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.