Just A little Coffee Thing – Fiction Part 1

Photo by Shotlist on Unsplash

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.

Someone New – Fiction

Another foray into my fictional kitchen. I had a break in an idea for my fiction, with ‘Her’ meeting  someone new after Micha’s off on sabbatical. I watched this new Alaska PD show and one of the police officers was like the perfect model. Good name too. So boom! Fiction! I always get excited when something new comes to my head and I can actually write. I have missed fiction. Oh, and I finally settled on a name for said “Her”. I’m going with Hela, like short for Helene, but she goes by ‘H’…. Just like I go by ‘K’ in the kitchen.  Hope you all enjoy. It’s a lot of dialogue, so forgive me.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

“H, there’s someone out at the bar asking for you,” Carlo opened one of the swinging doors to where Hela stood at the pass checking over the day’s menu choice.

“Hmm? Who is it, Carlo?” She asked distracted as she frowned at the mushroom selection. They were decidedly low on matsutakes.

“He didn’t say. You want me to tell him you’re busy?

Hela looked up. “What? Oh, no. Hang on a sec.” She crossed off the mushrooms and added shiitakes. “Bobby, we’re switching to shiitakes tonight. Could you make sure they are prepped? I’ll have Justine change the menu.”

“Sure thing, H,” her lead line chef called.

She was texting Justin about the menu switch as she stepped out the doors towards the bar and it wasn’t till she was near the shadow she’d seen in her peripheral that she looked up as a throat cleared. Blue eyes, filled with an incredible amount of amusement, had her catching her breath. The sharp intake of air and the breathy sigh she barely let out, had the corners of his eyes crinkling just a tad more.

“I’m Hela,” she murmured, extending her hand while she slipped her phone into the front pocket of her jacket.

“Gerrit,” the man replied, his voice tinged with just enough masculine gravel. His warm palm engulfed hers and she felt an electrical tingle all the way to her shoulder.

“How may I help you?” She was tempted to tug her hand from his grasp when he didn’t release her hand, but the electricity was humming across her back and up into her hairline. The feeling was delicious and made her want to stretch and arch like a cat in the sun.

“I was told I needed to meet the famous sous chef from Tableside,” his enigmatic response had her cocking her head to the side. She arched a brow.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say famous,” she argued and nearly groaned in disappointment when he released her hand.

“I suppose that is opinion based.”

She hummed a non-committal answer. “Are you from the area?” she asked.

“No, just relocated here for a job. A colleague suggested I stop in and see some of the amazing selections on the menu.”

“Oh, well thank you. Most of the menu is from my chef, but I have a few of my own.”

“And is your chef here as well?”

Hela stared at him, Something he’d said tickled the corners of her mind at the question’s strangeness, but she couldn’t form it into anything concrete. 

“No, he isn’t. I’m actually interim chef as he is on sabbatical and I’m waiting to meet my new chef for the next year.”

“Ah. When does that person arrive?”

“Any day now. No specifics have hit my ears yet. Chef, Micha Grant, said he’d let me know when the new chef was set to come in.” Hela said this as if it was just an everyday occurrence, but inwardly she cringed at the thought. Micha had told her she’d like his replacement, yet he’d been so vague about it all, Hela was apt to be rather apprehensive. She remembered too vividly Lucas and all the hell he’d put her through before Micha had fixed everything.

“Well, I’ll have to come in when the change happens,” Gerrit mused. “Though I would love to try one of your dishes if possible.” 

“Quite,” Hela said warmly. She grabbed on of the menus by Carlo’s computer and handed it to Gerrit. “The coconut curry is a specialty of mine,” she said pointing to one of the items, “but then there is breakfast salad with oven roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, or the zucchini involtini,  or a simple pasta aglio e olio.” She rattled off the three other items Micha had let her put on the menu. She was secretly hoping Gerrit would order the pasta aglio as it was her signature dish. Simple in it’s execution, it had been one of the first dishes Micha had taught her to saute properly. It was still her favorite dish to make.

