Monday, October 26, 2009

Time flies when you are having!

This will be my 4th week at my PT job at the restaurant! I am happy to report I am still loving it and learning SO much! I have also decided that "Boss Lady" needs a better sounds too negative. What do you think about Lady Chef? Much better, isn't it? She may be a little feisty, but she is no Gordon Ramsey, that's for sure. She gives me such great advice for culinary school, and I am hoping that I remember it all!

Each night I work, I have a different job to do depending on what they are serving and what needs to be finished before our first reservation at 6pm. One night I peeled and cut carrots, another night I peeled and washed brussel sprouts, and the last night I worked...I got to work the cold station! Woo hoo!

Now, if you are not in the kitchen biz, as I am not, you may not know all the fancy terms. But a "cold station" pretty much tells it like it is: cold foods, ie, foods that don't need to be cooked. That night it was just Lady Chef and I in the kitchen and let me tell you, I was NERVOUS! Cold station means preparing salads and appetizers. As easy as this may sound to you, the pressure of making sure EVERY DISH LOOKS THE SAME AS THE LAST is actually nerve racking. BUT, I made sure to have Lady Chef look at everything and asked plenty of questions to be sure I had them right!

For the appetizers, I helped make the pate` plate by making a "mini greens" salad w our house dressing. Easy enough. The second was a tray with 4 square bowls that contained one of the following: Tuscan bean dip, stuffed grape leaves, a variety of olives, and home made crustini's. YUM! Anyhow, it's all about the presentation, so I added the garnish and she told me I did a great job. YAY for me!

Salads were next, so I watched Chef Lady prepare the first few as she described to me how they are presented and what to do. Since we mix the dressing with the salads before they go out, you need to taste it to be sure the correct amount of vinaigrette is on the salad. (BTW, "dressing" is not kitchen terminology...we call it vinaigrette.)

I also prepared 3 of the beet salads after watching Chef Lady create the first one. This was one of my favorites, because the presentation is just beautiful and colorful as well. Two types of beets: red and pickled, along with orange slices, salt and pepper, and garnished with candied orange peel.

Along with the responsibility of the cold station is to help garnish the main dishes. We use fresh edible flowers and herbs for all of our dishes and it just makes the presentation pop. My favorite main dish to garnish was the shrimp, because she plates it fancy with the tails up.

I am still learning some great lessons in the kitchen, and thought I would share them. In no particular order:

1. ALWAYS ask and don't assume: If you are asked to cut carrots, DO NOT assume they are cut the same way as the last time you cut them. We ended up salvaging the carrots I cut incorrectly, but it is important to know EXACTLY what the chef wants you to do with them.

2. Thoroughly wash your veggies: Celery can sometimes have a tight seam that you can't get to with simply rinsing. Either use a small brush such as a toothbrush, or slice in half lengthwise before washing.

3. Have a GOOD TIME! Working in the kitchen is not for everyone. Be prepared to do whatever it takes to make it a successful night. You are part of a team and also need to carry a positive relationship with the servers. If you are not having fun, then you are not in the right job. :) Fortunately, for me it's a blast!

4. If you think you are a good cook, think again. I consider myself, and have been told by others, I am a really good cook. That ALL goes out the window after working in a professional kitchen. I told Lady Chef from Day 1 to "assume I know nothing" about cooking and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. I am not saying that I am a bad cook, by any means, but just realize there is a bit of humility involved by stepping into someone else's kitchen.

5. Recipes, recipes. Everyone wants you to share them, but do you know why chef's do not share them? Recipes are like intellectual property, and if cooks went around telling their secrets, well then, why would people dine at their establishment when they could make it at home? OR who knows, the competition may start selling the same dish and their goes your unique restaurant. You must make sure that if you work in a kitchen, the chef's recipes are kept in the kitchen. I may talk about how individual ingredients are prepped, but I will NOT share any full recipes, so don't ask. :)

There is just so much more for me to learn, and I look forward to my new adventure every time I go into work! Tomorrow I get to go in early to make desserts!!

I also have good news on the PC front...I earned another $50 bonus (I have already received $100 of bonuses!) and I am hoping to earn a few more of them in the next month or so! Woo hoo! I had a great show last week, so I am really close to meeting my personal goals. I know that I have to work harder than I have been to get myself in the financial position I need to be in, so I am trying really hard to keep up with my daily to-do lists! I have to admit the P-Monster (procrastination) rears its ugly head from time to time, so my lists and goal tracking seem to keep him at bay!

