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Kitchen, and the Mysteries of the Universe (Part 2)

This is another part in the story that will be a virtual word tour for my internship site. You however are in the middle of the story if you want to start from the beginning you can fallow the link to the first post called Fire! (Part 1) 

We have one of two options at this point; we can go in the main doors of the staff dining area or we can walk around the side of the HR building and see the patio where we can sit outside under one of 3 tables with canvas umbrellas. If we pick option two we will have to be careful of the golf ball barrage from the golf course right on the other side of the tree line. Now, we do have a black mesh net that runs from the top of the staff dining hall’s covered deck to the tree line and then down to the ground at the end of the patio, but this doesn’t always help. I have lost a few people by taking that path before, and even inside the building we are not totally safe, as the golf balls pelt the white siding of it and have even broken windows in the staff dining room. If we go up to the front doors we will be on the outside covered deck and be able to see the patio and the tree line, but even here we are not safe as legend tells of golf balls getting past our defenses and bouncing around like spastic ADHD children on pixy stix. *off in the distance “FOUR!”* Oh, God, incoming!! Everyone get through the double French main doors. No, use the left side, the right is always locked in place…

Everyone make it? Alright well everyone relax for a bit and take a load off we have had a lot of excitement already today, and as you can see there are tables and chairs a plenty on the right if you would like a day old pastry or dessert of some kind feel free to grab them off the speed rack directly in front of the countertop fridge. Should you want milk or something like that it can be found in the fridge. Please bear in mind that we are being watched by the cameras of the overlords so please use your manners while eating. We also have fountain soda, juice machine, coffee maker and ice dispenser on the counter. Cups are on the far end from us now at the exit of the dinner line. If you look out the windows you can see two massive backup generators and the path that leads to another exit door from part of the main kitchen. Looking hard to the left you can also see into part of the garde manager room off the main kitchen. Calm down, we will get there soon enough. If everyone is done looking out the windows we will turn around and go back towards the main doors, and you can see the trash cans and bus tubs for any plates, silverware, or cups you may have used. On the other side of the wall the soda and other stuff is on is our staff hot and cold line. Some of you are asking why we have mall style closed store gates on the walls between the two areas. Well, this is to keep the alligators from getting in to the main kitchen area. Ha, no, I’m only kidding. I haven’t seen an alligator yet, so no reason to worry. The staff dining area is open all the time for us to get drinks or day old pastries, but after about 8pm they lock off the hot and cold line side so that we can’t go sneaking around the main kitchen. They know that it has the best hiding spots for hide and go seek and after we couldn’t find an intern for 6 months a few years ago they told us we couldn’t play in there anymore.

As you can see we have a hallway leading in to the main kitchen to the left of the main doors of the staff dining area, but before we go down that way we are going to look over at our hot and cold service line. First we have our lovely teal-ish green plates, and bowls with I swear the same silverware we use at NECI. Next we have a 6 opening steam table, please be careful of the steam snakes which you can probably hear hissing through the tops of the hinged hot food covers. They’re hinged so that you can keep the food in the back covered and hot while the food up front is still accessible. Next, we have our first of two cold lines; this one is almost always stuffed with lunch meats, cheese, other sandwich items, cold salads, coleslaw, and canned fruit. The second cold line is always set up for salads. Moving behind the line: we have a double stacked convection oven, a flattop griddle that at least as long as I have been here has yet to be used, a grill range, an 8 burner range, and then a split countertop work space.  The split is caused by a deep prep sink and a small hand washing station. The last item of note is a meat slicer that is set up on the last counter top. Now I have already posted a few times on what I have done in the staff kitchen, so if you haven’t read Cooking for the Masses, or The War of the Rice, then what are you waiting for? No, really, go read them now I’ll wait for you…

Are they gone? Alright quick while they are getting caught up let’s leave them behind so that they know what it feels like… OK so now we start to get in to the fun part of the tour, the main kitchen! But first who has to use the restroom? As we walk past the connecting hallways between the staff and the main kitchen you will see first a lady’s room and then a men’s room. Since I have not been in the lady’s room what on the account of being a man, in the men’s room you will find a stall with its own sink and toilet, and a urinal with a main sink, you know a pretty standard bathroom, it does have two boxes of corn starch in them for some reason, also a thing of baby powder, alright so maybe it’s not a normal after all… On another very important note the bathrooms and hallway are a blue-ish color and have a window in it, a window that gives you a lovely view of the mop and cleaning supply hut? Wait, really, they put a window in to the cleaning supply hut…? “Ah hem” I mean yes please feel free to gaze out at our exhibit of rare and unique cleaning supplies, please don’t tap the glass as you might anger them and send them into a clean frenzy. Ohhh you’re all in luck you can see our pride and joy exhibit today, the powerful presser washer! At this point most of you are looking at me like I’m crazy, don’t deny it I can feel it, but hey we have a window into a supply hut. It’s not my fault, I didn’t put it there, I’m just trying to put a positive spin on it. Oh, alright, moving on…

