Post 28 – Days 56-65: New menu n. 3

Last two week were ok.

Last Thursday we changed the menu, so I had to learn the new five starters.

The only annoying thing is that on Friday and Saturday evening I have to work together with chef R. He’s ok apart the fact that is always asking me to do something every minute: “Could you that do X for me, please?”. After a minute: “Ok, when you finish Z could you do X for me, please? Then you have to do Y.” And so on for all the dinner service… Holy  patience…

Post 27 – Days 51-55: Smiles in the kitchen!

Last week suppose to be a tough week. In fact it did’t start in the best way. As I arrived for the dinner service on Tuesday evening, chef C. that worked at lunch told me: “He[the head chef]‘s still angry, give shit to everyone”. Good. :D

Usually when the head chef arrives everything has to be ready: cutting boards and spoons on the benches, buckets with a sponge and water for cleaning in their places, fires have to be on as week as the air con.

On that night I had also to prepare the staff meal, as usual the chef asked me to cook a pasta using the ingredients that I want. Dinner had to be ready by 5.30 pm. What time is it? 5.17. Shit!

That’s what happen in the first 20 minutes:

5.20: everything ready on the benches, fires on, pot of salted water for the pasta on a big fire

5.21: in the cool room I take 2 onions, 1 big zucchini, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 red capsicums (colour counts :D), from the dry store the pasta

5.22: I put a big fry pan on the fire with oil, I start dicing onion and vegetables, onion and garlic on the pan

5.25: I return in the cool room to take eggs and cream, I mix them in a bowl with salt pepper

5.26: chef C. “Put some herbs and nice ingredients in the pasta!”, I go back in the cool room to take some parsley

5.27 shit, the pasta! I put 424 g of pasta in water. Cooking time 8 minutes. Shit.

5.35 vegetables in the pan start to burn, I put some water in the pan, chef arrives, “Hello chef!”

5.37 I drain the pasta, then I throw it in the pan with the mix of eggs

5.38 6 plates on the bench

5.39 I put the pasta on the plates, the chef asks “put some parmesan on the top”, I go in the cool room, take the parmesan, spread on each plate

5.45 on the table

5.46 “Mmm, Nico the pasta is very good!”

Pheew.

Fortunately the dinner service was smooth, the head chef started in bad mood but finished the evening making jokes to me.

The day after at 5.17 same story, I had to prepare the staff mean but more easier: I had to slice rockmelon and ham.

Service was ok. At the end the chef told me: “Tomorrow a new guy called T. will start to work with us”. Great!

In fact the last 3 days of the week were very good. The new guy started to work for the mains with the head chef and me and R. working on the starters.

Saturday we worked very well and at the end of service a beer for everyone (it was normal, but in the last 2 Saturday we haven’t seen any yellow liquid for free :D).

Today I’ll start a new week. Four weeks to go!

Post 26 – Days 47-50: This restaurant is a joke

Last Wednesday (I had Tuesday off because I worked on extra Saturday morning) I was going to work in a relaxed and good mood. In fact a new pastry chef suppose to join us, chef C. coming back in the kitchen from the sweet section so the individual amount of job would have been lower for each one.

Obviously when you expect something good the opposite happen. As soon as arrived chef A. told me two bad things: the new pastry chef got injured on the weekend so she will be back in two weeks; second, chef R. that started last week works only for lunch service 3 times a week and full time only on Friday and Saturday. Consequently I have to run the larder section by myself in the first 3 dinner service of the week. That is good if there are not many customers but on a busy evening it will be a problem…

Despite the premises Wednesday and Thursday dinners were very quite. We finished very early, no rush.

Friday I worked for both lunch and dinner service. In the latter there were about 50 bookings but we manage the service easily since we were 4 chefs in the kitchen and 1 in the pastry section.

I had Saturday morning off, I went for a 20 km run then ready at the restaurant at 5 pm. News of the day? Chef A. quit the job after lunch service! Shit. I can perfectly understand him. He was working under pressure and the head chef treated him badly. I think he reached the limit and just quit as he suppose to do a couple of weeks ago.
We were only in 3 in the kitchen and 1 in the pastry instead of being 5 and 1. It was one of the worst service ever. The head chef returned to his bossy-angry mood. He wanted to manage the mains by himself but he has been overwhelmed by the orders and started to yell at everyone: chefs, waiters, dishwashers. It seemed one of the service of the first 2 weeks when he started in this restaurant. Violent, bad-tempered and constantly furious.

