Archive for September, 2011

Life In Autotune

I’ve noticed that I’ve been posting a lot of Oh, Snap! entries which means I must have been really lazy lately. I kind of can’t help it. But tonight I’m going to try to suck it up and throw out some updates.

Sunday was pretty mellow all day. There was a little pop in the beginning but even then it was manageable because KO on 2 stepped in and helped me out just to help me out. I returned the favor a little later on busting out a couple of salads for him because I didn’t have anything pressing on the board.
The bread that came in (from the same bakery we’ve been ordering from before) was actually decent today. Tomorrow it’ll probably suck, but whatever, I’ll deal with it. When warmed/toasted, it tastes REALLY good dipped in the pistou that goes on the pork shoulder. YUM O_O;;; That’s one of the reasons I’ve slightly forgiven this bakery.

Outside of the line, I heard from Armanzo this morning that we hired one of our stages (whose name I’ve changed to) Ruth. She worked at Blackbird for a while and then went to Maud’s but got laid off. I remember liking her, but probably I was biased at the time because she told me she watched anime :/
If Koren’s hire, Paula, successfully moves here, then we’ll have a lot of girls at avec. Honestly, I’m kind of nervous about that. Gaggles of girls make me nervous because it kinda-sorta reminds me of school again when everyone formed cliques and I was always left out because I was a goody-two-shoes nerd. It probably won’t be like that, of course, and I’m just overreacting. We’ll probably bond and become kitchen sisters.

I heard from Koren and Manager Liz that everyone liked my comics at their Wednesday meetings and now Paul Kahan has become interested in me. According to Koren, he’d like for us to have a chat, but she wouldn’t say what it would be about. Liz later let slip it might be about a cookbook, which sounds AWESOME, but today after work when everyone was smoking and talking (and I was drinking water) about how woefully underpaid we are, I mildly wondered about Armanzo’s joking conjecture that Paul hasn’t approached me because he hasn’t yet figured out how to exploit me.
Times like these, I ponder the fine line between being loved and used at work. At the end of the day I definitely love my job, and I love my kitchen brethren. I love Koren and Jorge and Station 1. But it’s also a fact that I’m not making a whole lot of money (and once the new hires show up, I and the other line cooks will be making a lot less money than we’re currently making >_>), the job doesn’t provide insurance or benefits, and there’s not much room for a social life (my top priorities on my off-days are either laundry or sleeping). But I’m young and naive and so I keep at this job because this restaurant is awesome and I’m learning so much, and I really do love a lot of things about my job and have fun.
Alright, Paul. I’m in a good mood right now. I’m willing to be exploited, so let’s see what you come up with at this meeting we’ll supposedly be having. Still, I’m going to be upfront with you: I just doodle. I ain’t gonna be winning no prizes with my art, so be prepared. I just do this stuff for a laugh and because it’s fun. So for all our sakes, I hope you don’t suck the enjoyment out of this….

Well, that’s all for now that I remember. Don’t be surprised if the next few entries are photo entries because I’ve been taking photos. I definitely want to post the avec reunion and Sunday’s 10 lb hen of the wood mushroom. Fun times!

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Oh, Snap!: Look At These Beauties

No time for a full entry! Look at this pretty picture!

I was going to write this nice entry about how Friday was busy but the night dragged and then two of our avec family members, Katie Furst and Dan came to visit at the same time and it was a happy reunion blabbity blah, but I’m tired now and it took me way too long to download the season premiere of Fringe. So I’m heading to bed.

But before I go…

Look at those carrots! Those are some sexy-as-hell carrots. And no, your computer’s color settings are not going wonky. Those are some red carrots from Werp Farms. I’m using them in the pork shoulder dish, but it’s almost a shame that I can’t serve customers the shoulder and hand them a raw carrot cos these carrots are so freakin’ pretty! The inside of the carrot is still orange but the outside is an awesome red hue. Werp Farms has awesome product. Their lettuces are beautiful. All their vegetables are beautiful. When I was still a prep cook, cleaning Werp lettuce was a joy, as weird as that sounds.