Once we get out of the hallway we are presented with some of our walk-ins. On our left we have the dairy cooler/ staff kitchen walk-in. As you guessed, it is mostly full of cheeses, milk, cream, and eggs with half of it being used to hold the items that we can use for staff, except for the meats. Directly across from this or on our right as we exit the hallway is a reach in fridge that staff also uses to keep the salad supplies in at night, and any other small backups we might have. You will probably have noticed that the floor has changed from a linoleum tile pattern into a porous brown and white speckled pattern. The floor, a lot like the walls, which are half a stucco white and the other half is a cream yellow color, are the same all throughout the main kitchen. It seems that too many people found taupe maddening so they opted for a different color. Getting back on track before the taupe madness takes us all again, We next come to the freezer which is right after the dairy cooler, and right across from this is a flight of painted white wood stairs that lead up in to the “attic” space and chef’s office, but under the stairs is a space that is generally filled with boxes that are used to transport items from one location to another. We save these boxes because it saves us from having to use hotel pans and you can normally fit more single items in to a box then into a hotel pan. (For anyone who is asking themselves what a hotel pan is, well it’s a pan that is either 2 or 4 inches deep and about 10 inches wide by 1 foot long. Think of the containers they have on hotel buffet lines and there you go.) Directly after the freezer we come to our produce cooler, and we will talk about that in just a moment. Before we do I want to point out that all of the doors to these walk-ins are akin to bomb shelter doors, or at least that’s what they look and feel like. They are made of metal and have a decent amount of weight to them. The freezer door almost always seems to freeze to the door frame itself which can make it really “fun” to open. Also before we enter the produce cooler I want to point out the two cork boards that cover the wall at the end of the hallway before you would turn into the start of the main kitchen and dry storage area. These two boards are covered with all kinds of notices and information most importantly being the schedule for all kitchen and dishwashing staff. The schedule is updated every Monday or Tuesday and runs Wednesday-Tuesday, but pay-day is still on Fridays. Now everyone into the produce cooler…

Please watch your step as you enter as there is a slight ramp that leads down to meet the outside floor as we are raised up a little for extra insulation in the floor itself. Alright, so the layout of both the dairy and the freezer are both just straight walk-ins with shelves on both sides, but the produce cooler is a about the size of both combined so it has shelves running around the outside edges and a shelf in the middle that creates a walk way and provides the best use of space. It is laid out with the most used items being closest to the door, with some of the more specialty items being set farther in. Fruits in small containers are found on the center shelves. Now before anyone gets too cold please exit our produce cooler and remember to shut the door on your way out. As I said before, if you go up the stairs that are right in front of us now you will be going up into the “attic” area and chef’s office, but since we have no reason to go up there we won’t. If you really want to know what it looks like picture a floored attic that has shelves and cabinets full of things like wicker baskets, heat lamps, and the holiday decorations. All of this is framed around a walkway that leads up to the chef’s office door. His office looks like, well, an office. What did you expect people some fantastical super office that belches green fire where only a disembodied green head of the chef barking commands? “Pay no attention to the Toque behind the shelves; I am the great and powerful Chef!” This isn’t Kansas people, and they don’t have tornadoes in Florida; oh and the streets aren’t paved yellow…

Back in the half yellow walled hallway… what, I said the streets weren’t yellow…as we exit the produce cooler we are staring at rack upon rack of bread of all different types, and directly to the right of these racks we have the door into dry storage. You might also have noticed that we are once again under the watchful cameras of the overlords. Besides just being the place where we keep dry and canned goods it is also where the first aid station is located. Oh, a trash can full of bread crumbs and another one right next to it full of rice… Yeah in case you didn’t know just how much rice we ate here picture a trash can that you normally see out on trash day. Holds about 20 gallons right? Alright now understand that it is filled up with nothing but plan white rice, and then understand that we empty this trash can about every two-two and a half days… you all understand yet why I’m sick of rice?

Moving right along, we are now in the back entrance of the main kitchen, or since it is where we enter and leave from each day I would call it the main entrance. To your left you have a set of double screen doors that are then covered by a set of metal doors if they are closed, but since they are never closed or at least haven’t been while I have been here most people only notice the screen doors. To the right of the main doors we have a digital scale for packages and then the door to our inventory manager’s closet. Yes I do mean closet, because he barely has enough room to sit at his desk which takes up all of one wall. Then he has shelves and filing cabinets stuffed all around him. Imagine Milton’s cubical from Office Space and you have a pretty good idea of what you are looking at, and maybe that’s why everyone is so nice to our inventory manager… anyways moving right along before he puts strychnine in the guacamole… To the right of where we are standing (in front of dry storage for anyone not reading along) is a shelf of potatoes, onions, and miscellaneous other vegetables. We are also now afforded with our first glance in to the heart of our main kitchen. You can see 3 prep tables, a hand washing sink, a window into the sous chefs’ office, the pots and pans, and 3 bay sink. Looking up you can see white barn style rafters with a few skylights. Before anyone goes dashing off into the main kitchen to look at all the pretty shiny toys, or to take a bath in our massive cauldron please fallow me directly across from where we are now to what would be your left, entering the main doors and passing the first of two industrial sized ice makers on your right. Follow me through a white door, which has a window that gives of a glimpse of the land of breads, pastries, and sweets…

