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 am now a month into my quest of sous chefdom, but I feelt like I just became a cook. Before this, I waddled around kitchens in Littleton and Denver, occasionally touching hot food, but generally sitting in back with hands in a salad bowl and my eyes on the entrees.
I was envious of the real cooks, and thought what I did paled in comparison with what they did. There's something special about cooking food, because you are actually transforming a product. There's a real sense of accomplishment in it.
In reality, I probably shouldn't take pantry for granted: It's hard work. And I could have done a few more weeks of it here before really diving in and working the "middle," the spot where I receive tickets and tell the other cooks what to make, when to make it and sometimes how to make it.
But weeks can happen in mere hours in the kitchen, as our kitchen ace Lazarillo and I discussed as we stood around right before service. In broken Spanish, I expressed to him my goal of working the middle in a few weeks. He promptly told me to do it right then, and said he'd jump in if I got buried.
Fast forward one hour: Our ticket machine is spitting out so many orders that I'm doubling up tickets on the slide because there's no room left. This is where the kitchen gets addictive, though, because while it's frantic, there's a strange sense of calm, and then accomplishment when it's all over.
Getting through a very busy night of service rivals anything I've done in my life on the enjoyment scale. And I'm seeing how a full day of work now feels, and the ebb and flow of the kitchen is becoming clearer.
Take this for example:
About an hour before service, I was playing it close on the kale and arugula that we had, and like some dirt-covered guardian angel, a guy from a local farm came in looking to talk to my chef. He was immediately directed my way. I went out to look at what he was bringing back from the farmer's market, and I pounced on his kale and arugula, even though I know it's always a risk to spend the restaurant's money (especially given my rank in the kitchen). But not only did we go through a lot of the stuff I bought, but today I received a call from my chef congratulating me on making the call to buy more.
Not for this day -- or the entire month -- do I have buyer's remorse. Not at all.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.