Category Archives: Food

An Adventure – CHEESESTEAKS!!!


Today’s Music: Fitz and the Tantrums – Don’t Gotta Work It Out
Days Til Spring: 55

*Discaimer – I was young and stupid(er) at the time. I don’t drive (often) like this anymore!

Conversation with co-workers went like this:
Guap: Want to have lunch tomorrow?
Brian: Sure
Sean: Yeah, why not.
Guap: Great. Meet me here tomorrow at 10.
Brian and Sean: What? Why?!?

Because we were in NYC. And for lunch, I thought a Philadelphia Cheesesteak would be nice. From Philadelphia.
Oh don’t look at me like that. You’ve thought it too.

Totally worth the trip.

So, the next day, at about 10, we piled into my car and headed for Philly.
This was in the days before mapquest or gps, so we just had the atlas I kept in the car.
Brian was the navigator. He sat in front with the map.
Sean was just along for the ride. He had two concerns: being fed, and meeting women.
I was the driver. I drove like a lunatic.

So we headed off. It’s about a three hour drive from where we were to where we were trying to get too. We did it in about two and a half. Should’ve been faster. Read on.

Conversation wandered over the normal range of topics among three guys that worked together in a kitchen: how much work sucked, which waitresses were cute, where we were going to work next when we moved on.
We hit Jersey and started kicking up dust, flying down the turnpike towards Philly at about 85 mph.
The road was wide open, and we flew.

As the driver, I had to let the Navigator know what our options were for exits and he had to figure out which one to take.
“Brian, we’re coming up on exit 8 in two miles” (at 85 mph, about 95 sec). “It says Philly. Is that where we want to go?”
“Hold on, let me find it”
“I mile, Brian”
“HOLD ON!”
“BRIAN, DO WE WANT THE EXIT?!?”
“YES!!! GET OFF!!!”
whoosh
“Too late. Never mind.”

At this point, Brian decided to read ahead on the atlas. He found the exit we wanted. A quarter of a mile before we wanted it. While we were in the left lane.
So we went from the left lane to the right lane to the exit ramp in one very smooth maneuver.
(Yes, I know you think that’s a terrible move, Kayjai. But it was a private car, not a taxi.)
Didn’t see any other cars to worry about.
Not even the cop.

Over his loudspeaker: “PAY THE TOLL AND PULLOVER.”
Great.
So we pay the toll (Me thinking, I have to pay the toll before they haul me in? That SUCKS!) and pull over.
Sean, taking off his headphones: “Why are we stopping?”
“We just got pulled over. Hang on, let’s not be any stupider than we have to be”

Cop gets out of his car. I have the window open, hands on the wheel in plain sight.
Cop: “Do you know how fast you were going?”
Guap – Laughing resignedly and shrugging: “70?”
Cop – Raising his eyebrow: 87 miles. per. hour.
Guapo – still laughing resignedly: “Yeah, I know…”
Cop: “Please step out of the car”
I get out.
Cop: “You want to tell me where you’re going?”
Guap – looking around and sighing: “Philadelphia, for cheesesteaks”
Cop, taking off his sunglasses: “What”
“Well you see, officer, we work together” (pointing at the car). “We had a day off, and thought it would be nice to go out for lunch. And we wanted cheesesteaks. So if you’re in the northeast and you want a cheesesteak” I continued, “you go to Philly”. I couldn’t stop from laughing again.
Cop looked at me for a minute. “Wait here.”
He walked over to the car and asked Brian to step out. He led him a few yards from the car and they spoke.
The cop walked back to the car, asked Sean to step out.
They walked a few yards from the car and Brian and spoke.
Cop looked at Sean, then Brian, then me and waved us all back to the car. We got in.
The cop took my license and registration and went back to his car to write up the ticket.

