Culinary Sense

Adventures with Food and Life

Up and Down

Hi Friends,

well, we all remember my last post in which I said I am ready to go back to school – and I totally am. After setting the date I am ending the internship (March 4), I felt relieved, and excited. I can’t wait to go back to school, and continue learning.

I have definitely had some good times at work, and also some hard times. The day after I wrote my most recent post, we had a line-up at work. A line-up is basically a mini staff meeting in which the whole staff goes over the numbers for the day (how many people are in the hotel, how many rooms are occupied, how many reservations there are), talk about what’s going on, and about what’s coming up (like banquets or busy weekends). In this meeting, as one of the final points Chef was making, there was an award of sorts – a recognition by the hotel of the outstanding associates during a particular quarter. And it turns out, I am a member of the “Team of the Quarter”, which means I am being recognized for my hard work during this quarter (such as Upper Lobby). I was really touched, and a little bit embarrassed. What do I get? A nice breakfast with the other associates of the quarter (plus there’s a cash bonus!). Needless to say, this recognition boosted my self-confidence, and I rocked that evening’s service.

That was last week. Yesterday… well, let’s just say yesterday was the second time I openly cried at work. Oh dear. I know, I know, there’s “no crying in the kitchen”. I couldn’t help it. When I get overwhelmed, that’s the way I relieve the stress and tension I’m feeling.

Here’s what happened: we have a new menu (photos and descriptions forthcoming), and we started yesterday. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t see the menu until the day before. I had a little bit of an idea what to expect, but I was very nervous about the set-up. During prep time (the time cooks use to cook/prepare their stations before service), I got everything together. Luckily, I didn’t have to cook or make anything because it had all been prepped by others the day before. The one thing I was most worried about was the fact that I didn’t know how to plate anything – that is, I had all the ingredients together, but I didn’t know how Chef wanted me to put it on the plate. I was assured that I would be shown how to do this during service, as the orders came in.

Around 4:30 pm, about an hour before service was supposed to start, I still hadn’t checked any of the desserts (all the desserts were new that day), or the cheeses and charcuterie, and it made me even more nervous. I accidentally burnt a tray of croutons, and realized I wouldn’t be able to make an amuse bouche for that night. I told Chef I wasn’t going to be able to make it, and he said, “What?! You want to be a chef, don’t you? With all the leftover food in the kitchen, you should be able to come up with something; I’m going to push you – go try to think of something.” I just stared at him, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I got so overwhelmed that I started crying, and my friend James came over to talk to me about it. He told me to take a break. As I was on my way to the elevator, Chef came to get me, and I told him I was feeling too overwhelmed to make the amuse.

He got everyone together, and gave me (and everyone) a little pep talk. The others helped me with the rest of my prep, and I went downstairs to eat something. I spent dinner thinking about everything ,including whether this is the right profession for me, what Chef expects of me, what my instructors expect of me, whether all that is reasonable, and so on. It’s moments like those when my self-confidence gets shattered, and I don’t think I’m fit for this job. I’m so sensitive, and although I consider myself tough in certain ways, I’m not the kind of tough that other people in the kitchen are.

After dinner, and then during service, things went well, and Chef said I was doing great, and did a good job overall. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just too hard on myself, and whether objectively, I am doing a good (enough) job.

I guess all this is, is just growing pains. This is part of my experience in the industry, and I will always learn something, even if, at the time, it is a negative experience.

Your (not perfect)

Carolynn

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2 thoughts on “Up and Down

  1. You’re awesome for going through the trials of kitchen life. I’ve heard how tough it is. I’m proud of you, my friend!

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