Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Pine Nut Dressing Project

"Hey Stage", Said The Sous. "In about a minute here, I am going to need you to make a pine nut dressing for me". Dumbfounded, I couldn't believe that he actually wanted me to make something for a dish he was serving. I was wondering what this dressing entailed. Did I get to be creative? Or, did he want specific, as The Sous always does. After I finished my present task of finely, (beyond finely) chopping chives, I asked him for more detail.

He told me to make the exact recipe that I made the other day for the anchovy dressing with Chef B, but to substitute pine nuts for the anchovies, sherry vinegar for the lemon juice, and make it more watery. So, basically I needed to change the whole recipe except for the canola oil. Creative or Specific? It was obviously the latter.

It was coming time to open the restaurant. I still had my black tank top on without being suited up in my "Chef whites". The staff was frantic tonight. There seemed not enough time to get everything done that needed to be done. The waiters were quickly folding napkins, the dishwasher seemed to have more dishes than usual, and all of The Chefs were finishing up on their final details of their dishes.

And, of course,there was no station for me to do my project. Except for The Head Chef's station, which had already been cleaned and organized for the evening.

I was frantic, slightly shaking, and trying as quickly as I could to create the perfect pine nut dressing for The Sous.

I didn't think to ask him if he wanted the dressing thick enough to hold it's own on a plate, or thin enough to drizzle. So, I had to go back multiple times and ask him to taste it, look at the consistency, and give me corrections on the porportions. All the while, I was hogging The Head Chef's station. At this point, He was anxiously hovering, waiting to set up for the evening.

At The Sous last taste, he said it was perfect (but could always use more salt) and told me to put it in squirt bottles and set it by his station. I got two bottles (forgetting the lids) and made my way back to The Head Chef's station. As I began to fill the squeeze bottles with the dressing from the food processor, Chef M told me I needed to "wrap" up this project so The Head Chef could get to his station. Nervously, I scraped the dressing out, smoothly, still shaking, and moving as fast as I could. I went to quickly gather up the remains of the project: the large can of Dijon mustard, the egg shell and shallot peels in a small work bowl, and the dirty food processor canister. I was moving rapidly, and once I had gathered everything into my hands, I made a quick manuever with my left elbow to clear the meat slicing machine that was in my way.

At that moment, my longer than usual appendages, filled with the remaining ingredients from the dressing, hit one of the uncapped squeeze bottles of pine nut dressing.

As if the world had been in super-slow motion, the dressing flew all over the meat slicer, the floor, the till, and of course all over The Head Chef's pristine station. I mean: ALL OVER. It covered his cutting board I watched him sanitize, his knives that he sharpened and buffed, and all over his clean kitchen towels. And, as all this was happening, customers were coming in the door.

The one good thing was that all of The Chefs were in the back, wrapping up the last of their prep work. I screamed profanities in my head as I cleaned as much pine nut dressing as I possibly could from The Head Chef's station, changing out towels and wiping down his knives. I perused his station, hoping it looked how he left it, and brought the dirty containers to the dishwasher.

I got TWO lids, as I should have done originally, carefully placed them on top of the dressing containers, wiped them clean and stored them at The Sous station. Phew!

Much later that evening, as The Head Chef was slicing prosciutto for a dish, I saw a beige glimmer on the side of the meat slicer. I surreptitiously decided to clean the spot as he turned his back to plate the dish. I wiped the final remains of MY disaster from everyones knowledge.

Maybe they knew, maybe they didn't but, either way, they never said a word.

My hunch is that I will continue to see the remains of my disaster, and I will continue to slyly cover my tracks.


  1. I hate when crap like that happens. When I used to work in restaurants, I was carrying a tray of food and someone bumped me. Splat goes everything. I guess it comes with the territory of working in restaurants. Sounds like you recovered nicely.

  2. I love your blog. What great cooking tips. And especially, what drama! There's definitely the making of a book here.

  3. I'm still cringing Kari! I could just see it all happening, although I anticiplated it was the Head Chef who would feel the wrath of your elbow. I wonder if it would have been ay worse for you if it had been? ;)

    I hope the rest of the service went without a hitch.


    p.s. Sorry about the pun, couldn't resist ;P

  4. Aaaah! I definitely thought you were going to elbow the head chef in the stomach or something, but this is much more dramatic. Good luck with the rest of the surreptitious clean up