Welcome to Jupiter’s bake shop! Everyone please watch your step as we will be passing by the equipment and tools storage shelves on our right and the bake shop’s 3 bay wash sink on our left. Feel free to gaze around in wonderment at two square prep tables set in the center of the room, you may also have noticed that there is a white door to our right, and a wooden door with window that peeks out into the chef’s cupboard, or the pantry side of it anyway. The door to our right leads back into the main kitchen and this will be the door we use when we finish our walk-about of the bake shop. Alright, starting with the obvious stuff, across from us right now is a speed rack followed by a kind of glass door cooler that is used to hold pastries, I say kind of because it’s not cool but I think it’s used to just help prevent them from being exposed to air so they stay fresh longer. Night after this we have a speed rack full of breads rolls, and other bread type items, then of course the wood door. As we walk farther in and reach the first table you will notice that there is a little cubby that has another work station and mixers behind us. There is also another bomb shelter, er I mean cooler door. Along the outside wall there is a long work table and *gasp* what’s this? Windows! Who said that bakers could see the light of day? Oh, wait, the view is all of bushes and palm trees, well I guess that’s alright then, but they still have natural light… this just goes against everything I know about baking, I mean doesn’t the light hurt baker’s sensitive eyes? Must mean we have some sort of super bakers who are immune to the rays of the sun that seem to harm other bakers up in the National Life Building in VT…Where was I? Oh, yes, the inside wall! It’s covered in ovens, and I do mean covered. If you read my bake shop post you will have seen that the oven in the National life is a 3 door beauty, here in Jupiter though we have two 6 door ovens side by side. That’s 12 ovens all with different temp controls and wide enough to hold two sheet trays side by side, that’s the potential for 24 sheet trays of different goodies all being cooked at the same time! To the right of the two ovens there is a 6 burner range and an industrial doughnut fryer. Oh, and look we are now back at the other main kitchen door.  Let’s turn around really fast and go inside the bake shop cooler and mess around with the mixing station.

First things first: the mixing station corner of everything mixing. No, really, you have scales 3 table top mixers, 2 standing floor mixers, and all the different types of flour and sugar you could ever need. There are shelves all along the 3 walls that make up this little mixing cubical of deliciousness. Taking up all of the middle back wall is a wood top table and under this are all the containers of flour and sugar. For some reason I really like this little corner, it just fits well and seems like a place to work on experiments. Oh and on a note of great little ideas, I want to take this time to talk about all of the hand washing sinks that are spread around all of the kitchens.  On first glance you will probably have noticed that there are no handles for the hot or cold water, in fact the only thing that is on the top of the sink is the faucet. Right below the edge of the sink bowl, about the level of a person’s knee, are two metal “flaps” and this is where you get your hot or cold water from. You simply press them with your knee and the water comes out. A great little idea for not having to touch the taps with messy hands that would get your hands dirty again when you go to turn them off. I know it’s just a little thing but I thought it was a cool idea. Moving now into the bake shop cooler, you will notice that it looks like all the other walk-ins, but this one also has a second door in the back that leads to the freezer. I like the idea behind this because you don’t have to walk out of one and go to the next and it can really save you some time. Oh, alright you are all tired of the bake shop I get it. So let’s go ahead and get back into the main kitchen for just a moment more as we make our way back to the garde manger room.

As we exit the bake shop through the white door next to the doughnut fryer you will be entering the heart of the great and powerful main kitchen!!! *queue climactic music* since I have already talked a little bit about the walls ceiling and floor and said that they are the same all over the kitchen guess what… yep you got it they are the same, oh I almost had you fooled there didn’t I? To the right of the door is one of the first work tables that I described to you before we went into the bake shop, but let’s take a closer look at it now. First be careful not to bump into the reach in fridge that is to our immediate right, this holds small little items like minced garlic and shallots, but on the outside face of it is a white board that acts as our reservation board. Each day at set times we get a call saying that we are at ___# for the night. We do this every day for any event that we have going on. As you can probably guess there would have to be a phone close by in order to tell us the numbers right? Well you would be right; the phone is actually on the table on the other side of the fridge. This is another of the metal work tables that are present in every kitchen; it has a drawer for holding papers, a prep sink, and it’s bottom storage area is filled with bottles of all kinds like: vinegar, oil, wine, boxes of salt, and so on. The shelf above this table is full of spices and also has a clip strip attached to it so that we can hang orders in progress or banquets menus, maybe even recipes that we would be working on. Directly in front of the table is a walk way and then another table! At the far end of it we have another of the ingenious hand washing sinks, and on top of the table is a small little raised up shelf with a clip strip on it to once again hang things that we might need. However under this table is where you would find most of the pans we use. If they are clean, or haven’t been stolen or been put to some kind of use. Alright so normally you would find pans like: hotel, half, third, and some sheet trays, but only if they are clean or haven’t been stolen by another kitchen.

