Sunday Night Flow

Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

The open sign is down. The dining hall is still full of people and orders are coming in, but most of it is limited to me and desserts in back. The boys have started cleaning and Mixologist Man has started doing his form of a last call, though he’s still pouring beers and whatnot. Soon the scrubbing will begin.

In the kitchen, our dishwasher is tackling as much as he can get done before we are all piling everything into the pit. (I haven’t come up with a nom de plume for him yet…) I start taking back wood paddles and anything that I know I won’t need the rest of the night. If I’ve been lucky enough to have had a relatively quiet Sunday, I may have already flipped all of my mise en place and washed out my refrigerated station. Those are good days. But today, instead, I focused on the walk-in. Downsizing cambros and clearing out the old. Tossing weird things with no label or date. Definitely tossing that goat cheese sauce from a month ago with fuzzy little black blobs across the surface. Yeah, that ain’t penicillin.

The walk-in is a general source of aggravation for me these days. No one downsizes anything. And I do mean no one. Some people might think they are, but most of the time they are just moving containers around or redesigning what they think the walk-in should look like to them. Please don’t. It’s been set up with what works for a year now. I know how it works, people know how to find things that way. Do not, in your small mind, think that you are helping people by changing everything.

The walk-in has been my baby since day one when first Chef tasked me to put away the entire produce and dairy order. And this was before we were allowed to put things in bins. I might not have had it perfect, but I slowly learned to play Tetras with containers. Most cambros stack on each other quite well and there is a method to fitting them so they work. Coffeeman was pretty excellent in downsizing the walk-in too. The one time I downsized it right after he did made for an interesting next day when he couldn’t find anything…. Poor guy. Over-zealous does have it’s disadvantages.

A clean station, nearly filled mise en place. Practically perfect.

So this Sunday, walk-in was fixed. I’m sure I will have to do it again this week, but at least I feel like I got somewhere. So instead of flipping and cleaning my station, it waited till the end. Out comes the bucket of sani water, piping hot and ready to scald even the toughest hands, rags, and new 9th and 6th pans. Flip, bang, reverse. Empty container, new one off to the side with mise waiting in it. All 19 pans are flipped excluding the ones that got filled that day with new ingredients and new pans. Wash out the entire top station and bits of debris. The underneath refrigerator gets organized and wiped down. Pans are wrapped. Dated, labeled and set up for the new week.

The entire area gets swept down, like it does every night, but a few extra areas like under the wood where the dirt drops down. The wall is wiped down where the flour has sifted through the week. Tomatoes are taken off the ledge. Oil bottles wiped off. Everything gets straightened. Sometimes I might sip a glass of beer while I clean, provided all the guests are gone. Tonight, they are not, so I drink cold water. A lot of it. Because no matter how much I drink, it’s never enough to stay hydrated.

In the back, the dish pit is a pile of so much that there is another guy playing ‘catch’ when the dishes come out of the automated dishwasher, Betsy. Other stations have been wrapped and put away. Other stations have been washed down. The grates over the stove area are scrubbed, or have been throughout the day. Garbage bags are combined and taken out. It’s not really anything that we don’t do throughout the week. In fact, it’s pretty much the same thing with only some extra added scrubbing in certain areas.

The fish is iced, things are wiped down a tad better than the rest of the week. This is the night the floors get sprayed down with hot water. If they are really grimy, maybe some Orange Force or degreaser. Out in front Mixologist Man is offering up a jar of celery for anyone to munch on. Why? It’s tradition. It might not last through the weekend and it just is what we do. I usually have several pieces because I feel like I haven’t had my greens throughout the week. Besides, it keeps me from indulging in a soda. Okay, so the giant pancake with the side of syrup was just as bad, but work with me, I’m tired. I need sugar.

This week the music is subdued. Kind of 80s, but most of the time we put on Ke$ha or something super bouncy. Belting it out as the volume is turned up a tad more. The lights go on full blast out in the hall because most of the servers sweeping like to see. This week, I turn them up so I can see all the areas I might have missed in my station.

