Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Confessions of a Stagiere -- Week Ten

This week has just zipped by. I'm keeping the entry short this week but detailed nonetheless. Sorry for the lazy transitions!

You know you're one of the team when there's actually an apron waiting for you at your station. Yup -- for the first time, I didn't have to ask someone to get me one. Usually I grab the smallest jacket and pants I can find off the uniform rack and have to find someone to grab me an apron. It's really the only thing keeping me from completely disappearing into the uniform (who sizes these things anyway? Small my ass!) As ridiculous as it sounds, being anticipated was really nice.

In triumphant news: I finally made something from start to finish! Before you burst out into applause, it was croutons for the staff salad. This, surprisingly, turned out to be more complicated than I thought. One: I don't make croutons at home because I don't eat salad with croutons in it. I'm Chinese, what can I say? Two: I've never made croutons en masse (for like, dozens of people). Three: I've never made anything for a bunch of cooks so it's SCARY. Of course, I didn't know that rule one of making croutons is setting a timer so they don't turn into charcoal. Luckily they got taken out at just the right time. And can I just say -- they were pretty fabulous. I wish I could take all the credit but actually the garde manger totally helped me out.

Here's the very useful lesson of the week: making fresh pasta is surprisingly easy. All you need is flour, egg yolks and some saffron water (for colour). Mix them in a food processor. It's all about the feel. It can't be too dry or too wet. I'd describe the perfect dough feel as something like fresh Playdough, maybe slightly less wet than that. Then you have to knead it for a few minutes.

As for observations: It's weird having guys show you how to do stuff, guys that are mostly much bigger than me. For example, when the garde manger demonstrated crushing garlic, he just pressed down lightly with his (what seems like to me) gigantic hand lightly. I have to bring down the flat of my knife down hard, several times, to achieve the same effect. I also can't reach stuff on the top shelf. I've been adapting ok but it makes me wonder what I would do if I ever had to work by myself.

Service: this really was the most disastrous service I've ever seen. All the food went out just fine, it was more like a weird vibe in the kitchen where stuff kept being dropped. The clock fell off the wall at the amuse bouche station and one of the eyeplates smashed to the foor just as it was supposed to go out. One of the servers had two very hot glasses of tea spilled down her front. She had to stay out of the dining room the rest of the night because she was just soaked. And to finish off an already tiring service, as I was taking the induction burner away...the cord brushed another eyeplate onto the floor. Did I mention they're expensive? Yeah.

It was a bit of a mixed bag this past week. I sincerely hope my klutziness dissipates before tomorrow.

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