Saturday, December 20, 2008

11 hours and 13 minutes

Yesterday was the longest day I've spent in a kitchen thus far. I'll be honest up front, I really don't feel like writing much or trying to put any creative spin on it either. I'm tired. I have what promises to be another busy night ahead of me tonight and I volunteered to work on Sunday, which I would normally have off, to cover for one of the other cooks who requested the day off. My parents come into town on Monday and then Christmas strikes. I haven't bought so much as a single card and I sort of don't intend to. I just want to cook food for my family and relax a bit. Last week when I was off Sunday and Monday, I was bored out of my mind and couldn't wait to get back to work. I do love my job. Today, I've really got my eyes set on making it through tomorrow night. Tonight for my amuse bouche: garlic tzatziki on pita crisps. Last night was a beet and red onion salad with red wine vinaigrette on cucumber slices, topped with parmesan cheese. I seem to always come up with something that will leave your breath stanky...

Quick note: I'm beginning to hate blogger. I plan on switching to typepad or something else soon but I'm feeling too lazy at the moment to explore the idea any further.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Busy, but for how long?

We are pretty slammed at the moment, but it is really due to holiday parties. We are in a nicer part of north Colorado Springs, surrounded mostly by corporate offices, commercial and some industrial. Plate has a decent size banquet room so it makes for a nice location for the nearby business to have their Christmas and New Year's parties. I'm a little worried, however, how the restaurant will do after this season is over. Even in late november, as we were gearing up for this busy time, there were nights in the middle of the week that we would do less than 20 covers and I would get cut by 7pm. No business = no hours = no pay = I'm keep my eyes are ears open for other opportunities, if any arise and should be needed in early '09. It's not all Plate's fault. The economy is hurting everyone and it seems that finer restaurants in particular are taking a heavy toll. I'm sure just about everyone in America has or knows someone who has lost their job, and if they haven't, they likely will soon (bailout or not to bailout?).

Tonight for my amuse bouche: lobster nigiri-zushi with mango coulis and wasabi tobiko

Friday, December 5, 2008


don't worry, i'm still alive. since I finished working at the credit union, and we don't have internet access at home, I haven't been able to really doing any reading or writing online. here's what's going on:

the saute cook (and a good one at that) was fired early last week for giving his opinion when asked for it by the GM. now, he did sort of insult the exec. chef in doing so, but it was still a pretty lame thing to happen. it sucks that he's gone but on the bright side it has opened up some opportunities on the line. i'm currently training on the section they call "middle." it's on the line between saute and grill. it's sort of a filler position and does most of the hot veg and plating. it's an awesome step up and one i didn't expect so soon; i haven't even been at the restaurant (which is my first kitchen job) for a month yet.

on a not-so-good note, the restaurant is doing poorly. most casual fine dining places have been hurting the most during these financial troubles that our country has been going through. many similar scale restaurants have been closing. at least it's the holidays and we are busy with parties. tonight we had a 60 top, a 35 top, a 30 top, and a 14 top. that pretty much maxes out the restaurant so we were basically closed to the public except for bar seating, which saw some business as a result. we were absolutely slammed; it was as busy as Plate will really ever get. the good thing is that because it was all preplanned parties, it was also preplanned menus. only the 14 top was al la carte which meant we knew way ahead of time what was needed. this made for some busy prep time but when it came time for service we were locked and loaded and everything went down smoothly. the chef gave us all a big thanks and the end and the GM passed out beers, which is alwasy a pleasant way to end a shift.

i've also received my first paycheck from my new job. ouch. the paycut hurts but i have zero regrets. i love what i'm doing, i'm learning a lot, i'm moving up more quickly than i thought i would, and it is awesome experience. if i can train quickly to jump on saute or grill (our grill guy is currently looking for work elsewhere) then i can also ask for a raise and will have solid hours; and again, it will be awesome experience. i know it will happen, it's just a matter of time. i think hard work, reliability, and a tactful expression of my opinion when asked for will make the difference. it's a fast moving business with a good amount of turnover.

