Friday, July 31, 2009

On dishes and prepping...

Every day I walk through the upstairs kitchen and down the stairs leading to Chef's office, the walk-in freezer and dry-storage area and I stop at the coat rack. I'm shoving hangers around until I locate my own whites. I grab one and quickly put it on, tie on an apron and also grab 2 must-have dishtowels we lovingly call "rags" and tuck them behind the apron strings tied at my waist. I am already wearing my kitchen pants and boots, I always put them on at home to avoid wasting precious minutes at work.

I walk through the hallway into the bistro, I punch in, look at the little printout that spits out of the machine and read 1:57 pm. Right on time. First thing I see? Non-kitchen staff in the dish pit trying to keep up with plates stacked so high on the dish table they might topple over at the slightest nudge. Uh-oh. This can only mean one thing: the lunch crew got slammed.

Before I can even take over the dishes, I hear my boss holler "little chef, hop on here! grab me that salad, finish plating this sandwich and oh, fill this up with dressing." "PICK UP!!" he yells to the server on the other side. Sheesh... haven't even looked at the chits, have no idea what he's talking about but I quickly get on it. Within 20 minutes or so everything's under control, I must have caught the tail-end of it. I take pity on the pour soul still struggling with those dishes and take over. Boatloads of plates, dirty pots, pans and aluminum bowls everywhere. It takes me over an hour to get through them all.

In our kitchen we all do the dishes. We do have "kitchen help" as part of our staff, but they mostly cover the evening shift, say from 4 pm onward. Before then we do our own dishes, whenever we have a free moment, whoever can get to them first. It is not uncommon to see Chef humming away at the dish pit, probably reminiscing about his own days as a dishwasher many years ago.

By the time I'm done with the dishes it's 4 pm and I have only about an hour before people start trickling in for dinner. Barely enough time to check and stock up my station, especially if they've been busy and ate through everything I had stocked up on the night before. I quickly glance at the schedule to see when the next guy coming in is supposed to start at. Forget about even looking at the prep board to see what general prep needs to be done, I must get my station ready first.

I open fridge doors and make sure every container on line is full. If not, I rely on the back up from the line fridge and fill up what I need to fill up. Now it's time to check the back-up stash. Do I have time to slice cucumbers now or do I wait until after dinner? Do I need to bring down cherry tomatoes? How about that salmon? I don't have time to poach it now so I write it down for someone to poach it tomorrow. The next thing I know, I hear that whirring sound - orders are starting to come in so I rush to take my spot.

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