Thursday, April 8, 2010

He's back. Zut Alors!

So, the other day I was thumbing through the pages of My Table, a foodie magazine for Houstonians. It gives you a list of restaurant openings and closings, farmers markets, best place to find (insert item here), etc. for the Bayou City. Curious of the new chefs in town and what the next place "to be seen" at would be, I eagerly read the articles, absorbing any new tid bit that might be beneficial in my search for employment or just for general recreational hot spots. I was sadly disappointed that nothing new had really come about since last month's issue. I was about to close the mag and toss it atop the discarded pile of gastronomic literature, when something caught my eye... And there it was, in bold print, the name of the chef I had worked for back during my internship. Immediately, I felt my stomach seize and I could hear that wicked, French accent of his shouting my name...Zhenni! Ugh, my stomach is seizing even as I write this. Bleck. Oh, how I loathe that man. It seems as if he is opening up a new restaurant after two years of "research". Apparently, that must be french for unemployed. That restaurant is one place I WON'T be applying at or referring friends and family to. So, in the spirit of Chef Philippe, I am posting a blurb from one of my email updates that I sent out during my internship. It's two years old but so totally brand new after seeing his name in print. Enjoy.

Well, week one of eight is in the books.

I knew that it wouldn't be an easy week and I knew that it wouldn't be a hand-holding cooking lesson that I experienced at school, but I didn't think it would be as difficult as it was.

The first 2 days were spent shadowing some of the guys in the kitchen. Being that I have never been in a commercial kitchen until this week, I was not prepared for the speed and multi-tasking skills necessary to get the plates out. I knew I would be behind on the learning curve, but I didn't think that I would be so far behind the learning curve that I wouldn't be able to see it. My task this week, as well as the next two weeks, is the saute station. This includes expediting (reading the tickets off to the other stations) making the sauces necessary for my dishes, prepping the ingredients, pan-frying crab cakes and salmon, sauteing calamari, making spinach salads, preparing mussels, making stocks and soups, and whatever else Chef Philippe deems necessary. Monday thru Thursday were "teaching days" and Friday was my first "solo" performance.

I've been yelled at before but never in 3 languages. Chef Philippe (the executive chef) will start out his rant in English then switch to French then the sous chef will carry on the chef's rant in Spanish. You've heard of the people that tear you down to build you back up, right. Well, I would consider myself to be very much in the "tearing down" phase and I'm not sure if or when the "building" phase will begin. Apparently, I am on a need to know basis and at this point, I don't need to know.

I don't think it is fair to say that I hate it. There are parts of the job that I enjoy (pulling out of the parking garage and driving home being my most favorite). Seriously, I am learning a ton of stuff and have a much better appreciation for the men and women in the culinary industry, but I don't think fine dining is where I want to be. To me, food is meant to be enjoyed, regardless if you are the person buying, preparing or eating it. At this point, I'm too worried about whether or not I have the right equipment, if I remember what ingredients go into which dish and if Chef is going to tear into me for using the extra virgin olive oil instead of the blended variety. Every time the printer starts humming and spits out the ticket for the next order, my stomach immediately seizes, and this feeling of panic and fear radiates through my body.

The guy that has been training me the last several days told me on Thursday that there was a bet going on with all the kitchen staff about how long they thought I would last. Apparently the smell of fear precedes me wherever I go. If for nothing other than proving everyone wrong, I'm determined to make it through November 9 come hell or high water.

That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger...the stench of death however is starting to become unbearable.

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