This week I am out by 9pm. That’s actually pretty good. I stayed a little longer to organize the cambros and dough bins that have gotten mixed up again. I could have been out by 8:30, but I need some organization. It’s only after I head upstairs to put away a pan that I find out I am out of dough for the week. Groan. Why didn’t anyone tell me they pulled the last bin?! Fortunately I have enough dough rolled to start off my week, provided Astro D can make dough at the start of the week.

Seriously, I need a drink now. Okay, no, I really don’t NEED a drink. I just want one to relax with and wind down. It’s been a long pain in the behind week. People have been rude, on my nerves and I’m just really tired. Mixologist Man and I leave the two behind to finish out the kitchen, dishwasher and prep person. We make our way across a completely dead street in a nearly completely dead town. It’s Sunday night, just after nine and only the one brewery/pub is left open. One quick round and I’m off to head home. Wash away the grime, slip out of kitchen smelly clothes and call it a day.

See you next week…

It’s only two days away, but well, such are weekends.

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

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

Rizzo, Sandy, And Managing

“I am so Rizzo to your Sandy!” – Mixologist Man

I float through the dining hall in my white chef’s jacket, the stares of guests, a finger point, gesturing, as I carry plates behind a number one server. it’s not often you see a chef carrying food to a table. “Brownie points for running food,” says Jersey Boy.

Photo by Lefteris kallergis on Unsplash

Owners watch, take notice. I just give a smile and nod my head as I pass.  Another round, and I’m out the door with appetizer and plates, then back with entree, that I made. Sure, it might be a pizza, but my pizzas have been claimed as art. Aparently I am art to watch as well. I guess my five foot three, or four depending on which doctor’s office I’m in, frame, and a large, burning pizza oven make for living artwork. “I’m not in a hurry,” says a guest, holding up his beer, “in fact, take your time on my order.” Later. “I wasn’t in a hurry, I was just enjoying watching you.” I nod my head again in acknowledgement to the compliment.

I’m on display. “I need you to keep your head up and keep smiling.” Teddy Bear of an owner says to me. I am out front and center, one of the first things you see when you enter the restaurant. I am the first thing related to food you see. As I can toss pillow-y soft dough into a round without even looking at it, catching it on a spin. I may not be able to toss it above my head, I’d rather not get flour everywhere, but I can practically do it in my sleep. I can flip wooden boards down, and in five minutes, have five rounds of dough ready to be filled, and slung into a 700 degree oven. All five at once. Six or more if I have it just right.

Photo by Daniel Bradley on Unsplash

I spin, I dance, I slide, I arabesque. I duck, and bend and move in ways I never thought I could, reaching for this, stretching for that. I spin on a heel after a pizza goes into the oven.  In out, in out, this dance that is fast or slow depending on the strip of ticket orders that grace my board.

Grace under pressure. That is my mental motto. I am on the fast track to being a manager without even trying. That’s not bravado talking. I direct traffic, I answer questions, I grab a server and hustle them to their next table. I roll silverware, mix up sauces on the fly when we are out, hand off things to Jersey Boy and William Turner. I know where things are hiding in the walk-in. I solve problems, and shift people to where a job needs doing. I’m not even trying to do these things. They just come to me. I taste things, adjust salt, answer flavoring questions.

“It needs salt,” I say, much to the annoyance of everyone, but all around agreeing with the statement. I know flavors and pick out things most can’t. “I smell gas,” I say. Never believed, but usually I’m right.  I like to know things. I like to know how to solve things and fix things. If I could be in the distillery with the owners, learning how our gin, vodka, and bourbon are made, I would be. I just don’t have time. I’m too busy with a mental prep list that never ends, even on the weekends. I am told to shut it down mentally, give myself a break on the two days I’m off, but I can’t. This is still Coffeeman talking in my brain. I’m still thinking about things for the week to come. The many items I know that need to be done.

