Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bringing Home Some Bacon!

Last week I printed out fifteen resumes and mapped out my drop off route. After scouring Yelp and UrbanSpoon, I checked out menus from my favorite restaurants in town. Rochester is more foodie than we realized. I decided to just go out on a limb and drop off my resume at the neatest sounding places around. Chris reminded me that not every place I had on my list would be hiring, and I nodded- but what did I have to lose? I picked out a skirt, pulled a blouse over my head, and buckled my shoes. Ready, set, go!

Chris started the day off as my chauffeur but after four locations, duty called and he had to scurry off to work. I traveled to the Italian eatery, the hotel steakhouse, the Mediterranean bistro, the fun bar, the fancy canteen, the new southern saloon in the neighborhood...among numerous others. After my whirlwind of driving around in the good old Volvo, I could not wait to take the shoes off of my blistered feet and sink into the couch. 

After looking back on my day, I thought about how I had encountered some chefs who were very unimpressed with the CIA stamp on my resume. I think it's very interesting to see how bitterness can be extracted from chefs who made it where they are with out the expense of the Culinary Institute of America. It's also a shame that a lot of CIA graduates step into a position believing that they know everything, which in turn makes employers bitter about grads from my school. I guess my opinion on the matter is that I will never stop learning and that's what I always play up; I love to learn. And I think that at the Culinary Institute of America, they train you to want to learn. Each class is three weeks long, and so after three weeks I am chomping at the bit to do something new! I think that I would appreciate that if I were looking to employ someone. As far as the educational background, I know that it is very real that people can make it without going to school. I have witnessed it and I also know that some of the world's greatest chefs learned through experience. But I think that an employer should appreciate that I have spent my time and lots of money to jump start my career. 

The next day, while roaming the makeshift aisles of the resale store, I got a phone call for an interview! I was not expecting it, and as I shuffled between the pre-owned doors I discussed a few of my past employers and what kind of job I was looking for. What kind of job was I looking for? Hmmm. It's difficult to tell a potential executive what you are looking for in a job if you are not completely sure yourself. I can tell you what I don't want to do! I do not want to be stuck in a dead end job with no possible movement. I don't want to be stuck on garde manger for a whole summer making the same dishes on repeat- (been there done that). I do not want to go through the motions and become a robot. I'm not sure I want to be on the line (although I think that if I got into it, I would be pretty good at it). I would love to be your butcher! But apparently not a lot of people do that anymore. I would also be interesting in an evening server job. I have been interested in front of the house throughout my schooling and I think that because I grew up in my parents restaurant and I was a hostess at age 5, it is natural to be in the dining room for me. Something that Chris and I had discussed was that when you have that CIA "stamp" I referred to on your resume, no one really considers the education that we get in the dining room. I would say that I was in two of the best service classes on campus and I learned so much about fine dining service. But compared to the number of kitchen classes we were enrolled in, three classes is a small percentage. Still I think that combined Chris and I have better service skills that probably half of the servers we have had when we are dining out. 

 Ends up that I set up a early morning stage at the Italian place and an afternoon interview with the steakhouse at the Hilton hotel. For those of you who don't know, a stage is basically a kitchen interview. It is a time that is set up for the prospective employer to see a few of the skill sets you have, as well as giving the employee a chance to get a feel for the kitchen and see if it is fit for them. After putting my classic black pants and white t-shirt on, I set out on an early morning venture to Two Vine restaurant.

