This journal is a semi-fictitious chronicle of a working chef with twenty years of experience in the restaurant industry. I am
Chef Ben; I have not used people's real names in this journal to protect the innocent and as to not get my butt kicked. Within the journal you will find links to recipes we use in the restaurant. Not every recipe mentioned in the journal is available on the web site either because they are too complicated for the home cook or because I just have not gotten around to writing the recipe yet. You will also find links to explanations or other descriptions I think would be useful to you. The recipe links will be colored blue; the descriptions links will be colored red,
I am a cook not a writer, so you will have to forgive my lack of style and aptitude for writing. I will do my best. You try putting out five hundred dinners on Saturday night before you complain.
In the restaurant business the only thing that matters is Saturday night. All of the rest of the time you open the restaurant is only so the customers do not think that you are out of business. Everybody wants to eat at 7:30 on Saturday night. Unfortunately this causes a lot of problems and if you insist on following this course you will get the worst service possible, but that's that. No more ranting for now.
This tale will be set every Saturday. I will update it weekly and give you the low down on what is going on in the restaurant, the comings and goings of staff, interesting stories about the personalities, the things we are cooking with links to some of the recipes in the journal. I will try to give you a feel for what it's like to work in a restaurant kitchen.
The story begins on a Saturday; at the restaurant that I have been working for about three years following a career of twenty years of working my way up the ladder from pot washer through culinary school to chef de Cuisine of some very fine restaurants and hotels. I am now a full time stay at home dad. I only work on Saturday to keep my hands in the business and keep my skill intact. I will do this until my kids are old enough to allow me to go back to full time work. This is a good deal for me and for the owner of the restaurant. The owner Freddy likes it because he only must pay me for times he really needs me. I like the set up because it gives me a break from the kids and besides it gets me out of the house on Saturday night without getting in too much trouble.
My job is to prepare for dinner. I am given the tasks that require the skills acquired over my twenty years in the kitchen. I prepare fish, meats and one of my least favorite things to prepare, alligator meat so that the
prep. Cooks read, dishwasher, can bread it up to be fried for an appetizer. I usually get one or two specials to set every Saturday night. I will make the more complicated special sauces; this is one of my strengths. Of course, I, being a chef would think this; but I am a very good saucier, said (so see ay) ,French for sauce cook. I get to make a compound butter For grilled fish and meats and make the lemon beurre blanc just before service. At turnout time (this is the time we are making meals à la minute for service), my positions on the
line is plate the meals and decorate the plates from the grill end of the line. With chef John I make sure the food gets to the wait staff and gets out of the window to the table.
For those of you not familiar with turn out time in a restaurant this is how it works. The first thing you must do is do your
prep. (Preparation) work that is getting everything possible prepared ahead of time. Cut your meats and fish into portion size, cut and blanch vegetables if necessary, make sauces etc.
I change my shoes, put on my apron and get my towels. I put two towels under my apron string behind my back. I say
Hi John, (John is the head chef of the kitchen) I work with him on Saturdays, and we both work for Freddy the owner of the restaurant.
John is setting up the
line, turning everything on, and warming up all the sauce and soups getting everything ready for lunch. When Tom comes in he will set up the broiler station and help Sixto put out lunch.
The first thing I do is ask John,
how many,He knows I mean how many prime rib roasts to put in the oven. John says
one, I say,: “You sure, could be busy tonight”. He thinks for a second and says, “Go ahead cook two”. After I put the ribs in the oven and take a quick look in the walk-in refrigerator to see what we have to cook with today, I go find John.
So what's new John,
Same old same oldJohn replies with a yawn.
So what's going on today, as I look at the bulletin board next to the
I do not usually help put out lunch parties or lunch for that matter unless John asks for help.
I ask John,
So what do we have today.
We have Mahi (Mahi-Mahi fish), we're going to do the trio tonight.This is a very complicated dish with three different stuffing and three sauces it takes a lot of time to prepare. The entree consists of 3-2 1/2 ounce pieces of mahi-mahi, one stuffed with our house
Crab Imperial and served with a lobster cream sauce, the second stuffed with a Florentine stuffing napped with our lemon beurre blanc, the third The trio is not my favorite dish to prepare. I have never been happy with the third note of the triad, the shrimp stuffing and sauce, a whole butterflied shrimp is placed into the fish with its shell on tail curled up on top and served with a shrimp cream sauce. Today I came up with a new variant of the shrimp stuffing and sauce for the trio. I made a basil pesto; fresh basil, garlic, virgin olive oil, and fresh breadcrumbs, all pureed. I stuffed the fish with the pesto then placed a butter flied shrimp onto of the pesto and closed-up the fish making sure the shrimp's tail curled over top. I then made a red pepper coulis to sauce the shrimp stuffed Mahi. I think this is a winner John liked I think I'll keep it for a while.
