Thursday, March 31, 2005

Last night, I worked my first shift at the new job.

The big upside is that I was given more autonomy in what I did. Instead of being shown the proper way to make something and then going back to taking orders or doing prep, I was shown the proper way to make something and then I was making it. I'd prep plates, run the fryer, stick on chicken or bread when needed, etc. In ways of production, even though I was only there for 3 hours and didn't really do much, I still put out more food than I did at my last job in a week. The fact that I wasn't being micromanaged, like at the old restaurant, gave me more opportunity to think independently and not have to constantly check to see if something is right. That's not to say things were not checked, or were wrong, I was just relied upon more to have them correct without supervision. The smaller working quarters made it a bit harder to maneuver and not be in the way, at times, but the other line cook was pretty laid back and I never felt the evil eye on me, or anything.

The big downside is that, despite not being a corporation, the new place is more corporate-feeling. I have to clock in and out at the computer on breaks, I can get "written up" for failing to keep my station clean. I have a required outfit I need to wear to work (though, honestly, that's not that strict. I just need to wear an uncolored shirt, my apron, a pair of chef's pants and a hat.) Of course, I also cannot drink on the job and though this is something to be expected, it's very different from the older place, where, not only did I drink, but also I was being offered drinks by the owner! There was also a surprising amount of wasted food going on. It would have given my old boss a heart attack to see all the stuff we threw away. That said, it was kind of a relief not to have that pressure to have every single-little-bit count and to be able to work a bit faster and freer with the food.

Overall, I can see myself getting the hang of this place really quickly. It might be awhile before I have all of the sandwiches memorized (shoot, even the line cook who trained me foo'ed up a few), but we have a cheat chart on the wall and, providing I can keep up on a Friday night, I think I'll be okay.

I'm also thankful of one thing: no music. If I had to hear more of that damn shit my old boss used to blast out of the loud speakers each day, I was going to go nuts.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

1 Thing I've Done that Most People Haven't

1. Avoided the "10 Things I've Done that Most People Haven't"

Seriously. I've seen this thing take over, die, and then, like Freddy or Jason, rise from the dead to spawn a new life on blogs.

It's crazy. (Though, admittedly, at times, makes for entertaining reading)

Btw, yes, I have done 10 things that most people have not. Probably more. But, come on, this is a family blog! ;)


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Some big news on the restaurant front..

As of next weekend, I will no longer be working at the current restaurant. I applied for a job at another place, where I was offered the position of "Line Cook." I took it.

This means a few things:

  • I will be spending 100% of my time in the back of the house. So, no mopping the dining room, no bussing tables, no taking customers' orders, etc. All of my time at work will be spent cooking or cleaning my own station.
  • Technically, more money. Though, when you figure in the tips and such I get at the current place, I might be making a little less. But then, even if the restaurant is dead, I will still be making the same amount of $$.
  • The big one: a step up on the restaurant positions hierarchy. Previously, I would be considered a prep person. Now, I'm a line cook. The next step up is a Sous-Chef. But, that said, I'm probably going to be at line cook for awhile before moving up. But, this also means I can start as a line cook, as well, when I get out of school in NYC. Meaning..more $$.

This is all very exciting for me. I will finally get to don my under-used chef's jacket as I head into work. YAH!


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Today I mourn the death of one of my favorite local Mexican dives: Taqueria Guadalajara.

Their menu was mainly dominated by standard Mexican chain fare (lots of combination plates), but for those adventurous enough to check out their page of tortas and tacos (along with the weekend specials..all served with fresh homemade tortillas), you would be met with some of the best, authentic Mexican food in Cleveland. They served a torta al pastor which was not to be beat.

But, since taking my restaurant job, I'd stopped going. Plus, the only thing that Genevieve could eat there was their mushroom taco (and, frankly El Tango, a few minutes away in Lakewood, serves a better mushroom dish). This changed this past weekend, when I was overcome with a burning desire for the above mentioned torta. So, we headed down to Lorain ave. Unfortunately, the Taqueria is gone without a trace, a Middle Eastern deli sprung up in it's place.

It will sorely be missed.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

For those who do not check my right-hand links, you should check out the blog Come Play with Us, Danny. It's a horror movie blog, featuring reviews and essays on the best and worst of that genre I know and love, horror flicks. It's owned by Miss Defective, but I also contribute regularly to it.

