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.

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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.