Good morning John
Good morning Benjamin,(that's what he calls me)
So what's new?
Well did you hear the Sixto and Mike went back to Mexico
Are you kidding me?
No, Sixto's mother called from Mexico and told them to come home. He took his brothers and four others with him.
The Mexican line cooks and seven of their amigos left to go back to Mexico because of fears about the terrorism and after math of 9/11/01. Now George is back and sautéing with a new Mexican Ricardo. The boss, Freddy had to cook tonight instead of being out on the floor with the customers. George has been working for Freddy for years coming and going. He just got back from Florida after his mom through him out again. He was going to live the high life on the beach. Oh well!
Tom gave notice this week said he had a new job he was going to work at for a while but he plans to leave the area later on.
This week my special was Salmon en croûte stuffed with jumbo lump crab. Served with Béarnaise sauce It was a real hit, in the middle of service chef John ask me to prepare another Salmon en croûte because it was running out so fast. You can just guess I love doing this, NOT! I rushed off the line and gathered all the ingredients to make the entree. I put it together in ten minutes at most and was back on the line. Turns out we did not need it after all. The Sunday crew used it on Sunday, luck for those Sunday customers.
Chef John's specials were grilled tuna with jumbo shrimp served on top of garlic spinach and a cranberry-pecan compound butter. And Red snapper and grilled scallops Puttanesca served with sautéed dandelion greens and topped with matchstick potatoes.
I pulled into the parking lot Tom's truck was already there. That's unusual. I walked into the kitchen, there is a new cook working. I change my shoes and put my apron on.
Hi Benjamin, he introduces the new cook.
This is Arnold
Arnold this is Benjamin.
Because both new cooks are working the Sauté station, John gave Tom and myself all of the specials tonight. This made it very busy down on the grill and broiler station, but it allowed the new guys to learn the menu and station without getting hit to badly. The new cooks did a pretty good job tonight, we were not real busy tonight, and they will have to pick up the speed when we get busier. When a cook starts a new job he will try to impress everybody with his skills style. This will slow him down a little. We have to give them a chance to learn the system we us in this restaurant before they can pick up the speed. On a very busy Saturday night when you have more customers than time the small details go out the door and give way to speed. That's just the way it is.
Tonight's specials were Grilled tuna served with sautéed garlic spinach and topped with a Mediterranean compound butter, and grilled lamb loin chops with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a rosemary Demi-glace.
Last week Tom said he was leaving for a new job. This week he told me his interview and test day went well, but they did not offer him enough money. Tom said even though he does not have a job to go to he is leaving anyway. I told him he was nuts to leave without having a new job. At the end of the night John, Freddy, and myself took Tom aside and ask him to stay, because he doesn't have anything better to do and we need someone to work the broiler station. I will see if he is still here next week.
Tom is young and must go through all these things himself but with all the experienced people around him he would be smart to except some advice. He must learn to relax and let things roll or is back. Working on the line in a restaurant is very stressful. On a busy night you have work very quickly in some very hot and dangerous surroundings. Usually the Waiter staff is not professionals cause the kitchen staff lots of problems.
When I walked in today there seemed to be some kind of a problem with John and the new cooks John was muttering something about egos and cooks doing what they want even if it's note correct. Tom is still here and also both of the new cooks. Usually when you start a new job you try to put your best foot forward, you keep your eyes open and mouth shut, try to learn the system they use and find where you can fit in. For some reason these two new guys think they can do things their own way and Jeff is not happy about this at all, he is having a real problem with Arnold this guy has a personality problem, he has none!! Arnold can get along with anybody Tom ask him if he has any friend. He said no he doesn't need any. He even had the nerve to say something to me. He said because I only work one Saturday nights recently that I'm just playing around and really don't care. Nothing could be farther from the truth. John had a long talk with Arnold and I think they are going to get along. I don't have much faith in Arnold; he is still trying to do things his own way. I do not think he is going to work out. Tony has a health ego to but when he tried to change the setup of the plate for an entree I told him that you just could change thing because you want to and to do it the way he was shown, after that I did not have any other problems with him.
When I walked in this morning I could tell there was something wrong, John was talking to himself again about stubborn inflated egos and about how much he
loves his job. This is a mantra he repeats, trying to convince himself of its truth.
I greeted everybody as usual, when I said hello to Arnold he didn't respond. When you talk to this guy he looks at you like you're not human.
