Monday, August 31, 2009

Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

The above statement couldn't be more true.

So much happened today. No, I wasn't a rock star, but I didn't fall on my butt either.

I got there at 5:45am this morning. Still dark. I was there before anyone... so odd. I'm usually the one who is late? Well, we dove right in. I guess I sort of thought there would be a little hand holding through the process of the morning production, but I quickly remembered that we were hired to do a job and were basically expected to just do it. Thankfully Papa D, the other omlet cook, was there to get the job done. I didn't really know what to do, so I just started dicing peppers. I thought to myself that dicing peppers was the one thing I knew I could do and do well.


Apparently.... there's a lot more to dicing peppers than I ever knew. Like, not only do you have to get rid of the core with all the seeds and the white membrane parts that hold the core in place, but you also have to thinly shave the membrane off of the entire inside of the pepper so it almost looks like a seeded tomato when you're finished. Chef G was there to gently guide me to better knife skills. He was not upset at all... he said "It's alright. We knew going into this that your knife skills needed work. We're going to turn you in to a chopping MACHINE!" :)

So, for all of you wondering. Here are a few helpful tips:
Keep the tip of the knife on the cutting board at all times. This helps with stability.
Make sure your guiding hand (my left hand since I'm right-handed) is always directly next to the knife. I was holding my hand too far back on the vegetable and, had the knife rolled, I would've been more vulnerable to be cut... whereas keeping your guiding hand close to the knife, it would just roll with the knife and generally aviod any cuts.
The proper motion for cutting (with tip on cutting board) is up, back, down and forward... almost a circular cut. This way, you ensure a slice that goes all the way through whatever you are cutting.
And lastly and most important of all... DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE KNIFE. If you are overly cautious, you will most certainly cut yourself. The knife must be an extension of your hand and work together with the guiding hand for even, consitent cuts.

Now, in Julie and Julia, Julia Child talks about the conviction it takes to flip something... and let me tell you... the lady does not lie. After we had our omlet station prepped, we began making omlets for the different people that had worked on the hotel. Well, when I was to flip my omlet for the very first time, suddenly there were about 10 people standing around watching me. Chef G had to remind me that it was no different than standing in my kitchen at home flipping. While I would beg to differ, I just tried to conjure up all of those times I'd flipped an omlet (most of the time unsuccessfully) in my own kitchen. Apparently, I had the perfect blend of prior experience and conviction because I flipped that sucker and it landed in the pan beautifully. I made a total of 4 omlets this morning and I never missed one single flip :)

After we were done with omlets, we went on to do production for lunch and dinner. I was so terrified because Chef G was just passing out recipes and we were to just do them. Now, I can follow a recipe... but I've never carved meats by hand or infused oils. Luckily, Baha saved the day by pairing me with another cook to work on a few recipes. I basically just ended up mincing and onion and red pepper and going on with it.

Somehow, I ended up in charge of the bacon. Now, who doesn't love bacon? I mean, a day just can't be all that bad if there's some bacon involved, right?

So I spent about an hour and half cooking bacon and reserving the bacon fat for a dressing that we make. Before I knew it, Chef G was telling me to go home and come back at 5:30 this evening for a full roll-out of our dinner menu.

I was at work for over 7 hours and couldn't even tell. Even though I slept horribly last night and didn't know how the day would go, I was still feeling good and ready and eager to work.

That all changed after lunch. Once I was full, I totally passed out on the couch with the kitties for a good 2 hours.

When I got back to the kitchen at 5:30, all chef said was "It's go time! Let's do it!" what? I've been gone for 4.5 hours. What am I supposed to do???

Oh. That's right. Dinner. In 30 minutes. Shit.

So everyone started whizzing around and plating and cooking and doing all sorts of things.

Now, I must say at this point, I didn't do much of anything to help. I gathered ingredients and read off the recipes while a few people plated up the items.... But, I made SURE to watch every last delicate detail so I would know how to do it if asked. I did a lot of that today. Show/tell me once and I'll do it correctly when I have to do it solo. And so I did. So... what did we make? Here's the menu :)

Calamari w/ ancho chilli aioli and micro greens (ABSOLUTELY out of this world. That chili aioli is delicious stuff. I want to spread it on EVERYTHING!)
Crab Cakes w/ sriracha aioli and micro greens (Pretty good. The crab was very delicate.)
Coconut Shrimp w/ grilled pinapple salsa and soy orange reduction (So, even though I helped make that pinapple salsa, I didn't get to try it... oh well)
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus w/ pita chips and balsamic reduction (If you like hummus, you'd love this. Mmmmm)
Chicken Thai Spring Rolls w/ ginger chile stout broth (Sadly, this is the one item I really really wanted to try and didn't get to)
Goat Cheese Croustade w/ prosciutto truffle oil and seasonal fruit (I didn't even see this one anywhere... did we make it?)