My body has adjusted to the life. “You’re changing your image,” comes the reply from someone I’ve known for several years in this town, but haven’t seen since almost the start of this job. I am. I’m becoming the me I never knew I was. I am bold in my earrings, and sassy with a bit of spice coming out of my mouth; Rosie the Riviter and I are old souls… as I channel her on a daily basis, even just with the, “keep your head up, keep working, stay strong” mentality that has come from Coffeeman.  My body has a strength to it I never knew it could have. Our baby dishwasher, McConaughey, who is smaller than I am, watches as I carry 50 lbs. of flour through the kitchen and I don’t ask for help. “I got this.” I say.  “You got this, gurrrrrrl,” Hostess Extraordinaire always tells me.

I am definitely the Sandy in our little group. And Mixologist Man is definitely Rizzo. I am the uber sweet girl, the girl that still needs Rizzo to motion for her to toss her cigarette and crush it out under the toe of her high heeled shoe. “I’m not a complete idiot,” I say to Mixologist Man, as he comments on “I knew I needed to figure out a way to get you to sit down next to him. So the only solution was for me to get up and dance,” when we are discussing a flirtation with a cute guy.

Okay, so maybe I don’t have it all down, and I may not be an idiot, but a little help never hurt Sandy. She might not have gotten Danny without the help of the Pink Ladies. So, Mixologist, keep being my lead Pink Lady. You totally could pull off the jacket.

Kate

If It Was Only A Sabbatical – Flash Fiction Snippet

Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash

Over the last year I have written down snippets and little plotlines, even dialogue of a cooking story that has no real basis other than just inserting some of it into my writing life. Since cooking and the restaurant world is so much a part o f my life these days, I can’t help but write about it. I have ideas of some sort of novel, maybe a bit biographical, but I’m not sure. Mostly it’s just playing around with scenes. So after Coffeeman left, I found myself channeling the situation in a different way. What if Coffeeman was leaving only for a sabbatical or something. It would be hard, but doable. Right now, doable is just survival. Surviving till the next change. Nothing so wonderful as sabbatical. (you would not believe how many times I’ve spelled that word wrong.)

So here is something I wrote in my journal on September 5th. With a few edits. Of course.

She let her knife sink into the freshest tomato, still nearly warm from the sun. Slice, slice, slice. Perfect rounds of flesh. It was all she could focus on right now. The prep list was too long, Micha was leaving in a few days, the boys in the kitchen, from line cook to dishwasher, were all acting up, and she was about ready to fall apart. Tired, apprehensive. Could she do what Micha had faith in her for? Did she know enough?

She was ready to swear at anyone who stepped out of line. A recent run in with a shelf, which had left a nasty bruise on her underarm, had left her swearing a blue streak that left all in earshot giving her a wide berth and wary look. She was nearly in tears when she bent back a fingernail after prying at a cambro.

“You know you’re going to be fine,” came Micha’s voice from her left, scaring her out of mind and musings. She let her knife hit the board with a whack and glared at him.

“Don’t do that!” she growled. He just chuckled at her and slid a coup of coffee over too her.She accepted it with a nod and leaned her hip against the counter with a sigh. He was sipping at one of his many cups that she found floating around the kitchen throughout the day.

“Have you taken a break and gotten something to eat?”

She shook her head the tiredness hitting her. The sadness. She was already missing him and the little things she knew were going to be gone. Things like him asking if she ate before her sugar dove and she started threatening everyone with bodily harm and a knife.

“Go eat something. Take ten and come back when you’ve done that. This will wait.

“Bu—”

“No buts, just go.” He shooed her with a direct look.

She made a face at him, but didn’t argue, setting her knife on a towel and heading off to the line to see if there was still some soup from an earlier family meal.

The French Laundry

Nothing much. A touch off of the characters from Just A Day, Just An Ordinary Day… Not – Flash Fiction because I like them and well, yeah. So enjoy. I’m picturing a very different kitchen than what I work in. Something along the kitchen from The French Laundry. It’s so open and pretty. I want a kitchen like that. When I first started working at my place, I was bummed by no windows and no clocks. We never knew what time it was. It was my own insane asylum. Now, I’ve gotten used to it, and I am out in front where the windows are a lot of the time so I can see out and it helps. But I still dream of open kitchens. Lots of windows and natural light. I think all our moods would be better.

