Archive for May, 2012

Oh, Snap!: Master Blaster Makes A Pizza

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

Even though it’s Wednesday as I write this (I had a good service! Entry pending!), I wanted to showcase one of Monday’s highlights: our dishwasher, Master Blaster, on station 2 making his own pizza.


Yep, he’s a cutter.


Pizza in the window! Wait, I don’t have a ticket for it….


Hooray for Master Blaster! You did it! Elliot may have supervised, but you did all the work. Good job!

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And Then You’ll Slip Away

I thought Elliot’s last day was last Saturday but Armanzo told me he’d be back next week, and lo and behold he’s on the schedule til Tuesday. Huzzah!

But’s it’s only delaying the inevitable. I work with him today (Monday), but I’ll be off tomorrow, which is his last day. Urghh… I don’t want to say goodbye.

Even though I’ve technically worked with him for about three years, I feel like I’ve only really started working with him for a year, around the time I started out as a line cook.

Commander Green, you’ve taught me a lot, even if I’ve had to pick it up through osmosis. Good luck in your next venture. Please visit often. I will miss you!

Testing The Faith

“In all the nine years that I’ve worked here, she’s the only one I feel sorry for.” -Mikie

 
[This entry about Wednesday service was written Thursday night and published Friday morning.]

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Last night was a fucking shitty night. One of the shittiest services of my life. I probably had a meltdown and everyone could see it. Remember how Tuesday night was a “turning-point”? Well, apparently it was just a foreshadower of Wednesday, which was a fucking hell-fueled, hate-filled onslaught that didn’t let up.

There’s no question of what happened. It’s what always happens. It starts out quiet and then the pace quickens. Except the dinner rush was way too fast for me to keep up. It was focaccia-flatbread city hell. In the span of about five to ten minutes, I already had 7 focaccias on the board. Opener Sylvester didn’t make the focaccia dough until after 4pm. And he’d never made the dough before. Of course the dough would be tight as fuck. And just my luck that he didn’t let the dough proof enough before he wrapped them up and put them in the walk-in. To complicate matters slightly more, Tuesday’s opener Fred made the flatbread dough and I knew Tuesday night it looked tight (even though Koren said it’d be okay by the next day), and guess what? It was deep into Wednesday night and after using up my initial good tray (a batch of Fred’s that Koren super-proofed), I dug into the slow-proofed ones and they decided they weren’t going to be my friends. As I was struggling with all these doughs and trying to sell them as fast I could, more tickets were still pouring out the ticket machine. I was still trying to delegate course firings while trying to find time in between to make all those other dishes I’m responsible for. Everytime Ruth (who was on 3) set down tickets, I inwardly cringed. Everytime I read the tickets and they were full of my dishes, my heart wilted a little more. Every ticket set me back further and further. My spirit flagged, but I forced myself to keep plugging away.

I was getting scared because I couldn’t keep up, because I wasn’t prepared for this, because no matter how fast I was moving it wasn’t making a lick of difference. I was bombarded with tickets there was no use protesting against, only adding to my growing panic. Terrified out of my mind, but with no outlet to release it to, the only way I could deal was to get frustrated and angry. When Server Mikie came up to the window and apologetically asked me if I could agree to take on a ticket for some newly seated diners WHO HAD TO BE OUT IN 30 MINUTES, I almost wailed in despair; they mostly wanted dishes off of my station. I practically begged her to try to course from the other two stations. But these people apparently didn’t eat meat so station 1 was out, and 3 had just gone through a couple of menu changes, switching out its two most popular seafood items for beef. With angry resignation at myself, I bit out, “Fine. I’ll do my fucking damnedest.” And I sent out that shit as fast as I could to get them out of my fucking sight.

