Posts tagged ‘John Anderes’

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 ;_;

Tiny Steps, Huge Leaps, And Lots Of Progress

Holy crap, I just realized that this is the first anniversary of my becoming a line cook. Last year, March 3rd, I made a tiny announcement to the world… and now here I am. Damn, I’ve come a long way.

I’m glad I started this blog or else I would’ve forgotten this auspicious day entirely, but that in itself wouldn’t have been so bad either. To me, working is savoring each day, but also knowing that all the days blur into a collective. All same. All different. How zen. I told a stage today I’d been a line cook for “about 9 months” so the blurred days comment is quite apt. My sense of time is skewed!

I don’t want to get too maudlin but I’m just amazed at the changes in me and all around me in the year that’s gone by. I’m still timid and exasperatingly ultra-cautious (station 2, anyone?) but I can definitely tell that I’ve acquired a little moxie from working on the line. Is it too introspective to say that I am a reflection of the people who have and are working with me?

I have tried to imbue in myself:

  • Katie Furst’s vivaciousness
  • Dan Weiland’s friendliness
  • Justin Large’s wit and sagacity
  • John Anderes… uh, I try to do things opposite of him, but he had pretty sweet taste in music.

 
I want to be as awesome and reliable as Elliot, as fun and confident as Armanzo, a pillar like Jorge, and always try to lead by Koren’s example (though timid ultra-cautiousness tends to get in the way).

I opened today and I just had to take a picture of the pasta dough I was working. It’s one of the first things Justin Large taught me to make and I’ve had a special fondness for it ever since.

Cutting rolled dough into uniform sheets is always a thrill. It’s for that reason why I love to make pappardelle or pasta kerchiefs.


See those white speckles in the dough? Those are salt speckles. In my humble experience, a dough that’s rested long enough will develop those specks and is an indicator that it’s ready for rolling. It handled like a dream.

Thank you Justin Large for being my first (and so far only) kitchen Dad. Thank you kitchen brothers and sisters for enriching and educating me. Thank you Kitchen Gods for smiling on me more often than not.

I’m off Wednesday but back to work Thursday on Station 1. Fun times.

Like A Rock

I was scheduled to work Wednesday at 6pm; I’ve got two days off after, and then back to work on Saturday to prep. And we’re closed to Easter on Sunday. Sigh… My tiny paycheck will probably be depressingly tinier. Not that I do this solely for the money (though money does help pay back my students loans and bills), but in a conversation with Elliot today he said working a line cook position is like working for pennies. Looking at my work schedule this week, I’m inclined to agree.

Still, I really do love my job. I’ve been happily brainwashed. I think I work in one of the greatest restaurants in the city, if not the country (we might have some stiff competition if we took on the world lol), and I’m proud of tiny role in it. I’m proud of my humble profession. (However glamorous it looks on the outside, is it ironic if I label myself a skilled laborer?)
And I’m just a teensy-weensy bit happier, now that it’s been confirmed that Elliot and Armanzo will be Avec’s sous-chefs when John leaves us. Yay! Elliot’s NOT leaving us to follow John! Still, it was a close call though. I asked him if he’d have followed John and he said it might’ve been really fun to do so. It seems that even Armanzo considered leaving ;_;
Me: Why didn’t you go?
Elliot: Cos there’d be no one left. It would just be you, Katie, and KO…
Me:…
Me: Oh ._. I’m sorry I’m such a burden >_<

Urgh…. what a hit of bittersweet. More bitter than sweet, really. While I’ve always thought Elliot would be a great sous (he’s got a good head on his shoulders), I feel a little bad that I’m one of the reasons that’s holding him back. I’ve only just started, and I know practically nothing, and left to my own devices Avec would probably implode. Which means, I’ve got to put 2000% into making myself a really reliable, super-dee-duper line cook… BUT I HAVE TO MASTER STATION 1 FIRST >_<
Ugah… it feels like an uphill battle, but it's okay, it's all about tiny victories. I know I'm improving in little ways: I'm keeping up with dates (the other line cooks may go "pfft" but that's their prerogative), and earlier this week on Monday, I was actually bored on the line! A month ago, if you’d told me that, I probably would have exclaimed in amazement, “NO WAY!” because even now, it seems impossible.