I want to talk about teamwork now. When you work in a professional kitchen the staff must operate as a team just like in football. Everybody must know what their position is and what play your running. When somebody gets knocked down the other teammates must step up to the ball and make the play work anyhow. Not every position on the line carries the ball, but that doesn't mean that the other player run to the side lines when the clock is still running just because he has run his pattern. You're supposed to keep your eyes open and look to see if you can help out somehow. Now you're probably saying to yourself what does all this football have to do with cooking? Well I'll tell you! Maybe in some kitchens it works differently, but in this kitchen and every other "well run" kitchen I've worked in. When you don't have anything to do at a momentarily you look around and see if the guy next to you needs help. Our buddy Arnold on the other hand thinks that once he's done his part it's time to go and talk to the wait staff or do something else, he never offers assistants to the rest of the line. He's a bad lot if you ask Me.
Arnold still will not listen to John's advice and do thing the way he's is told, he wants to do thing s his own way and is cooking as if he were working in a much slower place. The details of how you run a station differently is complicated and I'm not going to go into it right now. Leave it to say Arnold is not doing it correctly therefore the line is slowed way down. Well John has taken about all he can take at this point and there was a big blow up on the line between he and Arnold. Freddy had to come on the line and help out and he was not a happy camper about this whole thing. Tony no longer works here I don't know the reason.
For those of you keeping track, my special for this week was filet en croûte stuffed with crab and spinach, served with a Demi-glace sauce. I also made roasted garlic, sun dried tomato and basil compound butter.
I came in today and got ready as usual I looked around and didn't see Tom anywhere thought maybe he was late. Then I heard some talk that a long-time waitress had quit. I still don't know why. It turns out Tom was gone to, seams our buddy Arnold threatened to beat up Tom so he quit. I asked John why the guy who was threatened was gone and not the guy doing the threatening. He said,
Your guess is as good as mine?
I had to set up the broiler station because Tom was gone. It has been quite a long time since I have done this. I remembered almost everything. John said Arnold was going to turn out the broiler station tonight, but around 4:30 George showed up and he turned out the broiler for dinner. He did an all right job; we were not very busy tonight. Another New cook started this his name is Jimmy, time will tell.
On Friday night John called and asked me if I can work on Sunday. I sail I would have to check with my wife.
John got Tom to come back to work this week, but on Friday Tom asked the new cook Jimmy how much he was paid. For reasons beyond me Jimmy told him, well Tom did not like what he heard and walked out again. Turns out Jimmy had gotten into an argument with Arnold and had walked out with Tom, from what I heard they went out and partied together. Don't you just love this guy Arnold; he must be holding something back because I cannot see why he is still here. He just does not understand teamwork.
On the line tonight was George, John, Arnold, Ricardo, and myself. (This is getting complicated; I'm not going to write about Ricardo because he just was not here long enough.) My position on the line was shifted over one man because Ricardo was on the grill and broiler; George was on the oven. I was not very happy with this set up because I could not control things the way I normally do from the grill. The wait staff was short a few people tonight and their slow pace was really annoying me.
My special tonight was a light alternative entree, A roulade of monk fish stuffed with vegetables, poached and served with a no fat tomato saffron coulis.
I did end up working on Sunday. Freddy had 4 large parties. In my opinion it was easy. George does not think it was as easy as I did, but he is a whiner. On the line were George, Arnold, Freddy and myself. It went well, got out very early.
Good afternoon, John said with a happy tone.
What's up" I replied. So, who works here this week?
Arnold is no longer with us, John just smiled.
A new cook started this week Nora; she worked the grill on Saturday night. She did a good job for her first Saturday night, especially considering we were very busy. It was crazy we really got slammed. Nora gave one of the best first Saturday night performances I have seen in a long time. Hopefully she will stick around to become a valuable member of the team. It got so busy tonight Freddy had to come on the line and help. The Sauté side really got weeded. We still need to fine another good person on the sauté side to get back to our optimum crew.
Freddy Hired a new dining room manager this week. We now have three "managers". Why? I don't know, they don't seem to be doing their jobs. This new guy never even introduced him self to anybody in the kitchen including John, the Chef. They need to learn how to use a reservation book, there where people standing at the door all night.
This week's special was Blackened red fish with Jalapeño butter, black bean and corn salsa, topped with fried tortilla strips.
When I drove up to the restaurant and didn't see John's truck, I was very nervous because I don't like to work when he is not there. This restaurant would fall apart without him. I would rather not work there if he doesn't. Thankfully when I walked in he was there.
Good morning John
Hi, Benjamin how are you, good to see you
Where is your truck, John?
