Sunday, November 6, 2011

Special Guests

Nights like tonight are why I am in this business. I'm certain of it. For the first time, since I've been a cook at L'Etoile, I had the opportunity to cook for great friends of mine. For so long I come into work, and cook my ass off for people I don't know, can't see, will never talk to, and who don't know me or how much the kitchen crew cares about their dining experience. It's refreshing to cook for people you actually know, and will give you feed back and who are familiar with the sacrifices that are made to put food in front of them. Tonight, Mary (Friend from High School, UW Volleyball Player) and all of her family came in for her Mom's birthday. It was a very personal experience for me even though we were in different rooms and I couldn't even speak to them.

My excitement started to build on Tuesday when Mary told me she had made a reservation. Immediately I went to the reservations department at the restaurant to inform them that the 8 30 5 top were special guests of mine and informed them of the birthday celebration so that special menus could be printed saying "Happy Birthday Mama O!" Then the anticipation built over the week. I knew Saturday would be busy, but I wanted to make sure that everyone at the table had a wonderful meal, and that I was able to personally cook for all of them.

Saturday came and as I pushed through prep to get set up I was even more excited. My plates going into the window looked as good as ever, and my seasoning and speed were about as good as I can ask for. Surely, 8 30 came around, and I asked the expediter to let me know when the 8 30 5 top was seated. Around 8 45, a server came back into the kitchen and told me they were here. I immediately pulled a note out of my pocket and asked her to give it to them. It was just a little happy birthday wish, and I wanted them to know I was aware they were here. Soon enough their orders came in. I was ready. I'd spent all week getting ready for this moment. I was cooking for other tables at the same time. They ordered first courses, then it was time to cook their midcourses. They ordered two delacata squash dishes, two escargot with orechiette pasta dishes, and a risotto. I wanted to do something extra for them so I started a cranberry bean dish to send out for the table to share.

In a ten minute window, for five guests, heres the play by play. First I took the pre roasted delacata squash and warm it in the oven. Fire two orders of agnolotti. Sweat ginger in olive oil. Sautee brunois veg with garlic, olive oil and butter. Heat Lemon brown butter with a little bit of chiffonade sage. Add chicken stock and par cooked rice to the ginger for the risotto, heat up cranberry beans and chiffonade kale with pork demi and butter. Fire a sausage patty. Fire a duck egg. Add red wine to the garlic mirepoix mix... reduce. Pull the agnolotti and put into the brown butter. Gently heat and toast the agnolotti. add rock shrimp to cooking risotto. SEASON EVERYTHING TASTE EVERYTHING. Fire plates.... hot food on a cold plate becomes cold food way too fast. Fire orechiette pasta. Add chicken stock and over dried tomato to wine, garlic sauce. heat up shrimp curry broth in a sautee pan. Pull delacata squash. Pull duck egg. Mount risotto with butter and cheese and herbs. SEASON EVERYTHING TASTE EVERYTHING. Plate delacata squash. Top with agnolotti and spoon brown butter around. Top with popcorn garnish with grape must and pancetta shards. sell plates. pull the orechiette and toss with the sauce add nicoise olives, snails, herbs. Plate the risotto. Spoon risotto into the center of a bowl. Spoon curry broth around. Garnish with toasted coconut, cilantro oil, lime zest, sell. Plate snails, garnish with cheese. sell. Cut duck egg with ring mold, season with sea salt, pepper, herbs. place on top of brioche toast. Spoon beans onto plate. place sausage patty on plate. Quenelle cranberry mostarda. Place duck egg on toast, plate. Spoon pork demi sauce around plate. sell. Phew, and in this window I'm starting new dishes for new tickets. On three burners.

I got to go out into the dining room after service, and talk to the Ording family. They were finishing up dessert. I came to their table, hugged everyone and thanked them all for coming. We talked about what everyone ordered, and they gushed about the food they had. They thanked me for the wonderful meal. Then Mrs. Ording asked me when I would be done. I asked her what time it was, and she said about 11. I told her I'd be done around midnight. Then Mr O asked me what time I had come in. I told him about 12 30. They all looked shocked. Such a long day (didnt seem so to me). Such hard work (Again didn't seem so to me). They said, it must be so hard. I told them it was a labor of love. And I wasnt joking. I love the food I get to cook every day. I love the people I work with. And on a few nights when the stars align... (like tonight) I love the people I get to cook for.

Days like today make busting ass making tiny perfect kuri squash agnolotti for the delacata dish seem that much more worthwhile. It felt great, because over the past three months every single guest that I have cooked for has been at the restaurant... because they want L'Etoile's food. They want the service. And they want the experience. And thats great, I'm proud of the kitchen I work in and the food I put out. But as a faceless cook, every once in a while, to have five guests come to the restaurant who say "We want to celebrate, enjoy each other's company, eat some great food, and ... oh yeah, that kid Mikey in the kitchen, we kinda like him and we want him to cook for us" feels really great.

In a perfect world... I would open a restaurant where I only cooked for friends... then again, I don't have many of them. So business would probably suck.