Posts tagged ‘Katie Furst’

The Cool Kids Do It

Tonight was my first time on 3 in a looooong time. I could definitely tell it had been a while, and I was still trying to make things click way into the evening. Sigh. This is what happens when I get too comfortable hanging out in my happy little cocoon :/

Some friends from school came in to eat and sat at the Chef’s Table, which was pleasant. Elliot was super nice and sent them anchovies and crostini, where I probably would’ve maybe sent them whitefish (cos it’s pretty and delicious) but I didn’t because 1) I can’t just make that snap judgement when it’s not my place and 2) I’m not that nice, even to my own friends. Besides, we were friends from school. They aren’t even my best friends. But they did bring two 6-packs of Modelo and some Doritos so I’m grateful for that. Anyway, it started picking up and it got a little harder to talk to them. I’m not one of those people that can talk and cook at the same time. Oh well, it’s not like I want to be the next Food Network Star. (*scoff*) Luckily, these two were able to read the air and decided to leave. I was a tiny bit sad to see them go but indifferent afterwards. I have problems with this weird pressure to “entertain” when I’m at 3 by conversing with people. Armanzo’s great at it, whereas I’m indifferent. I’m not going to talk when I don’t feel like talking. If you want a show, people, just watch me work. Hefting that huge cast-iron pan that we use for roasting whole fish is a spectacle in itself.

It stayed mellow for most of the night which was nice. The weather was awesome. I cry a little in my heart every time I have to go to work when the weather’s beautiful but whatever… I console myself by working hard and psyching myself up for the summer. Or practicing my moonwalk and running man on the line.

Blackbird line cook Lorraine came to visit after work and talked with me a little. Apparently she’s aware of the blog! And Katie Furst told her about it! I’m grateful and bashful. Yay thank you!

Two horrible things happened today which I have to mention so that I’ll feel bad about it for, like, the rest of my life:
– I undercooked a whole fish (red snapper sucks… too juicy to hold up to oven roasting… am I being stupid and bratty for saying this?) and it got sent back. Sorry! ;_; This is what I get for assuming when I do the flesh poke test and not actually checking >_< I fired a new whole fish and this time I checked for doneness.
– I accidentally slammed into Rebekah the bartender (because I didn’t know she was behind me while I was grabbing for stuff in my reach-in) and smashed her vagina into the corner of a metal table. I AM SO SORRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! >_<!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to repent but I’m gonna head to bed now. I open Tuesday. Ooh, and new hire (I’m just gonna name him here) Fred is training on 1 with Katie so that should be fun. Welcome to the Avec family! And now goodnight!

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.

My Guiding Hand

Tonight was a pretty mellow night for a Saturday. It never got too busy and it wasn’t too slow. It was just as well, because I played big sister tonight with stage Theo on station 1.

Theo’s a stage who’s come in a couple of times. I don’t know exactly if he’s looking for employment from us, but he definitely doesn’t mind coming in and helping out and learning stuff from us. It’s also nice having a stage who comes back because then I don’t feel like all the line advice I give when I do babysit a stage goes to waste because they never come back again.
Lately whenever Theo would come in, he’d have the incredible bad luck to share his stage with someone else, so when the time would come for someone who hang out upstairs on the line, he’d always have to opt out because he’d been with us before while the other stage hadn’t. And I would feel a little bad for him because, like I said, I’d rather share my line-knowledge with someone who’ll come back, rather than give all this seemingly pointless information to someone who won’t be returning.

I guess the stars were all aligned because Theo was our only stage today and I was on station 1. So around 9:30, when the pacing was mellow, I asked Elliot (2) for the okay to let Theo have some line time.
It was a little rough in the beginning. He was left-handed (which I’d forgotten), so some of the advice I gave didn’t really apply to him. He was flustered and a little nervous once more orders came in, so he lagged a little on certain dishes, forgot to replenish his date sauces (resulting in some lagged dates), got caught up in a little oven chaos (his shoulder Staubs were all over the place), and got his station a little messy (squid grease, bread crumbs, chopped herbs all over the place).
Of course, I was on the side to remind him not to forget his dates, watch out for his chickens and to check on his shoulders, and pick up his speed. Up to a point, though. When he kept looking to me to see if he should sell these dates or if that shoulder was ready, I gently but firmly told him I wasn’t going to hold his hand. I told him to trust in himself and his senses. I’d already told him what he was looking for, he just had to be aware of the signs.

