Anniversaries – Day 31

Um, yeah, I had no clue…

I am going to end my challenge on a high note. A different note than what I was writing about earlier in the afternoon, which was kitchen hierarchy, where am I in said spot, where am I going, and the book Sous Chef. It was a good post, but I’m too close to the subject at hand right now that I need to take a step back and reevaluate my macro look at everything.

Today/yesterday as it is past midnight, is my one year anniversary with my restaurant/company. A year ago I walked through the doors of a building that was still being built and finished inside, met the five other individuals who would be my kitchen team. I met my first chef, I filled out paperwork and I found out that while I had applied for hostess, I instead found myself in the kitchen working with the chef.

Damn straight I am…. now just to go about doing it is another matter entirely…

Two of those coworkers are no longer with us and life is always perpetually changing. Even I have changed. A lot. I’m still to emotionally invested in this business. I’m still trying to micro manage things that even the first chef said I needed to stop doing. “K, you are going to burn yourself out if you keep this up!” he told me in January a week after I had quit because I couldn’t handle him any longer. But he was right. I still find myself caring so much that I over care in some ways. I take my work home with me a lot. Mentally.

A friend snapped this of me when I had no clue. Busy as a bee making a pizza

But a year ago I would have never thought I could be where I am today. Pastry chef and loving it and pizza chef and loving it. I love my boss, though I think he and I are a little too alike at times. I love most of the people I work with. And I just love my restaurant.

My life is too crazy to count and the holiday season is upon us. Gads, how can it be Thanksgiving in a day? But it’s here and here comes the crazy. I am excited for it. I think this winter will be much better than last. I hope. I pray.

This challenge was really really great for the most part. Tackling the Write 31 Days one last year. My life behind the swinging doors (and outside of them now) has definitely turned my life upside down. Last year all I wanted to be was a published author/poet. This year all I want is my desserts to wow.

I’m no supergirl…. but I can bake… that is a superpower

Okay, well I was actually quite satisfied with asking Coffeeman if he liked my lemon bars the way they were. “Yes. But they are kind of hard to eat in the car.” (I had sent one home with him last Sunday)

Damn straight. Thank you, sir!

Yeah, that praise and look in his eye from him was a compliment enough. I know when I’ve done my job. Being a pastry chef is pretty darn cool.

Signing off (of the challenge, not the blog)

Kate

Be Assertive – Day 30

“Katie, you need to be more assertive,” says my GM. “Walk around like a guy, like you have a big d—k and b—s.”

This comes after several weeks of being challenged within the kitchen. It didn’t matter how  or what I did, it was like I was dealing with another Lucifer. Actually, this person tends to treat me like Lucifer in ways regarding respect, meaning lack of, especially when no one is watching. Which…. well…. irks me. I am not some peon within my restaurant. I am not the inferior here. I’ve got some experience under my belt. And everyone deserves respect.

I am not an assertive person. Never have been. I am almost as girly as you can be, without being like a complete and total priss. I do get my hands dirty with this job. To be assertive as a woman, you have to be a take charge, don’t let the big boys push you around and have this ability to have authority roll off  of you.

I’m not exactly that person. As Mrs. B said, ‘you have never lived the life your GM has lived, and you probably won’t get jaded to life like more assertive people are.’ It is a fact. I don’t have kids, haven’t been married, haven’t dated a lot, so life hasn’t made me nearly as cynical as  most people are by the time they hit their late 30s. Not to mention I am 20 years behind my GM as far as life experiences go. Oh and the whole health issues which screw up my brain on a regular basis. <—-there’s a real confidence in me builder….

Heck, I go into  a one on one meeting with Coffeeman and GM nearly in tears….. pardon, I was falling apart. To the point where I am not sure I even got out everything I wanted to say. In fact, I know I didn’t say everything I had been rehearsing for two days with my parents. Stuttering, tripping over my words, worked up….I know what I did say got most of my point across. Basically, if you don’t fix this you are going to lose me because I am so frustrated I’m not sure I want to say with this job. I was back to crying before work and crying after. That was/is how frustrated I am. Granted, I cry because I am more sensitive, but this comes from sheer and utter frustration.

I am  a more sensitive person and a lot of things bother me. I am soft. I care about people; I care a lot about people. If they struggle, I am sympathetic or empathetic to their plight most of the time. If someone I really care about is not doing okay, then I really find myself chewing on it. There have been a couple of our servers who I keep my eye on because I care about them a whole heck of a lot and when they go through things, it bothers me. Makes me want to cry.

 

Okay, in general I am a watering pot.  That is how I show my passionate side, besides getting a glow and a sparkle, I tend to get teary. Compliment my dessert, you won’t see me trying to dab my eyes, but I will be.

I have got to learn to just walk away….

