Just A Little Coffee Thing – Fiction Part 2

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She did notice him, though, when she came out of the door, yelping in surprise as he leaned next to the opening. She didn’t have any more time to get out more than the shriek before Gerrit grabbed her clipboard and pen and tossed it to the counter. She watched the pen roll off just as Gerrit’s palm enclosed around hers and he swung her around in a spin. He pulled her close and slow danced with her to a Crystal Gayle song.

“Gerrit,” Hela protested, pushing on hand against his chest and tugging against the hand he gripped. Her heart was pounding and to say butterflies were taking flight in her stomach was an understatement. She shivered as she felt his other palm, quite warm, settle against her waist.

“What?” was his innocent reply.

Hela did not believe a minute of his wide blue eyes.

“Oh stop struggling. You love this song. You sing it whenever it comes on, you always spin around and glide through like you’re on stage.”

“Twirl.”

“What?”

“I don’t spin, I twirl,” she corrected.

“I beg pardon. You twirl,” he teased, then released her waist to twirl her around again, before catching her and dipping her back. She was laughing but when his face was inches from hers she thought in an instate he might kiss her. His eyes flashed to her open mouth then back to her eyes, but he quickly righted her and they went back to dancing, the song now a one.

“You are stressing too much, Helena, he said, using the name no one ever called her, except for close friends or family. She looked up at him ready to argue and deny it.

“Oh, no, you are not going to get out of this one. I’ve been here three weeks, and you are like a time bomb waiting to go off. Or on pins and needles. I’m not sure which, but you know you are doing amazing, don’t you?”

She stared at him. “Um.” She bit her lip. She always felt like she was falling apart. Snapping at line chefs, getting impatient with the pantry girl, ready to throw her hands up at servers who asked bizarre questions. Constantly thinking about the new menu and the changes in flow. She was mentally exhausted and she felt like she was cracking at the seams.

“You are. You’re keeping things running smooth. You’re good, Hel. You’re a whiz at plating, you can take over the line when one of the guys is in the weeds or goes down. Organized, on your toes, you leave me amazed at how you keep things flowing in this madhouse. You’re already better than you think.”

Hela couldn’t respond. She had hoped someone had noticed. Micah had been her person to work with, but even he had sometimes left her wondering if she was as good as she hoped. She and Gerrit worked well together, like she and Micha could. Quiet, handing each other things as they needed it without even a word. Notes on boards were underlined from agreements; they could bounce ideas off each other like two kids playing catch.

“Obviously you doubt yourself too much.” He gave her a chastising look, as he spun them around. “Stop.”

She wrinkled her nose at him. “Obviously you don’t know how my brain works,” was her caustic reply.

“I do. More than you know.” He grinned, his eyes twinkling. “Now, what was that thing about something sweet?”

 

So part two, mostly because it was a 1200 word document. Thought it might overwhelm you all.  Like I said, I’d like someone I could relate to at night when I close. Currently I can’t relate to anyone. At least on the level I’m at. But one can dream of a dream chef and dream team and someone I might have as a close colleague. One day.

Kate

Just A little Coffee Thing – Fiction Part 1

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The restaurant was empty but for Carlos polishing glasses at the bar and Johnboy mopping the front dining while Hela and Gerrit went over new ideas for the upcoming menu. Prep lists, schedules, ordering, and a menu marked up, crossed out and notes scribbled in the margins. A giant whiteboard leaned against shelves on a prep station and occasionally one or both of them would walk over and scribble something else on the entire menu written out in black dry erase marker. The notes were in red and blue; for Gerrit and Hela, respectively.

Hela had teased Carlos into playing something new tonight. The “Bread” station was on and now the two of them were humming and singing their way through 1970s classic light rock. Ambrosia, Dan Fogelberg, Randy Vanwarmer, and other smooth classics. Hela had finally parted from her whites, slipping into a loose white gauze button down, the front tails tucked into her sensible slacks. She’d pulled out the plethora of bobby pins, groaning at the release of tension from all the metal bits biting into her scalp. A sharp pencil replaced the pins, turning her mass of kinked hair into a messy bun, tendrils brushing her cheeks and neck. She’d also snuck into her locker in the office and grabbed her moka pot. She needed something better than the sludge sitting in the pot for the last two hours since the last guests had left.

She hummed to the music as she heated water on the closest gas range and rooted through the lowboy in the pastry section for her hidden stash of Guatemalan dark roast coffee. Fingers tamped down the grounds, a towel to remove the nearly boiling water. The moka pot was back on a low blue flame as she went out to the bar and snagged four coffee cups. She grabbed some spoons, a carton of cream, a ramekin of sugar, then back over to grab the now spitting pot.

She didn’t see Gerrit watching her quietly from the whiteboard. He held a clipboard and pen where he had been marking the garnishes they had in stock and what he wanted to use next. He grinned, nearly laughing when she groaned after running the base of the pot under cold water at a prep sink. She set the pot down on a towel and marched out to the bar then came back with a shot glass. She measured out two shots of rich coffee to three cups, then glanced up in his direction.

“You want?” she waggled the shot glass in her hand and held the spout over it.

“Sure.”

She poured two more shots and added them to the fourth cup.

“Carlos! Johnboy! Espresso’s up!” She had more water simmering on the stove and she topped off her cup with that, adding a pinch of sugar and a very light dollop of cream. “Fix yours how you like,” she directed at Gerrit.

She stirred her cup while she watched Gerrit add a generous spoonful of sugar and only a splash of water. She made a face when Gerrit downed half the cup. Carlos came through the swinging doors baring a tall highball glass of peach effervescent liquid, a lime wedge suspended between the ice cubes. He handed it to Hela who tilted her head in thanks.

Gerrit frowned.

“Bitters and soda,” She clarified. “I mix my drinks.”

Johnboy and Carlos fixed their coffees and headed back out to the front of house. “I’ll have something sweet in a while,” Hela called after them, Johnboy grinning at her statement.

They went back to their notes. Carlos changed the station and a Juice Newton song played Hela didn’t see Gerrit watching her as she hummed and swayed as she wrote things down, stopping for random sips of coffee and her soda water. Nor did she see him grin as she sang a few lyrics and swayed her way into the produce walk-in…..

 

I was missing work the other day and I had this thought about how I’d love to have a good moka pot at work. A nice Bialetti, for when the sludge in the pot has been sitting for hours. Normally I use the French press, which is fine, but it’s still not quite like how I like my coffee. I’d love to have a nice Chef at night that I could work over prep, orders, and ideas, and drink a good cup of coffee. But no one I work with appreciates coffee at night quite like I do.  Oh, and part two is in the next post.

Oh, and if anyone notices my conflicting verb usage, would you please point it out. I have issues with passive voice. Bleh, and mixing my verbage.

What Shall We Downsize – Kitchen Fiction

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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

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