"The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play."
Arnold J. Toynbee
NOV. 2 2016 - NOV. 9 2016
2:00PM: I look at the prep list for the day, consisting of hastily scribbled notes from the night before. While not necessarily the shortest list, it could be worse. Our front of house manager comes in and tells us the reservations for the night – it’s Friday, and it looks like it’ll be pretty busy.
2:15 PM: I’m glad I went on a run earlier today. I wolf down a pistachio cake layered with rosewater lemon curd while I simmer kombu for seaweed butter.
2:30PM: I realize that I need to make another batch of dressing for tartare, a painstaking, laborious process that includes finely mincing shallots and segmenting limes. Wishing I came in at one today. Meanwhile, every possible inch of cook top is taken up for the hotline prep.
3:00PM: Still segmenting limes.
3:15 PM: I ask Joey to help me out – he trims a hanger steak to use for steak tartare. Limes are almost done and I just need to roast chiles to finally finish that damn dressing.
3:30 PM: Our wine bartender Dan arrives. By now all the lines in the kitchen are set up, with each prep fridge packed with nine, six, and third pans filled with mise en place. Our dishwasher arrives and begins clearing the mess we’ve made in the dishpit.
4:00 PM: Getting ready for a weekend service is a huge theatrical performance. Ask anyone getting ready for a Friday night when the books are completely filled, and there’s this stage fright we feel as we’re getting ready. It will be inevitable that the board will be filled and for a hellish thirty minutes you will be behind with the expo breathing down your back. One too many courses will be fired and you don’t know when or how to keep up.
An hour before the front door is unlocked is when we are either confident or panicking. Maybe we got all of our prep done and now have an hour to get backups for all our other backups. Either that, or we’ve realized we probably should have been a bit more serious during that first hour instead of eating pistachio cake and making dick jokes.
We rehearse, get everything in place so that our performance – firing risotto, grilling octopus, plating tartare, can happen smoothly. Either that or it’s a shit show where we fool everyone else that it’s going smoothly.
4:15 PM: The restaurant doesn’t open until 5, but we have happy hour starting at 4 with a complimentary bar snack, which my station regrettably is in charge of. The first 4 top rings in – we were given a sack of free Pacific Gold oysters so that’s what the lucky bastards are getting today with their glass of wine. Most of the front of house staff has arrived to get ready for their part of tonight’s performance. Tables are set, wine glasses are polished to the umpteenth time. Any specials and menu adjustments are copied down into their notebooks for the night.
4:30 PM: I go over my prep list making sure everything is actually checked off. There’s nothing worse than having to run and get chives to mince on the fly once the first order comes in because you forgot.
4:45 PM: Time for a last minute bathroom break. If I smoked, I would join the other line cooks on the rooftop.
5:00 PM: Doors are unlocked. Having to shuck oysters keeps interrupting my last minute tasks of whipping cream and frosting meringue on top of passionfruit tarts.
5:30 PM: More oysters. Wishing I just made a large batch of miso popcorn to dole out mindlessly, but I will say with confidence I can shuck an oyster quite easily.
6:15 PM: Things are going underway as the early dinner crowd rings in tickets throughout the kitchen.
6:45 PM: Another oyster rings in. Happy hour ended fifteen minutes ago, so I curse our Dan's name in vain for making me fetch the oyster knife when the dinner rush is about to begin. I wipe down my station of miscellaneous crumbs and citrus segments so I can shuck what is hopefully the last one of the night.
7:30 PM: Fire: 3 endive and pear salads, one tartare holding second course, black sesame semifreddo, cremeux trio, two lemon tarts.
7:45 PM: Tartare is popular tonight… I’m glad I made an extra batch of dressing. I realize I didn’t get a backup of arugula so I run to the walk in.
8:00 PM: Busiest part of the night is about to begin. The first rush is done, and we take advantage of the brief break to refill what we can.
8:30PM: When your board is full, you either feel like a badass or in the weeds. I debate which one I feel like as I pray my second deli of seaweed butter has softened in time. I run and get more plates so I can push this first course for a ten top out.
8:45 PM: My station has hit a lull, and I’m casually sipping water while wiping down and clearing my workspace. (During my first month I got called out for having a messy station.) Hotline is still in full swing and in a slightly frantic rush, with tickets hanging from the printer. I help refill a six pan of hanger steaks.
9:00 PM: Hot line tickets, while still coming in, die down slightly. My station begins its rush of desserts. I recently changed the dessert menu and added a trio of chocolate cremeux, and trying to create a perfect one handed quenelle has become the bane of my existence.
9:30 PM: I get a minor cut on my fingertip, so any time I need to make a salad the vinaigrette causes the cut to sting intensely and become inflammed. My whipped cream has deflated, making it hard to finish the pistachio cake.
10:00 PM: Front doors are closed, but orders from the few people who decide to walk in at 9:50 start ringing in.
10:15 PM: Hotline begins breaking down their side of the kitchen.
10:30 PM: Dessert tickets are still ringing in now, but I’ve mastered quenelling.
10:40 PM: My station is mostly packed away until another dessert ticket rings in, making me swear again. I dig through the deli cups in my lowboy to grab what I need.
10:45 PM: I get the all clear from the servers - no more dessert tickets. All of the mats and ranges have already been scrubbed down at this point, so I finish scrubbing down my station and take out the remaining trash cans.
11:00PM: The last tables are finally clearing out.
11:15 PM: Ritual after work glass of wine, chatting with the front of house, and general bitching about the very finicky two top. Front and back of the house trade battle stories about what went down and servers make a big point to talk about how much tips they made or didn't make.
11:30PM: After writing the prep list for tomorrow, I double check the menu for any produce we need to and I call the order in.
12:00 AM: The dishwasher is just about wrapped up in the kitchen, and I finally decide to walk home so I can wake up at 7:30 to go to the farmer’s market. It's only a fifteen minute walk, but after over 9 hours on my feet I wish I drove instead of caring about being eco-friendly.
12:30 AM: Going to bed with the smell of shallots and grease painted to your skin is never a pleasant experience. Late night showers have become a vital ritual.
1:00 AM: I fall asleep while browsing Reddit.
7:30 AM: Wake up, realize I slept with my contacts in. Head out to farmers so I can take all of the wild arugula before anyone else can. Drop off and put away produce by ten.
2:00PM: I look at the prep list for the day, consisting of hastily scribbled notes from the night before.