Posts tagged ‘chef’s table’

Time Is Ticking

Armanzo’s last day is Saturday. Mine is a week after that. Urgh, I’m nervous and my heart is aching. I feel like I’ve come such a long way and now I’m leaving everything I’ve built up to another (younger) generation. (Of course, “younger” is hyperbolic since our newer line cooks are as old/older than me.)

I’m sorry I haven’t kept up with the blog as well as I should have, especially when I could’ve talked about work in relation to the end of my tenure at avec. I’m just really, really lazy >_< I humbly beg for forgiveness!

I worked on Station 3 tonight. Fred was on 2, and new girl Monica was on 1. Fred's coming into his own, but he's still got some stumbling blocks. Who doesn't? I'm not perfect either when I'm on 2, but I'm a lot more confident than I used to be. And I'm not as intimidated as I was when I was first thrown onto the station. THAT day will forever live on infamy in my heart. But I overcame it, and man, am I that much stronger for it.

Speaking of strong, station 3 doesn't even phase me anymore. I don't know if it's just my competence level or they way the tickets were running, but every time I'm on 3 now, I have really easy nights. (So easy, I don't even bother to write about them.) I can't believe I used to have trouble cooking hangar steaks to medium-rare or getting out cheese plates in a timely fashion. I can even easily converse with diners now (if I choose to do so). Working the station has been going so smoothly, I can even help out Station 2, when they're busy, by starting/finishing their fish dishes for them. I've found myself a lot of the time searing Armanzo's and Fred's merluza (aka hake) or flipping salmon and pulling beans off the heat. I know I help Armanzo, but I've definitely saved Fred some Station 2 grief. It's hard enough for a newbie to worry about rolling out (and not burning) focaccia without having to deal with extraneous fish dishes as well.

That said, tonight was a mellow, easy-paced night. Earlier today Fred brought in a quart of jasmine rice, which I cooked off and cooled. Later in the night, Fred and I tag-teamed to prep out ingredients for fried rice for comida/staff meal. It was fun. "Oh you know, it's just a couple of Asians making some fried rice," I joked. We made two kinds, pork and chicken, which turned out AWESOME. Server Giulietta said she doesn't like rice and she couldn't stop eating it. Sontra hardly ever partakes in comida and she actually grabbed a bowl. I'm gonna toot my own horn: it was good. Rice is king! A billion Asians can't be wrong!

I'm back on 2 tomorrow. Fun times. (Famous last words?)

Oh, I'd also like to mention that in the vein of leaving a legacy (to the younger avec generation), Fred (and to a lesser extent, Rachel) have picked up my habit of calling out the order of firing stuff "at leisure". I started saying it because I didn't want the line cooks to feel like they'd have to rush a dish the minute I told them to cook it, and also, it helped me keep courses paced out enough in a timely fashion without me having to eagle-eye ticket times. Hopefully they also carry on my Saturday night tradition of bringing in something/making comida as a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel as well as my bordering-on-OCD love of cutting parchment paper. It warms my heart that in some ways I'll still be around even when I'm gone.

Comings And Goings

Last week was the second year anniversary of the avec fire. I honestly didn’t remember (I thought it was the 10th) until later that night, we saw a tealight candle and a small bouquet of flowers in the corner by the alley. It put a somber mood to what also happened to be Liz’s last day.
It also happened to be a hideously long service for a Wednesday that night. So long, in fact, that I never got to break out the farewell ice-cream cake. We didn’t cut into it until long after we’d closed and only a handful of Blackbird staff had come over. And even then, they cut into the cake while I was outside. In my heart, I would’ve really liked to have sent Liz off like we did Elliot, with rousing farewells and toasts. Because I think of Liz as an essential member of the avec family and I wanted to wish her well and let her know she’s totally loved and will be missed.

That said, her replacement is Esther, formerly of Publican. Welcome to the family!

It’s been a while since I last posted. Apologies for that. For a while, it felt like most nights were somewhat smooth sailing whenever I worked a station. However, last night and tonight, for a while, I was sucking really badly. Yesterday I was on 3 and for maybe an hour during service, I was firing things too late or too early. I felt like an asshole, especially cos I fired a whole fish a course too early, with nowhere else to sell it. So that was a $30 loss. (Urgh T_T) Then I fired a foie too late, and had Armanzo quietly scolding me (“When I tell you to fire something, fire it. And now this person is going to wait 25 minutes for this foie”) and I felt even more like an asshole. but you know what? I can’t wallow in this sorrow, so I got over it, and the night ended up fine. Armanzo’s dad came in to eat and totally enjoyed the meal and everything was hunky-dory.