Ticket after ticket after ticket…. I tried to make more than just ONE focaccia at a time, but the dough was so. fucking. tight. As soon as I finished rolling one, the one in the oven was ready for slicing open. When I tried to work the flatbread dough, it was so tight, it would stretch a bit and then tear (my only recourse was to let them sit a bit to temper and stretch them gently… imagine what it did to my patience). Koren told me I was 25 minutes behind on focaccia and they had all been inconsistent. (Even when I told her the dough was being difficult, it sounded like a lame cop-out to my ears.) I wanted to curse out Sylvester and Fred and then rip out their throats, but in my heart I knew it wasn’t their fault and every station 2 line cook before me has had to deal with shitty-ass dough. (I wondered if I was the first line cook who had to work with TWO shitty-ass doughs.) A residual cough leftover from my spring flu was acting up again and now that I was so stressed, I couldn’t stop coughing every couple of minutes. I was mortified to look so unprofessional. I tamped down the urge to cry. My mouth was parched. I’d been trying to work so hard, I didn’t even stop to drink water. When I did take the opportunity to take a couple of sips, I felt like I was brazenly stopping for an undeserved break.

When Mikie came to the window to ask how things were going, in a moment of weakness (which is kinda hysterical given how pathetic a sight I was already), I blubbered in a quivering voice how I was in hell and all I wanted to do was burst into tears on the line and how I couldn’t. I was in the middle of selling a focaccia and as I pulled the peel away, half the focaccia fell off the board. WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK?!?!?!?!?! And I still had like three more focaccia to make!!!! I had no time to waste!!! You could practically see my heart breaking. I shakily apologized and said I’d make another. Luckily Mikie insisted it could be put back together, and with Elliot’s help, the situation was righted. I breathed a sigh of relief and moved on to work more dough. The assault continued.

Though I struggled a great deal, I would’ve been even deeper in the weeds if not for Ruth. When I had that initial 7-focaccia pickup, she flattened down all my doughs for me. When she wasn’t busy, she helped me fire mackerel, made the anchovy flatbread, she plated a couple dishes for me too. Once when I was in the middle of rolling a focaccia but had to pause to pull out a cooked one to slice it open, she wordlessly and generously finished my rolling for me. I asked Elliot for some occasional assistance as well, plating a burrata and maybe a salad.

By the time things started slowing down, I was bone-tired and soul-weary. I hadn’t drunk enough water and was starting to develop a heat migraine. I knew I’d been terrible on the line, but I wanted some constructive criticism, so I asked Elliot, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad was I?” which got me the tepid wishy-washy response of “You’ll get better.” What, he couldn’t be honest with me? I just wanted to know how I did. I said as much, and I guess I was starting to fray at the seams and he didn’t like my indignant tone because he started to lecture me on my emotions; how I’d been angry all night (“Yes, I was infuriated!”) and throwing things around (“I was throwing things?!”) and how everyone could see me: “You have to be a leader. You have to keep it together or else the other stations will break down.”
What little fight I had left in me died and was replaced with acute disappointment. He was not wrong, but he did not help my situation. Did he even understand it? As I tidied up my station, I fought back tears and just let the waves of sadness wash over me. The service had rubbed my spirit raw, but his words had hurt me the most. I wasn’t going to cry, I told myself, I’d wait til I arrived home.

Dan Weiland came in sometime later with a junior coworker of his to eat at the chef’s table. I was happy to see him, but I wish he hadn’t come in that night. I didn’t want him to see how much service had gotten to me so I plastered a smile on my face. Elliot’s criticism had subdued me so I didn’t talk much. A couple more tickets came in, one of them for chef’s table: burrata, mackerel, and a half-focaccia. I inwardly groaned. Thankfully, that was all he’d order off my station; Dan later ordered a whitefish, a half brandade and a squid. After dinner, he bought us all a shot. He was amused I opted for tequila. I downed it but later it worsened my headache. I talked very little, pushed out food when I had to, delegated when necessary, and waited for the night to finally be over.

As service wound down, a ticket came in for a half prosciutto for someone at the bar. I made it and it was taken away. A couple minutes later another ticket came for half prosciutto, which I also sold away. A second later, barback Ryan came back saying the diner already had one, and though I was disappointed at the waste of slicing the meat and making a salad that could not be saved, I chalked it up to Mikie mistakenly ringing up two tickets, because it seemed like a little mistake she’d make. I removed the salad and put the plate of prosciutto in my lowboy.

