I opened and closed the restaurant today.
I swapped days with the head chef because today is his wedding anniversary. I usually work Mondays. I came in today to find I had a great deal of prep work to do. We were out of clam chowder (our signature soup), caramelized onions, and sliced tomatoes, just to name a few things. Several of the bins in the cold station were empty, or nearly so, and a good bit of stuff was not put where it usually is, so I had to hunt for it. Needless to say, I was frustrated. As with most kitchen issues, I made a list of what I needed to get done, put my head down, and things were alright within an hour or two. Both folks who worked last night know what it takes to open in the morning. I couldn’t help but wonder what they were thinking. I assumed they had forgotten what it feels like to come to work in the morning and find yourself, as we say, “in the weeds” because the night crew didn’t leave you prepared.
Tonight we got slammed. We used up most of the prep work we had done during the day. By the time we closed, we had used up all the cole slaw, most of the soup du jour, all the boiled shrimp, and — one again — sliced tomatoes. The other cook who was working with me tonight asked if I wanted him to slice tomatoes (I’m opening again tomorrow).
“No,” I said, “It’s late and we’re tired; I’ll do it in the morning.”
As I watched him put the pan of whole Roma tomatoes in the refrigerator, I smiled to myself. I know what it feels like to get to the end of a long day, or even just an incredibly busy evening, and only be able to hang in there long enough to get stuff cleaned and put away. That slipped my mind this morning.
Many years ago, when my brother and sister-in-law were living in Tucson, I went to visit them. We went to see the University of Arizona play football. Their stadium is a bowl, where the rows of seats angle continuously from the field all the way to the top row. At one point in the game, one of the cheerleaders stood up on the short wall in front of the first row, turned her back, and fell backwards on to the upraised arms of the people in the first couple of rows. In what seemed like lightning speed to me, the folks in the stands began passing her up towards the top; it felt like she got there in a matter of seconds.
That’s how life gets lived, I think, passed on hand to hand.
At least, that’s how it feels in the kitchen.