And then the next day, I worked on 2, and we got this early pop that saw me sucking very, very badly and left me lagging. Flatbread is my achilles heel right now and when there’s more than one on the board, I’m already pretty much screwed. I can’t seem to make those things any faster than I already am, while trying to call tickets and navigate orders. On top of that, I got set back even more when, while cutting into a focaccia, it ripped so irreparably that I had to throw it away and start anew. Draaaaaat! AND THEN! Armanzo was in the window and somehow a bunch of tickets got stabbed, so I had servers in the window asking for food on tickets I DIDN’T HAVE.

Normally stabbed tickets are an annoyance, but this time I decided to see it as a silver lining, because if some food is taking forever, it’s technically not my fault because I wasn’t even aware it existed. So, in some perverse way, it bought me some time. And time is what I really needed. Aside from another set of hands, and that wasn’t gonna happen. All in all, I did the best I could. What’s even weirder was that service evened out and I got back on track and was (self-proclaimed) awesome again, I looked at our covers and we only did 133, which was slower than the night before. Whatever, I’m over it.

Is it weird that even though Armanzo in the window was throwing a wrench in the service (and Sylvester, for about three steaks, could NOT seem to stop overcooking them), I totally appreciated his being there because I happened to be in my own little whirlpool of suckiness and wasn’t even capable of looking at the tickets? Well, I totally am grateful he was there, stabbed tickets and quiet scolding et al.

I open tomorrow. I work station 2 Friday and Saturday. May the kitchen gods smile upon me!

Oh, and last Saturday I brought in Velveeta skillet dinner kits (think Hamburger Helper, but cheesier) for Saturday Soul-Suck Survival, and it was epic. I used chorizo in place of ground beef and the whole thing turned out really rich in an over-the-top-delicious-but-my-arteries-are-paying-for-it kinda way (I also threw in sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and green beans in an attempt to tone down the richness, but it was like fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun). Would I buy it again? Hell yes, but I’d definitely make some changes. For one thing, if I’m going to use chorizo again, I’m sure as hell not going to dump in the whole bag of seasoning. That was intense. I’m also going to add more vegetables. Because life isn’t really worth living if there are no awesome vegetables.
(The week before that was amaretto cheesecake from JR Dessert Bakery. DELICIOUS.)

Been Over It

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or just the fickle ways of the Kitchen Gods, but every time Armanzo works Station 2, he seems to be on the receiving end of a beating. Tonight flatbread was popping off, like for serious. It seemed as if every other ticket had flatbread on it, and more often than not it was as a first course. Meanwhile I’m on Station 3 twiddling my thumbs, feeling REALLY bad that I can’t help out in this kind of situation. The most I could really do was to cook off the occasional order of redfish or plate up some anchovy. Yeah… really helpful.

Armanzo said that he sold 24 flatbread. WTF?!?! It blows my mind on so many levels. How is it possible that he sold less focaccia? Why was the flatbread so popular tonight? Why is Armanzo constantly getting raped on Station 2? It didn’t help that earlier that night, Giulietta accidentally knocked over a pint of oil all over his station =_=;;;
All I can say is, I am SOOOOOO glad I wasn’t working that station tonight, or else you’d be reading a completely different blog entry. Probably full of cursing and maybe a lot of crying and recounting how I had another meltdown or something.

That said, I had a really good night on Station 3.

In other news, we have another addition to our avec family, albeit a part-time one. Her name is Linda, and she’s friends with Armanzo, having worked at the Publican and Perennial. She’s very sweet and she’s the owner of a beautiful Corian knife that makes me want to run out and buy more knives. She’ll be working with us for two days out of the week (don’t quote me on this), so yay for having another girl on the line!

Pain Is A Constant Reminder

I had a really easy service tonight on station 3. For some reason, whole fish was popping off and I sold out all 10 of mine. Ahh, I really love it when we have dourade! It’s such a well-behaved and beautifully-cooking fish. It’s not long and unwieldy like branzino, nor is it juicy and rebellious like red snapper (it’s also hideous-looking when it’s cooked).
I also only had a one and a half third-pans of pasta all day and I was looking forward to selling it out. Sadly it didn’t happen but by the end of the night I had a half-order left. I went through my third-pan of hangar and had two trout left when the kitchen closed. Man, I was popular tonight!