Also heard via Elliot: we’ve hired Will (Dylan’s friend/Sixteen). Hmm, that shall be interesting. We also had a stage today. Elliot liked him, but Koren thought he was a little sloppy. My thoughts have no standing in the Avec Hierarchy, but I think we should continue our line cook search. Watching him work made me nervous and I kept thinking, “I can do better” but of course, I’m one to talk, because I don’t know nuthin’ and I’m sure when I staged others, WITHOUT A DOUBT felt the same way. Besides, I’m not a very good judge of character right off the bat, so what the hell do I know? I’m not going to rag on someone’s skills when I don’t know them. I mean, I thought Dylan was a monkey but put us in a Station 1 contest and I’d fail immediately. He’s built up more muscle memory than me. But I’m better at prep… so there? >.>

Katie’s staying on with us until May 13, which is reassuring, since she’s one of the saner line cooks we’ve got (might I remind you how Avec would implode in my care?), but then again, when she leaves, it’ll be that much harder to let her go. Will there ever be a day like that for me?

So Close Yet So Far

I woke up this morning from a pretty disappointing dream where I discovered that John (who’s leaving us in May) had poached Elliot away from us, as well as Adam, who is currently in France. But in the dream, he’d LIED about going to France to secretly move over to John’s side. And they were going to work in John’s new place in DETROIT. And not only that, I’d found out Elliot’s focused awesomeness stemmed from an addiction to prodigious amounts of cocaine.
None of this is probably true but dreaming about it is a little disconcerting.

That said, worked the line last night and again, I feel roughed up. I’m improving (I kept up on dates; a small victory) yet I feel like I’m not. If it’s not date sauce, it’s chicken that’s holding me up. I’ll make the mustard greens salad but realize at the last minute I forgot red onion. And when I try to move fast, it’s like I’m not. Yesterday, after a trying episode of chicken orders, Katie made some comment about how it was a “boring” night so far, and I remember thinking, “Really? =__=;; Man, I must suck.” But it’s all in the small victories: my food looks great, it tastes great (according to Katie). My palate’s great (according to Koren). All I can do is keep plugging away, which has been my plan since day 1, so it’s not like anything’s going off-track.

In the burn department, I somehow got one awkward one on the side of my arm, which I rubbed the skin off when I was drying my hands after washing them.

Working the line again tonight (yay?) and I want to say a little prayer for the Kitchen Gods to smile down on me or something, but I’m just going to leave it for my abilities (or lack thereof) to take their course.

Your Chosen Fate

Elliot: You ready for tomorrow?
Me: (after a slight pause) I have no choice but to be.

I have to make this short cos I want to go to sleep, but I’m gonna say I had my ass handed to me on the line today.
Fell behind on dates (STUPID!) and Elliot helped me out of a jam. Like helped me big time. By cooking two pans of dates for me on his side of the oven, while I muddled through my other dishes.
I fell a little behind making chicken. John gave me some helpful pointers (no, really) which I’ve got to think about how to make work for me. I can make headway if I figure out tickets (which isn’t hard, but they keep telling me not to worry about tickets, so I keep secretly sneaking peeks). Some points I feel like I’m doing fine. Others not so much. Everyone keeps telling me I’ll get better yadda yadda yadda and they are being kind and supportive, but inside I know this. I’m just inexperienced, working it out, and trying to make station 1 my own.
I used to dread cooking pork shoulder, but today I actually found it pleasant. Sure, it’s a bitch to slide them over with the oversized tongs while I fire is going raging hot, but it’s a comforting dish that, for some reason, touched and calmed me today.

Also, I dropped a pan of chicken veg on the floor. Slightly mortified, but mostly disappointed that I’d have to cook more veg ASAP. I definitely got over it and moved on. Koren’s word from before flashed in my mind briefly.