Can’t wait to see what else we’ll start ordering from Werp farms. I might’ve overheard frisee. Oooh, can’t wait to see what those look like. I’m sure they’ll be photo-gorgeous….

Oh, Snap!: On The Wall & Other Drawings

No time for a full entry! Look at these pretty pictures!

I doodle a lot. On the white tile wall in the basement I stuck up a couple of drawings I’d done and unless Koren (or anyone else) takes them down, I’ll slowly add more or replace them with others. I have a couple in my locker that I should post some other time.


The wall in front of the prep table. The big one is my self caricature titled “Line Cook Wannabe” cos that’s my tongue-in-cheek job title.


Jorge, our butcher, took a two-week vacation back to Mexico to visit family and it’s always pretty rough without him, cos not only is he a pillar of awesomeness in avec (Koren trusts and values him completely), he makes our dates. While he was away, we all took turns making the dates, and they are never the same O_O;;; This little doodle is a reflection of how much we need and miss him when he’s not there.


Line cook Mikey Rook’s currently no longer with us but while his fate was still up in limbo, I randomly drew this on our prep list and it made me think of him.


If you’ve seen the Manager’s Log Comic then you know I doodle on the line as well. I drew our second sous chef Armanzo (who I also sometimes think of as my kitchen big brother) as a happy-go-lucky baby with his sweet tooth, as well as his snaggletooth fang. In real life, Armanzo looks vaguely like a slightly older, more tired version of Ryan Gosling. Speaking of which, I found this and it made me laugh.


Oh, snap! It looks like I’m not the only line cook with a quirky sense of humor! This was taken earlier in the summer one Sunday when we went next door to Blackbird’s pastry kitchen to get things. I think they were cutouts from the plastic wrapper off of enoki mushrooms (or hen of woods, or basically Japanese mushrooms, cos who else but the Japanese have such cute characters on their packaging? Definitely not Americans, pffft) and they’d been personalized with introductions like, “My name is Gertrude” and “My name is Mortimer!” Some of my favorites include: “My name is Archibald”, “Yo Bitches, my name is Angiral”, and “Benny! What up!” You can click the pic to read some of the cute captions.
The next time I get a chance to visit the pastry kitchen again, I’m going to see if they’ve since added to the collection or taken it down. I hope it’s the former!

Oh, Snap!: Bread And Peaches

No time for a full entry! Look at these pretty pictures!

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately but these few pertain to recent events at the restaurant.


Summer’s (almost?) over and with it are the fruits of that season. These might be the second best batch of peaches I’ve had at avec, possibly in my life. The first batch of peaches were so juicy and delicious I ate FIVE that day and I was actually holding myself back because they were the restaurant’s peaches. And neither of these peaches were from farmers’ markets; they were the boxed kind from California. What the–?! Day-um, Cali! I eagerly await next summer for another taste of ripe delicious peaches. Anyway, we finally used up the last of these peaches (replacing cherries) in our serrano ham dish. What fruit we’ll use next as a replacement I don’t know…


Meanwhile, our baker has left us and we haven’t managed to find a replacement baker and so Saturday we ordered bread from a bread bakery and (it’s sad that the name escapes me but it’s probably for the best because) THIS BREAD SUCKS. Okay, maybe that’s going a little too far, but case in point, we’ve ordered loaves from them before and the bread goes stale really fast, like same day fast. Another point: how is it that we’ve ordered the same kinds of bread from them before (multiple times) but they screwed up and sent us the wrong kind of bread? You can’t tell but there are 50 large ciabattas in that picture. And it’s Wednesday as I write this. We still haven’t even used half the order yet…. Oy vey…. I predict that the rest of the bread will end up as breadcrumbs….


And another thing!: How is it that even though we’ve ordered from this place on multiple occasions, THEY MISSPELLED OUR NAME?! EVEC? Seriously?

I think I might have heard Koren say that she’d order new bread this week. Let’s hope we don’t get the same kind of bread again!

Speaking of Koren, she did an awesome job on the line. So awesome, in fact, that I drew a manager’s log comic about it. I didn’t take a picture of it yet, but when I do, I’ll post it.