I think that believing in him and letting him stew on the line was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Even when he was a little behind and then Elliot told him to work 4 more orders of squid, and I got his squid into a bowl, then let him do the rest and stepped back, it was a good decision. Because even though he was flustered, I think he was thrilled, especially after he sold his squid and I congratulated him on his squid push. It definitely helped his spirit. There were a couple of times I considered switching him out but I held off and I’m glad I did.

Elliot came down later as I was straightening the walk-in and pretty much affirmed what I felt: Theo did a good job, it was a little rough in the beginning, but it was good to have faith in him. Alright! Even though I considered it, I assessed the situation and decided it was best to leave him where he was. Besides, the restaurant wasn’t even that full and no one was coming in. Elliot said that maybe if someone had complained about dates being late or something, then he would’ve switched him out, but luckily, no one did.

Anyway, Theo was super thrilled to have been on the line on his own for so long (I let him stay until closing and he even broke down the station and cleaned the slicer on Station 2), and I’m happy for him. His being on the line reminded me of the time I was struggling on Station 1 and Koren almost pulled me off but Katie Furst had faith in me and let me muddle through. It was almost like coming full circle and then paying it forward.

And maybe like a little reward from the Kitchen Gods, I heard something tonight that made me very happy. While I was in the cab with Elliot after work, I asked him if he’d be working Monday (affirmative). That was good, because it would be me, him, and Katie. I told him that Katie liked working with him and it was good for her confidence because he was a Zen Master. He said he liked working with her too. Not only that, he said he liked working with me too!!! “Because there’s no drama,” he said.
Arrrgggghhh I wish times like these I didn’t have such a terrible memory and that I could recall exactly what else was said (we talked about how Armanzo sometimes doesn’t call tickets which sometimes troubles Katie, and I confessed to Elliot my apprehensiveness about KO), but all that really matters is that one of the people I admire the most told me he likes to work with me.

Ahhh! Such happiness!

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.

First, Second, Third Gear

Whoaaa, I feel a little shell shocked.

Tonight I got my ass kicked a little again, but I’m glad to say I fought back just as hard. Like in that Dylan Thomas poem where it says, “Do not go gentle into that good night…. Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Not tooting my own horn or nuthin’ but I think I was doing pretty fine in the beginning. I was keeping up on dates (I learned my lesson yesterday), keeping up the pace, making the food look pretty.

And then a huge push came and it seemed like EVERYONE wanted something off my station. In a span of, like, 2 minutes, I went from having 3 pork shoulders in the oven to having 8 orders total coming in. Plus 3 chickens, 2 sausages, a couple of burrata, pork terrine… dates, dates, dates, DATES, LOAF OMFGIWANTTOKILLMYSELFAUGHHHHHHHH
Luckily, Katie helped me out of my jam by taking over some of the terrines and dates, and had no problems with me asking to put things in her oven. I was really good about that. No weird stupid pride today about “Oh no, station 2 is helping me out of a jam, I must be soooo lame and can’t keep up.” I might have thought that for about a millisecond, but then reality set in and was like, “Get food out NOW, Stupid! Go, go, go, GO!!” I burned myself a couple of times (the worst of them is almost the size of a quarter) but I just accepted it and slogged through.

Later when it was all over, Katie told me that Koren almost thought about pulling me off the line. She’d asked Katie if I should step off, but apparently Katie backed me up. I don’t know how to feel about that, except that I’m grateful that Katie believed in me. I’m also glad Koren didn’t pull an executive decision and ordered me off, cos then I would’ve had to comply, which would’ve dampered my spirits and resulted in a pretty sad blog. I’m glad someone gave me a chance to stick it through, which is what I ended up doing. Looking back, I’m sure while I was toiling through the push, that little voice of mine reminded me that others before me have done the same and survived, so there was no reason I couldn’t.

Katie and I shared a cab to the station and she gave me a lot of good insight, some pep-talking, and post-push analysis that reaffirms what I already feel: I’m getting better, the push threw me for a loop, and the Little Voice that tells me I can and will do it will always ensure my success.

I wish I could put the working theory to the test, but sadly the rest of my schedule is prep. A good respite, but I know it’s going to throw me off balance if I’m scheduled back on the line next week. Goddammit, we need an intern. So I’m not pushed and pulled in different directions, so I can focus strictly on the line without worrying if someone messed up the deviled eggs (which someone did, sigh =_=), so I can train my muscle memory.
It’s funny how I’m actually disappointed that I’ll be prepping the rest of this week. I feel like I’m making headway in becoming a line cook!

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.

