Monday, June 28, 2010

Adventures of a kitchen slave, pt. 2

Day 2:
Any disappointment in not getting to employ my knife skills on my first day has been thoroughly obliterated. Asked to make 2 gallons of pico de gallo, I know just what to gather from the walk-in: ripe tomatoes, Serrano chilies, fresh cilantro, juicy limes and yellow onions. Only the amounts needed are laughable compared to the usual amounts needed in my home kitchen. I return with a crate (yes, a crate!) of Roma tomatoes. In the next hour, I grow to hate these tomatoes. All tomatoes, actually. They are notoriously hard to cut. Soft flesh covered by a waxy skin, tomatoes are a good test for any sharp knife. At some point during this project, I question sharing my ability to make kick-ass pico (a favorite in my house), for fear that they will deem me the official pico-de-gallo maker. The kitchen seems oddly quiet, so quietly hum to myself an anti-tomato tune.
Aiming to never be idle, I make a habit of asking the cooks on the line what prep I can help them with. Someone says they need salmon portioned out for that night's service. "How's your fish fabrication", someone asks. "Um, ok?", I think. Let the record show that I have portioned many-a salmon filet in my home kitchen, but the thought of doing it here instantly caused my cheeks to flush, my face pulsing with heat. Like a true rookie, I left my filet knife at home (hey, I didn't even get to use a knife on my last shift!), but luckily a sympathetic co-worker helped me out. I meticulously searched for bones...I will just DIE if someone sends their salmon back tonight after choking on a bone. I trim the fish (a little too much, in retrospect), and begin to attempt eye-balling 7oz. portions. The scale doesn't lie...some diners got lucky that night (8oz portions), some less fortunate (<7oz). Searching for approval, I ask one of the cook's how my filets look..."ok", he replies and shrugs. A lifelong perfectionist, this will not work for me. "No really", I say, "I don't want to F anything up, please tell me what I can do better!". He says he will help me, but I have to say fuck. Oh my, I'm not at Gymboree anymore! I oblige him. "Well, your cuts could be a little straighter."
Within a few hours, this quiet kitchen is transformed...via Ipod! Each playlist seems to bring a new flavor to the kitchen. These line cooks, while hustling, begin to sing and dance! The clatter of pots & pans, knives tapping on the cutting boards, the ticking of the printer tape spitting out new was like culinary STOMP! The restaurant manager tells me he can "moonwalk in kitchen clogs." I knew I liked these people.

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