I’m looking forward to my day off tomorrow. With Katie and Elliot gone we’re a little more understaffed, and then Ruth took a 5-day staycation because her friend was in town visiting, so Armanzo and I really felt the burn. On Monday I was scheduled for noon, which hasn’t happened in a long time, but Armanzo came in at 10 for a couple of days. I was a little worried for him and his health because he’s tired and he’s also trying to move out of his apartment. Oh gahd, I still have to prepare for my own move; I left a note for Jorge & Co. to please save the boxes from our Werp Farms delivieries so I could use them for packing….

I need a six-month long massage. The right side of my neck feels tight and achy and the pain is starting to radiate down my upper arm. I finally broke down and applied some of those Salonpas medicated strips, which of course don’t really do much in the long term.
Also, I fell down a couple of days ago and there’s a big ugly bruise on my knee.

I want a vacation. I’m taking one, but not until mid-August, WHICH CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH. In the meantime, I’m really freakin’ looking forward to my day off tomorrow and Sunday.

Little Musings

To the people who came in just as the kitchen was closing and at 12:58am ordered a hangar, whitefish, whole fish, and TRIED TO ORDER FOIE: you suck.

I know I’m not as spry as I used to be when I’m working and I haven’t gone to the bathroom in so long that my kidneys hurt. Urgh… it never used to be like this.

What’s more obnoxious than men who don’t take off their hats in restaurants? Women who wear hats in restaurants.

I loathe children in the diningroom. But I hate children with iPads even more. How dare you flaunt things I can’t afford?

Speaking of kids, I hate making special food for kids just because they’re kids. Hey parents, you took your children to eat at avec so don’t cop out and request that the line cooks make pizza with tomato sauce or pasta with only butter and cheese. Your kids don’t want to eat finocchiona salami or chicken & liver sausage? Take them to McDonalds next time.

It’s after midnight. What are you people still doing here eating? GO THE FUCK HOME.

Saturday service is a soul suck.

Red Headed Stranger

Holy. Crap.
Tonight Conan O’Brien came in and sat at the Chef’s table.
He ate at our restaurant. During busy service. He had no crazy airs. He loved everything. He wears glasses when he reads.

When he and his wife walked up to their seats, I immediately turned around and tried to remain calm and not act affected. But it’s a little hard not to, when you’ve been watching him for a good part of your life when he used to host his late night show. It’s a pop culture in-yo’-face moment and I was kinda-sorta squeeing on the inside.

He ordered (in order of courses): green salad; dates, hangar; flatbread, chicken. We sent him olives and a second course squid compliments of the house.
He was totally loving the salad I made. I could hear him talking about how good it was. AHHHH! Yay!!! They loved all the food and totally thanked us for the meal. I wish I could’ve shaken his hand or gotten a picture or something but I’m too staunchly professional for that. Still! Squee!!! He said the next time he was in Chicago, he’d totally come back. Excellent!

With this Comedy Week going on, I’d like it if Kevin Smith, Sarah Silverman, or Hannibal Burress came in to eat. Come on!!

Sigh. In other news, Ruth got a pretty bad spider bite and I have to work a double on Thursday. Clopener into a double. All I can say is: FUN TIMES! I’m probably just naively trying to convince myself all will be fine, but hey, maybe some other well-known person will come in for dinner and make my night…. Just sayin’….

Oh, Snap!: Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting

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

Saturday service is long and brutal but who cares when your awesome manager (Liz) comes in with bags of candy for the troops? ZOMG Starburst! Airheads! Sour Patch Kids! I don’t even really like peanut butter but those Peanut Butter Snickers were the bizniz. Awww yeah… sugar rush all night.

Sylvester came in to eat with his girl and besides ordering a whole fish (which was delicious, I might add, toot toot) he had a focaccia and since line cooks MUST have a sense of humor (it sez so here) Ruth made this:

It’s at an awkward angle, but donger focaccia with cheese jizz is awesome. I totally encouraged it, and I’m glad Ruth had the same thought when I suggested about the “garnish”.

Mwahahaha I love my job.

Sweet Tidbits

Another busy night on Station 3. I should’ve known when I walked in at 4PM and the restaurant was nearly full =_=
It pretty much stayed like that the whole night. I’m SO glad I stocked myself up the night before because I never really got a chance to ever go downstairs. O_O Phew! Total covers by the end of the night: 270.

Other than that, not much to really say. Ruth was killin’ it on station 2. I held my own on 3. I sold all my foie (though I was super annoyed at cooking it in the first place), though I thought I’d cooked them all really nicely.