Biting That Bullet

Got home an hour ago and was going to post, but I Really. Needed. A Bath. First. I didn’t look it, but I felt so grimy and gross and I wanted to wash my face so badly. I asked Katie about it today and she said the heat just takes getting used to, and that she broke out in the beginning too. “And you’ll get heat rashes too,” she warned. Ugahhhhh ;_;
For now, I’m just using some hydrating face wash my sister gave me as a birthday present. It’s some fancy shmancy Swiss brand that I just googled and the face wash alone costs $39. Man, I hope this stuff helps cos for that amount of money (even though I didn’t pay for it) it would be utterly tragic if it didn’t. Fingers crossed.

Spent more time on the line tonight with Dylan coaching me. It was really busy, it being Friday and all, so I was really, really, really grateful that he was around to tell me what to do. Okay, so I didn’t do much thinking on the line tonight. I was Dylan’s Date Bot and I’m not ashamed to admit it that I leaned HEAVILY on that crutch. Katie, sweet soul that she is, didn’t want me mindlessly following Dylan’s orders and to figure it on my own, even going so far as suggesting that I fly it solo tomorrow. But I put the kibosh on that. I feel like I barely made it through the night, even WITH Dylan’s coaching. Saturday on my own would just be throwing me under the bus. I told her nicely that I felt I would be too overwhelmed and that I would like to experience this week with help and attempt a solo gig next week. Erg…. =___=

Tonight was a little brutal for me. I felt like I was behind on everything. This might not be true (one of the food runners told me Katie fires off courses too fast) but even so, I felt like I was getting beat up. While on the line I had to constantly fight the urge to step down and ask Dylan to take over. I wanted to run away and go back down to the easy schedule of prep work, to just say, “Okay, I don’t think I can handle this right now, please save me.” But I just steeled my nerves and reminded myself that others before me have had to deal with the same situation. They couldn’t just coward out on a busy night–and neither would I stoop to that level. And besides, I have a personal goal to attain and it means staying put on the line. Still, it was a relief to have Dylan step in while I went to the bathroom. I washed my face, I retied my drooping bandanna head covering. I took a deep breath and looked at myself in the mirror. Then I headed back to the line, since there wasn’t any turning back.

Despite the rough edges, some highlights tonight were:
– Rebekah (one of our bar staff) requested the chicken dish, which I tried to make really nicely. She came back and told me I did a great job on it.
– Joking with Erik (Eric? I have to ask him next time), a food runner, during a lull. I showed him my joke dances: a super dorky shoulder bounce and a dance I call The Librarian. He cracked up so much. Hehe!
– Ex-Avec line cook (and current C-House sous chef) Dan Weiland, whom I felt a special kinship with since we sometimes hung out after work and chatted, came in to eat with some friends and it was such a pleasure to have him see me on the line since he always encouraged me to try my hand at it.
– Our hostess Liz and her boyfriend offered me a ride to the red line train station after we closed (cos the green and brown were closed), which saved me from taking a cab. Liz told me she liked the cereal milk ice cream I’d made. When I’ve got the time I’ll make her some, along with my other requested ice creams).

Right, and now it’s nearly 5AM (where did the time fly?!) and I’ve got to get up early for a mandatory staff meeting tomorrow at 11AM. Urgh…. goodnight.

In All My Wimpy Glory

I wanted to post Thursday night right after my first day on the line but when I got home, I was so tired it was all I could do to eat a little food and take two aspirin for my heat headache.
Friday was to be my second day learning the line, but it got really busy and I’d have been of no help. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with my first day!

Since all I’ve known for the past two years is prep work in the basement (I fondly call myself a kitchen slave), I was extremely nervous and felt really out of place. Even studying the menu the night before (and the morning of) didn’t seem to do me much good, as it felt like all the knowledge I’d tried to cram suddenly left me and I keenly felt my helplessness. It was pretty much the trend all night.

I wish I could give a blow-by-blow account of Thursday on Station 1, but I’ve got a really shoddy memory and who wants to hear me going, “and then I got an order of dates…and then there was chicken…and then I got an order of pork shoulder and a half order of dates…” blahblahblah boring. I’ll tell you my first order of the day though: burrata. The regular who ordered it wanted it without nuts, oil, and cheese. I remember thinking, “Uh… whut? How am I going to make this dish if there’s no main ingredient?” In retrospect, it was really simple, but at the time it was like some nightmare koan: what is a cheese dish that has no cheese? Luckily, Katie (who was on Station 2 that night) helped me out (the answer: some escarole and beets. Man, I’m stupid.) Without her and Adam (who was coaching me) I would’ve been utterly lost. I’m sure they’d say otherwise, but they’re nice like that.

