Friday, July 31, 2015

Pretty Perfect Pastry

This morning chef gave me my first job as setting up the pastry section. He also ordered everyone else to leave me alone and not give me any jobs until this station was perfect. Probably partly to do with the fact that it wasn’t set up well yesterday, and also partly because the ice cream freezer had been defrosted again last night and needed to be cleaned and refilled. So I went to work – gathering all the required dishes for the pastry section, and organizing the fridge. I filled ramekins with apple crumble mix then made another big batch of mix. I prepared more strawberry compote. I reorganized and relabelled the contents of the fridge. Then I decided to get a dessert of the day special going. There is always a dish of the day, and most often a starter of the day, but not always a dessert of the day, which there should be. I found lemon tart in the freezer, and decided to go with that and raspberry sorbet. The cook on mains helped me make a lime syrup to add to the whipped cream canister along with some cream to make a lime cream. So then I had to get this ready, but what was really annoying was the cream canister now contained the lime cream instead of plain whipped cream. They told me it wouldn’t be a big deal, since I probably would not get that many scone orders, but they were forgetting that I also need plain whipped cream for all of the ice cream desserts – the sundae, the banana split, the peach melba, and the chocolate berry coupe. So I had to whip up a bunch of cream and have it ready in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. The dessert was plated with some lime supremes and microgreens and a bit of crumble as well.
Dessert of the Day - Lemon tart with lime supreme, lime cream, microgreens, crumble, and raspberry sorbet.
There were a lot of us on in the kitchen today, and although we wanted to ensure we had plenty of prep done to last us through the weekend, we had quite a bit done already and weren’t feeling any panic. The only issue was we had someone brand new start today, who of course wasn’t familiar with anything, so had to be shown what to do. I worked away at my own small prep list, which included some more pastry tasks as well as handling all the orders for pastry, and making five liters of garlic whack (I mean mayo), coriander and lime yogurt sauce, horseradish crème fraiche, and garlic butter. I also kept being told by the cook on starters to handle some of his orders for him, even though it wasn’t that busy. This is slightly annoying when I am trying to get things done (for his station) and he keeps handing me off his jobs so he can do something less important, like sit in the office. 

The head chef was very nice to me again today, I think he is pretty impressed with me, and that’s why he picks on me less now. He will still be nit-picky about certain things I do, but in a nicer, “I’m only trying to show you how to do it with finesse” kind of way. Speaking of pretty impressed, he doesn’t like the use of the word pretty. “What kind of shape is the pastry section in for the weekend?” he asked me. “Pretty good.” I replied. “Pretty good. I don’t like that answer.” “Well, I’m not going to say perfect, because I am working on the crumble mix now. If I told you perfect, then I would just be lying to you and no one likes a liar.” Later on he was making fancy sandwiches with a new type of bread, and I watched him and asked questions as I was between orders, and asked if I could try some, and he said, “Of course you can!” He got very frustrated at one of the dishwashers, due to a language barrier, and had to get someone else to come in to translate. The dishwashers just aren’t doing all their jobs to his satisfaction lately. At the end of the day, I heard the mains cook ask how he thought the new cook had done, and chef replied with, “I don’t know yet. It’s hard to tell after one day. I have to see someone under pressure. Like Rebecca. She handles it well, she just starts singing through service.”

I was handling the starter section orders in the evening today. It wasn’t too bad at all. The only issue I had was when the other starter cook told me to start wrapping things up around 8:30p.m., as he did not expect any more orders to come in. I didn’t think this was a good idea considering we are open until 9:00p.m. and a bunch of dessert orders could still come in as well. A few more orders did come in after that, and I told him he could do them, since he said I could put everything away and I didn’t want to dig it out again. But I wasn’t doing them, I said. He passed enough of his orders off on me today. The waiter on the pass was cheering me on. But still, he didn’t do the orders and I ended up having to do them!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Which Section Am I On?

When I got to work this morning, one of the cooks was already well into setting up the starter section. I was wondering if I would be working the line, or doing prep for that section. He put me to work straight away filleting salmon. Actually, first he told me that I had labelled something improperly. See, the other day I ‘filled’ bottles with garlic mayo, which we the kitchen staff enjoy calling garlic whack. I labelled the bottles garlic whack to be funny. Well, they admitted they did get a kick out of it, but apparently the health inspector questioned them on what garlic whack was. Whoops, haha, but I am glad I wasn’t working the day she came in – apparently she is a real stickler. Anyways, I apologized and they said, no we got a good laugh out of it, and one of them winked at me and said they wouldn’t mind finding the odd bottle of garlic whack in the fridge again. Then I had to prepare the mash, the egg salad mixture, and a big batch of tartar sauce. Next was prepping the prawns and chicken sandwich mixture. All the while I had to handle dessert orders, and explain things to some other kitchen staff – as we had cooks from the restaurant helping us out, who aren’t so familiar with the bar. It felt weird for me, the new intern, to be telling them what to do and how to do it, but it made me feel good. Of course I had to vacpac everything I had completed as well, and when I went to vacpac something for the chef, who had been waiting to use the machine, instead of thanking me for the favor, he told me I apparently did it wrong. You’re welcome!
Dish of the Day: Crispy beef strips on a bed of bok choy with spicy stir-fried noodles and veg
So I spent the majority of the morning and afternoon doing prep work for the starter section. The cook on starters even got mad at me for doing some prep work for pastry, because someone else was supposed to be on that, but they weren’t and weren’t very good at it. I was running out of some things for my dessert orders. The head chef was nice to me today, he even sharpened my knife for me on his stone. And it wasn’t just because he was in a good mood either, he got after the cook on mains for handing off his jobs (he had asked me to vacpac some meats for him, which I don’t mind, but it wasn’t like I wasn’t busy at the time) when it wasn’t even busy, and mad at the other cook for doing prep work late at night and leaving the place a mess. When I finished washing a bunch of salad greens, the cook on starters told me to take a quick supper break, and then I would take over the starter section. Meanwhile, he was battering a bunch of fish to fry. 

