Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Mood

I knew when I got only 5 1/2 hours of sleep that today would be an off day. I can' t go back to sleep, but the exhaustion is overwhelming. 

I realize I have forgotten my makeup at The Restaurant, so I am basically going to look haggard and lackluster when I first get there. I go to get on the Seattle Metro bus that I normally take, and it is 15 minutes late. Of course. Now, instead of being eagerly early, I look inconsiderately late. I run, up a huge hill, to The Restaurant, to be turned right back around to get sage leaves at the Trader Joe's for The Sous: Halfway to wear I just came from. 

I get back to The Restaurant and start working with Chef M. He, in his usual way, gives me my tasks back to back: pick parsley, pick basil, pick mint, make biscotti, make lemon juice, make a pickling juice, chop horseradish....

I am tired. My oyster elbow hurts. And, I am in a mood

It starts with the biscotti. Chef M tells me that I need to put three times the amount of pistachios in the recipe than I did last time. I start mixing the biscotti by hand in the back kitchen, where I prefer to be when I am moody, and finally add in the pistachios: Three times the amount. I shape the pistachio-filled dough into two loaves, and put it in the 350 degree oven, and set my iPhone to check it after 35 minutes. When the timer starts buzzing in my back pocket, I look in the oven, expecting to see what I saw the last time I made biscotti. 

Gross. It is crackly, and baking in a weird shape. Shit. 

So, I take it, stick it on the speed-rack, and wait for it to cool, hoping that maybe it will tighten up in the cooling process.  I am in for a challenge. It is already crumbling around the edges. I can't IMAGINE how it will be when actually have to cut it. 

As I start the arduous task of cutting the biscotti into 1-inch slices, I am getting about a 70 percent return on my investment. Some are breaking in half, and some are cracking just at the tips. Why is this happening? I did the exact same recipe as last time? At least I will have lots of snacks for the emotional eating I predict is going to happen tonight. 

One of the owners of The Restaurant comes in. He was a pastry chef for many years, and I ask him what has happened with my biscotti. He tells me my first problem is that with big quantity recipes, I always should use a Kitchen-aid mixer. Ugh, okay. Then, he tells me that unlike other "doughs", biscotti needs to be worked, for a long time. That is how it gets hard and crispy, and not crumbly. 

This is my mistake! Last time I made the biscotti, I almost left out the pistachios. So, I had to work the pistachios back into the dough, which created more gluten, which made them harder. This makes total sense. This time, I just added the pistachios once the dough came together, and didn't really work the mixture as much as I had before. 

First flub. 

Then, Chef M gives me chopping tasks which I hate. I just have horrible knife skills. I mean, I can chop just fine, that is not the problem, but not into even pieces the size of sesame seeds

Chef M is a virtuoso with a knife. He is beyond consistent, and makes a fine dice look elementary. My task: chop horseradish into a fine, fine dice to be pickled. And the most important part? He stresses to me that they all have to be even and homogenous, because they were going to be sitting on top of a Kushi oyster, standing alone as the only ingredient. 

I already feel pressure. 

It just starts out defectively. I can't cut that first dice of the horseradish consistently, which botches the other steps of the dicing. I go to slice the horseradish, and the pieces I am cutting are thinner on top than on the bottom. Again, knife skills. Frustration, and second flub. 

After about 15 minutes of struggle, Chef M comes back, needing the product to be pickled for service, and I have not even gotten half-way. He just takes what I have done, not commenting on the apparent inconsistency, and tells me I know must chop smoked tuna for the soft-cooked eggs. 

Of course, tuna is a flaky fish, especially when cooked, and a fine dice just doesn't work for this. I do the best I can, but it is crumbling in front of my eyes. Just like my psyche. 

After all of my chopping tasks are complete, I go to juice lemons for all of The Chefs for their stations. At my last lemon, the bartender comes in and asks if there are anymore lemons left. Usually, I leave one lemon just in case. But, like I said, my brain is off today. The bartender has no lemons for his drinks tonight. Not only am I holding people up, but I am preventing customers from getting lemons in their drinks. Good one, Stage. Third flub. 

Service starts, and of course, my first task is to shuck Twelve oysters: Six Kushi and Six Kumamoto. My elbow feels like it is going to shatter just like my oyster shells. The Sous helps me out, saying he doesn't want the customers to have to wait forever to get their oysters (because I am slow) and the order goes out. I have shooting pain down my arm and into my chess. 

Am I having a stress induced heart attack? Chef M just laughs at me. 

The shift goes on, I am getting by, but I just don't feel like myself tonight. It is not all bad, though. I finally figure out how to scoop Gelato and Sorbet! Thank goodness. I get an opportunity to slice some yellow-fin tuna for a Crudo dish because Chef M is busy. I also plate a few dishes that I usually wouldn't get to touch, which is exciting. 

But, at the end of the night, when we all usually get our Friday-night pizza at 1:00 in the morning, I take my routine celebratorial vodka shot with The Chefs, clean my station, apologize for my "off-day" and head home to dog puke on my white rug and an incredibly exhausted husband who is sounds asleep.

Nobody but my pillow needs to be dealing with this mood. 

Tomorrow I start a new station, and I get to work with The Sous. I need a fresh start, and some new tasks to botch. 


  1. I'm sorry to hear you had such an off day! The good thing is that it was just one day, though, so you live, you learn, you surrvive to live another day. Good tip about the biscotti though! I was wondering what the hell I kept doing wrong with mine!!

    Here's to your gumption, stubborness and bravery at sticking out this position!!

  2. What a relief to hear someone tell the real story of kitchen flubs. Most of us just suck it up alone at home!

  3. Sarah-Tell me if it helps with the biscotti. The crumbling is definitely from underworking the dough.

    Kathy-I am definitely filled with kitchen flubs:)