i'll try to get some pictures of the restaurant and the food we make soon to show everyone what i'm up to.

the only other thing i have going on is school. i'm just taking one class this trimester: adv mgt/restaurateur. it's been getting off to a slow start but the entire class is basically one big project, which is to go through the steps of opening a new restaurant. choosing a site, raising/collecting funding, owner arrangements, hiring staff, and of course the fun stuff - design, menu creation, etc. it will be a fun project and i hope to learn a lot.

if you want to read some cool stuff (because i don't feel like i'm divulging anything of much interest), check out

that's it. i'm tired. a few more beers, maybe some leno/conan, and then bed. night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spring Rolls

I got bored last night (no school, no work, and no wife at home) so I grabbed a few things at the store and rolled up some spring rolls while drinking beer and listening to music.

The beer I drank.

The music I listened to.

The finished product.
The pictures are of the cold spring rolls but I actually like them better after frying them in a bit of canola oil. Inside there is Napa cabbage, carrot, celery leaf, mango, and crab meat. I need to tweak the sauce a bit though, it was too acidic.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Garde Manger

It’s Saturday night. You’re in the cusp of the night’s dinner rush. You’re mise en place is locked and loaded but it’s early, you still have a long way to go. On top of 25 or so reservations on the books, there’s a 70 top at $85 a head coming in at 6pm. Earlier, during your prep, the chef and sous got into a bit of an argument and the tension in the air is still palpable. Everyone is setting into a good pace and everything is moving smoothly so far, but every person in the kitchen can tell that one mishap could throw the whole service into a tailspin. It seems more like a recipe for disaster rather than success. The dishwasher isn’t bringing you plates quickly enough to keep you comfortable so you mention something to her. It’s no big deal yet, just a slight annoyance. You word it tactfully and say it with a smile because, after all, she’s an 18 year old girl and one of the managers’ daughters.

Apps have gone out to the 70 top everything still moving like a fragile ballet, pirouettes on the edge of a knife.. You clear some counter space and get ready to plate salads for the party. Greens, dressing, parm, sliced tomatoes, and plates at the ready – it’s all there, just waiting for your willing and able hands. You dunk your head in the cooler to double check what you already know is there: backups of everything. You nod to yourself and turn back to the counter when…


The ballet freezes and everyone stands silent and motionless for a minute. There are broken dishes all around your feet and all over the counter where you were prepared to plate the salads. The dishwasher is standing next to you, eyes wide and starting to swim. She was bringing the plates you asked for but tried lifting too heavy a stack up to your overhead and dropped the lot. She dives for a broom and dustpan but everyone knows the real harm that’s been done: there are broken shards all over the place and who knows if any got into the salad mise en place, it can’t be used. You can’t risk serving something that might harm a customer, not to mention cause a law suit and shut the restaurant down.

The chef doesn’t blow his top, but he’s pissed and the atmosphere becomes severely uncomfortable. He doesn’t hesitate to order all the salad prep 86ed. He starts barking out for you to start from scratch. Luckily, there are a few extra people staffed tonight and they’re on top of taking care of the party. The next few hours are a whirlwind of intense focus mixed with anxiety and chaos. The printer is screaming orders for regular diners and walk-ins so you switch gears and try to find your pace again.

Fast forward… the night’s over. You only had to stay 30 minutes over your scheduled shift, which you spent joking around with the dishwasher while you help her finish up (she was buried, again). The GM gets you a beer and a few verbal pats on the back from the chef have you feeling pretty good.


Above is a description of what happened Saturday, my fourth night on the job. I have to say that I am absolutely loving every minute of it. I’ve never felt so alive or so focused, but I’m trying to keep myself grounded. I haven’t made any catastrophic mistakes yet so I’m trying to keep my skin thick for when it happens.