Kate

Life’s Little Shifts That Equal a Whole Lotta Change

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Have I mentioned that life is forever changing? I think I might have mentioned it a time or two. These last two weeks have done it quite well. Two of my favorite people have either left, or are leaving my work place. Sassy Girl is off on a new venture… she’s just down the street, building up her arm muscles and upper body, a la me, with baking. I told her the other day her arms are gonna be so buff. It was sad to lose her, though we didn’t have much time to grieve because there she was filling in, two days after her last day. Well, at least she’s not far away. Making cookies… I already love her even more.

Then the same week I found out Coffeeman was moving on to a new venture. That one was harder to process. Because, see, Coffeeman, for all his faults, (yes, he has them, we all have faults) took us from the horrors of a megalomaniac type boss, or set of bosses, and shaped us all into a more well rounded team. Sure, there are still pits in the mirror and a few chunks that need some filing out, but we are at least capable of running a restaurant when he’s not around. He hasn’t left yet, per se, though I know he has in his mind. I’ve missed him for months, and months. I’ve known this was coming, for months, and months. I’ve missed the original Coffeeman of last year. He was instrumental in getting me out of my shell, and while I’m still not there to where I want to be, I’m much better. Much, much better. I will miss his bizarre jokes I never get, his music and movie references, his hugs when I’m breaking, and his well, Coffeemaness. I can’t explain it.

How I feel about Coffeeman isn’t something I can explain. The thought of him being gone makes me want to cry my heart out. As it was, I was ‘fine’ for a day or two, then just broke down at work after a stressful evening and a blood sugar issue. The next day was Sassy Girl’s last day and one of my lovely servers and I were just not ok. We were bawling our hearts out. Ok, maybe more me, but I just was not processing it too well. It was sudden in a sense, and a crazy week, and boom, just stress. And I can’t explain my attachment to Coffeeman other than he came when my world was crashing and fixed a hella lot. That right there will create a connection that is unexplainable. Same as Lucifer came right when the first Chef was killing me. Lucifer wasn’t good for me, but he got me through the mess, even though he created a mess Coffeeman had to fix. Weird, right? I guess it is just all on coping mechanisms.

Jersey Boy is our new chef, and GM. So far, so good. I’m excited. It’s been good getting to know him and work with him this past week. It is a delight that he likes working pizza and likes to bake. And he’s tall. (John Wayne was tall…) <— While You Were Sleeping movie quote reference. Bare with me. I’m dubbing him Jersey Boy only because my first thought when I saw his face was he was from Jersey, which is so far off the mark it’s hilarious. But when a name gets in my head, boom, it’s stuck there. So if anyone ever tells him this, I’m looking at you Miss Holly…. please explain it’s because I envisioned a jersey accent. And please don’t tell him this, Miss Holly.

I’m writing more these days, in my head and on paper. I’ve started using Google Docs a lot because I can read things while at work. I also like One Note, though it’s harder for me to use or get comfortable with. I’m not sure why. It’s easier to pull up on my phone, but on my computer it stutters along.

Summer is in the height of heat. Right now it’s in the upper 80s and I’m inside on my “Sunday” not doing the laundry I should be doing. I have a stack of dishes too. I should get on that. I’m in a Gatsby, oracle cards, nature poetry and sultry nights frame of mind. I want to watch classic films. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is calling me. I have a Cary Grant film on my dvr that I shall get to later, but well, that’s my weekly update.

I wanted to start typing up poetry from two years ago that didn’t turn into anything but is filing up my last journal, but when I started reading it, it was just too jumbled. Now I don’t know what to do with it. Does anyone else have moments where they want to share things like that but they don’t know how to work it? Do you have any suggestions?

While I’m rambling on, I just want to give a shout out toNathan at The Myth of Prometheus which has been an amazing blog to follow. I’m so impressed with his writing and ideas. I can honestly say I would like to meet him in person.  His writing has inspired me to want to post more poetry as well, though, like I said in the above paragraph, I haven’t. I need to. I think it’s also because of him I’m dabbling in more flash fiction. I forgot how much I liked it.

