Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hooray for and working my butt off...

Well, it's been a few days since I posted anything and I only have a short amount of time between lunch and dinner service tonight but huge news!  I won a grant from!  I was selected from over 900 entries and am still pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.
I don't have much time to write with my schedule right now but I have a lot to share so I will post my weekly report for Le Cordon Bleu here because it sums up a lot of what has happened this week.  Also I am working on getting this page linked up to Picassa so that you can check out some of my pictures.

Weekly Report follows:
      What activities have you observed that have occupied the time of your supervisor? From your observation, what is a “normal” day for your supervisor

My supervisor, Matteo, is in charge of the daily operations of the kitchen including; maintaining par stock levels, overseeing daily preparation, and purchasing meat, produce and the necessary equipment for day to day operations.  We maintain some stock in the restaurant but the majority of our product is stored in another facility down the street from our restaurant and Matteo must decide what he believes is needed for service because we do not have enough staff that we can take someone out of the kitchen to pick up more product.

What I perceive to be a “normal” day for Matteo begins with opening the restaurant and setting up the kitchen for daily prep work.  Everything is made from scratch so the first thing he does is check the stocks, sauces, pasta and bread dough as they are the most time consuming of our products.  He then decides who will do what job for the day as he is very familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of all his employees.  Matteo then starts in on butchery as most of meat comes in primal cuts or as whole animals.  When service begins he oversees the production of every dish and calls out for orders as he runs the sauté and grill stations.  When all of the main courses have been served he oversees and assists in the cleaning of the kitchen and everyone assists the dessert station to make service as easy as possible.  Once the kitchen is cleaned he begins to work on mise-en-place and prep lists for the next day.

2)      Describe the most stressful situation you experienced on the job this week, and describe how you handled it.

The most stressful part of the kitchen for me is being the only one who doesn’t speak Italian as their first language.  All of the tickets are handwritten in Italian and when there are ten or twelve tickets up the handwriting of the different servers can be quite difficult to decipher.  I remedied this situation my taking a copy of the menu in Italian and another copy in English (for the tourists) and making my own little cheat sheet that I have carried with me for several days to familiarize myself with the Italian names for the dishes.

3)      What did you discover were your greatest strengths in performing your duties this week?
I discovered that my greatest strengths in the kitchen were; listening & note taking, maintenance of my tools, and my familiarity with dough.  First of all listening to what was going on around me, even if I was not the one being spoken to, allowed me to see that there are certain dishes that need to be started before they are even called or a whole order can die and there is a greater possibility for the kitchen to crash.  Carrying a notebook with me and recording directions for dishes as I was watching them be prepared allowed me to transition into different stations with more ease than I had expected.  Secondly, being taught to keep my tools clean and my knives sharp has allowed me to jump in and save the day when someone is searching for a bench scraper or is having difficulty cutting product.  Lastly, my familiarity with various types of dough has allowed me to prepare the pasta and bread dough in the morning which frees up other members of the staff to work on other things and has made morning prep a lot easier for the whole kitchen.

4)      What did you discover were your greatest weaknesses in performing your duties this week?

By far, the largest hurdle for me was the language barrier.  My Italian language course taught me how to ask where the bathroom is and how much a hotel room cost for the night which is utterly useless in the kitchen.  By listening to the staff talk and asking questions I managed to pick up a lot of “kitchen Italian” that has made every service run just a little bit smoother than the previous one.  Other than the language barrier I had some difficulty with working with the metric system as opposed to U.S. measurements but after spending a few days in the kitchen I have metric to be much easier, especially in scaling recipes up and down.

5)      JOURNAL: In one paragraph, please reflect upon your externship experience for the week. Successes? Challenges? Failures?

This week I was extremely excited to finally get in the kitchen and get my hands dirty.  My chef, Matteo, told me that for the first few days he just wanted me to stand back and watch him but I had come to the kitchen almost every night before I was cleared to work and watched the whole staff in action.  Less than twenty minutes into my first night in the kitchen I was handing him products and setting up pans before he even asked for them and he put me right to work which I took as a huge victory.  As we talked about my training at Le Cordon Bleu during that first night of service I told him about making fresh pasta and preparing dough and he told me that the next morning it would be my job to prepare the dough for that evening’s service.  I was very excited to be contributing so much on my first real day of work.  I feel like I was very well prepared to assist in nearly every aspect of the kitchen.  I would say that my one big failure of the week was not tasting an order of tripe before I plated it up.  I had seriously under seasoned the dish and it kind of broke my heart to watch my chef taste it and then proceed to dump the dish back into a pan and rework my dish as the rest of the order sat on the line and started to go cold.  I learned a great lesson in that failure and have made sure to taste every dish before I declare that it is, in fact, done.


  1. i am so happy for you, greg! it sounds like quite an adventure :-) confetti toss!!!!

  2. Hey Greg, its RG from The Reluctant Gourmet web site and I'm thrilled to have found your blog so I can keep up with your travels. Thanks again for a great interview.