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

Back to Basics

Everyone always goes back to the basics. The tried and true. The first. Working with pizza, having grown up on “American’ pizza, it’s hard sometimes to remember that not all pizza is the same. I work with Neapolitan pizzas. Thin crust, hardly any ingredients. Or at least that is the way it’s supposed to be. It’s hard to not want to fall back on old habits when they are familiar. New tricks aren’t as easy to master as old habits. I’m sure that would make a great Zen proverb.

Asparagus bacon stromboli

So my new challenge to myself, my craft, my pastries, my life, and my restaurant, is to… go back to basics. I am researching classic Neapolitan pizzas. I had an IG picture one of my strombolis ‘liked’ by a pizza place in Philly, of all places, and a now I’m paying attention to the finer details. Fewer ingredients, hardly any sauce, thin it down, bake it fast… taste the dough. “It’s all about the dough.” So says Coffeeman. I wish someone would have told me that from the beginning. No one has explained that Neapolitan is more about tasting the dough. So now I’m forcing myself to light, light, light on ingredients. And I want to try three ingredient pizzas. White sauce, spinach, mushroom. Bacon and spinach. Asparagus and feta, or ricotta.

I played with a new Margherita the other night, where the sauce was not all over the pizza. Just dotted on, along with the cheese. No pesto, just basil. It was divine. Fresh. Alive.

Basics are good. Simple is better. Right now the simple life is taking over. Okay, right this minute it is the ‘not doing anything’ life, but whatever. It’s my Saturday, sue me, I’m tired.

With desserts, I want to try my hand at some simplistic things that are high in flavor. Partly after Mr. B was on my case, the restaurant’s case, etc., about needing a thin cookie with the pots de creme. Whatevs, dad, but he does have a point. I don’t always have the luxury to create, all the time, but Coffeeman gives me lots of leeway. I am thankful for that.

I need simple in my life. (‘I need corny in my life,’ says Iris — The Holiday) I am trying to step back from irritations at work. The boys being brats, grumpy moods, the monthly PMS of every single female in that place (including me) and trying to let it slide off my back. One of the servers tells me frequently, “Miss K, you have to let it go.” I don’t let go, I grab hold and then it eats away at me.

We have three new people in the kitchen, so I am having to relearn new moods and new people. Miss Luna replaced Twin Bear. She is good. But she isn’t Bear. I miss Bear a lot. At one time we were at odds about everything. She drove me nuts. I thought she was going to make me rip my hair out in insanity. Then I just kind of fell in love with her as a person. She’s off learning new things. I’m happy for her, but I miss our jokes. No one quite gets my statement, “I love the game of everyone standing in the pass!” Bear would. By the way, there were a lot of people in the pass the other day. I had to just walk through the bar, much to Fancy Pants perpetual annoyance. (not really, but really. He’s such a drama queen. I think it’s why we work so well together. We both excel in drama queenness.)

Not getting so involved with people’s drama frees up my life and simples things down.
I’m working to scale down my life. The clutter and things I don’t use are getting to me. Like a lot. I want a room that doesn’t look like I’m there much. Or maybe clutter and stuff free. I wish I didn’t collect books like a fiend, but well, I have issues.
Let’s all pair it down and get back to basics. The basics of living and being. (maybe living in the country lends a way for this to happen.

Kate

The Sweeter Things In Life

Life sometimes is funny. Okay, that’s nothing new there. No wise bits of wisdom in this little post. Just life.  Like when you have two customers, regulars apparently, who ask if the reason there have been no new dessert specials was due to the pastry chef is now doing pizzas all the time.

That was an incredibly sweet part in my life recently. In all honesty, being sick four times since a week before Christmas put a serious damper on baking, thoughts of baking, and just getting through the day, never mind the week. I have to say that I love dabbling in all parts of the cooking industry. “Hey Chef, show me how to finish this dish so I don’t have to come get you next time there is only one of us in house.” This after it was literally only Chef and I in the kitchen one afternoon.  Do you know how irritating it is to have yourself on one dish, he’s on another and he can’t be found because he was off hunting down someone or something else?  I am not blaming Chef. Just the simple fact that he can take over for me up on the pizza, but I can’t take over for him. (sadly, the line still alludes me in comfort zone. I don’t like to be back there unless I have to…. Okay, that’s not quite true. I would love to learn aspects of it, or three quarters of it, but my heart isn’t in that area, at least, yet.)

But I digressed greatly there. What I was going to say was, while I like all parts of the cooking industry, the pastry and pizza end of things are more my forte. I’ve even had a few people I work with say I have a touch that others do not. It’s always lovely to have someone ooh and ahh over a dessert. Or pizza.

This last week I finally did run a dessert special. I call it a Chocolate Om cake because it had a little of our chocolate Zen liqueur in it. For a little om in life, you have to have a bit of zen….   No one quite got the juste of this turn of phrase, but I rolled with it anyhow. Who cares. I enjoyed this uber rich mocha chocolate cake, four layers, mind you, a rich cocoa frosting and three, yes three, toasted marshmallows on top. You think, marshmallows, how can that be special?  Well, I made them in house, that’s how!  Ooey gooey delishiousness (yes I know that’s not spelled right). I sold out the first cake in a day and a half. I feel I would have sold out on the other cake as well had it not been for the snowstorm that dropped 8 inches of snow and cancelled all of our weekend reservations. Drat!

See, Om and Zen go together, and think about a chocolate cake. You can zen your way through eating it and end up in an om state…. Just sayin’.

But I have ideas in my head a bit more now that I am feeling better.  Chef is working on his new menu for the spring. He has no desserts on it. I must see if I can brain storm with him. I even had my dishwasher ask me if now that I have made a dessert special if I am going to dabble in others. He mentioned coconut cream pie.  Pies are not my forte, but I might have to think about it. Coconut is a thing I love… mmmm, I’m thinking tropical items. The cold is getting to me.

I love the scenery. The peach snow when the street lights just come on at night. The cold, icy glow of snow and ice at night. The way it felt like a snowglobe moment the other afternoon looking out the windows as the snow fell. It’s all beautiful. but I could really go for somewhere tropical right now. Maybe I can play around with a tropical-esque dessert. Something with pineapple… oh that’s right, Astro D mentioned individual pineapple upside down cakes. Yum. Dollop of whipped cream.

Kate