What Shall We Downsize – Kitchen Fiction

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

“How are you doing, kiddo?” she asks me as she surrounds me in the best hug I’ve had in ages. There’s nothing quite like getting a hug from a friend who is like a mom and confidant and several things all wrapped into one, wearing turquoise, mind you, and also a writer.  Mel is one of those amazing women in my life that I can’t imagine not being there. And she gets me in ways a lot of people don’t. Maybe it’s because we are both Taurii. Just days apart.

“It’s been a good week,” I reply.  “Last week I finally had enough, so this week’s been good.”

“That’s it?!” I know, the shock reverberating off of her is understanding and empathetic frustration.

I have to take my good days. “I’m learning to manage men,” is my reply.  It’s true. I’m not ever going to be skilled at it. I don’t want to manage men. I’d much prefer they manage themselves, thank you very much, but when all of them act no older than 16, you make do. You manage.  Them, life, skills, time, people.

It was an incredibly good, albeit, busy week. I was strapped for time on a lot of days, pushing myself to frustration levels, time constraints, short on ingredients days. But I am learning to manage people without actually telling them what to do. Scoot people in the direction that A. I need them to be in, and B. where it’s good for the restaurant. Do I know everything? Not even close, but I know what works. I can’t be in back all the time and sometimes I just have to walk away. That is hard. The walking away and letting it go. Some days, I don’t.

“Do you ever not argue!” I snap at a coworker. I’m in a panic because I am short dough, I have about 10 large tickets piling up, more on top, only so much dough to go around, my sugar is diving and I am getting so much pushback from someone that I am about ready to scream.

“Breathe!” orders everyone orders around me.  I’m telling myself to breathe as well.  ‘Patience is a virtue’, is the refrain I have in my head via Evelyn from The Mummy. The ‘Not right now it isn’t!’ is always second in my head, via Rick from the same film.

Breathing didn’t help. I dropped a handful of tomatoes after snapping, rushed through a busy line with Jersey Boy asking if I was okay. I couldn’t answer. I was trying not to cry from frustration, and my sugar diving. I’m fine, I’m fine. Yeah, every woman knows ‘FINE’ is not fine. Look it up. There’s a nice version and a not so nice version.

But I got over it. Moved on, killed it on the line, and found myself baking another cheesecake at 10pm then selling the entire cheesecake to one customer the next day. And bake another one as I clean the kitchen on my ‘Friday’ night. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Work is hard for me. Last post was about how I kind of float through the place. Yeah, it’s not all floating so much as staying focused all the time so that by the time I get home, I’m wiped. I don’t stay focused. Ever. I am the world’s most distracted person. So keeping it all together at work is a challenge. I was reminded of this last night when my mother reiterated again, probably for the umpteenth time, why I am so tired on my weekend.

“She’s writing a novel about a kitchen,” Mel tells her guy. I am, I spend little bits of time thinking and writing life. Even down to managing men, people, and myself.

This week was better than the last. It came off the high of a super busy last weekend with my good floating, being a Sandy, etc. moment. Next week could be bad, but every step forward is good. I am in a place I never thought I would be. I still might not be able to drive, and am scared to death of making the wrong turn, but well, keep moving forward.

On the side note side, the hills changed from browns and greens to a gorgeous tapestry of oranges, reds and yellows. Wilson and his girl Friday are staying out late into the cold twilight hiking around in fall. I got out in the air today and tonight and it was good inspiration. Just breathing mountain air from a warm October day when the pines opened up and sent out all their spicy resinous smells. Ah fall.

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

 

Stains, Spots, And Smelly Clothes

Photo by Dmitry Arslanov on Unsplash

The cooking industry is murder on your laundry. I am sure that there are a lot of other industries that would be in that category as well, but what with spots, stains, sweat, and who knows what else, professional kitchens are a source of constant obnoxious laundry.

Take for instance this weekend when I accidentally had my gel pen leaking a bright blue spot through my apron onto my nice white chef’s jacket. I stared down at the spot remembering the ‘lovely’ accident of the sharpie mark on my sleeves one day when I didn’t click it closed. That spot is still there, albeit brown now instead of black due to several laundry tricks that never worked.  I was panicking a bit because a blue stain on white seemed impossible.

I have so far, found a trick by accident that works. So people who want to get stains out, get your pens ready and bookmark this post.

