Friday, May 29, 2009

Is That a Challenge?!

In a recent post at my halfway point, I listed my goals for this externship and talked about how I'd met a few of them.

Well, with four weeks to go from today, I am getting that much closer to actually reaching all of my goals! For some reason at the beginning, I'd thought that I wouldn't accomplish all of them, or not care too much about following up. Usually I am really goal-oriented. I like to make lists (to-do lists) and cross of things. Crossing things off makes me feel good, makes me feel accomplished, and in a sense, puts things behind me, even if they are small things.

Here's a refresher of goals not yet previously met:
3. Make a contribution to a new menu item with Chef B (help with research and development from idea to product).
4. Learn how to use new ingredients/agents in different ways (mostly the molecular gastronomy stuff).

 I am close! Two weekends ago, Chef B came in on a Saturday night. It was busy and we were expecting 140 covers. I was working the "wall" utility position and for the moment, was doing some busy-work/cleaning (time to lean = time to clean!). Chef B came over and said that his super-special-inspiring-friend was coming in to dine at 8pm with his wife and Chef B wanted to present him with one of the new dessert items he'd been talking about. He dashed upstairs, printed out the new menu and brought it down for me to peruse. Finally! Ideas in print. I was in love . . . with the challenge.

It was 7pm. Chef B said "You have 2 hours. Make it happen." Gosh! Since I was like the extra person on, I got right to it. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that Chef B wanted to try out a new item. That night. Busy as it was! Untested!!! Gutsy. I just knew that it was what he wanted and I'd been egging him on about doing it, so the time was now or never.

The item didn't turn out quite like we'd hoped... but it gave us a good foundation and a starting point from which to move forward. It was progress. It was something!!! And I knew I could make it happen if I had to.

Two weeks later, our business has slowed down considerably. It is getting hot here (mid-80s) and our reservations are low. It's good because we can catch our breaths and measure up what we have. Chef B said that the past April was the most profitable month he's had in his 8 years of business. So rad to be a part of that! I hear it's like a ghost town here in the summertime, so I'm sure the extra revenue last month will tide them over.

I requested to be switched to the daytime prep shift again so that I could help Chef B out with this new menu. At first glance, it is quite a daunting task. All of a sudden, he is gung-ho about getting it done "right now!" (one of his common phrases). He actually wants the menu to be done and out to the civilians (as I call them - "Civilians spotted in the dining room - we're on!") by the end of my time here. What?! In four weeks?! These things certainly take time to figure out, tweak, and test. Why couldn't he have asked us for this two months ago? Well, we were up to our necks in prep work for busy nights where I felt like I couldn't see straight at the end of it and I heard the ticket machine in my sleep. Sheesh.

The more I think about it though, now is the perfect time. Now is the time. It's slow, I need something new, and I definitely need to be challenged. I can do all the prep work alone, I don't need help, I can run the service seamlessly, and nothing gets me down anymore. I do need this challenge to get me through the next month until I'm home. AND it will be the greatest thing ever to put on my resume!

How many other externs get this type of opportunity? Would I have had this opportunity at the Ritz in Florida? Most likely not. I'll take it!

This morning I had a meeting with Chef B to discuss his vision about this menu. One thing I noticed is that he has not taken the costing of new desserts into consideration. At a bakery I used to work at, my boss would plan out the next months' breads and when I'd make suggestions, he'd cost it out on his spreadsheet and then make his decision. With Chef B, money is not even a thought, at least not until later. Interesting!

He leaves on Sunday for a 17 day trip to New York, staging at a couple of the big star restaurants. I'm going to work really hard in the next two days to get one item on the menu. There are a total of 6 to create and make. Wow! I got so excited just talking about it with him. I really hope that I can make it happen. It will be interesting seeing how the prep changes and what order we pull old things off the menu during the switchover. I am going to be a part of something great!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Love Story Meets Viva La Vida


My mom forwarded this video to me. It is amazing! I love piano music and the two songs combined are just awesome. Jon Schmidt is very talented!


Oshiri Kajiri Mushi


i RANDOMLY found this video on YouTube and every time I watch it, it makes me smile.

Apparently the creators of the little bug wanted to spread some love and happiness throughout Japan with their idea. How funny!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Soon Enough


Two such as you
With such a masterspeed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing
and
Oar to oar.

