Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's the little things.

"Can we get some more grilled bread?"

Six thin slices of French baguette, drizzled in olive oil, grilled on both sides and stacked up neatly on a plate.

Such a simple request, right?

We've all been there--sitting at a table in a nice restaurant, chatting with your companions and trying your best to be patient while you wait for a simple request to be met. I admit I've had my moments where I've thought, 'What the hell is taking so long? It's just ____ (bread/condiment/drink/etc).'

Now imagine this: It's a Friday night, the house is packed, and you're on the hot line riding the insanity that is weekend dinner service. Your station is grill station, which really means grill and saute, as you're responsible for several appetizer and bar items as well as entrees, including temped-to-order meats. You've just put up seven hot appetizers and you're in the middle of a four-ticket entree pickup, with another three tickets trailing and six other tickets on hold.

You're juggling eight pans on six burners and your oven is stuffed with another four pans. The line expo is heating your plates for you in his oven because you have no space in yours. You have to remember the temps on the five steaks and three lambs you're getting ready to plate, and you're watching the starch carefully as you're running low and it's a special order grain that won't come in again until tomorrow. You haven't even started on the bar items that just came in, and your ticket time for your next app pickup is looking perilous.

The saute cook has a pan down for his scallops so you fire the "very rare" steak you've been holding off on until now. As you reach for the steak, you look at your resting rack to make sure you're on top of the items you have on fire, as well as the ones you have on hold. Your adrenaline-pumping heart jumps ten notches when you realize you're short one medium-well steak on this pickup--that medium you have on hold is now your medium-well and it goes straight into the pan with the rare. You have to remember to get another steak on for medium right after this pickup. Was it four mid-rares, two mediums and two mid-wells on hold or do you have your mid-rare and mid-well numbers switched?

You desperately need an all-day, and look to the line expo only to see him already beginning plate-up on the 12 plates that saute has going with your 10. You're cursing silently at your steaks to cook faster, goddamnit, and maneuvering pans around to make room to fly the sides going with that forgotten steak. Meanwhile, you're making sure your sets are hot, tasting and adjusting seasonings and keeping a mental timer on your proteins in the oven. While you're organizing the order of plating in your head, the digital timer goes off, beeping urgently to tell you the lamb racks you have on hold in the oven need to be pulled out and checked on. You turn your steaks before reaching into the 500 degree oven, and just barely brush your forearm against the screaming-hot oven rack. You literally hear your skin sear.

And then the front-of-house expo says to you, "Hey, table seven wants extra grilled bread for their charcuterie."

It's just a simple request.



ml said...

you are such a good writer! i love reading about your crazy adventures at work (even if it is a tough day).

Matt said...


Ingrid said...

thank you!

Brian (Loti) said...

Great write up. Glad to see your doing so well.


mrjeffmccarthy said...

Nice cadence to this post...I felt like I was going down!!

conoat said...

Very well written Ingrid! The frenetic pace and pressure of a kitchen comes through full bore! speaking of the little things....could we get some more posts from you? its quick and easy and you got tons of free time right?;-) take it easy.

Boogie Man Montoya said...

That was darn near poetic.

I'm hoping you still have it on your plate to do that Culinary School writeup you were talking about a post back.

Ingrid said...

thanks guys! all this positive feedback makes me want to write more, y'know, because i have all this free time and shit. ha!

@boogie man--thanks for the reminder, i've been meaning to copyedit that draft. next post, i think!

extramsg said...


Carrie said...

gosh Ingrid - i love reading about your adventures at work... and it also makes me happy with my choice of being in pastry LOL!!!! Definitely a LOT LESS stress on my end! :)