At some point in the evening, I looked up and Koren’s friend Scottie, aka Wildcard, was in the window talking with Armanzo. I know I haven’t mentioned Scottie much. At some point he was opening a lot for us, but once we hired more people and our staff numbers evened out, Scottie bowed out since he was there to help us out anyway.
Anyway, the reason Scottie came by was to drop off a crap load of crawfish for us (it filled up two full hotel pans). With corn. And some Zatarain’s. What the–?! Not that I’m even going to question this. I mean, it’s Wildcard fer cryin’ out loud. You don’t question him. Yay! Thanks Scottie!
Armanzo brought one crawfish up and had it in the window for a while before he gave it to me in a pint container with instructions to cut it in half and throw it on the plancha. I’ve never cut up a live specimen in half before, so this was cool. I felt a little bad since it was a little life and it was thrashing, but I said a little prayer, put it on a towel and then I cut it in half. Then I sprinkled some salt, pepper, and sumac on it and cooked it off for Armanzo.

Another highlight of the night was when bartender Mary Rose told me a story about how her roommate, Michelle. Two things to know about Mary Rose’s roomie: she’s Asian and a line cook at Gilt Bar. Anyway, so the story goes that Roomie was talking with someone somewhere (you know how I am about these details), and mentioned she was was a line cook. Apparently the other person in her conversation said, “Oh! You must be the Asian girl who works at Avec!” AHAHAHAHAHAHA!! While I feel a little sad for the roommate over the mistaken identity, I’m tickled pink that this person has been to Avec and has seen me. Someone knows me! I’m not just any ole Asian girl! I’m the one who works at Avec! Ehehe! \^_^/ Woot woot!

I’m off tomorrow but why do I get the feeling I’ll be seeing more line time on Station 2 next week…?

I leave you with the horrible picture of Blackbird’s pastry chef from Food&Wine that I mentioned a while back. We have a new dessert to replace the old hazelnut cake. It’s a lemon cake that comes with rhubarb compote among with some other accoutrements which I don’t know because I’ve never seen a completed cake. While the cake is tasty, I hate it because I’m required to heat it up. So everytime a ticket comes, I put a cake in the oven, and then when I plate it, I have to pop it out of its hot aluminum tin, and then rip it in half, while burning my fingertips on the hot sugar the cake is baked with. When I put it up in the window, instead of calling “cake!”, I say “Bryce sucks!”. It cracks Fred up.
In the name of petty revenge, here’s the picture:

This is terrible. I am traumatized.

The Man From The West

Phew! Busy night last night. I know because I didn’t get a chance to go to the bathroom for about 8 hours =_=;;;

Ruth worked Station 2 and she did a great job, though there were a couple glitches, not really her fault. For my part, I made a terrible mistake and sold a whole fish somewhere else, and it resulted in someone else waiting half an hour for theirs. Urgh… I’m so sorry >_<
The wave of diners came in a pattern that made Ruth nervous. It was a flurry of tickets and then the board would clear just before the turn. Usually that means another wave of tickets will be coming…. Whether it did or not I really can't remember though I probably just forced myself to forget to deal with the onslaught.

Working the chef's table was a little rough tonight for a while (that whole fish incident not really helping) because we changed the old chitarra dish to a new one more fitting for the spring. It's orchiette with ramps, chicken & liver sausage, fava beans and verjus. It's really tasty, though I'm still fiddling with the taste. It should be light and rich at the same time, and I'm still fumbling around. I'll get it….
It was pretty popular for a good part of the dinner hour and then I feel like when we were at our busiest, I didn't really sell much pasta (not that I'm complaining). I know at least one server (Marcus) who was definitely doing his best to sell the pasta though. Thank you!

Since it was Friday, I was counting on people not to order foie gras, but I was wrong. Grr… cooking foie is not a favorite activity of mine. I feel this pressure all the time not to overcook it, and of course the pressure should be there; it's a really expensive piece of protein. One lobe that weighs a little over a pound and three-quarters costs $150.

Chef Tom Douglas came in tonight and to my dismay, he ordered a quarter piece of foie. I shouldn't hold it against him since he's rolling in the dough and he's a chef and he probably had a hankering for foie, but when it's super busy and the onslaught is going on, the last thing I want to do is cook foie gras. Oh well. I cooked it. I ended up selling the other half that night too.
Anyway: Tom Douglas! I don't know why I find it so weird that he was here that night. Maybe because he was sitting at seat 74 at the bar. It's the next closest seat to station 3 (chef's table is right in front of me), so I could see him so clearly. That might've been it. Or it could be that I'm considering trying to work in one of his restaurants when I move to Seattle (since he has like a bajillion) and having a potential future employer (who doesn't know you by the way) sit so closely and being able to see you work makes you a little self-conscious.

