Tired – Day 26

I am tired. Tired doesn’t even begin to express what I feel. Exhausted might be a better word.  No, I don’t usually work a 40 hour work week, and I’m definitely not a workaholic like Coffeeman, though a part of me would like to be. That being said, I am exhausted. Mentally, and a bit physically.  I feel like I’m in a losing battle. Chef and I against the world… Okay, well he has William too, I forget about him as he’s so quiet!

I feel like I am not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The last few weeks have been tiring. Good at times, but tiring. This weekend was especially so. While the flourless chocolate cake was marvelous, the rest of the work days could be shot down into a sewer, which is ironic because I dreamed I needed Chef to come to the walkin and he said he wouldn’t step foot in that sewer( he laughed when I told him about the dream)

I’ve also heard ‘f***ed up, insecure, neurotic, and emotional… This is the polite one.

My blood sugars have been too low during service. I am down my backup guy, with two very crazy days of service and no time to eat a proper meal.  Coffeeman asked me if I was okay the other night after I dipped down way too low… I said I was fine. What is fine….? See picture. That was me. It was so crazy that one coworker who always calls me Miss K, pulled me in the back when I was having a tearful meltdown to let me breath some of her Young Living stress reliever. I have got to get some of that. It helped. And our hostess who is the literal translation of Awesome, Superwoman, Extraordinaire, came to my rescue with a tall glass of water. (She knew when I asked for it, something was wrong, then finally when she found out I hadn’t eaten, pestered me for the next half hour to go eat something, even the chocolate cake, “you deserve it!” she said.)

Thank god for Coffeeman. I mean, I know he’s the Chef, boss, all around good guy, but he came up on the pizza line and helped me knock out a crazy amount of dishes because I had gotten backed up. I was in tears. It had been a bad day coming in to work and finding out the kitchen was not up to standards because my dishwasher/closer and I had a disaster with cleaning the kitchen where the two of us could not see the way flour spread all throughout the kitchen floors because water makes flour disappear…. Someone said it looked like cocaine had been dispersed through the whole kitchen. 2 Which is probably why it ended up on counters over the night cause they were spotless when I left…. I was so so so so so frustrated. I was nearly sobbing up on the line. I know a lot of it was being tired and also knowing/feeling that one of my coworkers bitched because I had told that person to do their prep as it has not been done for quite a while. Yeah, I was really annoyed on Friday night. Yeah, I let the anger build and I was not nice with the note.

Throw in the mistake with the kitchen floor, and boom, it was not a good Saturday. Even if I had the second chocolate cake turn out well. And having a down coworker because he got sick.

It all added up to just a kind of crappy weekend. I felt like I was punched in both eyes by the time Sunday rolled around. Bruised body, heart, mind. I don’t know how you are supposed to always bounce back from that.

I try really hard with this job. Sometimes I think I try so hard mistakes get made because I’m trying so hard not to screw up. I’m more brave than I used to be, but in a lot of ways I think previous bosses made me doubt my existance. I doubt what I can do all the time. What would anyone see in what I have to offer? Am I worth keeping around. I know I know, I am worthy, but I still doubt my existence all the time. I am at heart a very insecure person. I just don’t always see what other people see. You could tell me a hundred times and I still my doubt your words.

I don’t like it when my sugar goes down. And I really need to do what my parents told me to do after I relayed the weekend. They said, go tell your Chef you need him to man your station for a bit so you can go eat. Yeah, I know I need to do this, but I hate, hate, hate to ask for help. I know that I need to do it, but it makes me feel like I am not capable of handling myself in this job. Shouldn’t I be stronger? Shouldn’t I be able to hold it together even if I have a lot of health issues?

I am trying to be a strong independent woman. Twin named Bear, always has a goofy saying about that… Well I’m trying! But not feeling like I’m succeeding too well.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Will the kitchen ever run more smoothly than it is right now?

I don’t know, and honestly the last few days of the month couldn’t come any sooner.

Kate

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Torta Caprese, Experimenting – Day 25

My special!

So, obviously I didn’t get to writing till it’s already the 26th, but this is an exciting post for me. I got home after an absofreakinglutely great night and was kind of a motor mouth for a good hour, poor parents, and finally am in bed tapping away.

So you know how I had my experimenting the other day about Panna Cotta? If not, read it. But this week, Coffeeman cleared for me to make a flourless chocolate cake.  I’m not sure why this popped into my head to try, but maybe it came from finding a recipe in Cooks Illustrated, or the Martha Stewart Living that showed up in the mail. Either way, Tuesday, I was alone in the kitchen mastering a torta caprese, or Italian Chocolate Almond flourless cake. (It’s technically not flourless when there is almond flour in it….)

