It feels as though it’s been a decade since my last note…in actuality, it was just last week! Sorry for the delay. Honestly, as I am trying to maintain some sort of life outside of “kitchen” life, I realize it’s nearly impossible. Everyone in the back of the house works a 12-14 hour workday (myself included). Most of the time they work 6 days a week. I know there are many of you out there that might snicker…perhaps you too do this everyday and you’re thinking “get over it!” Let me just say this… what makes these 12-14 hour days unique is that the job of a cook is surprisingly physical.
Again I’ll say it, cooking in a professional kitchen is nothing like cooking in your home kitchen. Between standing the entire day, to the constant running, lifting, bending, chopping, whisking, etc., it is a constant workout. When you’re enjoying you’re luxurious dinner whether in NYC, San Fran, Chicago (wherever)… pause for a moment and think about the passion on that plate. I’m not naïve in thinking every plate is conceived by passion…however, so far what I’ve seen shows me that the love of one’s craft can create perfection.
The cooks that I have met, live in their kitchen. They sacrifice the normalcy of their life for their passion, their true love. Most of them make $10-$12 an hour. There is usually no health insurance, no 401k, no “security”…do they complain? No. They do their job and they shoot for excellence every time. How many people out there can even come close to identifying with this???? Not many. After living in this environment for a month now, I know from now on, I’ll keep my mouth shout and complaints to myself. Really, there is no bitchin’ in the kitchen!
So, to get back to where we left off… The answer to the lingering question that is out there…”How were the Raviolis?” (To refresh your memory, I made fresh pasta raviolis for the staff meal…again, all eyes were on me to see whether or not I would screw it up. Smiles, smirks, and chuckles from al the cooks…the entire time. ) Honestly, they were delicious! I worked the dough as though I was a semi-pro pasta maker. The tournant (the cook in the kitchen who provides help to all the different cooks) showed me a ridiculously awesome technique when rolling the pasta through the machine. I know that if I attempt to describe this method, I will confuse the shit out of everyone. Therefore, my solution to this will be to post a video the next time I make pasta…that way you’ll be able to see it for yourself. This new little technique was a life changing moment for me!!!! I felt like I was let into Pandora’s box…
I’ve been learning more than I thought possible, mainly because I’m choosing to throw myself into any scenario. Reflecting back from the beginning of this journey, I have noticed my comfort level and knowledge growing. I’m still prepping fennel, parsley, and chives…however, now I have moved onto sauces, fish, pasta, etc. Do you have any idea where I’m going with this???? That’s right, for me I’ve hit the big time. You’ve guessed it. I’m on the line….and I’m cooking fish!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOHOOOO!!!!!
So this is the point in which I can hear you saying, “So what? You’re cooking fish. Tracy, you should be cooking something…you’re in a friggen’ kitchen!” Hah!!!! IF. YOU. ONLY. KNEW. I am a stage. A novice. In essence, I’m a non-paid stranger in their kitchen. On top of that, I am a female…a woman…strike two. In this male dominated industry I have to work twice as hard, show that I am twice as good, show that I want it twice as much, only to realize that most likely, I will only receive half, if any credit compared to a male counterpart. Needless to say, to get a line cook to allow a “stranger” (a female still proving herself worthy) to prepare their dishes…well, it’s just not that easy. Here’s why: when something goes wrong on the line, it’s the line cooks ass under the burner, regardless of the person at fault. Naturally the line cooks need to protect themselves from idiots in the kitchen. Oh yeah!!! I forgot to mention that…everyone in the kitchen is an idiot unless proven otherwise. This too is something I’ve just learned. Very valuable piece of info—take note. I guess in some way I am ecstatic to cook fish, as I know it must mean that I am less of an idiot from the time I had arrived. The other reason I am excited to be working in the sea station: the tournant.
Fiesty, knowledgable , perpetual perfectionist, and life long learner…this kid at the age of 24 knows some good stuff. He doesn’t have a shiny culinary degree. Instead he has experience. He makes it known. It’s easy for me to dismiss the arrogance, especially because he has knowledge for which he has earned and worked hard for. I respect him and in fact, find him humorous. I decide to learn from him, ask questions like crazy, and I finally adhere myself to him as though I am a starfish suctioned to a rock. After days of working hard and idiot shrinkage, he has let me cook fish…if I am lucky, he mentioned he might…MIGHT, let me take over the entire station tonight.
I’m heading into work for my last night and it’s a mix of emotions. Right now I am scared and kind of thinking “What happened to the days of peeling carrots all night long??? Am I ready to take off the training wheels???—Am I ready to work the line?” The answer: …. God… I DON’T KNOW! I think so. I hope so…like the first day at Patina, only one thought is echoing in my brain…. Do. Not. Fuck. Up.