A Day in the Life
As a Sous Chef, I work nights so my days don’t usually begin until around noon. I wake up, get dressed, brush my teeth and put on my makeup. Gosh, where did these bags under my eyes come from!? I look like a damn raccoon! Wait, is that a new bruise? I wonder how that happened? Oh yeah, probably when I tripped in the walk in yesterday. Oh, and there’s a new scar. Was that from the oil splash last week, or the knife in the prep sink? Who really knows or keeps track anymore? I finish my scar, bruise, and burn inspection, tie my hair up in my Rosie Wrap, and head off to Dutch Bro’s for a Picture Perfect Cocomo Freeze.
I stroll into work around 1 or 2pm (depending on the day and what we have going on), drop my bag in the office, say hello to Scott, shrug into my Chef’s coat, and head off in search of Chef for our daily run down. He reaches out for the second Cocomo as he sees me, and we make our way to the walk in to review my produce order from the night before. I forgot to order basil and we need six dozen Caprese skewers for tomorrow’s party. Shit. Of course he’s already taken care of it and the missed basil is on its way from our produce vendor. That doesn’t stop me from kicking myself for the mistake. On the bright side, last nights close was great and my prep list was spot on. Whew!!! Chef fills me in on the breakfast and early lunch services as we head back out to the prep board in the kitchen. We review the 86’d list, items still needing to be prepped for the night shift, look at our party BEO’s for the week, and make a list of specialty items to order.
“Hey Chef, did you see there are 6 Vegans for the party on Thursday? And a 20 top Afternoon Tea at 11am on Saturday?” I pop back to the office to talk to Jenn (our catering manager and one of my BFF’s). After some chit chat, updates on her baby (how is it possible he’s walking already!?), and plans for dinner and drinks this weekend, we get down to business. “Any specific requests for the Vegan meals for Thursday? Or do you want to go with the Cauliflower Risotto with no cream or cheese?” Cauliflower Risotto it is! Gosh I love that dish! “Ok what about the tea for Saturday, do we know which level tea they want yet?” They decided on the MacNean and have added 5 more to the guest list. Two are gluten free. I make a mental note to add mini Bailey’s pies and Peach & Raspberry tarts to my prep list. Jenn prints me out an updated BEO for the Afternoon Tea. As I go to leave she stops me, she just received an email for a last minute party booking for tomorrow and they want a birthday cake, can I accommodate? I’ve got to check to see if I have Mascarpone, if so, no problem. I’ve got no other parties today and tonight’s reso’s don’t look too crazy. I run off to check for my key frosting ingredient. Score!!! I update Chef with the changes and get to work on the cake and mini pies.
As I place the cakes into the oven, Chef reminds me of the new Cobbler recipe I made last night which I wanted him and Scott to try. I plate up my new dessert, grab a handful of spoons, nod at Chef to follow me to the office, and sit the cobbler down on the desk. Kylie (my other BFF and one of the front of house managers) has just gotten back from the bank. I grab another spoon. Myself, Chef, Scott, Jenn, and Kylie all cram into the office. Jenn looks happily at the Cobbler and asks “what’s this meant to be?” I give my spiel on the dish and the others begin tasting what I hope will be a new addition to the dessert menu. With a spoonful of cobbler in her mouth, Kylie mumbles “mmmmmm” (she loves everything I do, all I have to do is put a plate full of food in front of her and she’s happy). I look at Jenn, she’s thinking. Scott starts his critique “I like the presentation. And the biscuits on top are spot on. Definitely on brand. I think you’ve got something here.” Jenn takes another bite and continues to think. Chef asks how long it will take to fire and inquiries about prep. He agrees with Scott, presentation and biscuits are spot on. Jenn has formulated her thoughts “I think it’s great, it’s missing something though. Maybe some lemon zest to brighten it up? And I definitely want more of the biscuit dough on top.” Chef chimes in “You don’t think that will make it too brown? You’d lose all of the color from the filling.” Scott’s turn “What if we change the vessel? Kylie what do you think?” Kylie nods as she takes another bite (seriously how does this girl stay so skinny!?) “I love it!” she says excitedly. I laugh, the girl loves literally everything. Scott turns to the computer and starts looking for possible plating options, Jenn reiterates she loves the direction of the dish and thinks it’s good as is, but could be great with some minor tweaks. Kylie is finishing off the last bite as I reach for the empty dish, I’ve come to the conclusion she’s got super human fat fighting genes. Chef and I head back to the kitchen making verbal lists of what needs to be done to perfect the dessert for the next tasting.