So, there we have it.

Kate

Just A Day, Just An Ordinary Day… Not – Flash Fiction

“Joe, make it a double…”
Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash

I’m taking a bit of flash fiction from earlier in the year and reworking it. So if you all read this one before, well I’ve changed it some.  I have this idea of the gal, G, or Gigi, or something… is a sous chef or working her way up to that, and another sous chef comes in, they meet, fall in love, bla bla bla, but  haven’t put the pieces together. I like that my world gives me inspiration. I love that the guys I work with are like brothers. Idiots, complete and total kids, I could smack all of them half the time. I write down the random conversations I’ve had with them, or points of interest because kitchen talk is not like any talk I’ve had anywhere else. I joke with the people in back that the reason we are in the back is because we couldn’t be out front. It’s funny and hard and I’m glad I can write about it. This was once based on other things but I’ve realized that I have this guy in my head for a Chef that’s like Jon Favreau from the film Chef, only thinner. Someone that’s like this giant teddy bear of a guy. I kind of want to work for him.  He seems like he would be passionate and fun. Gads, I’ve been in this world too long….*smacks forehead*

 

He wore a brimmed fisherman’s knit cap, dark and dingy hoodie, converse tennis shoes, thick frame Elvis Costello glasses, anyone could have taken him as a hipster or college student, but for the gray invading the scruffy week’s stubble and curls in the dark hair at the base of his neck. Writer, she mused. Had to be with the pen and spread paper. Or maybe one of those cool professors. She was scribbling the description down in her ever present notebook. Filled with a weird curio of curiosities from random bits of poetry, recipes, lines from a movie, song lyrics, and random ass fiction, it was a writers delight and a view of who she was as a person. Dangerous in the wrong hands.

“Or maybe he’s just doing the crossword puzzle,” Micha said over her shoulder nearly making her shriek at his stealthiness. He had slipped up behind her and glanced at her notes before his devilishly deep, rich voice crawled up her spine. 

She sighed as he came around into her line of sight and she tried to calm her racing heart that had decided to go galloping around in her chest. The damn man loved to scare her. And he was good at it.  Like a brother, he teased her mercilessly and was too good at it. Thankfully she could smack him when he was close. Unfortunately he walked by and went up to the counter to order his drink and was too far out of reach. She debated tossing her scone at him, but the blueberry delight was too delicious and she didn’t want to share.

Micha was the perfect boss. Fun to be around, a bit of a dreamer, talented, creative, pragmatic, a wild pain in the ass. Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t so great.  He was this perfect combination of soft planes and hard edges. The glasses softened his face, when he deemed to wear them. Today he was. Rimmed rectangle lenses and tapered navy blue temples. Spiked hair today. He must have been playing in gel, she noted as he slung off his leather jacket and ordered a double espresso latte.

“He’s doing the crossword,” Micha smirked as he sat down across from her with his first of many coffees of the day.

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Smartass.”

“Better than a dumbass,” they both finished together, and while he chuckled, she rolled her eyes.

“So, plans today?”

“You know. Just an ordinary day. Scrub out the walk-in and organize the freezers.”

She groaned.

“What? You knew it was coming.”

“That is not ordinary!” she wailed. “I seriously do not have enough caffeine in my system for this.” She raised her hand to signal the young guy at the counter. ‘Joe, better make me another. It’s gonna be a long day.” She flipped the page in her notebook and started making lists.

“We could just wing it,” he supplied casually.

She arched her left brow at him and tilted her head down looking over the rim of her glasses.

“You are way too chipper about this. What should I be afraid of?” her voice was filled suspicion.

“The produce order comes in at noon and the beef order at 3, and I kind of want this all done before then…”

“Oh god. And?”

“Emily and I have reservations, so I will be gone by 5…..”

“I hate you.”

“I know. Want to get started?” He grinned.

She could smack him….

So, enjoy. This was a fun bit to write and fits into a cooking novel I am plotting.

Kate

The Scales Tilt

Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash

“Hey Chef, can I talk to you before you go?”