Tonight I’ll start a new week. I think I have to run the starters by myself, the head chef will prepare the mains and chef C. in the pastry.

Anyway, 5 weeks to go for me. Two weeks ago I told to the head chef that I will quit the 13th of April. :D

Post 25 – Days 36-46: Mayonnase is not an emulsion!

Me and the head chef

Me and the head chef

In these last 2 weeks the head chef looked for  a new chef that can join us in the kitchen.

2 weeks ago came a French guy for a trial. He has been working in restaurants for 15 years. In fact he was a kitchen-machine. :) Fast, clean, organized. Unfortunately he last only one day. His house was too far from the restaurant and it took him one hour and a half to get to work. So he decided not to come any more. :(

Last week came a young French guy that arrived in Australia 1 week ago. He last 3 days. :D
He was the typical guy that works for money, without any passion or sign of interest about his profession. He just asked me what he had to do, never asked questions about the dishes, ingredients, preparation. As soon as I start explaining him something he already said “Ah yes, I know” before I can finish the sentence… I hope he can change his attitude otherwise he won’t enjoy any other workplace.

Last Saturday I started service in the morning at 10.30 instead of 9. The head chef told me the day before that I have to introduce a new Australian chef to my section. When I arrived I was introduce to the new chef R. Nice guy, he worked a couple of years in the previous restaurant of the current owner of this bistro. I introduce to him how we prepare all the starters, the plating, mise en place and all he needs to know in order to run the section by himself. In fact next Tuesday he will work in my place because I will have a day off. Chef gave me a break because “I worked hard” in the last 2 weeks and I came to work on Saturday lunch (I suppose not to do that).

One positive thing is that the head chef changed his mood. In the positive side. :) He’s more relaxed and don’t give me shit as in the first 2 weeks. If I do some mistake he often teases me ironically. I just smile an keep going with my job.
I made a big smile (for not crying) when chef showed me how to make the Bearnaise sauce. He was telling me: “This is an emulsion”.
Me: “Like mayonnaise…”.
Chef: “No, mayonnaise is not an emulsion!”.
No comment. :(

Next week suppose to be good. I hope. With one more chef in the kitchen life will be easier. ;)

Some pics of the dishes:

Post 24 – Days 26-35: Never give up!

The last 2 weeks at the restaurant were regular. Same negative mood, staff unhappy about the kitchen management. The manager of the dining room left 2 weeks ago. Chef A. will leave in less than a month.

Anyway, I can manage with a good level of confidence my section, where I have to prepare the starters:

  • salmon rillette
  • tartine de piperade
  • pied de porc
  • soup pistou
  • oysters

The head chef has always to complain about something, an ingredient for the mise en place not properly prepared, the bread not enough toasted but at this point I am used to receive some shit every 10 minutes. It seems for him to be normal. The employees have only to be under pressure even if there’s not much work to do. One evening we had only 4 bookings, all the mise en place was ready and guess what? The head chef gave me something to do, I took my time because there were no rush but… “Come Nico, quick quick quick!!!”. Oh my god…

Despite all the small bad episodes that regularly happen there is something that seems improving: the staff meal. In the first weeks the new head chef prepared only vegetables, often leftovers with some or no proteins. But in these last 2 weeks we had some good stuff: schnitzels, home made burgers, pork with sauce and… my pasta! I’ve become the pasta boy, once a week the chef asked me to prepare a pasta for the evening staff meal. He told me to use all the ingredients I want. Obviously I tried to use not the most expensive but the result was good. Last Wednesday I was preparing spaghetti “carbonara” style when the chef owner told me: “Me and L. will also join you guys for the staff meal.”. The other chefs looked at me: “Oh Nico, pressure! You have to prepare a very nice pasta!”. Fortunately they appreciate the result. :)

Last Saturday me and chef A. were pretty tired. We had to work the whole week by ourselves because chef K. was home injured. I haven’t had time for my daily run that keep me fit and give some energy for the day and I didn’t sleep much. Five, sometimes 4 hours sleeping per night is not enough. Even if I can go to bed at 11.30 pm I preferred to eat, reading and watching video for a couple of hours. Not an healthy lifestyle. That’s what I told myself last week: “I can’t do anything during the day because I only work, I’ll take some time for myself at night. I should sleep to be ready and rested in the morning but who cares? I don’t have to workout so 6 or 4 hours sleep is the same…”. I have definitely to change my mindset and habits.

