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

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

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

Drowned Mussels – Day 23

I just wrote about icing your mussels the other day. Sad day today, as 3 pounds of mussels drowned over the weekend and didn’t make it.  Such a bummer to open up the reach in and find shellfish sitting in water.  So there I was this late afternoon sorting through good mussels (closed up) and drowned mussels (open and not trying to close when you squeeze them shut, in fact, springing back open)

I found myself thinking of Alice and Wonderland with the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter. I’m rather fond of anything Alice and Wonderland, excluding the books, (I have to read them now that I’m older and can handle more classics) and the part about the oysters, while sad, is incredibly catchy. So okay, we’re not dealing with oysters, but still….

Carpenter:
Little Oysters? Little Oysters?

Tweedle Dee:
But answer, there came none

Tweedle Dum:
And this was scarcely odd because

Both:
They’d been eaten
Every one!

So of course, these poor dears were eaten, but still, dead is dead.  It’s a shame the mussels and clams are not good anymore because of improper care.

A few open clams, gotta be tossed too.

It actually irks me. I know it irked Coffeeman with his texts back and forth with me today. In fact, I sort of laughed because he literally phrased things how I would have had I been saying them. Yep, I just looked again. Clearly the two of us think alike. Weird. Cool. Eh, what am I saying, we both listen to Backstreet Boys and like it… And I know, weirdly off topic….You all know I am apt to digress easily. It’s the ‘Squirrel!’ in me…

I like things done properly. I have made mistakes in the kitchen. I get that. We will all make mistakes, but when it comes to a product being wasted because of ineptitude or lack of care, or for whatever other reason it might be, it irks me even more. Le sigh. Let’s hope that it doesn’t happen again.  And a side note, dead mussels or clams do not smell good. Bleh.

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

Ice Your Mussels – Day 20

No, I don’t mean your body… Mussels not Muscles….

So, I have learned a lot about proper food storage working in a professional kitchen. Things we don’t do at our own homes, but are a must in a restaurant. Like how you ice and store fish properly.

Wrapped pans of fish over ice

Fish must be properly stored, in a perforated pan, and usually on ice. Fish arrives in ice most of the time and after it’s been cut up, it goes into a pan and that pan gets set on ice that is in another pan. Perforated bus tubs with ice in the top over a solid pan below, then various hotel pans of cut up fish, scallops, mussels, clams, etc. are set over the ice before being put into the right fridge.

Iced mussels

Fresh clams and mussels have ice poured directly on top of the shells that are in a perforated pan so that they don’t drown. I didn’t know they could drown, maybe because it isn’t salt water? I really should look this one up, or as Coffeeman.

Iced clams

That being said, flipping the pun around, if you have hurt muscles, ice them… So clearly any mussel/muscle, you ice.

And really, ice your fish… I followed behind my other closer tonight (thursday) and iced everything he didn’t ice, which was all of it. I’m glad I’ve learned to do this so that Coffeeman doesn’t find it un-iced. It’s not a huge amount of fish and such, but it does take time and it weighs a fair amount by the time you get to the end of the evening.

Good things to know. Good things.

Kate

 

Bruises, Bumps, Burns, and Bodies – Day 19

Large healing bruise on my knee. I still have no clue where this came from.

I am naturally a klutz so it’s actually pretty easy to figure out the first three of this list.  In this job I have sustained several bumps and burns, but bruises are the thing that get me the most. At some points I have had 10+ bruises on various parts of my body. Mostly my legs, but some really odd ones on my arms that I sit there wondering where the heck I have received them.

Currently, I have had more bruises due to being slightly more self sufficient after an incident with Lucifer about a month and a half ago. Gads time flies, I had forgotten it had been that long.

There I was needing something up high and as he walks by I ask him to reach it for me since he has several inches on me and a long reach. (I, and several coworkers, are vertically challenged. Or we are short people working in a tall kitchen. Or we have short people problems. You pick.) Instead of reaching it for me, he tells me to go get a stool as he’s too busy (he wasn’t). So I go to get the step stool and he calls me back an says “K, I’ll show you how to get this.” He reaches up, inches the pan holding what I needed, tart shells, forward and pulls down the shells. Just as he hands them out to me, he whips it away and puts it back up and shoves the pan back and walks off saying, “Now you know how to get it.”

Needless to say I was pissed beyond belief. Another sweet, darling coworker saw the whole thing and reached up and got the tart shells for me, the dear she is. But after that, I started finding ways to reach for things myself.  Coffeeman has even told me he will get something for me if I need help, that he’s not that cruel, but I find myself not wanting to bother people after the Lucifer incident. So needless to say, I have a few more bruises than usual as I bump into things a bit more.

It’s hard to see, but about 8 inches of my arm from wrist up have a ‘sunburn’ from the ovens tonight

The burns are a guarantee working in the pizza station and with 700 degrees. Tonight I got a bit of a sunburn-esque mark on my arm after a minor disaster involving a pizza that stuck to the stones. Coals had to be brought out and spread over the mess and I had to shift wood around.  The guys at the bar were watching me fascinated and wondering what had happened. (man, guys are fascinated with me working pizza. It’s flattering)

But there have been oil burns, pan burns, singed off fingerprints when I grabbed the paddle for the pizza oven and forgot that the handle was hot…. Ow.   Hot cast iron pans, melted sugar. Surprisingly enough, I haven’t gotten that many burns in the scope of what I’ve worked with.

And lastly the last part of the title. Body. I can say one thing, if you move in a kitchen, and by move I mean don’t dawdle, you can get a body. The lifting, the walking, the chopping, everything. It builds muscle like no business. My arms are in the best shape they have ever been. I hardly have any excess fat now, having shed it with everything. I dropped 10-12 pounds of weight and gained so much muscle. I’ve had some of the servers go “wow” when I take off my chef’s jacket and they see my arms. Or like this summer when I came in in my heels, short shorts, and camisole top. They were like, “Sheesh, you have a body!” I do, and it’s so great. I love it. It really makes up for some of the exhaustion I feel. (the exhaustion might be the 48 hour work week last week)

But there’s a lot of B’s to this job. And I love knowing I have a body under my very conservative chef’s jacket.  It’s part of the reason I wrote a poem back in the spring about “You Can Be A Nice Girl and Wear a Black Bra”…. it went along the lines of, ‘under this white jacket you would never know I wear black lace….’

It’s fun, I had fun with that poem. I should hunt it down and reread it again.  I have a lot of kitchen poetry. I feel this post would make for a great poem. I should work on that this weekend when I go to writing.

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

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?….”

Organized!

 

 

 

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…

Kate

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.

burning…

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.

Kate