I didn't try any of the salads... just because I wasn't really in the salad mood, but I'll post them anyway.
Classic Wedge Salad served with bacon ranch dressing crumbled bleu cheese, roma tomatoes, and chopped onions
Classic Caesar Salad crisp romaine, shaved parmesan cheese, herb croutons, Caesar dressing
Apple Walnut Salad Spinach, granny smith and red delicious apples, candied walnuts, goat cheese, balsamic vinegarette
Cobb Salad mixed greens, chopped bacon, hard boiled eggs, red onion, crumbled bleu cheese, chopped chicken, chopped roma tomatoes
Grilled Shrimp and White Bean Salad cannellini beans, mixed greens, grilled shrimp, roasted red peppers, red onions and fresh basil with a roasted shallot vinegarette dressing

Original Reuben Panini Sandwich marble rye bread, cornbeef, thousand island dressing, sauerkraut, swiss cheese (This was actually, by far my FAVORITE thing that I tried. I don't know why... It may have been the premium corn beef or the rye bread... but I LOVED it. It really hit the spot and had such a great flavor!)
Grilled Chicken Florentine Panini oven roasted tomatoes, spinach herb cheese spread, fresh buffalo mozzarella (The buffalo mozzarella is what made this one fantastic. Or maybe it was the spinach herb cheese spread. Either way, a really good chicken panini!)
Certified Angus Beef Burger 1/3 lb burger, choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion (Perhaps it's the 1/3 lb beef... or the "angus" in the title... but I passed on trying this one. Ick.)
Roast Beef and Cheddar Panini rosemary focaccia bread, aged cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, choice shaved beef, horseradish sauce (I have a weakness for focaccia bread... and then you throw some roast beef and caramelized onions on there... hell, you may as well buy me weekly pass to heaven)
Grilled Veggie Burger whole wheat bun, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado (So I don't know who said there should be a veggie option on the menu, but BRAVO to them. I didn't try it because they're Morningstar and I've had those before)

Handcut Petite Filet Minon Paired with chianti wild mushroom demi glaze (Mmm Mmm... I love filet... I doesn't take much to woo me)
Salmon Sienna Salmon poached in a lobster court bouillon, cannellini beans, snow peas, sundried tomatoes, carrots, roasted red peppers and shallots (Now, I'm a salmon person. I LOVE salmon. It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to salmon... and I was impressed. I think it was mainly due to the lobster court bouillon, but it could also be the amazing pairings)
Chicken Saltimbocca Airline chicken stuffed with prosciutto oven roasted tomatoes, fresh herbs, buffalo mozzarella finished with a marsala sage demi (Well folks, by the time I got to this one, it was GONE. So I'm assuming it was great. I guess I'll just have to wait in line for my turn to dance with the chicken)

So that's it. That's the menu. That's what we did today. ALL OF IT.

It was a day full of ups and downs. I'm not gonna lie, at one point, I was questioning whether or not I had it in me. But that thought quickly faded away... because I remembered that I am doing what I love... and with that kind of drive and passion, I know that anything is possible.

....and that the only limit is my soul. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Can't Sleep

Well folks, it's 9:45. And I'm still awake. This is bad news, man. I have to be up at 4. Ugh.

So since I can't sleep, (trust me, I've already been in bed for an hour trying) I decided that I would share a little bit about the end of last week.

I got my uniform! I look all spiffy in my white coat and black pants with green pinstripes. I tried it on and had a complete glee moment. I took some photos (including a "messy apron, clean sleeves" photo) which I shall be posting soon, hopefully... as soon as I locate my USB adapter for my camera. Still unpacking....

On Friday, Chef G gave all of us a copy of the menu for Flying Spoons. Some of the appetizers include calamari and spring rolls. Our entrees I posted on before, so there's no need to mention them again.

Friday we also got our truckload of food. Everything but the fresh produce which was to be delivered on Saturday. Most of us didn't work Saturday. Couldn't go into overtime... at least, not yet :) It was awesome to see all of what we'll be working with. I would have to say my favorite item has to be the White Truffle Oil. Apparently this stuff goes for approximately $25-$30 per 12oz bottle. Nutso. However, I'm sure it's worth every penny! So we got all of that put away and ready for Monday.