So, I didn't work last night, as I was supposed to. I got a call from the owner, explaining that the new guy (who does not have a full time job) needed the hours, so he'd be coming in, instead. Though it was great to spend time with Genevieve, I was also a bit upset at having my hours taken away. It's a thin line, when working two jobs, between working too much and not working enough and I find myself on the former end of that line this week. I mean, I had a very enjoyable evening staying home, I guess I just hope it's not the beginning of a trend.


Monday, March 14, 2005

To those who worry...

I did not mean to say, by my last post, that I was no longer happy working at the restaurant. Yes, I do want to expand my horizons and look for other places. But, if I end up working there until September, so be it. I definitely will not be crying any tears over it. Last Monday was just a shitty day and it felt like I was being picked on the whole time, so I had to vent.

For example, this past Friday, the chef was in a fun, joyous mood and we got along really well. So, I just let it slide. This weekend was surprisingly dead, especially after how crazy last weekend was. There actually reached a point on Saturday when there was not a single customer in the restaurant. We were hanging out in the dining room and some people came in and actually wondered if we were even open. That's how slow it was. In a way, it was nice, because it meant I didn't have to work very hard. But, it also sucked because I pulled down horrible tips both of those nights.

Unrelated to the job, I was very happy with myself for discovering my own way to cut down on the calories (always important in our house) on these banana muffins I made on Sunday. I was able to cut the sugars in *half* just by caramelizing the bananas before using. The carmelization of the sugars naturally in the bananas upped the sweetness without adding any actual more sugar. It also punched up the banana flavor significantly. Now, if I can figure out how to cut down on the butter...


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

It was the best of [nights], it was the worst of [nights]..

Last night was quite an interesting time at work.

The upside: As I may have mentioned, the owner of the current restaurant is looking to open up a new one, farther on the West Side. In preparing for that, he's employed the help of someone whose job it is to quantify everything we do and organize it in a fashion that is trainable to new chefs, easy to price out and with measurable product usage. Previously, she'd worked for corporate restaurants, so the current place, small and personal as it is, is definitely a change for her. It was great to get another perspective on the restaurant business though and to find out how much the place I currently work at is the exception, rather than the rule. Quite a few times, when talking about other places, she referred to how they do it at "real restaurants", which sounds demeaning, but I don't believe was meant as such. She does have alot of high-end restaurant contacts and offered to ask around to see if anyone was looking for someone to teach restaurant cooking to. I, certainly, don't expect anything, but it's nice to have another contact out there.

The downside: Maybe he was in a mood. Maybe having someone scrutinize his every move inspired or irritated him, but the chef was nitpicking me to no end. From adding too much pineapple to the nachos "Two! Not Four or Five!" to putting too much bleach in the sink to not adding *enough* bleach to the sink. He was driving me absolutely mad. Finally, when he accused me of having not properly cleaned greasy dishes (on a night I wasn't even there!) I had enough and told him that I'd worked there for about 2 months now and no one had said anything about it before. I'm just hoping he's in a better mood on Friday.

All in all, last night inspired me to start looking elsewhere. Again, it's not that I don't like the restaurant, it's that, it seems like they've taught me all they intend on doing. I can take orders, do dishes, bus tables, prepare the appetizers, soups and salads and close the place. All of these people starting at the new place, they're going to get about 2 weeks to do nothing but learn to cook this stuff, a luxury I will never have. Things, now, have settled into the status quo. I have my role and the chef has his and I don't foresee myself moving farther to his side. I'd also like to see how other restaurants work. I feel I am getting a very unique view, right now, and though that's great to experience, I want my view of the business to be well rounded, not limited to just one place. So, I'll hang out there for a while, until something else comes along, but I will be asking around to see what else is up.


Monday, March 07, 2005

Genevieve's birthday food

I realize I haven't posted much about the food I make *at home*, so today, I will change that. Yesterday, being my dear wife Genevieve's birthday, I did some special cooking for her. I started out in the morning with sweet potato pancakes with orange honey butter (courtesy of the William Sonoma 'Potato' cookbook my sister got me). Honestly, for the sake of time, I prepped half of this on Saturday (like the butter and steaming the potatoes). For this interested, the orange honey butter is yummy and easy to make. Just mix 1/2 cup of butter (softened) with 1/2 cup of honey, add 1 1/2 tsp of orange zest and 1/4 cup of orange juice concentrate. Then, beat until creamy and mixed. I, actually, had a bit of trouble with this, since the butter did not want to cream very well. It was easily solved, though, by a quick trip into the oven (a nuker would be even better). I let the butter melt, then mixed, then put into the freezer until it resumed it's normal consistency. The pancakes took a little tweaking, as well. The recipe the cookbook gave turned out batter that was, simply, too thick. A little extra milk solves this easily though.

