Saturday, December 12, 2015

Another Week in the Kitchen

Well, I've survived another week in the kitchen. It was a bit of an effort. Holiday season means busier nights and large groups of friends who meet up for an annual gift exchange. There are office gatherings, shoppers and also groups of tourists who continue to stream in on cruise ships. People want to eat. I'm there five nights a week to facilitate that.

I'm starting to feel competent in the kitchen. I've mastered things that previously eluded me, like frying chicken and boiling eggs properly. I know it sounds funny for a now professional cook to be excited about these things, but being able to do it correctly with consistency is a matter of pride. I know how to cook a perfectly boiled egg now, so it's absolutely creamy when you bite into it. I can also fry chicken drummettes that results in a hot juicy explosion when you bite into them. These things matter if you enjoy food the way I do. I like food that's an experience, and like sharing that experience with others.

I started thinking about why I like to cook so much tonight as I was chopping Brussel sprouts. First I cut off the end of the sprout and then cut it in half. My muscle memory has improved to the point that I can glance around while I do this, and not cut my fingers. I look up and see a vintage street car whiz by on the Embarcaderro. I watch one of the regulars greet his meal with an appreciation that comes from familiarity, and realized how much I'm enjoying this familiarity myself.

I thought about how I enjoy working with food. How it is so multifaceted. Working in a restaurant is very physical work, but also requires technique. It requires patience, waiting for fries to fry is the worst, but also immediacy, salt those fuckers and get me out. You have to plan your movements and the steps it takes to prepare, sometimes multiple dishes, at the same time, thinking through the best method to get it done as you are doing it. 

Cooking is also creative. Not only do you create a presentation, but sometimes you can tell a story with how you put a salad on a plate. Most of the time you just want to get it out and move onto the next order in an effort to keep up with the expiditer. But these other things do cross my mind.

Am I romanticize the process? Of course I am. And maybe that comes from the satisfaction I'm getting from this work. All I know is that I like what I'm doing, and love it when I'm doing it right.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Dinner Shift

I've moved up in the restaurant world to start working the dinner shift. About a month ago, the Chef told me I'd be working nights. I took it as a good sign. Now, instead of waking up at OMG o'clock, I sleep in every day. It's lovely, and by far the best perk of the job. I almost feel like a woman of leisure. 

But the work is a bit harder, faster, more complex, and I finally feel as though I'm getting up to par. I now split my time between two positions. One position does the salads, appetizers and desserts, the other does the fryer and expedites the pantry side of the line. The latter is a bit more complex. Both require immediate reaction, muscle memory and complete focus. There's no time to daydream, or really ponder anything. An order comes in and I have to know how to deal with it. That means either waiting for the rest of the order to be ready before I fire (begin) my part, giving it to the other pantry cook, or firing it right away. All the while I have to keep watch of other orders that may be in various states of process, and keep track of other orders coming in. Sound confusing? It kinda is, but when I get in the zone of making it all happen, it's a pretty great feeling. 

Working fryer has its drawbacks though. For one, I smell like fryer grease by the end of the night. I also have multiple burns on my arms, and the tips of my fingers are becoming calloused from plating hot fries that just came out of 375F oil. When I'm not on the Fryer, I come home smelling like salad dressing. 

And then there's the transport costs of driving into work, which are considerable. I pay two tolls and for 3 hours of meter parking plus gas. I could in theory take Bart, but the cost would be about the same and the commute would take at least an hour more, each not worth it. 

I like what I'm doing. Last night I was clearly in the zone and it was both fulfilling and fun. And somehow, working at night feels less like a job. The shift goes by pretty fast when we're busy, and I generally don't have a problem getting to sleep at night. I also feel like I've turned a corner in this whole process of becoming a cook. I've noticed I'm not as sore as I use to be. My knees and ankles seem to have adjusted to the physicality of the work. I feel well liked in the kitchen and appreciated for my contributions. It's a good feeling.

Life 3.0 is a Go! I'm liking this choice more and more. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Shit Show, It's Contagious

What is a shit show you ask? It's when the shit is always hitting the fan, an excess of drama and bullshit that some people put out in the world, making everything around them a "shit show."

I do my best to avoid this kind of crap, but sometimes it creeps up on me. When it does, it's a lot harder than you might think to not become part of the shit show yourself. Because you see, shit shows are like tornados. They pick up everything in their path and deposit them willienillie. And suddenly, for no reason you can't, or don't function in the normal way because you're so busy reacting to all the shit thrown your way. You can't concentrate, things get lost, you forget things and make lots of simple mistakes because you are unable to pay attention to details when all you're doing is dealing with the shit that's constantly thrown at you, hitting you and mucking up your path.

So what does one do when in a shit storm? Cover up the best we can in protective clothing? Pretend it doesn't bother you? Fight through it to do what you've got to do while saying to yourself, "I'm so tired of this shit!" It's hard to say what the best response is. 

With some people it's easy to say, "stop, lets regroup." But others are really committed to their bullshit and are going to cling to it like their life depends on it. And then there's the stealth bullshit too, that comes from those who make a show of being put together, but are really just flinging shit.

Honestly, for me, I try to distance myself as much as possible from all the shit. It's like I use to tell my kids, "no stupid." Don't do stupid things, don't hang out with stupid people. I think the same rule applies to bullshit and correlating shit show.

Avoidance is possibly the only solution.