My cakes are done, I pull them out of the oven and let them cool before I start assembling. As Chef begins cutting Ribeyes, I get started on frosting and mini pie shells. At 4:30 the dinner staff start trickling in. The servers pass by as I frost the birthday cake. “Ooooh! Whatcha makin, do we get to try!?” I tell them I had some scraps left after cutting and will send a plate out to pre shift. They walk away looking like I just promised them a million dollars each. Servers are ALWAYS hungry.
The cake is done! I get it wrapped up and put away in the walkin. I split up the cake scraps, sending half out to the servers as promised, and keeping the other half for my line cooks. Nacho (one of the cooks) walks by on his way back from stocking his station. He sees the cake and looks at me with big eyes. “Hola Chef Grumpy! (his nickname for me, a product of my forever RBF) Cake for ME!?”
“Yes Nacho you can have some cake…” he reaches for the plate and I pull it back, “…but you have to share with the rest of the line.” He fakes offense, takes the plate, and heads off to divide it up between the rest of the cooks.
It’s getting close to time for the dinner crowd to start making their way in. I finish up the last of my prep list and clean up my station. Chef grabs the morning invoices and motions for me to follow him to the office. It’s Monday and we’ve been working on ideas and costing for the new menu for the last few weeks. Our weekly specials launch on Tuesday, so I already know what he wants to discuss. I grab my notebook with my recipes, along with all of the notes on specials I have taken over the last few weeks.I read off our list of ideas and Chef and I bounce ideas off of each other. Sometimes we have an idea of a complete dish with sides and sauces already figured out. Other times we’ll start with an idea of a single item and build on it until we have a complete dish. I might start off by saying something like “I want to do something southern inspired but with an Irish/European influence. (I mean we work in an Irish Pub after all). So Chef will suggest a poutine and I’ll build on that by asking how we elevate the flavor profile and make it southern. After some back and forth, we’ve come up with a Cajun Poutine built with hand cut chips (European style fries), Cajun beer cheese gravy, caramelized whiskey onions, Crawfish, and Andouille sausage. We finalize our lunch and dinner selections, nail down descriptions and pricing, and I head back to the kitchen.
The dinner rush has officially started. It’s busier than expected. The window is filling up with food as the line fulfills tickets. Kylie has jumped on expo to help our food runner get meals out to tables. I jump on the line and take charge of the wheel. Ricky is on the grill tonight and I start calling out orders to him. “Ok Ricky, walking in I’ve got 2 cider chops! 4 pub burgers 2 mid well, 1 medium, and 1 rare! 3 Steak and Chips mid rare! 4 Rueben’s 1 on sourdough, 1 no cheese, 1 extra sauerkraut! 3 chickens for salads! And one steak sandwich no sauce!” Ricky starts throwing items on the grill and flat top as I call them out. I look at the board, lots of fish and chips coming in. I look to fry side. Nacho is pulling fish out of the oil as Dania drops the next 5 orders. They’ve got this. “Chef, how many burgers do I have?” Ricky asks me. “ 8 all day!” “Heard!” He starts handing me items ready to plate and I finish the dishes and put them in the window. We’ve got a flow going.
Then Kylie throws a wrench in the operation. “Shea I need an Irish Mac on the fly! It was supposed to be no mushrooms.” I call out to my sauté girl “Laura I need an Irish Mac on the fly! No mushrooms!” Laura gets the mac working as Ricky and I continue to plate finished meals. A few minutes later Kylie calls “How long on that re-fire for 14!?” I glance behind me at Laura just as she takes the skillet out from under the salamander, “Now!”
