Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's hot back there

"You know why I couldn't do your job? It's not the cooking, I guess I could learn that. It's the heat. I don't know how you stand it back here." Almost every non-cook who stands on the line invariably makes that comment. When I first brought Jen to the kitchen to show her my new digs, she said the first thing she noticed was the heat.

One hot day last month our fun was to keep checking the probes tucked in our sleeve for the temperature. It went anywhere from 41C (105.8 F) to 44C (111.2 ºF) and dinner rush hadn't even started. This means the burners were off and we weren't rushing to put orders out. The stove was on though, it's always on, and so were the grill and the friers.

To all of you out there, take heart when I tell you after a while you don't notice the heat anymore. Also some comfort should be the fact that you really are not on the line your entire shift, there's a lot of prep to be done. In fact at the beginning of your career, depending on what kitchen you are in, you may be doing only prep. As Anthony Bourdain puts it in "The Nasty Bits," you might be "chained to a sink in a crowded sub-cellar, doing nothing more glamorous, hour after hour after hour, than scraping vegetables or washing shellfish." I must have lucked out in this kitchen because the most unpleasant job I did, and it was not for hours, was to clean calamari. Although there is this one girl who had to deshell lobster and after two hours of playing in lobster juice her fingers had gotten quite pruny.

There are two kitchens at my workplace. A banquet kitchen and the bistro kitchen downstairs. I spend most of my time in the bistro. I really dig the fast pace of it all and have the stamina required to make it through the madness as we fall in the weeds and have to get ourselves out. In the upstairs kitchen there can be 4-5 people prepping and plating all day for a function of say 200 people. And the food all goes out in an hour. That's their rush: An hour, two at most. I think I'd be bored. My assistance was required not long ago for the glamorous job of sorbet scooping. 145 people, 3 different scoops of sorbet for each. You do the math. And you can't just throw the stuff in the cup, it has to look pretty. And you better hurry, because IT MELTS (unless you choose to do the entire job standing in the freezer) So you wheel out a tray of empty cups, fill them each with peach sorbet, rinse the scoop and move on to let's say raspberry, rinse the scoop and do, i don't know, lemon. Wheel the first tray in, wheel the second, empty tray out. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 145 people, 3 scoops each.

So yeah. It's not always that hot, you might just be freezing. I know your hands will.

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