I have no idea how many covers we did. I’ll find out tomorrow. But now that it’s over, I’m hungry for more. Is it a masochistic reaction? I have my goal. It reinforces itself over and over again each time I am reaching into the oven and my hand is almost burning, or I’m getting behind, and I’m so mentally frazzled I almost forgot Elliot’s name, how to say mustard greens, and calling John “ma’am” instead of “sir” (true events all from tonight). But I have to keep on keepin’ on, cos of two reason: because I have the goal and because other line cooks before me didn’t have anyone to bail them out when things got tough. Sure, Station 2 could help you out of a jam, like Elliot did for me today (for which I am super grateful), but it’s not like when you’re staging and it gets to be too much and the regular line cook jumps back into the fray for you and you step back and watch. It’s a little bit of hard truth and pride. I wouldn’t have stepped back unless Koren actually came over and made me get off. Weeds or no, I’ve got to figure my learning curve on my own.

It wasn’t until I was so busy I didn’t have time to think of anything else did I lose my nervous fear that had been plaguing me all morning. Going to work, starting my dates, getting all my little things together (aleppo pepper, a bain for my utensils, vinegar)–a nameless terror clutched at my heart and stomach. I feel foolish and a little sheepish now, but I know I’ll feel it again for a while until I am comfortable about what I’m doing on the line. But at the time it was awful. I felt like I could cry (not that I would) but the fear welled up in me because I didn’t know what to expect. Armanzo* talked with me a little and he comforted me a little but again, I couldn’t shake it off until I had nothing to think about but putting food out as fast and nicely as possible.

After work I listened to Katie and Elliot talking on the train. Katie has worked at Trotter’s and you can tell that the experience there has made her the kind of worker she is today. Fierce and ready, like a seasoned soldier. She apparently at some points would work 96 hour days!! O_O;; The love-hate I feel for her at times definitely took a step back today because I was in such awe at her ambitiousness. It makes all my feelings seem so petty and stupid. I don’t want to be her, I don’t want to be like her. I want to be capable in my own right so that we can work together. Right now I’m (to be humbly truthful) at the bottom of the totem pole. But I can either get better or get worse, and I’m sure as hell not getting worse. (At least, I don’t think so!)

No more reflections I can think of. I forgot Katie took the brown line too, so I couldn’t ask Elliot if he might leave us. Actually I was going to plead to him to NOT go if he was considering it, but that’s just a little dream right now. Dylan also helped me a little today after his opening. Not too much, if any at all, but his presence also gave me a bit of comfort.

If I sound frazzled and somewhat incoherent in my tone, it’s cos I’m trying to bust this out and go to bed. So good night.

*Armanzo is not his real name. He’s a line cook who opted not to have his real name used and chose this name because it sounded hilarious to him.

Taking It On The Run

Whoa!!! Just heard the confirmation that our sous chef, John, will be leaving us May 1.
I’d heard the rumor about 2 days ago from our butcher Jorge, but I didn’t really think much of it since John’s always taking time off for something. Once it was a trip to China. Another time, it was Iowa State University’s Meat School (a meat class where you learn about sausage making). Other times: a farm dinner in Michigan, the SXSW music fest in Austin, a collaborative chef dinner in Ohio… you get the picture. He’s out and about so hearing news of “leaving” meant little to me.

Though I did wonder if it meant what I thought it meant.

I doubt anyone at work knows this (unless they’re reading this blog, then secret’s out) but I have an inner love/hate for John. I respect him and (sort of) admire him because he’s my senpai (bordering on sensei) and he’s worked a very long time to get to his current position. He can be funny and disarmingly charming. He has tons of food ideas that end up on the menu (way more than my current zero). He’s got pretty good taste in music. (If you’re wondering how music figures into my kitchen admiration, it does a little. If I’m working next to you and your iPod is blasting shitty music that does not fit the situation; for imaginary example, drone metal while I’m peeling carrots; I won’t tell you to turn it off, but I will dislike you for playing it in the first place.)