In the car, Brian Sean and I all talked about what just happened.
“He asked me where we were going” said Brian.
“Me too”, agreed Sean.
“What did you tell him?!?” I asked
Brian said “I was gonna lie, but I didn’t know what you said, so I told the truth.”
Sean nodded in agreement.
The trooper came back over holding paperwork.
“Okay”, he said. “This is a 55mph zone. For the speed you were doing, I could haul you in and impound your vehicle”. He pulled out the ticket. “I’ve written you up for doing 67. That’s the highest I can write without having you be arrested.” He handed me the ticket, and my license and reg. “Don’t drive like an idiot, enjoy your sandwiches”

He headed back to the car. I put my seat belt on and made sure the guys did too, not wanting to push my luck at all.
“Get his picture” came the voice from the back.
I turned to look at Sean. “Are you out. of. your. mind?”
“No, c’mon”, he insisted. “It’ll be cool” He pushed his camera at me.
I sighed. Looked at the camera. Got out of the car.
Walked over to the trooper, still parked at the toll plaza behind us.
He looked up. “Yes?”
“My friend would like a picture of you” I said, pointing at the car.
The cop looked at my car, then back at me. “Why?”
I looked at my car and then back at him. “I have absolutely no idea. But hey, doesn’t hurt to ask. The cop shook his head in a “wtf” kind of way and got out of his car. “Sure”.

Cheese (steak) it! The cops!!!

We made it to the Philadelphia exit with no further troubles. Now we just needed to find a cheesesteak.
(Oh, don’t look at me like that. Does it look so far like any of this trip was planned?)

Fortunately, there was one last toll before we left the highway, just before the harbor area. We asked the attendant.
“Oh, cheesesteaks?” he said. “You can get them anywhere.”
“Yeah”, I answered, but we want really good ones…”
He laughed, “Then you want Pats” he replied, and gave us directions (that we could follow!!!) right to Pat’s front door.

Pat, and his competitor Gino, are Philadelphia cheesesteak institutions. They both have ridiculously fanatical adherents,each side swearing that their guy makes a better sandwich.
Want to find out for yourself? Well, they’re on opposite corners from each other so you can do it in one trip.
Pats is a small stand, with no interior. Walk up to the window (through which you can see a massive flattop griddle) and place your order – anything from a traditional up to ones with all sorts of toppings.
While you wait, look at the exterior walls. They are covered with celebrities who have paid homage to Pat and his delicious cheesesteak.
When your food is ready, take a seat at one of the picnic tables around the stand, or go across the street to the bleachers at the baseball field.
Place your napkins where they can be reached.
Unwrap.
Inhale the aroma…
Eat…
And…
ahhhhh….

Pat. The man behind the magic. (with Sean and Brian)

The meat, sliced thinly, cooked to juicy perfection on the griddle. Onions, peppers, mushrooms, sauteed as weel as any five star restaurant would give you, soaked in the juices of the meat. Cheese (Velveeta, baby!!!) oozing over the whole thing.
When the juice runs down your arm, you’ll want to lick it off so as not to lose any of that delicious taste. And no, you’ll have no shame about doing it.
Between the 3 of us, we went through seven cheesesteaks, each one better than the last.
We picked up a couple for the guys back home and, after profuse thank yous, hopped back in the car for a much more sedate trip home.
I’d like to say everyone really appreciated and enjoyed the cheesesteaks we brought back, but I can’t.
We ate them on the way.

What? There was traffic.

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Friday Foolishness – Post Thanksgiving Edition


Today’s Music: Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

Happy Day After Thanksgiving.
Hope you are all fat and happy.

Arlo Guthrie’s traditional Thanksgiving classic is above. Enjoy the performance.

Now to old business.
Last week’s poll brought some interesting Other answers:
– Anything. ‘Cause me juggling anything is comedy. And sad.
– jugglers
– Volkswagens, cause that would impress the chicks
– I’m combining two of your choices and saying wet, soapy cats.

I personally like them all, the first because it gives voice to the joy and pathos of life (hey, it’s Friday Foolishness. Yes, I can say things like that). The second, just for the meta-ness of it, and the third because I think it would work (despite what Weenie Girl says.
And Cats and soap? How could you not love that!

