Day 86: Beast or Ballerina?

Chef Jeff calls roll call precisely at 9 a.m. every day. And sometimes he gives us a few words of wisdom (or chiding) before he releases us to do our prep work. Most times I’m still in zombie-mode and don’t  scribble notes, but today he said something that struck the journalist inside me:

“When things get stressful in the kitchen, you can either be a beast or a ballerina.”

And his words resonated with me by the end of the day because, well, I was beastly today: I flipped a kid the bird. Let me explain.

I’ve been quivering about approaching the poissonier station since the first day in L’Ecole when I was still in the safety net of pastry. And being down one teammate makes things even harder without an extra set of hands. So my morning in poissonier was a little hectic. There are two fish dishes: Artic char and seared scallops. And then there are a lot of components to each dish.

Artic char

Artic char

The char comes with a spinach puree, hollandaise sauce, and a pommes anna (a fancy potato pancake). The scallops come with a dollop of lemon jam, squid ink risotto, pickled grapes and sauteed mushrooms. So needless to say, there’s some prep involved. And your morning challenge is to get all the prep work down by 11 a.m., have a demo plate of each dish on the table by 11:30 a.m., and eat  lunch by 11:45 (yeah, like that ever happened). And on our first day, none of this happened on time. So when service started to roll in at noon, things got a little hairy.

I was on char, Tom was on scallops, and Gabby was plating and making the risotto. When I got my first char order, and when chef fired it (basically telling me to cook it and serve it), I was flustered. “AHH! I have to cook something!” was basically my first reaction. And then that was only compounded by the Level 6 student who had a duck plate on the same ticket as my char. He asked me how long it would take for me to “walk” my char (bring it to the waiter, basically).

“Four or 5 minutes,” I replied.

And his smart-ass remark?

“WHICH IS IT? Four or 5 minutes.”

“Five minutes.” Cue the middle finger.

Unfortunately, he didn’t see it, but Chef Ray did. He didn’t say anything maybe because he sympathized with me since this kid walks around like he’s God’s gift to the kitchen. But if he didn’t, I’m just glad he didn’t chew me out.

By the end of the day, word had gotten around that I flipped the bird, and my classmates just slapped my back in congratulations. I guess I’m not the only one who wanted to put this kid in his place.

TIP OF THE DAY: Swap lemon juice for yuzu when you want to add a touch of citrus to a sauce like hollandaise. It’s a nice twist on a tangy flavor.

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2 responses to “Day 86: Beast or Ballerina?

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