I guess now is as good a time as any to bring up a “golden rule” of the kitchen, if you are looking for a pan or something, you have to beg borrow or steal it from another kitchen sometimes. Hey, we are in Florida so that means we get to be a little pirate like and steal “treasured” pans from other gangs of pirates, er, um, kitchen staff. It is rather funny to see people go in and gather up all the pans they need first and then cart them around as they get other items so that no one else comes and grabs them. Since you know what the first work station looks like or at least you can pretend to know what it looks like let me tell you a little bit about who works here and what I have done at this station myself. Ha. you thought it was just a word tour, you didn’t know I was going to include stuff I had done did you? Oh, I told you that I would do that from the beginning, remember that? Alright, well, anyways, this table is where our executive sous chef sets up and does his work. Maybe because it’s close to the phone, or maybe because you can see most of the kitchen from here, or maybe he just likes this spot. Whatever the reason, he always sets himself up right here, and if you are going to be working with him that day then we are set up next to him. As for things that I have done while working here, well it has mostly been prep projects for buffet or banquets that we have coming up. Really this work station is mostly a cutting and prep station as it has no cooking implements within reach but it is a great jumping off point to start from. I really do mean jumping off point as from here you can see almost every spot where someone can or would work at. If you would rather think of it this way, this table is the command table and at some point in the day everyone comes to this prep table. This is also why I choose to look right first when we entered the main kitchen as opposed to looking left. To the left is our pantry station for the main kitchen line, but we will get back to that when we tour the line as a whole.

Before we get to the line and the power it holds over everyone in the culinary world… well I did say mysteries of the universe… I ask that you gaze out from our command table at the rest of the kitchen so that we might get this tour back on track and no I’m not the one who keeps running off on tangents. Looking directly ahead from the command table as I have just started calling it, you are presented with another set of prep tables and the “back line”. The back line is a place of: casseroles, single serving dinners, steam ovens, a cauldron that could be used to cook a person a-la jungle cannibal style, the tilt skillet, the French range, and our convection ovens. Nothing too mysterious, right? Well, you are wrong in so many ways. First the prep tables itself, which holds many mysteries of its own. The first thing you will probably have noticed is that under this table is where we keep all of the cutting boards for the main kitchen. These are not small cutting boards and could in the case of an emergency be used to beat a zombie to death with. Also, at the end of this table is a can opener, but there is nothing very mysterious about that, so we move right along to the second half of the table, which is covered in shelves that have spices and other cooking implements on them. There is even another self on the other side of the table that holds all of our pots and pans, well besides the pans used on the front line but hold your horses we will get there soon enough. Now depending on a few things, one is the speed racks behind the table, and two are the speed racks loaded? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then you will not be able to see the office that holds our sous chefs things. If you asked I could not tell you what is actually in the office with the exception of two desk and some filing cabinets, because I have been sworn to secrecy… alright I haven’t actually I just have never looked around in the office because I have only seen it through one of the five windows it has…

…Getting off on a small tangent again, yes I know another tangent but I blame you all for asking so many questions, and just can’t let the tour unfold naturally. Anyway the sous chef office does in fact take up about the same amount of space as the back line prep table, but this isn’t such a big deal because it has two out facing windows and one on each side, and then finally the window in the door itself. This reminds me of the control booth from the show taxi, well except that there is no one ever in it and they don’t have a speakers system in the office, or at least I don’t think they do. The windows actually help prevent a lot of problems from coming out of garde manger as you can look through the windows and see if anyone is coming before you turn the corner. If you want you can also look through to the other prep table set up between the far office walls, er window, and the shelf by the main doors that holds the onions and potatoes. This table is our torture table here you will find all manner of implements of torture and doom for all sorts of ingredients. We have the master of torture, “Hobart” who provides us with a combo meat grinder, sausage extruder, and buffalo chopper. Next up is the assistant torture master robot coupe, he slices, he dices, he purees! Finally we come to the torture in training, the vita prep, while only a lowly blender he still get the job done and makes ingredients give up their savory secrets…

Alright, see, it wasn’t that bad of a tangent and it provided useful information for us all, but getting back to the back line. We have already talked about what equipment is back here and a little bit about the table itself, but what we haven’t talked about is the prep sink located right at the end of the back line prep table. Most of you will scoff that it is only a prep sink, but you know what you are wrong. It’s a prep sink with a grate at the bottom of it that holds soups or other hot items up so that the cold water can circulate around them better! Ok don’t be impressed by my prep sinks but you try to chill a 15 gallon pot full of stock or soup in your sink and we will see whose gets colder faster…

The back line is where our chef cupboard sous chef likes to hang out and make casseroles, or his single portion take home meals. You also never know what you will be making from this line, which is part of the fun that comes from working on it. I have run a buffet for 40 as well as another for 83 people on this line while in the morning they made stock out of our “people” cauldron. I have spent hours steaming lobster, and them dropping them into the tilt skillet that was full of ice to shock them down. I have seared off Tenderloin on the French range, and then finished them in the convection oven. I have even use this station to open can after can of who knows what ingredient anymore. You have to be on your game here because you are able to be watched from many different angles so you better be doing it right. The back line is a rather random place as it can have just about anything happen; it all just depends on the day and what we have going on.

