Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chop, Chop!!

Our last night on Saucier and I’m a little sad because it has been a very good experience for us as a team. We were all a but apprehensive about the meat station having seen melt-downs, fights and chaos from other teams. Tonight, we are down one member from our usual three-person team so Chef assigned some students to help us with our prep work. We also had a Level VI student who needed to make up a class before graduation to work with all night. Ashley and I felt calm about the work we needed to get done, she and I would tick off the list of “to-dos” and assign them or do them ourselves. That’s one of the reasons my team rocks, we communicate with each other – and communication is key for my sanity and for everything to work properly. I want to make sure we are all on the same page, we are doing things by priority and we are watching the clock.

By this fourth night on Saucier, we know the score, we decided to take charge of one dish each. I am back to lamb chops and Ashley works the rabbit orders. Our Level VI student focuses on making the Pommes Anna & Darphin, something that can take an hour or longer to complete. The best advice on the meat station is to be organized and ready…when orders come in I begin by searing the chops in a extremely hot sauté pan with blended oil on both sides. I time them based on thickness and judge their doneness by touch. Usually the chops are ordered medium rare, some medium and a few well-done.

So orders begin to be called out, I sear my chops and get into my groove. Once the chops are seared they are set aside until the next step in the cooking process – a round of composed herb/hazelnut butter is placed on each chop and then placed under a salamander (broiler) to develop a golden color. Once the chops come out of the salamander and the order is fired then I can start plating. Here is the logistical problem – the salamander is not next to my station, so we’ve learned that having someone run the chops to the salamander back and forth was vital to keeping us on time and running smoothly – as simple as that. I ask our Level VI student to do this as part of her duties for the night.

Orders are coming in… 3 rabbit, 3 lamb medium,…then 2 lamb medium rare and rare, 1 rabbit, then 1 lamb well-done, 2 rabbit…and the orders stack up. Watching the order board helps us stay in tune with what is going out and when orders are ready to be fired. It is a simple system but one screw up and you can set yourself back quite easily.

My first set of chops sent to the salamander came back with the composed butter dark brown almost burned. I said to the student that she needs to continually check the chops under the broiler since they go from pale to golden brown quite quickly. She started to scrap off the charred part of the butter thinking we could serve it and I decided that it needed to be re-done. Note to self: screw up #1.

I sent her back with the chops with fresh herbed butter and as I was searing chops to order I look over and see her chatting with her classmates and NOT watching the chops under the salamander. Note to self: screw up #2 is not happening on my watch. So, from across the entire meat station I yelled, “Watch those chops, pay attention!” and proceeded to stamp my feet up an down like a crazy person to get her attention. I was pissed!! She was going to burn the second batch if I didn’t catch her. Luckily with my vocal intervention the chops came back to my satisfaction.

The orders continue, I pass the seared chops to her to be patted with the herb butter and run to the salamander and half the time I’m applying the butter myself and she’s oblivious. I don’t understand why this is so difficult to comprehend. I give you the chops, you place a tablespoon of butter on it, and you run it to the salamander. Note to self: annoyed and wonder if I don’t speak English?

At once, I have 6 lamb chops that need to go out at once. I start plating the chops in a line, first the Ratatouille is place in a ring mold on the plate and slight pressure helps it form into a perfect disk. Then the burning hot chops crisscross and lean on the Ratatouille, a wedge of Pommes Anna and finally napping the dish with a luscious sauce. I turn around and hand “our helper” the dish to start running them to the waiter station. The dish sits on the stainless steel table for another 30 seconds and as I turn around with my next plate and notice this dish just sitting here I belt out, “RUN THESE DISHES NOW!” Irritation and anger set in for both Ashley and myself but we hold it together. Note to self: Perhaps, deaf, dumb, blind? Maybe all of the above!

The real deal breaker came mid-way through the height of service, Ashley and I are working our tails off and we turn around to see “her” shoveling down a huge plate of food from family meal and shooting the shit with the Entremetier station. Here Ashley and I are hungry and busy, we haven’t eaten since lunch and lazy-girl is stuffing herself with food – clueless to what we are doing. That was really the final straw, she was practically useless to us all night and we put her on menial prep tasks after she finished her hefty plate of food – we needed to keep her away from us and get her out of the way. Note to self: Am I being punished or tested?

Now, I can understand why British Chef/Restaurateur Gordon Ramsey is such a freak of nature in the kitchen and expletives run from his mouth like water from a faucet. To quote him, “I have a very assertive way. It's wake up, move your ass, or piss off home.”my sentiments exactly!

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