Friday, October 15, 2010

Getting closer

Grilled Dorade
The new dorade set: eggplant caponata and coriander tomato sauce. The fish in this photo was only the second one that I did with this set, which is why the saucing looks kinda wack. Still love this plate though.

One of the big goals I've had since I started at my current restaurant is to work all the line stations. When I was hired last summer, I started on pantry and soon after moved over to the grill, where I've been for almost a year. I have my good days and my bad days, but generally speaking I feel like I have a decent handle on grill station. I know my equipment, my technique is getting better and I fuck up my temps less frequently these days. I know the dimensions of my work space really well, and sweating over the carcinogenic fire monster from hell that is our grill every night has become normal. Which is, by the way, totally abnormal, but that's a whole other blog post.

At the end of the day, I love what I do, and I can't imagine myself thriving in another profession. But, like everything, it has its downsides. I'll be honest: I've felt "the grind" of line cooking recently, and though I am quite fortunate to be working at a restaurant with a seasonal menu that changes daily, being on the same station for almost a year had started to wear into my bones. A year is not a long time, really, just enough time to start to get good at a station. I didn't even realize I was coming up on a year until I thought about it yesterday--clearly, this year flew. Line cooking is all about repetition and practice, doing the same thing over and over until you're as close to perfect as you can be. And then you get a new set or a new pickup, and the learning starts over. I remind myself that line cooking is a step in the process to something greater, and that I'm building a solid foundation and skill set. And I'm learning every day. Still, doing 200+ covers with a three or four man line, working the same station night after night, and working an 6 to 8 hour service, not including prep time or cleanup... I'm only human, y'all.

I'm determined to work all the stations, however, and the one station I haven't worked yet is saute. Saute is a killer station at my work: it's fresh pasta and fish, as well as chicken and a few hot apps. You need to be able to throw down to work saute, and I've seen seasoned vets reach the edge of breaking point on that station. Some nights, everyone in the restaurant wants pasta and fish, and cooking the majority of the entrees for 200+ covers ain't easy. Needless to say I've been wary yet eager to try my hand at saute, and because of several factors it didn't look like I'd be able to make it to saute until after the holidays.

Due to some recent unexpected but welcome changes, however, I just learned that start training on saute next week. Next week! Just typing that makes my heart beat a little faster. I feel a renewed sense of pride in line cooking, and I'm that much closer to realizing a major goal. I'm feeling The Fear (you cooks know what I'm talking about), but somehow it feels... comforting. Like an old blanket. Welcome back, The Fear. Keep me on my toes, will ya?

My desire to keep up with this blog is still very pressing, yet these past six months have brought all sorts of upheaval into my life, mostly in good ways. I have some almost-finished blog drafts in the works though. In the near future, expect a couple of blog posts soon about the merits (or demerits?) of culinary school, and a little expounding on The Fear. Should be interesting.