Today’s adventure in the kitchen brought me to a place where I feel I am making less serious errors, but I am still making errors as I try to do more and more each day. In short, I am trying to do anything I have half an idea about how to do it. That is, anything I can actually do half-assed, I then try to do full-assed, and, well, the results are not always stellar. But I am a firm believer in experiential education. A little lecture from the chef on how to do it right goes a long way after having done it wrong. A lot further that his just showing me, and my attempting to get it right when the time comes.
Still, some mistakes continue to plague me:
- The plating of the lasagna continues to elude me. It is in the center of the plate, and has two “swishes” of tomato sauce on two opposing corners. Personally, I think it looks weird even when it is done right, and I just can’t seem to get it too look “right”.
This is spaetzle. It isn’t pretty.
- Spaetzle needs more salt than pasta when cooking. Vic seems to know when it tastes right, and I believe him seeing as how he is Austrian. I personally am not a spaetzle person – I prefer pasta by quite a bit – so it is hard for me to tell when I have it right.
- All of the different chicken dishes have different sized portions depending on the dish and if it is lunch or dinner. The system has them piled in a series of places on the reach-in fridge and I just don’t think I have the hang of it yet. (Though I made no mistakes at lunch today on which chicken went where…)
But yes, perspective chefs reading this take note: there are very specific portioning guidelines to how a restaurant is run, and it makes sense quite frankly. Serve someone too much chicken in their chicken parmesan, and you are no longer making money on it. Cease to make money on a popular dish, and your restaurant goes belly up. Expect to be forced to comply with such rigorous guidelines when you go into the kitchen.
So today was supposed to be my first double shift, and I have to admit, I was apprehensive. I was wondering what it would be like to work for 13 straight hours, as will be the norm more often when I am done with culinary school (for now) and am able to fit into a more permanent role there. But there was a mix-up in the scheduling, and I was not needed for the dinner rush, but I stayed anyway (unpaid mind you) until the dinner started a little bit so I could see how it went.
Please note this was not my chef taking advantage of me. He said he could not pay me, so I was free to go home, but I offered to stay on and help some so I could see how the transition went, and how things were different during dinner. We all had a good laugh when I was moving a bunch of things quickly and someone said that they needed something right away. My reply “Hey, don’t yell at the volunteers!” got a good laugh from all.
Yeah, something like this was my lunch
But all in all, it was neat to see how people in restaurants break between shifts. There is a clean up from lunch, a quick once-over in the kitchen to make sure there are enough supplies for dinner, and then a general cool-down period where everyone enjoys their first chance to sit since 8AM. And time to eat too. Amazing how much food can disappear into you when you have not eaten – yet have been surrounded by food – all day.
For those of you concerned about my well-being, my wife has already stated that I must start eating breakfast.
So let it be written.
So let it be done.