So. About tomorrow. I'm a great big ball of scared, anxious, nervous, excited, and terrified. Which is probably contributing to my spontaneous insomnia. That and the great big farewell to fatening food dinner I fixed for mom and I tonight. Anyway, tomorrow morning at 6 am will start my actual hands-on training for the food work I'm going to be doing. The other omlet cook and I will be making omlets for the executive staff and the contractors that have been working on the building. So it's time to put my money where my mouth is. Holy crap. So so scared. But I will post how it honestly went. If I was a rock star, you'll know. If I'm looking for another job as of tomorrow, I'll let you know that, too. Ha.

Then, after the breakfast run through, the breakfast crew will be leaving for a few hours and come back in the afternoon to do a complete dinner run through. After I make and taste everything tomorrow, it is my intention to post the menu with my opinions. I'm sure it will all be great, but most of it I've never tasted before, so I can't wait for the flavor explosion in my mouth.... all I know is one of the dishes is named Chicken Saltimboca. Saltimboca literally means "dance in your mouth" apparently. Let's see how good of a dancer that chicken is.

Well blogging has sufficiently wooed me to sleepiness... just as I thought it might. So.... it's go time :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One Week until we open :)

That's right folks! One Week from today, the hotel opens... and that means it's SHOWTIME!

I got several bits of good news today...

First of all. I got my nametag. Now, again, may not seem like a big deal, but a nametag, in my mind, makes me legit :) Not only that, but it says "Juli Manning" and then below it "Waverly, OH" ... :D Representin' the hometown!! We have people literally from all over the world. Baha is from the Bahamas, another guy is from Ghana, West Africa, and another guy is actually orginally from New Orleans, LA, but was misplaced because of Hurricane Katrina. We are a melting pot of culture and I LOVE it.

Today we also learned some very interesting news. The company wide cook out that we had been planning for the 27th of September was actually on the 27th of August. You know, as in, 2 days from now. Holy mother. So, we worked all day long to ensure that the kitchen is in full working order. Tomorrow we start food prep.

I found out today that I'll be working through Saturday this week which makes for a long week, but Chef G said we'll probably only work 4 days next week since it's opening week and regular schedules are starting. Monday we are having an all-day learning process for how everything we are going to make is produced from start to finish. We are also going to make omlets for the staff as sort of a "dry run", if you will. WOO HOO! I can't wait for Monday! ...when's the last time you heard someone say that? :)

Tuesday we open, but we won't have any guests. It'll just be the staff doing what we do. Then we should have VIP guests start coming the next day. Woo woo!

I also got some good positive reinforcement from Chef G and Baha, but that's for me for now.

Time for bed. I've got to start getting up earlier and earlier for the next few days to prepare for my first 5am shift on Tuesday. Night!

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's Monday!!! I get to go back to work!

I haven't posted the past few days because, well, frankly, I've been exhausted.

I slept in on Saturday until 10. It was awesome.

I keep thinking how fortunate I am to be with a place from the very beginning... before it's even opened. I know the ins and the outs of what is ordered when you first start a business, and I think that will be helpful later.

Things seem to be going well. We got most everything washed and I've polished more stainless steel than I ever had before. All so shiny and new :)

This week we will be getting our first shipment of food on Friday, so we'll start prep and work of that nature.

Although the week did go very well and I'm still oh-so-excited... I was glad for the weekend. Not just to get energized once again, but to have a break from people that I've been around for 40 hours this past week.

So... the past week I have also tried a couple of new recipes. I wanted to explore a bit and try new things. Did you know you could poach chicken in butter? I didn't. But I did it. Thank you Julia Child. I have been using her book "The Way to Cook" for a LOT of advice and how-to of my cooking endeavors. So I poached that chicken in butter and then put it in some fat-free and dairy-free cream with bacon, mushrooms, and onions for a chicken stroganoff. It was pretty good... I probably wouldn't use turkey bacon the next time.

I also made my very first marinara sauce from scratch this past week. Not too shabby... I'm beginning to learn my own palete and identify particular ingredients... and from there, figure out what is missing and what is over done. Put the sauce over some gnocchi, mushrooms, and some spinach. Very very very good. Too bad it was my last package of gnocchi.

Today at the hotel, I went dumpster diving. Yep. It was as awesome as it sounds. We threw away a bunch of boxes we weren't supposed to, so we had to get them back out. Oops. Not my fault, but I was willing to help rectify the situation.

