Week three new job was very exciting! I was asked to come on board and help with pastry but this week the sous chef was on holiday, so I was the sauce chef for a week (and as it turns out for the next few months). I had been on the section for one service last week but that was all so I went into the week with a little in trepidation…doing the sauce section for those of you who don’t know means cooking all the sauces for all the main courses and generally all the proteins for mains and sometimes for starter section too. In this kitchen it means cooking the sauces, all the meats, fish and vegetarian mains and all the vegetable garnishes to accompany them! It’s a hard section and of course there is the added pressure of its Michelin star resting on its shoulders for 7 years, I didn’t want to fuck up!
Pub is closed Monday and Tuesday so we started on Wednesday and this is a hard day for everyone because most of the food gets thrown away on Sunday after service so fridges are empty. Everyone’s in a rush to get ready for lunchtime apart from me who has to ask the head chef what every job on my list entails…not ideal. My saving grace was that Wednesday lunch was very quiet, only 6 covers I think so my slow morning of prep didn’t affect anything too badly, but I didn’t get to see much food or get to cook much food and then I had Wednesday night off.
Thursday morning was much the same as Wednesday with me having to ask an awful lot of questions and found it frustrating that I couldn’t be my normal self and just crack on! Another quiet lunch service meant I could take it all in a bit better today, there is a lot to take in. Every chef cooks a bit different and like things done a certain way. Here with the owners having worked for a long time at Per Se in New York things are done with a lot of class and precision. I have been cooking for years now with a lot of timers for each chef and a probe in my hand to check the core of everything I send (of course I use touch, smell and my eyes too!) so I expected the same here knowing that Thomas Keller was some what of a pioneer of water bath cooking, but I was wrong. Here is all proper classic technique and lots of butter and not a water bath in sight. The tool of the trade in this kitchen is a ‘pokey stick’ not a probe. This is a very thin metal spike which you insert into your meat or fish then touch the end and decide if you need to cook it more or less, also if you push it through flaky fish and you can feel the layers then your fish is not cooked! Needless to say I was learning new things each day and a little out of my comfort zone, then chef told me he was having the night off and I was going to be in charge!!
Who would let someone they have only known for two weeks to look after their restaurant and their Michelin star?! I felt very proud to be given the responsibility and along with pride I was shitting myself, I had never been in charge of a Michelin star kitchen. Along with only having cooked for about 20 people so far all week I was very much hoping this wasn’t the night that a coach load of tourists turned up to eat! Lucky for me we did 12 covers and it went as smooth as I could have asked for, food looked great the team showed me respect too which was really nice because they don’t know me either and could have been difficult but when I needed them they helped and when I didn’t they cleaned.
The rest of the week finally got busy and Friday lunch was fish heavy! We did 30 covers which was more than the rest of the week put together, so I had to be on point. Cooking fish is hard because it’s so precis with no room for error and I was well aware that if it wasn’t cooked well chef would let me know and I would be doing it again. Baptism by fire in a kitchen is for me always the best way to go, after that service I felt confident I could cook food to the chefs exacting standards and get my self out the weeds if and when I went down. The first services of the week didn’t prepare me for anything!
Over the weekend I was nervous before each service but each one went well and no food was sent back from chef or the guests. Sunday came and we did a cool 45 for Sunday lunch, chef was happy, bought me a beer then left us to clean down.
All in all…I’m pretty chuffed I was left in charge of a Michelin star kitchen….and I don’t miss doing deep cleans!