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!

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