It's in the shop.
So what's going on?
There will only be four of us to work on New Year's Eve, Tony can't because of a family emergency and Nora had asked Tony earlier to work for her because she has a party for her mother that night.
John asked me to come in early on New Year's Eve, but my wife must work half a day and I would not be able to come in to work till 1:00 p.m. John ask me to give him a ride to pick up his car after work. We got out by 10:00 p.m.
This weekend was very slow, if New Year's fall in the beginning of the week the weekend just be for is always slow. New Year's Eve is on Monday night; of course, I will be working on Monday night. I have work just about every New Year's Eve for the last twenty years.
Nothing to interesting happened on Saturday night this week. Cooking on the line were John, George, Jimmy, Nora and myself. The specials were Pan seared Mahi-mahi with teriyaki glaze, served with a saffron and ginger, shrimp risotto and double cut lamb loin chops with rosemary Demi-glace, grilled and served with roasted garlic and broccoli raab mashed potatoes
When I came in John was searing off Beef filets.
Hi John, what's going on?
These Filets are for you.
Oh, thanks, spinach, crab?
Yes, spinach and crab with green onions, wrapped in puff pastry, I have 35 to wrap.
O. K., what's the sauce going to be?
Marsala demi-glace. I want a leaf decoration on top of each one.
You and your !@#% leaves!
I'll make the leaves!
Yeah, Yeah! I'll make the leaves myself.
I made the 35 Filet en croûte with crab and spinach stuffing. We also did a grouper with saffron beurre Blanc, crab, shiitake mushrooms, tomato, and dill.
The New Year's Eve menu was an abbreviated version of our regular dinner menu. There where only 4 of us on the line to turn out dinner. I would like to talk about what it is to be busy when you are short on hands. One must be very organized, you need to be organized even when you a fully staffed. In professional Kitchen lingo we call this
Mise en place, (it is French for everything in place). Basically, you need to put every tool, ingredient and piece of serving ware in position where it can be easily reached without moving from your position to far. When you have everything set up just right you almost don't have to look for thing you just reach and whatever you what should be there. When you are really in your grove working quickly and something is not where it should be it can totally cramp your style!
On New Year's Eve I was covering the grill and the middle, (the middle is where the food is plated and placed up into the window to be picked up by the Wait staff.) Usually on a busy night we have one person covering the grill and another person covering the middle, but we were shorthanded, and I was working both positions,
This was the Saturday after New Year's Eve and there were football playoff games that night, so it was very slow. If you have not yet figured it out this restaurant is in the Philadelphia area. The Chef John is not an Eagles Fan; He's a Cowboys fan of all things. Everybody else pretty much is an Eagles fan, the Eagles won that night and John was not very happy, everybody else were.
The special of the night was flounder stuffed with shrimp, spinach, artichokes, and Swiss and Mascarpone cheeses; then topped with Hollandaise Sauce.
John was running a little late today, he is usually there before I get in. I met him in the parking lot and we walked in together.
Hi John, running late?
Yes, I'm a little tired!
Busy last night?
I don't know, I didn't work last night.
I went skiing yesterday.
I thought you were not supposed to ski, because of your knee problems.
I don't care what the doctor said I'm going to have fun.
So who worked last night, who still works here this week?
George, Jimmy, Nora and Fred all worked last night.
I'm glad I was not here last night."
As John peers in to the walk-in he says,
It looks like they were slow last night.
There were very few reservations today and in the beginning of the night we were very slow. As the night progressed the walk-ins began to pile up. The sauté station got hit hard and because they thought we would by slow they were not ready for the number of customers we served. The boss was very upset with the sauté guy because he slowed down the whole line.
In the restaurant business you must be prepare for anything no matter what. You must be ready for the unexpected especially on Saturday night. January is a strange month generally speaking, right after the holidays, other than the summer it can be the slowest time of the year. You should never let down your guard; unfortunately, some of us let down our guard on Saturday night and got slammed hard. As John said you should always get prepped up for the worst you can always use the left-over prep on Sunday Hopefully we all learned our lesson.
The specials of the nights where, Mako shark served with orzo pilaf and insalata cruda, Trout Victoria; stuffed with crab Imperial served with lobster cream sauce and lemon beurre blanc, topped with caviar. the second special was veal saltimbocca with shrimp.
I walked in and Ricardo was there, turns out he was working lunch during the week all along. I would not know this because I am never work during the week. John never said anything about him so I assumed he no longer worked for the restaurant.
When I saw John I said,
Good morning John.
Ha, Benjamin Good to see you. I didn't know if you were going to be here today.