I will never be as assertive as my GM would like me to be, but you know what? These people I work with wouldn’t like me as much as they seem to if I wasn’t me. Maybe it’s good to be more soft in a lot of ways.  Life is a dance of opposites. Hard and soft, light and dark. I’m the soft. I’m the light. I’m the laughter. I’m the feminine.

Someone else can be the masculine and the assertive.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have the ability to be more assertive and such. That is something I am working towards. I need a backer who has my back when I request someone do something and that backer is the enforcer and makes sure what I say is done as well. I’m one of those ladies where if I had kids, I would need my husband to be my backer when I wanted those kiddos to do what I said. Basically, not that the backer is the only one making it happen, but giving me the authority that what I say is rule.

Right now I don’t feel like I have that backer completely…… I am hinting at someone.  I’m afraid he’s a little like me. Too subtle…  Hint hint. HINT. I need your support to be semi assertive.  I need to feel like I have authority of some sort, because I am working to that goal. Maybe I will never be in charge totally, but I do think I have skills to be directing traffic and managing. With and enforcer by my side…. Or back, or whatever. Help me help you, so that we both have help….I’m quoting Jerry McGuire there, sort of.

But be thankful I’m not an assertive lady. Trust me, you will like me much more as I am.

Now pardon me while I go hunt down a tissue…. just kidding

Kate

Being a Pastry Chef – Day 29

“Hey, T-Bear. Want some crack?” I ask tonight as service slows down a bit.

“Uh. Yes!” comes the expected response.

Out comes the six pan of lemon bar edges and such and the moans are heard around the kitchen.

When I say ‘crack,’ I don’t mean literal crack. Just like when I talk about cocaine clouds in my poetry. (which is just powdered sugar clouds from roulade cakes) I literally can blame all of this on Coffeeman.  Wednesday I was trimming down the edges of the lemon bars so they  were all pretty to plate and so of course I am not going to toss those edges. Into a pan they go and get passed around for anyone with a sweet tooth. (practically the entire kitchen)

Suddenly, an hour or two later, Chef is shoving the pan back at me and saying “get this crack away from me!”  Yes, it is that addictive and YES! I know I have done my job when Chef says this.  Let me blow on my nail and buff them on my jacket… Preen like a bird. Damn straight.

There are some serious perks to being able to call myself the pastry chef. Mind you, I am not classically trained. At all. Most of my baking has been rather haphazard over the years. The job was shoved at me because the first ‘chef’ decided he needed his wife to not be carting their 4 month old child around the kitchen. Don’t ask. Long story.

So job shoved at me, making boxed everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cakes and such and I am suddenly the  pastry chef.  But I digress way too far down that rabbithole.

So, perks to being pastry chef.

  1. Sugar.  I mean, come on, everything is sweet. How can you go wrong?
  2. Sliding sweet things over to your coworkers as you bake. It is seriously fun to be chopping a block of chocolate and shards get passed over to this person or that person.
  3. Seeing the look of ‘moaning’ delight on anyone’s face when they taste something good.
  4. Do you know how delightful it is to tell a guy you are the pastry chef and see this insta-perked up look of fascination? Um, yeah, there is serious power in that. I say that to a guy, not to mention pizza chef and whatnot, but serious interest is suddenly there. Why just a week and a half ago as the kitchen was filled with all of us on a off day to prep, here comes a very seriously cute/handsome/adorable new FedEx delivery guy and the look on his face as I went to sign his tablet but had to stop because I was chopping a big ole block of chocolate and had it on my hands. Power. There is serious power in being a pastry chef.
  5. Sending out good things to friends who come in……
  6. Handing out spoons for people to sample chocolate mousse, lemon bars, creme brulee, apple pear cranberry crisp (today I treated our hostess to a delightful bit) Ah yes, again it’s power… Good power. The power to create happiness.
  7. Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Come on, no one can be in a bad mood after desserts.
  8. Your hair, skin, clothes smell like vanilla and cinnamon and sugar cookie dough, and almond, and yumminess. I have taken showers after baking and the scent that wafts off of me as the hot water hits my hair is literally what I was baking and the essence of whatever was baking in the oven.
  9. Power.
  10. Did I mention power? It’s a really sexy power.

So, yeah, I stress a lot about screwing up desserts. I mean, my lemon bars were too wet this time around, needing to have baked them a hair longer, and that roulade cake through the summer, but there are some amazing perks to this job.

Kate

Behind the Scenes Prep – Day 28

Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

“If you don’t do your prep you don’t have a kitchen.” Wise words from Mrs. B tonight, as I discussed who was good on prep and who wasn’t.  We all do prep. Well, most of us do. There are a few that don’t do as much as others, and some who refused to do prep, and a few now who run around like a chicken with their heads cut off saying they have so much prep but not doing their prep……but we’ve all done some prep.