Lots of places said rubbing alcohol and vinegar rotated with table salt got the stains out. For me it was Simple Green worked into the stain and agitated out. I used diluted first to start rinsing it, but then full strength and scrubbed the fabric with itself until the stain was itty bitty. I will launder it as usual and expect it will come out.

For standard laundering of my regular whites, which are white, mind you, is Tide with Bleach. All of my jackets are from Happy Chef, so are that 30/60 cotton poly blend that you are not supposed to bleach. But Tide with Bleach is great because it doesn’t bleach but gets the grease and stains out. Odor too.  My aprons and jackets frequently smell of old flour and oil and fry oil smells. If you do a regular load of laundry with warm water (warm is a must, cold will not work) and if you can soak the load for a half hour in the soapy water then rinse twice, you will have sparkling clean shirts. I use it for my semi faded aprons as well since it breaks down the oils so well.

For spot treatment on every stain no matter what I use Dawn Dishwashing detergent. I like the ultra or concentrated ones as they work the best. Toothbrush, scrub it in, let it sit for a couple hours or days and bada boom, out comes the stain.

If the stain doesn’t work, consider trying hydrogen peroxide with the dawn. If it’s a colored item, rinse it out once the stain starts to fade otherwise you will have the color fade out because of the peroxide.  A trick for berry stains that has worked wonders, is to first treat the stain with the dawn. It will turn every berry stain into a blueish stain, then use the hydrogen peroxide to slowly erase the blue stain. Rinse.  Every single time it works.

Irish Spring original scent bar soap is excellent for getting out blood as well as sweat stains. Sweat smell too. I have always had a problem with body odor and washing with Irish Spring keeps it at bay, will break down the aluminum zirconium in most deodorant antiperspirants ,  and also helps break apart sweat smells. I have used Irish Spring for years, but I definitely have to use it now that I have switched from a natural deodorant to antiperspirant.

For oil stains, if it is fresh oil, sop it up with talcum powder. Not stuff with cornstarch in it, but actual talc. Raid your grandma’s powder tin, so long as you can handle the strong scent.  Use a small spoon or popsicle stick and apply a little mound over the oil spot. (I have never tried it on anything larger than a dime or quarter size)  Let it sit. For a while. Like an hour or two. Brush off with a toothbrush and repeat if the talc is oily and clumpy or the spot is still there. Repeat as many times as it takes to magically disappear the oil. Launder as usual, or use Dawn then launder. It’s seriously amazing. I have saved so many things from oil spots with this trick.

Definitely if you have a stain that you can’t seem to get out, do not throw it in the dryer or use heat. It always sets stains or oil marks. This is actually why my  chef’s jackets are never in the dryer these days. I never want to set a lot a stain, and sometimes I never know if I have gotten all of the stains. So best be safe instead of sorry and trying desperately to get stains out.

My mother is expert at getting stains out, more so than I am. I am notorious for cooking at home without an apron on. I splatter so many things. I am queen of that. And my dad is notorious for spilling on white t-shirts and brand new clean things, whatever they might be. So yeah, lots of years of stains. She probably has more tricks that even I don’t know, but these work like charms for me. So, if you work in a funky stain inducing industry, these might help.

On a side note about cleaning things, I have found that the kitchen is murder on my skin, producing a lot of blackhead and blemishes. A lot, and I wear a concealer that has sunblock in it, so it clogs the pores a lot. After I wash my face with hot water and a washrag at night, I clean my skin with rubbing alcohol. I have found it keeps the bulk of the blackheads at bay. I still get plenty, but it cuts down the bulk. And if my skin gets too dry, then I use Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner in the morning and I am good to go.

It’s the little things in life that make it easier. So any laundering or beauty care ideas for the cooking industry? Send them my way.  And hopefully these help anyone else.

Kate

In A World Of Food Life And Tasting Meals

New Year’s Eve brought me to another banquet, though this was more of a very nice tasting menu. I have done several party type meals with this restaurant, and all usually involved yelling, crying, and broken glass. From someone, though I was usually the one crying. Yeah, so when I knew this was coming up, I was excited albeit, a bit aprehensive. I don’t do well under mad pressure. Meaning mad as in crazy and mad as in pissed off.

This was the farthest thing from that. This was amazing. This was exciting. This was a step towards a brighter future and opportunities that I have only had a glimmer of seeing with online postings from chefs. This was new. Apropos since it was leading into the new year.