In all honesty, I’d like to say I didn’t suck. But I sure wasn’t awesome. I was what I’d expected to be on my first day ever on the line. Taken into account that one time during a really busy rush when Adam stepped in for me, I managed to persevere the whole night until we closed. I was elated. Everyone said I’d done a good job and I’d killed it (encouragement helps even if part of me knew they were being generous). I was happy I’d stuck through til the end. My last order was two warmed loaves ^_^

The night seemed to go in a rush and I’ve got a memory like a seive, so here are some highlights/thoughts I do remember from that night (in no particular order)

  • When John (who was expo that night) told me it took me 26 minutes to put out some dates, I knew it was time for Adam to step in for a while *CRINGE*
  • Eduard came by with a glass of wine and wanted me to try it. It was a Syrah called Black Betty (haha, get it? Cos my name is Betty?) and it was really, really good. I’m not a big drinker and I haven’t really tasted wine since my school days during wine class (or was it called Beverage Management? O_o?) so all I remember thinking was “Ooh! This is good!” It was seemingly sweet, it was smooth. Katie wasn’t too fond of it, saying it was like “blueberry syrup”. My glass ended up getting shared away. I was a little sad.
  • During some lulls in service, I’d practice my moonwalk. I think I’m getting better!
  • Man, that oven is hot. This is a pointless statement, since it’s like saying, “Man, the sun sure is hot”, but when you’re struggling to grab a cast-iron cocotte from the back of the wood-burning oven with some flimsy-ass oversized tongs, it’s hard not to curse yourself for not having oven mitts for hands. Or wishing you could just wear an Ove Glove all night.

So there you have it for my first night. Granted, it was a Thursday night and we did 106 covers. It was a good first try for me, if I didn’t have it easy. Which brings me to Friday night…. I didn’t have it easy. In fact, I pretty much didn’t do any cooking at all.

On the commute to work, I was half excited/half dreading another day on the line. I could feel my stomach knotting up with worry on the bus cos I was scared. But on the train ride I just reviewed some more, mulled over things (what gets lemon juice, self reminders to try to be faster, drink more water which was a biggie since I forgot to the night before hence the raging heat headache) and felt a little better. I got into work, did a little prep, made some ravioli and around 5pm went upstairs to report to station 1….
And walked right into a busy service. So I just stood to the side and watched Adam whirling around like a dervish putting out orders, ran up and down the stairs carrying out requests to get more things, and basically dreading and anticipating my chance to get on the line. For a long while I didn’t get it. Tess (the hostess that night) came over to me and said (and I’m paraphrasing cos my memory sucks) “I wish I could have your job right now. It must be fun just standing and watching.”
Honestly, it was for a little while in the beginning. I am disgusted with myself to admit that yes, I was relieved at first that it looked like I wouldn’t get a chance to work on the line. Woohoo! Just standing on the sidelines and being a stage! But watching Adam, I got disappointed with myself. For thinking like that, for not being able to prove myself to myself, for just standing and watching like a wide-eyed dope.
So when Tess said that, I told her sincerely yes and no, it was “fun” cos I was scared so I was happy I didn’t have to face the line but I was also disappointed cos this isn’t what I really wanted. But if I jumped on the line now, I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
It felt like I was in limbo, unable to move forward, but not willing to turn back (i.e. clocking out and going home during the middle of service).

A lull came and Adam had to go to the bathroom so I was called into service (not that I was ecstatic over this, but I was game). Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember John saying the wave would come again, but at the time I didn’t hear it. (As I type this, I imagine myself as a little child playing on the beach oblivious to the tsunami that comes roaring up in slow motion.) At first it was an order of dates. And then more orders for me came trickling in. And by the time Adam came back and had been standing a little while encouraging me to keep going, I was getting more swamped, until Adam tagged me out. And then he did his dervish act again. Sigh. I couldn’t help feeling I sucked. I knew it wasn’t really me, being Friday dinner rush and all, but still. Part of it is still me. And all I can do is try again next week.
I tried to stay as long as I could but I ended up cutting out around 10:30 cos I was back to prep Saturday morning. That was the reason my mouth gave. But in my heart, I left because I didn’t think I could handle the line again that night; because I was a pathetic loser-wimp >_>;; Again, caught in between wanting to stick it out til the end, but my wimpy conscience telling me I needed to go home and get some sleep in order to get to work tomorrow morning. Urghhhh >_<

So there you have it.
I’ll have another chance next week. I’m not proud of myself, but I’m going to try not to shy away again. I think it’s probably better for me to ask for line time on Wednesdays and Thursdays, as opposed to trying to tackle a behemoth like Friday Night Service. And also, I should memorize that Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear from Dune:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Right. Good night then. Until next time.