Oh, I wouldn't miss this for the world, I couldn't let you down. Freddy asked me on Saturday night, if I could work.
I am glad you're here.
Everything went as anticipated for a Valentine's Day, although there was far more large parties than I would have expected. The specials where grouper served with saffron and shrimp risotto, and sauce Verte and grilled tuna with a wasabi crust.
I came in and hung up my coat, put on my shoes and apron and got my towels. I found John to see what was going on.
John how are doing?
Benjamin, your back again so soon?
Ya, I just couldn't stay away!
Nora is not here tonight, she has some kind of concert to go to.
Am I going to work the oven tonight?
No, George will work the oven and you will work the grill."
John and Freddy worked the middle, Jimmy was sautéing, and I worked the grill and George did a very good job working the oven and broiler. It was a very busy night, but the line was humming, we keep to 15-20 minute checks all night, everybody did a great job. I didn't have a single steak come back cooked incorrectly!
The sauté station did a very nice seafood and pasta entree special, with lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams and scallops in a light cream sauce with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic. My first special was broiled grouper fillet served on top of mashed sweet potatoes with a sauce verte. My other special was grilled sword fish steak served on top of sautéed garlic spinach with a corn and black bean salsa.
After getting myself dressed I found John.
Good morning John, so what's new?
Guess who doesn't work here anymore
George Or Jimmy?
John told me that the boss fired Jimmy on Sunday. Seems they got in a big "to do" and Freddy got mad and that is that.
We did a special Grilled Hawaiian sea bass with pineapple and passion fruit chutney served over butternut squash risotto. It went over real w ell, sold it out! I am not working next week because my niece is having her Bat-mitzvah.
I got to work a little early, but John was already there.
Good morning John
Good to see your Benjamin
So what's new?
Same old thing
So what are we doing today"?
Put in only one rib, we didn't sale one order last night, I'll reheat last nights rib.
I put in the rib and John told me we have Chilean Sea Bass to prepare and asked me if I would like to make a soup, he Suggested New England clam chowder. I made the Chowder. We are still short one person on the line, a person came in to fill out an employment application, and he's an older guy with about 20 years of experience. He looks pretty good; he is supposed to meet with Freddy on Monday. We'll see next week what happens. It was not very busy, about 300 covers, and service went pretty well.
This week's specials were grilled Chilean sea bass with mushroom polenta and spinach topped with roasted garlic and sun dried tomato butter. Grilled Lamb Chops with garlic mashed potatoes and red wine rosemary Demi-glace. Francese monkfish with asparagus, shrimp and ricotta and shrimp raviolis.
I arrived early, there is a new cook his name is Dave. We both beat John to work. There was not much work to do because business was slow all week. Not many reservations tonight but we did get busy nonetheless.
The specials were sword and Mako shark with wasabi crust, halibut Puttanesca with scallops. The special appetizer sautéed broccoli raab with mushroom tortellini and grilled lamb chops.
Last week George said that Jimmy had called him because he had lost his new job. Jimmy asked George to talk to Freddy about giving Jimmy his old job back. I laughed because the things that Freddy had said when he fired Jimmy were harsh to say the least.When I came in I saw John and said hello.
Benjamin good to see you
I walked onto the line and could not believe my eyes; there he was big Jimmy, hair a little longer but otherwise the same and working in the restaurant. I said nothing to him; I went back into the kitchen.I said to John,
You have got to be kidding me he's back?
It amazed me too; Freddy spent a lot of money on help wanted ads and only got two responses. We still need help, so here he is.
Dave and Jimmy worked the sauté station, they actually did a good job that night and we were busy. John said let's see how long it lasts. Nora and myself worked the grill and broiler and John expedited.
The Specials were Mahi-mahi with mashed sweet potatoes, raspberry and peach butter, topped with fried leeks. Grilled Shark with sesame glaze and panko crusted shrimp and scallops with sautéed spinach.
I got home from vacation on Saturday night. I was away for eight days, two Saturdays. Mother's Day was the day after I came back, Sunday. The Kitchen staff was very glad to see me; there were a lot of new faces in the restaurant.
Believe it or not Jimmy was still working and there was a new guy Yuri, he has worked with the chef from Freddie's other restaurant. He is young, but has he had a good head on his shoulders. Yuri really kept his cool when it got very busy. We had a full staff on the line, Nora, John, Yuri, Jimmy, and myself. Dan was running and making salads it went well but it was a long hard service.
The specials were grilled swordfish with compound butter, (peach and cranberry) served on sautéed spinach and topped with crispy shoestring sweet potatoes, and beef tips with seafood and saffron rice and broccoli. I mad salmon en croûte again. >
I arrived and found John.
