Jason Sheehan is no fan of Hell's Kitchen, but he watches it. And now he's playing it, as he describes here. Now on to week four:
Playing Hell's Kitchen drunk was embarassing but fun, which was why I let my buzz roll me right through into week four. Another table, the addition of ovens to my kitchen, the addition of another ingredient to work with and customers who, now, would put up with nothing short of excellence (in game terms, plates perfectly assembled, speedily prepared and put to the pass while still piping hot for service) complicated matters, and I found myself hunched up on the couch talking to all the little digital people sitting in my restaurant.
Shouting at them, really. Like when they would get bored and start rolling their eyes, looking around the dining room for their desserts, or pissed enough to slam their tiny, pixelated hands down on their tables. Ramsay was yelling at me, the customers were getting antsy, dupes were stacking up on the slide (actually beginning to catch fire and smolder when they’d been hanging too long, which I thought was a nice touch) and I was struggling just to get plates to the rail—finally, this was beginning to feel like a real kitchen. I started to get that same clutch of fear in my chest that I would when, in the real world, a seating started going sideways.
Then, finally, the adrenaline began burning through the haze and cotton of the five beers and quick pull off a pint of Jameson’s I’d had during my last break, and I caught a wave of focus that allowed me to pull out two decent services in a row—where everything just came together and all the tricks I’d learned in the real world (having my floorman hold tables at the front, waiters who’d delay orders when the kitchen got backed up, staggering seatings so that the cooks wouldn’t get swamped and, in the kitchen, stacking orders, holding pans off the heat until the last possible minute, arranging orders to fire long before they needed to go to the rail) found their Hell’s Kitchen analog.
I was running the floor, jumping back into the kitchen to check on the progress of the four-top backing up the line, bouncing back out again to clear two tables, then starting on desserts for table one. It was great.
Straight, my score had been 28 stars—a pretty admirable showing. Drunk, I did 29. Fucking awesome.
I deduced that what’d been missing during the previous week’s exertions was the charge of adrenaline and nerves that takes the soporific edge off drinking on the job. It’s not like I was sitting behind a desk while working. I was on my feet, running, spinning in place, chugging up and down stairs from the basement prep kitchen and dry stock room to the kitchen above. I was sweating and shouting and working on a ragged edge where the alcohol only served to blunt the edge of pain, exhaustion and psychosis. And though sitting on my couch poking at a computer certainly can’t compare to that sort of aerobic exercise, the memory of it is still there in me—living in my brain and my muscles and my heart. All I needed was a taste and I was right back in there again, remembering exactly what it was like.
When I was done, I stepped out onto my patio for a smoke and a last drink to celebrate. My heart was thumping, my head swimming. It felt good. Now I only had to figure out what to do for next week—my last in Hell’s Kitchen. -- Jason Sheehan
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