Tuesday, August 24, 2010


When my cyclical interest in cooking is at its most intense, I experience a sort of manic need to absorb food-related information across a ridiculously broad spectrum. I read Cooking Issues and 101 Cookbooks, stumble on interviews with food scientists (informative, illuminating) and make special trips to the library to browse through impractical cookbooks (my favorite kind). I get excited about everything all at once, but I don't follow through on any one of my possible obsessions. Even when my cooking powers and patience should be at their zenith, sometimes I still end up just throwing together whatever I happen to have in the pantry. I want focus; I want a specific passion. Maybe I should just read some more...

Turning Point

DC Restaurant Week for me was a crucible of 6 13-hour days in a row. I had no idea what to expect, what my mise was going to be, or even which days I was working (pretty much all of them, as it turned out). The only thing anyone would tell me was that we were doing 200+ covers a night. This fact was relayed to me constantly by chefs, cooks, dishwashers, and food runners alike, with only the shades of dread and/or schadenfreude varying by source.

The Restaurant Week pickups were designed to be dead simple and blazing-quick. I had to deal with just four different proteins, all of which should either be already cooked or extremely fast to cook. Inevitably, hiccups arose and the whole endeavor turned into a slightly more complicated beast, but not by a degree that made it unmanageable. Nevertheless, by the end of the second day I was exhausted. The shear amount of new information and procedure, as well as the unusually hectic atmosphere of the kitchen, took its toll on me mentally. Of course, on Day 2 there's no stopping and there's no end in sight, so I just had to grit my teeth and dive in every morning, then slam some energy drinks before service.

Somewhere in the fray, I turned a corner, stopped being depressed and angry, and started performing acceptably. My mind cleared up a bit during prep and I was actually ready by the time we opened. I have no idea how that happened, but the energy drinks definitely helped.By Friday, service was boringly easy and heaping on another day of work didn't faze me. My sous-chef even went from being constantly frustrated with me to only being intermittently pissed off. Now I'm just hoping that week was a real turning point, not just a statistical blip.