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

Mise En Place – Day 8

Mise en place is not just a word to throw around. It is serious business in the restaurant world. It might seem silly to have a bunch of bowls and items set up before service, but if your ‘mise’ isn’t ready, you are truly screwed up and always behind.

I got a shot of Coffeeman’s mise the other night when I walked by, including  a bit of him at work in the background.

Mise en place….

This isn’t all of Chef’s mise en place, but a part of it. Most of it is all behind him and in the pantry to the right. Or below.

Your mise en place is all of your ingredients for everything you make. Your back up prep, your garnishes, your everything so you don’t have to send a prep chef off running for something you are out of. For me up on pizza, my mise is huge. I have to have enough of everything so I’m not rushing back to the walkin at some random point where the tickets are piling up. My morning prep guy is terrible at getting enough mise en place ready for nightly service, so I am apt to just prep a bunch more when I walk in for my shift.

Mise en place is so important, Chef has it tattooed on his arms. And his arms came into play this summer when Lucifer was still doing saute and line work. Lucifer is never good at getting all his mise ready. He’s more inclined to have someone else do it for him and then rush around like a ninny right before service has started. It’s never good. It created a lot of havoc around the kitchen.

One time, Lucifer didn’t back up his white wine and vinegars and such before service, so right there after two or three tickets start coming in, he’s shouting for saffron broth and white wine to be filled in his bottles.  I was still basic prep at the time and him shouting meant for me to hustle and get it for him. I was flustered because Coffeeman had started moving things around and I couldn’t find what Lucifer wanted. At one point Lucifer yelled at me about what was taking so long and I went back with the bottle and slammed it down on the counter vibrating with frustration.

Coffeeman took one look at me and said, “fill the bottle, take it back and hand it to him then tell him “mise en place, mother-f**ker.'”

“I can’t do that, chef.” I protested. “He’ll come back at me.

“Yes you can. And no he won’t. Just say, “Chef said, “Mise en place, mother——“.

So I did. I walked over, presented the bottle with both hands and repeated the statement. Lucifer took one look at me, Wildflower was staring at me wide eyed, then Lucifer looked over my shoulder and said, “yes, Chef.”

Turns out Coffeeman had stood behind me and crossed his arms where his tattoos were visible  and made it clear he was backing me up.

I was shaking like a leave, mind you, but when I say your mise en place is important, it is.

Every night when I walk in, I make damn sure I have my backups. I have as much as I can prep ready and lined up for when those 12+ tables with a ticket a mile long come in.

If I were apt to get a tattoo, I might consider one with mise en place along my hand or something. I’m not going to get one, but still, that is how important your mise is.

Kate