Ha, John what's new?
Is your father still mad?
What do you mean, John?
About the Luncheon
I don't know, what happened?
Rob screwed up, he didn't tell anybody in the kitchen about your father's group's party.This was the first thing I heard about what happened. My father didn't say anything to me.
Your fathers group had a reservation for their regular luncheon.
They arrived, and nobody was here, the dining room was not set up for them.
I can't believe it, my father's group is one of the restaurants better customers.
To make a long story short rob is no longer working here!
Dan quit, I think. Or he was allowed to quit? whatever, he no longer works here. Dan just was not cut out for this kind of restaurant. Jimmy however is working, and Yuri is still here. I think Yuri may have some real potential. Jimmy made some crème caramels, I was very impressed the custards were very good. George went over to Freddie other restaurant for the night. Tonight's special was grilled sword fish with pesto butter.
Weather wise it was a very nice morning. I got in right after John.
Good morning, John
How are you Benjamin?
Good, what's new this week?
Jimmy is gone, so it's just the rest of us now.
It should be fine because of Memorial Day week end so it should be slow.
Was it busy last night?
No, we do have two parties tonight, a party of forty and a party of twenty. The twenty is off the menu and the forty is has a choice of strip steak, seafood combination, and grilled chicken breast.
Unfortunately both parties were set to come in at 6:30 p.m., which means they will run into the busy part or service, turned out that both parties did run into the rush. Immediately after both parties arrived the restaurant filled up, it was hairy for a while, but John keep us going at a good pace as usual. We were not very busy if you look at the total numbers, but it all came in together. A late start and an early finish.
Freddy had a wedding to attend tonight, so he did not work, and the hostess was off too. Since Rob no longer works here, there was no real manager out front.
The specials of the night were
stuffed flounder royal, double boned pork chops stuffed with prosciutto; spinach; sun dried tomatoes; and fresh mozzarella, and strip steak
I got to work at about 12:00; John was already setting up the line, heating up sauces and soups etc. Yuri was there too, helping get ready.
Our lead dishwasher and prep-cook, Gomez was cutting something on the electric slicer when he cut the tip of his thumb off. That put him out of commission for the day, George volunteered to fill in on the dish machine for the night, this was fine with me. We were not very busy, and the line was fine with just four people. The specials were halibut with southern pecan barbeque crust. Served with a crab stuffed potato pancake, and grilled tuna with pesto butter and grilled shrimp topped with crispy shoestring sweet potatoes.
John and Nora were both on summer vacation this week. I was not looking forward to this Saturday at all. I don't like to work when John is off, because he holds the whole place together and if he is not there a lot of the presser falls on me. Since John and Nora were off we had Big George working the oven and broiler station. Yuri worked the pans as usual with Freddy next to him. I was working my normal position with the addition of some of John's responsibilities. It is late in the summer and we were not very busy, so with just four of us cooking it went well.
Freddy was in a very creative mood tonight and with my help he came up with some very nice "signature" specials. We had grilled Hawaiian Opah fish topped mashed sweet potatoes seasoned with cumin and other spices, served over sautéed spinach with grilled sea scallops. The second entree was sautéed soft shell crab with a pan sauce of mushrooms, fresh tomato, capers and lump crabmeat in a lemon butter sauce. The crabs were served in a fried angel hair pasta basket. It looked really cool on the plate. The appetizer was pan seared sea scallops, and squash raviolis with a Normandy sauce of apples, brandy and cream, garnished with sweet potato puree.
I have not added to my journal in quite a while. I have been working on updating my web site for at least six months, I wrote a java script program that will scale up or down a recipe you type into a form on my web site. I call the recipe calculator you can find it here. I also made all of the recipes on my site scalable check them out here. I thought it was time to return to the story because some new wait staff at the restaurant found my web site and where asking me to continue. I have some exciting news! The Amigos are back. I almost forgot, Freddy opened a new pizza shop at the other end of the shopping plaza and guess who has come back from Florida to work in the new restaurant! Give up? The wondering Chef George. Freddy pulled him back into the organization.
There has been talk since the early spring that Sixto and Mike have been trying to come back from Mexico to work again. We have been hearing rumors for some time now. We have been working with one person short for most of the summer; it has not been too bad because the summer is always slow in the restaurant business, unless you have a place down the shore, (near the beach for none locals). Since I last wrote the wait staff has turned over a couple of times, with just two or three long standing wait persons still here. We have been through a bunch of useless and generally unsatisfactory cooks. The dishwashing staff has completely turned over. One Saturday I came into work and the whole dish staff was different.
