Do you cook?

You've been on the meat station for eight months now, and after rotating through hot apps, pasta, and fish, you feel like you've found your niche.  In the beginning it was all bad;  missed temps, scorched lamb saddles, and over salted steaks.  But as time went on, you started to kill it.  There was fluidity in your movements, and a confidence in your approach.  You were quickly accepted as a member of the "A" team.  Service stopped being a struggle, and instead became second nature.  If your brigade was a sports team, you would easily be one of the star players.  Your ego grew a bit, but that was ok.  You really felt like a cook.

It's just past midnight on Saturday, and you're at the bar with your crew.  Over a handful of beers and shots, you talk shit, and brag about how no one else can hold down your station like you do.  Everyone is patting themselves on the back, and feeling cocky.  When cooks from a chain restaurant down the street walk in, everyone puffs their chest out a bit more; your crew is the made up of the best cooks in town, and you know it.  You notice that your sous isn't having any part of the festivities, and is casting a sideways glance at you in particular...but you ignore it and take another shot.

The next day you're breezing through prep, having a laugh with your crew, and still talking shit.  As you wipe down your station, your sous walks over and places an onion in front of you.
"What's up?"
"Brunoise.  I'm timing you.  Go."
You hear the beep of his stopwatch as he looks sternly at you.  At first you laugh...then you realize he's not joking. 
"Go motherfucker.  I said im timing you."
You halve the onion, peel it, and a short time later, you're done.  He runs his hand through your brunoise, and holds up the ends of the onion, still whole.
"What about these?"
You say nothing.  He sifts through the brunoise, picking out any irregular pieces.
"And this.  It's not very uniform, is it?  That took you over 2 minutes.  The extern does it faster than you." 
He steps in closer to you.
"This was a fucking onion.  You talk a big game for a guy that barely brunoise."

A cook that works dinner service is a different animal than the am prep cook.  PM cooks have more moves and a different energy level...but what about their skill set?  An am cook typically handles the bulk of the evenings prep work...while holding down a lunch station.  They braise your proteins, roast your veg, and generally make sure things are nice and tidy for when you step onto the station.  They receive none of the praise of the dinner cook...even though the PM shift is essentially just heating things up.  The pm shift can bang out hundreds of covers, but can they actually cook?

Working at night, you risk becoming a line monkey.  Your entire service is spent in the haze of an adrenaline rush, constantly dipping and diving, just trying to keep things moving.  It's easy to become lost in this...to start to feel like you're progressing.  But is your skill set diminishing?  Have you stuck with the basics?  When you think about it, cooking a dinner service sometimes involves very little actual cooking.  You might be a hardcore sautee cook, or a creative genius when it comes to your menu...but when was the last time you made pasta, from start to finish?  Have you ever worked a prep shift?  Are you relying on someone else to do the bulk of your work?  Do you deserve to be called a "linecook?"

  • ty-flo?  that sounds like a bathroom problem. -eddie lau (hotfoodporn)
  • if you were to cook as fast and hard as you could--like the deepest weeds you had ever been in--how long could you sustain that pace?
  • Not so many people comment anymore.  Nowadays it's all about the twitter replies on my posts.
  • Eddie Dick used to be such a nice boy before he started working at Nopa.
  • why do all hapa guys have the same haircut?
quotes and conversations.

"The thing I like about Project Runway is that it's a developmental experience."
-Eddie.  Likes Project Runway.

Merrell walks in with two guys.
"That better be your brother Mer-Mer or you're gonna be in trouble."
-Camaal.  Protective.

Me:  OK, add an osso bucco.
Eddie:  OK.  Two pork, two pasta, one fish.
Me:  No.  Two pork, fish, pasta, osso bucco.
Eddie:  OK.
Me:  Did I say pasta?
Eddie:  I think so.
Eddie:  OK, so two pork, one osso, one fish, one pasta.
Me:  No asshole!  Two pastas!

Me:  Pick up galactic.  Light speed to the window.  Faster than twelve parsecs.
Maritess:  What?
Me:  You know.  Twelve parsecs.  The Kessel Run.  Fast enough for you old man?
Maritess:  What is that?
Me:  Star Wars dude! 
Maritess:  Which movie?
Me:  A New Hope!  When Obi Wan Kenobi meets Han Solo in the cantina?  Obi Wan asks if the Millenium Falcon is fast, and Han Solo says it made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, fast enough for you old man? 
Me:  Bullseyeing wamp rats in my T-16 back home?
Me:  Arrgh.

"Ill tell you what though.  C&C Music Factory had some kick ass music video's."
-Ponder.  Likes early 90's music videos.

Me:  Eddie, if my dick were made of cheerios, would you pour milk all over it and eat it with a spoon?
Eddie:  Are strawberries involved?
Me:  Absolutely.
Eddie.  Then yes.

