Under Fire: Curtain call for a former writer, future sous

Our former Cafe Society intern just decided to chuck college in favor of a real education: as a sous chef. In Under Fire, he chronicles his daily trials and tribulations in the kitchen.

I feel like a fucked-up version of Jane Goodall. When I decided to devote my time to working in the kitchen (and blogging about it), I was ready to fill my yellow notebook with ideas that could turn into posts. Instead, over time the notebook began to fill up with more concrete things that I needed to do for work, and now the book is full of prep lists and recipes.

I have worked in plenty of kitchens, but I still felt like I was on the outside looking in when I started this job. But then I began living with these people. And now I'm one of them! I go out to get tacos with the guys on my line, sometimes speak English sparingly during service, write menus in my dreams and am ALWAYS thinking about work.

About two months ago I would make snarky observations about servers, purveyors and dishwashers. Now I am looking at how fast a server will return to run his/her food, weighing the prices of cremini mushrooms and paying attention to the efficiency of our new dishwasher-in-training.

Yesterday a server asked me, jokingly, if there were some restaurant black market that ran the city. I responded, seriously, that there is indeed a seedy underbelly (to steal Bourdain's phrase), a very closely connected web that spins through almost every restaurant in town. I was on the outside looking in. I am comfortably seated on the inside now.

This came clear last night when I was at a bar full of local college students, and I felt like my age was the ONLY thing I had in common with any of them. I stood there, glancing around awkwardly, like it was the first time I had been around a group of flat-bill hat, diamond-earring, overly colorful Volcom hoodie-wearing people.

And all of this equals an easy conclusion for me: I have nothing left to say about my situation. I expect to officially get the title of sous in the next few weeks, at which point there is obviously no curtain call on my culinary career -- it is really just the opening act.

But I am taking a bow on my writing career, for now, and this curtain call will be cut short -- because a nasty burn on my hand cracked open and I need to apply some elementary-level first aid to my injured self.

See you in the restaurants.


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