Just A Little Coffee Thing – Fiction Part 2

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She did notice him, though, when she came out of the door, yelping in surprise as he leaned next to the opening. She didn’t have any more time to get out more than the shriek before Gerrit grabbed her clipboard and pen and tossed it to the counter. She watched the pen roll off just as Gerrit’s palm enclosed around hers and he swung her around in a spin. He pulled her close and slow danced with her to a Crystal Gayle song.

“Gerrit,” Hela protested, pushing on hand against his chest and tugging against the hand he gripped. Her heart was pounding and to say butterflies were taking flight in her stomach was an understatement. She shivered as she felt his other palm, quite warm, settle against her waist.

“What?” was his innocent reply.

Hela did not believe a minute of his wide blue eyes.

“Oh stop struggling. You love this song. You sing it whenever it comes on, you always spin around and glide through like you’re on stage.”

“Twirl.”

“What?”

“I don’t spin, I twirl,” she corrected.

“I beg pardon. You twirl,” he teased, then released her waist to twirl her around again, before catching her and dipping her back. She was laughing but when his face was inches from hers she thought in an instate he might kiss her. His eyes flashed to her open mouth then back to her eyes, but he quickly righted her and they went back to dancing, the song now a one.

“You are stressing too much, Helena, he said, using the name no one ever called her, except for close friends or family. She looked up at him ready to argue and deny it.

“Oh, no, you are not going to get out of this one. I’ve been here three weeks, and you are like a time bomb waiting to go off. Or on pins and needles. I’m not sure which, but you know you are doing amazing, don’t you?”

She stared at him. “Um.” She bit her lip. She always felt like she was falling apart. Snapping at line chefs, getting impatient with the pantry girl, ready to throw her hands up at servers who asked bizarre questions. Constantly thinking about the new menu and the changes in flow. She was mentally exhausted and she felt like she was cracking at the seams.

“You are. You’re keeping things running smooth. You’re good, Hel. You’re a whiz at plating, you can take over the line when one of the guys is in the weeds or goes down. Organized, on your toes, you leave me amazed at how you keep things flowing in this madhouse. You’re already better than you think.”

Hela couldn’t respond. She had hoped someone had noticed. Micah had been her person to work with, but even he had sometimes left her wondering if she was as good as she hoped. She and Gerrit worked well together, like she and Micha could. Quiet, handing each other things as they needed it without even a word. Notes on boards were underlined from agreements; they could bounce ideas off each other like two kids playing catch.

“Obviously you doubt yourself too much.” He gave her a chastising look, as he spun them around. “Stop.”

She wrinkled her nose at him. “Obviously you don’t know how my brain works,” was her caustic reply.

“I do. More than you know.” He grinned, his eyes twinkling. “Now, what was that thing about something sweet?”

 

So part two, mostly because it was a 1200 word document. Thought it might overwhelm you all.  Like I said, I’d like someone I could relate to at night when I close. Currently I can’t relate to anyone. At least on the level I’m at. But one can dream of a dream chef and dream team and someone I might have as a close colleague. One day.

Kate

Just A little Coffee Thing – Fiction Part 1

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The restaurant was empty but for Carlos polishing glasses at the bar and Johnboy mopping the front dining while Hela and Gerrit went over new ideas for the upcoming menu. Prep lists, schedules, ordering, and a menu marked up, crossed out and notes scribbled in the margins. A giant whiteboard leaned against shelves on a prep station and occasionally one or both of them would walk over and scribble something else on the entire menu written out in black dry erase marker. The notes were in red and blue; for Gerrit and Hela, respectively.

Hela had teased Carlos into playing something new tonight. The “Bread” station was on and now the two of them were humming and singing their way through 1970s classic light rock. Ambrosia, Dan Fogelberg, Randy Vanwarmer, and other smooth classics. Hela had finally parted from her whites, slipping into a loose white gauze button down, the front tails tucked into her sensible slacks. She’d pulled out the plethora of bobby pins, groaning at the release of tension from all the metal bits biting into her scalp. A sharp pencil replaced the pins, turning her mass of kinked hair into a messy bun, tendrils brushing her cheeks and neck. She’d also snuck into her locker in the office and grabbed her moka pot. She needed something better than the sludge sitting in the pot for the last two hours since the last guests had left.

She hummed to the music as she heated water on the closest gas range and rooted through the lowboy in the pastry section for her hidden stash of Guatemalan dark roast coffee. Fingers tamped down the grounds, a towel to remove the nearly boiling water. The moka pot was back on a low blue flame as she went out to the bar and snagged four coffee cups. She grabbed some spoons, a carton of cream, a ramekin of sugar, then back over to grab the now spitting pot.

She didn’t see Gerrit watching her quietly from the whiteboard. He held a clipboard and pen where he had been marking the garnishes they had in stock and what he wanted to use next. He grinned, nearly laughing when she groaned after running the base of the pot under cold water at a prep sink. She set the pot down on a towel and marched out to the bar then came back with a shot glass. She measured out two shots of rich coffee to three cups, then glanced up in his direction.

“You want?” she waggled the shot glass in her hand and held the spout over it.

“Sure.”

She poured two more shots and added them to the fourth cup.

“Carlos! Johnboy! Espresso’s up!” She had more water simmering on the stove and she topped off her cup with that, adding a pinch of sugar and a very light dollop of cream. “Fix yours how you like,” she directed at Gerrit.

She stirred her cup while she watched Gerrit add a generous spoonful of sugar and only a splash of water. She made a face when Gerrit downed half the cup. Carlos came through the swinging doors baring a tall highball glass of peach effervescent liquid, a lime wedge suspended between the ice cubes. He handed it to Hela who tilted her head in thanks.

Gerrit frowned.

“Bitters and soda,” She clarified. “I mix my drinks.”

Johnboy and Carlos fixed their coffees and headed back out to the front of house. “I’ll have something sweet in a while,” Hela called after them, Johnboy grinning at her statement.

They went back to their notes. Carlos changed the station and a Juice Newton song played Hela didn’t see Gerrit watching her as she hummed and swayed as she wrote things down, stopping for random sips of coffee and her soda water. Nor did she see him grin as she sang a few lyrics and swayed her way into the produce walk-in…..

 

I was missing work the other day and I had this thought about how I’d love to have a good moka pot at work. A nice Bialetti, for when the sludge in the pot has been sitting for hours. Normally I use the French press, which is fine, but it’s still not quite like how I like my coffee. I’d love to have a nice Chef at night that I could work over prep, orders, and ideas, and drink a good cup of coffee. But no one I work with appreciates coffee at night quite like I do.  Oh, and part two is in the next post.

Oh, and if anyone notices my conflicting verb usage, would you please point it out. I have issues with passive voice. Bleh, and mixing my verbage.

What Shall We Downsize – Kitchen Fiction

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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

If It Was Only A Sabbatical – Flash Fiction Snippet

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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