Laying in bed, writing this blog, it’s raining in Mexico City for the first time since I arrived, 32 days ago. And at midnight tonight, I’m officially half way through my time here. It feels somehow meaningful.
This morning started as per usual – I looked around and realised we lost another intern (Harry Potter). Last night I had seen him give Monica a hand shake at dinner. I wonder if that as his exit? Pepe (who is studying at the Cordon Bleu) also fell off the map this week. Practicantes come and go with such ease here.
I really enjoyed being downstairs again today with the Josper. Roasting my beets late into the morning, I got to mix with the service shift. I’m a fairly social person, so I love getting to know all the staff – hearing their stories and telling them about my parents and my life in London. All while working with this fun bit of machinery.
Having finished my beetroots, I moved back upstairs to the prep kitchen.
In contrast with the fairly chilled mornings – as the service staff come through in the late morning, the kitchen always starts to feel full and a little dance starts. Keep your work space small and tidy. Make your moves efficient. Think about what you need now and what you will need for your next task – and make as few trips through the kitchen as possible. Remember that the hot sous chef likes the end of the work table nearest the hot section fridge – so keep clear of that space!
Representatives from the hot and cold section come through our refrigerators asking where this or that is and collecting their various bits of mise en place that we’ve been preparing for them all morning. We get feedback on what we’ve made – this isn’t right, that isn’t right – there isn’t enough of this and so on. This is all done with a smile and a joke. “Where’s this?” generally gets some cheeky response from our team as it’s inevitably just in front of them – driving the senior prep people up the wall!
And then comes a shout from the sous chef – “brrriefing” – we all drop what we’re doing with everyone chiming in – “briefing!!” “brrrriefing” “brrrriefing” – and we file downstairs, through the service kitchen and into the dining room (cheekily checking our phones for texts and emails). This happens every day and we stand in a large circle around the perimeter of the dining room as the managers tell us how many covers there are and how many allergies. We then go to the head of hot section, cold section and pastry to hear about the menu for the day and any specials. The sentence always starts with “Parejos…” I can almost repeat the briefings word for word at this point.
Today we also celebrated one of the waiters birthdays. Ellian, with a slightly embarrassed looking grin, paraded out a big cheesecake with a twirly blue candle on top. Everyone claps in time as the group sings what a google search tells me is possibly “Las Mananitas”. Today as we walked off from briefing, I whispered to “Miami” (as we’re now calling Dani from Miami) “have you ever heard that song before in your life” he replied, “absolutely not”. Given that he has hispanic parents, I feel far less ignorant now.
After morning meeting, I popped downstairs to deliver some Guacachile emulsion to the cold team’s fridge. I opened the door at the bottom of the spiral staircase that connects the two kitchens, and I came face to face with Chef. I looked him in the eye and earnestly thanked him for dinner on Monday night, for looking after us and for bringing my parents into the kitchen. With a little smile he said thanks and that he was happy to hear that we had such a good time. He then proceeded to give me a classic Restaurant hand shake – a sliding high five and a fist bump – which I pulled off for the first time since being here. Maybe I’m getting cool.
Ellian is leaving us next week! He’s off to service. I’m so pleased for him as this feels like a practicante promotion – but I’m going to miss him. I get a real kick out of him – and our complete inability to understand each other. Speaking of which – I was totally flattered today when he called me over to translate something to Greek Guy (the greek practicante who speaks not a word of Spanish).
Tonight, I went upstairs to help Natalia clean up after staff meal. As I approached the stove, I asked her, “todo bien?” She’s about 5ft tall and she looks up at me with this big grin. She gave me her signature double thumbs up (which she gets so into that her shoulders scrunch up) and then a very unexpected, very big hug!
As we cleaned up I told her that I was tired and would sleep so well tonight. She said she was too. I suddenly remembered someone saying that she commutes 3 hours to work every day. I couldn’t quite believe this so I asked her about it – and it’s true! She leaves her house every day at 3am for our 6am start – and then she get’s home at 10pm. And after she get’s home, she has an online class and she likes to work out. This all means that she’s in bed by 11am and gets 3-4 hours sleep every night! I am just blown away by this. How the hell does she do it? And how is she in such a good god damn mood all day long!!! As cheesy as it might sound, I find this seriously inspirational and realise I need to be more grateful for my 6 hours’ sleep!
And tomorrow is Dara’s first day off (“descansa”) in 3 weeks! So tomorrow’s my big day. I’m in charge of cold prep – taking the lead with a supporting back up team. This feels like my big chance to win the respect of the kitchen…. The 11th best kitchen in the world to be specific.
And on that note, time for bed.