And the winner, with the most votes, is
Time (but I’m too busy to schedule a class)

Thanks to all you lucky guessers out there.

Today’s question in keeping with the season, is

Voting ends 1 December 23:59 (Thursday Night)

Have a great weekend!

Now where am I going – Metaphysical Edition


Today’s Music: Johnny Clegg & Savuka

So last time, I used this title to show off a bunch of compasses I own.
Because I’m the kind of guy who thinks compasses are cool. (much like bow ties.)

Bow ties are cool.

At the bottom of that post, I promised I’d give you the Metaphysical Edition. Because I’m an idiot.

So come now, as we delve into the sludge and confusion that slosh and ooze inside my head. (No, not the eggs I put in my nose when I was 6. I’m talking about my brain. Sheesh, this is gonna be a long post…)

Any good psychiatrist will tell you that in order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been.
I’ve worked in kitchens. I’ve worked in offices. I even once assembled newspapers (that lasted one day).

Sunday NY Times. Lots and lots of pages.

I’ve traveled (not extensively, but a bit), gone to 5 or 6 countries, many states and countless bars and restaurants. Not that the number is so high they can’t be counted, it’s just hard to use numbers when you’re that drunk.

I’ve been ridiculously happy. Extremely sad. Criminally mischievous. Incredibly well dressed. I’ve worn Hawaiian shirts to work, and tuxedos to bars. I have a wicked sense of humor and enjoy being the perpetrator of a well played joke, as well as the victim of one.

Way back when I used to sweat for a living, it was my job to keep a semi-homicidal group of immigrants/junkies/alcoholics functioning well enough to serve 800 dinners a night out of a hellishly hot kitchen. I yelled, threatened, cursed, and when necessary, I showed my guys that the way I said to do it was right by doing it in front of them.

Those were their choices.


This led to a long and destructive period of aggressively enjoying the hell out of myself, and drinking way too much. It was also during this time that I met IrishPaul.

At the point where my knees decided they didn’t want weren’t going to work in restaurants anymore (and after I almost cut someone’s finger off for eating a french fry), I went back to school for a computer certification.

For that stretch, I worked as little as possible, relied on friends (bartenders) for food and drink, and generally recovered my head.
When I was about 28, I started a job as a pc tech. I had just moved in with a friend (bartender), went in for a drink that night on his shift and saw a girl (the most wonderful girl in the universe). And eventually married her.
(all that will eventually be another post.)

Everything up to this point had been a whirl of drink, food, road trips, good friends in bars, too little sleep and a ton of late nights.

3 months after I got my pc tech job, the dot com I was working at closed and I started a new job in a Network Operations Center (sounds cooler than it is – no windows, canned air and the constant whirring of server fans), working 2nd shift (noon to 10 pm).
Then they moved me to mornings.

I had a great boss (despite him thinking music began and ended with The Beatles), who didn’t fire me when it took two weeks for me to actually show up on time for the day shift.
but I couldn’t stay out all night if I had to be in at 7am. So I stopped staying out all night.
I grew mellower. I was sweating less. I was holding intelligent conversations that didn’t loudly speculate about an individual’s questionable intelligence or favorite farm animal.

Things were going well with the girl. She came skiing with me and learned to love it. She introduced me to new music, some of which is great. She got me to start cooking again (really, when I left restaurants, if I couldn’t nuke it, boil it, or eat it out of the bag, I wasn’t eating it). She suggested day trips, vacations, kayaking.
It was a perfect life.

I slowly started waking up in the morning. Looking forward to the weekend.
Speaking in a socially acceptable manner (i.e.every third word wasn’t a curse). I relaxed a bit more.
I became accustomed to the joys of the daily rush hour commute. To drink and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. To sweat less and smile more.