“Oh, you had me at curry,” Gerrit interrupted her thought. 

“Very good. Carlo, send it through. Gerrit, it was a pleasure to meet you. Any special requests on the curry?”

“No. Surprise me.” He held out his hand for her to shak and the grip was just as warm and inviting as before. “And Hela?”

“Hmm?”

“It’s been a pleasure as well. I look forward to bumping into you again.” His eyes twinkled like he knew a secret.

“Mm. Yes.”

Hela couldn’t resist looking back at Gerrit as she headed back to cook the dish. He was watching her, a slight smile on his lips as he rested a palm over his neatly trimmed short box beard. A finger rested on his mouth and her breath hitched again  as he caught her  gaze with his and grinned again. She nearly burst into giggles as she fled to the kitchen flustered all to heck.

 

Hope you all enjoyed.

Kate

What Shall We Downsize – Kitchen Fiction

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

It was the middle of the morning and the prep chefs  were  all chopping, mixing and making the general things ready for the night. She had her clipboard in hand as she went over her order for the day. The produce was due in and she needed to get her fish order settled. Sue and Riley were working on short crust dough. She shook her head as  she watched the young man go too heavy on mixing things with his hands causing a cascade of flour to poof out over the counter. She nearly laughed when Sue sighed loudly.

“Breathe, Sue,” she interjected as she walked by coffee cup in hand.  She heard Sue make a rude remark at her back and Riley apologizing profusely as he was prone to do.

“You’re doing fine, Riley,” she called behind her as she headed to the other side of the prep area to hunt down someone to enlist to help her. The order could wait an hour. She needed to do something that felt like she was accomplishing something.

She spied someone who was wiping down his station. Perfect. She nearly purred in satisfaction.

“Carlos!” she barked. The man looked up with a jerk. “What are you doing?”

He looked like a deer in the headlights. Even better.

“Uh, I was gonna start —”

“Nope. You’re gonna help me. You’ve just been promoted to help me organize the walk in!” she singsonged as she caught the sleeve of his chef’s jacket as he tried to slip past her.

Around her the snickers were audible enough for her to arch a brow at the various owners of the sounds. “Be careful, boys. One of you will end up next in line to help me.”

The complete silence was deafening. She turned back towards the first walkin pulling Carlos behind her. “Come along. It won’t take too long.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he sighed and followed her.

She pulled out her phone and tuned to her current favorite Pandora station. Dolly Parton singing about someone walking back into her life. It was her new anthem to listen to when she felt lost in the shuffle. Into a 9-pan went the phone to echo out in tinny fashion, the upbeat 70s tune.

She started pulling Cambros off the shelf, things half empty or out dated, handing them to Carlos to put on the prep table outside the refridgerated box. She made faces at things that went bad, gingerly handed off non labeled deli quarts and pints, sloshing containers.

“Out out out!” she was rolling her eyes at a 15 qt. Cambro that had about two quarts in the bottom of it. “Who keeps leaving Cambros mostly empty in here?” she yelled out the door knowing full well none of the people out there would answer. She was guilty of it a few times when in a hurry, but this was getting out of hand.

By the time she had just the containers out, half the walk-in was already done. She shook her head as she grabbed a painters tape roll and started rewriting labels to the newly downsized smaller cambros that Carlos was putting things into. Army, their new dishwasher was busy spraying down the empties and stacking them to go into the industrial dishwasher that was humming away.

New tape went onto the smaller containers with the updated date, she had Carlos load them back in the walk-in while she figured out what prep needed to be done now that amounts were diminished.

“Now what?” Carlos questioned as the door closed with a sucking airtight sound. 

“You. Bucket. Sani water. Scrub.” She grinned as he made a face. “Hey, I’m now on to downsizing the produce. You’ll live.”

She began by grabbing her clipboard, then began a systematic approach to the disorder of the fruits and vegetables. Sue and her were belting out a Crystal Gayle song as the guys in the kitchen rolled their eyes at the two women.  Root vegetables into like bins, she trimmed up carrots that were getting mouldy, apples with spots were put into a bin to be made into sauce.  The herbs were tidied, the citrus sorted and downsized. By the time she was done with the produce, she knew what she needed to order and Carlos had the walk-in walls and floor sparkling bright and smelling clean. 