Nothing else of note. Theo worked 1 at the beginning of service and had to be bailed out later on by Fred. Armanzo was expo. Armanzo's dad and his wife came in to eat earlier that day and they loved everything and left us a $5 tip. Hey, every little bit counts! Yay money! Later that night, this woman at the chef's table saw me prepping out the foie, and she kept pronouncing it as "foie gwah" which made me wince ever so slightly. It reminded me of the time I worked at my dad's chinese takeout and some regular kept calling bok choy "boy chuk" no matter how many times I'd gently correct her. Oh well.

Back on 3 tonight with the same lineup (Ruth-2, Theo/Fred-1, Armanzo-expo, Elliot opening). Hopefully it'll be fun times and I get to go to the bathroom more than once :/

Lately You Live In The Jungle

I had my heart-to-heart with Elliot, but it wasn’t really anything because we’re not that close. And Elliot was surprised I didn’t know about his leaving. “I think you’re the last one to know.” Thanks ;_;

He says the new place will be called Reno. Um… not loving this name. At all. Maybe it should be spelled Rino instead.
It’s not like he’s going far away, just to Logan Square. But he’s going to be in the same restaurant group as Johnny Andere’s place, and if I later find out that Adam Walsh has jumped ship from Tavernita and is working in the same company, then I guess my dream was actually a prophecy.

That said, tonight I had a fine time on Station 3. Aside from the fact that I couldn’t find my regular knife all night and it bugged me for hours. I ended up using my Ohishi which I’d rather not use, especially since I dropped it a while ago and broke the tip off; the memory still pains me. Later around 11:45pm, I checked my phone and Katie sent me a text saying she’d put my knife away in my knife kit. Of all the places! >_< I haven't touched my knife kit in about a year. It doesn't have any knives (I keep them in my locker), so of course that would be the last place I'd look. But phew! I'm relieved the mystery is solved, since I'm fond of that knife. It's a hand-me-down Messermeister Usuba that has served me well on the line.

Tomorrow is the first day of the National Restaurant Association Convention. To others it might be the other NRA, but to me, it’s the first thing I think of when I hear “NRA show”. Marcus’s buddy and his dad came for dinner tonight, and I guess the father’s a chef who’s going to be at the convention tomorrow. Long story short, he’s in the industry, so before he left, he left the line cooks a $20 tip. Woohoo! Thank you, sir!

Speaking of appreciation, some diner sitting at 72 apparently loved his pasta so much, he had to express his thanks twice. The first time he asked Ryan to let me know how awesome his pasta was (woot! *fist pump!*) and then the second time, he actually came up to the window to let Elliot know. Elliot called me over and I got to meet this guy face to face. The praise was profuse and I wish I could remember exactly what he said but it was somewhere along the lines of incredible and the best pasta he’d ever had in his life. Yay! I always try to make food really tasty and you always hope that diners like it, but to get immediate feedback is always something that perks me up, especially if it’s positive. It reminds me of the time Josh showed me some credit card receipt slip where someone had scrawled “The fish was cooked perfectly!”. Aww, yay! Go, me!

And then you get the occasional negative downer which just saddens you. Mostly it comes in the form of some dish getting sent back with a mild complaint (“Too salty” or “too dry”) or when it comes to steak, it’ll be a little reheat because the diner thought the steak was too raw or something. It happens. But the only time a complaint has ever confused and saddened me was the Foie Incident which took place about 2 weeks ago. Some couple ordered a half-lobe of foie, which I cooked and sent out (after they impatiently asked “How much longer on the foie?”), but they sent it back saying they thought it “too raw”. Uh, whut? If anything, at the time, I’d thought I’d cooked it a smidge over, but Elliot examined it, called it perfect, and then after rolling his eyes, had me cook it some more. It hurt me to do such a thing, so after putting back in the oven, I had Elliot plate it because I had to go downstairs and get something.
But apparently even after Elliot sent it out, it got sent back with the “still too raw” complaint tacked on it; they didn’t want to eat it; we took it off their bill. WHAT?! I killed a precious piece of foie, only to have these bastards not pay for it?! We were all a bit annoyed to say the least. But damned if I wasn’t going to eat the leftovers. We divided it up and shared it away with the back of the house. I never eat off another diner’s plate, but foie gras is an exception. It was still tasty despite being overcooked ;_; *sob sob*

I open tomorrow.
I also asked Elliot to start training on 2. “Oh hoh! Come crawling back, I see!” he chortled. Grr…. Whatever. With Elliot leaving, I have to bite the bullet and learn how to work 2 under him because… I want to train under him. And he’s leaving soon, so better now then never.
Urgh… he hasn’t even left yet and I’m already missing him ;_;