Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tales from the Kitchen

The professional kitchen is a fast-paced and laborious environment. Every person involved needs to pull his or her own weight to accomplish a nightly dinner service in a busy restaurant. From dishwashers to servers and from Chefs to students there are many well-oiled cogs to making a restaurant run smoothly.

In every class there are students that I take notice of and I think, “what are you doing here?” The tuition is expensive with the cost hovering about $35k for the part-time program. Why would anyone pay that much money and not take it seriously. I know maturity plays an important role here from kids coming right out of high school to second-career folks like myself the difference in respect for the program and willingness to learn is vast.

I’ve said this before many times, when I started culinary school I purposely left what I thought I knew about cooking at the door. I wanted to approach the experience with a blank slate and not taint my learning with what I thought I knew. It was scary and challenging and to this day I still ask questions of the Chefs just to ensure I am on the right page. I ask because it reinforces my learning and I respect their many years of professional experience.

I don’t rant often but one particular student (code name Chatty Kathy) is usually a non-stop gab machine, or Chatty will disappear for 20 – 30 minutes at a time, Chatty is always eating something, and just never takes the initiative. This behavior infuriates me especially when I see Chatty’s other team members working their tails off to keep up with orders. I can only take so much in one night and then I start to bark orders and become a drill sergeant. I aim my barbed comments right at Chatty, who's so engrossed in another conversation some of the barbs fail to stick. Then I belt out orders, “bring this to the store room,” “clean out the sink,” “go get some serving trays,” “run this food to the wait staff” and “bring these pots to the dishwashers.”

I think if I ever run a kitchen in my future I may become Anthony “Gordon Ramsey” – the kitchen is no place for inertia – not moving fast enough, how about an espresso and a kick in the ass to get you going?

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