Up to now, my restaurant experience has largely been in the front of the house with brief stints as baristas, dessert makers, dishwashers and cooks. I’m doing my internship at the Hotel Chi Chi here in town, which hosts those who are Somebody during their stays in Nashville and the food reflects that.
I’ve started out in the banquet kitchen with a truly great group of people. Two guys are from the Caribbean and have been amazingly nice to me. The early morning guy who is kind of in charge of Sunday brunch is a local musician and has also been patient and helpful and a wealth of knowledge about the kitchen and music. This past Sunday was one of my breakthrough days. I was so very exhausted. Saturday I had to be up early to meet T at school to assist on the Community Ed. class. That ran to 11:30. I went home to eat lunch and relax for a minute then off to a 9 hour shift at the hotel for a huge bar mitzvah. Up early the next day, Sunday, to work brunch at the hotel at 7. About two hours into the shift, one of the guys asked me to get some soap and clean the tilt skillet (a big electric skillet that tilts up to pour out the contents… just like it sounds). I went off in search of a bain marie and sponge or something. When I got back with my supplies one of the stewards who has been at the hotel for 17 years came up and put his arm around me and said, “Don’t get upset or anything, but we get paid to do this.” I told him that I had been asked to clean it and he said not to, that I should always find the person on the pot sink or him and he would see to it that it got cleaned. He cleaned it, even though he had on chef whites to run food for the brunch buffet, and I felt immediately kind of stupid. I know it seems a small thing, but when you are that exhausted and someone shows the smallest kindness, it can be overwhelming.
I also had to haul out the desserts and the guys stopped me with the speed rack full of desserts and told me to always pull it rather than push it so if it jars all the stuff on the rack doesn’t go flying. Makes sense. After the mild reprimand from the steward and then my almost sending 12 desserts crashing to the floor, I needed a seriously good cry, but it was only 9 AM and I had 6 hours to go on my shift. I went out to the buffet to move stuff around and make sure there were platforms for the desserts and had a little weep and pulled my shit back together before returning to the kitchen to start on the veg medley (which I also screwed up). I got through the shift without further mishap as there was a lot of standing around waiting while brunch wrapped up.
I had promised D-K to help with the inventory and I wanted to take something for the troops and had Keifel whip up the wet and dry ingredients for a couple loaves of banana bread. I got that together, ate some leftovers and headed out with my still steaming loaves into the forward feeder bands of light rain from Katrina. I wound up staying longer for inventory than I had planned, making Keifel somewhat upset with me. Understandable, when he pointed out that over the course of the weekend I had worked 27 1/2 hours. I got home and crashed, but I didn’t get my cry out until later on Monday when I spilled hot chocolate for Julian all over the kitchen. I don’t why that was the straw, but I lost it. I did feel better after a thorough sobfest and the rest of the week has felt positively restful in comparison.
Though I am enjoying the work at the hotel, it is underscoring for me why I don’t want to work in a restaurant setting at the end of this adventure. I don’t think I have thick enough skin, and, let’s be honest, if I haven’t developed it at 32, it probably isn’t going to happen. I also tend to work better in a pattern, like the banquet kitchen, where there is a lot of prep and then a very short interval of insanity. Most restaurants do have a lot of prep but the interval of insanity can be all the evening hours of service. I just know this isn’t my temperament and that I want to have time to write, which isn’t happening at the moment and I want to be home for Julian as much as possible as he moves into junior high and high school. I also know that I enjoy teaching more than anything. I guess that may make me one of those people to whom the “those who can do, those who can’t teach” saying refers. But, I think that is a stupid saying that denigrates the teaching profession and I think the internship is proving I can do, I just don’t want to do, at least not long term.
In other culinary school news, classes have started anew and I am up to my eyeballs in Excel for my purchasing and cost control course. Not my forte but definitely useful information to have. I am also taking Culinary III which pivots more on buffet production. It’s tonight, late 5-9:55, but I don’t have class tomorrow as CK is out of town.
In other culinary news, this weekend marks the tenth anniversary of Julian’s birth and we are having a dinner party at the home of CajunScorpioGirl and the Carpenter. Seven, relatively kid-friendly, courses served by waiters (CSG and the Carpenter) with Keifel as the maitre d’ with his best bad French accent and me as the chef, of course. I think it will be fun. Pictures and a full menu to follow.