The first night on the Saucier station the team got right down to work. Lots of prep needs to occur before the first plate goes out. For the meat course Level V students prepare two dishes – Lamb chops with an herb/hazelnut pesto crust, ratatouille, potatoes Darphin and a lamb reduction sauce that is dark, rich and packed with flavor – secondly a braised and grilled rabbit with bok choy, potatoes Anna, cocotte of caramelized pear, bacon and a cipollini onion all finished with a rich rabbit reduction.
My teammates and I decide on a plan of action as we knock out all the prep. We decide Tim will handle the rabbit orders, Ashley will be a runner and help plate, I will handle the lamb. As orders come in I sear off lamb chops to obtain a nice caramelization and when the order is fired I blast it under the salamander with a mound of pesto crust that melts into the chop and flash it in the oven to finish.
Our sauces stay hot in a bain marie on top of the stove, sides are heated to order and we carefully plate each dish artistically. We had a fair amount of orders and our station was hoping with activity. The adrenaline rush is addictive and you run on a high through dinner service. Keeping up with orders and working rhythmically puts me into a work trance. I’ve always said cooking for me is very Zen – a way for me to relax at the end of a normal work day. My mind clears, I focus on the tasks at hand and I’m very centered. It’s a good place to be mentally when you are physically challenging yourself over hot stoves, running plates up to the waiter station and standing on your feet all night.
I’ve come to realize the professional kitchen is really not for everyone – the stark, sterilized environment is not at all glamorous, or comfortable. It is a hard place to work and demanding on your body and mind. When some colleagues dined at the restaurant I was able to go out into the dining room and chat with them to see how they enjoyed everything. As I left the kitchen and proceeded to the dining room in my Chef-whites I emerged into a dimly lit space with tables full of patrons and I found my friends. Seeing all those people made me feel kind of special – some how in some little way I was a part of their evening. I walked proudly through the sea of tables knowing that not everyone can do what I do and I felt grateful and humbled as I returned to my place in the professional kitchen.