1.18.2010

Composure.

Would you rather work with someone that was fast but a completely out of control, or a person that was slower but composed and in control?
CookhouseSF@linecook As one of the latter I'd like to work with the former
KellyNg1@linecook i would take slower over sloppy anyday. seems easier to speed up a nice slow snail than to tame a rabid slob.
KyleCWilkinson@linecook Fast and out of control. Would balance my slower and more composed workstyle.
theNeilD@linecook What about fast and composed with poise; that's true talent. Those are the people that make you better.
aphexplotz@linecook Slow and composed. I've worked with both, and I'd rather be down one than have someone I can't predict or control.
rupski23@linecook
composed and in control. no question about it. the kitchen is crazy enough that if your leader is spazzing then its gonna be bad..

FattedCalf@linecookComposed. Definitely composed. In my experience, people who go too fast and don't think can really put a banana in the tailpipe.
tournant@linecook slow/in control, for sure. fast/out of control=messy, doesn't listen, takes shortcuts
GuyArnone@linecook fast&out of control = slow for the extra time spent fixing Speedy's mistakes.
gardenstatechef@linecook what's the end product? give me speed and insanity if the plates are perfect.
jesachrist@linecook slower and controlled. Working too fast creates more problems than it solves, and in the long run slows down everyone
most_impressive@linecook Slower, but in control. Speed can be taught, but accuracy and commitment to perfection is more valuable, IMO.
TheNPA@linecook All headway gained by being fast is lost in the ER while the Doc stitches Speedy Gonzales back up.
MatthewSievert@linecook in it to win it baby. Planning will allow for swift execution.
cookerguy@linecook Slower and composed, just not too slow. Fast and out of control disrupts others as well.
ingridc@linecook
If I had to choose I'd go door #2. Out of control cook drags the whole ship down w/ them. Slow affects the line too, but less so.

ingridc@linecook (and for the record I've been both quite enough, thanks!)
Benjamin_Parks@linecook Slower but in control. Chaos always creates more work (cleaning, fixing, etc), so quick chaos just produces more work faster.
cnewton9 @linecookneither, I always try to teach the kids that efficiency=speed vs accuracy, fast but sloppy no good, slow but perfect also no bueno
Gchef703@linecook Slow,Composed and in control FTW! They can always gain speed later. But sometimes speed is what you need! good question.
stresscake@linecookabsolutely slow composed and in control. Frenzy causes stressful miserable work environment. Calmness is more productive over LT

Jerry:
It's looking like a slow Tuesday night, and the cooks are coasting through their prep period, all laughs and smiles. There's a lightness in the air, and there are plans being made for days off. A special family meal is on the stove, and reggae plays on the dining room sound system. Everyone is a quiet shadow of their usual kitchen self. Except for Jerry. Jerry has his headphones in, playing Pantera so loudly that the cooks across the kitchen can hear it. He bounces around nervously, and just before service he jumps around and rolls his head like a boxer getting ready for a fight. The kitchen will do 135 covers tonight. Jerry will treat it like he just defeated the Roman army.

Denise:
The first thing Denise does when she comes in is crack a joke and say hello to everyone in the kitchen. She'll breeze through prep with a smile on her face. Then when things get busy on the second turn, she will completely lose her shit. There will be muttering under her breath, mise slammed around, and a constantly shaking head--like each order on her station is a personal insult to her mother. Denise will stop calling back tickets completely, until things escalate with her sous chef to the point of yelling and him kicking her off the station. Nights like this will happen at least once a week.

Mark:
Mark is the first cook to show up for work, every day. He sets up his station meticulously. There will not be a single detail missed, and he will be almost invisible while he works. There is a quiet dignity to him during this time. Then when service starts he start acting like someone has taped a live grenade to his back. There will be dips and dives and spins and some of the most violent movement you have ever seen. The other cooks will be watching him out of the corners of their eyes. At best, he will end up exhausting the entire kitchen.

Jen:
Jen is like a warm blanket; when she is next to you on the line, you feel comforted...happy. She helps quietly, cooks with dignity, and maintains a level of composure far beyond her years of experience on the line. She never raises her voice, or flails, or loses her temper. Her movements are so fluid they appear slow--yet she's always setting the pace for the other cooks. Sitting with her, eating family meal, you ask her how she does it.
"It's just food, right? Why panic? I'm not doing open chest surgery or anything."

Composure. It's what separates good cooks from great ones. It's that quality that causes a guest to sit and watch, transfixed by the grace and elegance of a dinner service. It's certainly not the most important quality for a cook to have...but it's something that kitchen lifers immediately recognize and come to respect in their peers.

When I started cooking, my only goal was to be fast. Aside from not working clean and generally spinning around in my head, I probably looked like I was having a seizure. Then I started to notice the other cooks around me that were better than me. They were so collected...so expressionless. Did they just not care as much as me? Did they just not take things as seriously? Well, no. They just knew what they were doing. As my sous chef at that time said to me: "You don't want to look like a little bitch."