What kills me is that twenty minutes later, server Christine called over asking about the prosciutto. I realized then that the two tickets WERE separate orders (I was stupid not to read the ticket numbers but I believed Ryan’s words). Stung by the unfairness of all the factors that had been against me all night, I started to weakly protest I’d made one…but I stopped myself. What was the use? Some diner had been waiting twenty minutes for one measly plate of prosciutto, and all the while I’d been chatting or cleaning my station. He probably wondered what was wrong with me. After hearing Christine call me out, Ryan immediately rushed over to profusely apologize. That was when I almost lost it. I started to shake like I was going to break down and cry, but somehow found the strength to tamp it down and briskly say, “No, don’t worry about it, it’s not your fault.” As soon as I sold the plate, I went to the bathroom to hide my hurt. Just cry at home, I told myself, do NOT fucking cry here. The thought steadied me.

Midnight finally rolled around and I volunteered to go downstairs and set up shoulder. I just didn’t want to be upstairs any longer. Koren was getting ready to go home. She didn’t say much to me except, “good job tonight” which was a lie so off-white it was practically brown. I just said thanks and bid her goodnight. I thought about how no one had really said much to me all night.

Elliot had biked to work so I took the train by myself. I was relieved and a little disappointed. It was for the best though, my headache was killing me and I didn’t feel like talking.

When I finally got home an hour later, I heated up a little brown rice in the microwave while I cooked an egg. I hadn’t eaten all night, and I hate taking medicine on an empty stomach. Watching the egg, I started recalling all the night’s bullshit that had descended upon me. I cooked the egg while tears streamed down my face, and ate my sad dinner as I quietly sobbed.

Thankfully this story has a slightly happy ending. Around 3AM I got a text from Ruth with really kind words and advice that made me feel better. She’d experienced 2 herself a couple of weeks ago and every nice thing she said (“Good job tonight! The wheels did not fall off the bus! You shall prevail! Just wait until you have Armanzo stabbing tickets in the window, ha!”) was like soothing balm to my soul. I never saw how many covers we did that night but chances are, it was probably a normal Wednesday number, and it was only I who had struggled alone. A more seasoned line cook like Elliot probably would’ve handled tonight with more aplomb and grace, but it’s like he’s so experienced now, so far removed from the line cook’s initial apprehensions to unfamiliar territory, that when he’d said “You’ll get better” earlier that night, it sounded perfunctory and hollow. He’d had no empathy, which was all I really wanted.

Well, I’m on 3 the rest of this week, but I’ll probably see time on 2 the first three days of next week. Like I said in a facebook post I’d made, “…It’s okay. I’ll keep taking it until I get better, or I vomit blood. It’s looking 50-50 right now.”

All I Want To Do Is Bond

I had a turning-point moment today during my time on Station 2. We went from being relatively quiet to suddenly all these people sitting down and ordering all at the same time. And they mostly wanted stuff from my station and Katie’s. It was all I could do to not scream, “Help! I’m being raped!”
I’m sure a more seasoned pro would have thought nothing of the stream of tickets. But so far I’ve been used to nothing but steady/leisurely services so tonight wasn’t something I’d encountered before. And I got scared. Luckily, Koren was in the window to guide me out of the haze. At the time, though, I thought I was in hell. Later I joked with busser Diego, “I thought I was being punished for all the bad things I’ve done in my life.”
I made it though! Koren was proud of me, though she chided me for my self-deprecating attitude. I’ve also learned it’s okay to throw jobs at people when you’re in the weeds and they’ve got nothing to do. Though at the time my brain was a little too fried to realize this. Sylvester did help me cook off some mackerel, so thank you!

Also of note, I think I sold a record low of 13 focaccia tonight. Yeah!… Waitaminnit…

After work Katie and I headed to Ian’s (even though they call themselves Dimo’s I can’t do it yet) for bonding over pizza. Yay!


Katie says she’ll be seeing some Station 3 training soon. Woot!

What was especially nice about this bonding time was that it was right on the heels of bonding time from the night before. Elliot had worked 3 with Theo, Katie worked 1. And after work we sat around with Liz, who barbacked that night, and talked while drinking rosé.

Yep, that’s Elliot drinking rosé out of a pint container. Like a boss.

Sadly, Elliot’s decided to move his last day up (I’m still kind of upset about it) so Monday night was essentially Katie’s last night working with Elliot. So I coerced him into hanging out with us for a little while. And Elliot’s so nice, he agreed (though for a second I was worried he’d just bike home and not say anything >_>;;). Theo tagged along with us. We decided on breakfast at a diner in his neighborhood called the Golden Apple.


