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

“I Adore Order…” – Poem

‘I adore order,’ she says, but as things start to slide-
‘as you can see, I’m anything but orderly!’
Distracted, absentminded, I may love Mise en Place,
but damn if I can stay en place…

Drawers open, contents spilling outward

socks
handkerchiefs
lacy underthings

counters linger in disarray,

notes
loose cash
rhinestone jewels

flashing amongst miscellany
I tweak her OCD, cluttered and disorganized
the dough is kneading in a mixer as I race
out to stoke a fire leaving a wake of flour
She follows behind organizing, straightening
Opposites attract, north and south magnets

You know, the hardest part of my life is putting myself away.
Close a drawer, put the feather earrings away.
There is a lone bobby pin on a shelf
And a lone coffee cup, mostly empty, lipstick imprint
sitting on a table, or the front desk as I make my way
out the door and breezing off to another place
where my en place is not in place…

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

If It Was Only A Sabbatical – Flash Fiction Snippet

Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash

Over the last year I have written down snippets and little plotlines, even dialogue of a cooking story that has no real basis other than just inserting some of it into my writing life. Since cooking and the restaurant world is so much a part o f my life these days, I can’t help but write about it. I have ideas of some sort of novel, maybe a bit biographical, but I’m not sure. Mostly it’s just playing around with scenes. So after Coffeeman left, I found myself channeling the situation in a different way. What if Coffeeman was leaving only for a sabbatical or something. It would be hard, but doable. Right now, doable is just survival. Surviving till the next change. Nothing so wonderful as sabbatical. (you would not believe how many times I’ve spelled that word wrong.)

So here is something I wrote in my journal on September 5th. With a few edits. Of course.

She let her knife sink into the freshest tomato, still nearly warm from the sun. Slice, slice, slice. Perfect rounds of flesh. It was all she could focus on right now. The prep list was too long, Micha was leaving in a few days, the boys in the kitchen, from line cook to dishwasher, were all acting up, and she was about ready to fall apart. Tired, apprehensive. Could she do what Micha had faith in her for? Did she know enough?

She was ready to swear at anyone who stepped out of line. A recent run in with a shelf, which had left a nasty bruise on her underarm, had left her swearing a blue streak that left all in earshot giving her a wide berth and wary look. She was nearly in tears when she bent back a fingernail after prying at a cambro.

“You know you’re going to be fine,” came Micha’s voice from her left, scaring her out of mind and musings. She let her knife hit the board with a whack and glared at him.

“Don’t do that!” she growled. He just chuckled at her and slid a coup of coffee over too her.She accepted it with a nod and leaned her hip against the counter with a sigh. He was sipping at one of his many cups that she found floating around the kitchen throughout the day.

“Have you taken a break and gotten something to eat?”

She shook her head the tiredness hitting her. The sadness. She was already missing him and the little things she knew were going to be gone. Things like him asking if she ate before her sugar dove and she started threatening everyone with bodily harm and a knife.

“Go eat something. Take ten and come back when you’ve done that. This will wait.

“Bu—”

“No buts, just go.” He shooed her with a direct look.

She made a face at him, but didn’t argue, setting her knife on a towel and heading off to the line to see if there was still some soup from an earlier family meal.

The French Laundry

Nothing much. A touch off of the characters from Just A Day, Just An Ordinary Day… Not – Flash Fiction because I like them and well, yeah. So enjoy. I’m picturing a very different kitchen than what I work in. Something along the kitchen from The French Laundry. It’s so open and pretty. I want a kitchen like that. When I first started working at my place, I was bummed by no windows and no clocks. We never knew what time it was. It was my own insane asylum. Now, I’ve gotten used to it, and I am out in front where the windows are a lot of the time so I can see out and it helps. But I still dream of open kitchens. Lots of windows and natural light. I think all our moods would be better.

Kate

Planning a New Year’s Dinner

via food52–When it comes to silky-smooth squares of chocolate ganache, these Japanese truffles are the ideal. Dusted with a blizzard of cocoa powder, they’re minimalist & bold, and contributor @jun.and.tonic hasn’t had a better truffle to date.

I wrote about last year’s New Year’s Eve tasting menu banquet, In A World Of Food Life And Tasting Meals, and after a conversation recently with Coffeeman, I started thinking about how I would plan a tasting menu, with the little I know. Okay, I know more than I think I do, but well, sometimes I don’t feel like I know a lot. However, there is a passenger driver to my cooking life, and thank gosh he is still there driving and directing along, as I try to not feel overwhelmed.

Being first and foremost a lover of all things sweet, I am right there on desserts.  I’m sort of working backwards, and creating as I write. What can I say, I gravitate towards the sweeter things in life.I was immediately drawn to these truffles when I popped across them via Food 52 on Instagram. I would make these, serve three on a plate and they would be topped with a crushed honeycomb candy dust, a red chili dust, and lastly, cocoa powder.  I am a sucker for chocolate. I will always want to end a meal with a nice piece of chocolate.

via inagarten
Sparkling Grapefruit Granita with rosé Champagne! recipe available on barefootcontessa.com!

