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 chefย 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 butย 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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?”. ๐Ÿ˜€
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!”. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tomorrow another week will start. It will be fun as always. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Post 21 – Days 13-15: Christmas week in the restaurant!

A different week than the previous, since my roster changed. Chef K. was enjoying his annual leave so I have to replace him in this 2 weeks.

9 am Tuesday morning, Christmas eve, ready in the kitchen. Ordinary day, I worked in the larder section doing all the jobs that I’ve already done plus something new. Kv, the other apprentice in the garnish section, chefs Y., A. and the head chef cooking on the stoves. There haven’t been many customers, I mean, no full booking at lunch and dinner. I like when the lunch is not busy so we can have a longer break, sometimes almost 2 hours from 3.45 pm to 17.45 pm. During the break we have the staff lunch cooked by chef A. or sometimes from chef Y. then eat outside the restaurant in some benches or o sit somewhere under the shade. If we are very tired we even talked to each other, just eat looking at the non-landscape or play with the cell phone trying to avoid a conversation. ๐Ÿ™‚

However yesterday (Friday) I had a long interesting chat with chef Y., joined for a while by chef C.
I like to speak with chef Y. because he has a good background, he worked in very good restaurant, he’s passionate about cooking and always makes jokes. With the other chefs is not the same, a couple work only for the money and since I am very interested in talking about food and cooking you can’t have a conversation about chefs, restaurants, future plans with this kind of people.
Is like during a party when you ask to a software developer: “Ah cool, so you are a programmer, which languages are you working with at the moment?”. The non-passionate employee usually reply: “Sorry mate, I don’t want to talk about job at a party! Let’s have a beer instead!”.
For that reason I will miss chef Y., I hope another one with the same attitude will join the kitchen staff.

Christmas day restaurant closed. I enjoyed the day with a 20 km run in the morning, help cooking lunch at my friend house and have it with friends, swim at the beach and in the evening we went to other friends house where I cooked a pasta and we had dinner all together.
The day after, Boxing day here in Australia, I woke up ride to my office, ran 12 km detox and then ride to Perth city center. Why? I caught up with the other chefs and we went to have lunch at the farm of the restaurant owner!
As usual, here in Australia you have to drive at least 100 km to reach a “rural” place. So 2 cars, 5 people each for a 1.5 hour drive. I had to seat on the back in the middle between chef A. and C. The latter is a huge guy so I had to compress myself an make my ass square in order to fit the seat. ๐Ÿ˜€

The lunch was nice, we had food from the restaurant that chef L. and Y. prepared. Actually they just plated the food. I also contribute because they asked me to make a potato salad. A lot of potato salad. In fact at the end of the lunch 3/4 finished in the bin. I hate that waste of food.
Anyway, after 5 Corona I was still sober and I listened to chef’s A. histories about his past. I love to ask questions to people so they can talk for hours by pumping their ego. ๐Ÿ˜€
He showed us how he re-builded his own house from scratch, in the middle of the nowhere, here in Australia.
Then they played pool while I was browsing at his book in his shelves. Most were gifts with dedications from friends and colleagues. I don’t think he has read any of them. ๐Ÿ™‚
At 5 pm we drove back and as usual after a big lunch everyone (except the driver, chef’s Y. wife) took a nap. ๐Ÿ˜€

Friday and Saturday I worked full day from 9 am to 10 pm. Service was relatively easy, Friday only 6 booking ๐Ÿ˜ฎ but last night more than 60. It was the first time I worked on Saturday and usually they clean EVERYTHING: Fridges, benches, knives, stoves, floors, windows.

Next week, only one day: new year’s eve.

Post 20: Day 9-12 (of 30): Some thoughts after a positive week

Job list

 

This third week at the restaurant has been very good. I’m getting more confidence and I can manage all my duties with a good (not yet perfect) efficiency. There are still certain jobs that I prefer not to do, simply because I’m not fast enough on them or the result is not perfect. Like mash a big pot of potatoes or chop a big bowl of parsley and shallots in 15 minutes…

Anyway I notice that being fast is more important that being precise. At the beginning, especially during the internship the other chefs told me that the parsley has to be minced veeeeeery fine. But then I realized that they don’t care much about the precision… chef K. chop a lot of parsley and chives very fast but the quality is not so good in my opinion. ๐Ÿ™‚ Moral: do your job as fast as you can in order to reach an “acceptable” result.

A positive fact about this week is that (I think) the other chefs noticed my positive mood when we’re working and they also started to smile and do jokes during the day. I always try to smile even if I am tired, body language is always important. Yesterday after lunch service I was finishing my tomato concasse just before the break and I startedย whistling an happy song. Chefs K. and Y. told me: “Nico, are you happy? Are you crazy?!”. “Come on guys, we’re going to have a break now and take a rest!”.

