Although it may seem untrue, this was not a "Devil Wears Prada" kind of experience, I assure you. But, within the first five minutes, I was rapidly told that my job title was Kitchen Bitch #2. Not even #1, but #2. I was the Kitchen Bitch to the Kitchen Bitch. The girl who was #1 had been through the ropes many times before, and taught me quietly along the way (as to not disturb the flow of the evening). I watched, learned as I went, and received all the information I could. I was losing my virginity to my first restaurant.
While watching The Teacher prep her 5-course dinner for 12, I swept, cleaned counters, and filled votives, realizing that cooking for people every night is really what I am meant to do. Like me (before ALL of my dinner parties), The Teacher was frazzled, and frantically preparing for her performance later that evening. Going through her mental check list out loud. Though, once she got in front of her audience, she stole the show. I envied her.
I watched her seamlessly remove the skin from a 5-lb. Halibut fillet and pair it with a rhubarb compote, and steamed asparagus. She handmade Creme Fraiche and created a cold potato salad with pancetta and ramps. She sauteed domestic lamb loin chops and composed an artichoke, caper, lemon and parsley "salsa" to garnish it. She made her "Taste of Washington" salad with the Apres Vin lime riesling grapeseed oil. Next came the cheese course of artisan cheeses she had picked up from the market, and to finish, she created a lavender short cake with homemade honey ricotta and fresh blackberries. All local. All right in front of my eyes. I knew I adored her.
I was not allowed to touch or help with the food, and for the most part, not even addressed by name. I was the second in command to Kitchen Bitch #1, but suprisingly this did not bother me. I do know what it is like to be the "lowest man" on the totem pole. I enjoyed the feeling of starting again from the ground up. Proving my worth to someone new. Being humbled.
The only time I was addressed was once, when Kitchen Bitch #1 was not around. She called me by Kitchen Bitch #1's name, and I was asked to slice the lavendar short cakes in half. I was elated! Of course, I was secretly hoping and praying that I wouldn't mess up and crack and crumble the delicate cakes in my hands. This could be my one and only chance.
I made sure I kept my cool, not to showing any sign of weakness or of pride. As my hands shook, I took the first shortcake in my hand (about the size of a half golf-ball) and cut it with her Wustoff serated knife. Phew. It didn't crumble. I was a kitchen genius! Then I took the next one, and sliced it a little more rapidly. Shit! Part of it crumbled in my palm. I cleverly pressed it back together, and plated it so it didn't show my mistake. Then, slower this time, I finished the rest of the shortcakes, plating each one as the one before.
I prayed to the gods of butter and flour that they would not break in my shaky hands. When I was done, I inconspicuously crept away, keeping my low-profile. This was my moment.
At the end of the night, when all the guests had gone on their way, she thanked her two Bitches for all of our hard work, and we sat around chatting and having a glass of a 2004 Cedergreen Thuje. I was in a blissful state after The Teacher let me observe her doing what she does best, for a few hours.
I absolutely adore The Teacher. Miss Anna Wintour could learn a thing (or two) from her.