Friday, February 17, 2006

A day in the life of a kitchen junkie

So I worked the opening and closing shifts again today. All 11 hours, with a 45 min break for both lunch and dinner altogether.
I remember my first day at the job where I work at currently, and if you've read Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, or seen the episode where he goes back to Provincetown, Massachusetts, I had a similar experience. I was stationed at the deep fryer, and I was just standing there, not knowing what to do, looking around and panicking. I smile each time I remember my first time I worked through a dinner rush. Good times. It's been almost a year now, and more recently, I'm working three - four times a week. I'm dog tired after each day, but I look forward to the next.
I've thought alot about it. I can't say that I'm an authority on kitchen life, because I don't work 7 days a week, but I've gathered enough thoughts and opinions.

Here's a breakdown of life in the kitchen today:
The day begins, and you go to work. You set up your station and make sure your mise en place is set, and ready to go. This is essential. If you don't get it right, your flow of operations will be interrupted when certain ingredients run out. Orders keep coming in, and you just don't have the time to slice or dice this or that during rush hour. Preparation is everything.
You eat lunch before everyone else. That's because you work when people are having lunch.
Then it's lunch time. The lunch rush comes, and you get into the "zone", when everyone, who's normally chatty and friendly, suddenly become orgres in white jackets. Flipping at anything that they don't agree with. After 3pm, everyone's the friendliest guy again, and more preparation takes place. Slicing this, dicing that, stirring pots, portioning food, etc etc.
Then it's dinner time, at 5 pm. Yea, 5 pm, you eat before the public eats dinner, and rest up before the dinner rush hits. It's 6pm now, everyone's talking and joking around. It was even more interesting today, because there were only 4 people working the line. There's normally 7 or 6 guys, two on the sauté station, one at the broiler station, two at the salad/deep fryer station and one at the pizza station and the last man at the back, doing more prep work for the next day.
However, today, there was only four.
It was intense, but really fun. We were all talking and joking around, saying that this is the record, for having the least amount of man power in the kitchen ever. The dinner rush hits, and we're all in that "zone" again. The pizza guy helping the sauté guy and salad guy whenever he can, the broiler man on both broiler and sauté. The dishwasher who's really interested in working on the line took the opportunity and had a crash course on pizza making, and helped with the pizzas.
The night ends and we're all sitting down, and having a drink. It felt like such a cliché, but I guess thats what it was. Four guys, talking about whatever after a long night, and having a good time.
Here's a picture I took with one of the guys today, who taught me alot in my first few weeks at work.
Gilbert and I
I'm just thinking on the whole kitchen life aspect.
It's social suicide. You work when people are having their time off. Goodbye to weekends and public holidays. The hours are long, and you're on your feet almost 80%-90% of the time.
Your feet aches and you're dog tired after the whole day.
What about family and friends? It's not too bad now that I'm only working part time now.
But if this is the career that I've chosen and want to pursue, what I'm tasting now is only abit of what is more to come.
Jeremy and I have ambitious plans of opening and running several restaurants together in the future. It works out really well. He has a passion for hot cooking, and I have a passion for pastries and desserts. We're perfect for each other. Not in that way though, if you know what I mean.
We're totally full on family guys, and it'd be terrible if we couldn't spend time with family and friends. We've talked about having a main place, which would be our base of operations, our friends, or maybe even girlfriends or wives would come in, shopping bags in hand, and sit in their favourite corner. We'd complain about their shopping habits, but laugh it off cause that's what we'd do too, and maybe our kids if any would come in, and be doing their homework in the corner, or something like that.
It's all wishful thinking now, but there's nothing that Jeremy and I would want to do. We're not a 9am-5pm type of people. Desk-bound jobs totally bore us. Even if we do make it big, and become fancy chefs, we'd still want to work the line, remembering what it's all about.
Serving food to people, just because it gives us pleasure. I'm sure all of you who cook for your friends know what we mean.
So what if we spend money on fancy ingredients? So what if the ingredients cost alot?
It's all about the joy of cooking, being able to serve good food to loved ones, and enjoying the rewards of knowing that someone has enjoyed the meal that you prepared with your own hands.



Clay said...

Can I be your restaurant's marketing manager? :)

Nicholas said...

Remember that masterplan back in secondary school?
You being the manager for my dad's company?

Anytime man, as you know, Jeremy and I plan to open several establishments.
We'd need someone for Public Relations.