At this point we have sadly reached the back wall of the main kitchen, and we are now looking at another nifty little hand washing sink and our big pot and pan dish pit. That’s right boys and girls the back line has its own dish pit! For anyone who has never seen or just doesn’t have the imagination to figure out what a dish pit looks like, I’ll describe it to you. First it has a shelf for dirty pots and pan, next there are 3 deep sinks, and then a little drying top that clean items go on. Pretty simple right, ok good. At this point in our tour we have reached the back right corner of the main kitchen, we will be going back up front to visit the main line and the server area before we continue on to the next of the three remaining kitchens. However first since we are right here please enter the two-way swinging door whose window gives you a peek into the world of our garde manger room. If you look to your right before we enter you can look through our sous chef’s office and see our torture friends.

Welcome to the garde manger room, and probably the first thing you will notice is that both the left and far walls are open to the light of day with windows! This whole thing of windows in a kitchen is taking some getting used to but it’s also kind of nice to be able to see the animals play and be merry. (authors note: I have never once seen an animal play or be merry outside of these windows but it is a nice hope.) The whole room is painted white to reflect and make the room brighter so that our talented craftsmen can accomplish their salad sculptures with the best light available to them. To our left as we enter are a set of shelves that run all along the wall below the windows to the back left corner of the room. These shelves are stock full of different styles and colors of decorative bowls and palters that we use to put salads and other tasty goodness on. You will also find things like PVC pipe that has been cut in to ring molds, and a ton of empty mayo containers. Why the mayo containers you ask? Well, first we use a lot of mayo, because we are constantly making tuna, egg, chicken, and potato salad. Second because they make a great storage container for back up dressings or condiments that we might need. Moving to the back wall you will see our vacuum packager followed up by my old friend and enemy, the meat slicer. We have some open counter space that has a smaller food processor, and a belt sander… No really it’s a belt sander but it has been modified with a little tilt lever and a high/stronger grit so that we “can” use it to *shudders at the thought* sharpen our knives!!! It’s a belt sander for crying out loud! No it’s a knife sharpener that is made to do just that see it has a little guide so you know to put the tilt lever at the right angle. IT’S A BELT SANDER!!!! Moving right along before anyone tries to put a knife on that contraption… to the shelves that hold the most of the spice that they might need or use in making different dressings. As well as a clip strip to hang up orders that need to be made. Tucked away in the very far back right corner we have another little hand washing sink. We have come to the back right corner of the garde manger room now so let’s bring it back to where we are standing by the entrance. To our right is a double sink with a little counter space and a shelf above it that we use to hold all of our fish tubs. Hey, I don’t know why they are called fish tubs they just are, but it could be that we sometimes get fish or seafood in them and they do have fish on the lid, just guessing now. The right wall is taken up by two sets of bomb shelter doors, I mean walk-in doors. Between the doors is a small little dry erase board that normally has the date on it as well as something funny or crude that you all don’t want to hear about. Alright you caught me I can’t read Spanish so I don’t know what it says, are you happy now? Making our first stop at the cooler closest to us as we enter, and you will find the sous chef, chef cupboard, and line walk-in. Being bigger in size than the one in bake shop it still has a freezer build into the back of it and this is where we keep all of our frozen meats or fish that we are saving for a rainy day. Also, like our produce cooler, the floor is raised up so that we have insulation built into the floor. That is about all I can really tell you as the organization of the walk-in changes almost every day. Ok, so, yes, the right shelf is normally just for soup or the sous chefs’ stuff, while the left is for chef’s cupboard, and the back left is for the line, but good luck keeping it that way. If someone asks you to get something from this walk-in you have to wait for them to tell you where they put it or it will take you twice as long to find it. The second of the two walk-ins is garde managers and the back part instead of being a freezer is where we keep all of our meats and fish. The front part is all garde mangers stuff, and is where you would go to find the dressings or cold soups, as well as a lot of other open ingredients that we just don’t want to put in the sous chef’s walk-in or reach-in, that is all the way back up front by the bake shop door.

Now that the outside walls and walk-ins have been paid a visit let’s take a gander at the work tables and stations themselves. The first thing that you WON’T notice is that it’s set up in a “G” shape, I’m really not joking around this time. We have a long table along the right wall, a long table along the back wall, a long table along the left wall, and a wood topped chopping station that cuts in to make the top of the “G” inside the little cubby is another small table that is placed to give more workspace but it’s still a “G”! Oh one thing I forgot to say is to please mind your heads as the snakes that hang down from the ceiling like to bite people. Ok, your right, we don’t have snakes hanging down from the ceiling but there are three wind up extension cords hanging around that don’t always like to wind all the way back up so still watch your heads. Now under each of the tables are bowls, and bins full of random things, there is even a salad spinner under there! All of the tables have drawers on them and, depending on the one that you open, it could hold any number of things from a hand-held immersion blender, to a set of carving tools, to a drawer full of old orders, and I mean really old, circa 1999 old… But there you have it, that is our garde manger room, sadly it seems like we won’t have to dodge our garde manger sous chef and his ice carving chainsaw today. However if you want to see it it’s under the table in the back right corner next to the hand washing sink.

