Life in a Restaurant, Week 23 – Great Expectations


I guess I lead a double life, and I must admit I'm happy with both

Yvonne deCarlo

NOV. 23, 2015 - NOV. 29, 2015


I hear a lot of horror stories of classmates who’ve moved on to accounting and consulting firms – tales of 60 hour work weeks, driving home at 10PM, and living on an airplane for half the week.  I’d like to say I’m glad I’m not dealing with that kind of lifestyle, but as I say this I’m awake right now at 3AM, struggling to roll up an entire flattened turkey breast, cured with fennel seeds, garlic, and pepper flakes into a tight roulade. The breast’s mangled, patchy piece of skin I was supposed to separate into a clean blanket is lying in a dejected slump, waiting to be stretched around the finished turkey porchetta.

There’s also two trays of levain bread drying out in the oven, because tomorrow I’m working a morning prep shift on my day off and there’s no way any sane person can produce a Friendsgiving dinner within 30 minutes of coming home.  I still have to mix said bread cubes with sweated celery, onions, carrots, and cremini mushrooms before dousing it in homemade chicken stock.  The cream for butternut squash panna cotta needs to be poured into its brown butter tart shell, which is now cooling in the fridge.  It’s slowly approaching 4AM…

I have a bit of a double life going on – line cook by night, home cook by late, late night. (If you wanted to add a third title, a slightly hungover, unemployed writer by day.)

I suppose cooking at home is supposed to be more leisurely and relaxed than this, but I have a small reputation to uphold.  I’m the guy who works at a restaurant, and so by the plebeian point of view I need to make a Friendsgiving meal commensurate with the title.  Being a “Chef friend” comes with a set of expectations, where as much as you want to just serve a normal f*cking turkey, your hubris forbids you to do so.

There are no servers asking how long until their table’s order is ready and the sound of the ticket printer is but a distant memory, and yet cooking at home is no longer the fun it once was.  There’s no room to dance in this shitty apartment kitchen.  No meat grinder or gas range with enough BTU’s to catch your butter on fire.  No giant butcher block to roll out pasta dough or dismember whole animals, and more importantly no professional dishwasher that can clean a full load of plates in 2 minutes.  But still here I am - taking the bread cubes out of the oven and putting in the leftover breast bone of the turkey to roast for gravy, fulfilling my great expectations.