Category: career

#cheflife

It was a holiday weekend for those nine to fivers.  The fortunate get a three day weekend, with Friday being the coveted day of freedom.  It was a nice sunny day, a great day to seize the opportunity to meet up with friends and enjoy a nice lunch.  On this cursed day for your food service worker friends, we were ill prepared.  That is an understatement, ill prepared.  There was no preparing for the pandemonium that happened behind the line, in the bowels of the 100 degree kitchen.  Lunch is normally slow, with maybe a small rush but nothing too crazy.  This Friday, though, the people came in floods.  They came in droves.  They came in herds.  They came in murders.  They came in bunches, in parties, in clusters, in groups, in parades.  They were jovial and they were hungry.  Everyone wanted a bite of the proverbial apple pie.

In one hour we served over 100 people.  That is more people than lunch does the whole week combined.  They all came in at the same time, and they were merciless in their hunger.  They were there to eat and drink and celebrate the freedom.  I cannot really delve into the complete incompetence of the one and only line cook that runs the show during lunch.  Why the hell the chef thought he could work it, I have no fucking clue.  I have roughly zero training on the lunch menu, as my job is pastry prep.

After honestly the second ticket I had to start helping out, cooking and plating dishes I have never seen, cooking meat to the right temperature on a grill I have never used, getting trained by the worst employee we got.  It was pandemonium.  Sheer, complete, insanity.  The ticket machine was throwing up tickets like the day after new years eve.  Its pattering printing sounds were the music we were dancing to.  It was nuts.  We were going down in fiery flames like Dante’s nightmare.  We were getting burned up like a Detroit house fire.  We were so in the weeds that it felt like a jungle.

How can I describe how ill prepared we were for the rush?  The line cook wasn’t even prepared for the 15 covers he was expecting.  Chorizo for 3 orders.  Potatoes for 7.  Not burger miser in place.  No tomatoes cut, no onions rounds, no cheese sliced, no lettuce picked.  The soup is not heated up.  Do you think we are going to sell burgers on the 4th of July?? No, its not a big grilling holiday.  I think people are going to go for Christmas ham instead.  At another point, he was plating something that also gets breakfast potatoes, it was at that moment he realized there weren’t anymore cooked.  Is zero enough to get through?  I am going to go with a solid no.

It was a grade A disaster.  It is shocking that I did not physically harm my poor co-worker.  I did tell him that I wanted to chop him up into pieces and put him through the meat grinder. I told the food runner that I hated him because he ran the special food ticket to the wrong table.

I lost a hamburger due to sticking to the grill because I was trying to cook it faster.  I was so mad that I had to restart the patty when the rest of the ticket was ready to go.  This unfortunate burger was finishing cooking in the oven when I had to go in the back to prep the hundred of things that we did not have set up.  I said to him “that burger needs to be sent out as quickly as possible.  It will be done in 3 minutes, put it on the fucking plate and sell it.” I come back 5 minutes later, ask if the burger flew, and the lunch guys says (honest to god) “what burger?”  I plated it, wondering how the hell he could have possibly forgotten after how many times I talked about it.  Seriously, I said something to him about getting that damn burger no less then 10 times.  Pandemonium.  Sheer madness.

At one point I was looking at all the tickets, my head spinning with the details, and I have a vague feeling that no, it was not possible to get this done.  I wanted to panic, I wanted to walk away, I wanted to shout, I wanted to throw my tongs and say I am not a damn lunch cook, I do not make my living cooking fucking eggs!  I screamed PANDEMONIUM and went about cooking as fast as possible.

It was awful.  That is also an understatement, but I will leave it at that.  Awful.  At the end of the rush, the waitress is crying because she was working alone.  Served everyone by herself, and she was upset that she could not give people the nice service they deserved.  She was rushed and rude, and that does not make you feel like you did a good job.  You work very hard and at the end you feel like shit.  You feel that your best is not good enough.  No matter how hard you tried, you failed.  There is no winning in this game.

