Sunday, November 8, 2009

Come Out And Play!

I suited up for my first real day at the new bistro. Opening Day. All the other stuff we did there before today felt almost like pretend cooking. You could say we were getting ready for the big event, as much as one could be ready. I was nervous, anxious, excited... you name it, I felt it. Breathing deeply, I exhaled and I walked the front door that wouldn't be open to the public for another couple of hours. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, I don't know what I am doing. I have been shown how to plate only one of the salads and I'm supposed to open today? I don't know where anything is, still, or what to do with it, still, and I'm supposed to put food out?

My buddy Jason comforted me this morning by saying: "It won't be that bad, you'll see. And you won't be alone. It's almost like introducing a new menu at any other restaurant: nobody will know it and you'll all be learning at the same time." Okay, I thought, if you say so.

Turns out Jason was right. Our first few tables were made up of friends. They asked us if there was anything in particular we wanted them to order, to which we, the cooks, answered that they should order whatever they felt like. It would give us a chance to practice so "you're not doing us any favours by asking us what we think you should order," we said. We also had a few tables of real patrons, walk-ins who saw our "open" sign and came in. We all, owners included, were surprised. They had deliberately done no advertising whatsoever so that we could work out the kinks first. Other than flipping over the "open" sign, we did nothing to attract business. Despite that, we had tables, so imagine what will happen next week when we start advertising!

I also heard that I am doing quite well. Hearing that definitely helps ease my nerves. I am the sous's right hand man, so to speak, and responsible for plating all of the dishes, with the exception of the pizzas. After I set them up and plate them, Chef gives the plates a once over to make sure they're right after which food leaves our window. When "the boys" are not working I am working the oven to make sure that whatever is placed inside it doesn't get forgotten and burn. The oven could fit me and five more people of my size inside it, it's that big, so it requires that I get really friendly with the big shovel-like tool that helps me place things in the oven as well as rotate them once they're in there and take stuff out when cooked.

The big man, the Chef himself, will roll out dough and assemble the pizzas, as well as oversee their baking in the wood-burning pizza oven. He will also remind us all of the things in the oven and answer any questions we will have. Today's questions were: "Chef, is this done?"; "Chef, is there parm on both these sides?"; "Chef, is there a topping for the ratatouille?" "Chef, where did you put my tomato relish?"

There were two minor accidents today with Chef being the injured party both times. The first time he shoved his hand into the mini food processor -- no, don't worry, it was turned off -- and impaled his index finger into one of the blades resting inside the container there. The second injury was tequila chili lime sauce in the right eyeball. Chef was tossing the wings in a hurry and sauce splashed up from the bowl right into his eye. I had to finish plating the wings while he went to wash out his eye. Poor guy. It only occurs to me right now he might have been nervous himself!

All in all we did really well based on feedback we received from our friends. We asked if food took a long time to arrive -- to us, the cooks, seems that food takes longer than it actually does because there's a lot of stuff going on back there -- and we also asked if it was tasty. Really, tell us, was it good? The consensus was that women will throw themselves at us for that cheesecake we make. I'll have to get Chef to teach me it, I wouldn't say no to a little action on the side!

I'm back in the kitchen tomorrow at 3 pm. "The boys" will be away tomorrow so it'll be Chef, Sous-Chef and yours truly holding down the fort. That's fine, I feel a little more ready now. By next week, the place will be a well oiled machine.

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