The menu was in my opinion, ambitious. I can’t say what Coffeeman thought, though he did say something in regards to New Year’s meals and whatnot.

I was in charge of the desserts. Ta da! Of course I was, though due to a very busy week I was never able to actually make the triple flavored mousses that filled the cannoli shells. I was semi bummed about that, but since my cranberry sauce was used for the appetizer, I can’t complain. Chef could easily make it his way. But he has kept it with my recipe. Thank you. I am honored. It’s pretty cool to say that your lemon bars and cranberry sauce are that; yours. (on a side note, right before calling in sick, I made bourbon caramel sauce and a beer cheese sauce that were perfect in my opinion. Ok, I couldn’t taste them, but everyone else said they tasted good…. I think I am starting to get the hang of this cooking thing where I don’t jump at my shadow and I just make)

The New Year’s Bash went off as a hit, which included a round of applause from a very nice group of people. Several Instagram worthy shots and a closer connection with some of my coworkers. I went home on a high that lasted all that night until the next day when gosh darn it, I felt a virus hit at the tail end of getting rid of another one. Thank goodness it came on a slow week.

Below are some lovely shots of some of the items we served for the meal. And head over to my Instagram account if you want to keep updated on other food related items, or dachshund love.  Kate’s IG  https://www.instagram.com/katielynbranson/

Anyways, Coffeeman has no clue how much I actually wanted to cry because it was so amazing. The last banquet/dinner I had to do involved 60 cakes in 3 hours with no prep and a boss that I am possitive to this day, wanted to break me. He didn’t. He didn’t win. I succeeded and goshdarnnit! I will keep succeeding. Like all things in life, you have to fight for what you want, even when sometimes you don’t know what it is you want. You just keep fighting. And good things will happen.  Well, this is a very good thing.

Two posts in one day. Wow, well, being sick leads to ideas. I have been writing some fiction but I have lost a little zing of that since the last fiasco, which is a bit depressing. I have too much inspiration in my daily life and I want to write about it, but now I sit there wondering where or when I should share it. Le sigh. Such is life.

But this might all be the cold/flu talking and being tired and loss of perspective. Let me just go back to hela good banquet.

Kate

Eighty-Six the Cannelloni, There’s Mashed Potatoes in My Ear

Photo by Benjamin Zanatta on Unsplash

Restaurant life is weird. Like really weird. Like you get to work and you ask your coworker how many reservations (res) you have, they say eighty-six reservations,  and you say, “so no reservations then”.  To ’86’ something means to get rid of it, you don’t have it, or you are out. Only one other person got my 86’d reservations, but go with me here.

I asked Elizabeth Swan (William Turner’s wife, of course) how she was today. “I got mashed potatoes in my ear,” she replies. This isn’t a euphemism. This was actual fact. In a funny twist of life, she reached to scratch her ear and didn’t know she had gotten mashed potatoes on her finger. Go figure. But that also kind of summed up the day.

I find the strangest things sift down and fall onto my head. Currently, it’s ash. A lot of ash. I pull the metal paddle out of the oven and stand it up and think “oh crap” as I feel things sift down onto my arm, my head, my face. People are forever saying I have something on my face. I have to ask if it’s white or black. White is flour, duh, since I work with pizza dough, and black if it’s soot. It’s a common occurrence.

Tonight (December 29th) three of us were tired and hungry. I had told my parents I was going to sit and get a drink then be home. So there we sat, Will Turner, D-boss, and me. My “drink” was a cup of coffee and a bowl of cold cereal, D-boss was eating a microwaved cheese sandwich, and Will had a beer. A motley crew to say the least. (everyone was in a weird eating foods mood tonight.)

I have read books where people are out back of the restaurant in the frigid air smoking and bs-ing. A fair amount of the kitchen staff smokes, I love the smell of cigarette smoke (much to the confusion of my coworkers), and will follow them out to their smoke breaks just to stand with them. Tonight one was smoking while I waited for my ride and I stood there leaning against the brick, breathing in the most frigid air possible, and cigarette smoke, bs-ing about nothing important, and I realized, I have become a book setting.

My life is one giant plotline. Heck, I was writing in my head today as I worked. I can’t quite remember what I was writing, though the title did come to me along with the line from You’ve Got Mail via The Godfather “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” Though I was using cannelloni because that is on our menu and gosh darn it if we don’t have to 86 it a lot due to its popularity and time consumption in prepping it.   Also, isn’t this like the greatest blog title? Bizarre enough that you just have to keep reading. Pardon if my post isn’t the most exciting.