An interlude between courses would be a lovely grapefruit granita with a sparkling rose, served in a coupe glass. Or as Ina Garten does it. I mean, the woman has gorgeous class.  And on that note, what about a gorgeous champagne, ivory, and gold color scheme for a New Years? Maybe a bit of silver glitter as well!

The main course would be monk fish. Known as the “poor man’s lobster”, I was able to enjoy it this late spring when I was off to a cabaret play. I fell in love with it’s meaty sweetness and just oh so good. Do I know how to cook monk fish? No. But that’s besides the point. I’m just creating here. Work with me here, people!  Served with an elegant creamy risotto .

Caramelized shallots, for that crispy, caramel y goodness.Something green…. um, well, I might have to come back to that. I’m seriously not sure what vegetable I would put with it. I love kale, but I love it just sautéd with butter, garlic and a little lemon. I mean, that isn’t fancy. I was thinking beets, but, maybe only a beet puree that you set something on…. Eh, I’ll come back to it.

Second course…. Salad. Easy. Radicchio, Belgian endive, sliced red onion, preferably Bermuda red onions (nearly impossible to find these days), sliced orange, black olives and this coriander vinaigrette that comes from a recipe  my mother has had for years. It is spectacular.

Like this, but a bit of green and black. Don’t forget the olives!

Layer the radicchio, endive, orange, onion and three black olives in a layered strip. Not much, just simple and mouthwatering. It marries, my mother’s recipe, with a Ina Garten one. And oh so pretty with the bright magenta and minty lime leaves, orange and black. Trust me. Gorgeous and fresh.

The amuse bouche, or appetizer round always gets me. Maybe a nice mushroom pate… Personally, I would do like a mini charcutarie board. A couple slices of mixed cheese, a crumble of Stilton, a little bit of pomegranate seeds, or maybe slices of fuyu persimmon. Toasted almonds. A couple slices of homemade crackers. Simple, but something to wet the palate. I love cheese boards. I think they are rustic and elegant at the same time. I get stuck on them on Instagram. So much fun.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Anyways, I doubt I’ll get the luxury or stress of planning a meal like this, but wouldn’t it be fun? I love thinking of food items and menus. I have been doing it for years with character scenes in books. What would Mia and Rafe have for tea? (He’s Scottish or Irish)  Would Luke and Regina have a fancy meal brought to his office at the hotel he owns? and what would it be?  I float around food. I wrote about food in books with woman in the post titled, And The Meal Was. . .  See, I still think food!

Anyways, there’s the start to an elegant new years meal. What do you think? Anything you would add, or take away? I’d love thoughts. Who knows, somewhere down the line I might find myself planning something like this.

Cheerio!

Kate

His Girl Friday. . . in the making?

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

I was flipping through a bit of poetry from last September the other day where I was musing on being “His Girl Friday” and how I desired the aspect to be like this indispensable semi-second in command person.

“His girl Friday, and all the days of the week
or was her name Friday?
Just to be someone’s second hand
to know the ticks and turns that make him run
pour the black coffee, hand him a cup as he
starts his day, that being the hello as he
breezes by, satchel of tools ready to get down
to brass tacks and sifting through lists…

It’s a fanciful thought, to some degree, but I was projecting what I wanted without a clearly formed thought. It applies to wanting to be almost sous chef, but not quite. Partly because right now with my current workload, trying to get back into the kitchen when I am busy three-quarters of the time not in the kitchen, makes it rather hard to be in the actual kitchen managing things.

But future thoughts are nice. Right now, I am one of the most consistent, most reliable persons in the kitchen, and I would like to have more responsibility for running the kitchen. I would have liked more support for this back several months ago when I was at odds with some kitchen staff at the time but was passed over for someone else. For the first week or two it didn’t bother me, but now… and not horribly long after, it did. I would like to move up to directing traffic. And it’s not just for ego. I like being someone’s helping hand. I think it’s in me naturally after helping my father for years be the go-getter.

I’ve moved on far from being a prep chef these days. I am the head pastry chef and head pizza person. A position I would have laughed at, had you told me last year at this exact same time, that I would be there. I never thought I would. I love it. I love the responsibility despite the stress and tiredness from it. I’m also the lead closer. Okay, so the head line chef closes his line….only, …. while I close down everything else. I am literally the last person out of the kitchen. Sometimes I am the last person out of the restaurant. Who would have thought?

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash (I just liked the image)

I strive to get as much done as I possibly can, though I tend to leave ‘snail trails’ around the kitchen. A sticky thermometer, spatula, some random knife or spoon. I have a hard time working clean, but I’m challenging myself to get better. I stress out Chef’s OCD moments when there is a lot of clutter floating throughout the kitchen because too many projects have gotten started. I am notorious for feeling like there is too much to get done and I won’t get it all done soIstartitallatonceandleaveamess! Whew, what a mouthful.

I think it’s interesting that I flipped through my notebook and landed on this poem again after months of hiding away. I fall on a lot of other little poetry, but this one struck me as something I’m still dreaming of happening.