Afterwards, when the day settled down and the Chef decides to show up, he informs you that it was all your fault that there were 45 minute ticket times.  How could this have happened he wanted to know?  Why did I not call him with my third arm when I was cooking for the entire city?  He could have called back-up, which wouldn’t have arrived until the rush was over anyway.  It was in no way his fault for not thinking that maybe, just maybe, we would be slammed the Friday before the fourth of July.  Not his fault for making the schedule, for not informing me that the lunch line guy was going to change to this guy who is still in culinary school and has absolutely no experience.  Why is he not working the salad station?  I have no idea.

I cannot describe the anger, dissatisfaction, contempt, and spite I felt at the end of the day.  I saved the fucking day, and my reward was disappointment and an empty stomach.  Rumble, rumble cooking is not so easy all the time.

The Importance of Names

It took me a long time to decide what to rename my bike.  I finally got my dream bike, so it was a lot of pressure to find a name that I like and that is appropriate to the spirit of the bike.  I tend to keep things for a long time, so I know that this name will stay with me for years to come.  Not only is this the bike that I have always wanted and desired to be mine, I dreamt about the bike moments before it came into my life.  I dreamt that I found the bike in a thrift store for $35 dollars, and upon awakening I was very sad when I realized that the fortunate bike was just a mental muse. Not that I expected to get my dream machine for a price that was super fortunate, it was, after all, a dream.

The very next day, my coworker informs me that he has a bike, a split frame mixte Peugeot (no big deal, just the most coveted old school bike style in all of Chicagoaland), that he does not want (too small for him) and that I can have for my very own!  Imagine my excitement.  My dream came true, exactly true, beautifully true.  My dream bike is finally mine to have and to ride and to possess for decades to come.  A new and best companion to share my road time adventures, to be the reason for my trips, to fulfill the need of transportation and exercise.

The bike came with the name Reptar, which is a mighty fine name, but it is not the name that I would choose for my fabulous contraption of a bike.  I spend a lot of time on my bike, so the machine needs a name that embodies the spirit and energy we create together.  I spent a long time thinking about names.  Fillip, Sebastian, Cruella, Pierre, Cosmos, Galactica, Constellation, Alfredo (after my dad), Moonlight, Jupiter, Jack (after my grandpa), Parsnip, Fernet… the list was long.

I finally decided on a name the same day I decided that I was going to pursue a new career opportunity.  After having landed on a name for the bike, I felt confident that I could make a descision about my future.  I needed some sense of permanence, a constant theme, to help me commit to a new environment. I needed to feel secure in a choice, albeit not as important as a job, to feel a personal sense of security.  I felt more clear in the brain.  It gave me a sense of peace, closure, and serenity.

Turnip.  That’s the name.  Turnip Greenz.  The bike is old and the paint job does not have the clean sharp white that it must have worn 45 years ago when it was created.  It has a black seat post, black handle bar post, and black tape wrapped around the handle bars.  Together, this reminds me of a turnip pulled fresh from the ground, covered in thick, life giving dirt.

Turnip is also named after the constant companion in Howl’s Moving Castle.  Turnip is a scarecrow that skips on a stick, following the protagonist around, providing help, company, and joy.  Turnip does not speak, can only bounce to get around, but is my favorite character in the story.  He follows the character around wherever she may go, without asking, without hesitation or invitation, but is the hero of the story.  Turnip Greenz is my jolly, my bouncing and energetic companion, my constant for adventure, who does not speak but provides an irreplaceable role.  Turnip is the unspoken hero to the story. Turnip is the unspoken means to my end.

