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……


Produce Delivery – Day 17

Every Tuesday I am responsible for the produce delivery. Checking it in and putting it away. It’s a rather cool responsibility, both in doing it and it’s kind of cool because I’m in the walk-in… brrrrr. First in first out is applied as older produce is brought to the front. THe new herbs go to the back the older herbs to the front….

Mushrooms go into bins, stacked bell peppers, napa cabbages, broccolini,  lettuce piled high, berries stacked, leeks, fennel, potatoes in the back door, corn, all the good stuff. Boxes of lemons and limes, tubs of garlic and fresh ginger.

Out of boxes it comes and into bins and tubs, small hotel pans and large ones, into water, out of bags. It’s rather an honor that Coffeeman trusts me to put the order away by myself and get the walk-in to rights. I have always liked putting away deliveries since the first chef trusted me to put it away. Course that was a super large everything order. This is just produce, but I love produce. I wouldn’t mind even more time to trim up things, but with baking, well, I don’t have time. This all falls back on the produce business my family had.  Even though I hated the growing part, I loved the produce and seeing all fresh ingredients. Granted, the things coming in this order are not like the fresh from the farm, but it’s still fun.

While I’m never ready for Tuesday to begin, I do like the produce and seeing all the fun things come in is a delight. I think Coffeeman always tries to scare me with ‘It’s a big order’, but I always just think, cool, more to put away. Right on. Bring it on, Chef, bring it on…. it never scares me.  You don’t see the inward delight…. Or maybe you do.



Embrace the Blue Tape – Day 16

Mark everything. Date everything. Everything needs a label.

Marked Cambros. Gotta have the dates!

This is pretty much a code in the kitchen. And by code I don’t mean ‘guideline.’ It’s a rule that must be upheld. You can’t get away with shoving something in the walk-in and not label and dating it. How are you ever going to know what it is days from now? And will you honestly remember the date? How many yolks did you separate into a deli? What is that mysterious brown substance in the 2 quart cambro? Chocolate ganache or demi glace?

First in first out… FIFO is the rule. So dated things are critical to health standards.  Two weeks is the limit on a lot of things. Personally, I would prefer a lot of things get used up before that.

So equipped with a Sharpie marker and blue painter’s tape in hand, we mark our cambros, delis, boxes, anything opened. Label and date everything. Wrap everything as well, but basically, it’s storage techniques. Bus tubs with towels over produce. What is that bus tub containing? Mark it. (Darn it, I forgot to mark the peaches today…hmmm)

I’ve rambled on about blue tape and dating things so much that even my family has embraced blue tape. Granted, it’s just for marking the tops of small jars with the various flavors of espresso coffee we’ve made in the moka pot, but still…. If we could start labeling everything in the fridge like I do at work, whew, life might be simpler.

all the flavors of coffee

I even remember reading it in Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook Appetites. He used tape to date and label everything in his fridge. I think I would do it in my own home. It’s not obsessive when you realize how easy it is to forget what you’ve put in a container and when you did.

Here’s a quick great article on tape.  KITCHEN TIP: PAINTER’S TAPE AND SHARPIE

Oh and I guess Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se uses green tape now…. I prefer blue, it sticks better, the green doesn’t always stick and hold on.

Granted, at home, if a little mold is on something, you scrape it off and go on about your daily life. Not so much in a restaurant. That doesn’t fly.  So, seriously, embrace the blue tape… Or red, green, tan, yellow. Whatever color you decide to use.


A Day of Rest – Day 14

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Today is my day off, finally. Five days on last week, one day off, then five  more. I am wiped. My brain is fried, my body is sore, and I have zero oomph left in me. It was a long week. With being responsible while a coworker was still off till Friday and just a general already tiredness forming from late days. Restaurant life is hard. But it’s good. But it’s hard. You are constantly on your feet, on the go, on pitched floors, lifting heavy items, scrubbing every night, cleaning house so to speak, directing traffic….. People would ask why you would want to live the life. I honestly can’t tell you today. Not because I don’t like it, but I wonder why I like it. I even asked my dad today if I was crazy as I fell onto a blanket on the couch.

Why do I get such satisfaction with putting in the long hours and the constant feeling of crazy? Why do I enjoy even the cleaning? What is it about this life that is so good? I honestly don’t know. Maybe Coffeeman knows the answer. He’s been doing it for 18 years. He knows a thing or two as he’s seen a thing or two…… cue farmers insurance music…

I am happy. I tell people all the time how happy I am even when I am wiped. One of my lovely ladies said I looked more relaxed in writing yesterday. “But I’m exhausted!” I complained.

“You still look more relaxed,” she replied.  I am. Much more, despite getting early morning texts that the kitchen didn’t get closed properly after I clocked off. That irked me to no end. I literally came home in tears to my father saying I have to stop being so emotional about work, or to at least turn the tears to pissed off anger. That I can do. It’s nice to know my boss has my back. All of my bosses. It’s nice to know that we all get the same frustrations and try to work through them to create a more cohesive environment.

It was good to have the day off, and tomorrow off. That being said, I’m still thinking about work and the week ahead.  I’d like to come up with some interesting desserts though I feel a little tired to even do that.  I have ideas floating around in my head. Pumpkin cakes with a cream cheese buttercream frosting….. lime mousse with a raspberry coulis….. something to use the banana sorbet up with. I think it would go with a nice fall spiced something. Or coconut…. I want elegant and delectable. Something that can be plated beautifully.

But I have one more day off. Maybe I should take that day and just not think so much.