The garde manger room holds a soft spot in my heart, maybe it’s the tables being set up like a “G” or maybe it’s because this is also where the night line does its prep for service. Whatever the case may be, I always have a lot of fun in this room. Even for things like the cleaning of lobster, everyone was joking and laughing the entire time. It’s also really cool to see all the stuff we make and put out for parties or buffets from this room. You will find all kinds of people who just escape to this room for a while to work on a project and not be bothered by the hustle and bustle of the main kitchen. Now this doesn’t mean we don’t do work or it doesn’t get crazy in here, but even if it is crazy or we have 20 things to do in an hour’s time we still all seem relaxed and still find a way to have a good time…

Well ladies and gentlemen, chef fans of all ages, we have come to the part that everyone has been waiting for: the main line! Upon exiting the garde manger room you will see a little small walk way between the wall on our right and the end of the back line. If you would please walk all the way to the front of the line we will begin out tour here. As we all exit the back line area we are presented with a few other small details before we go in-depth with the main line. The front part of the kitchen has 3 long metal tables set in front of the expo station of the main line itself, and these tables are where waiters and waitress pick up the food before they go out the right side doors into the main club dining room. Now the right side doors are clearly marked enter but just for safety sake they still have a small window stuck in the middle of the sea of white that makes up the rest of the door. The left side is marked do not enter, but unlike the right side only has one door but the right has two doors to lessen the noise from the kitchen out into the main dining room. We are not really allowed out into the main dining room except to clock in and out, so I have only ever really seen brief images of white tablecloths set with wine glasses. I do know that there is a room off to the right that can be used for private events and that they have two terraces, the upper and lower terraces. There is a bar or cocktail lounge, and then way over by the front desk is the card room, which is used for meetings or small removed-from-the-dining-room quiet parties or buffets, like wakes…

To the right of the two doors out into the dining room is our server cage, I mean station. This is where all of the extra cups and glasses are stored as well as the coffee tea, soda makers/machines are. They also have bread warmers in here to keep the bread hot and ready to eat, not that you can’t eat cold or room temperature bread, the members just don’t like to. A little bit past the server station is an office for someone, who is never in there, then you have a mop/chemical storage area, and finally an exit that runs right past the garde mangers windows. Please don’t take that exit door as we have no reason to leave just yet. Back up front by the main dining room doors you will see our main dish pit, with its wall of never moving cups and wine glasses. No really I have never seen the stacks of cups and wine glasses move or get bigger, it’s like they couldn’t find a spot for them so they just stuck them there to create a wall in front of the dish pit. This does obstruct our view of the dish pit, but you know what it’s a dish pit, who can’t figure out what one of them looks like. Oh you in the back don’t know what a dish pit looks like…? Alright well then you have a long table with a triangle cover over the top so that way you can put plates on the table and glasses in the glass racks that are on the triangle top. Inside the dish pit there is surprise, surprise a sink and a spray house to wash the excess food off the plates. There is rack after rack of plate and pan holders so that they can go through the industrial dish washer. This dishwasher pushes the dishes in one side and they get feed out the back side all clean and very hot. The dishwasher next loads them onto a clean dish cart and takes them back out in the kitchen where they belong.

At this point we are standing next to a set of sliding white doors that have a pad lock on them. Now, for the longest time I had not seen them unlocked or ever used so I never really wondered what was inside them. Mysteries were solved and while I really don’t know what I was expecting it was a simple closet that Chefs Cupboard  used to hold the extra drinks that they stock, mineral water soda cans etcetera, etcetera. However, since we are standing right next to the main doors of the kitchen, side let’s take a quick look inside. We are not allowed in here unless you are an employee of the Cupboard so it will have to be a very quick look. As you enter you are faced with a prep and work table that also has a scale on it. To the right you have a storage closet for other dry or non-perishable items. To the left are two deli cabinets. The one closest to us as we enter is full of that day’s pre-made take-home meals, lunch or dinner, as well as some other platters of items. Next is a small work station that is directly across from the soup warmers so that they can have a different soup each day. Then, we come to the far deli cabinet, and this one is stocked full of imported caviars and cheeses, and all the accoutrements to go with them. Members can also get basic needs items like newspapers and small toiletries like razors here. In the middle is the cash register and order station. Members can come here and request a dinner be made or to set up catering for a house party as well as call the phone in the cupboard itself. I said earlier when we toured the back shop that it too had a door into the cupboard and you can see the deli case on that side full of pastries and desserts and cakes. This is also the side that you will find the fresh-baked breads of all kinds. The bread ranges from pretty good to wow… The French baguettes are, well perfectly French and amazing as well as the croissants. What would you expect from the bakery in a French Master Chef’s kitchen? This is about as long a look as we can get so everyone back out the door we came in and back into the kitchen and let us take our first gaze at the line in all its glory and power.