Furthermore the chef owner E. that yelled at meย at my first full day 3 weeks ago talked to me and asked some question about where I come from, Italy, France bla bla bla… Maybe because he noticed that I do what he asks me (not many things, fortunately :D) without making troubles. For example on last Tuesday he was looking for a grater and asked to chef Kv. where he could find it. Chef Kv. (he’s the youngest chef in the kitchen, also apprentice) was a little bit in panic about the request and didn’t know about that and replied: “I don’t know maybe in the pastry section…” (by the way, where chef E. was working). In 2 seconds I gave the grater to chef E. because I knew it was under the bench. He told to chef Kv:: “You see? He’s smarter than you!”. ๐Ÿ˜€

Like the previous week I had worked Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 pm to 10.30 pm, Thursday and Friday from 9 am to 10.30 pm. Fortunately on the full days we had a break, staff meal and a nap between 4 pm and 17.45 pm. Total about 35 hours in 4 days. For the amazing salary of $419 per week. The money that I can collect with one day as IT consultant. ๐Ÿ˜€
I understand the frustration of the other chefs that have been working in this industry for a lot of years, work very hard and have a low income. I don’t care about money since I work because is my passion, but for them is different. I talked with chef K. about my wage as IT programmer and he told me: “I should had studied computer science…”. I just told him that if you enjoy what you’re doing you don’t care about money. But that’s the problem of many people, they “sell their time for a job that they hate, to buy thing they don’t care to impress people they don’t like“. Sad but true.

To sum up, this week I had worked in the larder section and last night in the garnish section. My mise en place involved the same jobs:

  • slice, dice, brunoise many vegetables like parsley, chives, shallots, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, apples, tomatoes, avocados
  • slice ham, carpaccio
  • cure duck legs
  • portion terrines
  • warm bread
  • reheat soup of the day
  • prepared mashed and potato salad
  • boil and peel hard, soft and T (for tarts) eggs

During service I had to prepare:

  • amuse bouche soups
  • charcuterie board, carpaccio, egg mimosa, prawns and avocato millefeulle, tomato tart as entree
  • tian as main (that involve cooking spinach, ratatuille, pumpkin on the stove)

Yesterday I was working in the garnish section and the evening was quite for me because there was a table of 53 people that pre-ordered the charcuterie board entree for everyone that I not suppose to prepare because not in my section. I had only to prepare tomato tarts and the tian as main. During the evening I prepared only 3 tian and at 9 we backed up everything. All my bench was clean I ready to finish the cleaning of the kitchen. However, we heard the noise of the ticket printer… “Order! 2 soups, 1 carpaccio, 1 tian, 1 salmon!”. Fuck!! So I had to take all the ingredients back from the fridge and make a new tian. Next time I won’t do it again until the dining room manager will say “Kitchen is closed!”. ๐Ÿ˜€

Post 5 – Day 4: More confidence during the service!

This morning 12 km, lunch with pork and potato gateau that they gave me the previous day, caramelized onions, pastry cream and 2 apples.

I had to be at the restaurant at 5 pm and since I had plenty of time, I walked to the train station. But before I went to buy my first stainless steel fry pan for half price, $15 instead of 30:

Image

At 4 I was at the train station and guess what? No train, because there was a mechanical problem! Shit. I took the bus, obviously slower in the traffic and I had to stop about 3 km from the restaurant. From there, 5 minutes to 5, I ran to the restaurant. Crazy.

I apologize to the chef (I had already informed him with an sms) but he smiled at me with a peaceful and easy going Australian smile: “No problem, it’s ok!”.

Despite the bad start the dinner service was quite enjoying. (I believe that when something wrong happen it will be compensate with something positive ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

I started working at 5.25 pm dicing capsicums. I have to say that I love using the knife. Once you learn how to master the chef’s knife, cooking became like a fun game. I can stay 12 hours a day dicing, slicing, mince vegetables. I know that sounds crazy for a “normal” person (that’s because I applied for this job!). But as Thomas Keller said “in the kitchen I love repetition”. Doing the same thing over and over again. Every day a little bit better than the previous. Tonnes of diced onions. Hundreds of butchered fishes. Then after many years you reach the level of “autopilot”. You can do that task without thinking or you can thing about other things in the meanwhile. As a new inspiration for a new dish.
Is the same in running. I can keep a 4’30″/km pace for 20 km without any problem, admire the landscape with a stupid smile on my face while I am doing a mental trip somewhere else around the world. ๐Ÿ˜€ For a sedentary person will be the worst experience in life. But reaching this took me many years. I hope to reach the same level in the kitchen.

Anyway, during the service I had to:

  • dice a box of capsicums
  • mash potatoes with a food mill
  • stir the potatoes on the stove with butter and warm milk
  • plate the tomato tart
  • bring hot plates from the oven to the service table when called
  • prepare amuse-bouche soups
  • remove the flesh of cooked aubergines from the skin
  • seal terrines with the vacuum chamber

Chef Y. showed me how to tightly wrap the beef fillet in cling film that had to be frozen for the carpaccio.

Today I felt more confident. Two days ago when the chef called an order I was in panic. What did they call? What entree do I have to prepare?! How many?! Which ingredients do I need for the plating? Which is the sequence for assembling the dish!?
Today I had to watch again to the order on the paper, but I didn’t panic and I stayed calm. No cold blood but almost. ๐Ÿ™‚
Once you know exactly what you have to do you became more confident.

At the end of service I had a chat with chef Y. He worked in the best restaurants in Australia, Quay, Sepia and Tetsuya’s!

Then chef A. gave me a box of beef bourguignon. These guys are very nice. ๐Ÿ˜€

Next week same roster, Tuesday to Friday from 5 pm!