 3. So in a sense he meant that even half-wit monkey-boys like them could move up the hierarchy, therefore the decently capable me could easily move up.
But what makes me so sure that I’m not another half-wit monkey-girl myself?
Is moving to Station 3 what differentiates the humans and the animals?

Holy crap. Is Station 3 the Avec gom jobbar?!

I’d Rather Be Sleeping

Got back home last night. How does it take nearly an hour to get luggage?!
It was really late by the time I got my stuff and a mental check yielded nothing appealing restaurant-wise, so I headed to Avec to grab a bite to eat and check my schedule. I didn’t want to go at first because I hate awkward chitchat (“How was your trip! Welcome back!”) when all I want is to scarf down some food, take a bath, and go to sleep. But I did it anyway.
The schedule said I was off Monday but as I was headed home I got a text from Elliot that said: Yo Betty there’s a schedule change. You work Monday at two. Welcome back, deal with it.” Despite my slight disappointment, I had to laugh a bit because that “deal with it” has become so much his catchphrase that when I read it, I couldn’t help but smile.

Also: Koren informed me I’d be training on station 3 soon. It was funny at the time because she said it like, “How would you like to start training on 3 soon?” and as my face registered disbelief and hesitation (because I think it’s too early for me) she said, “You do know it wasn’t really a question.” Because it’s true. If she asks you something like that, it’s just a funny way of her telling you you’ve got no choice in the matter anyway.


But all the same, I’d rather be sleeping in today.

Pushing Toward The Light

Busy night today with 213 covers. I got through it mostly unscathed, mentally and physically, except for the incident where I was flipping a chicken in the pan and a drop of the sputtering hot chicken fat got me on the lip. DAMN THAT WAS MUTHAEFFING PAINFUL!!!!!! At first it got white and I was nervous that it would puff up and get disgusting like my burns usually do, but it’s darkened since, though it’s still stings a little and feels raw. Oh well, it’ll heal…soon…right? >.>;;;

Anyway, I was on top of my game for most of the night. But that’s because station 2 (KO) and 3 (Katie) got the brunt of it ^_^;;; KO spent a good part of the peak dinner hours frustrated because everyone seemed to want something off his station as a first course, which is unusual because it’s more common for station 1 to get swamped with date orders. For the most part, my most popular item was pork shoulder and at its peak popularity, I only had 5 in my oven at once. And I pushed items out quickly. For once, the Kitchen Gods were smiling down on me because my oven was hot, my wood behaved mostly well and burned mostly merrily. And I didn’t have to use much of my book as kindling.
Lately I’ve been using the most battered and beaten copies in my cheap paperback library as fuel for my fire. I feel bad throwing a book in the garbage after I’ve read it until it fell apart, so I take it to work and cremate it. So it’s win-win in the end. Books I’ve burned lately: Agatha Christie’s Death In The Air, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (the first book I burned. I totally loved that book til it fell apart), J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship Of The Ring.

When I came into work, I’d expected to see Dylan since he was the opener but he’d left. Also, apparently Elliot had come in to help prep. And I think he was the one who stocked my woodpile before I even came into work. See! That’s what I’m talking about! That it why Elliot’s awesome and why he has my unwavering loyalty. Well, unwavering until I find out he mutilates cats or spits in public or something. But until then, UNWAVERING.

I have to shower and pack now and then I am off to the West. See you in 2 weeks if you don’t hear from me meanwhile!

Working To The Quick

Sorry I’ve not been able to post. After Monday night, I was so tired and grimy, I just showered and went to bed. Sunday was John’s last day, and now Elliot is our sous chef. And Armanzo, too. For some reason I forget Armanzo is a sous chef as well. Probably because Elliot, so far, has been the BEST. SOUS CHEF. EVER.
When he opens, he does practically everything on the list. At the end of the night, the cooler is stocked to the brim. When he’s expo, he stays really late and gets stuff done. When he’s on station 2, I know the night will be a good one. He’s my favorite coworker for a reason.
KO brought up a really good point two nights ago, saying that the staff ought to have a short meeting just to acknowledge that Elliot’s the new sous. “I mean, we all know it, but let’s make it official” he said. I think it’s a GREAT idea. Maybe after work (if Elliot’s working) I should recommend a toast to the new sous.