Tonight I’ll start the 4th week with the new head chef. I hope a new chef will be hired…

Post 23 – Days 23-25: Bad mood at the restaurant

Last week I worked only 3 days, thanks to the discount of the previous week. Tuesday evening, Thursday and Friday full day.

Since the previous week I worked about 50 hours and I have been paid only for 24 I asked an explanation to the new head chef. It came out that I am not a “real” apprentice. As I understood an apprentice is a person that attend a culinary school and do practice in a restaurant. During the school holidays the apprentice suppose to work full time at the restaurant and being paid as “normal” (about 20 hours a week). That happens because he/she has to replace the hours that are not spent at school by working in the kitchen. Stupid slavery system.
Therefore the head chef will speak to the owners to organize my situation…

Overall the climate at the restaurant is negative. What happened in the last week:

  • Korean chef apprentice Ke. and 2 kitchen hands have been fired and replaced by other 2 that speak French (nobody replaced Ke. position…)
  • my roster has been changed, now I work 5 dinner service and only 1 lunch service
  • me and chef C. have to move ALL the stuff (a lot of stuff) from the store room in another place; that includes 4 freezers full of food (my arms and back thank you)
  • chefs A. and C. came back in the kitchen so the amount of work for each person is lowered

It seems that all are complaining about the new changes that the new chef have done. I try to adapt myself to his request and not think like “uff, this is not the way we usually do this…”. If he ask me to do something and I don’t understand well what he means I prefer to ask him again even if that’s annoying. Try to guess what he wants and produce a result that piss him off is worse that saying “Sorry chef, I am a retarded Italian, could you explain it again?”. :D
I always try to do my jobs as best as I can and if the chef gives me shit despite my efforts… I don’t care! I just say “Yes chef, sorry chef” with a ironic smile in my face. For me is to have a clear conscience and being sure to have done everything at my best.

Anyway, during the service I don’t have any particular problem. I can prepare my starters with confidence and the chef don’t complain so much about my plating. Sometimes he also told me when I put the plated dishes on the pass: “Good job!”. :)

Tomorrow another week will start. It will be fun as always. ;)

Post 22 – Days 17-22: 60 hours in 5 days!

New year, new head chef, new kitchen setting, new menu.

After 2 weeks off last week I restarted working at the restaurant. Last day I worked was new year’s eve. It was the last day for the head chef L. and chef Y. I will miss them, especially chef Y. that taught me a lot of things and became a kind of “mentor” for me. I enjoyed a lot talking with him about cooking, restaurant, chef’s lifestyle.

Anyway, last Tuesday at 9 am myself, the new head chef F., chef K. and chef apprentice Ke. were ready in the kitchen. Chef A. and C. were spending their annual leave enjoying the holidays. Therefore 3 people in the kitchen instead of 6…

The new head chef F. changed completely the kitchen setting and the menu. Every morning he wants:

  • 3 cutting boards on the benches in 3 fixed positions
  • stoves and air con have to be switched on
  • 2 buckets with sponges and detergent has to be prepared
  • towels on the pass
  • 2 containers with spoons on the bench

Tuesday the restaurant was close to customers and we spend the whole day preparing the mise en place for the day after and learned how to plate the dishes. The chef told us: “You do what I say without any questions. When you finish a job you ask for the next one”. Good start. :D

We spent 10 hours preparing vegetables, meat, fish, sauces. From 9 am to 7 pm. No break, no food for us. The only people that have eaten were the chef owner, the manager and the waiter. They tested all the new dishes in the menu. Lucky bastards. :)

At the end of the day, after peeling and cutting vegetables, making tonnes of gnocchi and other jobs, chef assigned me 3 of the 5 starters to prepare during the service:

  • soup pistou
  • salmon rilette
  • tartine de piperade

The other 2 starters and 1 main were assigned to the other chef apprentice Ke.

