Category Archives: Chapter 1: Training

Day 3: Fifty Dollar Stemware and Coffee.

Finally a day at the freaking FOH. Actually, they decided that a better segue into actual training would come via the barista station, one of the many duties of the back server.

Again, not too interesting a night, the silverware kept coming in from the dishwashers, polished, and sorted into the stations in the dining room, with each batch perched oh-so-prettily on silver platters whilst walking amongst the royalty customers. The same had to be done with what I found out to be fifty dollar+ a pop stemware. Ouch. I’m glad they don’t charge for breakages, otherwise I’d probably end up with a paycheck of all of $00 and 00 cents.

Because I was the barista-in-training for the night, they had me practicing making coffee orders: everything from plain old coffee to cappuccinos, macchiatos, lattes, and what have you. The entire staff was cracked out on espresso as I perfected my milk steaming technique.

Inventory was yet another task. Apparently the ‘tard that did inventory last decided to buy three 10 pound bags of decaf espresso, yet only 1 of the regular stuff was found. Extra bags of normal coffee were nowhere to be found, and none either for the french press roasts… Oy vey. I’m looking forward to working with this dude.

 

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Day 2: On Picking Herbs and Standing Around

I found myself back in the kitchen, this time though at a much saner hour, 12:30 pm to be exact. The sous foisted me off to the fish station’s entremetier, wherein I spent the next few hours picking and sorting through the various herbs needed for that day’s garnish. Mint, pea tendrils, and cilantro were picked all approximately the same size, all gorgeous in nature, no black spots or rips; Parsley was picked, and garlic sliced thin, both to be deep fried to crispiness. All in all a not-that-painful though not-that-interesting experience.

Except for the green almonds.

Almonds, young and still developing, found in fuzzy green fruit-pod-things, easily halved with a paring knife. Easily when they’re at the peak of their season. Surprise, surprise, it’s the end of the season. Instead of being handed a knife, I was handed a heavy ass meat mallet, and told to go to town. Except… they wanted the almonds whole.

So I whacked away, trying to find the right amount of pressure so the damn things cracked open but didn’t crush the wee-teeny little things inside. It took myself, the entremetier I was working with, the sous, and the executive sous to finally figure out the easiest way to do it. Herp.

After the staff meal, I breifly helped the meat station’s chef de partie make wee-little duck and liver stuffed puff pastries, then scrubbed the entire meat room down. Again, not too exciting.

Service wasn’t any better. I had spoken to the manager and he wanted me to “observe” what went on. While learning about the food was indeed interesting, there’s not much to talk about. I spent the entire night standing around watching thing happen, and feeling absolutely useless. Though, the garde manger’s chef de partie was wonderful, as was the same meat chef de partie I’d mentioned earlier — They were perfectly happy to give an explanation of every dish they put out, and gave me small tastings from whatever trimmings they had around. Delicious!

The peak of the night was when I was surprised with a 5 course tasting of the food served. Of course, I was awkwardly stood in front of the private dining room in the kitchen, in full view of the 9 or so patrons using it that night. More awkwardly, I was given the whole service song-and-dance by collegues that had been at the restaurant, and the food industry in general, for years more than I had. Derp. At one point the server working that room came over and laughingly said to me “The entire chef’s table all would like to know what job you have and if they can have it as all you do is stand there and eat!”

Oh if you only saw me with my hands all up in a chicken’s business, you’d change your tune…

While I really couldn’t help feeling like a lost puppy through these past two days, being passed around chef to chef doing whatever tasks needed to be done, tailing them through the kitchen as, being new there, I had no idea which walk in was for which restaurant, which type of food, and where things went, I enjoyed myself. I know where the food comes from (all wonderful places, most locally sourced smaller farms), and how much fucking work it takes to get it to be the beautifully presented meal we serve.

Gosh, this is cheezy. Herp derp.


Day 1: A Walk in the Saucier’s Shoes

At the base of every meat, fish, or veg dish, there are the stocks. On the top of various meat and fish dishes, are the sauces. These can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to prepare, or so I found out. So when the heck do kitchens find the time to do this? Apparently at 7 in the effing AM

When the chefs come in, they expect all their ingredients to be there, ready to be minced, picked, chopped, diced, and peeled, and all organized, sorted, chilled, preserved. When the heck does this happen? At 7 in the effing AM.

I found out which stocks and sauces were used, the stages they go through, how exactly they were made. Fun stuff.

Even more fun was when I was handed a huge-ass meat cleaver and told to chop up the poultry, just give it a whack right down the middle. It would’ve been very cathartic if I wasn’t half zombified and half crackified from the combination of a lack of sleep and the arse-tons of coffee I had just ingested.

The most coordination that was required of me during pre-prep was skinning and de-fattening chicken. I’ll not describe the process to save your pretty brains from the horrors, but I’ll say that skinning is horrifyingly easy to do.

Waugh.

Inventory wasn’t all that exciting, dairy goes one place, veg for one restaurant goes in another, veg for the other restaurant goes in a different bit. Things got binned, labeled and sorted, all ready for the prep cooks. Wheeeee! (Really, for being hyper and tired, it was the best job.)

With the inventory sorted and the stocks boiling away, I got foisted off to the prep staff which had just come in. And I learned two very important things:

Fava Beans Suck. A lot.

Stinging Nettles Suck. Also a lot.

The set me to prepping shucking and shelling fava beans, where four or five beans were extracted from a pod, and then each bean’s soft squashy shell had to be oh-so-gently peeled off, keeping the bean nick-free and whole. Waugh.

Stinging Nettles. To be used in Ravioli. Sorting the good ones from the bad, a whole 8 quarts of it. Pain. So much pain.

Really though, that was the worst of it, I was saved by the chef at the fish station, T, who had me sorting through shellfish, messing about with lobster, and cutting the roe from scallop skirts. All very messy, but really not all that bad.

Also, he fed me bits of lobster that were to torn up to use. Lobster that had just been alive a few hours before, I know I sorted through them during inventory.

OM NOM. Lobster.

I liked him.

So after 10 hours of pre-prep, prep, the family meal, and putting away the last of the sauces, I was sent home. I promptly collapsed and passed out with my computer on my lap, only to wake up 8 hours later (at a lovely 2 o’clock in the morn) starving.

Om. Nom. Late night chinese.