Posts tagged ‘Fred’

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.

Rising Star

Here I am, chugging along!

Tonight was mellow (except for the time I got a little behind and there was a 30-minute wait for a focaccia) due to the rain. I love the rain! I like it when it’s mellow because then it’s not as taxing on me. I’m hardworking, but I’m also lazy.

New people are coming in as I leave. We’ve got a new addition to the family named Monica. Apparently Paul Kahan recommended her from PQM. She’s not my favorite and she’s still slow, but I guess all in due time. I’m waiting for her to prove me wrong and be a really strong family member. We’ve also got a new intern. His name is Dan, though Sylvester wants so badly to call him “Daniel-san”, and I’m still refer to him as “the intern” since I just met him today. I haven’t seen him work yet but a few minutes after we met, he was about to put a quart of fried leeks into the walk-in, so… yeah. Prove me wrong about you, too, Dan!

A piece of good news: Fred’s moving up the ladder. Not only has he passed his training on 3, and has trained on 2 (actually, he’s working station 2 tomorrow), he’s been made junior sous-chef, right under Rachel. Good for him! Even though Fred has his slow line cook moments, he’s still got a really good head on his shoulders, and he pays attention to detail. He’s also contributed some dishes to the menu, which says a lot about his drive and ambition. In the beginning, Fred didn’t show much in the way of personality, but kind of like an oyster, he’s slowly been opening up more to reveal that there’s more to him. He definitely has his funny moments. I’ll miss him when I’m gone. Is it weird that I see him sort of as a little brother? Maybe it’s because he’s Asian?

Sontra came up to the window and we hashed out some more details about this farewell karaoke party that she wants to do. I found out that it wasn’t her idea in the first place–it was Elliot’s! What the–?!?!
Me: What!? I didn’t think Elliot was a karaoke-kinda person!
Sontra: I didn’t think he was that caring a person.

At first I thought she meant that Elliot was a callous guy or something, and I started to defend him, but she meant that she didn’t know we were close. Actually, i didn’t even know he considered us to be that close. I mean, we took the train together going home and sometimes we shared a cab, and there was that one time we bonded a bit while I helped his girl Nancy paint wall art at a coffee shop (and then we had breakfast), and also that time I invited him to Zanie’s (along with Nancy and Marcus), but really. I didn’t think we were that close. I thought it was me at the bottom, gazing upward at this awesome higher being. I’m seriously touched that he thought of me, even though he doesn’t even work at avec anymore and we haven’t even been in contact except for like, 2 text messages (“When is your last day at avec” and “Where are you going to work in Seattle?”).
Aww, Commander Green! I’m TOTALLY going to draw like, FIFTY squirrel mascots for you to choose from for your new place! (It’s kinda-sorta an inside joke, where his new place will have a squirrel as a mascot.) So far, I’ve only drawn two though >.>;;;

The days are ticking down. Two more weeks….

Excuses, Excuses… And The Presidential Debates

Will people get mad at me if I say I didn’t update the blog because I just didn’t feel like it? Sad but true. Even though I don’t really update all that much, it started to get a bit tiresome and tedious. And I felt like I had to step back for a hot minute after my boyfriend commented that I “complain alot” in my writing. Drat! Is it true? It probably is. When I’m at work and I think about things I’d like to say in entries, I mentally say things like, “Today was lame/Why are people still eating?/I WANNA GO HOOOOME” and the like. If that’s not complaining, I don’t know what is.

But you know what? Whatever. If I can’t write about my harsh rockstar life as a kitchen slave, then maybe I shouldn’t have started the blog in the first place. (Ironically, I intended to write with good intentions and realize now the downward spiral I’ve taken….)

ANYHOOT. Today was really mellow, thanks to the presidential debates. I’m curious as to what was said (and what could be turned into a meme) but mostly, I’m more focused on work now that my last day at avec is approaching. Everyone’s been asking me when my last day is (Nov. 1) and today Sylvester said he’d miss me. Awww! I didn’t know what to say. Even though I’ve worked there for (maybe?) almost 4 years, I feel as though it really hasn’t been that long. Have I really left an indelible mark? And in what way? And more importantly, where can I leave some secret graffiti that can be discovered years after I’m gone but still remembered?

I know I’m not in the top ranks of avec line cooks (Elliot’s definitely there though) but I’m definitely valued (and am probably hovering somewhere in the top middle tier). A couple of days ago, when I was working with Armanzo, I’d commented that he was working with his Asian crew (me and Fred) and he said, “I know. I made it that way. If I’m gonna write the schedules, I might as well work with the people I want.” Awww yay! It’s nice to know that someone likes working with me. And I kinda-sorta suspected already how favored I am because more often than not, I am scheduled off on Sundays, which is unofficially the worst day to work (though lately not as bad since we have newcomer/old pro Linda to help us open now). It’s nice to know someone’s looking out for me like that.