I know that this won't be a big deal to anyone else but me, but WE GOT TOWELS TODAY! Up until now we have been bargaining with housekeeping... trading trash bags and towels for promised daily coffee and such. But no more! We now have our own and I couldn't be more thrilled.

I also read some of the requirements for the Embassy Suites brand information pertaining primarily to breakfast. All pretty basic... but I did have one complaint. No soy milk. Disappointing. :( I wish soy milk would become more of a staple in public restaurants for those of us with dairy allergies.

Also, I found out today that those of you that would like to come and see me for breakfast, you can! They will charge non-guests for the all you can eat breakfast, but you are definitely able to come and eat!! How exciting is that!!! (Jen R and Canadian sister)

We'll be up and running by the end of the week, so pictures should be posted by the beginning of next week :)

I'm starting to get more nervous. Sometimes when we are all sitting in our little meetings about this or that I start to actually think about what I'm doing. I've got to be honest... it scares the shit out of me. I'm going to be slicing, dicing, sauteing, whipping, and flipping within the next week. Terrifying!!!!

But I can do it. I know I can. I'm proud of me and my determination to do this. Yay me.

Well, now it's time for me to pop over to all recipes and put in their recipe search my planned ingredients for dinner. What would you make with turkey sausage, mushrooms, onions, and garlic?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 2

I realized on the way to work this morning that I was enjoying the idea of going to work. Not that I haven't loved my jobs before at the beginning... But it was different. I was in love with the new, and not so much what I was doing. Today, I knew I was going to wake up at 6:45am and it didn't bother me. Now, for those of you that know me, I'm usually pretty irritated if I have to be up before 10am. However, I will soon be getting up at 3:30am and it doesn't bother me one bit. This is because I love what I'm doing and I KNOW I'm going to have an enjoyable day. Anyway... on to the day itself...

Today was Kitchen Gadget Christmas Part 2. If I thought yesterday was something, I should've thought about today.

See, yesterday, as we were unloading the truck, there were these 3 "bulk boxes" the size of sofas. We were not to open them. Too much trouble. Today, we opened them. Oh my. There aren't words. This was hands-on stainless steel wonderfulness. Whisks, slotted spoons, serving spoons, trays, tongs, portion scoops, measuring spoons and cups, pitchers, shot glasses, decorating tips, scales, slicers, peelers, brushes, spatulas, and so much more! *sigh* Beautiful.

Baha Man put me in charge of the Banquet Prep Kitchen being organized. Te he. Fun stuff. It was humorous how many different types of pitchers there were. I mean, how many different ways can you pour a drink? I found out today that there can be up to 17 different types of pitchers. Amazing.

I can now say that I feel like I fit in. Yesterday was a tad intimidating I must admit. I mean, I was expecting these people to be... I don't know... Chef-y. And they are. But they are so willing to share what they know. And they all, with one exception, don't make you feel stupid if you don't know something that is common culinary knowledge.

I think Baha Man and I are on the road to a very nice friendship. We seem to see the world in a very similar way.

Chef G has chosen me as the punching bag of the group since he knows I can handle it... as well as throw it right back. Who doesn't like a little friendly banter? But no worries... it's all in good fun and he always makes it a point to tell myself and every other member of the crew "well done!" and "great work today!"

So this is now when I talk about what I first thought about blogging about and decided to save it for last... Here we go...

$7.00 Desserts. :D

Today we sampled the desserts that will be for sale out of the Flying Spoons case. These are not your average desserts. OOOOHHHH No. These desserts are made by the Culinary Olympic Canadian Pastry Chef that took home a gold medal this past year in the Culinary Olympics (Who knew that they had Culinary Olympics? Not me.) These babies were DELICIOUS. I mean, I'm not exactly on the thin side, so I've had my fair share of desserts.... But these were out of this world!!! There were lemon custards, cheesecakes covered in raspberry sorbet, coffee mousse with a dark chocolate shell, and creme brulee. I mean... WOO. I hope to put up pictures of these desserts once we get them in bulk. Oh and... They're all hand-"painted" with beautiful designs. Absolutely gorgeous.

Speaking of pictures... Once the kitchens are complete, I will be posting photos of where I'll be working and some of the hotel highlights for those (Canadian sister) who cannot see them in person.

Well, I'm off to practice my routine for my Pampered Chef show on Thursday and prepare dinner in the process.

Until tomorrow :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 1

Oh me.

What did I expect today? I was told I was going to be cleaning.... so I wore a standard jeans, t-shirt, and tennies. When we got there, we were led outside.