Here's to another week of fulfilling my lust for life.....salute!

All photos courtesy of

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Starches, suds, and snacks...oh my!

I am excited to report that my first day with my PT job was a success!! What an exciting and adventurous way to start out my new career path! I had so much fun and I have already learned a few tips from the chef, who I will refer to as 'Boss Lady' until I come up with something better.

I arrived at 4pm (actually about 10 min early. Yea, that shocks me too, lol.) and "punched in". After taking a small tour of the place, and a quick "lesson" on dish washing and sanitizing, I put on an apron and got to work. My first "job" was to peel and cut up potatoes. With this task, I learned that if you keep potatoes in water after peeling, and again after chopping up, they will not turn brown. The water also washes the starch off, which is great for non-sticky mashed potatoes.

After the potatoes, I made several little garlic butter dollops on baking sheets and placed them in the freezer for later use. The Boss Lady uses them while cooking, as they are the perfect size to saute one serving of veggies. The butter mixture was made previously in a Cuisinart, I loaded into a pastry bag, lined the baking sheets with parchment paper, and dolluped away. Lesson learned with this activity: use ALL of the contents of the Cuisinart bowl, even if you have to use your fingers. Boss Lady told me that there was too much left over in the container, and that I will definitely need to know this in school. I totally appreciated that tip!

Boss Lady showed me how to tell the "doneness" of a steak. There are parts of your hand that you can feel to compare to rare, med-mare, and medium. Of course, I can't show you on the blog, but on my hand the part below my thumb is rare, the part by my pinky is medium, and the parts between my fingers are med-rare. I actually learned what a rare steak feels like by actually touching one...and YES, my hands were clean. Interesting!

Garshing! Ok, I have to admit, this is one of my favorite things!! ;) To prep for the garnishing, Boss Lady had me pull off 40 geranium buds from the front of the restaurant and rinse them for garnishes. Then, I picked out the "good" cranberries to set aside for the dessert garnishes.

Speaking of desserts, I was SO excited to learn to plate desserts! This was by far the most fun thing of the whole night! I have to admit, I was nervous at first, my first night and I am plating?! I told Boss Lady to 'assume I know nothing' when it comes to cooking, but she obviously was confident in my skills. With the dessert plating, I felt like I had a real part in the customers experience. There were 3 different desserts, a mini apple cake, an apricot cake, and another pastry that was surrounded in icing and had caramel topping, 4 raspberries, and whipped cream. YUM. Each one was plated differently, but all of them had the geranium buds that I picked and a few mint leaves. Half-way through the night, I was given the name "Dessert Lady" by the servers. How cool. I learned that when you plate, you must make sure that every time to plate a specific dish, it MUST look the same as the last time. Consistancy is very important in the restaurant business, a customer expects the same service, and same product each time they come in. GREAT advice!

My main job throughout the night was to wash and sanitize dishes. This needs no description, but I learned the importance of sanitation in a kitchen. And here I thought I was it turns out, I am probably not THAT sanitary at home and that kind of creeped me out.

My job is also to do whatever Boss Lady tells me to do. She's super cool and showed me some cool tips throughout the night and also let me taste some of her creations. The wild rice with cranberries, fish crusted with walnuts, rosemary, etc., and the little apple cake that was a "reject" since the ice cream melted before the server picked it up. Oops. Note to self: pick cold plate from the bottom of the stack for ice cream instead of the hot ones from the dishwasher. Oh, and some kind of tasty pepper, it was red but not a bell, a piece of cheese, and an awesome chocolate espresso cookie. lol. I guess I had several "mini snacks" throughout the night.

It was quite an adventure and the night flew by! Boss Lady must have liked me too, because she asked if I could work an additional night. Woo hoo! This week I will be working 3 nights, including a Friday which should be SUPER busy! The coolest part about Friday is that my cousin is working that night as well. No nepotism here, lol!!

Well, there you have it, Day 1. :)

Monday, October 5, 2009


I can't believe I let so much time lapse from my last post!! Whoa!

I officially start my kitchen job on Wednesday! I am super excited, but I have to admit I am a little nervous, but who wouldn't be....I am diving into not only a new job, but a completely new field! I can't wait to learn with the pros - in school and also at work. I am so blessed to have found something that totally excites me and fits me perfectly.

It's a short one today, because I smell popcorn. Yum. More later.