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. :)


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