"Mate, with more time today, you didn't get more done."
It's my sous chef. He's commenting on a particular garnish I'm responsible for—a thinly sliced cucumber that's quick pickled in a cryovac machine before being rolled tightly and cut into small sections.
One thing I enjoyed about working in a professional kitchen was the decisiveness of the end of a shift. The kitchen is a place of intensity, where there is no time to be idle, but when the restaurant's closed, it's closed. And its people are truly off the clock.
I remember overhearing a conversation late one night while I was working in a professional kitchen. It would have been hard not to "overhear" because the chef's voice rang through the polished stainless steel kitchen:
"It doesn't matter how good it is if it's not consistent! And that's probably the most inconsistent dish that comes out of this kitchen!"
There's a folder on my computer dedicated to half-baked business ideas of mine. Though I haven't taken the next step in testing their underlying assumptions, saving them to a place I can easily access them at a later date provides a misleading bit of comfort:
"I'm not giving up here, it's just not the right time to work on this right now. So this will be here until laterwhen the time's right."
I'm self-aware enough to know I'm not being honest with myself.
I failed an exam last week. Failed in the truest sense of the word—50%. I'm taking a 10-week intensive sommelier training, and it turns out there's a ton to know about France and its wines. I think it may have been the worst I ever did on a test, so it rattled me a bit at first.
“I’m done with the carrot pureé, Chef,” I stated as I placed the small bottle of it on the stainless steel workspace in front of him. He had handed it to me moments earlier and asked me to garnish one of the dishes with it.
“That doesn’t go there,” he replied back, without even looking up.
When Dr. Condoleezza Rice visited the University of Alabama in the winter of 2010, the athletic department arranged a small luncheon with her and a select number of student-athletes. The invite to attend was one of the stranger calls I've ever received:
I almost didn’t write this one. It’s 10pm and probably 80 degrees in this new apartment of mine (window AC units are yet to be installed) and I’ve just finished a full day that included a UHAUL rental and trips to IKEA and Lowe’s. A day that could be considered traumatic? Hardly.
I'm writing this post in a very new way. I'm still using my same computer with the same keys, but the stakes are higher this time around. I'm using an app that deletes all my writing if I pause for too long.
Animals are extremely talented at seeing movement, their peripherals fine-tuned to spot predators before its too late. A chef on the other hand, is extremely talented at spotting the opposite—lack of movement.
As a kid, when I ordered food at a restaurant, I had no concept of what went into making it. For all I knew, a menu was a magical list of food items which could appear on my plate in just a moment’s notice.
It’s possible for a grown man to cut himself with scissors.
Something the kitchen staff didn’t believe until I came down from the garden that day with a bleeding left ring finger. Sure—a pairing knife can deliver an unexpected poke while prepping vegetables or an oyster knife can slip mid-shuck, but don’t scissors have idiot-proof plastic handles?