Monday, March 13, 2006

Weekend shifts

So the weekend went by in a blur, as they tend to do. Now that my shift at the restaurant has changed to Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday morning, this leaves Saturday night as the only time I have to stay up late without the consequences of being tired at my day job. Which, as I'm sure you can imagine, only goes slower if I am behind my computer heavy-eyed. Which is where I am today, as I couldn't handle just one night of selfishness. But with a little caffeine I'm making it through just fine.

Friday night was busy, as expected. I'm starting to see a pattern develop though. When the place starts hopping with hungry patrons, the chefs there get so busy serving food I am sort of on exiled. Obviously, this is what has to happen, and should be expected to happen, but I am finding myself doing more and more shift work and less and less learning. Which is very exciting mind you, but considering the fact that I am still in a stage - and therefore unpaid - I am finding it a little difficult to keep my motivation up while making dozens of salads and mopping floors. I am sure this feeling will pass with a little time.

Saturday morning turned out to be a really great refresher for me though. The day shift was a nice change of pace, and I also get to work with the most seasoned chef of them all. Too bad he will be leaving soon...but that also presents opportunities in the future.

The first thing I noticed was a reinforcement on an idea I already had: there is a rift between day shift and night shift in a kitchen. Always. Or so it seems to me. I have not been in a single kitchen where this was not the case. And although everyone gets along just dandy, dare I say everyone is friends, anyone with a piece of common sense can see what I am talking about.

The beginning of the shift was stuff I've already done before. Pick spinach, clean and cut arugula, similar tasks that while not exciting are crucial to the fundamental products in a restaurant. Tasks I don't mind doing most of the time. I knew it would be a great day when the chef, we will call him Paul, told me, "I'm going to pay attention to you because I think you are hear to learn. I am going be on your case when you do stuff wrong, because if I don't tell you then you will not know. I'm not sure what they are able to show you at night as to how a real kitchen works but, today, you will."

And then my favorite part of the day - "I have interest, in your interest."

Paul was telling the truth. I spent the majority of my remaining day focusing not so much on tasks, but on philosophies and ideas. This is how we do the stock here, and here are some more ideas on stock making. This is how I would do the stock, and this is why. This is why I am here working without monetary compensation, this is the magic I wanted to see, the concepts behind the food.

I left Saturday with the feeling of empowerment and energy that I had when I started there what has now been over a month (!) ago. This motivation spurred me to read a large chunk of my recently acquired Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I cross referenced the pasta section with the likes of The Joy of Cooking and Harold McGee's classic. The ricotta gnocchi which followed was an amateur endeavor, but I still ate every bite of it. I think I want to go somewhere with this pasta bit.


At 5:15 PM, Blogger celebchef said...

Maybe you this previously, but I am curious. How did you get your apprenticeship at the restaurant?

I think it's great that they chef took an interest in your interest.

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Bistro said...

I got the internship actually by eating there a lot. One time I asked one of the wine guys to talk to the chef. I told him I interested and motivated, and he actually brought up the idea. So, it kind of worked out for me. :)


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