Catching Up

I have been a tad MIA for almost a month. After my last fiction piece, March became very interesting. Mr. “Mama calm down” guy ended up not working out, phew, so I never had to pull a Hela on him. Again, sigh of relief. But life got very busy. Work has been so busy.

But first, lets talk fun things. I have been writing some poetry for my Instagram account. I have a separate account that I post just poetry and snippets of poetry. One account I follow puts out prompts and I have been inspired. So I have had four or five poems that have come from the prompts and one or two others from just the inspiration. It’s felt really good to be writing again after a mid winter freeze that came after pouring out my heart in November and early December.

So I am going to include some of them right now. Since I don’t think I plan to publish any of these…

The first two images are one poem combined, the rest are all their own. Little things that are fun, meaningful, light. A little bit of everything. I have one poem that I started about my name as I am known as K at work. Well, I introduced myself to someone with my whole name. It was a weird and luxurious feeling. Almost kind of sexy. To a guy nonetheless, not that it went anywhere with said guy. But it was the principle of the thing.

I’m trying to stay motivated to write. It helps that I am making an effort to read it more and listen to it more. I am more inclined to write poetry if I listen to it. For those interested, you can follow my poetry Instagram account at k.andb.poetry

Now onto life. Chaos perpetuates. I sit here writing with nine fingers as last Sunday night I managed to slice off the tip of my left index finger. I looked up while slicing something, and part of my finger went with it. Shivers. Bleeding ensued, panicking boss, a super busy Sunday…. it could have been worse, it could have been better… Life goes on. My finger is much better and I have most of my nail, but it’s going to be a bit different for a while. And because of what I did, I was unable to continue working the same at work. Instead of crazy busy pizza line, I was in the back tackling prep, desserts, and *drum roll* working on expoing. So, what is expoing?

Expo or expoing
The Expo Station is the station between the line and dining room. Whoever works this station, whether it’s the chef, sous, or a front of house manager, is the expo. They call your tickets, garnish your plates, and, if the plating is complicated, plate the food.

https://www.browardpalmbeach.com/restaurants/kitchen-slang-top-ten-words-youll-hear-behind-the-line-6391915

So for the last three days I have been doing this. Expoing is short for Expediter. Though not quite as particular as actually plating things. I do garnish and sauce a lot of things. I know what goes with the dishes, so I am getting things ready as Jersey Boy and Will Turner are plating. Astro D got stuck doing doubles all week on pizza. But for once, I was so unstressed that I feel like I’m getting a mini vacation even though I’m working. And I expoed way back three years ago when I was working with Wildflower and Lucifer and our first chef. I loved it then even with the bullshit that was going on with the three of them. Jersey Boy is much easier to expo for than I thought. Plus I also dash around getting things for the line and pizza. Plating desserts, hunting down our GM and getting answers. As much as I love pizza, I love expediting almost more. Partly because I am liking less stress. A whole heck a lot. Personally, I wouldn’t mind being off pizza for another week at least. My only other wish is that I had had a chance to expo for Coffeeman.

And lastly, I am taking the managers food safety course in less than a month. I want to have the licence and knowledge for future job performance. I’m excited as I have wanted to know this for a while. I won’t be able to be in pizza forever. I’m almost 4-0…. gads, I’m almost 40! So I won’t be ultimate pizza girl forever, but who knows what the future holds.

So enjoy the poetry. And the update.

Kate

Calm Down, Mama – Chef Fiction

This last week led to a new guy in the kitchen learning the ropes. But one little irksome thing kept happening to the point where I let it slide then, but won’t now. I do not need a guy telling me to quit yelling when I am just showing him the basics and my voice is normal level. Trust me, he was not doing it to the guys in back. And it started pissing me off. If it happens again this week, well, I’m going to pull a Hela on him.   Pardon the F-word in here a couple times. It’s the only way to express it. 

“Here, like this,” Hela said, showing the new guy how she wanted the pasta coated in sauce. “Then add a dab of butter, a bit of salt and pepper, and finish with the chili flake.”

“Okay, mama, no need to yell. I got this,” Sean soothed as if trying to calm down a child.

Immediately Hela slammed the saute pan down on the burner. Dima, who was watching Hela teach, glanced down at the smaller man and arched a brow. All around, the other stations got deathly quiet, everyone staring, while Gerrit eyed the situation from the other side of the pass. A ticket printed on a machine, but no one reached to grab it.

Hela pulled herself up to her full five feet three inches and stared coldly at Sean. “I highly suggest you refrain from telling me to not yell when I am talking to you calmly. I let it slide last week cause you were the new guy, but I can bet that you have not said the same thing to any of the guys. Do not do it again.” Her voice had dropped lower with each word till even Dima was backing away, shaking his head sadly at the new guy. Hela loud was one thing, but Hela quiet was a nightmare dressed like a daydream.

Sean put up his hands and backed up on step. “Okay, mama, calm down, I was just kidding.”

Hela’s eyes went wide and Dina flinched behind Sean. Oh, the little man didn’t stand a chance.

“Get off my line,” she growled. He didn’t move. Hela stepped into his face, his height and hers identical. “Get off my fucking line!”

When the man still didn’t move, like a wind up toy, everyone moved into action. Dima stepped around Sean and slid between him and Hela. Dina gave Sean a nudge backwards and there was Marcus, clapping his hand over the man’s shoulder to drag him off the line. Gerrit jerked a finger at Marcus and like a firing squad, the three men marched back to the Chef’s office.