-Robert Frost

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Ally!


Just wanted to wish a happy golden birthday to one of my bestest friends!!! :)
Have a greaaaaat day girl!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beets Me

Our work schedule for the week is posted on Sunday nights. I sauntered over and checked it out. "Whaaaaat?!" I said to myself. Wednesday I was scheduled to work the Garde Manger station. Fortunately, I had been working the "wall" station a lot lately, so I knew how to plate all the dishes. The only thing I was really worried about was being on it alone and having to do all the prep work.

Wednesday came: the day of reckoning. I realized that here I had clearly crossed over into the culinary realm, away from my sugary goods. :( I barely got everything set up by 5:30pm and then the mad rush began. It wasn't a particularly busy night, but it felt like it to me. Somehow, time zipped by and it was already 8pm (yeah!). 

I ended up making it through the whole service without crying, dying, or having a heart attack . . . not like I thought that was going to happen! But I got by with a little help from my friends/co-workers.

Ahh the insurmountable beet salad, in all it's beety glory, took the cake for my night. It actually was NOT that bad, although I got a lot of orders, and I rather enjoyed adding the beautiful/magical beet foam.

doesn't it look so fun?!

I realized that I am also on a different planet from my co-workers when it comes to what's running through my head at work. I pointed to the unfinished beet salad and asked one of the chefs, "Do you know why the diced beets are so happy?" He shook his head.

I answered, "Look, they're getting barreled!" 
He looked at me like I was an alien... "Especially the ones in the back, they're in it pretty deep." Haha. Finally he got what I was talking about and walked away laughing.

So my mind is always on surfing/the ocean. Not bad. But I'd think I'm one of the few who looks at this salad and thinks of something completely different than the beets.

Then again... beets always make me think of a time when my older brother grabbed up a bunch of beets at the salad bar at Souplantation, tasted them thinking they were sliced/canned cranberry sauce and then spit them back out into the salad bar. It was HILARIOUS (you had to be there). I seriously thought we might get kicked out for that.

Totally true: beets remind me of surfing and my bro. Awesome.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Really?

Maybe it's a bad sign when I come into work 3 hours early and STILL can't get done with prep in time . . . hmmm....

Naw! No prep person was scheduled this morning, so I came in at noon and did the whole shebangin' thing on my own. Seriously, by 5:30pm people were like, "You're STILL doing prep?" Absolutely crazy. 

It's not that I'm slow... it's just that there was too much for one person to accomplish for that shift. Whew. 13 hours later . . . my head is hittin' the pillow.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Days Off

I really appreciate days off more after I have done a lot of overtime at work. Lately the work weeks have been flying by! Seriously, we have been crazy-busy for the last five weekends because of all these festivals and special holidays. First it was French Quarter Fest, then Jazz Fest for two weekends, last weekend was Mother's Day, and now we have Graduation Weekend coming up. Yay? I am just happy to be working, making money, and getting through this semester. Honestly, how can I complain about work when so many people are out there looking for any job they can lay their hands on?!

My two days off this week were reserved for rest and relaxation. Usually, I'd use one of the days to do a touristy thing. I made it a goal to do one fun activity a week, giving me something to look forward to and ensuring that I wouldn't miss out on all that New Orleans/LA/the South has to offer.

Monday I met up with two female co-workers and we got chair massages and smoothies. It was just so nice to have a little bit of girl time and we hardly talked about work at all! After they left (to go work), I got a pedicure. That is like a HUGE luxury for me. I can count the times I've gotten them. . . it's just a nice way to pamper myself. Manicures are out of the question since I'd wreck them asap at work.

Today I walked to get my groceries, did some reading (The World To Come by Dara Horn - great so far!) out on my front stoop, and went and saw a movie with my roommate. It was "Sin Nombre", a little independent film in Spanish with English subtitles. I love movies like that, and I love being able to practice my listening skillz....I can tell when the translation isn't quite right or missing something and makes me feel good! Like I'm in on a joke or something. The movie itself was kinda depressing (senseless gang killings and no happy ending) but I enjoyed the cinematography and music a lot. Pretty good for $5!

I am getting increasingly happy that I will be leaving here soon. I actually got a little sad though, knowing I'd have to sell my bike. We have become quite attached and it has been a great way to get around!