Time passed on, and as I slowly came to find a comfortable place in my own skin, my movements became more relaxed, but my head didnt. I still felt like I was one step away from flipping over my cutting board, throwing my salt at the food runner, and fist and elbowing my way out of the front door. It would take lying to myself to cure it; daily affirmations of "You're on control, you can cook, you're a motherfucking handsome badass." It sounds ridiculous. It was. And it worked.

Finding a way to be composed makes the other cooks look differently at you. The crew will respect you, your chef will be quietly impressed by you, and your skills will improve. You'll have more energy. And you'll know what to tell Mark when he starts to lose it.

So how do you deal wih it? Where do you find your place of balance? How do you compose yourself when things get crazy?


Notes:
  • That G-Shock lasted a hard 10 years on my wrist. I washed it by putting it through the dishwasher.
  • If the girl is more Ghost World than Mean Girls, it's probably a good thing.
  • When someone says they did a "stint" in a kitchen, what the fuck does that mean?
  • In order to truly find balance in life, I think a person really has to explore every single corner of the human experience before coming back to center.
  • Ingrid writes some good stuff.
  • What's harder to live with: Regret or shame?
  • Podcasts. Really fucking up the whole podcast thing this time around.
  • the howbadcanitget blog could be very hilarious.
  • pastry chefs for the culinary fantasy league. taking nominations now. (amy brown, luis villavelazquez, william werner, bill corbett, melissa chou...who else?)

quotes and conversations.

Goose: Aaah!
Eddie: Did I startle you?
Goose: Nah, I just didn't know you had that much ass.
Eddie: I got a badonkadonk. Where do you think all the hot dogs go?
Goose: (laughs)
Eddie: Put that on your blog.
Me: Oh, i'm going to asshole. That's one of the dumbest things you've ever said.

Me: If you could bone down with a dolphin, would you do it?
Dega: I had a dream that I was swimming with dolphins the other night. You just reminded me.

"I don't like thongs. Does that make me gay?"
-Dega.

Me: If we were on ecstasy, would you suck my toes?
Corey: Probably.
Goose: I would watch if I were on E.
Corey: That would make you gay.

Dega: This girl showed me her mission tattoo. You're gonna get mad. It was a burrito, with the foil folded into wings, wearing Ray-Bans and drinking a Tecate. She was so pumped.
Me: So did she give you syphilis before or after she showed you the tattoo?
Dega: Before.

Me: Why do I always have to ask people to say "I love you" back to me?
Goose: I love you dude.
Me: Man fuck you Goose!

"You know what this music sounds like? The music from Sim City."
-Eddie.

Me: None of my underwear fits anymore.
Amy: What, your dick got smaller?

Me: Would it be weird if I got stigmata out of my butt?
Dega and Amy: That's not stigmata!
Corey: It's called two piece Tuesday. It comes out in two pieces.

Me: How did you come to pee on her?
Dega: She asked me to pee on her.
Eddie: We are living in an awesome time.
Me: Well it had to be in the shower, right?
Eddie: Was it in the shower?
Dega: No.

Me: Eddie, if I asked you on a date, would you expect me to pay?
Eddie: Oh hell yes.
Me: Would you give me some action after?
Eddie: Yes. I might be a lot of things, but i'm no tease.

Me: Man, this restaurant is way busier at Christmas time with that new Bloomingdale's down the street. (pause) Mongoose, there's no Bloomingdale's down the street.
Goose: What the fuck is a Bloomingdale's?

mer mer, through my cup, eating is fun, thats a dumb shirt, can head, tattoo, chef415?, mischief, a lot of data usage.

9 comments:

Frodnesor said...

I always thought the best line cooks had mastered what W.S. Burroughs called the "Discipline of Do Easy" - which Gus Van Sant made a nifty little short film from.

torque said...

pastry chefs for culinary fantasy?

Emily Luchetti & Elizabeth Falkner set the pace in SF for a long time, but I dunno if they're in the right space for what you're lookin for.

Joel said...

You have got to post more! Whats up with the slow posts?

sara. said...

I accidentally stumbled upon your blog in a public library and annoyed everyone by cracking up the whole time. Please write more, I cant get enough of this stuff at work.

don't touch my knife said...

say man, I know its late for you guys but i just saw Nopas spot on food network about the flatbread. It was very cool getting to see yous guys work and recognizing a few folks on the line. the kitchen is sexy as fuck. respect.

Mark said...

May I have some more?

Kelli said...

Wow...long time no post, hope that means all kinds of good stuff is happening, or you are writing a book, or both! Miss your humor...hope all is well!

假日的 said...

good~ keep sharing with us, please....I will waiting your up date everyday!! Have a nice day........................................

JL said...

Where did you go...?