Dina reached down and dinged the bell in Carlos’ code before glancing a Hela. She was practically vibrating, the anger dripping off of her in waves of heat. Her face had gone brick red and he could see her eyes were going glossy with unshed tears.

Carlos banged in through the swinging doors his mouth open to ask what.

“I need a Hela bitters and soda and a separate orange juice now,” he ordered, then seeing as Hela started to crumble, pulled her into his long frame and he felt her sigh. Carlos was out the door in a flash, banging them as he slammed through. “Boys, watch the line, do not fuck it up. I’ll be back in a second.”

Dina turned Hela towards the walk-in and marched her inside. They could hear muffled yelling coming from the office that faded as the door closed behind them. Hela stood there willing the tears to fade.

“Hela, breathe,” Dina ordered softly. She took a shuddering breath in. “And again.” She did as was told and he saw the semi relief hit her, along with the cold air. Her flushed cheeks faded a bit. “Stay here, I have to go finish that ticket.” He looked at her sternly and she nodded.

Dina slipped out the door and glanced back at the office to see Sean slamming out and ripping off his apron. The apron was wadded and tossed into the dirty towels bag before he slammed out of the door into the late afternoon sunlight. Marcus and Gerrit followed at a more sedate pace.

“Another one bites the dust,” Dina noted and hurried toward the line calling over his shoulder, “she’s in the walk-in. Carlos is getting orange juice for her.”

Marcus headed towards the doors and caught the drinks just as Carlos stepped back through with the two glasses. “I got her,” he said calmly. “You get the line,” he said to Gerrit.

“You sure?” Gerrit, while having figured Hela out, was still a little unsure how to handle her like this. This was the first time he’d even seen her yell.

“I am. You can talk to her later.” Marcus opened the walk-in and saw Hela organizing. “Come on babe, outside.” He handed her the orange juice first and let her proceed him out the door into the sun. She downed the juice and he handed her the second glass. She sipped it through the straw.

“Better?”

She nodded. “Thank you, Marcus.”

“Anytime. Are you going to be able to finish the line?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Finish your soda, and head back in. I’ll take over till you come back.”

Hela nodded again.

“Oh and the new guy,” Marcus said poking his head back out the door, “he’s gone.” He made a finished sign with his hand and slipped back inside.

 

One can dream the idiots are swiftly removed from the mix. Miss Holly, do not go repeating this. I’ll deal with said idiot this week. As Toni says(one of our ladies), “girl, you’re evil”….. I’ll deal with the little boys, the idiot men of my life. As Twin Bear used to say, “I am a strong, independent woman, who don’t need no help from any guy.” Damn straight.

Kate

 

Booze, Nooky, Hades, and an Existential Crisis

It’s a metaphor. Well, the Hades part is. Maybe.

I didn’t fall asleep till after 4:30 in the morning just the other day. I was listening to music on my mp3 player, trying to fall asleep, when a song by Lauv came on. There wasn’t anything special about the song, but Lauv was introduced to me by my coworker Alex. Suddenly I’m thinking about him, which one thing after another led me to a memory of Lucifer and Wildflower that left me reeling. There, in the wee hours of the morning my heart is racing and I’m remembering slamming out of the kitchen so mad and frustrated that I finally burst into tears outside. I had other coworkers come to find out if I was ok, a manager, a general manager, and finally my big boss and owner of the restaurant. To the point where I was asked if I needed someone to talk to Lucifer. This memory still pisses me off, and I was laying there seconds away from texting Coffeeman, because I was freaking out….. two plus years after it happened. It happened in 2018…. Time has passed, so why does this still get to me?

“What is it about this job that lends itself to freak out moments?” I write later on the whiteboard at work. “From dreams that leave you tossing and turning, to middle of the night panic attacks.” This comes after finding out Astro D has spent the night with wild dreams as well. (mine were panic inducing, to some point) This writing on the whiteboard leaves both Jersey Boy and New York Babe (our bar manager) stumped. “I’m having an existential crisis,” is all I tell Jersey Boy who shakes his head and wanders off. Trust me, he could not handle a K having an existential crisis.

This made my mind go in so many directions

A month ago I was talking to Scarlett St. Clair about a line she wrote for her upcoming novel, A Game of Malice, and her character of Hades, god of the Underworld.

Scarlett: He’s pretty intense right now. LOL
Me: he’s got a lot going on right now. Sometimes this is all that eases the stress…

Long ago TomCat ended a particularly brutal night with the statement, “I need a shower and sex.” I laughed at the time, but later on as I became more and more responsible for bigger things, I started understanding this line. And I used it on Scarlett to explain Hades intensity.

“In my world, it’s like the perfect stress reducer,” I tell her. “…And it actually works… not that I dabble in much more than showers these days…… The adrenaline runs high even after hours of work, so trying to wind down is killer. Hence why I am a serious night owl. Chefs turn to drugs, alcohol, and sex to wind down. It’s funny in the gloss over version, but it’s actually a much deeper issue under the surface. Hades actually personifies a lot of the inner stress and depression that exists in this world. Part of the reason I love him. It’s also why we have sick, twisted, and sex related jokes.”

“Hades is definitely a good metaphor for that,” she replies. “How insane, I had no idea honestly.”