That’s continued for about the last 10 years. My girl and I have a simple life. I do most of the cooking and ironing, she makes sure the bills go out on time and (occasionally) laughs at my jokes. We have things that only move one of us, things that move both of us, nad each supports the other pretty much no matter what.
She knows (probably better than I do) what’ll piss me off or set me on edge (she doesn’t linger at/near/in smelling distance of the perfume counters at malls or department stores!), and always manages to keep me calm.
I tell her I love her several times a day, which she does too – not for reassurance, but because it’s nice to hear when it’s sincere.

So, I get up, I go to work. I come home, make dinner, lie on the couch with my girl as we read our books or she surfs the web and I watch tv.
I have time to play my guitars, or video games, or to work on my model railroad.
On weekends, we do our grocery shopping and other chores, visit friends, go to museums/restaurants/stuff we want to see, and live what I guess are normal ordinary lives.
I go to as many concerts as I can (sometimes with, sometimes without her), she also has stuff she does on her own.

It’s a stable, good life.

At this point, I probably won’t throw my gear and compii into the car and just go for long ride.
I’m never going to be a Marine Biologist. Or cure cancer. Or headline at Madison Square Garden.

I will work every day to justify my wife’s faith and love in me. I will still say as many inappropriate things as I think I can get away with. I will keep playing with my food.

One day, if I’m lucky, I’ll go see a man about a horse (in this case, a horse is a kayak/motorcycle/sailboat/small island…). I’ll keep having mini adventures (skiing, surfing, paragliding, driving in midtown) as I can fit them in.

I will probably work, retire when I can, worry about health, money, the Mets…
I’d like to do that someplace tropical. I’d like to understand more of quantum physics (thogh I do finally understand Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle).
I don’t know if any of that will happen. And, despite the beginning of this post, I don’t really know where I’m going.

But, for the moment, I’m content.
Because I got the girl.

Everything else is noise.

Cooking for Pleasure and Profit, Part 2


Today’s Music: Fountains of Wayne

So after I left the restaurant business, I was a burnt out husk of a man, in dire need of a haircut. And a shave.
And I hated cooking.
If I couldn’t boil it, nuke it, or eat it out of the bag, I wasn’t making it for myself.
When people would ask me cooking questions, I would violently refuse to answer them.

I took a 10 month vocational program, collected unemployment and learned how to maintain computers.
And I didn’t cook.

Four months later, I met the most wonderful girl in the universe, who would later agree to be my wife.
But first I had to hook her.

We went out on a few dates – nights out for dinner, as well as day trips. Then one day, I asked her to come over for dinner. She said yes.
Excellent! But now I would have to cook for her.

We’d talked a bunch about food (I managed to be calmer than I had been, since I didn’t want to scare her off – hey, save the exciting demons to spice up the relationship later on, I say), and I knew what she liked and didn’t, and some foods she just wouldn’t eat.

I settled on the basic chili recipe I had used, and modified it to be neither too hot, nor have beans. She hates beans.
Ground beef, crushed tomatoes, peeled tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, cumin and some other seasonings (probably salt and sage, among others). Saute the vegetables, add the meat, season and cook that, drain off the fat, add the tomatoes, bring it all up to a nice simmer for a little while, and throw it all over some rice.
Simple.
But even the act of making that simple dish, one I could make in my sleep (even the vegetable chopping), was elevated to me. Here I was, doing something that I had run screaming from, but I was doing it for someone I really really liked, and I had a skill that I could use to demonstrate that affection.
Plus what girl doesn’t like a guy who cooks?

She came over. I may have done something silly with candles. I probably gave my roommate beer money so he would head out. And we enjoyed our meal.
It wasn’t intricate or gourmet. It was two people having a lovely evening over food one of them had prepared for both of their enjoyment.

And I loved it.
And ten years later I married that girl.
She said that me being able to cook wasn’t the reason. But it was a spiffy side benefit..

But not all the dishes we’ve made since then were keepers.