Lake Effect

I am seriously starting to feel the magic unravel and the real world is settling in very hard.  The lake effect is starting to wear off, the clouds are moving on, dissolving from the puffy cumulus to the wandering cirrus.  I am not going to even try to sugar coat it, life came rushing back in a deluge type fashion as soon as vacation ended.  That very second that you tap back into the work front, the damn’s crack has been exposed and the explosion of fierce water flaying your body, knocking you to the ground, dragging you down!!  Not that my job involves a whole lot of water, the metaphor still holds.

I have to admit, I am surprised at how long the magic from vacation lasted despite being drenched.  I felt light and happy and content with myself for a long time.  The smirk of magic that I felt left a semi permanent stain on my perspective, giving everything a rosy glow.  That luster, unfortunately, has faded to a very dim and dreary sun washed peachy beige.  The filter is still there, but it lacks color.

I helped restore some of the pantone color last night through my favorite means of therapy: dancing.  I love to dance.  If you don’t know this about me, then this is obviously the first time that we have met.  I like to shake it out, dig it up, twist it

all

around

the block,

put it downtown and bring it up to the top of a jump.  I like to boogie.  Shake out my soul, that’s what I call dancing.  Last night I danced out every part of my body.  Nothing was left out of the complicated symmetry in expressing the sounds and feelings of the music.  When I dance I feel like I create a beautiful harmonizing energy that lifts up the heavy soul, spins it so that it can hang in the air, float around in the atmosphere.  Your soul should be like an iridescent bubble gracefully floating in the air, softly spinning and easily twirling.

Needless to extrapolate much further then to say I went to a party and it was fun times.  I had a great night connecting with people, feeling the energy of happiness, taking no less than 5 rides on the giant tire swing.  I love to swing.  Again, needless to say if you know me even a little bit.  I love to feel the centrifugal sway lull my weary body with its force.  I got some great compliments from people that I just met and that makes my ego smile brightly.  I was told that I was the best dancer there.  He said to me: I love the way you describe things.

A Change is Going to Come

Tomorrow I am going to say a few words that are going to change my life.  I know its going to happen because I am the one deciding to follow the opportunity for a new job.  So tomorrow I am going to tell my current kitchen adios, its been short and mostly fun.

I am afraid to do it because I know that it is very unexpected, and I don’t want to say goodbye to my friends.  I feel like I am sitting at a point where I am going to tip into a new direction, but nobody else around me knows that the mountain is going to roll with a different slope.  I have changed my life so many times that it’s daunting because I know what is in store.  I am not sure I want to do it again.  Start afresh and anew, undo everything just to redo it in another manner.  Close the shop, move everything, unpack, get resettled and acquainted with the surroundings, develop a bond with the people around.

Since attending pastry school 5 years ago, I have lived 4 different apartments and have worked in (kiki’s, custom house, girl and the goat, publican, farmhouse, province, cicchetti, deleece, now la sirena) 9 kitchens.  That is a lot of life change for one girl.  This constant shifting and continual movement is making me quite tired.  I am exhausted of starting over, of turning the page over again and seeing a white sheet.

Am I afraid to do it again?  Yeah, kinda.  Am I excited?  I am too tired to fully answer that question right now.  Truthfully I am not entirely sure how the situation is going to unravel, I cannot predict what the reaction will be.

Today was the last day to be simply today, par for the course, clear sailing, everything is just like it normally is for a Saturday.  Tomorrow we set sail for a new course, to chase a new star.

Daily tasks

Cooks notes for the day:

That day when you don’t quite get the seal on the ice cream spinner door to suck properly in place, so as you spin the ice cream, the loose base drips steadily cause a huge, huge sticky mess. The entire time you are debating weather to take it out and start over, or roll with the continual mess.  Either scenario ends in a fanciful mess.  If the ice cream turns out icy again I am going to loose my cookies.

The restaurant next door come over to ask to borrow 70 pounds of fryer oil.  You respond casually: “only if you beg and crawl.”

The entire bottle of yuzu spill on the floor because the bottom inexplicably detached as if an invisible alien snuck into the kitchen and sliced off the entire bottom in one quick pull of the trigger.  $100 bottle gone in a flash, it was a delicious smelling mess.