“Much better. Now, onward to the meats and dairy,” she directed to the next walk-in. Carlos’s shoulders had a slightly defeated look, but she just ignored him. “Give me a quick count on the fish and what seafood we have while I make the produce order. Then we’ll tackle the rest of it together.”

She walked off, pulling out her phone  as Carlos headed towards meats. She grinned at the text from Micha asking how the day was going. She shot back a thumbs up and a couple pictures of the organized walk-in. She was dialing the produce number when she overheard one of the line cooks mocking Carlos being girl whipped. 

She paused and looked up to see George leaning in to another line cook, Kyle. “You two have just volunteered yourselves to go organize and clean all the dry storage. I want it all labeled and the shelves clean within the next hour.”

When they didn’t move she arched a brow. “Did I stutter?”

“No,” came the group answer.  

“Good, then hustle.”

Her quick text with a thumbs down and a frowny face went off to Micha. So close. She was so close to not getting so much pushback from the boys. Well, there would be other days. At least she could delight in a cleaner kitchen. Good days, take the good days.

She pushed the dial button and got ready to send off her order. Hopefully Carlos would count the fish right…..

 

Another scene into fictional kitchen. I’ve been the one cleaning the walkin lately. Downsizing and organizing on Sundays. The other day Jersey Boy told everyone to keep busy. Suddenly all the guys but Golden Oldie (dishwasher… name could change) were nowhere to be found. Shock. I can’t remember the last time I saw Will Turner clean something other than the line at the end of closing. Scrub the walkin? Right….

So anyways, the walk-in was organized on Sunday. Downsized. Emptied. Gads, it was empty. There will need to be a fair amount of prep done this week. I actually like it, and my proverbial ‘She/Her’ in this story likes it too. Still working on a name for her. I have a couple options but I haven’t decided yet. Oh and for those wondering, the Juice Newton Radio on Pandora is the bomb. So classic 70s and 80s country and light rock. So Dolly Parton and more. Try it out.

Kate

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

Anniversaries – Day 31

Um, yeah, I had no clue…

I am going to end my challenge on a high note. A different note than what I was writing about earlier in the afternoon, which was kitchen hierarchy, where am I in said spot, where am I going, and the book Sous Chef. It was a good post, but I’m too close to the subject at hand right now that I need to take a step back and reevaluate my macro look at everything.

Today/yesterday as it is past midnight, is my one year anniversary with my restaurant/company. A year ago I walked through the doors of a building that was still being built and finished inside, met the five other individuals who would be my kitchen team. I met my first chef, I filled out paperwork and I found out that while I had applied for hostess, I instead found myself in the kitchen working with the chef.

Damn straight I am…. now just to go about doing it is another matter entirely…

Two of those coworkers are no longer with us and life is always perpetually changing. Even I have changed. A lot. I’m still to emotionally invested in this business. I’m still trying to micro manage things that even the first chef said I needed to stop doing. “K, you are going to burn yourself out if you keep this up!” he told me in January a week after I had quit because I couldn’t handle him any longer. But he was right. I still find myself caring so much that I over care in some ways. I take my work home with me a lot. Mentally.

A friend snapped this of me when I had no clue. Busy as a bee making a pizza

But a year ago I would have never thought I could be where I am today. Pastry chef and loving it and pizza chef and loving it. I love my boss, though I think he and I are a little too alike at times. I love most of the people I work with. And I just love my restaurant.

My life is too crazy to count and the holiday season is upon us. Gads, how can it be Thanksgiving in a day? But it’s here and here comes the crazy. I am excited for it. I think this winter will be much better than last. I hope. I pray.

This challenge was really really great for the most part. Tackling the Write 31 Days one last year. My life behind the swinging doors (and outside of them now) has definitely turned my life upside down. Last year all I wanted to be was a published author/poet. This year all I want is my desserts to wow.