Our first task was to going to be unloading a semi-truck full of supplies. Remember, this is a hotel from scratch so EVERYTHING had to be delivered. The truck backed up and we started unloading. It wasn't so bad. We had the help of carts and whatnot, so.. ya know... 32 pallets later we finished. Oh-so-tired we went to lunch at McDonalds and then headed back to the hotel.

From what I thought was going to be an "oh no" kind of day, became a "oh yes!" kind of day. People, this was like Christmas morning for a person who has an affinity for kitchen gadgets. We unpacked it all: wine glasses, champagne flutes, buffet pans of all shapes and sizes, carafes, KitchenAid mixer, food processor, cambro bin after cambro bin, plates, room service trays, carts, saute pans, stock pots, and silverware. ALL OF IT.

Not only was the stuff amazing, but the people I'll be working with seemed to have a good attitude as well.

The sous chef is from the Bahamas. I shall refer to him as Baha Man from now on. Baha Man is hilarious. He has a calm gentleness about him, but the wealth of knowledge he has is incredible. Let me just say this. The man can make a hummingbird from a squash. A hummingbird! From a squash! I believe that Baha Man will be a good go-to person for any questions.

The head chef "Chef G" is a Columbus native. Born and raised in German Village. Fantastic. So much of what you would expect an Executive Chef to be. Great leader, fun to be around, and not afraid to get in there with the rest of the crew and get his hands dirty. Chef G will forever be the person that gave me my first shot. For that, I shall be eternally grateful.

The rest of the crew varies in experience and education. I was relieved to know that the other omlet cook had not been to culinary school either. However, he has been making omlets professionally for much much longer than I, as evidenced by the many scars on his forearms. Thankfully, he's really nice and is already schooling me in the ways of the egg. I am no longer terrified, because I know he'll help me learn the ropes. Out of the other 4 cooks, 3 are still in culinary school at Columbus Culinary Institute. The other has never been, but in my opinion, doesn't need to go based on her claimed experience.

Oh, and for all of you who worried about wasting my accounting degree, FEAR NOT! On my first day of work in a non-accounting field, I managed to help an entire crew of people understand the federal taxation system and determined their federal withholding. Thank you $45,000 degree for helping with that today.

Wednesday I will become P.I.C. certified. What is P.I.C.? Well, it stands for "Person In Charge" but from what I gather it's just a food safety and handling class. Temperatures, locations, all that fun stuff... So that'll be something different and another something to stash under my belt.

This morning I handed in my application to the Columbus Culinary Institute. :D More to come on that, I'm sure.

I also found out I'll be working from 5am to 1pm with 2 days off together in a week. Then, once I start culinary school in November, I'll be working 5am to 1pm-ish and going from there to school from 1-6:30. It will be busy and tiresome, but I'm just glad I have work first and then school...

So I think I'm going to make it.

Ok. Time for some Pampered Chef-ing. I've got a long to-do list as a new consultant! And if anyone reads this...

Pampered Chef party at Dad and Marsha's house
(123 Hilltop Lane, Piketon, OH)
Bring a friend!!

Until tomorrow!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Living the Dream

I have decided to blog. Religiously blog.

See... I'm entering this crazy time in my life. A time where the only thing I'm sure of is the fact that I'm living my dream.

How many people can say that?

I could've resigned myself to a temp job through a very respectable agency making $10/hour and working 8:30-5. I could've.

But I didn't... I opted to finally take that tour of a culinary school.

If I never would've saved that voicemail from that lovely man at the Columbus Culinary Institute, I never would've taken a tour last Thursday. If I never would've went on the tour of said school, I never would've gotten the contact information for an Executive Chef at a brand new really really really nice hotel. If I never would've gotten the contact information, I never would've gotten my job making omlets for said nice hotel.

So I may only be making omlets to start. At least I'm making omlets... and not spreadsheets.

I'm working in a real commercial kitchen, with other chefs, and really fascinating and alluring kitchen equipment.

Tomorrow I turn in my application to the Columbus Culinary Institute. If all goes as planned, I will start there the 26th of October. It is a 20 month program... 3 of those months is spent as an externship. I'm hoping for Paris. They've never had anyone go to Paris. I NEED Paris.

But Paris won't come until much later. I must work towards Paris.

So this is the beginning. The beginning of living it. The beginning of doing it.

I'm terrified. I'm thrilled. I'm worried. But most of all, I'm anxious to just get started already.

So, off to bed for me. Must be well-rested for my first day :)