I imagine the temperature difference between my personal air and that of the fridge as I sit on the floor in the cooler, jotting down the menu for the day. Just as my fingers begin to go numb, there's a knock on the cooler door. I hop up to answer and the door flings open. "There's no more potatoes for the gratin tonight Chef. What should we do?"
I calmly reply "Did you look at the new requisition we just got this morning Jose?" He shakes his head and walks away in silence. As I walk out the cooler, the gardmanger chef heads my way and says "we need a new pot for the chicken stock chef. The one we have now is leaking from a small hole."
Before I respond, I look over his shoulder to see the manager head my way with what's most likely today's numbers. "Dos sequento ochento siete" he whispers in between comments on the cell phone. That's nothing I think. We did 300 last night easily. Studying the sheet, I tell the chef "switch the chicken stock out with a thick soup that will not leak through such a small hole. Put the stock in a different pot." I can feel his response through the silence and he backs away in amazement. He should have thought of that himself.
When he is out of my vision, I look towards the pastry station. The smell of fresh tarts touches my nose like an Eskimo kiss. My glance over is matched by a blank stare from the pastry chef and she immediately knows my desire. Heading in her direction, she quickly dashes into her preparation cooler and locks the door. Upon arrival, I notice she has left a single pear tart for me on the cutting board. She holds up her finger through the glass divider as if to tell me "only one today Chef." I politely take the offer and sink my teeth into my breakfast.
Walking though the kitchen to the music of pots and pans clanging, the front of the house manager burst through the door and yells out "can we do a banquet for 250 this weekend Chef?" "Si, si hacer la comida" I say sarcastically. "Un segunda Ricardo." I enter in to the pantry and notice we only have 3 cans of jus' left. Thoughts race through my mind about menu possibilities... we can do a pulled bbq pork over bruschetta with a mango mayonnaise. I grab the jus' and recite the recipe for gratin to Jose who is still grabbing potatoes off the req. He jots them down, matching the scribbles with "mhmms" and "yes chefs." I go to exit the pantry and hear two red wine glasses and a spoon crash to the floor. Knowing exactly who it is before I see her, I yell out "It's fine Micky. The guest can just drink from their hands!" She turns the corner empty-handed without looking my way and heads straight to the broom cabinet with a red face. 1 euro 87 cent runs through my mind. Two glasses at 70 cent a piece and a spoon (which most likely slid under the drink machine) at 47 cent runs us 1 euro 87 cent. That will be taken from my raise this year. I head to my station, drop off the cans of jus' and dart out to see Ricardo. He is across the dining hall entertaining a guest so I hold up my hand and nod my head up and down. Speaking my language, he winks an eye at me. The banquet is on.
Taking the scenic route to the kitchen, I visit the grillardin and question the amount of chicken he has on the grill. "Don't you think that is a little much for the amount of customers in here now?"
Reminding me of the large crowd we are expecting to have for lunch, he justifies the quantity with a menu description: "grilled chicken sliders with a chipotle apple dressing and Cole slaw." I respect his decision and pat him on the back.
On my way through the door, I reach under the drink machine and grab the spoon. As soon as I enter, a waiter approaches me and says "table 28 does not like the mash potatoes." "Do they like bleu cheese?" I ask. He shakes his head no and understands the problem immediately. "Not telling the client that the mash potatoes have bleu cheese in them today will be the epitome of ALL your trouble Stephen. Give them a serving of the sweet potatoes with crushed pineapples and send my apologies." He heads out for the table. I walk to the bulletin board and post the numbers. Next to it, I see the schedule that mentions today is the sous chef's day off. Twice the work for me... It's ok. Friday I return the favor.
"Do we have any vinegar left?" "Where is the mustard?" "Who has the bacon fat for the ice cream?" All these questions echo off the kitchen walls with only physical answers. By the time I get to my station, everyone has what they needed. Peanuts on a sheet tray, meatballs in the warmer, mushroom sauce on the back burner, potatoes in the proofer, eggs cracked and in the fridge... So much flowing through this multitasking thinker of mine.
Two cooks enter the kitchen. "Marco, wash your hands and prepare the salads for lunch. Jay, put away the requisitions in the cooler and dry storage" I instruct. "Buenos dias." They match my orders with a pair of "yes chefs" and disappear into the employee locker room. I glance at the time. The clock has not moved since I got to work.
Crossing things off my check list, I alter the dinner plans. We have no more walnuts to roast, so roasted peanuts drizzled with walnut oil will have to do. The buzzer on the oven goes off. I hear it although I’m not listening. I turn to look throughout the kitchen and see no one. Weird, it was just about 15 people here. I approach the oven and smell the roasted peanuts burning. Without thinking, I grab the rack out the oven and throw the tray on the counter. My fingers are well past seared as I shut my eyes to scream in agony. When they finally open, I'm sitting in the cooler with my pen in my hand, today’s menu in my lap. I stare at my fingers. They are red, but maybe from the cold, not the oven. I sigh in relief. As I go to stand up, I hear a knock on the cooler door. It opens. "Chef, we're out of potatoes..."
Chef Belton shares his intimate thoughts and world experiences with his followers. These are the inspiration behind his culinary delights.