A Senior Chef de Partie
And so service has begun … The printer keeps printing and checks keeps being called, “SAUCE, LARDER, LET’S GO - TABLE 45! NOW!” We all get lost in the excitement of service and when I look up it almost 3pm. And slowly the kitchen starts to feel over-populated. Ah, yes, the evening shift is in.
Beep-beep, beep-beep, “No!”
Already 06h15. It feels like I have just closed my eyes. But not too worry: another day, another dollar (as they say)…
It’s icy cold; I forgot to put the heating on last night. I get up, have a quick shower and brush my teeth, try to put my hair in a respectable order and make myself a take away cup of tea I can have on the bus. I rush to get dressed; no time to pick an outfit, something warm will do to get me to work. I have to hurry if I want to get to work early. It’s so nice when the kitchen is empty; there is so much space to do the entire mise en place…
As I walk down the stairs into the kitchen, I get the lovely mouth-watering smell of bacon cooking and eggs frying. Hmmmmm, the breakfast team is already up and running. I pop into the staff room to grab a uniform and keep my fingers crossed for a comfortable pair of chef trousers; I still can’t get used to the men’s trousers, but hey, it’s part of the job. A quick change, hat on, knife roll under the arm, apron tied… so let the day begin ….
“Good morning breakfast!”, “Good morning Jana”. Always nice to have a quick catch-up with some colleagues about what’s in store for the day. I grab my prep list, written for me by the person on shift last night, and check what needs to be done. Then, of course, one of the most important things of the day, checking the “holy grail” of the kitchen: THE PENDING ORDER. This is the list of all the products and ingredients coming in for the day, so I check it to see if everything I asked for yesterday has been ordered and is on its way. After a 10 minute intensive read of the pending order sheet I discover with delight that everything is making its way to the kitchen at this moment! Yes!
So let’s get cracking with a little to-do-list. I grab 4 big pots from the back and start putting on my soups for the day. I like to put them on early so I can give them lots of love and care. Pot 1 – CHICKEN SOUP; Pot 2 – FISH SOUP; Pot3 – ONION SOUP; Pot 4 – WATER FOR BLANCHING (you always need one of those). I really do love re-heating the soups, playing with all the herbs and seasonings to get the most out of them.
Next step I grab one blue, one red, one green chopping board, and I start my list of mise en place:
1. Clean and portion duck liver – done
2. Clean and portion sardines – done
3. Rocket prepped and washed – done
4. Roast chicken carcasses – done
5. Put chicken stock on - done
6. Chopped herbs – done
7. Potato rostis – done
And so the list goes on…
For those of you who don’t know, we start lunch service at 11h30 so I try having everything ready by 11h00 so I have some time to do stuff if I forgot something. I call it my “parachute time”. Now my prep is done and all I have to do is season my soups and give them a quick skim and I’m ready to go grab a quick cup of coffee before I start helping the Breakfast team clean down our joint section and start setting up for lunch. I just hope their service doesn’t go on for too long; otherwise it’s such a short time to get everything ready. I get back and the breakfast service is winding down and so we start to turn the section around.
Now we are cleaned up and set up for lunch! I wonder how many are booked. 150? 180? 220? You never know, and it’s always so exciting if you see all the names that come through our doors for lunch. Everyone is ready and waiting for the first checks to come in. You can actually feel the energy in the kitchen; it always reminds me of a lion ready to pounce on its prey.
And finally the tension is broken by the first check that’s printing… “TABLE 81! ALL FOR YOU, HOT LARDER AND FISH. YES, CHEF, LET’S GO, 4 MINUTES!!!!”
And so service has begun…
The printer keeps printing and checks keeps being called, “SAUCE, LARDER, and LET’S GO -TABLE 45!!! NOW!!!”
We all get lost in the excitement of service and when I look up it almost 3pm! And slowly the kitchen starts to feel over-populated. Ah, yes, the evening shift is in. I have a quick chat with my partner in crime and send him to the back fridge to clean up and tidy up our section, then to make a list of anything else that needs to be done before 5pm. Only a couple more minutes of service left and all of a sudden, you hear the lovely words of the chef calling: “That’s it guys! Thank you for lunch!”
Ok. Time to clean up and start setting up again for the evening shift. I start by refilling my soups and washing the counters, putting my poached eggs in clean hot water and getting some new ice for the bain marie. We quickly draw up a list for the prep left and we start to get on with it so that I can go home at 5pm. Cutting some bread for onion croutons, dicing some pumpkin for roasting and grating more potatoes for rostis. Without even realizing it, it’s 5 o’clock! Home time!
I give my section a final clean down and take my knives and tongs to the larder to give them a good wash with some hot and soapy water. I pack up my knife roll and take off my apron. I make my way around the kitchen to say good night to everyone. I come back to my section and double check that they are ready and that they have everything. They are all good to go and so I yell a final “GOOD NIGHT, KITCHEN” and I make my way out back to the staff room.
As I walk out, I can still hear all the noise form the kitchen, pans clattering, people talking, and I think to myself, this wasn’t a bad day at all, and in 45 minutes I’ll be home having a glass of wine, then have a hot bath and then in a couple of hours I’ll be back to start the rollercoaster all over again, but, hey, that’s the game we love.
By Jana Muller