I loved bonding! I can’t say much for the food though. While my pancakes were fine, my eggs and sausage were kind of sad. Elliot had a Reuben sandwich: “On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this a 2.” Theo had a gyro omelette… I don’t even want to know whether any good came of that. Katie had a combo breakfast plate and maybe she got the best of the bunch?

Siiiiiigh, will I never have awesome bonding time like this ever again?

G(r)8!

Urgh…. Friday and Saturday were excruciatingly long services. And not because we were slammed. It’s because we WEREN’T and we couldn’t just close up.

I had some not-so-secret hopes that with the NATO thing going on, people would be too uninterested to come out of their homes, and therefore we’d do 87 covers. Mwahaha…. But no such luck. Friday we were still pretty steady during dinner hour, though it died a little later that evening. We did 160 covers. That’s like, a Wednesday night. Except we wouldn’t close for another hour. Sad face.

I remember coming downstairs to get my backups and glanced at the clock, seeing it was a little after midnight. “Huh!? Why aren’t we pulling our proteins?” I unthinkingly blurted, and as I said it I remembered what day it was. WAHH.

Saturday was no different, except that I was watching Theo on Station 1 all night. Service was slow enough that he managed to work the station on his own all night. It was a good thing for him, though he did experience slight difficulties. He came out lucky though. One of his shoulders had cooked too long, but wasn’t scorched. I did notice that when he becomes slightly flustered he becomes curt, which might rub some people (especially food runners) the wrong way.
I’m trying to instill more confidence in his movements. Instead of losing precious seconds hesitantly sprinkling salt and pepper on some pork shoulder, or sprinkling herbs like it’s pixie dust, I’d rather he be decisive and just put that shit in. Boom, done, next. It’s all in muscle memory which he has to develop, but he won’t develop it if he’s constantly grabbing small pinches of everything, and going over it five times.
Other than that, he’s doing fine. He’s got details to work out, but he’s on his way to becoming a functioning date slinger.

I have to admit though, standing on the sidelines and doing nothing is mentally exhausting, when all you can say is variations of “More acid, more salt, mind your dates.”

Other highlights of the night:
– Armanzo came clean about his relationship with hostess Rebecca. I’d known/suspected, but was waiting for Big Bro to say something…
– I’ve seen the new schedule and I work on 2 the first three days this week. Uh oh! Especially since Armanzo will be expo. Um… this might not be good….

Day 2 On 2

Good job, kid. Have a cold one.

Wednesday was my second time working Station 2. Thanks to the slow night (we did 105 covers), I was able to work with relatively no problems. My only missteps? Not checking a ticket which resulted in my firing two dishes too soon. Drat! Sorry Sylvester ._.

Honestly, I was just a little worried I’d freak and whine like last week, but I kept it at a minimum and meant it very jokingly. I’m mostly very glad the kitchen gods smiled on me and let me have a relatively quiet night so I could essentially study what I’ve termed “Station 2 mechanics”, which are the little ins and outs of the station and how I can make them work for me, or what isn’t working and how I can fix it. For example, on Station 1 I keep a tiny cazuela for my chiffed parsley because I don’t want to use the line’s dinnerware. On Station 3, I keep a ninth pan of water in the sink to dip utentils into, especially ones I’ve used to cook brandade or pasta with, because those two dishes have clingy elements (dairy and chopped ramps) that don’t easily wash away with a quick rinse under running water. (Sylvester has actually adopted this practice too. Yay!)

I wish I had watched Elliot more when he was on 2. I took his presence for granted and now I’m just going to have to cobble all my memories together and sift through them and try to make what I can my own. For one thing, the quarter pan for flour and oil is a good idea but something about it is getting in my way. That, or the fact that I’ve got too many freakin’ salad bowls and it costs me too many precious seconds to figure out which is which, despite my trick of leaving one piece of the salad element in the bowl for easy identification. Whatever… still only my second time. (Crutch excuse?)

