In a Professional Kitchen, Doing Two Jobs is Everyday

Categories: Food News
Photo by Flickr user mummalu

Patty Canedo is a pastry chef at a famed, private country club on Palm Beach and writes weekly about her kitchen exploits.

Its 8:20 a.m., and the kitchen is already filled with the sound of knives running across cutting boards, sizzles from sauté pans, and the walk-in door continuously opening and closing shut. I rush downstairs with a sheet pan. I load up cakes, ganache, six flats of eggs, and anything else I may need. "Ugh," my knees buckle under the weight of the tray, push forward and up the stairs. I pass the servers' station and glance at the day's info sheet:

Reservations: 75   
Function in main dining room: 90    
Banquet function: 400  
Birthday function: 14
Remarks: All a.m. and split shift servers working doubles!!!

In the pastry shop, I bake cookies, separate the eggs, decorate and cut cakes, make sauces, fruit plates, back up the back-ups for the line. I glaze a cake for the birthday party tonight. Lunch service is thankfully light for a Saturday.
"Are you working tonight?" Tonya, the garde manager, asks me. She's prepping for over 120 reservations for brunch tomorrow.

"I don't think so, I think that's why they called me in early."

"You girls better behave," a random server walks in. "You never know what's going to happen. They just fired Amy." The server's referring to the banquet
pastry cook, my counterpart on the banquet side of the kitchen. Tonya drops her knife and a chocolate tuile crumbles in my hand. We pick our jaws off the ground.

"Well I guess I am working tonight," I say. Lanoline, pastry chef de parte, runs over to ask me what is going on. I shrug my shoulders as she goes down to the chocolate shop. Lunch finally ends and the night crew begins to arrive. I return to the pastry shop, a frantic Lanoline is piping whipped egg whites on baked alaskas.

"I was wondering how you were going to make those," she's lightly torching the egg whites, giving them nice golden color.

"Yes, and I have 89 more to go! I really need your help with some things," she says as she nervously looks at the clock. "Make two quarts of crème anglais, two quarts of strawberry sauce, over stock the line, and make the soufflés, yeah?"

I get right to work and assure her there's no problem. "As soon as you are done Patty, I need you to go downstairs and help with the function tonight, OK?"

"Yeah, no problem. So what happened with Amy?"

"I don't know. Chef pulled her in to his office, they started talking. She got mad and quit. Nice, right?" she keeps looking up at the clock.

Suddenly a deep voice starts yelling through the kitchen. "Line up!" I turn off the strawberry sauce and Lanoline puts the unfinished alaskas into the freezer.

The whole kitchen staff gathers.

"OK, everyone, in case you haven't heard, Amy is no longer with us. She quit. Today was her last day. Unfortunately, this happens a lot in our industry. We just got to keep moving, and we don't miss a beat, so that everything is seamless. We got 400 in banquets and over 160 here in the main dining room, including the party. Plus we got over 120 for brunch tomorrow. Heard?"

"Heard, chef!" we all reply.

"Alright, I want to see everyone hustling. Tell someone if you're in the shits, and do whatever we can do to help the pastry team."

I run to the pastry shop to finish things up, then head over to banquets to help. By 6 o'clock, the movement in the banquet kitchen is finally to a slow-paced calm. There's even time to eat family meal before we begin.

"It's 7 o'clock, everyone," Ryan, banquet's sous chef, announces. "At 7:20, we'll begin with the first course."

Chrissy and I begin garnishing 400 slices of strawberry shortcakes with a blueberry, a quarter of strawberry, and white chocolate swirl. The meringue shows any movement or lightest touch dragging the job out just a little longer than usual. As we finish, they begin plating the first course. Chrissy and I run into the line.

Three long tables with rows of plates already have a stacked crab cocktail with mango salsa on top of an avocado puree with a small mixed green salad. In formation, we quickly dot the plates with a thick mango vinaigrette, followed by a drizzle of chili oil, a chervil leaf is placed on top of the mango salsa, I place chive batons angled against the crab cocktail, while Chrissy wipes and checks the plates to go out. In perfect flow, 400 plates go out in less than ten minutes.

There's only time to breathe quickly and take places for the next course. Chrissy and I skip the entrée and move on to the desserts. We lay our plates out on the table. She drizzles crème anglais, and I follow behind with dots of strawberry sauce. I notice the entrees going out as we finish saucing the plates.

A line of servers forms. Plating has stopped. A cook cuts herself while splitting the rack of lamb. Formation on the line shuffles, and the line starts to move again.

"Pick up the pace, guys," Darren, banquet chef, says to everyone.

Entrees are gone, and we have to push to finish the desserts. But frantic hands destroy the delicate desserts. We lose a couple while in overdrive mode, but just as the last cake is plated, servers start taking them out.

The whole team breathes a sigh of relief, slap a couple high fives and disband. I walk to the main kitchen to grab my tools. Lanoline and Anne are in the homestretch as well. They are plating the birthday cake, as the rest of the kitchen breaks down for the evening.

"Need any help?" I say after stopping by the pastry line.

"No, thanks. Go home," says Lanoline, who doesn't even pick up her head to address me. I don't have to be asked twice. Walking through the kitchen war zone, the exhaustion takes me. I gather my things.

"Line up!" I hear again. Tired and stain coated, we all gather.
 "Alright, everyone. Nice job tonight! Compliments all around! Now let's get out of here as quick as we can 'cause we gotta do it all again tomorrow."

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