Thursday, April 21, 2005

Stage ... or I'm a whore

Okay, so first of all, you pronounce it the French way, with an "ahh" sound. St-ah-ge.

What is it? As I've posted before, a stage is something where you're basically doing an unpaid internship. It's basically an opportunity to see another kitchen and how it works and to learn. A few weeks ago I basically walked into one of the best restaurants in town (from a foodie perspective, at least) and asked if I could stage there on my days off. The chef agreed and yesterday I worked the garde mange station.

For those not in the know, a garde mange is someone who serves the cold apps and salads, basically using the leftovers in the kitchen to make some of their meals, making sure that there is no waste. That, of course, is the textbook application of garde mange, but in reality, things aren't as recycled as much in most restaurants nowadays than they used to be.

It was nice to be in a different kitchen, seeing how things were run. In this case, my stage had a very small kitchen, in reality, not much larger than my apartment living room, and 7 people were working there. Surprisingly enough, it worked well. Only one person was working on the saute station, the chef expedited and handled desserts, one person handled plating of the hot dishes, one person was doing prep, one was washing dishes, and two of us were on garde mange.

So what did I notice?

1) Cool ingredients. I was picking arugula off of the stem, saving the leaves for salad and using the flowers for a special dish. The flowers were incredibly sweet, filled with nectar, yet they still had the peppery bite of the arugula. Not to mention the fact that I was picking the arugula on the back porch enjoying the warm spring sun.

2) The way ordering is done. Only the expediter has the tickets in hand. He calls out the tickets, the station acknowledges, and you keep a mental checklist of what's going on until you bring them back out. It might seem daunting, but it forces you to keep mentally sharp.

3) The way people work. These people work extremely clean, they are focused. There is no waste and they are fastidious about how they work. Why? Because there is no night porter to take care of the cleanup. You do it.

4) Beautiful plates with simple, clean, delish food. Thinks like tartare, beef tongue, and other classic ingredients are presented simply and cleanly.

5) Family meal rocked.

6) The GM brings you a stiff drink after the shifts are over. A small thing, but not to be overlooked. After all, mice go for cheese at the end of the maze. But more importantly, it's a small, but meaningful way of saying "thank you" at the end of the night.

My heart was totally invested in being there and I was surprised at how well I did. Of course, I was taking notes as things went along, but a salad is a salad is a salad. All that mattered was remembering the ingredients that go into it. Everything else was on autopilot, and in some cases the plating was a lot easier because of the types of ingredients they were using for their salads. I was making some tall, beautiful salads :D

I've been asked to come back next week. The phrase, "We'll let you know when it gets to the point when we need you to be there to work," i.e. we want to train you to work our line.

Kickass. I'll be there.

5 Comments:

At 7:45 AM, April 22, 2005, Estefan said...

Marty, congratulations. You envisioned a place that was your ideal kitchen to work in and ultimately made that vision come true. One thing is for certain though. YOU ARE NOT A WHORE! If you go back and read through your comments of your paying job you will realize that what your participating in at that hotel is literally the downfall of all fine and respectable cuisine as we know it. Yes, bills are bills, and when Stag(ing)you don't get paid, but think of it like this. All WHORES get PAID! You see Marty, you've got it backwards my friend. You're the whore at yor paying job. Like most of us. For example, a brothel will take any piece of loose trash off the street (believe me, I've seen'em) and put them to work. But not at your new restaurant, no, they don't deal in the dirty manners of the food business. Like a good women they want more than just your body, they also want your mind. And in return they will give you theirs, and teach you more about life and yourself than ev'r thought imaginable. Nope Marty, if anything at this new restaurant your not the WHORE your the client and it sounds like your about to get the geisha treatment.

As for me, I can be found on my back counting ceiling fan revolutions while being hump-fucked for $11 an hour.

I want to end with a quote that I've been repeating over n'again in my head like a Koan for the last week, by the Great Craig Claiborne.

"COOKING IS AT ONCE ONE OF THE SIMPLEST AND MOST GRATIFYING OF THE ARTS, BUT TO COOK WELL ONE MUST LOVE AND RESPECT FOOD."

This business is simple, its the WHORES that make it diffuclt.

 
At 12:12 PM, April 22, 2005, HB said...

That totally rocks. And if you have to train for free while you're working in another, lesser kitchen, then so be it. You're doing something beyond mundane drivel and it sounds like it's worth it.

 
At 9:29 PM, April 25, 2005, -Tim, the other lindy chef said...

dude that is totally awesome, staging is so fun, and I have found it is always better in a smaller kitchen. My first stage was at the Water Grill, and it was a cool experience but at that same time I felt it was somewhat of a waste of time. It was such a big kitchen, that I felt kind of useless, and I basically prepped some veggies, and then just stood around most of the night. But the second place I went to, Maison Akira, a french restaurant owned by a japanese chef, here in pasadena, was much better. Smaller kitchen, more personal, and I was able to work with the owner, Akira Hirose.
Sounds like a good time, see you in may

 
At 9:12 PM, April 27, 2005, Suebob said...

It sounds like you are suited to the life. Your love for food shows in your post. Vaya con dios, amigo.

 
At 11:49 PM, April 27, 2005, LindyChef said...

Thanks for all of the encouraging comments. I just finished my second night of the stage and my feelings were only confirmed when I found out they recently won an award for best restaurant in Seattle.

 

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