I asked to the head chef: “Ok, see you tomorrow evening?”. (I suppose to work Tuesday and Wednesday evening then Thursday and Friday full day).
He replied: “As I know, you are an apprentice and you suppose to work full time here”.
Me: “Ehm, chef, I have another job, I need at least 3 days for my office’s job”.
Chef: “Ok, let’s talk about that tomorrow after lunch”.
Fair enough.

The day after I could go for my 12 km run before being ready at the restaurant at 9 am.
The first lunch service wasn’t a disaster. :)
We didn’t have many guests and me and Ke. could manage the orders relatively well. Anyway all the setup was messy and we had some problems in finding the right place for the ingredients, we missed some during the plating. The result was a pissed off head chef. :D

Dinner was even less busy, like 13 guests but we made some mistakes that irritates the chef…

The day after, Thursday, same story. The only difference: apprentice Ke. wasn’t working so we were only 3 in in the kitchen. That’s crazy. Fortunately I could manage all the starters by myself and I think I improved my confidence during the service. But during the dinner service chef K. became crazy: he had to work in the main section and in the pastry section because nobody was there! (At lunch the chef owner E. works in the pastry section).
It was a pretty hard day.

Ah during the dinner service we replace one of lunch’s starter with another one, that has become our nightmare: oysters. Have you ever tried to open an oyster? Is fucking hard to do it quickly! I spent 10 minutes to open 6 oysters for a single plate!

Friday was the worst day of the week. We had a lot of guest both at lunch and dinner. At lunch I worked by myself for the starters but in the evening Ke. joined me, fortunately. Relatively, because he was a little bit tired and made some mistakes that made the head chef very angry.

During the afternoon break the head chef asked me: “Nico, could you come tomorrow morning?” (I supposed to work only during dinner). “I’ll give you Tuesday off”. “Ok chef, no problem”.

Saturday same shit. During the lunch I pissed off the chef because I was preparing a dish for the restaurant owner and I made a mess… actually it wasn’t all my fault. We prepared a starter called pig’s trotter that consist of a cube of pig’s terrine crumbled and fried then served with lentils. I was frying the piece of meat that usually take 3-4 minutes to be cooked. But for that order the oil was very hot and VERY BROWN (how can we use it I don’t know…) and after 1 minute the color of the crust was… burnt. :)
The head chef yelled at me: “Nico, are you crazy?! Do you want to kill chef A.?! Do you want to get fired?! Just keep going like this and you won’t work here anymore!!!”. I don’t know if he was serious because he had a smile in his face so I replied him with a smile as well: “No chef, sorry chef”. :)

Dinner service was good. We had a lot of customers but since we prepared a good mise en place and prepared in advance many ingredients we didn’t have problems. At the end of the evening the chef was relatively satisfied and I went home with a smile(*).

I can say that this week has been positive. Especially because next week the other 2 chefs will come back and the individual amount of work will decrease. Hopefully.

Another main habit that changed is the meal staff. Previously we had 1 staff meal after the lunch service, usually cooked by chef A. that prepared a huge tray of pasta/rice with meat and vegetables that every chef, kitchen hand and waiter can ate.
Now not anymore. We have lunch at 11.30 am and 5.30 pm. Not everyone, only the staff that work full time during the day. Therefore kitchen hands and some waiters can’t have any food. And the food that we eat is plated in single plates and the quantity is veeeeery small. Usually leftovers. Nobody is happy about that.

A positive aspect with the new chef’s system is that we have to prepare the “to do” list in advance. At the end of each service we plan which ingredients has to be ready for the next service and we list the jobs that have to be done in advance. I think is a very good practice that prepared yourself to focus in what you have to do and plan more efficiently the multitasking operations.

Ah, I received my payslip. Paid for 24 hours even if I spent about 60 hours at the restaurant…

Today day off, tomorrow I’ll be ready for the dinner service!

*: I cycled home, had dinner at 12.30, went to bed at 1.20 am, woke up at 4.50, cycled to joined my running group, ran 30 km at 6 am. I am still alive, not injured. But don’t try this at home. :D