I was running a little late this week. John was already at work and the dishwashers look like they had been there for a while too, only thing is I didn't recognize a single one.
Hay John, what's going on? Are we in the right place, I don't recognize any of the dishwashers?
Oh yeah, John says shaking his head.
All of the dish washer quit the other day.
They got in a big blow up with Freddy, I think it was about money
The head dish washer and his girlfriend both quit and took the rest or the dish staff with them. It always amazes me how Freddy can get a whole new dish staff, seemingly overnight. I don't know how he does it, this is why I probably will never own a restaurant.
I ask John,
So what do you have for me this week?
I got some grouper, I thought we could do the pesto crusted again, unless you have a better Idea.
No, Pesto crusted sounds good. What sauce?
Can you make the red pepper coulis?John asks.
Yeah, that'll be great. What else do you got for me?
Sorry, gator", John says smiling.He knows I dislike prepping alligator.
I also need a compound butter, and check the Jizes, The Chef Added
I made the pesto-crusted grouper with roasted red pepper coulis and, a Mediterranean compound butter we served on grilled tuna over sautéed spinach.
I arrive at work in my normal fashion and get dressed. I walk into the kitchen and to my surprise, It's Mike back from Mexico. A little older and heavier, but it's Mike.
Mike, how are you? Great to see you.
I'm good, how are you?
bien, gracias. (very well, thank you), Are you going to stay for a while this time?
Sí, Mike replies,
Cuál es nuevo,I ask,
Mike tells me he is married now and has new twin babies. I congratulate him and we talk about having twins and other kid stuff, I have twin five-year-old boys. I ask if Sixto is here too, Mike tells me that Sixto is working at Freddy's other restaurant.
Mike fell right back into to swing of things, even better than before. He used to act as if he did not know anything, but I now realize he must have been feigning ignorance, or he just learned a lot while he was gone. Some of the staff meals he has been cooking, in the traditional Mexican style, have been really, good. I asked him where he suddenly learned to cook, he told me his wife had taught him. I think some of the skills he has are other than he would learn from his wife. I have been watching what he is doing and making mental note on how he does thing. I'll steal an Idea from anybody if it's good.
I see John working on the line and we talk about the normal preparation stuff
John they're back!I exclaim.
Yeah, Mike and Sixto brought their brothers with themWe must have all Sixto's Family working here or at Freddy's other restaurants. Sixto's Brother Lawrence has been here the whole time. He is a waiter here, probably our best.
How long have they been back?I ask.
A few dayssays John.
So how is he doing?
Good, fell right back into it
He is on the grill next to Nora. You'll work next to me in the Middle.
Ok that will work fine for me, so what about specials?I ask.
We have some grouper that needs to be cut.
What do you think about parmesan crusted?
I like it, I have an Idea for tomato confit, you roast the tomatoes in the oven with garlic,I suggested.
O.K., let's put It on top of garlic mashed potatoes, John added.
Great so, Parmesan crusted grouper with tomato confit and garlic mashed potatoes. What else?
I have a present for you, John said gleefully
I ordered the lobster and corn you wanted for the fritters
Excellent, I exclaimed. Lobster and corn fritters, I'll get right on it.
The Amigos have been back for a few weeks now and everybody is getting into the new routine. John seems to be in a better mood he has more free time. Mike has been taking some of the work off of John's hands, Meat prep in particular, something I didn't know Mike knew how to do. This is giving John more time to do other things he needs to do. John has even been coming up with better specials and has more time to make desserts; he had gotten away from it for a while.
I walked into the back kitchen after getting dressed. John was taking things out of the walk-in refrigerator.
Good morning Benjamin
Good to see you sir.I said with a smile.
How was your week?asked John.
Oh, you know, the kids are making me craze, I whined.
What are we doing this week?, I asked.
We have a couple of big parties tonight. I must make two cakes today, so you are going to have to run the line in the beginning of service.I said,
O.K., I can handle that
Dinner tables start to come in and I go to the line. Mike is working next to Yuri on the sauté station. I walk down to the grill and start turning out diners. I figure mike is trying to learn the sauté station and don't say anything. When John returns to the line I ask him If Mike is going to work the sauté station all night. John says he has not been getting along with Nora, so we'll try it this way for a while. The night goes well with this line up, so It looks like this is the new routine.
The specials for tonight where chicken francese with lobster and oyster mushrooms,and Sesame crusted Sea scallops with orange and ginger glaze served on sautéed garlic spinach.
