by Tara Davis
I recently had (gasp!) new comments on a very old, abandoned blog of mine.
Back when I was in culinary school, and not otherwise present on social media, I decided to keep my family and friends up to speed via weird, sporadic blog posts.
An early one went a little something like this:
-spent yesterday in 8 hours of externship with a local pub/brewery. The staff was wonderful and, well, patient. They make good food and even better beer. My time there went something like:
*Prep veggie burgers
*Wash, cut and par-cook 4 cases of potatoes for chips/fries
*Do a ton of dishes
*Sample roasted peppers
*Make crème anglaise
*Do more dishes
*Listen to a lot of shmack among the staff and metal/rap/punk
*Eat a slap-your-mama chicken sandwich and drink a house brew
What a night. I left wishing they were hiring.
Today, I staged at a bar/kitchen for prep and lunch shift. The staff was so helpful and educational, friendly and cool. The work was super busy and showed me where my skills are lacking. And that a nose to the grind work ethic pays. I helped in pantry with:
*sampling above mentioned charcuterie
*salad prep and plating
*more salad making
*listening to girls not born in the 80s sing 80s songs
*lots of vacuum sealing
*station cleaning and restocking
*Some other stuff I can’t remember right now because it was a busy day and I have to be on the shuttle to work ACL Fest at 6am
It was an attempt to give some insight into my education and career change. It was me sharing the ups and downs and absolutely joy filled days of my healing process. To those who have never worked in the industry, it’s a wild and crazy world, and I was opening the curtains just a little.
These days, things are much more involved, but usually run very smoothly. For my employees, they may look like the above bullet points. For me, it’s more like this:
>Get up no later than 5a.m. (This is really sleeping in)
> Put up daily and weekly event and prep lists
>Set up coffee, menu boards and counters
> Print labels
> Pay bills
> Answer emails and phone messages
> Manage social media
>Help prep and cook for the day, the next day, and for catering or pick up orders
>Demonstrate techniques and recipes for staff
> Check in on employees
>Work the line, cooking meals to order
>Answer customer questions/concerns
>Answer more emails
>Take a shift doing the infernal and never-ending dishes. SO. MANY. DISHES.
>Visit catering sites (sometimes 2+ hours away)
>Meet with clients and vendors
>Eventually spend time with pets, friends, my significant other, my family here and there
> Try to sleep
There’s also menu planning, recipe development, and lots of expressions of gratitude. Daily.
And cleaning. Everything. As much and as often as possible. So. Much. Cleaning.
I am not complaining. Not one bit. I love what I do. I want everyone who works here to love what they do too. I want our enthusiasm and stupendous joy for food and cooking to spill out into our community in the very biggest and best of ways, every day. And I sincerely hope to still be doing it for a long while.
From the OG list above, a couple of recipes I learned in those early days and still use (scaled down, of course):
Crème Anglaise –
Combine 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream in a saucepan. Add seeds of one vanilla bean OR 2 tbsp. vanilla extract. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and slowly whisk in a mixture of 3 large eggs and 3 tbsp. sugar. Return to saucepan and stir over low heat until custard thickens, about 5 minutes.
Cut 1/2 loaf bread into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss cubes in a mixture of 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 2 tbsp. each garlic powder, dried parsley, dried oregano, dried basil, 1 tbsp. each salt and pepper. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees, 30-40 minutes,rotating after 15 minutes. Remove when crispy and golden and allow to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.