Monday, July 11, 2011

If You Can't Feel Your Fingers, Consider Yourself Lucky.

"No matter how good you are, working in a kitchen is death by a million tiny knife cuts. Ten thousand little burns. Scalds. Standing on concrete all night, walking across greasy or wet floors. Carpal Tunnel, nerve damage from stirring and chopping and spooning. Deveining an ocean of shrimp under ice water. Knee pain and varicose veins. Wrist and shoulder repetitive motion injuries. A career of perfect calamares rellenos is a lifelong martyrdom. A lifetime spent turning out the ideal ossobucco a la milanese is a long, slow death by torture."
Haunted. by Chuck Palaniuk.
I do not know if anyone outside of the industry can truly understand what it is we put ourselves through everyday to create dinner for demanding diners. The Food Network has modified this industry to the point where, upon turning on the television, it is unrecognizable. No television star has cuts and burns scaling the length of their arms. Everyone is perfect, just like the plate being brought to your table.

The motley crew that is behind every plate, you know those who are never spoken of because your compliments always go to the chef, are usually a rag tag bunch who are about as sensitive as  pack of rottweilers. Everything becomes an enemy in the kitchen, be it a knife or the plastic wrap dispenser, something is bound to attack you, most likely when you least expect it.

Say it is the middle of a busy dinner service, and you are feeding around three hundred guests; you reach in the oven with your side towel to pull out that fillet medium well and what do you know there is a hole in said towel. In the time it takes you to realize that your skin is searing itself to the pan, you've already picked a landing pad for that steak and are half way through flinging it to the counter top. With a blister the size of Wisconsin growing on your thumb, what do you do? You suck it up and keep going. Band Aids? Only if you keep them in your pocket.

This job is not a job for the queasy or faint of heart. You'll do things to yourself you have only seen on those E.R shows. The difference? We use superglue instead of stitches.

Beef Medallions and Pan Fried Pork. German Style.

Everyday we start off with hopes of a smooth service. That, however, is never the case.
Today started off like every other day in the concrete and cinder block alcove know as Skills 3. That is until the teacher failed to show up at six, six thirty, seven o'clock. The chicken delivered from the store room was quickly approaching room temperature and there was no refrigeration in sight.

Now it's hard enough to turn out perfect plates to a teachers' standard who you've been with for four days, but throw me a German chef who I can barely understand and its like singing to a tone deaf man. Its useless to try to succeed.

The menu was as follows:
Pan Fried Pork in Sauce Robert with Collard Greens, Spatzle, and Glazed Beets
Beef Medallions in Chaussuer Sauce with Au Gratin Potatoes, Haricot Verts and Cauliflower Polanaise

Forget chef's directions and methods, the German has taken over and he is on a seek and destroy mission-- his battle cry:

"The potatoes are cut too early, cauliflower cannot be placed on a sheet pan, that is not how you clean a kitchen and you look sad."
"No chef, that's how my face is."

After seven hours of this impromptu German invasion, we're freed from his reign. You'd think someone would have come to check on us, the future of the culinary world, but no. There we were, in the trenches, fighting the garde manger teacher, spatula to spatula, trying to preserve the dignity of the Skills Three Kitchen.