The outside line is a place of calm and controlled chaos at times. First of all, the outside line is split into a few sections; on our right is a set of shelves leading over to the pantry line and window. On the shelves are to go containers, extra supreme bowls, and sometimes the round inserts for chaffers and buffet utensils. On the outside of the pantry line and window you have open-faced metal cabinets that we use to store extra plates. Now, this counter creates a little bit of a counter top in front of the pantry window that we use to put plate covers and stage orders before they get put on trays and run to the tables. While we are over here on the pantry side you can see the two long tables that run the full length of the hot line. These tables are used for prep before service, and during service they are used to hold trays so that food can be staged then run once it is ready to go out. Splitting the tables is a trash can that is convenient for prep and wiping down the tables at the end of the night. Under the table closest to the pantry window you will find our big lexans and under the far table you will see tray storage and drying racks. At this point we are coming to the chef’s turf. Just like the pantry line there is an outside cabinet once again filled with plates. But this cabinet and the under window are plate warmers. Close to the far end where the ally way between the front and back lines is at, is a soup warmer and an open cabinet on the bottom for bowls and sauce boats. Chef will pace back and forth between the long window and the small sauté window all night calling tables to be run to the runners and expediting the food. He has plate covers and his tray of garnishes in front of him, and right behind him, on the long tables, are the lists of tables on the reservation for that night and he crosses them off as parts come in so that he knows when to tell us “all in”. In front of the long window are two rows of clip strips for tickets to be hung. The bottom for orders in and the top for orders fired.  With the mindset of fire and orders I think it is finally time for us to tour the main hot line.

Let’s take our tour around to the far end of the line that is over by the ally that I am so found of. I’m starting here for another reason besides that it flows better from the sauté station down to the grill, and because this is the side that is used for breakfast in the mornings as well. Breaking two eggs at the same time as it where. As we enter the hot line I recommend that you please keep your arms, legs, and anything else that you don’t want to get burned in a safe place, because it’s hot back here. Maybe it’s the salamander, or the 12 burner range for the sauté station. Maybe it’s the warming top next to this for keeping sauces or butter that you need on hand hot, and melted in the butter’s case. Regardless of why, it’s hot back here so please be careful, I don’t need to get sued for one of my tour guest burning themselves. Getting back on track as you look down the hot line from the sauté station you can see that on our left from the ally side is the line itself which I have already talked a little bit about. It does have a 12 burner range with a salamander, or broiler for anyone who may not know what a salamander is, above this. Then we come to the warming plate which I think can be turned on as well to act as a French range or a small flattop, but since it is right next to the real flattop that we have I don’t really know why it is where it is. Now, anyone who has seen or had to clean a flattop knows that they are black or brown and in parts silver when not turned on. No matter how hard we scrub them they tend to just stay that way, right? WRONG! I have found while working down here that there is a flattop cleaning gel that will clean a flattop no matter how it looks back to brand spanking new. I would not be surprised at all if this gel was actually some kind of acid as it smells awful and makes you light-headed when you use it to clean the flattop, but it does make it squeaky clean. Before I move onto the remaining part of the hot line I want to stop and have everyone look over at the front part of the line. Here you will see a few things; first that on the end of each side of the hot line is an open cabinet for putting extra things that we use a lot of each day. Down on the “ally” end are things like boxes of oatmeal and grits with extra pan spray. Also at each end of the line is a reach in/lowboy combo. They have four drawers on them and a three compartment top. In the morning, the sauté station one is filled up with eggs, omelet supplies, pancakes and French toast. The main reason that we use the sauté station as our breakfast station is because it has a range next to the flattop so that means we don’t have to walk as far. In the morning we use the small window down in front of the sauté station, and more than anything else it also has a microwave/oven that can and is used to “reheat”, or make soup and coffee nuclear in temperature. Getting back to the line, I have already said that there is a small cabinet and reach-in/lowboy on each end of the line and continuing with the front part of the hot line, each side also has a sink next to the reach-in/lowboy and then we have a long counter top that is split by three warming wells. This is where we put the starch and vegetables as well as all of the six different sauces we could need to use that night. As I said when we were out front of the hot line, the plate warmers back up to the counter top and can be accessed from both sides of the line, so that on the inside we can get hot plates and on the outside they can load in plates to be warmed up. Note of caution that the plates will burn you just as badly as any pan or oven will. I have burns on all of my finger tips and palms because the plates come out of the warmer so hot. Then, on top of the plate warmers are the windows which have heat lamps built into them so that the food stays warm before it gets run. Below the main line counter top and both sinks is an open cabinet where we keep tools, or spices like salt, pepper, and even things like oil and wine to top off our bottles. Before I move back to where the real action is I want to point up above your heads to the rusty death trap that is our utensils rack. Alright so it’s not that bad but picture if you will a triangle shape set of steel reinforcements for  the Eiffel Tower that are now hanging from the ceiling by metal chains. On this set death trap are metal spikes that we hang whisk, tongs, spoons, ladles of all sizes, and spatulas. I know that I have hit my head a few times on low hanging or long-handled tools and when you’re in the middle of service and plates are flying everywhere it only takes a whisk handle to bump you in the head to really confuse you. So, the Hot Line is like a game or obstacle course that adds another fun and interesting challenge to the night. Speaking of interesting, or, if you’d rather, wicked cool: the pasta cooker. Or maybe it’s a demonic baby bath because that what it looks like. You know those sinks that are square for kids that you can give them a bath in? Ok, take that, and cover it in metal, put a metal grate and basket inside of it, and oh yes let’s not forget a metal probe that will still shock the hell out of you when cleaning the tank. Then, add a self filling water tank that can bring and hold water at a constant boil and water level for hours at a time and you have the coolest thing in the world for a kitchen. This thing is perfect for blanching tons of vegetables at a time and in quick succession. Need to cook of 40 Lbs of pasta for that night? Whatever, it takes 30 minutes, tops. I want one of these things. Next to this we have a little fry basket, or baby wash tub of doom basket, holder and a cubby hole for whatever you need to have there, almost always extra salt and peppers. Then we have our fryer for the hot line, and I have to ask why and who in their right mind would put a fryer next to a boiling tub of water? I mean come on there is like a foot of space between them, oh right the little metal “shields” on the side of the fryer… that is what is behind the middle station all night long in front of you the hot box with plates that will burn your fingerprints off. A metal counter top, which is the same temperature as the steam table it holds, a metal spiky tool hanging death trap above your head, and tub of boiling water and oil at your backs. I love working the middle it’s fun and exciting to say the least. Then we move on to a smaller 8 top range with another salamander for the grill guy. Like the sauté guy he has ovens below this and then you have the grill, which is, well, a grill. The cabinet on this side of the line is mostly empty and is used to store knife kits or tool boxes of employees. There is a secret about this cabinet though, all of the hood vents above the line have little exhaust ports that filter the air out and blow it back into the kitchen, and one of the vents just happens to blow down on this cabinet so it’s the coolest part of the kitchen in service.