Definitely unassuming in its natural state… IE, chilling in the walkin

This cake is rich in chocolate, eggs, butter, and almond flour.  I topped it with a chocolate ganache icing. It’s this single unassuming layer, but it packs a punch.

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

And because it’s autumn, and the cranberries came in, I wanted a cranberry sauce, something that screamed fall.  I found a delightful recipe for a port spiked cranberry sauce and was given the go ahead to use some of the port we keep in our restaurant.  So cranberries and port and orange and lemon zest, a bit of cinnamon and some orange juice…. This sauce is so good, just on it’s own. (“With turkey,” mused Coffeeman and  Astro D today…) Boys, keep musing. You have no idea how delighted I was to see the looks on all of your faces.  (I want to just eat the sauce. It’s that good)

Finished sauce. I liked it better as it simmered, but well, done is done. The taste explodes in your mouth.

Then an amaretto and rum spiked whipped cream on the side…. (because I mean, amaretto. And rum) a bit of candied orange.  I plated the dessert today and all I heard was, “You made this?”

“You made this.”

“YOU MADE THIS!”

And a “nice” coupled with a fist bump and I think a “nailed it” or “knocked it out of the park” along with a “that with an espresso is perfect” from Chef.

Damn…….  yeah, damn fine day. I could have danced myself silly around the kitchen, but for the running into people aspect.

Look at that description!

Good day. Like really really good day. This experimenting stuff is going well….

Can you tell I’m happy?

I only wish I could send you all a piece to try it out.

Kate

Just Let Me Ramble About My Chef Days – Day 21

Late at night counting tickets, drinking a last cup of coffee and a glass of Pendleton

As of yesterday,  I have only one month left till I have been with my restaurant a year. One year. Wow.  Back in winter I thought I would be lucky if I made it that long, much less any longer. Miserable wasn’t even the word to describe how unhappy I was with my former bosses. Literally every day I went to work I was crying a half hour before leaving, trying desperately to fix smudged makeup and look professional, then crying at night when I got home. Exhausted, unhappy, afraid of my own shadow, it was a nightmare job. I quit when it was just a ridiculous amount of stress and my parents were aghast at what my boss was doing to my mental state, much less physical with all the long and hard hours. I was hard pressed to say I even liked any aspect of my job. It was just a job.

Failed work relationships/romantic included, coworkers coming and going, more going than staying, forever feeling like I was on the chopping block, players pitted against each other….. It was not a pretty picture. Lucifer and Tom Cat were disasters in the making. I should have listened to family right off the bat, but noooo, I had to do it my way. I know a lot of it was the misery surrounding my pure and utter exhaustion. Bad relationships kill your mental state.

Today, I am in a good place. Today, I am in a really great place. Last night I sat with AstroD after work discussing our new specials this week. The appetizer he is making, the dessert I’m doing. The freezer that is supposedly fair game for us to experiment with what’s inside… Oh the possibilities are looming! The happiness of our current positions. I am first and foremost on my time card, a prep chef. But currently my job is pastry chef, pizza chef, closer, and prep.  AstroD was pizza chef, line chef, and fill in. Today he is line chef and prep chef and occasional fill in on pizza. Both of us are extremely happy. We are getting to learn new things, sucking up as much as Coffeeman wants to throw at us. He wants a sous chef. Hey, whoever he wants to make one, go for it. If he wants me, fine, I will learn as much as he wants to dump on me. I will take it all. I might groan about working certain days, but that’s my still being tired from last week talking.

I am so happy these days.  “K, you are a f—-ing pastry chef!” Sassy Girl said to me last night. She bounces around as much as I do when we both think about it. I have the opportunity of a lifetime here. And I am going to absorb as much as I can.

I would have never thought this world would have been my calling. A lot of it is really hard, especially when you look at this list. Parts of it are starting to be my life. The one that irks me the most is finding a partner unless in the trade, unless they are just very compromising. This life is hard and good. I have late nights a lot. Sometimes because when I get off, I need to just hang back at work and wind down. The winding down takes at least two hours. Your are going at such high velocity for a short amount of time and it is cram packed. Service is really only 3 hours. But it is an intense three hours of crushing the dishes you fit into your time period. Sometimes it is longer and harder. It all depends, and it’s always changing from what happened prior to service, or during, and even after.