“Do you trust me?” asks Aladdin, holding out his hand?  Well, in a sense, I’m asking that question to God, the universe, my boss. Do you trust me to take on more?

I don’t want to give up my pastries and pizzas. I would like a tad more time to the pastry, but that’s okay. I love working with the dough for the pizza. I’d get more done if my opening guy was on the ball… He’s not. Le sigh.

All of this too has led me to writing more about work again, in the poetry aspects. I think I mentioned that last blog post around. The working with dough. I have dabbled in little bits of irritation poems and things about work that annoy me, but at the same time, they put a perspective spin on what I am doing. I had a lightbulb moment the other day and it helped me figure out a few things about people and situations.

Maybe the dream is still a bit too undeveloped and still budding in reality at this point in life. Who knows. But I go into work each week trying to be a better person, concentrate more on the tasks at hand, not letting work drama get to me, and just striving to be the best goddamn pastry and pizza chef I can be. Oh, and Chef, whenever you want to teach me a new thing, give it to me. I like to know these things. (Like how to steam clams. Boom, got that down now. And making a sabayon…I think I’m going to lose my right arm to whisking)

“And he winds down as Friday finishes all the
checks and balances, twitching the office space
back to rights,to rights, surfaces clutter free,
questions answered, lights going off as he sips
his sparkling drink, the suit gone
and Friday kills the lights, till she puts
on her Monday’s wear. . . ”

Kate

Bobby Pins, Typewriters, and Morels… Or, Just Another Spring Week

The funniest things catch and hold my fancy. For days and days a thought can bounce back into my brain. Current thoughts are: I keep finding bobby pins in random spots and it’s so exciting because I need all of them. Listening to dough and how it works because it’s a living breathing thing, though it might seem to be inanimate. The Lumineers and the Pandora station. Ada Limon poetry. Spring thunderstorms. Spring flowers. Using older things for writing, I.E. typewriters, journals, notebooks, fountain pens, etc. the 1930s…. Oh, lastly, morels. It’s morel season.

All random thoughts. All unique and almost all applying to writing. Except for the bobby pins. That applies to just my life. I got so excited when I reached down into the pocket of my slacks last night and pulled out three bobby pins and a barrette. I need all of those. I had wondered where all my bobby pins were disappearing to. Now I know. Thank gosh because I used 20 the other day to keep my hair back in place. I thought I was using a lot before. Nope. I have it down to a lot more now. I wrote a Facebook update that was, “Found more bobby pins in my slacks pocket last night. I love this!” A friend thought that made for a marvelous prompt. From a man’s perspective. I think so too.

I was mentally writing about listening to dough, after reading Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery book. Dough, you think of as inanimate, but in all actuality, because of the yeast, it is alive. It may be an organism, but it’s alive nonetheless. So you have to listen to the dough when you work with it. You can’t just force it to mold to your will. Ok, you can, but it might not be that happy. And in turn, neither will you. So the dough I have been working with has been kind of warm and lazy. It just stretches just so, like a person in the morning that yawns and stretches their arms above their head then falls back into the pillows all soft and sleepy…… Then there is the dough that my coworker made. It’s cold, lumpy, and very very grumpy. It’s like Walter from Jeff Dunham. Arms crossed, uncompromising…. a pain in the ass. You nearly have to beat the stuff into submission. Or in my case, I let it be alone for a while to sit and pout. It warmed up enough to be flexible so I could roll it into a ball, in which case, it got all grumpy again and was stubborn. Making into a pizza crust was a challenge later. It kept tearing and not stretching. Gads, it was a pain.

I have been stressed and mental lately. I have been thinking about Wilson Tennu and his issues. Spring storms seem to be so him. I think I had a dream about him recently and I was just a little bit more in love with this broken person. It’s terrible. He’s been in my head, choosing to listen to serious music. Not jazz, per se, though he does love it, but things like the Lumineers and folk music. Or indie music. Young the Giant is one of his new favorite bands. (Me, myself, I’m enthralled with the lead singer of that band. Yum) But he’s been so moody. I pulled out Ada Limon, Kim Addonizio, and Anne Sexton to try and alleviate some of his issues. But I think I need to read some Seamus Heany and Galway Kinnell. They are a nice balance of both of us. Him and I. We are both moody people. Gee, I wonder why. Insert sarcasm.

My father recently had his Remington typewriter fixed and made all shiny and pretty and smooth typing. I now need to have my Royal fixed up so I don’t feel like I’m clumping along with it as it sticks on key b, or bounces out a double space so I have to back up and use white out. Or a red X. But it’s going to be a bit before I can get to that. I have Wilson wanting to type and I have been kind of shoving him off and not letting him. See, I’m too connected to this person. I really should tell him to get a hold of himself, but I also don’t want him to leave. He lets me look at things from a different perspective.

Morel mushroom KLB

He’d have luck morel hunting. Not me. No, I flopped with finding only 6. Phooey!

Now that it’s nearly the end of my “Saturday”, I should go take a look at the three large books that came in for me at the library, and maybe let Wilson write a little.

Kate