Friday, March 24, 2006

Six hours of chopping

Well, being employed by the restaurant means I have to take over one of the roles. My role, being untrained and dare I say green, is to fill the place of what is referred to as the third guy. The third guy has simple roles. I have to keep the mis en place stocked. If it gets busy, I hop up and make salads for the person on the saute station. When I'm not doing any of those things, I do prep work. However, Thursday night has a concentrated dinner rush and that's about all. Which means aside from keeping everything stocked, I have lots of time to do prep work.

Now, the morning prep chefs are very good, so I only had a few things to do. Most of those things, which were my responsibility, involved mirepoix of various dice sizes. A lot of mirepoix. I murdered so many carrots, celery (celeries?), and onions I don't even really remember what else I did last night; this is kind of sad really.

One of the few things that I managed to keep in my memory was the cleaning of the halibut. The restaurant orders halibut, in whole fish form (minus the head), filets it out and then uses the bones to make a fumet. I, living in Montana, have never butchered a whole halibut. So when the forty pound monster was lugged in through the back door I got (a little) excited. For shame, I know. Seeing Paul, one of the chefs I respect the most, whittle down such a monstrous beast into 6 ounce pretty white portions in a matter of minutes was intimidating to say the least. Someday, I'm going to have to do that. It's a forty pound fish flown in on a plane from the West Coast, which cost the owner three-hundred dollars, so it has to be done right with no waste, or the filets are not clean looking and don't present very well. Aside from the presentation effects, sloppy cleaning hurts the bottom line. I realize it sounds kind of silly, but these are the steps which must be learned for me, and under the watchful eyes of people that can do your job, and more than likely do it better, pressure builds. In something that is so important to me, such as food, I have to make sure I do the best, not merely the best I can do, but the best that can be done for a given situation. This is why we learn, this is why we try. To get better, over time, to master the fundamentals.

Speaking of fundamentals, here is a well known practice of Gordon Ramsays which I enjoyed reading (the first paragraph of the blog). Whether it be egg and butter omelets, or filleting halibut, everyone must have solid foundations to build upon. If you are preparing fois gras before you know how to make chicken stock, your product will surely be flawed.

But enough with my ideas on fundamentals. Aside from my six hours of chopping, and "the halibut incident," the only other task I recall being assigned is cutting (dare I say chopping...) mushrooms. Now, because

1. The head chef had me doing so many other projects last night (aka mirepoix) and
2. After that there was not much else to do I got sent home early

the mushrooms did not get chopped. This being said I felt a sort of obligation, a responsibility to fulfill the request of Paul before he left last night, I woke up early this morning (to beat him in) and went in to the restaurant. At 8:00 AM, I was hanging out with the pastry chef, talking about Jaques Pepin, cutting mushrooms.

At least I got to start my day out right.


At 8:32 PM, Anonymous celeb chef said...

The halibut story reminds my of Anthony Bourdain's recollection of "Bigfoot", who would measure the yield of the all the chefs fish filets and select who made the most economical cuts.

Keep at it, you're doing something I've been thinking about doing for a long time. I used to volunteer assist at a culinary school but they ended it for volunteers. Will see what I decide to do next.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Bistro said...

Ah yea the bigfoot thing that was a great story. Do you know by chance who he was talking about?

At 8:59 PM, Blogger celebchef said...

No, personally I don't know all that much about the NY restaurant scene.


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