But last night, collaborating with AstroD was so amazing. We have ideas and hopes and plans. The excitement of trying something new and hopefully pleasing the public.  Oh yeah, that is a freaking amazing feeling. A tip last night, a comment earlier in the day, compliments for the enjoyment. Oh yeah, that is amazing too.  Hearing your GM say they are getting a lot of positive feedback from the bar where everyone there watches your every move. Whew, that’s heady.

Today I am glad I got to have my hair down, curled and pretty lady today. Not pinned up and slicked back to kingdom come. I loved sleeping in and having a more leisurely day.  Writing a post, reading up on chocolate ganaches and flourless cakes. Playing around with ideas.  Not stressing about coworkers doing their job. Yeah, it was nice to have the day off. This next week is bound to be busy with planning a new dessert, but it’s good work.

And I am happy. Thanks for listening, reading and letting me ramble this month.

Kate

Creativity Experiments No. 2 – Day 18

Chef lets me create if I want to. If I really want to experiment, I can. I’m usually too tired to really come up with something and I don’t have to make a special dessert each week or pizza. He has to, but I don’t unless inclined.

I was inclined a few weeks ago when my GM had some gin soaked blackberries. I think she was trying to impart the blackberry into the gin. It didn’t work and she was so over and done with it. “I’m over it.” she said, handing off the fair amount of liquid and berries.

I started plotting. I asked Coffeeman if I could make a panna cotta. “Don’t ask, do,” he replied.

So into the kitchen with agar agar and a recipe and a hope. The lemon vanilla panna cotta turned out smooth and creamy, but needed more lemon.

The blackberry gin gel… well it was interesting topping the panna cotta. It needed more of a blackberry taste. Not great experiments, though he ran them as a special…. Very cool. Not horrible to eat and lessons learned.

So now I’m thinking up different ideas. I wanted to try a lime mousse, but I think I need to get away from citrus for now.  I had mentioned trying something else out too, but I can’t remember what it was now.

But I’m over and done with summery things. I’m thinking rich, dark, autumn things. I just flashed to a vampire-esque room….. meaning rich reds, oranges, browns, blacks…. Autumn spice. A pumpkin spice rolled cake with a ginger whipped cream. Carmelized ginger sprinkled on a plate with a spiced fruit coulis…

Clearly I’ve been thinking food.

So, next experiments down. I would like to find something that actually works……

Kate

Lemon Curd and Swiss Meringue – Day 15

The halfway point. I’m already feeling it. Probably because I don’t have any backup posts now. Now I have to write every day because I’m not caught up and I’ve lost a little of what I should write about. This always happens.  I do have a few things I know of, but I like to see what inspiration strikes me at work.

Today it’s two areas that a few months ago I would have said no way and no how was I ever going to be able to make them. I definitely would have said it a year ago. I don’t know why I was so worried.

Whisking lemon curd away

I’ve always wanted to make lemon curd, but everyone warned me it was time consuming and you could really screw it up. And I would have never tried a different type of meringue.

Lemon curd has got to be one of the easiest things to make. Oh sure, it takes a bit of time, but it’s like super easy to make. Seriously, I will willingly make it for anyone that wants some, provided they spend the money on the ingredients. It does use a fair amount of eggs, butter and lemon juice/zest….. <—see, zest!  But in a double boiler, bain marie, it’s a breeze. I make it almost every week. And the exploding lemon flavor is heaven. Seriously, I love lemon tarts now. Not that I would have ever balked at it before. In fact, now that I know how to make it, I want to make it for my family.

Filling a piping bag

Swiss meringue

Swiss meringue came after my standard meringue fell quite quickly at work. I’m not an expert at it and it was causing trouble. You either have a touch for it or not. I can’t say as I have a touch. So research began and swiss meringue became the solution. The first trial was too sticky and gooey, but an improved recipe { Rethinking Swiss Meringue: Lighter, Fluffier, and More Stable} made this marvelous concoction that I want to spread and eat and just consume.

It worked every time I made it and lasted days, much to Lucifer saying, “no it won’t” and “see how much time it takes you to make!” Gasp and horrors, 15 minutes for three to four days of it lasting versus 5-10 minutes each day… Gee, I wonder which one was more functional?

A finished lemon tart with swiss meringue

That being said, my swiss meringue has been separating lately. Too much humidity? Too much beating? Not enough sugar? Something is off and it irks the heck out of me. It was decent for the weekend. And I sent out a couple luxurious desserts to guests late at night. I got to plate. I loved it.