The server warns you that you probably should help the lunch guy because she just rang in 6 plates.  6. Total. Plates.  She wants it to be less than 45 minutes and I am sympathetic.

There is a young good looking man/boy applying for a food runner position, so you try to check him out behind the semi-sheer black curtain.  You dropped your work to see him, but do you say hello?  Nah, don’t feel like it.

A beverage delivery man tells you he just saw a rat run into the employee bathroom.  I obviously do not believe him, until I see the prep guy pulling the door shut as to trap Mr. Raton.  Until he gets a moment to deal with the situation, you kindly tell your co-workers not to use the bathroom.  After he kills Mr. Raton, he chase one of the line cooks around the alley with the corpse of the rat.

We know that when the toaster and the freezer are plugged into the same outlet, the fuse will eventually blow.  The situation still remains unchanged.

Finally get around to changing the menu into a format that I find slightly more satisfying.  Slowly, so slowly moving into the right direction.  I realized today how much I have given up on bettering the restaurant and myself.  I am glad that I found some small spark of motivation and integrity to continue to do what I think is best.  It gets very challenging when you have too much on your plate, covered with a thick sauce of negativity, sprinkled with hesitation, doubt, and fatigue.  Today was a step to the right beat somewhere in that kitchen dance.

harmony

Life is exciting and I feel happy. There are opportunities, even if they are not for me they are happening for my network, for my light strand. Its exciting to even extensionally be a part of the circus. If feel lucky to know people for whom good things are happening. Its fun. I finally don’t feel like I have to do everything to feel the reward. The reward is in the excitement in the air, the lightness in eyes, the quickness in the breathe, the pitch in the voice.

just another day

I am blessed with very sensitive skin.  Combined with the attribute of wearing my emotions on my sleeve, I battle with acne.  Its the worst.  Its on your face, and its so noticeable.  Thank the good goddess for make-up.  Its so good.  But my problem is that I cannot kept up with the upkeep.  I work in a 100 degree kitchen.  That is not an overstatement.  Its hotter then balls hot.  My makeup runs, I look like joker town fool by the end of my shift.

So I have this zombie dead zit that is the worst.  Its been holding steady on my fore head for honestly months.  It won’t budge, just chillen, making a home.  But now its full blow sickness, it a colony plotting to take over my whole face.  Really, my face it going to turn into a big zit.  Its happened before, and its. Terrifying.  Downright awful.  Its going to chew my pretty face, consume my self, and I will be left right where I am now.  I have had three people comment on my face.  The first asked if I got cut, the second if I had a bruise, and the third if I got into bike accident what’s wrong with your face?  Honest to goddess, this happened.  A bike accident?? A bike accident.  No. Nope.  Just a zit.  I mean this happens to me.  I get a fuck face zit for like half a year.  The worst? Terrifying??

No.

Not even close.

Honestly I don’t give a fuck about my face town fiasco.  What I walked into today at work was terrifying.  It was beyond a blemish turned bruised.  I walked into a pure hell of a greasy mess.  How and what have I done to deserve this level of grossness.  I almost had a heart attack.  No warning, just a ball of hot greasy splattered evenly across every surface.  Dust settling again on top.  New oil waits new grease.  I couldn’t even walk from my cup of coffee to my station.  I had to walk around the entire restaurant just to get from the front line to the back.  Within being there for no less then 5 minutes, I had inexplicable oil on my hand.  One hand sink was being repaired and out of commission.  Since it was being worked on, there were tools everywhere, around the sink and the hallway leading to the office.  Everywhere I looked and walked was not okay.  Not a single sight being up kept or cared for.  Everywhere is neglected.  Fuck, I haven’t been there for one day.  One.  The other hand sink was so dirty it looked like a bus boy had puked it in.  There was no soap at that sink.  Mind you, I had to walk a solid 2 minutes to get to 2/2 no functioning sinks.  No big deal.  NBG. Its only me.