I actually sat there realizing that this full time job is my job. Sometimes if I think really hard about it, it becomes this weird out of body thought and I am left wondering how I got here.

Currently I am out for the count due to a nasty virus or something that gave me a horrible cough and ear infection. I missed three days of work this last week. A week that came on the heels of New Years Eve and a tasting menu that was to die for. I am going to finish up this post then sit down and write about that….

The strangest things delight me at work. Or about work. It’s the little things that make you feel closer to a coworker and you suddenly realize that you are a fairly strange misfits of a family. It may not be a perfect family, but it’s family non the less and you know they get you, for the most part, and you get them, and you can say weird stuff like, “I got mashed potatoes in my ear” and that means a whole host of somethings.

I told Elizabeth that I got over a panic attack, and she was like, ‘well at least you got over it’, which was code for “I’m not doing so ok myself.” We all have our moments where we lean on each other, poke daggers at each other, but hold each other up. We manage to keep afloat somehow.

But seriously, let’s stop 86ing the cannelloni….

Kate

Be Assertive – Day 30

“Katie, you need to be more assertive,” says my GM. “Walk around like a guy, like you have a big d—k and b—s.”

This comes after several weeks of being challenged within the kitchen. It didn’t matter how  or what I did, it was like I was dealing with another Lucifer. Actually, this person tends to treat me like Lucifer in ways regarding respect, meaning lack of, especially when no one is watching. Which…. well…. irks me. I am not some peon within my restaurant. I am not the inferior here. I’ve got some experience under my belt. And everyone deserves respect.

I am not an assertive person. Never have been. I am almost as girly as you can be, without being like a complete and total priss. I do get my hands dirty with this job. To be assertive as a woman, you have to be a take charge, don’t let the big boys push you around and have this ability to have authority roll off  of you.

I’m not exactly that person. As Mrs. B said, ‘you have never lived the life your GM has lived, and you probably won’t get jaded to life like more assertive people are.’ It is a fact. I don’t have kids, haven’t been married, haven’t dated a lot, so life hasn’t made me nearly as cynical as  most people are by the time they hit their late 30s. Not to mention I am 20 years behind my GM as far as life experiences go. Oh and the whole health issues which screw up my brain on a regular basis. <—-there’s a real confidence in me builder….

Heck, I go into  a one on one meeting with Coffeeman and GM nearly in tears….. pardon, I was falling apart. To the point where I am not sure I even got out everything I wanted to say. In fact, I know I didn’t say everything I had been rehearsing for two days with my parents. Stuttering, tripping over my words, worked up….I know what I did say got most of my point across. Basically, if you don’t fix this you are going to lose me because I am so frustrated I’m not sure I want to say with this job. I was back to crying before work and crying after. That was/is how frustrated I am. Granted, I cry because I am more sensitive, but this comes from sheer and utter frustration.

I am  a more sensitive person and a lot of things bother me. I am soft. I care about people; I care a lot about people. If they struggle, I am sympathetic or empathetic to their plight most of the time. If someone I really care about is not doing okay, then I really find myself chewing on it. There have been a couple of our servers who I keep my eye on because I care about them a whole heck of a lot and when they go through things, it bothers me. Makes me want to cry.

 

Okay, in general I am a watering pot.  That is how I show my passionate side, besides getting a glow and a sparkle, I tend to get teary. Compliment my dessert, you won’t see me trying to dab my eyes, but I will be.

I have got to learn to just walk away….

I will never be as assertive as my GM would like me to be, but you know what? These people I work with wouldn’t like me as much as they seem to if I wasn’t me. Maybe it’s good to be more soft in a lot of ways.  Life is a dance of opposites. Hard and soft, light and dark. I’m the soft. I’m the light. I’m the laughter. I’m the feminine.

Someone else can be the masculine and the assertive.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have the ability to be more assertive and such. That is something I am working towards. I need a backer who has my back when I request someone do something and that backer is the enforcer and makes sure what I say is done as well. I’m one of those ladies where if I had kids, I would need my husband to be my backer when I wanted those kiddos to do what I said. Basically, not that the backer is the only one making it happen, but giving me the authority that what I say is rule.