6 weeks of work... 41 days until I go home, and 45 until I see the love of my life and get a little vaca time with one of my best friends! How can life not be great?!

As I wind down the time here, I will need to get some quality work done on my weekly assignments for school (a pain!), make travel arrangements to leave, and I'll be doing some reflecting on my time here. All good things.

What do you think of the new layout? I wanted something simpler and clean.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Praisin' the Lord - Southern Style


Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a Baptist Revival Meeting. What's that? you say... I had the same question myself, which is why I went. Since I've been here, people from home have asked me if I have attended a "real" Southern Baptist church to experience the worship. Well, here was my chance!

The service was held at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, where a good majority of the congregation is African-American. I have to say that if this church was in my neighborhood, I would probably attend it often solely for the worship!

I learned that this was the first revival meeting to be held at FABC since Hurricane Katrina. It is always jolting to me to hear that the effects of Katrina are still reverberating throughout the community. It is HUGE. They played a slideshow of pictures of the recovery efforts, and today the church looks beautiful.

The service started up with the best worship I have ever heard. There was SO much soul and heart in it, people swaying, clapping, lifting up hands and praising God. I really hope that's what heaven is like! The choir had about 100 people in it I'd guess, and their voices were amazing! Everyone in the congregation seemed to know the words to all the songs because there were no hymnals or words posted anywhere.

When the preacher got up and did his thing (Rev. Tony Evans), people would reply back loudly with "Amens" and "Mm-hmms", stand up and wave their hands when he said something they agreed with. I can't say I got a lot out of his sermon, but I really enjoyed the experience and I'm glad I went!

I realized that since I moved away from California about 4 years ago, I have expanded my views and faith and experiences of the church a great deal. If I had stayed in California, I may very well have stayed in the Presbyterian church and never ventured out! Since then, I have attended four-square church, Assemblies of God, Lutheran, and now a Baptist Church. I have greatly enjoyed all these new experiences, and give a HUGE thumbs up to black-gospel-style worship!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The World Is My Oyster

Does that saying even make any sense?
There are times at work where I have to cross over into the Dark Side . . . aka the culinary side! Away from my dainty, precise sugary goods over onto hot and cold foods which require sharp taste buds and many pinches of salt.

Lately, I've been scheduled to work "the wall". This means that I work inbetween the pastry and garde manger (cold foods, appetizers) stations, sort of like a utility person. I like it because it throws some spice into my worklife and so far I have learned a lot of new things.

Over the weekend, I made mango soup for the amuse bouche which is
 served to every customer. So good! The mangoes are pureed with champagne, simple syrup, salt and pepper and some mint leaves. Refreshing! The amuse is finished off with a small piece of kimchee shrimp, chives and a piece of fried taro. All small bits of course, because it is just a taste of what's to come.

I also got to make a corn salsa that is part of our crab salad. Yum! Arguably, the garde manger station is probably the second-most difficult station to work in this particular restaurant (after pastry of course!) due to the multitude of ridiculous items and more importantly, the beet salad. That I will have to save for another topic once I get a picture of this prime delight. Hah.

One of my tasks today was to pick 5 pounds of crab meat. We get the meat in little containers but have to carefully hand-pick them to make sure there are no tiny bits of shell in there. Usually I will find about a dozen or more pieces of shell per container. It is tedious work but necessary.

Another task today was to clean the oysters. I had no idea that they could be so dirty on the outside! We receive our oysters from the P & J Oyster company, located here in the French Quarter. I believe the oysters come out of the Gulf of Mexico, and they sure are dirty! I hauled up the burlap bag full of these large rocks into the sink and proceeded to spray the heck out of them. Lots of sand and silt and rocks and small mussels came off and I had to be sure and spray the small niches where we would later stick the shucking knife in. It was messy work.

(not my hand)

I got to thinking that it was amazing that someone would have actually thought, "Hmm.. I wonder if I can open this and eat what's inside??" Oysters aren't pretty on the outside. Heck, they aren't much to look at on the inside either! Pretty colorless and weird-looking. I can't say I truly enjoy them that much, and I gave them a good go at an oyster bar when I first got here.


