Antics of a Line Cook, Part 1
Working in restaurants has given me many colorful experiences. I love cooking and the wonderful things I get to create with my own two hands. But when I first started in that type of world, I had no clue what was really ahead of me. Even after 11 years of working in the restaurant industry, I am still met with surprises.
At this point in my career, I never assume anything, especially the amount of basic common sense people have. Some of the things I've seen has me wonder how some people have made it that far in life, the kind of moments that makes a person take a step back because it hurts the mind meat to even begin to understand.
For example, I was working at a bar on the beach years ago and at the time we had a culinary student working there. One night we were slammed and we ran out of cleaned fresh live oysters. Of course we tell the culinary student to grab a box out of the walk-in and wash them. On the box in large letters it says, "LIVE OYSTERS." He puts them in the dishwasher. At the moment I realize it's happening, I walk outside. It took every part of me to not rip that guy's head off. The rest of his time working there, I never let him touch food again. I also had to explain to my boss later how a whole box of oysters ended up being food waste. Sorry we can't serve oysters precooked in water full of sanitizer chemicals. I've never had to deal with something like that again but I will never understand how someone really thought it was smart to put food is a machine that washes dishes.
Another culinary student I worked with at a country club managed to mess up 350 salads for a catering. It was a plated, in-house catering. For those events, we try to set up as much as we can ahead of time. So when it comes to eating time our focus doesn't have to be so divided, in hopes to have less of a chance of error. I wanted to plate up the salads ahead of time and drizzle the dressing over them before they go out. That was not what had happened. I got the culinary student to help me at the time, my thought being, "it's just salad, no way a person can mess that up." Once we were done getting the salad mix and all the other ingredients on the plate, I step away to retrieve sheet trays. When I return, she has put dressing on almost all the salads and the event isn't for another five hours. I'm not going to serve soggy, wilted salads to people. I did not have her help me the second time.
Not all of my stories involve catastrophic food death. My second cooking job was at a little cafe in the Outer Banks. (I loved being out there and I miss it to this day.) During the slow times the staff and I would get very creative. My favorite times were the boat races. We would construct boats out of random things in the kitchen and race them in the three range sink. The first time we raced, the dishwasher's boat sunk right to the bottom. My thought, "How does a person work with water all day and not know what floats?" The whole time I worked there, the dishwasher never won once.
I am a cook and I love what I do. Cooking in a restaurant plays a soundless song in my soul that brings forth a love for the madness that exists there. When I'm moving through my station in perfect rhythm and everything comes out with perfection's timing, it gives me such a feeling, I have never been able to describe in words. I want every ingredient to become something delicious and I'll do my best to make sure of that. Regardless of the things I encounter, it's my mission.