I think it was Wednesday of this week when I just stopped being so stressed and uptight about my duties here and realized, it is simply important for me just to have fun! If I look at this job as work, It's going to be along 2 months. If I walk into the kitchen with the attitude "I get to be here!" It makes the time that much better for me and faster as well. 13-15 hour work days seem long on paper, but the time flies in the kitchen. With exception to breakfast or when I'm eating dinner, I am constantly moving in the kitchen. There is always something that needs to be done at any given time and it is important to move from job to job. Whether it is: cutting vegetables/ meat, Setting up cooking utensils/ burners, Cleaning, or running to get ingredients in the fridge or freezer. There is always something to be done, if I'm sitting for a while, I begin to worry that there is something that has yet to be done and Mauricio is not happy if something isn't where it needs to be. My first couple post, I explained my daily routines and that is basically how my days have been. It's different every day b/c the menu changes and amount of people changes as well. But now that I have got everything down to a tee for how the kitchen operates, I need to continue to get everything done in a timely manner. It's like my instincts have taken over from what I have learned in school and now is the time to apply it all.
Week 1 I was lost and didn't know what to expect and what I needed to do. I have never in my life really worked in a kitchen. I mean the few months I was in Pinocchio's is much different from this place. Pinocchio's I didn't really do any of the cooking, but I got the feel for what it takes to work in the food service industry (Thank you Lauren and Ian). Here, it is much faster pace. You have to take into account that people are waiting on your order, that food be served warm, properly cooked, and presentation is everything. As people, we first eat with our eyes. If it doesn't look good, the perception of how we taste it will be completely different. So, not only is their a lot of physical labor that takes to running this kitchen, but it is just as much mental. That may be why Mauricio is constantly pointing at his head and yelling "PENCAR" at me. I used to think he was just scratching his head at first from how hard he was pressing his finger against his head, but it became really clear that he was telling me to think.
It was ok for me to ask lots of question the first couple days and he actually encouraged it (hard to do when I don't know Spanish). From then on, he expected to me to figure out mostly everything on my own. I may have lots of duties to complete, but he has just as much that all needs to get done!
But let's get to why I titled this blog "Muy Bien!" After almost 2 weeks of Mauricio yelling and screaming at me whenever I did something wrong or I was wasn't "Pencaring"(wrong conjugation for thinking, but it's my blog so what), out of the blue there came a random lunch rush. We don't typically have that many people in for lunch and it usually just appetizers served. Dinner is the main part of our day and bulk of our workload. Esther walked into the Kitchen and said 30 people just came in and they are all expecting the full dining meals. So let it be known, that before dinner, we usually spend 2-3 hours of prep to get everything ready for dinner, but now we were expected to do an entire service with no prep and nothing else completed except for the cleaning we had just done for breakfast. When Esther said this I had not fully understood any of it yet, all I heard was "Trente!" and Mauricio repeated it surprised. He took a step back for 5 seconds, then he looked at me and said "Vamos!" I immediately realized that this was really happening. It was exactly like a scene from Hell's Kitchen but En Espagnol (I'm sure I've said that before). All I did was do everything I had been doing for the past week, but I had to work twice as fast. Mauricio gathered a ton of different vegetables and just said "Cortar! (cut)" I knew exactly what to do with each individual ingredient b/c I knew the menu looked like and it was time to do work. I sliced, diced, brunoise, julienned, everything that was in front of me. I was cutting so fast that I actually cut through my fingernail. Mauricio stopped for a second, looked over at me and I lifted the Knife.
Thank you God, it was just the tip (That's what she said!) "Balle (OK)". It took me around 30-40 minutes to cut all the vegetables. I did this while Mauricio put together the appetizers for the guest and got all the meat ready.
The appetizers were out and now it was time Mise en place for the main course. After that was done, I had to make 30 salads. Sounds really easy, but not so much! Once I post my pictures, you'll see how complex some of these salads get. Mauricio was solely focused on dinner, and in the back of my head I just kept thinking how long it was goin to take for those people to eat their appetizers, turns out, not that long. This must of been a hungry group of 30 people, b/c the dishes came back into the kitchen just as fast as they were sent out. I ran to the salad station and just started putting them together. There was no time to ask Mauricio what should go in each salad, I just had to make them as I was taught. As soon as I got done with each one, new server came and brought it right out. After salads was dinner, got all the plates threw them into the oven to warm them up and threw the other half in the dish washer b/c there wasn't enough space. Dishes once again started coming back and now it was time to plate. Each dish went out one after the other and the intensity in the Kitchen was complete chaos. The oven was going, the blender was spinning, Mauricio threw me on the grill station while he took care of everything on the stove. This part is usually the most stressful part for during the past services, but there was something different. I realized that I was more calm and composed, but still aware of the 10 things going on at once. Mauricio is always yelling Tranquille (calm) whenever I seem flustered. I also realized for the first time since I have been at Hotel Etxegana I was just having fun with it all and it made everything that much easier to complete.
All the food went out and the final step is Dessert. It's usually easy when you have everything baked before hand, but since we were limited Mauricio grabbed everything we had and scaled everything out to make sure we would have enough for everyone in service. He plated one dish and I immediately got all the plates out and copied the exact plate that he had done. It looked delicious, it was hard for me to plate w/o eating the dessert it looked to good. He grabbed a chocolate coulant (basically a brownie muffin filled with chocolate, one scoop of Helado (ice cream) and a strawberry apple crepe cut in quarters to serve each plate. Once again plates started rushing into the Kitchen and I just started to plate 30 desserts alongside of him. As soon as all the desserts went out Mauricio had a look of intense relief on his face and looked at me raised his hand in the air to give me a high five and just said "Muy Bien!" That was the first time I heard a compliment from him the entire time I had been here and it definitely fired me up that we just got through that service in 90 minutes give or take 10-15 minutes. For the first time Since I had been here, I finally realized everything just clicked.
That's enough for now, until next time TEAM PAC HILO blog followers