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Into the Frying Pan

pan roastI’ve been looking for a job for a while, and now that I am in the interview process for one I find myself nervous about jumping into the frying pan. As part of the interview process I must work a stage in a restaurant, not that I would be working in a restaurant, but the job involves some cooking, and that is where they will be checking out my skills. My rusty, never great, OMG service in a restaurant skills; CRAP!  Rusty doesn’t really cover it. I actually still own some chef’s pants, and a suitable though not flattering cap, and some sky blue, giant marshmallow, kitchen-safe Crocs from my days working at Whole Foods Market. At least I know I’ll be looking my very best! Friends and even the interview committee have reassured me that I’m not applying for a position as a line cook, but it is still daunting. I need to go back and read my own words of advice on how to cook, which is really life advice that I need at this moment. It’s not like I haven’t been cooking and chopping on a regular basis for the last thirty years, but I sure hope no one will be depending on me for their food to arrive rapidly and looking picture perfect.happy cooking newIdeally I’ll be doing some veg prep for them, peeling, chopping and that sort of thing. If that’s what I’m facing I’ve got this! If they expect me to work the line for service, well, frankly I don’t want to think about that. If you haven’t worked the line in a restaurant during service you may not understand my anxiety. Working the line is a thrill if you are into that sort of thing, and requires doing several things at once all very quickly and all done properly, if not perfectly. At the peak of service, which can last three hours in some places, the action is non-stop. For thrill seekers this is a real rush, for me it was nerve-wracking. In good restaurants they actually make the food rather than opening bags and boxes and tossing things into the fryer, microwave or steamer and calling that cooking. Cooking means a day of prepping. Stocks are put on the stove on low heat and left to cook overnight. In the morning those are removed from the heat and chilled down for later use in soups and sauces. Bread gets baked, desserts made, and all the vegetables get prepped for service. This includes every vegetable that appears on your plate from garnish to salad to the sides next to your entrée, and even the carefully chosen sprig of mint nestled in the whipped cream piped next to your fruit tart (and yes that fruit for the tart gets prepped as well). Next time you are having a delicious dinner at an excellent restaurant and wondering why the prices are so high, keep in mind it took several people several hours to work on your food before the chef got anywhere near it. Which brings me back to feeling uneasy about entering that world again even as an interloper. I have no business being in a restaurant kitchen anymore. The speed alone terrifies me. Though I don’t expect this one will be, kitchens can also be very mean places. I’ve seen chefs do horrible things. I saw one fling a plate (filled with food that a customer had sent back) across the kitchen without even looking to see where it might land. He nearly hit the dishwasher whose back was to the line. Many people (mostly in their twenties) love the sports-arena atmosphere and the adrenaline hit of a busy service but I decided years ago I wasn’t one of them. I am happier being the one who comes in and chops all the veg, makes the beautiful desserts, gets the soup and sauces made, and heads home while the frontline soldiers are arriving to face the evening’s battle. I hope my anxiety at facing getting thrown into the frying pan doesn’t cost me this job. I hope I can face my fears, and walk into that kitchen in my unflattering outfit and hold my head high and show confidence, skill and efficiency. I hope my feet will hold up for an eight hour shift standing on what is likely a tile floor. I hope I can conquer this hurdle and emerge victorious. I’d like to get this job, and I can’t wait to tell you what it is. Stay tuned.    

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  • August 17, 2015 - 9:00 am

    Peggy Gilbey McMackin - Best of Luck Nancy. I wish I could say forget the anxiety, but perhaps you can use that in a constructive way, for I’m confident you’ve the necessary components to achieve any necessary requirements and exceed them! You Go Girl!ReplyCancel

    • August 17, 2015 - 9:55 am

      nrlowell@comcast.net - Thanks Peggy!ReplyCancel

  • August 17, 2015 - 2:33 pm

    Life in the BAT Cave - Take a deep breath and dive in. The anxiety will disappear as your natural skills come back to you. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • August 17, 2015 - 4:34 pm

    Paige Wolf - Sounds great! Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • August 17, 2015 - 6:44 pm

    Sarah Honey - Wow Nancy. It sounds so exciting. I’m sure you’ll be great and just try to relax. However that probably doesn’t help. And if I say “break a leg” it’s the wrong profession. So go kick some butt & bang some pots!ReplyCancel

  • September 8, 2015 - 7:16 am

    Labor Days » Chefs Last Diet - […] few weeks ago I mentioned the interview process I was going through, and though the wait for an outcome seemed endless to me, it did arrive, […]ReplyCancel

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