The cooking/chef world is unlike any I thought I would ever join. ( See Note at the bottom of this post) And there is the strangest amount of adrenaline that comes from being in it. New Year’s Eve had me making pizza till 1am, then having to clean up and close down. While I went into work later than usual, I still had all this prep to do, a service time where I was busy with making more pizzas, then winding down for two hours, to start it all up again. I didn’t get to sleep till 5am on New Year’s Day. The adrenaline kept me wired for hours. It is so hard to just let it all drop out of your system. And a crutch of alcohol, or drugs, or sex, is like the only thing that kind of kills all the mental crap going on. I do not dabble in much more than alcohol, but usually at a controlled rate. I don’t like hangovers, and I have to be careful. But to feel pleasantly buzzed after a chaotic night is relaxing.

Sex takes a massive edge off. Probably because it is its own form of a high. Ironically, all the things I mention are also all highly addictive. So is the adrenaline of a service rush. You want to talk let down, have a quiet night when you were expecting busy. New years….. I was running on such a high. From getting glammed up, to having a bunch of fun orders and the speed of getting them done before midnight, then fireworks. I was on cloud 9 till suddenly I mentally crashed and groaned at the smeared eyeliner and mascara.

Most people I talk to do not have a clue about the world I am in. I don’t expect them too, but it can be an insane world. One of the reasons I love Scarlett’s character of Hades is he is a metaphor. His scenes are incredibly appealing to me, especially the vulnerable ones, because he has his highs and lows and frustrations. He doesn’t sleep well. He is up at all times of the night. He’s addicted to whiskey. He’s addicted to Persephone and sex… Not that that’s a bad thing with her, but he is addicted.

I know chefs that go to bed at 3am and are up by 8am. Burnt out is an understatement of what is going on with them. We all get burnt out at some point. Right now I am exhausted. An instagrammer I follow was asking how my new year was going and I said I was trying to be more mindful and healthy, but I am 3/4 of the time exhausted. Cut back hours and I am more tired than when I was working a 40 hour week. There is a lot of mental instability right now with shut downs, and take out, and attempting to maintain products with no pattern to sales.

And this is why even though I am not the executive chef, I have middle of the night panic attacks. I was panicking before work today because I forgot to let Astro D know that we had blown through a specific weight in dough. The two of us are pizza first and foremost, so that is where we back and forth problems. The oven was being a bitch today. The dough was needing to be rerolled. The dough was over proofing. It was too big. And so on.

Existential crisis might be hyperbole, but at the same time, here it is 3:30 am and I’m drinking wine in bed while I write this. Mulled, but wine nonetheless.

Maybe I am Hades….

(Scarlett said I was when I showed her my glass of whiskey at 3am a few weeks ago)

Kate

Note:  I recently started following Culinary Love, a platform for discussion about the culinary world. From taking care of our cooks to discussing the hard things like depression and addiction. I haven’t delved into the whole blog, but I follow one of the chefs who was part creator. I highly recommend checking it out if you are interested in finding out more about methods to dealing with depression, and if you are a non service industry person, a good resource for finding out some of what our world is like.

Click the image below to take you directly to Culinary Love . Or click the link right there.

 

Chaos, Panic Attacks and Memories

The notebook of memories

I was flipping through a notebook I started early on when working at my restaurant. I found it in a stack of things I was going through. I’m not sure why I stopped writing in it other than for the reason of insane frustration that started being recorded in another book titled ‘Night Shift Notes’. My nights have never been that crazy, but if something of note comes along that is important, I record it.

There were some absolutely lovely and funny moments I wrote down in this glittery notebook, and I honestly need to pick it up again.

This is from July 2018:
“The days are calmer with less stress on everyone, so it seems. Nickelle is still a nutcase and is having too many issues, so she freaks out, and doesn’t know what the fat she is doing most of the time. Poor Chef is like at his wits end with her.

I can do the tart dough just fine. The roulade cake alludes me still.”

Ah Nickelle, she was an interesting one. And Coffeeman came into a world of crazy at the beginning. Her, Lucifer, Wildflower. These were the days before Will Turner and me up on pizza. I was a lowly prep chef. Tackling desserts, but the gopher. Golden Oldie has moved up to pantry, out of dish, and now he’s the new gopher. I don’t envy his job. Laughing.

Here’s another gem from July 2018:
“But I must go back to Saturday. Dinner service was starting and Chef, Twin C, and I were busy with Sunday Prep. I think NY Lady (she is our everything manager) was in and out. Then Lucifer called for all of his squirt bottles to be filled and he was impatient and I was rushing to try and fill them. One I started filling with white wine vinegar instead of white wine and the Chef had to stop me, thank goodness. But Lucifer was super impatient and went and got a bottle himself. Then I went to fill his saffron bottle and said I had to go get the saffron on Chef’s desk, and Lucifer snapped at me that it just needed Hot water!
I went back to the prep sing and slammed the top on the sink and must have let out an exasperated sigh because Chef turned to me and told me to tell him “mise en place!”
“What?”
“Take the bottle back to him and say ‘The Chef says mise en place mother f*cker!”
“I can’t say that to him.”
“Yes you can.”
“But he’ll come back at me.”
“No he won’t. Fill the bottle and I’ll be right behind you.”

So I fill the bottle and walk back up to Lucifer and present it with both hands and say, “Lucifer, Chef says mise en place, mother f*cker.” Lucifer looks at me, then glances behind me and says, “Yes Chef.”

And that was that. I didn’t know till later that Coffeeman had stood behind me crossing his arms where his favorite statement “Mise En Place” is tattooed across both arms so they connect when he crosses his arms. ”

To this day, we still all remind each other to “mise en place!” It’s probably the highlight of one of my memories of working with Coffeeman. I may have talked about it in the past, but I can’t remember. I’m just glad I wrote it down.