Anyways, when I first started working the wall, I loathed and feared the oyster orders. I'd hear the expediter yell out the order and shudder. After the first day, my poor wrist was so sore. I really thought I was going to break it shucking these stupid oysters. I did a lot of twisting and jiiving trying to get that knife in there to open those suckers up, breaking a sweat and getting really frustrated while my male co-workers would look on and laugh at my elbow-jerking movements.

Finally, one of the chefs showed me a better way to pop 'em open, and now, I can say that I am pretty darn good at shucking oysters. No more wrist-twisting or elbow-jerking for me! All it takes is getting the knife in at just the right point and then a little pop and you're in!

Last night, I actually had oyster dreams. I kept dreaming that I was at work, and woke up thinking that I had to get up early to make sure that I shucked the oysters. My chef kept telling me to get them done. I don't think I ever realized it was a dream!

Each order gets three freshly-shucked oysters, topped with a different flavored savory granita (ginger or cucumber snowy-like ice chips) and three types of caviars. It is a pricey first course!

I am no longer afraid of the shucking, my wrist isn't sore, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have learned this skill anywhere else!

ps - I still wanna know what that saying means anyway: "The world is your oyster". Shakespeare?


Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mom Always Said . . .

. . . It's not going to jump up and say, "Here I am!"

Happy Mothers Day Momma! :)


Friday, May 8, 2009

Pepper!

My co-workers have deemed me tough! That is good to know and hear. I pull my weight and don't fool around. I'm serious when I need to be and don't let anyone put me down.

About a month ago, one of the girls at the other restaurant got jumped - in the morning. All the guys got sooo mad, like "I'm-gonna-kill-him" mad, which is understandable. New Orleans is not safe. I've gotten that vibe since I got here and I've taken every precaution to make sure that I'm as safe as can be.

Having a bike is a definite plus. If someone comes at me, I can get away quickly. I didn't bring any valuables here with me and I don't carry a lot of cash. I keep aware at all times and will defend myself if necessary.

One of my co-workers was kind enough to get me some pepper spray after the recent incident. I was actually pretty excited to have it when I was riding home yesterday after a long night of work. 

Is it bad that I wanted to test it out on some random, unsuspecting person? Haha! Well, I didn't. But I was certainly tempted to! I love pushing buttons and this one looks fun.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bananas Foster French Toast

Grab pan.
Put fosters sauce in pan.
Cut up 7 slices of banana, add to pan.
Put pan on heat.
Cut 1-inch slice of brioche, cut off crust.
Put 1-oz clarified butter in large pan.
Dip bread in french toast batter, place in pan.
Run to freezer, grab vanilla ice cream. 
Run back.
Flip french toast.
Grab bowl from plate warmer, put on station.
Put some sauce in bottom of bowl.
Put french toast in bowl.
Run to dish station to dump pan.
Run back.
Add bananas and rest of sauce.
Add 5 candied walnuts.
Scoop two scoops vanilla ice cream, place on top.
Shake powdered sugar on top of two fried plantains in "w" shape, place on top of ice cream.
Add mint leaf.
"Order up French Toast!"
Time: 3 minutes.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Burned!

Another busy weekend! Last night at work I suffered my first "professional" cooking burn. Up to this point, I've been very careful about not burning myself.. but these things always happen as an accident so there's not much I could do!

I ended up full-on grabbing a hot pan handle, and it hurt so bad!!! It brought tears to my eyes, but of course I had to hold it in because I was at work. AND I just had to suck it up and keep going. About ten minutes later after the rush was over, I asked one of the chefs if we had any burn cream, which attracted the notice of everyone in the kitchen. Everyone was very unsympathetic (thanks, guys!). They pretty much just told me to suck it up. Growing pains. Hah. I just wanted to something to put on it so it wouldn't get worse and/or hurt more later!

One co-worker was nice though. He leaned over and said, "When that happens to me, I just put two gloves on my hand for the rest of the shift. Kinda protects it." That was soo nice, and a constructive suggestion which really worked.

Unfortunately I have to work the rest of the weekend, so I hope the burn doesn't start hurting more. It's on the inside of two fingers, my thumb, and part of my palm. Yeow! At least that part won't leave a scar!

Today is May Day aka Lei Day in Hawai'i! I've been missing California and Hawai'i sooo much lately! I see reminders everywhere too. Well, just 8 more weeks and then I'll be home :) I'm so happy that it is another month already. Yes!
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