The alarm has gone off again. More than anything it’s just a habit to have it on at this point, if I work or not that is the alarm is always on. I don’t know what day it is when I wake up, all I know is if I’m working or not and at what time. If the alarm is going off at 5 AM, that means I have to be in at work for 7 AM. However, if the alarm goes off at 8:45 then I’m going into work at noon, or possibly 2 PM. I know my schedule for the week, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t change at a moment’s notice. Since my schedule can change on a moment’s notice we will start with my earliest day and move on from there.
Working at 7 AM means I am going to be doing one of three things: breakfast pantry, breakfast hotline, or staff meal (lunch). For breakfast pantry or hotline I will be making breakfast, obviously, besides making just breakfast I will be responsible for prepping that station for the next day and then move on to prepping anything else that needs to be done for that night’s parties or buffets for the week. If there are no parties or buffets going on I’ll be working for Chef’s Cupboard making individual entrees for members to eat that night. To be honest, I never really know what I will be doing when I go in at 7. I have an idea that it might be one of those three things, but I could be wrong. There have even been times where I started working at one station but it changed half way through, then I worked in an entirely different station. The best example of this is when they need me to cover staff lunch.
I like not knowing what I am going to be doing because this constant change keeps me on my toes and helps sharpen my multi-tasking and organizational skills. No matter what I’m doing, though, I am always on a time limit because I always have to have my tasks done before the end of my shift- in some cases before I go to lunch at 11. If I am cooking staff lunch it is a relatively easy day. The first hour is generally spent organizing the staff/dairy cooler to figure out what I have to work with already. After that, I mostly spend my time getting lunch items ready and prepping my salad bar or deli station of the day. Staff lunch must be ready at 11 o’clock- no ifs ands or buts about it. If I am working a staff lunch shift my day is even easier after 11. I figure out what I have already, and re-prep my station for the night staff. When I am in at 7 I am off by 2 and have the rest of the afternoon to myself, unless I am working a double-shift.
If the alarm has gone off at 8:45, or if I am needed to while working a 7AM shift, I could be going to the snack bar. This means I need to go in at noon. The snack bar is a madhouse! I still never know where I’m going to work. I could be working the chopped salad station, which means I am chopping and dressing a salad fresh to order. In other words, members pick what they want in their salad we chop it, dress it, and send it back to them. When we do 500 people in two hours that is a lot of salads very, very fast! Speaking of fast, one thing the general manager, who has my undying respect for willingly taking off his jacket and tie and jumping right in during our busiest times, likes to play is the game of “how many salads can you chop in a minute”. My best is 5 salads in 1 minute, that’s one salad ordered in chopped dressed and plated every 12 seconds. Other than the salad station I could be working on sandwiches; putting out tuna melts, grilled cheese, or basic club sandwiches as fast as you can toast the bread. The last two stations are: grill, making hot dogs and burgers, or you’re on the sundae station. Can you say shakes and ice cream? This all starts at noon and goes until 2. For most of the time I work the majority of my shifts at 2PM.
Working at 2PM… I still have no idea what I might be doing that day. I could be working a buffet, I could be working a private dinner function, or I could simply be working the hot line or cold-side pantry. Any and all of these things are a possibility. There is also the possibility that I could work staff meal. Assuming I am not doing a buffet or party I will probably be working pantry or the middle of the line. Now, in the middle of the line you are responsible for setting up the sauces, picking your starch and vegetable for the night, and making sure that the line is set up and ready to go for service. This means turning on the steam tables, plate warmers, and making sure there are plates. During service, as the middle it would be my job to call the orders and “create” the plates. AKA- put the starch and vegetables on the plates and sauce the items coming from the grill or sauté stations. The middle is responsible for creating the flow for the night which is a lot of fun. With this you are done once the tables are all in. However, if I am working pantry for the night my set up includes: prepping all the salads for the night as well as the cold soup and any other cold appetizers (pâté). Unlike the hot line, once all the tables are in the pantry is not done. The pantry is responsible for desserts. This means that generally I am cleaning/standing around waiting for dessert orders to come in. Once I am actually done for the night, be it hotline, pantry, or staff, whatever the time may be I generally take my uniform and drop it in the laundry bin, and then see what is happening around the club. More likely than not, I end up hanging out with the rest of the kitchen line on the back stoop. We laugh and talk about the day. Then it’s time for bed. The last thing I do before I go to bed is set the alarm for the next day.
Afterthoughts on the day…
I am missing something completely from this post and it’s the people. While I can’t and won’t name names I want to talk more about just how everything feels with the club employees…
The kitchen crew is very much like a family of brothers, uncles; with a sister and aunt mixed in to the group. We also have our grandparents helping out where they can. Now by in no means do I mean anything I say to come off as disrespectful so let me explain. The interns and the normal kitchen staff are all like brothers, we all laugh and joke and have a place on the team, have all earned our strips as you could put it. I think nick-names may have been given out… Then you have the other kitchen groups (golf house lunch, chef’s cupboard, snack bar) These guys and gals are our cousins that we see pretty often and sometimes even party with, you know when the aunts/uncles aren’t looking. Next we come to our aunts and uncles, you know the managers, the men and women in charge of the rest of us. (I also call them aunts and uncles because they are about the same age as mine.) Mixed in with this we also have our direct parents, and since I know he will laugh about it our executive sous chef is mother. He tries to look out for us when he can and help take care of all of us both physical and mentally, but if he tells you to do your chores you had better do your chores. That makes Chef our father, and in a way at least with the interns he is like a father to us. He is strict when he has to be but generally likes to have a nice relaxed kitchen that is fun to be in. While we may joke around and have a good time we still get work done, because deep down I think we are all trying to make Chef proud of us. This man is so good at what he does and he does not hand out praise very much so when he does it makes it mean all that much more. Its little things like: “Did you seasons this sauce Grant?” yes chef I did “How does it taste?” I think it taste good Chef. *taste the sauce* “I think it does as well.” another part of the family that I have not mentioned is our best friends that we hang out with and joke with every day, our steward staff. These guys and one very sweet old woman are our blood brothers, they bleed and get burned and cut just as much as we do, but they do it hot and wet and longer and harder than anything we have to do. These guys are tough and have my respect. These guys are in the thick with us and still manage to laugh and joke with us and work with us not against us.
Keeping the family metaphor going just a bit longer….
If the kitchen is the dad’s side of the family then the dining room staff is our mom’s side of the family, with just as many brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles as the kitchen family. Most of the times the family’s mix well and we get along, but there are times when we get at each other’s throats but it just like all families.