Those first months were probably the best time of my job, though this last year’s July and August with Coffeeman on pizza were a dream.

Photo by Jesson Mata on Unsplash

For some reason all of these memories had me remembering my panic attacks that were happening later that year when suddenly I went from being behind the scenes to being out in front. And just the overwhelming feeling of not getting it all done in time. I had a sugar crash yesterday while making lunch, and I’m freaking out because my brain is on zero function, and I’m thinking “Gosh, I do this all the time with the added stress of not being able to get something to eat because I have ten tickets up on my board.” I needed my Hostess Extraordinaire with her glass of Pepsi for me!

I miss work like crazy right now. I have not accomplished half of what I wanted while home, but I’ve got a start. If I could just not collect books…. as I consider ordering a couple I wish I had right now. I need help people.

These are just some musings from pulling out a notebook. I have some good poetry to type up here too, I just haven’t taken the time to post it.

Whoops, I went back and started reading other posts about work. They all make me smile a little ruefully, tear up a little cause I still miss Coffeeman too much, and roll my eyes at myself. At least I can laugh at myself.

Kate

Someone New – Fiction

Another foray into my fictional kitchen. I had a break in an idea for my fiction, with ‘Her’ meeting  someone new after Micha’s off on sabbatical. I watched this new Alaska PD show and one of the police officers was like the perfect model. Good name too. So boom! Fiction! I always get excited when something new comes to my head and I can actually write. I have missed fiction. Oh, and I finally settled on a name for said “Her”. I’m going with Hela, like short for Helene, but she goes by ‘H’…. Just like I go by ‘K’ in the kitchen.  Hope you all enjoy. It’s a lot of dialogue, so forgive me.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

“H, there’s someone out at the bar asking for you,” Carlo opened one of the swinging doors to where Hela stood at the pass checking over the day’s menu choice.

“Hmm? Who is it, Carlo?” She asked distracted as she frowned at the mushroom selection. They were decidedly low on matsutakes.

“He didn’t say. You want me to tell him you’re busy?

Hela looked up. “What? Oh, no. Hang on a sec.” She crossed off the mushrooms and added shiitakes. “Bobby, we’re switching to shiitakes tonight. Could you make sure they are prepped? I’ll have Justine change the menu.”

“Sure thing, H,” her lead line chef called.

She was texting Justin about the menu switch as she stepped out the doors towards the bar and it wasn’t till she was near the shadow she’d seen in her peripheral that she looked up as a throat cleared. Blue eyes, filled with an incredible amount of amusement, had her catching her breath. The sharp intake of air and the breathy sigh she barely let out, had the corners of his eyes crinkling just a tad more.

“I’m Hela,” she murmured, extending her hand while she slipped her phone into the front pocket of her jacket.

“Gerrit,” the man replied, his voice tinged with just enough masculine gravel. His warm palm engulfed hers and she felt an electrical tingle all the way to her shoulder.

“How may I help you?” She was tempted to tug her hand from his grasp when he didn’t release her hand, but the electricity was humming across her back and up into her hairline. The feeling was delicious and made her want to stretch and arch like a cat in the sun.

“I was told I needed to meet the famous sous chef from Tableside,” his enigmatic response had her cocking her head to the side. She arched a brow.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say famous,” she argued and nearly groaned in disappointment when he released her hand.

“I suppose that is opinion based.”

She hummed a non-committal answer. “Are you from the area?” she asked.

“No, just relocated here for a job. A colleague suggested I stop in and see some of the amazing selections on the menu.”

“Oh, well thank you. Most of the menu is from my chef, but I have a few of my own.”

“And is your chef here as well?”

Hela stared at him, Something he’d said tickled the corners of her mind at the question’s strangeness, but she couldn’t form it into anything concrete. 

“No, he isn’t. I’m actually interim chef as he is on sabbatical and I’m waiting to meet my new chef for the next year.”

“Ah. When does that person arrive?”

“Any day now. No specifics have hit my ears yet. Chef, Micha Grant, said he’d let me know when the new chef was set to come in.” Hela said this as if it was just an everyday occurrence, but inwardly she cringed at the thought. Micha had told her she’d like his replacement, yet he’d been so vague about it all, Hela was apt to be rather apprehensive. She remembered too vividly Lucas and all the hell he’d put her through before Micha had fixed everything.

“Well, I’ll have to come in when the change happens,” Gerrit mused. “Though I would love to try one of your dishes if possible.” 

“Quite,” Hela said warmly. She grabbed on of the menus by Carlo’s computer and handed it to Gerrit. “The coconut curry is a specialty of mine,” she said pointing to one of the items, “but then there is breakfast salad with oven roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, or the zucchini involtini,  or a simple pasta aglio e olio.” She rattled off the three other items Micha had let her put on the menu. She was secretly hoping Gerrit would order the pasta aglio as it was her signature dish. Simple in it’s execution, it had been one of the first dishes Micha had taught her to saute properly. It was still her favorite dish to make.

“Oh, you had me at curry,” Gerrit interrupted her thought. 

“Very good. Carlo, send it through. Gerrit, it was a pleasure to meet you. Any special requests on the curry?”

“No. Surprise me.” He held out his hand for her to shak and the grip was just as warm and inviting as before. “And Hela?”

“Hmm?”

“It’s been a pleasure as well. I look forward to bumping into you again.” His eyes twinkled like he knew a secret.

“Mm. Yes.”