Monday night was busy, with Armanzo working station 2. I did not have a good night that night, getting my ass kicked a bit by chicken. I couldn’t tell if I was just out of kilter that night, or if I was just not clicking it with Armanzo like I usually do with the others. He chided me for not having pan sauce to dribble on my chicken. “Don’t you want it to be delicious? Wouldn’t sauce make it more delicious?” he said in that soft, educating tone of his. He was right; I was harried; I usually don’t put sauce on the chicken because originally I wasn’t taught that way so it’s a habit to not sauce my chicken. I feel like I’m at odds, like those people who usually fly down the interstate at 100mph but only drive at the limit when the know there’s a cop hanging around. I feel like I might do that: saucing my chicken when I know Armanzo’s next to me. Actually I tried to sauce when I could today. Sometimes pan doesn’t have enough liquid to make sauce, sometimes I’m harried, sometimes I forget. Whatever. There’s been talk about changing that chicken dish anyway.

Wednesday night I worked with Katie (2) and KO (3) and I was awesome (toot toot!). Granted, it was a slow night with 130 covers, but I kept up and stayed on course. Days like that when I know I’m on top of my game, I leave work happy and proud of myself.

Thursday, KO was on 2, Armanzo on 3. We were busy (173 covers) and I got minor burns on my arms (oh, lovely =_=) but I managed to keep up… barely, it seemed sometimes. But I think I did okay. KO told me I was doing a great job at some point in the night. Yay for praise, but I guess that means I have a pretty wild track record if I’m being told I’m doing great…? Am I just being paranoid?

I work again Friday night and then I’ll be out of town for 2 weeks visiting Seattle (and The Boyfriend), so no posts about the line. I hope something cool happens on my trip so I can blog about it though. Armanzo gave me the number of his friend who’s a corporate chef for the Tom Douglas restaurants in case I want to stage (or eat at one of the fancy schmancier restaurants). He also told me about great places to check out, like Salumi (Mario Batali’s dad’s place), Serious Pie (those who do not like pizza are not my friends), and World Spice. He mentioned one place that’s a raw bar and a rotisserie, and I forgot the name, but luckily we exchanged numbers so I can call him… and Google is awesome cos I found it: Seatown! Urgh… just looked at the menu…Why does everything look so freakin’ delicious?!

Dylan is coming into work Friday as opener. Everyone has agreed to jokingly give him shit for his foot. Civilians may think that taking time off after burning your foot with hot oil is normal… and it is. To a point. Sadly (or badass? you decide), cooks who get injuries usually manage to work around the injury. Armanzo recounted the time he got a third-degree burn on his hand and STILL worked service that night. “Maybe that was a stupid thing to do,” he admitted, but still, it’s the principle. You get injured, you deal with it, you come back to work as soon as you can.

With that said, I’m going to shower and head to bed, so I can head off to work as soon as I can. Good night.

Work Update: I’m Not Dead!

So I FINALLY found time to get to a computer. My brother came home and has been hogging the compy playing games, job-searching, and watching downloaded TV episodes. Sometimes there were instances when I could’ve hopped on to post but I was just too tired. This will be a short post.

Since it’s the first of May, that means that it’s John’s last day. I debated going to Avec and give him a farewell gift (that I’d have to buy…) or a well-wishing send-off, but it would require me to travel across the city for one goodbye. And I’m not even that close with him. Therefore, I’ll probably just stay at home. Goodbye, John! (Should I bow my head for a moment of silence?)

I heard some disturbing news yesterday that Dylan had a really bad work accident about 3 days ago. Apparently not five minutes after he came into work, he spilled hot oil down his shoe O_O
I don’t even want to imagine the rest. Just knowing that putting a shoe on will be pretty awful for a while….

Saturday I prepped with Armanzo. He kind of chided me for falling into prep cook ways, saying I had to step up my game. I had brought up some prepped ingredients and just left them there when I could’ve started them working. Now that I was a line cook, I would be opening someday, he said. Totally possible; though the thought never entered my mind. Urgh… I doubt I’ll be an opener so soon, but urghh… *worry*
We had a couple of work accidents later that day. One of the busboys slipped and cut his hand on a broken bottle. It wasn’t bad when I saw the wound, but I guess it had bled a lot at first and spooked some people. At the same time, management also had to deal with a customer who apparently had gotten hit by one of our patio umbrellas after it fell over. It broke his glasses, and maybe injured his foot. I heard he was taken to the hospital. That’s too much drama in so little time!!
Luckily, as far as I know, that was it for that day.

Friday was busy with a total cover count of 213. I worked line 1 and was slammed for a little bit, but somehow pushed through. Times like that I always feel like I’m lagging or failing or generally bringing everything down, so I was immensely surprised when Koren later came up to me and said I was “killin’ it tonight”.
Koren’s very tough so her saying that to me was pretty high praise indeed. Eeee!
Not gonna rest on my laurels, though. Definitely hoping I can continue this winning trend on Monday.