Right now I don’t feel like I have that backer completely…… I am hinting at someone.  I’m afraid he’s a little like me. Too subtle…  Hint hint. HINT. I need your support to be semi assertive.  I need to feel like I have authority of some sort, because I am working to that goal. Maybe I will never be in charge totally, but I do think I have skills to be directing traffic and managing. With and enforcer by my side…. Or back, or whatever. Help me help you, so that we both have help….I’m quoting Jerry McGuire there, sort of.

But be thankful I’m not an assertive lady. Trust me, you will like me much more as I am.

Now pardon me while I go hunt down a tissue…. just kidding

Kate

Being a Pastry Chef – Day 29

“Hey, T-Bear. Want some crack?” I ask tonight as service slows down a bit.

“Uh. Yes!” comes the expected response.

Out comes the six pan of lemon bar edges and such and the moans are heard around the kitchen.

When I say ‘crack,’ I don’t mean literal crack. Just like when I talk about cocaine clouds in my poetry. (which is just powdered sugar clouds from roulade cakes) I literally can blame all of this on Coffeeman.  Wednesday I was trimming down the edges of the lemon bars so they  were all pretty to plate and so of course I am not going to toss those edges. Into a pan they go and get passed around for anyone with a sweet tooth. (practically the entire kitchen)

Suddenly, an hour or two later, Chef is shoving the pan back at me and saying “get this crack away from me!”  Yes, it is that addictive and YES! I know I have done my job when Chef says this.  Let me blow on my nail and buff them on my jacket… Preen like a bird. Damn straight.

There are some serious perks to being able to call myself the pastry chef. Mind you, I am not classically trained. At all. Most of my baking has been rather haphazard over the years. The job was shoved at me because the first ‘chef’ decided he needed his wife to not be carting their 4 month old child around the kitchen. Don’t ask. Long story.

So job shoved at me, making boxed everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cakes and such and I am suddenly the  pastry chef.  But I digress way too far down that rabbithole.

So, perks to being pastry chef.

  1. Sugar.  I mean, come on, everything is sweet. How can you go wrong?
  2. Sliding sweet things over to your coworkers as you bake. It is seriously fun to be chopping a block of chocolate and shards get passed over to this person or that person.
  3. Seeing the look of ‘moaning’ delight on anyone’s face when they taste something good.
  4. Do you know how delightful it is to tell a guy you are the pastry chef and see this insta-perked up look of fascination? Um, yeah, there is serious power in that. I say that to a guy, not to mention pizza chef and whatnot, but serious interest is suddenly there. Why just a week and a half ago as the kitchen was filled with all of us on a off day to prep, here comes a very seriously cute/handsome/adorable new FedEx delivery guy and the look on his face as I went to sign his tablet but had to stop because I was chopping a big ole block of chocolate and had it on my hands. Power. There is serious power in being a pastry chef.
  5. Sending out good things to friends who come in……
  6. Handing out spoons for people to sample chocolate mousse, lemon bars, creme brulee, apple pear cranberry crisp (today I treated our hostess to a delightful bit) Ah yes, again it’s power… Good power. The power to create happiness.
  7. Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Come on, no one can be in a bad mood after desserts.
  8. Your hair, skin, clothes smell like vanilla and cinnamon and sugar cookie dough, and almond, and yumminess. I have taken showers after baking and the scent that wafts off of me as the hot water hits my hair is literally what I was baking and the essence of whatever was baking in the oven.
  9. Power.
  10. Did I mention power? It’s a really sexy power.

So, yeah, I stress a lot about screwing up desserts. I mean, my lemon bars were too wet this time around, needing to have baked them a hair longer, and that roulade cake through the summer, but there are some amazing perks to this job.

Kate

Behind the Scenes Prep – Day 28

Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

“If you don’t do your prep you don’t have a kitchen.” Wise words from Mrs. B tonight, as I discussed who was good on prep and who wasn’t.  We all do prep. Well, most of us do. There are a few that don’t do as much as others, and some who refused to do prep, and a few now who run around like a chicken with their heads cut off saying they have so much prep but not doing their prep……but we’ve all done some prep.

I got my start in this job as a prep chef. I worked the pantry (salads and such), but most of my day was prep work. Back prep work. I have done a lot of cutting, sous vide, sauces, baking, etc. All I did at the beginning was prep. And walkin duty.

You have to have your prep to have a fluid, well oiled kitchen. In my restaurant, just about everything is made in house. There are a few things here and there that are not, but these days, thanks to Coffeeman and his love of all things house made, we house make everything. The only thing right now we don’t do is bake our own bread (though the focaccia went through the summer just until the menu switch){and to do that we need a full time baker and another kitchen practically} .  Everything else we do.

