This weekend’s lesson: mise en place

This past Saturday was ugly, the kind of ugly which could have customers asking themselves “Why is this place rated so highly and why is it so expensive?

And the night’s failures rest squarely on the sous chef’s shoulders.  When the lead line cook and I arrived in the morning, there was a prep list haning in the window, so naturally that’s  where we focused our efforts while we worked through the lunch service.  And then we went to lunch ourselves, believing most things to be in pretty good shape.

However, when we came back from lunch a very different picture presented itself to us.  The sous chef was still making gnocchi (because he’d fucked up the previous day’s batch), which is where we left him an hour and a half earlier.  And then the cook who’s leaving this week started looking around and noticed some glaring omissions from the prep list.  To further complicate our situation was the fact that we were low on a few stock items (like red wine vinegar).

Service began very slow, though our first table was at 5:30, for which I just managed to piece together some kind of amuse bouche.  While I was working frantically to get the amuse done the sous chef told me not to freak out, to which I replied “I’m not freaking out, I’m getting shit done”.

And so we were off.  Once the rush came though we were totally fucked.  The sous was pulled off the line by the owner (who was by now expediting) and put the lead line cook actually on the line (who had been expediting).  Eventually the outgoing cook was taken off the line as well and told to man the dessert station, only to be replaced by the sous chef.  I was thinking “Holy fuck, this shit ain’t that hard”, but then my station was properly prepped out.  A large part of the problem was that a lot of shit was being done on the fly – not a fun situation but one I’m familiar with from my tapas days in Chicago.

Eventually the sous chef and lead cook had it out verbally which resulted in them being taken to the owner’s office as soon as the last table went out.  I helped plate desserts and clean up, and was then told to go into the office myself.  When I entered the sous chef asked me what I thought had gone wrong, to which I responded “mise en place”. 

The speech we eventually received (along with a free beer) from the owner was more pep talk than bitching out, but then I’d missed about two-thirds of what had been said, since I was still actually working (and not at all happy about working while the other two guys were sitting on their asses, even if they were being yelled at). 

What really sucked for me was that I was scheduled to go home at 9 and didn’t leave until just after 11, all while my parents were at my house waiting with Erin for me to arrive home.  I had been honest in various texts to Erin through the evening.

In fact, here are the texts I sent her:

6:10 p.m. – “We are fucked”

6:11 p.m. – “Bad prep list”

6:44 p.m. – “Guess” which was in response to Erin asking who was responsible for the prep list

9:31 p.m. – “Raped.  Will be late”

So there you have it.  Saturday is looming on the horizon once more, and we’ll be down to three from the four of last weekend, and no expediter.  I can barely contain my excitement.


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