Sometimes it’s the silly things I’m afraid of, but Chef seems to think I’m up to the challenge and in the scope of things, I’ve ruined very little. The roulade cake not cracking for weeks was an issue, but I have it solved. I should probably modify the kitchen bible.

I love that I have lemon curd and meringue in my head and I can whip them out without even questioning myself. I love that food becomes almost ordinary in fixing it. Someone says, “can you do —-?” and I can say, “Why yes I can!” Skills…..

“June, you’ve got skills…”   from Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz

I guess I have ’em.

Kate

My Whites – Day 11

I was given two chef’s coats when I started working and I wore them several times a week, washing them each time because I am apt to splatter on myself, getting massive sharpie stains on the sleeves (don’t ask, it left a large smudge of brown shades). I finally purchased some that actually fit me well and have become my mainstay uniform for work.

My pretty whites. Euro style, black piping, my favorite coat…

There is nothing quite like putting on my whites (a traditional set includes a toque or hat and hounds-tooth pants. My pants are black) and settling myself into work. And whites have nothing to do with being white. It’s just the term for the uniform. I love wearing my uniform. I love that it’s always clean and that I set myself aside from just wearing a t-shirt and apron. Don’t get me wrong, Coffeeman is frequently cooking in just a t-shirt and apron, but he gets hot up on the line. I don’t blame him. But he looks really nice in his different whites, which, now that I think about it, are not white. (I know you are reading this, sir… You do look nice in your shirts. I love the black with yellow piping…. just sayin’. ) He doesn’t wear white. He wears black, blue, gray, burgundy, green….. I love all the different ones he wears. I want one that’s like his blue gray one.

I wear white partly because that was the color I was designated with when I first started. But then it became a thing where I refused to wear black because several people in the kitchen of darker personalities thought I should wear black because they wore it. I work with flour. A lot of flour. From pastries to pizzas, I’d honestly like to know how I am supposed to look clean with a black shirt and white everywhere?  Besides, my whites are easily cleaned and seriously, you don’t see too many marks.

Ready to kick some serious kitchen butt

I get a very settled feeling, just like when I mentioned settling into my work with a knife in my hand, by putting on my chef’s jacket. The last thing of my uniform is usually a bandana to keep my hair slicked back to kingdom come. But that feeling of slipping on my semi stiff white jacket…. It’s actually kind of sexy as well. At least to me. I just feel very professional and, well, sexy, in my uniform. I really can’t explain it at all. Kind of like how you step out of the house with lipstick and earrings on. It’s just something that is.

Tonight ( the night of the 10th) I spent most of the night in and out of the kitchen. But there was this young man (my age-ish) at the bar that was watching me work all evening when I was out front. Literally, all evening till when I clocked off and the kitchens were clean and closed.  My job as of now puts me right out in front. I can’t hide, and there is this really amazing feeling of being semi in the spotlight. It’s a feeling I can’t explain, not exactly power, but maybe just this confidence thing that I’m learning to have a little more of it. I’m not usually one that really wants to be center stage. Oh sure, I like being important, everyone does, but I get nervous when I am in the spotlight. But tonight, being watched…. yeah, that was kind of cool. A lot of cool. I’m having more cool moments. And wearing my whites… yeah, that adds to it.

Kate

The Zest of Life – Day 9

I use a lot of citrus zest in my life. From lemon curd to chocolate orange mousse, I’m always zesting things. Even before the menu change back in summer, I was zesting all the time. Every menu has had something with lemon, orange, or lime zest used. Needless to say, I finally asked my father to find me a microplane online so I wouldn’t always have to borrow the previous chef’s and so I could get to work.

Recently, the lemon curd wasn’t quite lemon-y to a few people’s standards and my just lemon juice recipe went to zesting almost 20 lemons for a triple batch of lemon curd. That’s a lot of lemons to zest. Mounds of the yellow flakes. But trust me, it makes for a marvelously lemony lemon curd.

The other day I zested a couple of oranges for the mousse and that’s what I got the picture of the zest below.

About 4 tablespoons of orange zest…

There is nothing better than the smell of citrus zest. I really mean that. I love citrus to no end. I have ideas of a lime mousse. I live for zesting things. I actually really like it. I may bemoan it to coworkers, but in all seriousness, I love to zest. The bright sunshine smell is so so good to me.