One of the worst:
I had a block of Tofu. And a wok. And some vegetables and rice.
What could possibly go wrong?
SQUEEZE THE TOFU. Put it under a weight and let the water ooze out of it. That’s what all the recipes say. But I cooked for a living. I know what I’m doing. Yea, right.
So basically I ended up with a big wok full of…well…glop, really. The tofu didn’t brown, the rice kept steaming into a blob of starch from all the extra water, and the vegetables (also steamed to hell) were limp and uninteresting.
And there’s only so much damage that can be covered by throwing in Chines 5 Spice.
But there was about $6 dollars worth of food int that pot, and I didn’t want to throw it all away.
So I ate it. For the next 2 days.
Made my wife a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.
Because I love her and don’t use food as punishment.

Possibly the worst:
Fondue.
Image from SlashFood.com
Slice the cheese. Coat it with flour, garlic the pot. Add the wine. Add the cheese. Melt, slowly.
Slice up the bread, vegetables, fruit for dipping.

We had a fondue pot. It was a gift. the difference between ours and everyone elses though, was that we were using ours.
The pot wasn’t the problem. The recipe was.
We followed the recipe. I swear.
Now, I’m notorious for glancing through a recipe, then doing whatever I want. But this time, we followed the recipe.
Used the right measurements. The right techniques. I even measured the wine for goodness sakes. Before I drank some of it.
But the recipe didn’t work.
The fondue wouldn’t thicken.
We added a bit more cheese. Then more flour. Tried some cornstarch.
Nothing.

So, my wife and I, looking at each other over the pot, thought it was ruined.
“Not totally ruined” I said. “Maybe we can turn it into a nice cheese soup”.
I went to the closet, gathered some other ingredients and spices, and went back to the kitchen.
“This should fix it”, I said confidently.
I took lids off everything, started adding various things, adjusting the heat, stirring, whisking..
The soup started to take shape. I tasted it. Needed something. So I popped the lid off the Cajun Spice, and went to do a hard shake – not to overpower it, just to get enough spice to come through the shaker top.
Which it didn’t have.
So half the jar came out.

My wife and I looked at the pot, then at each other, with the same expression of surprise and dismay that I think would happen if I parked my car, got out, then turned to see it rolling off a cliff.

We looked at the pot then back at each other.
“Ok”, I said. “Now it’s ruined.”

For dinner that night, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were delicious.

Epilogue:
It was the recipe. We’ve since regathered our courage and tried fondue again. It has come out excellently.
And now, whenever we have a cooking debacle, the standard for edibility we use is “Better or Worse than Cajun Cheese Soup”.

Cooking for Pleasure and Profit


Today’s Music: Duran Duran

    Part one – Cooking for a living

As an unselfish way of giving pleasure, cooking is second only to oral sex – Anthony Bourdain (not an exact quote, but he said something like it in his great book, Kitchen Confidential)

I worked in restaurants for about 15 years.
Some of it was crap, cooking in and managing a Bennigans, some was over my head – being a line cook in a private club, whose clientele (as the chef described it) were the people who ran the world.

But the most fun I had in restaurants was working in the kitchen. It was the last time I could go to work and actually have fun.
In cooking for money (at least at the level I did it), the food was the least important part of the process.
Which is not to say it wasn’t important. but running a kitchen line is similar (I would guess) to commanding a small army unit in the field.
When it’s busy, there’s constant mayhem. There is always one guy running a spotless station while chaos spins around him, another guy who is a blur of bits of food and crumbs, cursing up a storm as he tries to keep up. there are waiters asking where their food is, or relaying compliments or complaints, or trying to change a ticket that they ordered wrong.
And then there’s me.
I was at my best in the kitchen when all hell had broken loose, and things had gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I was the expediter. It was my job to plate the entrees, cook off side dishes, make sure each station knew what dishes they needed to prepare, and make sure everything (steaks, salads, Mexican) were all up at the same time.
And fix it if it wasn’t.
That was the fun for me. I didn’t enjoy the downtime. I didn’t really care for the day to day details of managing (which I was good at. I just didn’t like it), the staff personal issues that constantly came up. I liked that moment when something went wrong, everything was off balance, and I could step in, grab hold and straighten it out.