The question is posed after another long Saturday with the exhaustion of Thursday and Friday getting to me. I can see he’s dreading the ‘Talk’ that I have coming, because I have had serious talks at the end of his shift, not always good.

“How do you balance home life and chef/restaurant life? Like how do you get your family to understand the lack of balance?”  The question gets a chuckle, rueful at best from Coffeeman as he flips a milk crate over and sits down on our back dock and I plop myself on the stairs. I’m way past tired, ready to cry, per usual, and that’s not having been working over 40 hours; I still have another two to three before I hit that mark. It’s just the overwhelming feeling of all my focus on work. Picking up after people, stressing over prep not getting done, sugar lows that make me hurl dough at a table and stomp off nearly ready to melt into a puddle of tears and snarling. I could be a puddle of vampire teeth. I know, weird analogy. But I’m a weepy, bitey puddle.

I never balance things well. Relationships, work, poetry, writing. I go all in. I thrust myself into the fray and sink my heels in; grasp with sharp talons. Moderation isn’t my best suit. I have a lot of flaws. I cultivate bad habits…. Okay, not totally, but I’m far from the person I present myself at work. I think everyone there thinks I am a certain way, and I’m betting they wouldn’t quite recognize me on my off days or at home or when I’m in a comfortable setting. I’m me at work, but not. Which is why I cultivate the name ‘K’ at work (psst. people, it’s not Kay. It’s just the letter…. lol) K is a focused individual, a little messy, but put together, dedicated to the point of ocd-ness, passionate about her work, what her guests think, what her coworkers think, etc. It can be exhausting. I’m nice to a fault. I’m not as assertive as I need to be, yet. Much more passive.

But at home I am cluttered, distracted, emotional, snarky, tired, always tired, prone to starting too many projects and not finishing them, a reader, a dreamer, a writer. Writer me is rarely visiting work, and when she does, it’s while making a pizza on a slow day when the clouds are forming to the south and I stare out at the fields, meadows, and mountains, writing about Wilson Tennu, or what he should be writing about…

I guess in that way I’m balanced. A balanced wreck, but balanced nonetheless.

“Twenty plus years in the industry, and I still haven’t got it all balanced,” says Coffeeman.

“How do you unwind? I find myself getting off at 11 and awake till three in the morning,” I say.

“I still do that.” His replies help (and don’t help) because I don’t feel like I’m the only one dealing with it. I know he gets it. He has it seven days a week with ordering or being at the restaurant, family life, a wife, kids, a long commute. I have at least the two days off, which he says to be thankful of.

“Don’t drive past this place, (course you get your mail at the post office behind…), don’t think about work. Don’t plan recipes or menus or specials. Do it at the last minute. Do it on the fly. Don’t talk about work. Let it go for the two full days you are off and the morning before you come to work.”

It’s all easier said than done. Coffeeman… I failed this week, as I sat there discussing work and thinking about hand pies and do we have puff pastry in the freezers still? Do I want to run a special this week?

It’s currently Tuesday evening, my Sunday night, and yeah, I’m thinking about work. It’s one of those bad habits.  But I don’t feel as stressed other than I wish I would have had more time to watch a few things filling up the dvr. I wish I could sleep more. I feel like I don’t get enough sleep. This balance thing is hard.

But again, balance isn’t my strong suit. Nor is patience. I want it to happen now. Drama queen that I am.

I like to think that maybe the scales are shifting a bit though. I took a long walk and hike yesterday by water, which I love. Saw plants and wildlife and just got away from the house. And not just to town, or to the city. Just away from the generals of life. It was nice. Summer is rapidly progressing and I feel like it’s going to be all over before it even began!

I found myself feeling kind of weird about how much of a struggle last summer was, but right now it feels very far away. Some things are not far away, having animosity towards people still, months from when it happened, but it seems ages ago. This year is a struggle as well, but in a different way. Other problems creep in, others fade. I’m still too emotional about things. I don’t think that will ever change, but each day might bring something new and a new perspective.

