Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Someone left a comment on my last post wondering what my second worst ever was in the kitchen. Well I'll tell you. It was a Friday night and we had 100 reservations on the books. When doing the prep work for the evening the cook will always find out how many covers is expected for the evening and make his mis en place accordingly. After working any given station for a couple weeks one can usually make a pretty educated guess on how much of every item will be sold for the up coming service, and with this knowledge prep what he/she will need. I was the meat cook on this occasion and I knew that for 100 covers 20 orders of rack of lamb should be sufficient, and was very comfortable with that number. It was a popular item and 20 orders represented 20% of all the entrees that would be sold that evening. I also had fillet of beef coming of my station and had prepped 30 or so orders because on any given night fillet always sold better than lamb, but not on this given night. The evening started out and I should have known it was no going to go my way. The first few orders took out at least 8 of my 20 orders leaving me with 12 to finish the evening with. I guess I should let you know that the 20 orders I had prepped was all we had thawed out. The chef kept extra racks in the freezer for emergency reasons but because we were getting in more racks the next day I didn't bother taking any out to defrost, to call this a miscalculation would be an understatement. So now with every order coming in I would develop a knot in my stomach hoping not to hear, "ordering (insert number) lamb(s)", and with each order my once ample supply of lamb dwindled. When I got down to 5 orders I told the chef I had 5 orders and we would have to 86 after that. No go buddy. He told me that was my problem and that I had better get some frozen ones in running water right now because he was not going to 86 lamb on a Friday night. So I ran to the freezer in a panic and threw 8 racks being 16 orders of lamb into some running water to thaw them out. The five orders I had ready quickly were ordered and now it was only the frozen, and I emphasize frozen, ones I had to work with. From here the night gets a little blurry. All I remember is the chef ordering more and more lamb and my not having any of it to cook. Remember, what I did have was a solid block of ice in the back sink. Had the night stopped there I would have survived but it quickly took a turn for the worse. The next thing I remember is the chef calling pick up on orders of lamb I did not have. Why, because they were still frozen and I could not clean them and hence could not cook them. Well, the chef began to get pretty angry with me and in no uncertain terms explained I had better get some lamb in the "god damn" oven because I was the one holding up the entire service. Remember that sick feeling I spoke of in my last post? The dizziness and confusion that can overcome a cook in these situations, it was worse than that. I wanted to throw up. I couldn't think straight. I ran back to the sink to grab the still frozen racks and made a pathetic attempt to clean them. Mind you, we are still ordering and picking up other tickets while I'm doing this. I'm firing and picking up fillets, chickens, ducks, and other items during all of this, and by this point I am a blob of jello. "Pick up 3 lamb, medium rare", calls the chef The usual reply would either be, "oui chef", or "3 lamb medium rare", not in my case. I replied, "The lamb isn't ready chef." "Not ready? Why the hell not?" "Because it's still frozen on my cutting board." "Get it in the oven!!! Fire the f@#*ing lamb!!!". I think he may have a minor heart attack but I'm not sure. So here I am firing frozen lamb for orders that are ready to be picked up. To put how bad this into perspective, on any given day a medium rare rack of lamb will take about 15-20 minutes to cook and need to rest another 8-10 minutes. So in a perfect situation the quickest a rack of lamb can be sent to table is 30 minuets. Not these racks. They are frozen. They will have to thaw in the oven before they even think about cooking. We are now looking at at least 60 minutes before these babies go out, also remember that the guest has already been in the restaurant for at least 1 hour 15 minutes eating other courses before the entree would come out, making the total time from ordering to eating their food over two hours. Completely unacceptable and boy did I get it. From here on out it's only bits and pieces I remember. At some point I shut down. I was way past wanting to cry. I completely forgot how to cook. I was worthless and the chef knew it. He mercifully 86'd lamb and we took the remaining pick ups slowly. I could only pick up one order at a time because I could not concentrate past that. Mind you, on a busy night cooks will be picking up anywhere between 1-5 orders, sometimes more, at a time while at the same time taking more orders from the chef. It can be pretty chaotic but any experienced line cook can do it with no problems. Not me, not that evening. I have never before or since that evening been that bad off. It was so bad the chef didn't say anything to me about it ever again. I wasn't called to the office for a royal ass chewing or anything. It just was never spoken of again. Eleven o'clock finally came around. I cleaned up my station and went home. I really don't know how many lamb orders I cooked that night. I do know it was over 30. When I cleaned up my station I still had more than half of the fillets I prepped. I guessed wrongly.