Stocks, dressings, soups, sauces, dicing, slicing, cutting, grating, zesting, baking, rolling, forming, stuffing, shredding, and the list goes on. I come in every day and the first thing I do after I clock on is to check our white board for what needs doing. Our prep lists are usually pretty thin these days when I get in because the kitchen is so organized I don’t find myself bogged down with prep that wasn’t done in the day, because, shock of all shocks, Coffeeman is right in the thick of things with prep. He does so much prep work. He doesn’t stand around BS-ing  and saying “Oh I have so much to do!” but then not doing it. He actually does it! (unlike a few previous employees, and a few previous ‘chefs’) That man works so hard.  And we all do prep.

“We are all dishwashers, bakers, prep chefs, etc.” Coffeeman always says. He’s right. While I’m not the dishwasher, I do find myself doing dishes when we are busy, or now when I am alone in the kitchen on my days of baking. We all do a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Tonight (this is several days after I started this post….[come on K, get your but in gear and finish these GD month of day posts!]) Chef sent our dishwasher home early so he could catch a break and the kitchen was left to William, T-Bear, and me. So while T-Bear went on lunch, I cleaned up the back prep area and found myself running silverware and dishes through the dishwasher. I don’t mind it. Why should I?  The job has to be done, be it mopping floors (which I did) to making a pizza (which I also did). It’s all about running a smooth kitchen.

Prep may be boring to some, but without it, you cannot have a functioning restaurant. Astro D has moved to days and is in the thick of prep, and he loves it. I love coming in and hearing what he did during the day. He’s getting to make soup! And he’s thrilled. And I’m thrilled because I come in to work and I don’t have prep waiting to be done. It’s done so I can tackle things that are for what I do. Like making sure my station is all set up. Now if only I could remember to actually finish…. I forgot to check some things tonight. Whoops.

It’s this giant clockwork of a machine. And prep work is one of the largest cogs in this wheel of a clock of a restaurant. (hey, that would be a cool start to a poem)

Kate

Everything Changes – Day 27

So yeah, I didn’t actually complete the Write 31 Days in a 31 day period… sue me.  Busy, tired, busy, tired, I could repeat….  And I can’t quite remember what Twin Ponygirl said for title, but I’ll give her the credit for this. So any comment made to this post, she get’s 50 cents royalties…

Lemon Bars Photo by Dana DeVolk on Unsplash

Literally, everything changes, from coworkers to menus, the restaurant business is ever evolving. Months ago I wrote how Miss Holly and I hated change, and for the most part, it’s true, but honestly, I am excited for the new changes to the menu. The other day as a bunch of us were prepping on a closed day, Coffeeman asked how we were all feeling. I wasn’t sure if it was in general because we all put in a long day, or because of the new menu. For me, I am feeling quite excited about the new menu. Yeah, there is a lot of prep. It’s an ambitious menu, to me at least. But it’s a good and exciting change.

I didn’t get what Coffeeman was blathering on about a week and a half ago about being bored with the summer menu… Then I started thinking about it. Like that night I went home and was totally in agreement. I was bored with the menu. I needed a change. I needed something different to challenge my mind. My creativity. My passion.

I’m always passionate about what I’m doing, which is why it takes me a bit longer to make things because I want them to be perfect-ish. But even I was feeling like the menu was mundane at times. It needed something to spice it up. It needed to embrace fall. Lots of fall, even if there are only 54 days till Christmas… (yeah, I killed you there, didn’t I?) I need dark flavors and spices. I want rich and heavy. It’s gorgeous fall weather  as I look out to a blue sky and this rust colored oak tree. I mean, it is absolutely gorgeous! So I want flavors that embrace that.

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

I am excited Chef decided to use my cranberry-port sauce for the lemon bars. My sauce!  Okay, well I did find the recipe and tweak it.  And the other day he asked where my recipe was for the lemon bars. “What recipe, you are the chef, aren’t you supposed to have it?” I asked

“You’re the pastry chef! Where’s yours?!” he countered.

Damn straight. I am the pastry chef. Where was mine?  I have to tweak it a bit working with a much larger pan than a 9 by 13!  But it’s good and I have plans.

Fall is bound to be exciting, and changes are forever happening. I’m learning to roll with them. Sometimes.

Kate