Then, for lunch, we had my homemade bean burgers: a recipe that I've been tweaking since we originally got it out of a Moosewood cookbook. My current patties are a mix of pinto beans, corn, garlic, cilantro and peppers and were great topped with ripe avocado. I've gotten to say that, if I ever open my own restaurant, I'll probably serve whatever the current incarnation of these is at the time.

For as easy as the bean burgers were, the chocolate cake was another story. The original recipe called for veggie shortening, an ingredient I generally reserve for our tamales. But, since I wanted to put a little more flavor in there, I substituted butter. The problem was that the original recipe also instructed that all of the ingredients were to be put into one bowl and beaten until mixed. Easy enough, but simply would not work for something with butter (which just ended up resulting in specs of butter throughout).
After modifying the recipe, with the help of Genevieve, I ended up with two perfectly mixed cake layers. Between these layers, I spread some Ganache I'd gotten at the market on Saturday (for those interested, it's really good and available at Reilly's, the stand next to Christopher's Bakery. If you do head there, pick up a bit of their Guinness Cake as well, it's freggin amazing.)

And that was Sunday...we went out to eat for dinner and came home and had cake with Woo City "Extreme Vanilla" ice cream.


In like a Lion..

So, after February being dead-dead-dead at the Restaurant, the arrival of March seemed to spawn an immediate and ravenous need for people to go out to eat. Friday started out easy. It was slow enough that there was talk that one of my fellow dishwasher/server/whatever was going to go home early. Then -bam- we got hit with a crowd that kept on until after close. In fact, a small table of two was there until almost 11:00 (a full hour after we close). It's the policy there not to kick anyone out, but I do wish people would have more consideration. The time spent by restaurant employees after close is the worst. Not only is the whole rush of the kitchen out and we're really just left to sweep/mop/scrub everything, but also, in less abstract terms, we are getting the worst money of the night. Every hour we spent working when we're open is an hour we can count on not only our base pay (which is admittedly shoddy), but tips as well, which definitely contribute. But, after close, that all ends. We're only making base pay and, trust me, for that amount, we do not want to be hanging around the restaurant for hours waiting for people to leave. So, I was dead by the time I left and unfortunately missed what sounds like a kick ass party.

Saturday was even busier. From the moment I came in at 6:00pm till pretty much close, we had people lined up waiting for tables. At one point, I just had to stop getting people's orders to give the cook a little time to catch up. (After all, even if I took them immediately, they certainly weren't getting them any faster). Now, as I've mentioned, we're a small restaurant, we only have about 6 tables, so it doesn't take much before people are fighting for a seat (which makes the person who orders something really small and then have 3 friends, who didn't order anything, hang out with them and drink for quite awhile, all the more annoying). All in all, it wasn't too bad. I didn't get out early, like I'd really hoped to, but I made good tips and I didn't end up being the one stuck with mopping (which I hate).

You know, with all this bitching, it sounds like I've already grown bitter and weary of the restaurant. This is truly not the case. The work, the place and the people I work with are awesome, it's just the customers that sometimes get to me. So, if only we could get rid of them, I'd be set.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

So my sister has now come and gone and I got to see her for a total of about 2 hours during the whole trip. This seriously sucks. It seems that everything conspired to plan against us. First, on Sunday, we headed up to Great Lakes Brewery for a few drinks, but she started...erm..puking. So, she headed home. Then, Monday, when my family was all supposed to come up to the restaurant, while I was working, she still wasn't feeling well, so that got nixed. Finally, yesterday, she was going to drive up to visit me and head out to this show a friend of mine was putting on, but we then get our (hopefully) last big snowstorm of the year, killing traffic in all directions and making what would have been normally a 45min-1 hour drive into something that could possibly have taken 2 hours. She, obviously, opted not to try the drive. All of this combined to put me in a foul foul mood yesterday. *Big* apologies to those I was a complete asshole to.