I’m no supergirl…. but I can bake… that is a superpower

Okay, well I was actually quite satisfied with asking Coffeeman if he liked my lemon bars the way they were. “Yes. But they are kind of hard to eat in the car.” (I had sent one home with him last Sunday)

Damn straight. Thank you, sir!

Yeah, that praise and look in his eye from him was a compliment enough. I know when I’ve done my job. Being a pastry chef is pretty darn cool.

Signing off (of the challenge, not the blog)

Kate

Mise En Place – Day 8

Mise en place is not just a word to throw around. It is serious business in the restaurant world. It might seem silly to have a bunch of bowls and items set up before service, but if your ‘mise’ isn’t ready, you are truly screwed up and always behind.

I got a shot of Coffeeman’s mise the other night when I walked by, including  a bit of him at work in the background.

Mise en place….

This isn’t all of Chef’s mise en place, but a part of it. Most of it is all behind him and in the pantry to the right. Or below.

Your mise en place is all of your ingredients for everything you make. Your back up prep, your garnishes, your everything so you don’t have to send a prep chef off running for something you are out of. For me up on pizza, my mise is huge. I have to have enough of everything so I’m not rushing back to the walkin at some random point where the tickets are piling up. My morning prep guy is terrible at getting enough mise en place ready for nightly service, so I am apt to just prep a bunch more when I walk in for my shift.

Mise en place is so important, Chef has it tattooed on his arms. And his arms came into play this summer when Lucifer was still doing saute and line work. Lucifer is never good at getting all his mise ready. He’s more inclined to have someone else do it for him and then rush around like a ninny right before service has started. It’s never good. It created a lot of havoc around the kitchen.

One time, Lucifer didn’t back up his white wine and vinegars and such before service, so right there after two or three tickets start coming in, he’s shouting for saffron broth and white wine to be filled in his bottles.  I was still basic prep at the time and him shouting meant for me to hustle and get it for him. I was flustered because Coffeeman had started moving things around and I couldn’t find what Lucifer wanted. At one point Lucifer yelled at me about what was taking so long and I went back with the bottle and slammed it down on the counter vibrating with frustration.

Coffeeman took one look at me and said, “fill the bottle, take it back and hand it to him then tell him “mise en place, mother-f**ker.'”

“I can’t do that, chef.” I protested. “He’ll come back at me.

“Yes you can. And no he won’t. Just say, “Chef said, “Mise en place, mother——“.

So I did. I walked over, presented the bottle with both hands and repeated the statement. Lucifer took one look at me, Wildflower was staring at me wide eyed, then Lucifer looked over my shoulder and said, “yes, Chef.”

Turns out Coffeeman had stood behind me and crossed his arms where his tattoos were visible  and made it clear he was backing me up.

I was shaking like a leave, mind you, but when I say your mise en place is important, it is.

Every night when I walk in, I make damn sure I have my backups. I have as much as I can prep ready and lined up for when those 12+ tables with a ticket a mile long come in.

If I were apt to get a tattoo, I might consider one with mise en place along my hand or something. I’m not going to get one, but still, that is how important your mise is.

Kate

And The Books Are Taking Over

via Pinterest

There they lie. On the sofa, next to the love seat; piled up, a stack by my chair at the kitchen table. On the stairs leading up, next to my bedside in three stacks, under a pillow, on the bathroom vanity.  Leading up to the point of Mr. B stating emphatically today, “You have books everywhere.”

Currently, I do. I literally have books on almost every surface of my house. I have found myself wandering around with books and setting them down, only to come back later and pick up where I left off. Most are poetry books. I ordered a slew of them (meaning 5, from Better World Books) last week, and I currently have several different books floating around at various stages of being read. Course, then I went to the library today and came home with three more. Not poetry this time, but nonetheless, there are books everywhere.

