3.22.2009

Why we say goodbye.

It's 5:30.  It's hot.  Prep period started calmly, then slowly built into a frenzy of chopping and reducing and cussing and sweating and a constant stream of "How we doin boys?  We gonna make it?"  The dining room is packed.  Stoves are full.  The oven is making a horrible sound, and the sautee guy isn't happy about it.  The wood isn't burning nicely, and as each minute ticks by, it seems like you can actually hear everyone's blood pressure rising.  Line up is a mess, and the grill guy didn't know that he had the fish special tonight.  In the minutes before service starts, everyone gets very quiet.  My heart is racing, and a scowl has appeared on my forehead.

At 5:58, there is no looking back.  The cooks race around, filling their water cups, washing down stations, or going to the bathroom.  As we pass each other, we take a moment to look each other in the eye, and slap hands. 
  • "See you in seven hours."
  • "Have a good ride."
  • "Try not to fuck it all up tonight."
  • "Love you long time big boy."
And sometimes it's just a nod, or a pat on the back.  But why say goodbye?

When a cook is in service, they change.  The basic traits and qualities (or flaws) remain, but they are amplified.  Adrenaline starts to flow, and the rush doesn't stop for hours.  Everyone bounces around, and all sorts of ticks start to show.  (I flick my fingers back and forth, Ponder twists and dances, Paulie spins)  This combination of overt confidence, adrenaline, and fear makes a sickening stew that manifests itself though cussing, insults, and glares.  It might look like a ballet to you, but to us it mostly feels like a fist fight.  If you were to take your favorite sports team, and have them bone down with an expert carpenter and a talented architect, you would be left with the bastard quintuplets that make your food.  And they aren't always nice to each other.

The good news is that once the first few tickets start to come in, everyone settles a bit.  Hopefully a rhythm develops, and by the end of it all there are pats on the backs, and smiles.  Every now and again though, things go sour, and two cooks that might be great friends outside the kitchen turn on each other.  Or the sous might light up a cook, and hours later the aftershock of that interaction can still be felt.  At the end of the night though, a pro knows that the service is ancient history.  It's time to move on, chat casually and have a beer.  An amatuer holds onto all the bad feelings, and you can see their spirit collapse as time goes on.

We say goodbye because we're excited for the moment when you get to see our friends again.  We say goodbye because it's a sign of respect and friendship.  And it's comforting, because you know that the other cooks want to see the real you at the end of it all as well.


notes:
  • Merrell turned 40 this week.  Happy birthday Merrell
  • If your purse is as big as a duffel bag, it might be too big
  • You just don't hear Flowers For Algernon jokes every day
  • Ask Corey about his sex chicken
  • You're fucking out Larry and Terry
  • If the Mongoose thinks you're running a scam, you probably are
  • tights are not pants.
  • Carrots and ras el hanout are best friends
  • If you end up chatting with an AT&T mobile phone policy maker, kick him or her in the shin for me
  • When you get home from a strip club, the first thing you need to do is take a shower
  • I'm in this article about twitter with Ruth Reichl and Daniel Patterson

quotes and conversations

Corey:  If you do a good job, come over and we can play anal tongue darts.
Merrell:  Can I go first?

"If this turns out to be a throwdown with Bobby Flay, i'm gonna be pissed."
-Chef.  Food network visited this week

Me:  Should we ask Al to be on our softball team?
Corey:  Yeah, we could use a scorekeeper.

"I was looking in SFGate to see if anyone got murdered last night."
-Maritess.  Concerned about guests.

"Some words I have a hard saying."
-Goose.  Has a hard saying sometimes.

"I don't have a penis!"
-Merrell.

"You know what I did today?  I woke up, made oatmeal.  And coffee.  Boned down, then went to Outer Sunset for dim sum.  Shaved, then came here."
-Goose.  Had a busy morning.

Me:  What are you taking pictures for?
Kim:  You take pictures all the time!
Me:  Yeah, for my website.



from top:  tools, salty duck pancetta, spill, pasta, leg of lamb, spring is here, ponderdinner, cupcake, i love salad, the dr., radishes, food network, cozy, maritess, calamari

13 comments:

Sarah said...

Great post, but I can especially appreciate the photos. *still chuckling*

-Sarah

Matt said...

we had one of those shitstorm services last night...goodbye slow season, hello busy season (i hope)

keep up the great work man...looking forward to the podcast

Purest Green said...

Fantastic post - so insightful. The last photo is truly bizarre.

Not The Rockefellers said...

You always leave me wanting more...

I love the way you set up your blog as four courses.

Peace - Rene

Matty said...

What's a "slow season"?

kirchartfour said...

awesome leg of lamb

Lisa said...

I'd like to leave glorious remarks about another excellent post but the 12-year-old in me is still giggling over the "creative" use of asparagus. :)

And the last pic reduced said 12-year-old to happy tears.

Foodie Writes... said...

Couldn't agree more with this entry. I love this. Most people don't get how we work the way we do and maintain the bonds and friendships that we do. Keep rockin it out on here. Love it.

don't touch my knife said...

boss post man. i know exactly what youre talkin' about. i think the "quiet before the storm is a universal kitchen phenomenom". in my old kitchen we used to butt heads like you see in soccer temas form Europe.
that is undeniably the sexiest spoon ive ever seen, but $27?1? christ-cakes, i'll use a dixie disposible. merrell is 40? she looks like 28. Corey should adress the sex chicken next podcast or after teh baby.

FGF said...

"You always leave me wanting more..."

Um, guy's don't really want to hear those exact words.

GRUNTSHIT said...

Fantastic post man!

Not The Rockefellers said...

FGF, Oh man! I didn't even think of that.

But is "Ok,that's enough" or "I'm good for now" any better?

I guess the best thing to say is nothing at all.

It's not polite to talk with your mouth full anyway. ;)

cookingkid said...

It's good to see another kitchen appreciates 'the joke that never gets old'.