Kate

Tools and Accessories – Day 5

“K, your bag is in the way again.” Lucifer is rolling his eyes at me as my tool bag is apt to dump its contents all over the place.

“I need my tools,” I say as I scoop them all up.

“You don’t need them. You just think you do. You just like to accessorize.” 

Lucifer is mocking me, of course. One of the many of the day.  (Sometimes I wonder why I fell in love with this boy.)

Maybe I don’t need all the tools I have in my bag, but as the Chef has a backpack full of unique tools, I won’t let Lucifer’s words get to me. Besides, things are perpetually getting lost in the kitchen. So I kind of like having all my tools with me. Measuring spoons, spatulas, tasting spoons up the wazoo, microplane, lemon juicer…. I have enough to get me by, but honestly, I wouldn’t mind a few more. Coffeeman has these really cool spoons that have an opening at the end and you can write with sauces. Those are cool.

I use all of my tools on a regular basis. Especially my spatulas. And tasting spoons. I have about 6 or more and they are great when I make chocolate mousse and hand out spoons for people to taste. Yum.

So I’m a woman. So what if I like to accessorize. Big deal, I like shoes too…..

Kate

Knives, Day 2 Addendum

I was browsing through my journal this morning and came upon an entry from June that I thought added to Day 2’s knife story. So here it is.

Knives. Weapons anywhere else; a lifeline in the kitchen. A commodity. A status symbol. You have a good knife and don’t need a house knife?  Then you already have moved up in importance. No one touches your knives without permission. Knives are bought and sold among the ranks, switching owners. [almost as quickly as people switch lovers] Cut yourself on a new knife, suddenly you are married to your blade.

I have never seen something quite like the importance of a good knife in the kitchen. Why, just two weeks ago Coffeeman came to William Turner and I and showed us this beautiful knife, that he proceded to say, “I brought that one in (a Kuma) so just in case you all needed a knife on the board, you could grab it. But if I see any of you near this knife, you are dead.” Or something to that affect.  Turns out, his knife is a Wusthof. Yeah, you don’t mess with a $200+ knife.

A facebook friend posted for me today…..  “The poet with sharp, pretty weapons…”

Why yes, yes I am. I forgot to mention I carry two pocket knives with me at work as well. One of these three.pocket knives.jpg

Two of them are spring assist, which means I don’t have to put too much pressure on the opening latch and it swings out. You know that bug-eyed look Will Turner does on Pirates of the Caribbean?  Yeah, well our William Turner does the exact same thing. He looks so like Turner it’s scary.will turner.gif

And not long ago, when I had the blue handled knife, Coffeeman asked where the pretty knife was.  The rainbow filligree knife that says Femme Fatale and has roses engraved in the steel… Yeah. Sleeping Beauty could have used that knife…

Kate

Plating – Day 3

“You need some of that,” says Lucifer.  “No, don’t just run it across all of them, do one at a time.  And why do we do this?”

“Uh…” comes the reply from Tom Cat.

“Because it looks prettier that way,” I reply as I hunt through a fridge.

“Exactly!” Lucifer replies.

It’s all in presentation.  Plating. Sending out something that looks so elegant that your eyes feast on it first. I kind of have a knack for it. Even Lucifer, in all his inability to give compliments except on rare occasions, knew I knew how to plate.

I love plating. I love sending out a dish that is elegant, edges free of smudges, the garnish just so. I have been inclined to want to slap people’s hands, server’s hands, Chef’s hands, when they go to take a plate before I finish garnishing. I might be a bit insane, but what is the point of sending out a half finished plating?

I stop people and servers all the time. A pizza must go out with the right garnish. Granted, I am stopping them because I have forgotten something, but still, it must go out right. The best thing to plate, for me, are the desserts. It’s not a coincidence considering I am the pastry chef. I want plates to be pretty, and now, since Coffeeman has come into my life, I have had the opportunity to see things plated so beautifully.

Lemon Tart with a berry coulis design….. Dot, dot, dot..

The dots, swirls, spirals, squiggles. Currently, due to my hectic schedule, I don’t get to plate as much as I like, and I’m not fond of our restaurants name being squiggled onto plates instead of designs… I don’t find it elegant.  These are elegant to me.

Roasted Peach with champagne strawberries…. ooh la la

I hope that over time I get to still plate desserts. I love all the aspects of my job, but when you have a server go “ooh, that is the prettiest I’ve seen” or plates come back with designs scraped off with the dessert, I know I’ve done my job. Not to brag ,though I’m going to, but the servers love how I plate….

Kate