When it is almost eighty degrees New Yorkers start to linger outside, strolling through the streets seemingly with all the time in the world. That might explain why I spent most of today doing absolutely NOTHING besides eating brunch at an outdoor cafe, perusing store fronts, and fantasizing about running away with an armful of puppies from the dog park.
Since I started working in restaurants I haven’t had that much free time. That changed a couple of months ago when I quit my job at Cafe Boulud. It feels strange to write down those words since the past year I truly dedicated myself to my job and hardly had time for any writing. My life revolved around cooking. I would eat, breathe, and sleep while thinking about my job; I had dreams, or probably more accurate, nightmares about work. There is something very disturbing about waking up in a cold sweat after having a very life-like dream about messing up an expensive recipe or dropping all of your mise en place right before service. There were times when I would lunge out of bed like a bat out of hell thinking that I was late for work only to realize I still had a few more hours of sleep before I needed to wake up. I wasn’t the only one. I’ve caught my boyfriend a couple of times mumbling something in his sleep about getting the fish out of the oven.
It is very easy to get caught up in the rush of being in a kitchen. You may love the work but it can drain you – your body, your mind. In a recent issue of Lucky Peach magazine they printed a set of rules that used to be posted in the kitchen at Cafe Boulud. The rules were written by Andrew Carmelini the Executive Chef at the time. These words really affected me, not only because Cafe Boulud was the place I dedicated so much of my time, but also because they were written by someone with passion for food and respect for what they serve. It is inspiring for a young cook to strive to put this much integrity into what they do for a living.
“You are now at the point of your life when you are developing your professional reputation. You are doing so at the top tier of restaurants in New York City — make it count. Only your work ethic will speak for you, not past chef’s or friends.
You must love the do this for a living — no question. You must love to stay late or come early if it is necessary to get the job done. You must love to practice only the best. Most perfect techniques in order to produce a product you are proud of. Your end product is a direct reflection of how much love and respect you have for yourself and your work.
All cooks must work in the most efficient manner, with full regard to producing the highest quality product possible.
Responsibility of each and every cook to keep any area at which they are working spotless, regardless of its condition previously.
Responsibility of all cooks to know everything about their stations. What is it? Why is it here? How long has it been here? Who made it?
Each cook should familiarize himself with every product they are using on a hands on basis. Learn its origins, its classic uses in the French kitchen, and how we use it here at Cafe Boulud. Each cook should know and record all recipes and techniques that are applicable to their stations.
All cooks must think ahead and anticipate. Having your stations set up completely, with back up mise en place close at hand is anticipation. Doing small projects during service lulls is a way to think ahead for your partner. Always think about the next project, doing mise en place for the next day, work to keep your partner set up, start breaking down your station early, etc.
All cooks must watch each others back. If you are done setting up, see who needs a hand. If someone is in the shit do extra chives or shallots for them. Split common jobs between stations. Work for the team so we can have the tightest kitchen in New York.”