Be on the lookout for more photo entries coming out this week!

Off Days Make Me Lazy

I had two days off and now I wish I didn’t have to work tomorrow. That said, of course I will. Not only do I have to, but I like work (up to a point), and cos starting tomorrow (or rather, later today) Koren will be working line 3 and that’s a sight I’d like to see.

Here are just a few snippets I’d like to mention before I turn off my compy and go to sleep:

– First and foremost, Intern Katie has finally worked the line! It was on Tuesday night and while I was initially a little saddened (okay, maybe more like devastated) that I was being evicted and made to work Station 3, eventually I just accepted it because I have to. Oh yeah, and cos Katie working the line is important. And a good milestone in her life. She was all smiles at the end of the night so it must have been. KO was her guide. I wish it had been me, but again, oh well!

– Wednesday was my off day but I volunteered to help out Koren at her event at the Cultural Center, benefiting the Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control. This is Koren’s fifth year doing this event, but my second (I did it with her last year). It was fun! Last year she served a burrata crostini with pickled tomato (and some other component I can’t remember). This year was a Nichols Farm creamed corn crostini with heirloom cherry tomatoes. Totally delicious but some people were really iffy about the creamed corn. What’s not to like about it, people? It’s simply dericious (yep, dericious), especially with spam, if you want to make it poor Chinese style. Yeah! Fond early childhood memories!

-Today I was going to have half-off Happy Hour oysters at Shaw’s just like everyone and their mama at avec has done, but it was not to be so I’ll just have to wait next week. But after I do that I’m going to try not to follow every passing avec employee trend that’s been floating around. I don’t like being a follower, but dammit, oysters are too damn awesome to ignore.

Back to work in 12 hours. Fun times. Goodnight.

In Mom’s House

Autumn is approaching and all around me people are getting married or preparing to attend weddings and the like. Justin Large got married on Saturday; KO’s going to attend a bachelor party; Elliot’s attending a wedding; server Mikie got engaged (wedding date pending). I even requested off because my cousin’s getting married in a couple of weeks. Hmm now that I recall, a couple of weeks back, a couple got engaged in the restaurant.
Anywho, I think I’m going on a tangent. Long story short, because KO and Elliot are going to be off doing their respective wedding-related activities, we’re even more short-staffed, and so this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Koren will be on station 3.

WHOA!!!! O_O!!!!
My first reaction upon seeing the schedule was, “COOOOOOL!!!” and I still think so, though a tiny part of me wonders if it might be nervewracking as well. I don’t know why though. Because I’m afraid she’ll frown upon my occasional moonwalking? (Yes, I practice the moonwalk on the line.) That’s not very likely though. I’m probably just overthinking it because mostly I think it’s awesome to see Koren on the line.
Usually I’m used to seeing Koren at the window expediting or doing front-of-the-house (FOH) activities: talking to customers, food running, wiping glasses behind the bar. In my mind, Koren’s so far removed from actual line-cooking that when I do see her doing the occasional line activities, my heart gladdens. It’s like when I wonder about certain chefs who’ve gotten so big and opened so many restaurants and just thinking if they even cook anymore let alone in one of their own restaurants. Maybe they do. But aside from mugging for the camera, do they still ever step behind the line and work a station? Probably not, right, since that’s what line cooks are for. I can hardly imagine Rick Bayless or Thomas Keller nudging a line cook aside so they can get their hands dirty 😛
Is Iron Chef America (barf) the only place where I’ll be able to see chefs actually working up a sweat over a production line?

So that’s probably why I’m so excited to see Koren in action, because she’ll precisely be in action. It’s like just because she’s paid her dues doesn’t mean she’s up and stopped cooking. I want to see Koren sweating on the line, taking care of tickets as they spew out the machine; I want to see how she handles so many incoming orders while still keeping an eye on the chef’s table. Maybe because if I see how she handles it, I’ll be able to get over my mild distaste for station 3 and be willing to let go of Station 1 for someone else to take over.

