Thursday, May 21, 2009

Confessions of a Stagiere -- Week Seven

It happened. People at Lumiere finally read my blog. So from now on every week's entry will feel like a book report. Oh well. I knew this was going to happen. Now my neurosis about, well, everything, is out in the open.

But that's not why I write.

My six day work week is starting to wear me down. In fact, I went in on Saturday last week because I had to work six days at CBC, so technically it was my seventh day of work.

I don't know what it is but I'm constantly exhausted now. So now I struggle to pay attention to anything. I hate it. Sadly I don't drink coffee (traumatic childhood event where I realized that it doesn't taste NEARLY as delicious as it smells) or do cocaine so all I can do is silently scream at myself in my head. Dammit, there's a job to be done!

Like peeling fava beans and almonds. I spent a great deal of time peeling both of those last week. It's for the new char dish. The old char dish required me to cut perfect squares out of blanched leek slices. This new one has morels, fava beans, almonds and these beautiful little potato croquettes that are apparently shaped, frozen, reshaped and refrozen no less than three times each. But damn, is it ever a gorgeous dish.

Things have picked up. There are more people booking for dinner every night. In fact, the day before I got there it was apparently a madhouse with just over twenty booked at the beginning of the day and ending with fifty people coming in for dinner. Apparently nobody expected it and things were...well...less than calm. I silently thanked god I hadn't been there.

The highlight of this week had to be breaking down lamb racks, or "frenching" them. You know that quintessential lamb shank look, with the teardrop of meat and a bone sticking upwards? That's frenching apparently. I finally did some work on the meat station, something I have never really done because it requires a lot of precision and knowledge and skill, things I do not possess in terms of meat. It was great because a) I had never done this before, b) I got to work at a new station and c) the meat cook is one of these people who is almost overly encouraging because everything I did he remarked by saying "perfect" despite the fact that nothing I did was so.

Who doesn't love a compliment?

Frenching lamb is a series of cuts, tears and scrapings that I think I remember but not enough to articulate into words. I felt like a miserable failure trying to make the same clean strokes that the meat cook was. But, as he says, do it sixty times and you figure it out. It's amazing to me how you can take a thick rectangular piece of meat and turn it into dainty presentable morsels of flesh. It's very, very cool.

After getting closer instruction from the cook working garde manger, I was supposed to go home and practice making quenelles. I've watched many people do it and it still boggles my mind. You take your spoon, get it very hot in some boiling water, scoop whatever heavy cream it is you're trying to get shaped and curl it up along the edge of the container it's in until you get a nicely uniform egg shape. Then slide it onto whatever it is you want to slide it onto. It's one of those things that, once you've mastered, it looks effortless. I have a feeling it's hell to pick up though. I was supposed to go home and get some Cool Whip and practice. I really meant to. Then my work week started and I forgot. Dammit. Will do that next week, I swear.

Meanwhile I'm continuing to watch and learn. Not just about how the kitchen runs but this little microcosm known as the food industry. The people, their personalities and idiosyncrasies. The kind of people who are drawn to this life and why they stay in it. These are the stories that I'd love to get at. Let's see how far I get.

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