But you can take those same reasons and look at the flip side: he became sous chef when his predecessor stepped down to take the chef de cuisine position at Big Star. (At the time I wondered if he had what it takes, but I guess now I have no choice but to grudgingly concede.) That same charm can sometimes border on douchery; once one of our servers mentioned she couldn’t drive and he said laughingly, “That’s okay, because you’re a woman.” Sure, he as lots of food ideas, but sometimes it leads to larger food cost for the restaurant (toward which I sometimes wonder if he occasionally turns a blind eye). Well, despite all this, at least he still has pretty good taste in music! (Even if he does pay for it all on iTunes, and I’m just a pirate >_>)

Anyway, I heard it from his lips that he will indeed be leaving to help open a place in Logan Square. And with that piece of news, I wonder: who will be the new sous chef?
I’d imagined Elliot, since he’s worked here next longest, and has a good head on his shoulders to boot, but there’s unconfirmed speculation that he’s leaving to follow Johnny. I don’t know what to think about that, but I’ll definitely be blogging my 90 cents about it when news of it hits my ears.

Katie, my sister-in-arms, will also be leaving sometime in the week before Easter. Hers will be a temporary leave, as she will be participating in Outstanding In The Field, a cross-country event dinner that honors its farmers and local artisans…yeah I’m not going to copy the description word for word from the site itself. Anyway, Katie will be gone til December, whoopin’ it up outdoors preparing farm dinners and being all badass and cool, while I will be slaving away at Avec, trying my damnedest to be a line cook with even a tenth of her capabilities. Not that I’m lesser or nuthin’, but when all you’ve known for most of your professional culinary life is the equivalent of a military desk job and you suddenly get stationed on the front lines (in part cos you asked for that position), you’d be a little insecure from time to time, too.

My fellow blogger, Ms. Nao, kindly let me know that Avec will be participating in Chef Week. Hmm… not only will we probably be hella busy, I’ll probably see line time during that week.

Saturday Reinforcements

I was scheduled to train again yesterday but since Saturdays are really busy days prep-wise, Koren changed the game plan and put me on prep. That was all good, since it meant I could leave when I was finished prepping. Sweet! I could go home and sleep, since I’d had less than 5 hours before having to get up ass-early for a mandatory staff meeting (where they passed out company policy employee booklets, addressed an employee from a sister restaurant’s lymphoma, made some flowery speeches and then we took an avec family photo–essentially, a waste of time, aside from employee handbook and talking about the lymphoma) that I just now realized one of our employees didn’t attend. Hmm…. I wonder what repurcussions (if any) he will face….

While not an especially hard day for me, I had to do two “extra” tasks because the opener, John, lost track of time when cooking off the blood sausage and squid ink crackers, requiring me to case more sausage and roll out more cracker on short notice. While for the most part, he is a good, capable sous chef, he has a habit of losing track of things in the oven. It’s not like I mind, as prep is prep, but it gives one pause to have to backtrack.

Just before I left for the night, Koren told me I might be solo on the line on Tuesday. I didn’t say anything, as there’s nothing to say. I accept it if that’s what it’s to be. But there’s also a server from our big sister restaurant (Blackbird) called Chris, who preps on Monday-Tuesday and then hangs out on the line. I wonder if I will conflict with him. I won’t know til I come in and see the schedule Tuesday. Oh well, fun times…?

I’d also like to mention kinda-sorta unrelated that a culinary school friend of mine contacted me about helping him set up a stage at avec. I gave him John’s number and told him to call and set it up. I wonder if he did. I wonder if I’ll be scheduled on a day where he’ll stage. He’s currently working at the Marriott and apparently it’s not creatively stimulating. I hope he’ll be able to literally take the heat….

Today is my off day and I was invited to go to our server (Sontra) and hostess (Robyn) karaoke birthday party. YEAHHH!! My not-so-secret-love: karaoke!! There’s also going to be Korean BBQ at San Soo Gab San afterward I believe. Don’t know if I’ll be showing up for that, but I’ll definitely be bringing my sing on. Lalalala…!!!