Elise left at 6am this morning and I kept sleeping! Oh the luxury. I got all of 7 hours’ sleep.
A coffee, a pastry, a 10am call to the fiancé and then the start of another day in service.
I’ve worked out a bit more of what I’m meant to be doing now. How I can set up for the day and arrange everything.
The dishes we’re making in the cold section are:
Bread and Butter
Crab with a tostada balanced on top
Mamey with Caviar and Honey Cream
… and I must be missing something.
My job first thing in the morning is to make sure we have all we need for these dishes.
As service starts, we watch for other teams in distress (hot section or pastry) and jump in to help them – and vice versa. I’ve learned how to plate up some of pastry’s dishes and how to finish off quite a few of the hot sections dishes.
I still find myself standing around like a chump a fair bit. Having to walk around to my busy colleagues asking if I can help with anything.
Lunch service trod on as per normal. I was given some tips on how to use my tweezers properly which was a huge help with my dexterity.
I was sent marching up and down the stairs to the service kitchen all of 23 times (as recorded by my iPhone) with my legs tiring at the end of the day. I leaned into Ivan (who is back in the prep kitchen today) and whispered “estoy la perra de abajo” (I’m downstairs’ bitch) – we had a little chuckle.
In service, there is a rush that you get. The time passes incredibly quickly with not a moment of downtime. Not a moment to catch your breath or run to the loo. In a quiet moment, the best thing you can do is run to the restaurant’s bar and sweetly ask the barman for some water in a little plastic Tupperware that you managed to snag from the store closet. And when service is going well it feels like a well oiled machine, like you’re part of a team.
And then it starts falling apart. Today we were making the mameys topped with quenelles of caviar accompanied by perfect little dots of honeyed cream. All went perfectly for lunch service and the first four plates that I sent out for dinner were perfect. But something went wrong – I still don’t know what exactly – but someone else picked up the piping bag for the cream and piped some subpar dots (par being a very high threshold). We had plated up 11 with these dots – I started bringing them to the pass and Sous looked at me “these dots aren’t as good as the ones you did before”, “I didn’t make them” I responded quickly. She sent me back – telling me to change the plates and re-do the dots.
This meant cleaning 11 new plates when we were in crunch time anyway and then we realised that we didn’t have enough cream. With 4 chefs in a panic everyone had a different opinion on why the dots weren’t working. I was sent off to make a new cream. The ingredients for this cream were strewn across the building, the yuzu in Sous’s locker on the 4th floor and the honey and cream on the 1st floor. I ran up to make more cream, I whipped it to soft peaks, brought it down to the service kitchen and it melted as soon as I put it into pipping bags. Someone else tried with the same result (a huge relief as I think everyone was starting to thing I was a bit thick).
And then Chihuahua, decided it was time for him to have a go. He went upstairs to the service kitchen and worked away – when he came back (20 minutes later) he had a perfect cream. He announced that he had changed and refined the recipe, adding xanthum gum to make it more stable.
Chef appeared around the time of “cream gate” and it was some kind of miracle that we didn’t get inn trouble.
The stress from this minor disaster hung around for the rest of the evening. Everyone’s spirits dampened.
We were very short on staff today. I found out that Espana Alex left Quintonil for greener pastures. I don’t know the full story but I’m sad to see him go.
At one point I jumped on the line to help with plating. I heard Chef’s voice “Emily, go with Sous” – I had not idea what this meant. Sous’s soft voice came from the other side “take off your gloves and leave your trapa (dish towel) we’re going into the dining room”. This was somehow a strange thing to get my head around but I followed Ellie with two plates in hand, trying to mimic what she was doing (I had no idea what the form was). I followed into a new world – from the stress and chaos of the kitchen – to a tranquil dining room filled with people enjoying a special evening at this amazing restaurant. Coming back to the pass Chef gave me a thumbs up and I gave him a smile – mainly laughing at my absolutely shock to be in the dining room.
And my wait moonlighting continued intermittently. “Emilyyyy!” I would hear coming from the pass. I would shed my latex gloves and my trapa and speed toward chef.
Eventually the chaos eased.
And there seems to be a magic hour in the kitchen. At about 10.30 we realise the orders are easing. Everyone takes a deep breath. Jokes start and smiles begin returning to furrowed brows. Tonight Chef came over to the cold section for a little jokey chat. He looked at me and asked me a long rambling question – I laughed, “I have absolutely no idea what you just said”.
But I would say my Spanish is getting better and better. The people in the service kitchen seem more concerned that I learn Spanish. They correct my accent and teach me new words. They encourage me – assuring me that whatever I’ve just said in Spanish is grammatically correct. Then they tease me for not rolling my r’s. And they speak to me in Spanish quite a bit! They smile widely when I repeat their sentences back to them in an effort to understand the phrases that they’re using.
The night wrapped up and it’s 2am now and I feel sleep calling.
Phrases of the prep kitchen:
“Voy (fill in the blank) arriba/abajo/atras/quemado”