Posts tagged ‘barback Ryan’

Oh, Snap!: Rejuvelac

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

At the French Market, there’s a shop that sells raw vegan food. Ryan brought in some drink called Rejuvelac for Ruth a couple of days ago that she didn’t drink, which I found when I worked Station 2 last night.
The label says it’s made from sprouted wheatberries and purified water and costs $3.99.
Armanzo tried it and said it tasted like “bile”. Foodrunner AJ said it tasted like “armpit sweat” (EWWWWW). I’m much kinder and I said it tasted like “unsweetened, slightly sour soymilk”.

Whatever the description, it did not taste good. Even when we found out that–oops!–you’re not supposed to shake the bottle.

I drew a comic to illustrate how it tasted.

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Going on a tangent, I came into work today and found out that Elliot had stopped in for a second. Huh!? Commander Green, no fair! I wanted to say hi to you! Or at least jokingly demand a souvenir! Apparently he came in for his paycheck (hmph) and he’s leaving for London tomorrow. Bon voyage, Elliot…. Bring me back something from your European jaunt, dammit!

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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.”