With the exception of the re-fire Mac, we get through the next 2 hours of the dinner rush like a well-oiled machine. The orders start to slow down and after all the cooks have had a moment to catch their breaths and hydrate, they begin restocking and cleaning their diminished stations. I return to the prep kitchen, I’ve still got specials and caprese skewers to prep, produce and seafood orders to be placed, special sheets to be written, special buttons added into the POS system, a schedule to build, and the days prep log to be entered.
It’s a little after 10 and I’ve just finished my prep. Crap! Gotta get my produce order in before 11! I grab my order book and do a quick inventory of what needs to be ordered. I double check my list against parties to make sure I don’t have another repeat of today’s missing herbs. I call in my order and sit down to start my computer work. The band is playing “Come out Ye Black and Tans” my favorite Irish rebel song. I step out of the office to sing along. The Pub is PACKED and people are loving the music. Dave, another of the front of house managers, is behind a crowded bar pouring pints and talking to guests.
The song finishes and I return to the office to continue my administrative work. Damon pops his head in. “Hey Shea, Kylie just left for the night and we’ve got a few orders coming in. I’m good right now but I’ll need you in about 5 minutes.” I quickly enter the days prep log and jump on expo just as finished meals start hitting the window. Damon and I work together to finish burgers with LTO, add sides to sandwiches, and arrange orders by seat numbers. I look at Ricky and Laura to make sure they are doing ok. They’ve got all their food working and haven’t even broken a sweat. I glance at Nacho and Dania, Nacho’s got all his sides and apps going, as Ricky hands Dania chicken breasts and steaks to finish her salads. They are rockstars!!! The rush only lasts about 30 minutes and ends as abruptly as it began.
I spend the next 2 hours finishing up the special descriptions, updating the POS system, checking shifts against vacation requests, and building the next schedule. Brandi pops in the office as I finishing writing up my nightly shift notes. “Hey. Me, Cody and Dustin are gonna go get something to eat and drinks at McMullens, wanna come? Kylie is off tomorrow so I think she’s gonna meet up with us too.” My stomach starts grumbling at the mention of food. Have I eaten today? How am I a Chef in a kitchen literally SURROUNDED by food and haven’t eaten!? Such is Chef life. “Yea! I’m starving! How much longer do you have?” She tells me Dave just cut her and she still has side work to do. “Ok cool, I’ll run home and check on Chance and meet you guys there”. Thank goodness I live so close to the Pub. I type my last few notes, check on the line to make sure everyone is good, run down what tasks I want my closer Fernando to finish, grab my bag, and say goodnight to Dave.
I get home and take Chance (my dog) out to run around. I change out of my kitchen clothes and toss them in the washer, flop down on the couch and give Chance cuddles while I wait for the text from Brandi that they are on their way to McMullens. It’s a little after 1am when she texts me. Yes! Finally! Those nachos are calling my name! I walk into the bar and am met with sounds of obnoxious laughter and curse words. Looks like they beat me here. I sit down and there’s already a Vodka pineapple and an iced tea waiting for me. “I ordered us Chicken nachos to share” Bless you B, you are a saint!! The next two hours are spent laughing and bullshiting. We argue playfully over perceived mistakes and who is to blame for supposed offences. Cody takes a jab “Hey Shea, why’d that Irish Mac take so long today?”
“I don’t know Cody, maybe if you rang it in correctly in the first place it wouldn’t have taken so long!”
“Well maybe if you were a real Chef, you would have fixed it faster!”
“Maybe if you were a better server, she wouldn’t have to fix your mistakes!”
The table irrupts in laughter. Even Cody laughs, he knows he’s lost. Kylie for the win ya’ll!!!
We “cheers” one last time, finish our drinks, pay our tabs, and head home. It’s almost 3 by the time I walk back into my apartment. I move my clothes from the washer to the dryer, shower, and grab my laptop to work on new recipe ideas while Netflix plays in the background. Chance curls up at my feet as I fall asleep to the sounds of “Psych!” around 5am, relaxed and ready to do it all over again tomorrow.