Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't try this at home

I had but a minute to lament the death-by-overpreparing beautiful two-year avocados. That was last shift's lesson. Last night at Cooks County, I received a hard lesson in under-preparing.
Embrace the silence.
Roxana, one of the chef-owners, shares the station with me. Her side of the counter is pastry, I'm on the cold line, making appetizers and salads. While prepping our stations in moments of relative calm, conversation goes like this:

Chat chat chat what kind of yoga do you do? chat chat chat You need to get some more sleep, girl, and drink water... I love the huckleberry sauce you serve with the pop tart dessert! chat chat chat How long do you proof the spretzel dough? chat chat We need to make more mustard dipping sauce, but let's put it on the list for tomorrow.

Oh. Shit. This is what I get for making fun of vegans. I've got 16 salads up and that's not counting the chicken liver and radish apps. One table ordered four radish plates? "Don't worry about new tickets, Chris, just clean up what you have." Dan, the other chef-owner calls over; Christianna, "Fire what you have." I sense that is code for "Hurry *%@$!^ up." I'm out of the avocados I over-prepped the other night. I'm out of grapefruit. 25 plates due five minutes ago and I'm segmenting grapefruits and avocados on the fly. Roxana, the owner who employs me, is working four of my tickets. Not her own. Mine. Joy of joys, they are called The Weeds, and I am in them.

After the tickets clear, I look out into the dining room. People are having fun. They're standing, waiting for tables on a Wednesday night. I get my station back in order, and watch the wave that hit me land on the hot line, then desserts. The steelhead salmon steaks searing on the wood-fired grill catch my eye from across the kitchen, glowing a beautiful orange. The whole line smells of mussels steaming in white wine and roasted tomatoes. Those plates go out, rustic but composed. Roxana, done with her charity work for the evening on my station, is back to plating her gorgeous desserts.
Pop tart with huckleberry sauce

Roxana says, "I haven't had a run like that in six years." Okay good. Context is good.
"I did not handle that well."
"It's fun, right?"

Yes, it is. For a restaurant that has been open just over two months, it is a good problem to have that most nights feel like Friday nights in the kitchen. Our reward for the night's work: there's one half of an avocado left, and Roxana and I split it. We're back to chatting while we break our stations down. Chat chat avocados are great for your skin! Don't let me forget to make the mustard dipping sauce tomorrow. Chat chat chat I think I'm going to bring my paring knife in for service tomorrow. It's better for segmenting.

"See you tomorrow night?"

Of course. I wouldn't miss this much fun for anything.


  1. So now you actually get to work in a real restaurant! That must be fun, stressful, but fun... it's something I'd so want to try! I envy you very much!

  2. o SHIZNIT.

    Can you please tell Roxanna I love her ginger scone? And @lesleyLA loooves the entire pastry basket? And @TastertotsLA really wanna go back to try more things? and @foodshethought loved her harissa fried eggs? And I can NOT wait to go back to for the burger cuz I really liked Ammo's burger? And uhmm... DUUUUDE, Ruth Reichl wants to stop in? I'm writing all this cuz surely y'all are too busy cooking to read dinky food blogs.

    Why is no one else commenting on this?

    O O O! I wanna pipe that lemon curd into a croissant. OK. That is all.

  3. Christianna, I'm watching you from the sidelines and am so impressed with all that you have going on. (I also follow your FB posts and saw the Etsy order going out.) I don't know how you do it, but you're nothing short of amazing in my book!

    I hope 2012 is filled with good things for you! Be well.

  4. I have been reading your posts on my phone. Saving them from the mass deletion of all the spam I get, waiting to hear 'what happens next'. I have to admit what popped to mind is when the media were embedded with the military in the Iraq war. I've watched many a gritty kitchen show a la Gordon Ramsey and Anthony Bourdain and this experience made ME nervous in the read. That many tickets at once? A great problem to have as you said but not for the faint of heart. Loving this as you seem to be too!

  5. I remember those days. Adrenalin rushing, looks from Chef, pots, plates banging and then calm.

  6. Oh, the weeds are the WORST! Congrats to you for surviving with such grace & humor. Looks like you're having fun, and that's totally the point!!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Stay positive!