As I sit in my apartment, air conditioner on 60 degrees, and an orange popsicle in hand, I still can't shake the heat. I con honestly say that today was the hardest I've ever worked in my life.
We were at maximum capacity for our last night in the old building. 137 guests i believe the final count was. We were still seating guests at 9 45 when the garde manger station is usually breaking down. I got to work this morning, expecting to get my ass kicked. I was the first one there, I got changed, grabbed my towels, walked upstairs to the kitchen at 12 15. I started my day doing the stuff that the other cooks dont have time to do. I picked and washed parsley. Our protien is so freaking fresh and local that our ducks aren't even plucked all the way, so I spend the better part of an hour and a half using my fish tweezers to pluck the remaining little bits of feathers out of 50 duck breasts. I butchered about 30 Artesian Farms Rainbow Trout. It is the best aquaculture site in the world, and it is only a few miles outside of Madison and the whole staff will be visiting the farm on our annual field trip. (The whole staff at L'Etoile visits a different farm every year to learn more about our producers.)
I finished up all the herb prep for all the stations and then got all my individual prep done for the amuse bouche, a "BLT". A brioche toast point with a basil aoli, my own house cured bacon, sun gold tomato, and a basil pluche. I had a little extra time to finish up prep for other guys before comida, or staff meal, so I ran downstairs to slice some carpaccio on the cafe slicer, and to check on the two hotel pans of duck confit I started that morning, from the ducks that I had butchered the day before. (I can butcher duck like crazy, I had never done it before but its just like a firmer, bigger chicken, so I mow through them.) I came upstairs after slicing 50 orders of Carpaccio, (which we served with kumomoto oysters, smoked oyster mushrooms that had been marinated in maple syrup and soy sauce, and a croissant "cracker". it was a beautiful dish.) When I turned the corner, thw whole staff had already left for the dining room. Tory, the chef, had bought a ton of pizzas for the whole staff, the pizza itself was pretty shitty, but I was hungry so I didn't care.
The whole staff was wearing sweater vests, still not sure why, but it is some sort of inside joke they all have. Chef gave a toast, and we had our last meal together in the old dining room. I never really understood until now how much of a family this whole place is. And I'm the kid who everyone likes, but feel like they have to give shit all the time. Ed the fish cook, possibly the best cook I've ever met, asks me to clean his ice bins every night after service and fill the bins with fresh ice that I carry up from the basement. On Friday he pulled me out of the back of the kitchen and told me that he really liked me, because I do whatever anyone asks me, no matter how boring, difficult, or unnecessary it may be, and I do it with a smile on my face.It made me feel good that people have noticed how hard I've been working.
After service the fun started, the cooks realized how much of a fat genius I was when Chef presented a massive second staff meal. I plated up all the cheeses we had in the walk in, 30 varieties, and I filled three sheet trays, Chef fried up a massive sheet tray of fries, cheese curds, and onion rings. A light went off in my head. I ran over to Neesa, the meat cooks station, and grabbed a bain marie of a brown liquid. I grabbed a plate heaping with fries, drizzled with the basil aoli from my amuse, topped it with a handful of cheese curds, and then, the madness ensued. I took a heaping ladle of the brown liquid, whose identity is to be disclosed later... and voila, possibly one of my favorite snacks ever, the montreal classic, poutine. French fries, topped with cheese curds soaked in gravy, but instead of gravy, I had taken the sauce for the duck, which was Duck demi glace, flavored with cognac, and finished with a foie gras compound butter. Easily the most incredible thing I've ever eaten.
Then the fun ended, and we had to basically tear apart the entire kitchen. We cleaned and scrubbed and I didnt get off until 1 15. Then, I sat in th dining room with the rest of the crew eating leftover pizza and smoking cigars, because we could! until 2 15, when the entire crew, minus me for obvious reasons, left for the bars. I headed home and here I am, drenched in sweat, covered in grime, hands smelling of duck fat, and I can't sleep. This adrenaline is killing me. Cooks go out after service, not because were alcoholics, or because we love the nightlife, but because we have to build up adrenaline to survive the rush, and we just cant stop it. It is almost 3 oclock here, and I have to be up at 8 30 to go help move. I want to sleep, and I should sleep, but I can't. My heart is still pounding and my hands are still twitching, just like they were at 5 when that first ticket came in, and the saturday night rush kicked off.
But this is the life for me. I sit in my apartment, like I do every night after work, waiting for sleep to finally take its hold so that tomorrow will come and I'll be back in the heat, busting my ass to make sure that people get fed. Cooks don't last long. The life of a cook takes its toll. All work, and no rest, for years on end, in the roughest working conditions imaginable. We're crazy. But anyone who has known me for extended periods of time would agree with that.
Tomorrow is a new day. and Monday brings a whole new restaurant. We'll see what is in store.
As summer in Indy is coming to a close, I issue one final plea. Get all your asses up here to Madison to visit me. It would mean a lot, because I miss you all and it'd be nice having someone in the apartment other than myself to talk to.
Also, today I saw a dog that looked just like Mia and got really excited, like some homeward bound shit had happened and she had come to find me. But it wasn't her, so I'm starting a petition to gain full custody of her for at least a month when I move to a new apartment/ house. Please sign.
You stay classy,