I have not had much time to read read, as in, delve into a novel or whole book. I have been able to focus on a poem here or a spat of poetry there, but actual focus for a book has been nil since I finished Bittersweet a month or two ago. I’m a little lost as to when. Pardon, I am rereading Sous Chef for the third time (this time I’m underlining crucial parts I feel I need to remember)

via Pinterest but links to etsy

But poetry, oh poetry is lovely in that you don’t have to finish it from start to end. Pick one book up, flip through, read a poem, and put it down. Bam! Done.  My writing has taken on new flavor lately, dabbling in slightly lighter prose and poetry. Heck, even prose poetry, or is it prosey?  Either way, I have had some better days.

There has been a few things I felt I should write about, but they hit me like a sucker punch, or that feeling when I was hit in the sternum by a hardball when my dad was teaching me to play catch and I lost my breath. But sometimes it’s just too hard to write about. You get hit so hard you are still kind of having an out of body experience a week later. (side note, my playing catch and throwing a ball days were bad. Seriously bad. My dad says I can’t hit the broad side of a barn and that I throw like a girl. It took a 9 year old boy two years ago saying “but you are a girl…” to really not care if I can throw right)

So, instead I’m reading poetry. And submitting. I sent off six poems today to a place that was having open submissions. And I’m working on a document to send off to the New Yorker. Whew! I feel very brave taking that step. I’ve been saying I’m going to do it for months, but then I just put it off. I felt this driving desire to submit in the last few days and so here I am. I think part of it comes off of a poem I wrote about the steam explosion that was in the Flatiron District a week and a half ago. Or a week ago.

There was something so fanciful about that, for some reason, that I had to write something about it. I may not know much about New York, but it was fun to play around with things after going above in a bird’s eye view of the district, then going down to street level and looking at the aftermath.

It has been fun to write about lighter things. Work and some of the dramas at work have been dragging me down a lot, even though I’m happier. Much happier. But for months I have written a lot about relationships and the dramas of life and it’s exhausting. I need happier things in life. Having a good boss has helped. A different work load and a new menu and excitement has helped. I may be tired, but it’s a good tired.

So, now that I’ve rambled on, here is a list of the new books on my ‘Reading’ shelf.

  • The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton
  • Lucifer at the Starlight by Kim Addonizio
  • The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Hass
  • Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins (finally I own it!!!)
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • A New Geography of Poets compiled by Edward Field
  • On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
  • When We Were Young by A.A. Milne
  • Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
  • 99 Poems: New & Selected by Dana Gioia
  • Poetry: The Golden Anniversary Issue edited by Henry Rago
  • Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora
  • New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich
  • Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

And a slew of New Yorker magazines for the poetry aspects. I might be a little insane. I might be trying to overwhelm myself. All while adding in plenty of Poetry Off the Shelf podcasts and a new food/chef podcast called The Emulsion Podcast  by Justin Khanna.

Cooking, submitting, writing, staying super busy. I didn’t think my year was gonna be like this.

What are you all reading and into this summer?  I’d love to hear.

Kate

Work, Writing, It’s All The Same. It Merges

Photo by Alexandru STAVRICĂ on Unsplash

Every time I get home from work I have some new thing to write about or think about. The drama alone in the kitchen lends itself to a perpetual existence of creativity. Maybe it’s because I like writing, or maybe my life really has become interesting, but I want to write about everything. I have taken to having a ‘work’ journal, a notebook specific to just work related things. Yes, things there might end up in my regular journal, so long as they become personal related, but for the most part, it’s my way to document random things I feel I should write down. There are a couple months where I wasn’t writing but once here or there and I missed out on a lot of memories I could have had down. I’m more inclined to keep it up these days. It’s also where I can vent about work. And no, I do not ever let this book out of sight because oh man, I suppose it could get me into trouble if work people ever read it. It can be unflattering at times.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Along with the actual non-fiction of life, I have been mentally working on a book of sorts for the kitchen. Be it fiction/romance, which is my plan, or maybe it becomes my memoir at one point or another, but I have started to write down little vignettes of sorts or just things that have happened. I have ideas of them being chapter starters. Written in 2nd person, I think I have been inspired by the book Sous Chef, written in the same style.

