I had my first kitchen service today and man, what a rush!! I love the fast pace of the kitchen and the passion that goes into making food. I’ve never seen behind the kitchen door during service and boy was it an experience.
I’m currently attending a small culinary school in my hometown. Part of the program is getting real life experience, so every Sunday the school holds a brunch with a fixed price buffet/service where the students do all of the work from serving to cooking. The patrons are very forgiving so it’s not as big a deal if we make a mistake and it’s a great way to learn what it would be like in a real kitchen.
I got up this morning at 6:15am to be at the school by 7. What I didn’t realize is that they wanted everyone to have their stations set up and ready to go at 7am. whoops! My “never on time” bad habit got the best of me. It wasn’t a big deal and no one said anything, but I was thrown for a loop for a second.
Our kitchen is typical French… which means no A/C so the food doesn’t get cold and dust doesn’t blow on the food. It gets hot. The walls are white. There are four high long metal tables for prep work, a line of stove tops along one wall, kitchen supplies on the other, and a couple of white boards. On the boards Chef puts a list of everything that needs to be done. My first task! Cut zucchini and squash in 1/4 inch rounds with a mandolin. I think he remembered how much trouble I had with the mandolin when we were first introduced to it for literally 2 minutes about 4 weeks ago. I’m now an expert and all of my fingers are still intake.
Then it was on to make tomato sauce for the pasta station with roasted tomatoes and garlic, and then the orange juice all before 10am. The really neat thing is that there are so many different personalities in the kitchen but it all just kind of works. Everyone has their job and you just do it. One little word like “perfect!” makes you feel like a complete rock star. Everyone works together to make sure each dish comes out correctly. I’ve heard people describe it as a dance and it is. Lots of “Behind you!” or “Sharp!” are shouted out and you tippy toe and wind yourself around people with hot plates and knives all while getting your job done. Fun, eh? Maybe roller coaster is a better word for it.
Before everyone arrived the Chef brought out our three entree choices: Beef from a local market on kabobs with chimichurri sauce and a side of zucchini, squash, and red peppers (that was all me!), Mediterranean shrimp on top of pesto with a couscous salad drizzled with lemon oil, and chicken scallopini on top of Milanese risotto with a salad of arugula and New Zealand spinach. yum! We had to pay close attention because we would be introducing the dishes to the customers. Then we were off and it was all about pleasing the customers! I’d never waitressed in my life and I was stuck with two huge parties- one with 18 people the other with 12. But I like a challenge! The first wave arrived at 11 and we were still going till 2:30 pm.
I didn’t think serving would be so much fun. Ya, I wasn’t the best but I remembered everything (I think!?), people’s glasses weren’t empty for long, and everyone was happy when they left. And that truly is the best thing about working in the culinary field. When someone tastes the food you worked for hours to make and loves it, you just feel amazing. There’s nothing like it.
As the floor cleared and everything quieted down, it turned to chaos in the back. A small buffet was set up with the leftovers in the back for us. It was actually the first time we had tried any of the food. We had tasted everything in each stage, but never the completed dish.
Then everyone started moving a million miles an hour. It was insane. We had a new dishwasher and everyone was ready to leave. There were plates piled up everywhere that had to be washed and hand dried before being put away. It didn’t matter that we had all been standing for the past 7 hours and that our feet hurt, we just pushed through until everything was done.
And here I am at home writing this, completely exhausted, with a Mr. Nut in my lap and I just cannot wait to do it again. What a wonderful Sunday!!
Thank you to my family and my dad for supporting me. Happy Father’s Day!