 I started off by mixing up some focaccia dough and then rolling out a dozen balls of perfectly round pizza dough. The chef then demonstrated how to grill them off and where to store them. I think I impressed him because he suggested starting with one grill- two pizzas at a time, and I was quickly able to take on four at a time. He then asked me to blanch off some freshly cut french fries and micro-dice shallots at the same time. I will admit, I was not great at the shallots. First off, anything related to an onion makes me cry like a baby, and if you have ever cut one of these vegetables, you know that it's a sting not just a tear. But my eyes are the most sensitive, honestly I was cutting chives the other day and the moisture swelled up around my lashes. And I was not that fast at cutting them either, I really wasn't. I know it's no excuse, but I have very small hands and so my hands have not been completely trained to move my curved fingers parallel to the the knife as it glides away. After I finished the shallots I confessed  that I probably had not cut a whole quart of shallots since my first class at school, and I apologized for my delayed technique. He told me not to worry and hastened me on with other prep tasks. At the end of my kitchen tour, the executive chef welcomed me onto their prep team and asked when I could start. I eagerly said that my day one could be the next day. 

Feeling a boost of confidence I rushed home for a quick lunch and rehashed the mornings events to Christopher. I think he was proud of me. Although have worked with a caterer since I graduated, I have not been in a kitchen every day of the week besides my own since graduation, and I think he knew I could do it, but I was a little weary. Then I changed out of my whites and into a button down for my next interview. In my mind I knew that I would be unavailable mornings, and that I was looking for a flexible part time evening job. The chef at the the steakhouse was looking to hire a day time garde manger cook; two things that I did not want. So it was easy to say that I was unavailable but if anything else came up, to keep my contact information. I think it was better, not to be so overwhelmed by two new jobs in one day. My mom had mentioned that it would be great to balance two part time jobs, but three is a bit like juggling-which I do not know how to do by the way. 

The next day I got my schedule at 2 Vine, and I starting getting in a groove of a routine. I work the morning prep shift, eight to noon, and I get to do something different every day, although shallots are on my list every single day. And I am happy to report that today I made it through my quart of shallots without a single tear! So many people have advice- put the onion in the freezer, stick your head in the freezer, stand by a flame, put a toothpick in between your teeth, chew gum...but really, there isn't really a trick that has worked for me. I just used a sharp knife and opened the door for a breeze, that's all I had to do. Lucky for me, my job entails a lot of meat fabrication which is really where my passion is. The day that I got to work with pork, beef, and chicken, I could not keep from grinning. 

The main challenge I have had to face is the schedule. I felt deflated because the person I enjoy spending the most time around, had the exact opposite schedule as I did. And although I was so excited to be back in the kitchen on a daily basis, I was so sad to leave so early and made sure I pried my eyes open until 11:30 at night so that I could spend even twenty minutes with my love. And I will say that it puts a lot of stress on both people. The first few nights of the week I had trouble getting to sleep because I stayed up so late and pschyed myself out because I had to get up early. The worst is when you set your alarm (or in my anxious case- check for the second time that your alarm is set) and it says, your alarm will sound in six hours. I know I am spoiled and have gotten used to a solid eight hours, which is probably not normal for someone my age. There were definitely times in school when I went with four hours sleep. I feel old. Anyway, back to business. I was really struggling with the schedule. One night, Chris came home and asked me all about my day. As I was rambling on about making pizza dough and deboning pork butt, I came to a pause. "So I start lunch on Mondays" OH MY GOODNESS! The entire time I had been chattering about meat, and he had been smirking because he had the best secret! We get to be normal now! I no longer have to make dinner for one! I cannot really use enough exclamation marks to show you how exciting this is. When Chris and I first started dating, we were both AM students- finished with our days at 5pm and we got to enjoy the weather and many adventures. For the past year, we have both been on the PM schedule which is really horrible because how can you have a really great adventure when you know that you have to go to work at 3pm. So now, we are both on a morning schedule, and we are adjusting. It's a little weird. I think Chris tried to draw the line yesterday when I said- "Hey I think dancing with the stars is one at eight." He did not want to be that couple, although he still enjoyed a few moments of the show with me.

So now I really am a home maker, "Dinner on the table when you get home love!" Haha not quite, but everything seems to be falling right into place. Just in time for autumn. We are finally settled into Rochester and our apartment, and we are starting to feel like quite the family. :)

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