Here are some I just wrote down today.

Exhaustion. It hits and there is nothing you can do about it but paste on a smile when everyone is looking then drop it when eyes are no longer on you. You get off of work tears forming in your eyes as the adrenaline fades away. Too tired to eat. Nearly too tired to sleep. Each movement becomes forced. You are ready to snap. Crackle. Pop; and explode at the first insult tossed your way. You grip your knife in a death grip, ready to stab anyone that even thinks about crossing you. Then the chef tells you that you need to stay for overtime. . .

The bruises show up in random spots. A wrist, a bicep, the hipbone. Was it from something you ran into? Or did you lift something too heavy in your arms and the weight left a mark? But out of nowhere a purple hickey forms and you look like you’ve been in a fight. You actually have. Been in a fight, that is. A fight with pans and food, forcing it to be what you need it to be. Very few items are coaxed into becoming an edible masterpiece.

Envy. It forms when someone gets preferential treatment. Maybe a new knife, or a jacket, or even a word of compliment. Somewhere, someone received what you wanted. And you find yourself trying to find ways to collect something, some form of pleasure that comes from all the pain studded days. The wounds inflicted, by yourself(knife cuts, bruises), by others(insults, offhanded remarks). The envy that forms when something, or someone, you wanted doesn’t come to you and goes to someone else. Suddenly you find yourself averting your gaze at the mere mention of something. You can take the pain. But you need a reward afterward.

I suppose these are autobiographical, to an extent. I did find 10 bruises the other day after work. They were all over my body. I’m still trying to figure out the one on each arm and one on a wrist. The envy is there. Mostly with someone. But I can’t go there.  I do, but I shouldn’t. It hurts. A lot. Yeah, I avert my gaze a lot these days.

The exhaustion was at the beginning. Are there good days? Of course. But there are a lot of mediocre days as well. The work lends itself to writing though. I like to think that if I ever publish a poem or something, in my bio it will say, She spends her days as a chef (or something along those lines) but moonlights as a poet, crafting food like she crafts her words….. Oooh, I really like that, not to toot my own horn, but that’s kind of catchy.

Needless to say, my journal has been filled with a lot lately. Dreams have been crazy. Work, again, changed. But as tired and frustrated I am, I’m good. Ish. Are we ever good when tired? I’m never on tip top game.

I do have to extend a note of gratitude to my lovely writing ladies and hopefully occasional newest member Crystal (again, names have all been altered to protect the innocent) for giving me some very valuable support this last Saturday when I was at my wits end about personal aspects of the kitchen. A semi-broken heart, fortunately averted before I delved in too deep with someone, and just perpetual work drama lent itself to a teary moment which came from some absolutely beautiful and spot on poetry. Darlings, you are all rocks to me. I needed your support more than you will ever know. I forget to tell you all personally, but you are all wonderful ladies.

This week is a little less drama filled. A shorter week, and a hope that I can advance my career more next week. Things are a’changing. Ideas are floating around.

Hey, all you lovely readers, do you find your work enters into aspects of your writing? Do you find your writings as a way to vent about work? How does writing help you through your day to day life?

Kate

Moving Through This Rhythmic Groove

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

We’ve lost our rhythm.

The kitchen is currently going through a staffing and schedule change and the rhythm is all out of sync. We run into each other, we shout out commands that go unanswered, new staff ignores the more experienced ones…. the groove that once was, while chaotic at best, is now so out of whack, Chef Wildflower and I were groaning today about it.

Lucifer and I have lost our rhythm that used to make sense. Part of it is personal, but most of it is that I have not worked with him under the conditions I am now. I don’t know how he moves and needless to say, I have flubbed up more than once in the past week. I’ve run into him behind twice, while he is on the line (at the stove) cooking for a ticket. That has not gone well. That becomes a moment where I get yelled at and I turn red. It’s mostly my fault. I totally get that and I will take the blame. But it’s hard when the movement is off.

The kitchen has lost it’s dance moves.