A typical night on the line:
Adam on the grill, Abel on Mex, Brian on salad, Randall on desert. Some jackass (who had been there 3 months, but wouldn’t last much longer) expediting (in the window).
Jackass forgot to order a burger set from Mex and sent out a tray of food incompletely.
Abel was scrambling to get the burger set, Adam was pulling a new burger (the original was rare, and had worked it’s way up to med-well waiting to be served), and tickets were stretched from the printer to the floor and hadn’t even been looked at yet.
I step in.
“How are you, Jackass?”
He has the deer in the headlights look, sweat pouring down in his face, head whipping back and forth, tongs waving as he tries to figure out what he should be doing. He was good when it was calm, but hadn’t learned how to deal with the volume.
“don’tknowdon’tknowdon’tknow” he sputtered back at me, deep in the weeds.
“Stop” I said, hand on his shoulder. I pointed to the tickets in the window. “Show me where you are”.
His head moves to the string of food orders hanging in the window. “don’tknowdon’tknowdon’tknow”.
“Fine.” Is say, taking his tongs and setting them on the counter. I grab a fresh pair from the rack (I had a personal relationship with my tongs and didn’t like using a set that had been handled already). “Stand over there” I tell Jackass, grabbing all the tickets off the rail with one hand.
I start reading through them – sandwiches, salads, burritos and quesadillas, steaks of assorted cuts and temperatures. “Abel” I call out in my “war mode” voice. “What do you have, all day”
All day refers to everything being on the board (ordered) for that station.
His heavily accented voice comes back, while he does a spinning ballet of kinetic culinarianism.
“3 quesadillas, 1 no cheese. 7 burgers, 3 chicken sandwiches. I have (he pauses to count the plates on his station) 4 burritos, 3 chicken enchiladas, 1 steak,” he tells me as he spins and whirls, grabbing plates, rolling burritos, melting nachos.
By now I’ve read all the tickets I pulled.
“Add on 2 burgers. ! steak ench (never say a full word when you can shorthand it), 1 chick ench, no cheese. I’m going to need 2 more burritos too.” I look over at him. You good?”
He smiles, knowing exactly what I’m asking. “I’m good Popi. I do. you watch”. Abel would cut off his own hand before asking for help. Which was fine because he rarely needed it.

I hang all the tickets back on the board, and pull the eighteen or so hanging from the printer. As I start to sort those, I call down the line.
“Brian” I bark. “What the hell is going on?”
He yells back without stopping what he’s doing. “Saturday night. They’re trying to kill us”
“Suck it up wuss.” It’s an old conversation. Brian will bitch about it all night, but unless the wheels come off, he can hold down his end. Unfortunately, as soon as that burger got lost, the wheels came off.

See, we have five stations. All of them are producing food, sometimes independently, sometimes with another station, for the same tables. A 6 top might want 3 steaks, 2 Mex items and a salad. All of it has to come up at the same time.
In addition to his own cooking and plating responsibilities, the Expediter has to coordinate all stations to sell the same table at the same time. So now the main window (that I just took over)and salad were crashed. Mex was keeping up, barely. And the grill was covered and about to dump 30 steaks and burgers in my lap.

