When the Kitchen Slows Down
Friday is my favorite day to walk to work.
As I exit the Peachtree Marta Train station, up the escalator and past the Peachtree Center mall; I’m in my own insulated world. Black tinted sunglasses, and my MP3 player, acts like a screen, offering a voyeuristic view of people going about their business.
I’m dressed in my usual street gear, (cotton t-shirt, cargo shorts and sandals), perfect for Atlanta in August, where the average daytime temperature creeps upwards of 90 degrees. For someone who works in a hot steamy ass kitchen this is as comfortable as it gets.
It’s already 2pm and I clock in, slip into my chef whites, stash my personal stuff in my locker and ride the elevator upstairs to the main kitchen. Stephen the sauté guy is already there and he waves his sip cup at me in casual greeting; before heading to the dishwash station for the usual assortment of nine, third and six pans for his station. Duff and Angie two of the cooks from the morning shift, are in a heated discussion (something about the Miami Heat and the NBA finals) by the soda fountain, and I nod in their direction as I fill my sip cup with a mixture of sprite and lemonade. Yes! I know water is better, but I like water for showers and washing my hands and flushing, which suits me just fine.
It’s hot outside and in the kitchen and although I would prefer a cold Stella Artois, it’s the soda fountain or critical mass meltdown from dehydration.
There’s a pre-season football game tonight between the Falcons and the Chiefs which means it’s going to be slow. Twenty-three on the books so far, which means that we’ll be lucky if we do fifty.
A slow night can be a good thing or punishment depending on the chef in charge of the kitchen.
Slow nights can mean, – busy work- and lots of it. Suddenly the chef remembers that the freezer needs to be cleaned and picks you for the job. Smart cooks can smell a slow night coming from a mile away. Prep for their station becomes an all night project, it takes two hours to peel and blanch a case of asparagus, one hour to shuck three dozen oysters, twenty minutes to cut a nine pan of chives. Better to prep in slow motion than let the chef catch you munching on french fries. I remember once the entire night crew had to take all the shelves out of the produce cooler, pass them through the dishwasher, scrub the walls, and squeegee the floor. Then put everything back, dated and labeled because of ………. a slowwww night.