Speaking of Station 1, I’m having a ball like always. I was surprised a couple of days ago after reading back on old entries just how far I’ve come as a station 1 line cook. Maintaining dates is easy now and I’ve established my rhythm and muscle memory. I’m totally comfortable now, as I fondly refer to Station 1 as my “happy little cocoon”. Still, I’m trying not to take things for granted. Just because I can keep up on dates doesn’t mean I won’t be in trouble when I’m slammed. Sometimes I get a nice reminder that I’m still learning on those occasions where I think I’ve taken care of all the orders pertaining to me on tickets only to find out the food runner was waiting for one more item on a ticket that was in the window. D’oh! And then I have to haul ass to try to get it out as fast as possible =_=
Moments like those make it that much harder for me to accept that my Station 1 days are coming to a close. How can I move on to 3 when I feel I’ve still got so much to learn on 1? But move I must…. soon. My days are kind of numbered.

On a happier note, I made a pretty tasty staff meal (comida) last night that I was slightly proud of. I used some leftover confit potatoes and made veggie hash, while cooking scrap bacon and then using the leftover tray of bacon fat to toast thin slices of bread on. It was almost like a fat bomb in disguise. It was totally tasty. I’d gotten the hash idea and bacon fat toast from KO but I cooked the dinner so I think most of the credit should go to me. I’m debating whether to include it in my (still pending) COMIDA page.

With this upcoming hectic week, I see on the schedule that I’m off on Tuesday and Wednesday. Two consecutive days off!! Totally excited! I’ve been working six day work-weeks for a couple of weeks now and while I love working and earning money and hanging out with the boys, the prospect of two days all to myself…. no words to describe it except maybe, “Squee!”

On a sadder note, I also noticed that Mikey Rook’s name has been taken off the schedule. His carpal tunnel is so bad he has to have surgery so he’s unable to stay with us. Sigh. I really liked it when he was working with us. Also, our awesome dishwasher and night cleaner, the brothers Franco and Bernardo, left us a couple of weeks back. I don’t know the full story but I’ve heard it was because they had beef with our foodrunner Erick. Sigh… It totally sucks because not only were Franco and Bernardo one of the crew, they were really good guys and awesome workers and now we’ve hired a cleaning crew and it’s totally not the same.
Sigh…. Things will get better but for now all we can do is do what we’ve always excelled at: dealin’ with it.

Oh, Snap! Photo Entry!: Labor Day Onslaught

No time for a full entry! Look at this pretty picture!


Labor Day has come and gone but the hectic days before and during it will forever live on in this blog (but not in my mind because I’ve got a pretty bad memory and also because more hectic days will probably come to overshadow this one. New Year’s Eve, anybody?)

Saturday was pretty brutal but Sunday was photosnapped because it started out so fun before turning into an onslaught. Sundays are a little more relaxed for some reason. Probably because we order in food. Saturday’s opener, Scottie, went above and beyond with the prep so we found ourselves with not much to do that Sunday. So Elliot, KO, and I pitched in money and I went to get us chicken and scratch-offs.
A little backstory on the scratch-offs: a little while back, Elliot got $25 as a tip while working on station 3, so he spent the money on scratch-offs as a fun thing for the line cooks to do and it went from there. We won $26 the first time and not as much since, so we’ve taken a break from them. But with Sunday being so glorious, we thought, why not? And so I bought food and spent $29 on scratch-offs which ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done because I became Scratch-Off Queen that day. I won $55 on two cards alone. My hands were shaking from the amazement haha! I think our total winnings came out to about $70. We’re still not sure what to do with the money….

Of course, all that fun turned into a dinner massacre that night that lasted until Monday night (Labor Day). That was a pretty brutal day too, but I’ll always look back on it as fun. Where else will I be able to do this:?
Our manager that night, Liz, asked me to draw pictures on the nightly manager’s log and so I jazzed it up a bit into a comic. It’s called “Avenue C vs. Labor Day Onslaught” and recounts the restaurant’s epic battle with a little whimsy. I wish my camera was a little better so you could read it through, but it’s no iPhone so it’s the best I can do for now. (You can click the pics to enlarge them a bit to try to read them.)

New Year’s Eve is coming up, so I’m anticipating another fun Manager’s Log about that night… 😀