                                                                                               Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash                                                                                        I feel this is how Wildflower and I would look if we wanted to create a ‘mood’ picture.

 

Wildflower and I have a system that is unbeatable. If there is one thing that hasn’t changed, it is the two of us and how  we read each other. How we work together.  We have been together from the very beginning. Maybe because we were both the younger ladies of the group, maybe because we were shoved together from the get-go, maybe because we were just meant to, but we connected and we have something no one else has in the kitchen. The two of us can close down the restaurant like no one else.  Just the other night, I’m not sure who said it, but they said that the two of us are kind of amazing.  That no one can break down quite like the two of us.

Now that is rhythm.

It’s too bad that only the two of us have it right now. I would like to have some semblance of ‘the dance’ back in the kitchen. I’m too scared to be myself because for 6 months I was in this perpetual state of fear for any decision made might result in me being yelled at. The previous Chef was, well, scary. So now I second guess everything I do. I second guess myself and want exact directions from Lucifer. It hasn’t gone so well. He trusts me more than I trust myself. At least he has faith.

Back at the end of April I was struggling with relationship issues with someone and we kept banging heads. Dona was sweet enough to give this bit of advice. “Relationships are a dance. Two steps forward, two back, etc. Finding love’s rhythm takes time.”  Granted, that was about love and such, but it applies to working with people. Over time you do find a rhythm when you work in such close quarters.

Michael Gibney, author of Sous Chef, basically said the same thing about the kitchen being a dance. And now the choreography is off. At least we’ve all realized that it isn’t quite on par and that the metranome needs to get back into the right beat. The tick-tocking movements need to be realigned. I’m hopeful. It’s been rather frustrating to feel off kilter and like at any moment you are going to run into someone and end up burned, cut, bruised….. God, the looks Lucifer gives me when I move the wrong way. Murder is almost too nice of a word to describe the ‘evil eye’ I get when I finally move out of the way.  The thing is, previous Chef basically wanted me out out of the way. So that’s what I still do. Instead of sucking it in and just leaning out of the way, I do this whole body movement that ends up making me even more in the way. It is frustrating.

                                                                                         Photo by Michael Henry on Unsplash                                                                                      This is how we should be in the kitchen. A team. Let’s hope we get there soon.

Life’s grooves sometimes just get bypassed and trying to step back into the dance takes time. It is like jumping rope and you are waiting just the right time to jump back into the loop and not get tangled up in the whole darn thing. Spin your partner round and round… Recognizing the issues makes it so you can fix the problems. Talking it over with Lucifer last night when I was so tired helped. I can’t help but feel like having a meltdown. Did I cry? Of course I did. But as much as Lucifer and I can be at odds, he’s sweet enough to let me have a minor cry (all while telling me to calm down) and resettle myself.

It also helped today to sit with Wildflower and say “we had a rhythm before”, to which she replied “there is no rhythm now.” See, she noticed it as well and it was stressing her out. Maybe this next week will be better.

On the plus side, I now know how to make the risotto rice for the restaurant! (this might sound minor, but it’s exciting for me because Lucifer specifically said no one can make it right, and I did….)  I can julliene the scallions just how Lucifer likes. I finished my entire prep list last night, with extra, and had the kitchen cleaned with my crew by 10:30 last night. I get to work with Micha (St. Michael) I have great things and prompts to use for writing. I finished Sous Chef and now have to read it again because it was so good. And currently I have my knives home with me. Oh, I never mentioned that I have my own very pricy chef’s knives. Two of them. And an order for three new chef’s jackets…. I splurged. I can’t wait for them to show up. I needed to order them months ago.

Life’s dance continues to move on. Writing abounds. Kitchen life has filled me up with even more thoughts and days of extra work. Forever writing, forever thinking of food and a world I never thought I would be in. At least, while last week I was about ready to say ‘I quit, I can’t do this anymore,’ this week I feel a lot more inclined to be ready for the week. Okay, I’m not ready for the week; your Sunday is my Friday. I’m just settling in to my weekend. I want to enjoy the next two days off. But I am looking forward to getting back to work and rewriting the symphony.