What have I done to deserve this?  If I was in prison, it would be cleaner.  And it might most likely be a more pleasant environment.

Good goddess I wish this was the end.  Only the beginning really of my day.  Remember, this is first 5 minute of the day.  The kitchen was a greasy snot ball of hell for the first hour.  After a fury of soap and anger, I checked the schedule.  Oh, I am working the hot line by myself, after no real training.  Also, was I warned?  Nope.  Last conversation with chef was that I should start learning the station.  So now I am on my own, with no warning, a station I hardly know, apparently in charge what comes out of the kitchen, a fucking messy ass kitchen, plus I have my pastry prep to do, put the order away, oh yeah there is a 100 person party tomorrow at noon.  Did I mention no warning of an extra aside from the party?  That at least I was informed about.  Carrot cake is good and fast, but goodness.  At the end of the shift, the chef was courteous enough to remind me that if I had cut the cake, I wouldn’t have to come in so early in the morning.  God damn, if only I had thought of that.

Its Tuesday.  Tuesdays are slow.  Its a chill day.  We started with a nice embarrassing 14 on the books.  But of course, since I was so ill prepared for the day we got shook.  Mini earth quake.  It was a smooth earthquake, but it could have been less exciting.

Oh, I think I am going to work 12 hours tomorrow.  NBD.

Outward beauty must always be considered

I wonder if I tried harder when I was younger to be pretty, how different would my life be now?  I worked hard my whole life, but the payoff is not there.  It doesn’t really matter, I make no money and am only relatively happy.  What if I put that much energy into beauty, feminism, socializing, and flirting?  Would I be married with a good looking and relatively successful husband?  Would we have children and move away?

I look at my skin, and its worn.  Its red and splotchy, its blue and looks like a permanent bruise.  My finger nails are raggedy, my manicure has been reduced down to a 4 finger paint job, my hands ashy.  You say, well at least you know how to cook, that goes a long way.  But it doesn’t really.  People eat out, people eat pasta and cereal and are content with that.  Who cares about a gourmet Paleo breakfast and dinner over having a successful partner that owns designer shoes, someone who can afford the time and money to get a massage, go to the gym, make salon appointments, drink high class wine, can go on vacation with you.

I can’t help but wonder how different things would be if I tried harder to be a female, instead of seeing self adornment as a waste of time.  I have been a beauty minimalist most my life, with the most time and money spent on outward appearance being currently.  I don’t see it as a waste or silly or unimportant or as a way to continually suppress the female by keeping her distracted.  I see it as power, as a way to dominate and gain respect, as a way to better oneself.

Spring Taste

Crème Fraiche Coffee Cake with blueberries and lemon glaze
Crème Fraiche Coffee Cake with blueberries and lemon glaze

The spring is not set so tight this year, it’s gotten loose and rusty from years of abuse and over anticipation.  It’s a slow start, still getting cold at a moments notice, bone chilling when the sun hides.  Scarves are still in full effect, slippers are a house standard, the bed is still weighed down with blankets.  Despite the rusty snap that has yet to scar away old man winter, I cannot contain my excitement to throw off my puffy winter jacket, sacrifice it to the fire pit, watch it burn in jubilation of light clothes treading.

Strawberry Shortcake, poppy seeds and whipped coconut cream
Strawberry Shortcake, poppy seeds and whipped coconut cream

Maybe it is too soon to think about berries and juicy fruit, airy mousses and food as light as the clouds, bright tastes and sunshine colors, but frankly that does not bother me.  I don’t want winter foods. Squash time is past time, pomegranates are winter’s whore. Pears are a long way off, let’s forget about the apple for the time being.  Maple is for later, and so it the brussel sprout.  So to begin the new growing season, the season of fun, outdoors, and social interaction, I made these things:

IMG_9863 (2)
Pistachio cake, tiramisu semifreddo, fresh raspberries
Coconut panna cotta, rhubarb compote, strawberry-rum granite, candied cocoa nibs
Coconut panna cotta, rhubarb compote, strawberry-rum granite, candied cocoa nibs
Cookie Plate, with honey caramel and peanut butter frosting
Cookie Plate, with honey caramel and peanut butter frosting

the lights are off, but everyone is home

I have been off work for a little over a month now, and I am still waiting to get bored.  I haven’t been doing much, socializing mostly with the family- trying to get as much time as I can with my new niece, getting to know my future sister in law, appeasing mums by having time for her, trying to get time to see my over worked and busy twin brothers.  I have seen a few friends, but I haven’t made too strong of an effort to reach out to acquaintance friends whom could be real friends if I made any sort of effort to hang out.  That is because I am still waiting for boredom, still waiting to get sick of sitting around, sleeping, exploring the internet, and cooking.  Also playing with the cat and keeping the house clean like a 1950’s housewife.  Not only is the house spotless, but I look good while doing my feminine chores.  Not because I am practicing being a perfect wife, its all for me.  I like the house clean, and I like to wear a matching nice pj-type outfit because it feels nice.

I still cannot even think about going to back to the grind, giving up my physical body and all my mental energy on a job where the pay is absolute crap and getting a good position is like getting a bullseye in darts.  I like playing darts, but if even hit the damn board I feel successful.  I have had a couple of offers, but I turned them down without a blink of the eye, before checking my bank account and realizing how much money I am losing on a daily basis by not having a paycheck.  Well its not that much, but that meager paycheck was a lot better than nothing.  But still, there is not enough motivation in this world presently to get me to even think about going back into the kitchen day after bleak day.  There is a job out there now that looks great, and I really should at least apply for it, but simply cannot.  I do not want to go back yet.  I want another month.  At least.  Like so many other people, I have worked and worked for a long time to get where I am today.  Which career wise is absolutely nowhere.  I have one of the worst jobs in America, and I worked very hard to get here.  My tires are stuck in the mud, and no amount of working for free or for the best restaurants, or constantly staging and looking for new opportunities has made one bit of difference. Maybe if the payoffs were better I would feel more equipped to start looking for a new master.

So no, I do not feel bad or lazy or a waste of space by staying home all day, minding my own simple business of keeping myself fed and keeping the house glorious.  Maybe after two months I will forget the hardships associated with my chosen career and be ready to begin afresh.  Maybe I will go into sales and find a whole new set of reasons to hate a job.  I want to love what I do, but its so hard when you don’t get breaks, can’t sit down, can’t use the cellphone to talk to your boyfriend that you never get to see cuz you are working nights and weekends, and get yelled at about how fucking terrible you are at mopping the floor.  I once had so much passion that it was fine to be treated like an immigrant without rights.  That passion has been reduced down so far that yes, I am thinking abut if about going into a sales position.  Fuck that girlish dream to never sell out, to help improve peoples lives in a way that I know how to, to follow my heart.  I have been close to giving up for a year now, and the time might just be ripe.  I don’t want to throw in the towel, but I guess nobody does.  And its not just the money, or lack of dignity that is causing this change, its physical. My body hurts, my back is fucked up, I need to see a doctor on a regular basis just to get healthy again.

I just don’t care.  No fucks given.  I should care about my rapidly diminishing funds, and be more frugal, but I don’t care.  I am doing whatever I want to do.  Nothing reckless like buying new cloths or going to the club, but if I want to stop at the bar for two drinks, or get a damn burrito, then fuck it.  I am not going to waste this precious precious vacation counting pennies.  I am been conservative and way too concerned about every damn dollar for way too long.  Its annoying to care so much.  I have reached the end of trying to be responsible and save and think about retirement or that proverbial rainy day.  The switch has been flipped, and for now, the lights are staying off.