Now I direct your attention back to the pantry side and the bake shop door area. In front of us now is a rolling freezer that we use to hold anything we might need on the line for orders or the breaded and fried goat cheese we use on one of the salads. The freezer is also almost always used as a prep top or dirty dish holder during service. But this is also the start of the pantry, well kind of anyways; it’s more of the lead into it. Up against the outside wall and right next to the back show door is the start of the double bay sink and a metal shelf that run down to the first part of the pantry station. This creates a walkway path into the pantry station and it’s only one way in or out which dead ends against the outside of the Chef’s Cupboard wall. There is always a fish tub of softened butter on the shelf and more often than not our cups or bottles that we drink out of during service. The pantry really starts after you get past the support pillar, which is more of a wall really. They even put a paper towel dispenser on it so I would say that makes it a wall. However on the other side of the wall is the pantry in its full splendor. We are graced with two lowboy grade manger style stations both are long two compartment stations and they are set back to back. The one facing the line is used to store the entire mise en place for creating that night’s salads or other cold items. Things like our Florida salad or the one with the fried goat cheese as well as different pâté’s and the cold soups. In the one behind us we store pre-plated salads or smoked salmon plates and use the small compartment to hold berries, or other small garnishes like micro greens. Then we have a large 3-door floor-to-ceiling refrigerator where the first to doors are used to store sheet pan racks of the night lines prep and back up. The farthest or last one is used for the entire breakfast pantries mise en place. Looking out of the pantry you are looking through a set of shelves that run from wall to wall and is where we send out the salads and even keep our mixing bowls on the top so that they can be easily grabbed in service. The pillars that hold up the shelves act as natural dividers, apps and salads go in the middle and biggest part, and desserts go to the right side, and second course or entrées go to the left.  There is also a left and right counter top work or prep spot on both sides of the lowboy. This gives the two people who normally work pantry at night space to work and it also gives a place to put our ice buckets for crab and shrimp cocktails.

Alright ladies and gentlemen, that is all there is to the main kitchen, let’s all meet back up on the back dock really fast before we get to take a ride on the fabled golf cart. If you would all please walk out the French screen doors and join me there is a bench to the right if you feel like sitting, and there are even a few milk crates or bread racks that you can sit down on.  You will notice the awning and a metal shelving unite that never has a thing on it, and a few hanging plants. You will see the stairs down to the ground as well as the truck dock itself. Around the corner to the left is first our glass, aluminum, and plastic recycling cans. This is split by a wall to keep out cardboard and trash dumpsters because they might just go somewhere if they didn’t have walls on the sides of them, but I guess it has worked because we haven’t had any roving dumpsters attacking people… Also, right after the dumpsters is the chemical room and mop storage area. As you go down the steps you will see our transport van for moving food and other items around the club,  that is if it’s not something small that can fit in one of the golf carts. The van is normally parked in front of the loading dock or in front of our used oil and grease dumpster, and instead of just walls to keep it in this one has a yellow chain link fence to keep it locked in place. And that brings us to a little path that leads up to a small stair case that acts as a back door to the Chef’s Cupboard and also where the executive sous chef likes to hide out and smoke in peace. Right past the entrance to this is a small green shack which, as far as I know, is just a shack. Maybe it’s used to hold extra chargers and batteries for the golf carts but I would think those would be down at the maintenance building. Anyways, we have reached the golf cart and now have three different ones to pick from: the Chef’s cart which is the fastest, our pickup truck bed golf cart, and the white one. I was told on the first day not to steal chef’s golf cart, and that he turns it off so it won’t go, but a little trick I have learned when I have to use a golf cart and his is the only one around, our mailbox keys work on the golf carts…

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