I got my start in this job as a prep chef. I worked the pantry (salads and such), but most of my day was prep work. Back prep work. I have done a lot of cutting, sous vide, sauces, baking, etc. All I did at the beginning was prep. And walkin duty.

You have to have your prep to have a fluid, well oiled kitchen. In my restaurant, just about everything is made in house. There are a few things here and there that are not, but these days, thanks to Coffeeman and his love of all things house made, we house make everything. The only thing right now we don’t do is bake our own bread (though the focaccia went through the summer just until the menu switch){and to do that we need a full time baker and another kitchen practically} .  Everything else we do.

Stocks, dressings, soups, sauces, dicing, slicing, cutting, grating, zesting, baking, rolling, forming, stuffing, shredding, and the list goes on. I come in every day and the first thing I do after I clock on is to check our white board for what needs doing. Our prep lists are usually pretty thin these days when I get in because the kitchen is so organized I don’t find myself bogged down with prep that wasn’t done in the day, because, shock of all shocks, Coffeeman is right in the thick of things with prep. He does so much prep work. He doesn’t stand around BS-ing  and saying “Oh I have so much to do!” but then not doing it. He actually does it! (unlike a few previous employees, and a few previous ‘chefs’) That man works so hard.  And we all do prep.

“We are all dishwashers, bakers, prep chefs, etc.” Coffeeman always says. He’s right. While I’m not the dishwasher, I do find myself doing dishes when we are busy, or now when I am alone in the kitchen on my days of baking. We all do a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Tonight (this is several days after I started this post….[come on K, get your but in gear and finish these GD month of day posts!]) Chef sent our dishwasher home early so he could catch a break and the kitchen was left to William, T-Bear, and me. So while T-Bear went on lunch, I cleaned up the back prep area and found myself running silverware and dishes through the dishwasher. I don’t mind it. Why should I?  The job has to be done, be it mopping floors (which I did) to making a pizza (which I also did). It’s all about running a smooth kitchen.

Prep may be boring to some, but without it, you cannot have a functioning restaurant. Astro D has moved to days and is in the thick of prep, and he loves it. I love coming in and hearing what he did during the day. He’s getting to make soup! And he’s thrilled. And I’m thrilled because I come in to work and I don’t have prep waiting to be done. It’s done so I can tackle things that are for what I do. Like making sure my station is all set up. Now if only I could remember to actually finish…. I forgot to check some things tonight. Whoops.

It’s this giant clockwork of a machine. And prep work is one of the largest cogs in this wheel of a clock of a restaurant. (hey, that would be a cool start to a poem)

Kate

Everything Changes – Day 27

So yeah, I didn’t actually complete the Write 31 Days in a 31 day period… sue me.  Busy, tired, busy, tired, I could repeat….  And I can’t quite remember what Twin Ponygirl said for title, but I’ll give her the credit for this. So any comment made to this post, she get’s 50 cents royalties…

Lemon Bars Photo by Dana DeVolk on Unsplash

Literally, everything changes, from coworkers to menus, the restaurant business is ever evolving. Months ago I wrote how Miss Holly and I hated change, and for the most part, it’s true, but honestly, I am excited for the new changes to the menu. The other day as a bunch of us were prepping on a closed day, Coffeeman asked how we were all feeling. I wasn’t sure if it was in general because we all put in a long day, or because of the new menu. For me, I am feeling quite excited about the new menu. Yeah, there is a lot of prep. It’s an ambitious menu, to me at least. But it’s a good and exciting change.

I didn’t get what Coffeeman was blathering on about a week and a half ago about being bored with the summer menu… Then I started thinking about it. Like that night I went home and was totally in agreement. I was bored with the menu. I needed a change. I needed something different to challenge my mind. My creativity. My passion.

I’m always passionate about what I’m doing, which is why it takes me a bit longer to make things because I want them to be perfect-ish. But even I was feeling like the menu was mundane at times. It needed something to spice it up. It needed to embrace fall. Lots of fall, even if there are only 54 days till Christmas… (yeah, I killed you there, didn’t I?) I need dark flavors and spices. I want rich and heavy. It’s gorgeous fall weather  as I look out to a blue sky and this rust colored oak tree. I mean, it is absolutely gorgeous! So I want flavors that embrace that.

Oh the cranberries, port, orange, lemon, and cinnamon are a simmering. Gorgeous sight…

I am excited Chef decided to use my cranberry-port sauce for the lemon bars. My sauce!  Okay, well I did find the recipe and tweak it.  And the other day he asked where my recipe was for the lemon bars. “What recipe, you are the chef, aren’t you supposed to have it?” I asked

“You’re the pastry chef! Where’s yours?!” he countered.

Damn straight. I am the pastry chef. Where was mine?  I have to tweak it a bit working with a much larger pan than a 9 by 13!  But it’s good and I have plans.

Fall is bound to be exciting, and changes are forever happening. I’m learning to roll with them. Sometimes.

Kate