Yeah, music, dance, rhythm; it’s all there.

Pardon my constant kitchen talk. It has become my life.

Kate

Change And Heartbreak And The sweetBitter

People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened. My store is closing this week. I own a store, did I ever tell you that? It’s a lovely store, and in a week it will be something really depressing, like a Baby Gap. Soon, it’ll just be a memory. In fact, someone, some foolish person, will probably think it’s a tribute to this city, the way it keeps changing on you, the way you can never count on it, or something. I know because that’s the sort of thing I’m always saying. But the truth is… I’m heartbroken. I feel as if a part of me has died, and my mother has died all over again, and no one can ever make it right. ~Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail

Miss Holly and I were talking about change this last Wednesday. By the quote above, can you tell I hate change?  So does Miss Holly. (psst, I knew I was going to need to showcase you in a post, even if it’s not a huge thing) Today was a lot of change. She doesn’t like change. I don’t like change. We talk about how it’s good for us. We still don’t like change.

Change isn’t always bad. Today wasn’t a bad change. But change scares me. I like status quo, unless I’m the one making the change. I’ll make changes all the time, that’s fun. But I don’t like outside powers changing things. I’m rarely ready. Today I wasn’t ready. I knew a change might come, but I just wasn’t ready.

I can honestly say working in a professional kitchen has dropped a boatload of change on my life. Every single time I work, something has changed. Even down to the order of spices. It annoys the heck out of me. I have complained in the past, meaning probably last week, to Lucifer, my sous chef, that I hate change. He always laughs and says it will always change in the kitchen.  “One day!” I always declare. “I want one day where nothing changes.” I actually got that last week. I had one subliminal day. One perfect day where I had a marvelously perfect change free day.

One day.

My sous chef is now my Chef. I have to start capitalizing that. Which is hard because think of my current Chef as the Chef, not Lucifer. Sure, I’ve viewed him as my boss, but he really is the boss now. This is good. This is Sweetbitter. Probably a mixture of both. An even mix. I’m happy. I’m sad…. No, I’m wrong, I think I’m a tad more bitter. Keep reading.

I finally get to work with one person that I have been dying to work with. Not that we don’t work together all the time, but well, he’s in charge now. I’m looking forward to that. But now that he’s my boss, I can’t have him as an on the side friend. “No fraternization with anyone non manager.” is the general rule of thumb. I am no where near manager position. This is the bitter. Very bitter in my opinion. How do you give up a confidant in life? Bitter doesn’t even begin to touch the iceberg here.

Change is hard.

Rugburn, taking a selfie…. Okay, I held up the camera, but it looks like he is.

Last night I lost the love of my life. My baby, my puppy, my Rugburn, my guy for the last 15 years said goodbye last night. You always know your dog isn’t going to last forever, but you always think you have a little more time. You don’t. If someone ever tells you that there will be time, they are wrong. There is never enough time. Not with people. Not with dogs. Never take life for granted.

I fell asleep next to his body last night, curved just right, his front ‘bear paws’ so soft, smelling and feeling just like my puppy, and I woke up this morning thinking just a few more minutes with this. A few more…. A few more never fixes it because he’s not coming back.  At some point I realized that I was prolonging the hurt. Maybe. Because holding his body one more minute doesn’t make him come back. I want to go out and scoop him right up and say “hey, it will be alright.” But he’s not the one that’s in pain. Finally his pain is gone and he’s not suffering anymore. I’m the one that wants someone to say to me”hey, it will be alright.’  I want a hug that won’t stop. I want someone to not let go and suck all the hurt out. t’s kind of hard to feel that things will be alright when so much change happens. The hard kind of change.

Rugburn and I when he was only about 3

I hope anyone else going through change and doesn’t like it, understands that I can completely empathize with you. It hurts sometimes. It’s hard, a lot of the times. And it’s not something we like. I hate when people tell me that change is a part of life.  Which is why I always think about what Meg Ryan said above.  “People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.”

Kate