The Walk-in of Forgetfulness and Therapy – Day 13

I’ve seen memes and jokes online about the walk-in being the portal to forgetfulness and it’s true! So many times you walk in there and you completely forget what it is that you were going for, as you see this that needs downsizing, and that on the wrong shelf…. or that right there, “Ooo, you need that! But what did I come in here for?….”





The walk-in is also a fairly soundproof vent box. Conversations, scream sessions, cool downs, various activities you want to not be heard….. All on the up and up, mind you. Wow, that sounded incredibly dodgy there. It’s not. Okay, well there have been a few dodgy conversations where things should have been said in the open but the person talking was a bit underhanded in how they handled situations…..

I go in there when I need a moment to step back from the craziness of the kitchen. I’ll reorganize something, or find things that need to be downsized. Someone who works in the kitchen, I won’t say who, goes in there and makes a hella lotta banging and sort of sounds like bowling for buzzards or serious tossing around of big things in there. When they are in the walk-in, I stay out, unless there is a serious bang. Then I might walk over, open the door and ask if everything is okay.

Just to illustrate

It usually is. Just something is not organized to the right standards.

Or a keg or ten is  in the way. Or boxes need to be tossed out. Or things just need to be banged around. It’s a grand frustration get out of technique.

Screaming is good, too. I wrote about it yesterday at my writing group when I really had zero inspiration due to dead tiredness.



Steel Box of Forgetfulness
Let me talk a moment to scream
I could go into the woods for a while
because you know that old adage
if a tree falls…
So who would hear a scream>
Just a little venting
let the steam billow out, like a dragon.
It’s shorter to just step in the walk-in
A metal soundproof box, most of the time
plus I probably need something from there.
Or need to organize something.
But a moment into the woods sounds so much better.
Let the sound escape.
Float upwards instead of being confined.
But again, I probably need something
from that steel box of forgetfulness
and I’m sure with tickets piling up
I don’t have time to race up to the trees.
Pardon me fro a moment….


So anyways. The walk-in was relatively neat last night. It usually can be on a Saturday night as we have usually sold a lot of dishes…. It is what it is.  And by Tuesday, it will get all filled up again with the produce order. And me screaming to make things fit…


Spreading the Coals – Day 12

The oven with the coals spread

As one of the pizza chefs, I have the responsibility of closing down my station and making sure all is back to rights at the end of the night. Wiping pans, cleaning boards and wrapping things. Another thing I have to do is spread the hot coals in the pizza oven. At 10pm the station is closed down and finally no one can order anything else. The andirons get pulled out of the coals, shoved to the other side, then the coals get spread.

The oven, when up to it’s best temp, is around 700 degrees on the right hand side, and ranging from 600-680 on the left. So even though the fire has died down, it’s still pretty darn hot.

Long pole in hand I shove the andirons over and sweep the coals across the bottom of the oven to keep the stones hot over night before being started up again the next morning. It’s hot and hard. Actually, it’s not as hard as tossing the almond wood into the fire, considering I’m short, the opening of the oven is at chest level and I don’t have upper body strength. I feel very unequipped to toss the wood in, and more often than not, I miss and have to readjust the wood with one of the poles. It’s not my idea of fun. It’s actually quite exhausting.


But seeing the coals burning bright red, crackling and swept across the stone is rather lovely. Plus it also means my night is almost over.


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.


Language – Day 10

For the most part, I have a pretty clean mouth. That is, until I started working in a kitchen. Who knew that a kitchen’s general vernacular is various forms of swear words. Okay, I might exaggerate as it’s not all bad language. Just various applications at different times and different rearrangements of the words.

  • Kitchen Slang 101: you can learn a lot here, and yes, we kind of do swear like sailors at times. Wildflower is an expert of it.

Again, I kid, but only to a point. I have to say that my mouth isn’t quite as clean as it was prior to working with my former chef, sous chef, and various line chefs. Coffeeman refrains from spewing it at all times, leaving it to well placed moments where it’s really  needed. Lucifer, Micha, and previous chef were fairly notorious for it always spewing out. I got a little numb to it over time, but at first it was like being dunked into cold water. It was actually one of the reasons I ‘quit’ back in January. I couldn’t handle the chef just constantly swearing up a storm. His bad attitude didn’t help, but throw that in with a mouth, and me being a fairly conservative, straitlaced woman, it was hard.

The kitchen life has led me to be a little less sheltered and more inclined to try a few new things that I was kind of afraid to try beforehand. Do I think having a mouth is a good thing? No, but at times, it really is the only way to get the point across.

Years ago, a man I knew who was from Scotland, explained all the ways the Brits use the word ‘fuck’. How it can be charming, an expletive, just a generalization, and it made sense. It was all about how it was said. Tone. It’s really true, the word can have so many applications.


This last Saturday, or maybe it was Friday, (I’m a little lost as the two days were whirwinds) one of our servers was standing right there as a ticket started printing out and I was helping her get something to go. We are watching at it just prints this uber long ticket that wouldn’t stop, both of us saying ‘stop, stop, STOP!’ and right as it finishes, another starts right up. I looked at her and let out a very quiet ‘eff’.  Then another, and she totally agreed with me. It was just an “oh crap” moment. We both knew what it meant and there was nothing else that would make the point quite as much. I was ‘in the weeds’ a lot that night and swearing was the only way in my head to deal. Granted, most of the swearing was in my head. Burns, bangs, exhausted arms, tickets that didn’t seem to end, yeah, sometime letting out a long, sighing “eff” is the only thing that helps you deal.

Sometimes I need to use language. Other times, no. I need to refrain when not at work, and I try to keep it more clean, but honestly, the terms are just so much a part of my life nowadays.


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.


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.