Hela couldn’t resist looking back at Gerrit as she headed back to cook the dish. He was watching her, a slight smile on his lips as he rested a palm over his neatly trimmed short box beard. A finger rested on his mouth and her breath hitched again  as he caught her  gaze with his and grinned again. She nearly burst into giggles as she fled to the kitchen flustered all to heck.

 

Hope you all enjoyed.

Kate

Musings on Missing a Friend

https://unsplash.com/photos/EZhGqvcWqiw

I miss my friend a lot these days. Random days where I want to ask how to make something, or what technique I need to learn.  Or when I just want to check in to see how he’s doing. Nothing much, or something much. I miss him most when I have a vivid dream where I can actually talk to him and he’s what I remember. Vivid dreams that I wake up and wish parts of it were true; so true or real; that it hurts.

Today was one of those days where I missed Coffeeman so much it was an ache inside. I wanted to cry, I wanted to fall apart on the line, I wanted to walk in back and have him ask if I was okay. I wanted the old to be there. I wanted the fist bump at the end of the night. I wanted the hug I might get if it had been a strenuous week. I wanted to see my friend.

There has been so much conflict and chaos in the last few months and I struggle with how to pull myself out of this pit of despair. Okay, it’s not that dramatic, but I am writing this at after 2 in the morning letting myself cry a little. The one in the shower wasn’t enough.

58 pizzas was busy for early January

Today was a busy day. And as I snapped a picture of the tickets stabbed on their nail, I posted it hoping Coffeeman would see, which he did, and he asked if it was so. It was a super busy day. And I had had the craziest, vivid dreams the night before where a conversation we had had before I went to bed, happened in the dream. It was so weirdly real, so gut wrenching bold in my dream that I found myself mentioning it to Ms. Godsend (aka, our front of house manager, whom I love to pieces and could not do this job without) who thought it was weirdly strange too. I won’t go into detail because it doesn’t matter.

So there I was on the line at random moments so very very happy for Coffeeman as he’s almost ready to have his new restaurant open (he’s the exec chef, doesn’t own it). I am so happy for him because I hope it works and he’s happy in his new job closer to home. But I am horribly envious that others get to work for him. Why couldn’t it have been us? I know the reason why, and I know that the two of us had our weird moments. But that doesn’t still make me not wish things had never changed.

In my time within the cooking world, I have learned that everyone has their Chef. The one chef that stood out to them. The one they talk about as theirs. Capitol letters and the pride gracing their voice when they talk about whomever it is. Coffeeman is my Chef. I will never refer to anyone else with that stigma. I may work for others, but he is the first one who has meant the world to me. As I tell anyone who will listen, for all his faults, there isn’t a thing we wouldn’t have done for the man. Oh sure, we challenged him, and even his authority, to some degree. But I would have done anything for him. He was pretty much the ‘Jump!”…. “how high, Chef.” It’s funny how you don’t realize that until they’re gone.

I go through small periods of time where I don’t muse on missing him too much. Thankfully we ‘talk’ all the time. Just little snippets of texts that help or vent or update. I don’t think I could exist without a random comment or conversation weekly. Or daily. Yeah, the man is busy. All the time. I worry that I might bother him too much here and there, but hey, he pays attention to my life, and I to his. So that means something, right?

I can count on one hand the close friends I have. I am not someone that has gobs of friends. I have that weird middle ground where there isn’t a word for acquaintance/friend. That in between stage. I know you more than just here and there, but we don’t hang out and you definitely don’t know the inner side of me. I classify these friends as family. You will get a card at Christmas, or a random one in the mail, with a letter. I write letters to those I love. I don’t just do it for the heck of it. So if something random shows up in the mail for you, be it letter, package, etc, it’s because I view you as more than that weird middle ground. You mean a hella lot to me.

And while he probably won’t read this like he used to during the Lucifer days….. I miss you like hell, Coffeeman.

Kate

What Shall We Downsize – Kitchen Fiction

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

It was the middle of the morning and the prep chefs  were  all chopping, mixing and making the general things ready for the night. She had her clipboard in hand as she went over her order for the day. The produce was due in and she needed to get her fish order settled. Sue and Riley were working on short crust dough. She shook her head as  she watched the young man go too heavy on mixing things with his hands causing a cascade of flour to poof out over the counter. She nearly laughed when Sue sighed loudly.

“Breathe, Sue,” she interjected as she walked by coffee cup in hand.  She heard Sue make a rude remark at her back and Riley apologizing profusely as he was prone to do.

“You’re doing fine, Riley,” she called behind her as she headed to the other side of the prep area to hunt down someone to enlist to help her. The order could wait an hour. She needed to do something that felt like she was accomplishing something.

She spied someone who was wiping down his station. Perfect. She nearly purred in satisfaction.

“Carlos!” she barked. The man looked up with a jerk. “What are you doing?”

He looked like a deer in the headlights. Even better.

“Uh, I was gonna start —”

“Nope. You’re gonna help me. You’ve just been promoted to help me organize the walk in!” she singsonged as she caught the sleeve of his chef’s jacket as he tried to slip past her.

Around her the snickers were audible enough for her to arch a brow at the various owners of the sounds. “Be careful, boys. One of you will end up next in line to help me.”

The complete silence was deafening. She turned back towards the first walkin pulling Carlos behind her. “Come along. It won’t take too long.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he sighed and followed her.

She pulled out her phone and tuned to her current favorite Pandora station. Dolly Parton singing about someone walking back into her life. It was her new anthem to listen to when she felt lost in the shuffle. Into a 9-pan went the phone to echo out in tinny fashion, the upbeat 70s tune.

