So, Tonight after I got off work, and after I wandered around madison for about an hour like I always do after work, because I'm too God Damn jacked up on adrenaline to just sit in my apartment, I sat on my couch, and popped in The Sandlot. Because It is the 4th of July and that is possibly the most American movie ever made. I started to pick up uncanny resemblances between myself right now, and Smalls. New kid in town and he gets made fun of for the shit he wears, (yes I still wear my tacky CIA issue checkered pants. They're comfortable and I dont have money to buy legit Chefware pants).
It's incredible how far I've come. n such a short time. I worked catering at a place that bought everything from sysco. We had no clue where our food was coming from and really didnt care. I had to beg my boss to let me use something other than artificial base in the stocks. We got prepackaged chicken breasts, a few canned sauces... there was no identity to our food. At my new job, I know some of the farmers who produce for us by name. They come in and talk to me, we had chickens delivered today. The guy who raises them is crazy, hes just a hippy who is doing it right. ACTUAL free range chickens, no fences, that are fed what they are meant to be fed. No hormones, and they are raised for up to 8 months as opposed to the average 3 weeks that industrial chickens are. Those 8 months mean incredible flavor, and the birds are incredibly clean, its okay to serve them a slight bit under cooked. In fact, its better that way. Then there's the apple lady, who I had the joy of meeting today. She stores apples all year long, no gas, and allows them to ripen properly, The orange cok pippin apples she delivered today were ridiculous. The best apple I've ever tasted hands down.
Sure I can be a damn good prep cook. but Having only worked for a large corporate catering company, this whole line cooking dinner service shit is still foreign to me. Every dish, from every station has to be in the window at the exact same moment, piping hot, or just plated, and not a second too soon, or god forbid late. The timing, the communication, the speed and efficiency that goes in to pullig off even 120 covers like we did tonight is mind boggling. Until late this week I really was lost, then one night, during service, Scott the cold side garde manger guy pulled me over ad said "Look, now I really hate seeing you not even breaking a sweat, shelling damn peas while I work my ass off here." He was giving himself a cushion, because every Friday and Saturday night he would screw something up and get reamed by chef. With an extra set of hands on the line hed be more likely to keep Chef off his ass. And he could tell that I was dying to learn what the hell was going on. So first, he showed me how to plate everything, and how the timing goes, etc. Im not ready by any means to run the station by myself, but I'm learning.
Then, Friday morning, Chef walked around and patted me on the shoulder... "Yo, Mikey (thats my nickname.... I'm trying to do everything in my power to make them not think of me as a little kid, but when you're too young to go to bars after service, and when your mommy shows up every week to check in on you, its kind of hard to drop the baby image) your workin the line tonight." It was like the time Benny the Jet Rodriguez threw scott the mitt and told him to show up the next day... that was me. My chest was pounding, I was moving up to the big leagues. I plated salads, I plated desserts, I prepped like a crazy mofo.
This past week I've worked my ass off. They are trying to break me. They're trying to see if I've got the drive to make it. They know how badly I want to get on the line, and theyre pushing me to the limits. As soon as the first tickets are in and I'm about to finish up prep and jump on the line, the sous chef, Pete, who is my version of the fat ginger catcher, throws random tasks at me, one after the other until by the time I'm done service is almost over. But today, I busted ass even harder and he ran out of crap for me to do, so I finally closed out service on saturday on the line. As I was breaking down my station, cryo-vaccing stuff for Tuesday when one of my bosses came up to me, handed me an ice cold bottle of PBR, and said, "Good work, now chug it so I don't lose my job!"
That was a big deal, it was like when the fat ginger kid gives Smalls his first smore with a freshy roasted mallow. I've had a few beers in my life, but this one tasted better than any I've ever had... because the kitchen was roasting hot, and because I had earned it.
Every night after work, as we all change out of our whites, the other cooks talk about their plans for the night, I dont say a word, walk upstairs, clock out, and walk home in silence. Tonight though, they were asking me when I was gonna turn 21 so I could go out and party with them, Telling me to come over for BBQ's on the 4th. (I can just see it now, like all the guys from The Sandlot walking off the tilt a whirl covered in puke... but I digress). Slowly but surely I'm becoming part of the team, another gear in the well oiled machine...
In the words of the great Scotty Smalls, "They never really stopped playing, It was like a never ending dream game."
I've just gotta keep on learning to play the game.
Happy Fourth of July.
Tune in next week to hear me talk about the new pork dish were gonna run... I know cuz I pulled the three inch thick chops off the brine today... sauteed one up to taste. Damn incredible. Arguably the best por ive ever tasted... I'm contemplating coming in on my day off next week, and ordering both the pork and trout, because the trout dish were running right now is just sexy. Potato crusted with a horseradish aoli.
Still just a fat kid at heart. As you can tell... Nothing has changed...