We now have a stable, 5-person line for Saturdays. I think we have settled into our positions. Nora on the oven and broiler, myself back on the grill and plating, John next to me in the middle, mike next to Yuri helping out on the pans.
Freddy has asking me to work on a few Sundays, to help cover some big parties. On Sundays he still only has two cooks on the line. I am glad to help whenever possible, if I get enough advance notice.
This week I made a pineapple chutney we served with grilled swordfish. Two fairly new waitresses, Deloris and Tina, tried the chutney and liked so much that they ask me to make it for them, for Thanksgiving. I told them I don't do that, but if they want the recipe they can get it off my website ChefBen.com. Tina said, "you don't have a website!
I said, Yes! Yes! I do. I run a small website about cooking and food, www.ChefBen.com." Well, they did check out my site, and found this journal you are reading. Deloris asked why I have not added to the journal lately. I told her I have been busy working on other things on the site. Consequently, this is for you Deloris and Tina (you know who you are), I have resumed work on the journal and you are now in it, congratulations!
This week's specials where grouper fillet with crab, mushrooms, tomatoes, and saffron beurre blanc; grilled tuna with pineapple chutney and ginger mango glazed shrimp; and grilled spicy pork chops with zesty mashed sweet potatoes.
Freddy hired a pastry chef to make desserts for all his restaurants. Her name is Kristen. She is the girlfriend of one of the bus boys. I asked John what He thinks of Her work, He said he doesn't know yet, I said give her a couple of weeks before you pass judgment. I asked if he was going to give up making desserts he said no, he's going to continue to make his specialties, the tiramisu, cheesecakes and some others. John does make very good desserts; at one time he had a dessert business. Freddy's plan is for Kristen it to replace some or all the desserts from outside companies.
John gave me a call on Friday and asked if I could work on Sunday. He said Yuri had quit. I had an inclining that something was up when Yuri told me on last Saturday that one day he would not be coming back. I told him I have heard this statement from many cooks in the past. I told Yuri He had to do what he had to do; he had not been unhappy for quite some time. I said I could work on Sunday and asked who I would be working with John said Freddy would be pulling George from the other restaurant to help out on Sunday.
When I got to work I only had to wait a few minutes for Freddy to arrive to unlock the restaurant and let me in. On the line was George on sauté myself in the middle and Mike on the oven and broiler. The guys did a great job, but the day did note go well the big party was two hour late and can you believe it they stayed for 6 hours and had a bunch of very badly behaved children with them. We had food ready for them that sat there for two hours.
The specials were grilled vegetable stack appetizer, red snapper Puttanesca with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and grilled scallops, and grilled Ahi tuna with sesame crust and Asian glaze over spinach.
We all came in an hour early to get a jump on things John said we had a lot of catering take out to prepare. Nora is taking a vacation so it's John, Mike, and myself.When I go to the restaurant John was already there.
Good morning John, Merry Christmas.
Benjamin, Happy Chanukah.
Thank you, but Chanukah is already over.
Yes, anyway what do we have to do today?
Can you set up the broiler station today?
Ok. Do you want me to work broiler tonight?
Yes, I need you to work lunch in the corner too.
We call the broiler station the corner because it's at the end of the line which is closed off. and John likes to tell Nora to get in her corner when he must call an order to her.)
I don't work lunch!
I've been behind the eight ball all week and really need to get some work done. I need you to help me out and cover the line for me.
Ok, you do what you need to do, I'll cover the line. Don't we need to get the catering prep done?
Yes but Freddy is the only one who know what needs to get done.
When is he coming in?
You know Freddy, he'll be here when he'll be here.
Well I can't stand around here doing nothing, give me something to do!
Don't worry I have plenty of things for you to do.
John gave me a list of things to prepare. It was not a lot of work, but it keeps me busy for a while. I cut some fish, made a lemon and dill compound butter, prepared the specials for the day;Grilled beef Tournedos,with blue cheese compound butter served with roasted garlic and broccoli raab mashed potatoes. We also did the Sesame crusted Ahi tuna, with teriyaki Glaze and sautéed garlic spinach, The sauté station did a halibut dish in a lemon white wine sauce.
After a slower than expected lunch, the number of reservations was up to about one hundred for dinner but that was between 4:30 and 6:30 so it could be quite busy. I said to John, with only three of us the line it's going to be a nightmare if we must work on the take out while dinner service was going on. John told me he thinks Freddy is going to pull George from the pizza place to help us like last week. George did come by a little later. When Freddy finely showed up he said he would be able to do the entire take out himself. He did need our help, but it went fine anyway. The night was not to bad and we got to go home early because we were only open till 7 o'clock.