Back to the action.
“Brian” in the loud voice again. “Tell Randy what you need, and dammit, take his help. I ain’t going down tonight and if you morons make me late for my first beer, I will personally gut and fillet every last one of you”
“Oh no, Popi” came Abel’s voice. “Brian, he ugly. He no taste good”.
Brian’s response was inaudible, but was probably unrepeatable anyway.
“Here’s your all day Brian. Let me know what I’m missing, let me know what you’re missing”. I called out about 18 items for him, while he rifled through his tickets, matching up the counts.
He came back with what he had and what he needed. I moved Randy to work on the dishes Brian couldn’t get to, then turned to the grill.
“Saturday night, Adam” I said, quietly this time.
Adam was tall and very thin, which made him look even taller. He was a goofy guy with a dry sense of humor and was the only one of us (myself included) that could hold down a busy Saturday on our coal and wood fired grill. And crack jokes while he did it.
“Sounds like you’re having some problems back there”.
“Blow me. You ready?”
He looked at the tickets on his board, then at his grill, then at me. “I’m ready. You?”
I looked down the line. “Ready as we’ll ever be. Call out table numbers for me as you sell them.
Oh, and these are for you” I said, as I handed him the tickets that had rolled off the printer.
“Ok kids” I yelled down the line. “Show me why I haven’t fired you yet. Adam. Sell it all baby!”
Adam started spinning back and forth, at each turn pulling more meat off the grill and dropping it on my pass through.
I started grabbing tickets and steaks, burger, shrimp, chicken, calling out to other stations to plate the accompanying dishes and pass them through to the waiters.
“Brian, I need that shrimp caesar salad now. Not 2 minutes from now, NOW!”
“It isn’t ready yet” was his panicked reply.
“Abel” I called out, not even looking away from my plates. “Give him the shrimp skewer from the fajitas and drop another quick quick. Adam” I continued, “Keep selling. Put weights on everything on the grill. I want this ticket rail cleared”. All the while, my tongs spun and clattered as I used them to grab steaks, drop them on plates, pass burgers to Abel, and lift plates over to the waiter side of the counter.
Jackass meanwhile was still standing where I put him, watching me send out eight full plates at a time. I ignored him.
“Brian, I’m waiting on 2 salads and that shrimp appetizer. Where the hell is it?”
“It’s working” he called back. “One minute”.
“You don’t have a minute, you lazy bum. We’re clearing the board. Now.”

A good cook will ignore the cursing and the yelling at this point and make the food the ways it’s supposed to be made, instead of rushing and selling undercooked food.

Adam came out of the grill and reached around me, dropping a 16 oz prime rib cut into my fryer. I looked at him.
“Well done” he shrugged.
I was calling out the Mex orders to Abel that were coming in as I hung the next set of tickets, handing the grill copy to Adam and giving all day counts to Brian on the cold side of the line.
At this point, everyone had everything they needed, and while we were still going fast, my job was mostly air traffic control, or lending Abel a hand when he needed to get out a load of plates all at once.

See, when you go to a restaurant, the food should be cooked right. But your friend having a medium rare hamburger should get it at the same time as you get your 20 oz well-done steak. If the food is cooked wrong, well that happens some time. But if it comes out in dribs and drabs, someone should lose his job.
I was great at managing that mayhem and bending it back to where it needed to be.

Simply being aware of what everyone needed, and making sure they knew it was enough to straighten everyone out. I had worked with these guys for a while, trained most of them, and held my own against any of them (except Adam on the grill on a Saturday. I could do, but lord it wasn’t pretty).
My loud voice and vaguely annoyed attitude told these guys that this was a normal night, it wasn’t all that bad, and that they’d get through it fine if they didn’t panic.

10 minutes later, Adam pushed another fifteen steaks at me. I plated half and turned the station back over to Jackass, who literally was agog at what he had just seen.

It may seem in the above that I was a dick to my guys. And I was. But they were just as bad to me (and each other). In a good kitchen, it doesn’t matter who is in charge. It’s all about how good you are at your job. The best guy gets to be the loudest voice because he earned it. And while I was rough on them on the line, I picked up their shifts when they needed time off, covered their stations so they could grab a cigarette, and did the best I could to make sure they were well fed and rewarded for their work.

Those Saturday nights were the most fun I ever had in a job. They were also the most brutal of any job, before or since.

And when I finally stopped cooking for a living, it was two years before I could make something for myself that wasn’t boiled, microwaved or eaten from the bag.

Next time I’ll tell you about how cooking became fun again, and the worst dishes I ever made.