She started pulling Cambros off the shelf, things half empty or out dated, handing them to Carlos to put on the prep table outside the refridgerated box. She made faces at things that went bad, gingerly handed off non labeled deli quarts and pints, sloshing containers.

“Out out out!” she was rolling her eyes at a 15 qt. Cambro that had about two quarts in the bottom of it. “Who keeps leaving Cambros mostly empty in here?” she yelled out the door knowing full well none of the people out there would answer. She was guilty of it a few times when in a hurry, but this was getting out of hand.

By the time she had just the containers out, half the walk-in was already done. She shook her head as she grabbed a painters tape roll and started rewriting labels to the newly downsized smaller cambros that Carlos was putting things into. Army, their new dishwasher was busy spraying down the empties and stacking them to go into the industrial dishwasher that was humming away.

New tape went onto the smaller containers with the updated date, she had Carlos load them back in the walk-in while she figured out what prep needed to be done now that amounts were diminished.

“Now what?” Carlos questioned as the door closed with a sucking airtight sound. 

“You. Bucket. Sani water. Scrub.” She grinned as he made a face. “Hey, I’m now on to downsizing the produce. You’ll live.”

She began by grabbing her clipboard, then began a systematic approach to the disorder of the fruits and vegetables. Sue and her were belting out a Crystal Gayle song as the guys in the kitchen rolled their eyes at the two women.  Root vegetables into like bins, she trimmed up carrots that were getting mouldy, apples with spots were put into a bin to be made into sauce.  The herbs were tidied, the citrus sorted and downsized. By the time she was done with the produce, she knew what she needed to order and Carlos had the walk-in walls and floor sparkling bright and smelling clean. 

“Much better. Now, onward to the meats and dairy,” she directed to the next walk-in. Carlos’s shoulders had a slightly defeated look, but she just ignored him. “Give me a quick count on the fish and what seafood we have while I make the produce order. Then we’ll tackle the rest of it together.”

She walked off, pulling out her phone  as Carlos headed towards meats. She grinned at the text from Micha asking how the day was going. She shot back a thumbs up and a couple pictures of the organized walk-in. She was dialing the produce number when she overheard one of the line cooks mocking Carlos being girl whipped. 

She paused and looked up to see George leaning in to another line cook, Kyle. “You two have just volunteered yourselves to go organize and clean all the dry storage. I want it all labeled and the shelves clean within the next hour.”

When they didn’t move she arched a brow. “Did I stutter?”

“No,” came the group answer.  

“Good, then hustle.”

Her quick text with a thumbs down and a frowny face went off to Micha. So close. She was so close to not getting so much pushback from the boys. Well, there would be other days. At least she could delight in a cleaner kitchen. Good days, take the good days.

She pushed the dial button and got ready to send off her order. Hopefully Carlos would count the fish right…..

 

Another scene into fictional kitchen. I’ve been the one cleaning the walkin lately. Downsizing and organizing on Sundays. The other day Jersey Boy told everyone to keep busy. Suddenly all the guys but Golden Oldie (dishwasher… name could change) were nowhere to be found. Shock. I can’t remember the last time I saw Will Turner clean something other than the line at the end of closing. Scrub the walkin? Right….

So anyways, the walk-in was organized on Sunday. Downsized. Emptied. Gads, it was empty. There will need to be a fair amount of prep done this week. I actually like it, and my proverbial ‘She/Her’ in this story likes it too. Still working on a name for her. I have a couple options but I haven’t decided yet. Oh and for those wondering, the Juice Newton Radio on Pandora is the bomb. So classic 70s and 80s country and light rock. So Dolly Parton and more. Try it out.

Kate

Sunday Night Flow

Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

The open sign is down. The dining hall is still full of people and orders are coming in, but most of it is limited to me and desserts in back. The boys have started cleaning and Mixologist Man has started doing his form of a last call, though he’s still pouring beers and whatnot. Soon the scrubbing will begin.

In the kitchen, our dishwasher is tackling as much as he can get done before we are all piling everything into the pit. (I haven’t come up with a nom de plume for him yet…) I start taking back wood paddles and anything that I know I won’t need the rest of the night. If I’ve been lucky enough to have had a relatively quiet Sunday, I may have already flipped all of my mise en place and washed out my refrigerated station. Those are good days. But today, instead, I focused on the walk-in. Downsizing cambros and clearing out the old. Tossing weird things with no label or date. Definitely tossing that goat cheese sauce from a month ago with fuzzy little black blobs across the surface. Yeah, that ain’t penicillin.

The walk-in is a general source of aggravation for me these days. No one downsizes anything. And I do mean no one. Some people might think they are, but most of the time they are just moving containers around or redesigning what they think the walk-in should look like to them. Please don’t. It’s been set up with what works for a year now. I know how it works, people know how to find things that way. Do not, in your small mind, think that you are helping people by changing everything.

The walk-in has been my baby since day one when first Chef tasked me to put away the entire produce and dairy order. And this was before we were allowed to put things in bins. I might not have had it perfect, but I slowly learned to play Tetras with containers. Most cambros stack on each other quite well and there is a method to fitting them so they work. Coffeeman was pretty excellent in downsizing the walk-in too. The one time I downsized it right after he did made for an interesting next day when he couldn’t find anything…. Poor guy. Over-zealous does have it’s disadvantages.

A clean station, nearly filled mise en place. Practically perfect.