Speaking of precious seconds, Server Giulietta saw in one of my more disappointing moments during peak dinner hours when I overcooked a flatbread for the anchovy dish and flung it into the garbage. I was a little mad at forgetting the flatbread, that it was too dark to be salvaged (it was a shade too charred or else I’d have rolled with it), and because would it have killed Sylvester to flip my flatbread if it looked like I was somewhat preoccupied?! Maybe I’m disappointed because when I’m on 3, I’ve flipped the flatbread to help out and set it near the Station 2 oven when it was done cooking; I wondered, “Where’s the consideration?” but whatever. I’m sure Sylvester was too preoccupied trying to figure out his own Station Mechanics to flip some flatbread.

I guess I was sweating under all these preconceived expectations of myself. I wanted to work as fast as I could while still churning out quality food, trying not to lag, trying not to falter. Little failures tend to throw me off a bit. I guess it’s really true when Koren says I’m somewhat of a perfectionist.

Anyway, that and the early course firing were the only two missteps of the night. My focaccia and flatbread were relatively good looking. It helped that I had my own mental Elliot yelling in my head, “Work faster! Move your hands and spread that cheese!” though he did have to remind me to mind my flatbread and not to forget brandade crostini. Around 10:30pm Elliot declared, “You’ve got it. I’m going home.” What! I was a little sad to see him go because I like to talk with him when we take the train together, but I was a little happy that he was satisfied with my progress. It was smooth sailing afterward. That is, until around 11:40pm a 6-top came in, ordered a slightly lengthy three-course meal, and I was told that one of the guys (who was kinda tubby, wearing a pageboy cab, and was oddly very red) was a Food Network chef named Beau MacMillan. Not that I gave a fuck. As far as I was concerned, it was late and I wanted to go home. So what did I do? We cooked their courses, I waited three minutes, fired their next course and after sending them out, waited three more minutes and fired the next. I told Giulietta, “If Beau MacMillan thinks I’m rushing his courses, it’s because I am.”

Avec’s Thursday buyout: I wonder how that turned out? I mean, aside from obvious smooth sailing, I wonder if there was any fun anecdotes I’ll hear about?

Who knows if I’ll work 2 next Wednesday, but I saw this week’s schedule and I’m working on 1 this Saturday with Theo. WHOA! It’s been so long since I was a date slinger! Awesome! In actuality, it’ll just be me watching over Theo as he sweats his way through 1 (Said Theo, “Elliot said I need another person to yell at me.”) but still, yay!

Taking It Too Easy

My Tuesday opener went swell today. Well, it was all peachy keen until around 6pm Sylvester asked me about the ramps and charred spring onion that go into the pasta. Which I didn’t do. Because they’re not on the list. Well, ramps aren’t. But Buth crossed off charred onion on the list so I assumed all was fine but if Sylvester’s asking for them…. I hauled ass and got them done. Dammit. Oh well, whatever. They’re done.

Pistachio puree also took a lot of my time because I was having three peel pistachios to get the job done faster, but even so, peeling blanched pistachios isn’t a quick job.

I work Station 2 again tomorrow. Not looking forward to it, but biting the bullet anyway. Fear is the mind killer… I am already thinking up Dune references in my head…. (It’s been a long time since I last referenced the book!)

But out of all this, what I’m most upset/troubled over is that today was Elliot’s day off and he invited me to hang out with him and Marcus at the Orbit Room after my opener. And I would have LOVED to go, but I had to decline because I came to work dressed in a Spiderman tee, a fuchsia peasant skirt, and powder pink Converse Chucks. Honestly I looked like an overgrown high-schooler. I could not go out to a cool social event looking like I did. And I live too far away to do a quick-change and do meet-and-greets. Goddammit. I admit it made me a little sad to miss out with potential bonding time with the cool kids. Especially since Elliot’s leaving soon. Arrrrrrgh. I left work a little sad over this non-encounter, which resulted in me being even sadder because I tried to go through my (nearly empty) mental rolodex of friends who might want to meet and hang with me, but I came up with nothing because I have no friends. Okay, that’s not true, but if one of your friends has a kid, your other friend is joined at the hip with his girlfriend, and your other good friend is currently without a cellphone, and your best friend currently resides in New York, it’s nearly the same as having no friends.

Is it better to just be friends with people at work? How is that even possible when most of them are working when you’re available and vice versa? Sigh.