Me:  38% said yes, 22% were undecided, and 40% said no.
Goose:  What about the other 10%?
Me:  38 plus 22 is 60.
Goose:  You see?  I didn't do that good in school.
MeWell in school.

"If I have my dick punched through with a metal rod, i'm not gonna make it into work."
-Eddie.  Getting pierced.

Me:  Eddie, wanna get a tattoo?
Eddie:  No.
Camaal:  A butterfly on your ass?

Goose:  Hey dude, can I sing?
Me:  No.
Goose:  Can I sing R. Kelly?
Me:  No.  I will fucking stab you.
Eddie:  Whatta you got against a little bump and grind?

Me:  You wanna be my agent?  I'll give you 2% of whatever I get.
Corey:  Word.  I'll do that shit for free.
Me:  O.K.  You're doing it for free.  It's a deal.
Corey:  No dude!  2%!  I need to buy baby shoes.

Me:  You see Maritess, I spent extra time this week making hypertext links so everything would be extra relevant, and I dont think anyone clicked on them. 
Maritess:  I did!  I clicked on all of them!
Me:  Even shark vagina?
Maritess:  Yes!
Eddie:  I didn't click on shark vagina.  I was there.

Me:  Right Gerardo?  Mer-mer should just bone down nasty style and get it over with.
Gerardo:  I like to use the word raunchy.

from top:  paris, i heart dc, saba glazed cipollini, beautiful black cod, snickers, tattoo, sardines, construction, divis couture, look closely


Pavlov said...

I wasn't there, but I like to think I have a pretty good grasp of shark vagina. WTF... No more hyperlinks... gettin lazy Richie... maybe you need to forget the brunoise and work on your mad hyperlink skills!

Great rant! I know a lot of shit talkers that couldn't hold a few of the lunch crews sabatier... ok they're global but they aren't too many shift from breaking into sabatier!

Lisa said...

Mad love for the Star Wars/R. Kelly/C&C Music Factory stream. And that is some seriously awesome ink.

Great post, as usual, but you knew that already.

mitchellft said...

The ironic thing is that a parsec is not a unit of time, but of distance... silly Han

Unknown said...

A lesson for all of us

Peace - Rene

hjoshua said...

Very true and it needs said more often. I've struggled though a few saute stations but one of my biggest challenges was a prep shift.

ontheline89 said...

you know ive actually had the opportunity to work both shifts at my current restaurant, and what i noticed is that the am prep/lunch cooks talk shit about the dinner cooks and the dinner cooks talk shit about the day cooks. Im sort of the odd man out because ive been in both shoes. when i worked days i would walk in a 7:30 am and go straigt to the 7 inch long prep list written on ticket paper. we walk away for a minute to brew ( a lot of ) coffee, and shortly return to get all of our stocks and sauces on, cutting boards in place and kitchen set up. commence 9-10 hours of prep.

nights is a different animal, we get there at about 2:30 pm, and the kitchen is already set for the most part, some mise has to be changed up but that takes 5 minutes. sauces on, good. protiens ready, good.

we get everything else ready, things here and there. theres always something that fucks us but hey thats an everyday thing. bare down, bang out, clean up, drink, go home, sleep, do it all again tomorrow.

its like night and day.

Unknown said...

It's great to read your thoughtful observations of others... how goes it with your own inner musings?

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

On behalf of all of those who have worked prep and received only shit for something that was missed, I thank you.

adriene crimson said...

I totally clicked on shark vagina and was kinda grossed out so I didn't click your un-marked hyperlinks this week.

don't touch my knife said...

more and more each post i find myself saying, "this motherfucker is writing my life..." in the same way i used to about Bourdain. great photos this go round, new ink in out kitchen too, a pig with the primals cuts labeled out, plus "body by Plugra" on a guys chest.
i usually work prep shift during the day, but i get bored with it. but when im on the line for dinner its just a blur of plates and pans and its over before i know it. i find myself praying for another duece. i live for that rush. i like how ontheline89 said it, " bare down, bang out, clean up, drink, go home, sleep, do it all again tomorrow."
nice boss.

DenaliCook said...

When I work the night line, we always talk shit about the day cooks. When I work days, we just talk shit about the night crew. When I work prep, I'm too fuckin busy to be talking shit. Great post. Thanks.

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood said...

I think your inner musings would be kind of scary

theundergroundrestaurant said...

So true.I always preferred doing the prep shifts. I like cooking.
Now I do it all...the am pm am pm shifts

Matt said...

Thanks Richie for laying it down. Prep is where I learned how to tell the difference between good and bad product. You get into a rhythm during prep, and learn to do it straight up. So no one has to come back and do it again.

Velva said...

I loved this post! Who heck would have known what a brunoise was... I do now, I learned something tonight.

Unknown said...

there's no glory in am service - the stakes aren't quite as obvious without the onslaught of tickets.

an am shift asks more of you, a pm shift just takes it. sure your am cook can't hang during your pm service, but could you pull it off when you're already two men down and your sous doesn't show up?