So this Sunday, walk-in was fixed. I’m sure I will have to do it again this week, but at least I feel like I got somewhere. So instead of flipping and cleaning my station, it waited till the end. Out comes the bucket of sani water, piping hot and ready to scald even the toughest hands, rags, and new 9th and 6th pans. Flip, bang, reverse. Empty container, new one off to the side with mise waiting in it. All 19 pans are flipped excluding the ones that got filled that day with new ingredients and new pans. Wash out the entire top station and bits of debris. The underneath refrigerator gets organized and wiped down. Pans are wrapped. Dated, labeled and set up for the new week.

The entire area gets swept down, like it does every night, but a few extra areas like under the wood where the dirt drops down. The wall is wiped down where the flour has sifted through the week. Tomatoes are taken off the ledge. Oil bottles wiped off. Everything gets straightened. Sometimes I might sip a glass of beer while I clean, provided all the guests are gone. Tonight, they are not, so I drink cold water. A lot of it. Because no matter how much I drink, it’s never enough to stay hydrated.

In the back, the dish pit is a pile of so much that there is another guy playing ‘catch’ when the dishes come out of the automated dishwasher, Betsy. Other stations have been wrapped and put away. Other stations have been washed down. The grates over the stove area are scrubbed, or have been throughout the day. Garbage bags are combined and taken out. It’s not really anything that we don’t do throughout the week. In fact, it’s pretty much the same thing with only some extra added scrubbing in certain areas.

The fish is iced, things are wiped down a tad better than the rest of the week. This is the night the floors get sprayed down with hot water. If they are really grimy, maybe some Orange Force or degreaser. Out in front Mixologist Man is offering up a jar of celery for anyone to munch on. Why? It’s tradition. It might not last through the weekend and it just is what we do. I usually have several pieces because I feel like I haven’t had my greens throughout the week. Besides, it keeps me from indulging in a soda. Okay, so the giant pancake with the side of syrup was just as bad, but work with me, I’m tired. I need sugar.

This week the music is subdued. Kind of 80s, but most of the time we put on Ke$ha or something super bouncy. Belting it out as the volume is turned up a tad more. The lights go on full blast out in the hall because most of the servers sweeping like to see. This week, I turn them up so I can see all the areas I might have missed in my station.

This week I am out by 9pm. That’s actually pretty good. I stayed a little longer to organize the cambros and dough bins that have gotten mixed up again. I could have been out by 8:30, but I need some organization. It’s only after I head upstairs to put away a pan that I find out I am out of dough for the week. Groan. Why didn’t anyone tell me they pulled the last bin?! Fortunately I have enough dough rolled to start off my week, provided Astro D can make dough at the start of the week.

Seriously, I need a drink now. Okay, no, I really don’t NEED a drink. I just want one to relax with and wind down. It’s been a long pain in the behind week. People have been rude, on my nerves and I’m just really tired. Mixologist Man and I leave the two behind to finish out the kitchen, dishwasher and prep person. We make our way across a completely dead street in a nearly completely dead town. It’s Sunday night, just after nine and only the one brewery/pub is left open. One quick round and I’m off to head home. Wash away the grime, slip out of kitchen smelly clothes and call it a day.

See you next week…

It’s only two days away, but well, such are weekends.

Flattery Might Get You Somewhere

Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

Are you the Executive Chef?” comes the question from the dignified gentleman over the protective glass barrier.

“No,” I reply, “but I am the pizza chef and pastry chef.”  Days later I wish I would have said ‘yet’ instead of ‘no’.  Do I think I will ever be the executive chef? No. Do I have aspirations for that? Um, maybe a little, but not really. I mean, to say I am an actual Chef might be nice, but not my goal in life.

The gentleman spent the next few minutes asking questions about my training (two years of this restaurant are my only training) which surprised him at how incredible the food he ordered was. He rated my basque cheesecake as second only to his wife’s first place title.  Asked about what I was making saying he’d have to come back the next night for it (he did. In fact, their entire order the next night, from appetizer to dessert, came from me) and complimented me on how far I had moved up. It was a flattering and delightful conversation as he was a very nice older man.

Later that night I was offered a hand in marriage. Granted, the guy that asked was a tad on the tipsy side of things, but it was cute. I was a little too flustered to answer more blithely, but still, I did get out a “I’ll keep it in mind.’  He was cute.

This job is never dull. I can’t imagine a dull moment. From interesting conversations with customers (pardon, guests) to working with the many quirks of my coworkers, it is never boring. I’m glad, actually, when I have down time to clean a different area, or scrub the walk-in, or something like just putting away dishes. That doesn’t happen often.  This week alone I made four cheesecakes. I think. I’ve stopped counting. I’ve made so many cheesecakes that I have the recipe memorized.

“What’s the recipe?” Jersey Boy asks about something else. I tap my head and he doesn’t listen and pulls out the “bible” (our recipe binder) instead. “Is it in here?”

No, it’s in my head. most of my recipes are in my head. Oh sure, I do have them written down or accessible on my  phone… provided you know where to look, but they are mostly done off of memory.  Hence why a week ago I made a 4 egg olive oil cake with 7 eggs…. Ooops.  The cake rose reeeaaaalllly well in the oven… But most things turn out the exact way, each time. Which is good. Consistency is key.

Coffeeman asks me if I have all the new recipes down. I sarcastically giggle via text and say no, because Jersey Boy, well he doesn’t believe in having these things written down. He wings a lot of things. And for someone who says he has recipes…. he doesn’t. He gets them from the internet. Have I gotten recipes from the internet? Sure. Cooks Illustrated, Food 5.2, Bon Appetit, etc. All established cookeries. Jersey Boy… not so much.  Then spends his time bragging about the one spiced cake he makes for a special, that doesn’t sell well at all.  Ah yes, that was a fun week. “I made that.” He brags. “Not K, she didn’t make that. I made that.”