Speaking of Armanzo, his last day is fast approaching as well. He’d told me he was leaving months ago, but asked me not to talk about it. I think we all know now even if he hasn’t really said anything officially (like a sit-down meeting) but he’s mentioned his upcoming project (a salumi company) more than once so it’s not like he’s never talked about it.
Hostess Rebecca and Server Sontra have both mentioned farewell parties including karaoke, which touches me. I love karaoke! Whether this happens or not, it’s the thought that counts.

It’s getting late and I work on 2 tomorrow. I’m sorry I’ve posted such a lame return to blogging, but it’s the joy of the mundane that keeps me coming back.

Looking To The East

Times are a-gettin’ desperate sort of and we’ve been getting in stages to try to fill positions left by others. It was a little disheartening when everytime I’d come in Amranzo would tell me a stage had cancelled 😦 Come on! We’re awesome! (Aside from the brutally long service and shtuff.) Oh well, your loss.

Anyway, yesterday we finally hired someone. Um… he’s not my first pick, but we’re kinda desperate (eeek!) and he’s not too shabby. He got line time last night and he did alright. He didn’t burn any dates and he wasn’t too agonizingly slow >.>;;;
Anyway! Welcome to the family, Andrew! He starts officially next week.

We’ve been joking that avec has been becoming more and more Asian lately. There’s me (Chinese), Fred (Thai), and Ruth (who watches so much anime she’s now infused with a little bit of Japanese, haha). And now Andrew, who is Korean. Ruth and I jokingly tried to poach Blackbird’s Lorraine (Vietnamese) because we need more girls on the line but it was not to be. To add to the funniness, Ruth and I have been slowly stocking up dry storage with Asian staples like soy sauce, miso, and Shaoxing cooking wine. A couple of weeks ago I bought a bag of sushi rice, and am aiming to bring in some furikake. No worries, all of this stuff was for the intent of using them for comida, but then again, Fred’s newest chicken dish on the menu has lemongrass and fish sauce and doesn’t even try to pretend to be Mediterranean….

I’m just pleased that with Andrew as a new addition, Fred will probably see some station 3 action, and hopefully, if I’m still here by the time Fred is proficient enough, we’ll all be scheduled together on the line and it’ll be a freakin’ HOOT. Mwahahahahaha!

Oh, Snap!: No Excuses

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

Herpaderp. I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted for a while until I’d gotten an angry text from my best friend about them.
Sorry! Life got in the way and I was tired >_>;;;

In the meantime, until I can write about some meaningful topics (like Katie’s last day), here’s a picture of something random.

This was taken sometime after Fred first started working with us. We found it the Sunday after we came in. I’m pretty sure it was Fred’s (unintentional) doing, where he forgot some dates and then left them in the oven to hang out all night while the oven cooled. It was pretty funny looking at them then, and it’s still amusing to me now, even though the picture’s pretty unsightly. I don’t even want to think about the soaking and scrubbing that went into cleaning that cazuela….

Man Of The Hour

Last Tuesday was Elliot’s last night at avec. Even though it was my day off, I made sure to show up that night to see him off. I wasn’t the only one! Armanzo came in earlier that night to eat and bade him farewell. Fred and Theo came in. Ruth, who opened earlier that day, came back that night as well. Adam Walsh, who doesn’t even work here anymore, came in to say his goodbyes. It was totally bittersweet and awesome. Drinks were toasted, pictures were taken, and there was a little bit of dancing (mostly just Master Blaster and Elliot yukking it up).

During a lull in the festivities, I presented Elliot with a thank you/going-away present. It was a (beautiful) Ohishi petty knife that kinda-sorta got him a little verklempt. He looked at it and then he said, “I will pay you back.” “No you will not!” I retorted. The knife was my way of paying him back for all that he’d done for me. I mean, the man stayed after his opener to help me make potstickers for Thanksgiving last year. For that alone, I’m eternally grateful. I hoped the knife would become a tool that would serve him well wherever he went. “Thanks, Betty. I love you,” Elliot said as he looked at the knife. Aww! And then to cut the Hallmark moment, Theo piped in, “That’s a really pretty box [the knife came in].” Hahaha.

Elliot has now achieved Dad status, but in my heart he’ll always be Commander Green, one of the best chefs I’ve had the honor of working with. As of now, he’s totally chillaxin’ in Minnesota with his girl, Nancy (and both of them friend-requested me on facebook! Yay!), and hopefully when he comes back, I’ll get some moccasins. But even if I don’t, I’ll be really happy to see him again.

Good bye, dad!! We love 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.]

*****************************************

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.”