Coffeeman left me with a hug of serious proportions. The kind that says, “I get you” which I needed because I was so tired and need to find balance. “Just be thankful you don’t have kids,” he says on a final note. And to that, I am fortunate. My immediate family wears me out. I’d hate to think of kids in the picture. And that’s the rueful me talking there.

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

His Girl Friday. . . in the making?

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

I was flipping through a bit of poetry from last September the other day where I was musing on being “His Girl Friday” and how I desired the aspect to be like this indispensable semi-second in command person.

“His girl Friday, and all the days of the week
or was her name Friday?
Just to be someone’s second hand
to know the ticks and turns that make him run
pour the black coffee, hand him a cup as he
starts his day, that being the hello as he
breezes by, satchel of tools ready to get down
to brass tacks and sifting through lists…

It’s a fanciful thought, to some degree, but I was projecting what I wanted without a clearly formed thought. It applies to wanting to be almost sous chef, but not quite. Partly because right now with my current workload, trying to get back into the kitchen when I am busy three-quarters of the time not in the kitchen, makes it rather hard to be in the actual kitchen managing things.

But future thoughts are nice. Right now, I am one of the most consistent, most reliable persons in the kitchen, and I would like to have more responsibility for running the kitchen. I would have liked more support for this back several months ago when I was at odds with some kitchen staff at the time but was passed over for someone else. For the first week or two it didn’t bother me, but now… and not horribly long after, it did. I would like to move up to directing traffic. And it’s not just for ego. I like being someone’s helping hand. I think it’s in me naturally after helping my father for years be the go-getter.

I’ve moved on far from being a prep chef these days. I am the head pastry chef and head pizza person. A position I would have laughed at, had you told me last year at this exact same time, that I would be there. I never thought I would. I love it. I love the responsibility despite the stress and tiredness from it. I’m also the lead closer. Okay, so the head line chef closes his line….only, …. while I close down everything else. I am literally the last person out of the kitchen. Sometimes I am the last person out of the restaurant. Who would have thought?

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash (I just liked the image)

I strive to get as much done as I possibly can, though I tend to leave ‘snail trails’ around the kitchen. A sticky thermometer, spatula, some random knife or spoon. I have a hard time working clean, but I’m challenging myself to get better. I stress out Chef’s OCD moments when there is a lot of clutter floating throughout the kitchen because too many projects have gotten started. I am notorious for feeling like there is too much to get done and I won’t get it all done soIstartitallatonceandleaveamess! Whew, what a mouthful.

I think it’s interesting that I flipped through my notebook and landed on this poem again after months of hiding away. I fall on a lot of other little poetry, but this one struck me as something I’m still dreaming of happening.

“Do you trust me?” asks Aladdin, holding out his hand?  Well, in a sense, I’m asking that question to God, the universe, my boss. Do you trust me to take on more?

I don’t want to give up my pastries and pizzas. I would like a tad more time to the pastry, but that’s okay. I love working with the dough for the pizza. I’d get more done if my opening guy was on the ball… He’s not. Le sigh.

All of this too has led me to writing more about work again, in the poetry aspects. I think I mentioned that last blog post around. The working with dough. I have dabbled in little bits of irritation poems and things about work that annoy me, but at the same time, they put a perspective spin on what I am doing. I had a lightbulb moment the other day and it helped me figure out a few things about people and situations.

Maybe the dream is still a bit too undeveloped and still budding in reality at this point in life. Who knows. But I go into work each week trying to be a better person, concentrate more on the tasks at hand, not letting work drama get to me, and just striving to be the best goddamn pastry and pizza chef I can be. Oh, and Chef, whenever you want to teach me a new thing, give it to me. I like to know these things. (Like how to steam clams. Boom, got that down now. And making a sabayon…I think I’m going to lose my right arm to whisking)

“And he winds down as Friday finishes all the
checks and balances, twitching the office space
back to rights,to rights, surfaces clutter free,
questions answered, lights going off as he sips
his sparkling drink, the suit gone
and Friday kills the lights, till she puts
on her Monday’s wear. . . ”

Kate