We all roll our eyes. “What. An. Idiot.” Says Hermione in reference to Ron Weasely. I so relate, girl. I so relate.

Like I said. Never a dull moment.

I’ve been missing Coffeeman like the devil lately. He’s been on my mind so much that now I’m having dreams again. Not good either. Not bad, but not right. Things that happen that worry me. I do believe in prophetic dreams. I’ve mentioned it before. So I get really nervous when I have one. They don’t happen too often…. Pardon, I’ve already had three this year.  All spot on, one even to the day Wildflower and Lucifer had their baby girl. Trust me, that was a weird one.

I’ve been remembering the good points with Coffeeman, the things that made such a huge difference in my life. One that keeps coming back around, and that I reminded him of was one of those first “A Ha” moments a month or so after he took over. I came into a nearly silent kitchen. In those days it was hard pressed to find a day that didn’t involve prep lists filling up the white board, too many people in the kitchen, not enough surfaces to work, and not enough time. Utter chaos. Lucifer created a ton of chaos; so did Wildflower.

Well, there was this kitchen with every surface clean, and this is three in the afternoon, mind you, when cooking has been going on since eight or nine in the morning and there was a lunch rush and dinner started in two hours. There was only Coffeeman and our morning pizza guy on as Lucifer and Wildflower were on their lunches, and all the prep was done. Like literally, the white board was clean. I looked at Coffeeman and said “What am I supposed to do?”  I think he replied with “we’ll find something” or a “here, let’s try this” and I was learning something new.

I miss days like that when there is not much chaos. Jersey Boy creates a lot. I’ve started taking on the, “No, let’s not start a new project. Let’s finish what has been started and clear off these surfaces and clean them!”

I miss Coffeeman so much these days.  But, without him being gone I might not have had a “Are you the executive chef?” being asked…..

Nor a, “Marry me tonight.”

Kate

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

“How are you doing, kiddo?” she asks me as she surrounds me in the best hug I’ve had in ages. There’s nothing quite like getting a hug from a friend who is like a mom and confidant and several things all wrapped into one, wearing turquoise, mind you, and also a writer.  Mel is one of those amazing women in my life that I can’t imagine not being there. And she gets me in ways a lot of people don’t. Maybe it’s because we are both Taurii. Just days apart.

“It’s been a good week,” I reply.  “Last week I finally had enough, so this week’s been good.”

“That’s it?!” I know, the shock reverberating off of her is understanding and empathetic frustration.

I have to take my good days. “I’m learning to manage men,” is my reply.  It’s true. I’m not ever going to be skilled at it. I don’t want to manage men. I’d much prefer they manage themselves, thank you very much, but when all of them act no older than 16, you make do. You manage.  Them, life, skills, time, people.

It was an incredibly good, albeit, busy week. I was strapped for time on a lot of days, pushing myself to frustration levels, time constraints, short on ingredients days. But I am learning to manage people without actually telling them what to do. Scoot people in the direction that A. I need them to be in, and B. where it’s good for the restaurant. Do I know everything? Not even close, but I know what works. I can’t be in back all the time and sometimes I just have to walk away. That is hard. The walking away and letting it go. Some days, I don’t.

“Do you ever not argue!” I snap at a coworker. I’m in a panic because I am short dough, I have about 10 large tickets piling up, more on top, only so much dough to go around, my sugar is diving and I am getting so much pushback from someone that I am about ready to scream.

“Breathe!” orders everyone orders around me.  I’m telling myself to breathe as well.  ‘Patience is a virtue’, is the refrain I have in my head via Evelyn from The Mummy. The ‘Not right now it isn’t!’ is always second in my head, via Rick from the same film.

Breathing didn’t help. I dropped a handful of tomatoes after snapping, rushed through a busy line with Jersey Boy asking if I was okay. I couldn’t answer. I was trying not to cry from frustration, and my sugar diving. I’m fine, I’m fine. Yeah, every woman knows ‘FINE’ is not fine. Look it up. There’s a nice version and a not so nice version.

But I got over it. Moved on, killed it on the line, and found myself baking another cheesecake at 10pm then selling the entire cheesecake to one customer the next day. And bake another one as I clean the kitchen on my ‘Friday’ night. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Work is hard for me. Last post was about how I kind of float through the place. Yeah, it’s not all floating so much as staying focused all the time so that by the time I get home, I’m wiped. I don’t stay focused. Ever. I am the world’s most distracted person. So keeping it all together at work is a challenge. I was reminded of this last night when my mother reiterated again, probably for the umpteenth time, why I am so tired on my weekend.

“She’s writing a novel about a kitchen,” Mel tells her guy. I am, I spend little bits of time thinking and writing life. Even down to managing men, people, and myself.

This week was better than the last. It came off the high of a super busy last weekend with my good floating, being a Sandy, etc. moment. Next week could be bad, but every step forward is good. I am in a place I never thought I would be. I still might not be able to drive, and am scared to death of making the wrong turn, but well, keep moving forward.

On the side note side, the hills changed from browns and greens to a gorgeous tapestry of oranges, reds and yellows. Wilson and his girl Friday are staying out late into the cold twilight hiking around in fall. I got out in the air today and tonight and it was good inspiration. Just breathing mountain air from a warm October day when the pines opened up and sent out all their spicy resinous smells. Ah fall.

Kate