I find it difficult switching back and forth from a station. I would almost rather just be in charge of that station all of the time. Because everyone has slightly different ways of organizing things and doing things (some ways are definitely better than others), and that messes me up. I have a certain way of organizing my station, where I know exactly where everything is. So when others are on my station, they may put things in different spots. Also they may do things differently than I do. I do find it kind of funny, but also frustrating, that the cook that has been working on starters as well, arrives early and sets things up, but doesn’t take much pride in doing the prep work – taking shortcuts and whatnot. Yet, will get after me for doing things my way.
Starter Special: Cajun chicken burger with pesto mozzarella, tomato mayo, and skinny fries
So I took over the starter section, which wasn’t very busy at first, but it really picked up. It wasn’t that there was a ridiculous amount of orders coming in, but as the waiter on the pass said, he had never seen so many orders with both starters and mains on them. I find these orders the most confusing of all. It is easy for me to complete a bunch of starter orders, or complete a bunch of main orders, but mix them up and then I have to keep pumping out starters while the cook on mains will collaborate with me to get the mains out as well. But the cook on mains kept looking over at me, either making sure I was fine (which I mostly was, although at a few points the other cook came over to help me when it got really busy to speed things up), or commenting on how well I was doing. At the end of the day, he really praised me by saying, “You’re getting better every day!” He said he is always leery of interns, usually they are just put in the back doing crappy prep work, but are supposed to be given the chance to work the line. That makes him, nervous, as they usually aren’t very good. Most of them don’t have any previous experience (me included) so this is understandable. But he told me, “When you’re on the line, I can actually relax. I know it will be handled well.” He told the head chef how well I did, and he said, “That’s good to hear. So after you finish your next year of school, you’re coming back here to work full time?” He even stayed to help me clean up my station, when usually he leaves early.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nachos, Wine, and Exploring

For lunch today, we decided to eat in at the pizzeria, hoping to take advantage of some of the lunch specials. First we stopped at the store to pick out a wine as the pizza place is bring your own and supposedly offers free corkage at lunchtime. We chose a Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Rosé (for both price and color appeal) with fresh raspberry and cherry flavors and a hint of spice. I don’t drink much, but I did like the taste and mouthfeel of this wine. It was fairly sweet and easy to drink. I cannot wait for my wine theory and analysis course next year so I can learn more about drink pairings. I’m not sure the wine was the best match for pizza fare, but oh well. Although I thought the pizzeria had lunchtime specials such as soups and sandwiches, there were none today. So we decided to try the homemade nachos with guacamole and bruschetta dip for something different, along with a garlic mushroom supreme pizza to share. Both of which were good, as expected. 
Old oven

In the evening, once the weather decided to stop raining on and off, we ventured out for a long walk. We began on the estate, a small path through the forest where we found an old bunker, with an old oven still distinguishable inside. We walked on to a field and many paths meant for horseback riding, we found many horse jumps, a horse pounds, and even a horseshoe. There were nice views of the lake outside the castle, and the countryside. It was very fun exploring. Back to work tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pizza Particulars

Another day off already, and I spent it relaxing. In the afternoon, we went for a walk through the wetlands, forest, up to the Old Gothic Lodge, and down the country road. Then chilling out and watching a movie. Today I will talk about supper.
First time eat-in
I have mentioned the wood oven pizza place in town before. I ate there twice with my parents and my boyfriend and I have ordered pizzas from there several times now. Every time, we get the twelve inch Vegetarian Heaven pizza, as he is a vegetarian and there are only so many options, this one by far being the best. Every time we have gotten the pizza, it has been slightly different each time. Not that we are complaining, every time it has been tasty and full of vegetables. Just different. As someone who is studying culinary and working in several food establishments, I am beginning to learn that consistency is very important. Especially when you have a set menu that feeds regular customers – dishes need to be presented in the same way every time. The seafood platter in the bar must have the seafood in the same order every time. 
First time take-out
The first vegetarian pizza I had with my parents appeared to have contained every vegetable stated on the menu – sliced red onions, mixed green and red bell peppers, sweetcorn, mushrooms, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and mixed herbs, as well as mozzarella cheese and rich tomato sauce. The first pizza we ordered was good, but not quite as crispy with lots of sauce. The second one was greasier. The next one was really good. And the last one was the first time we had gotten the sweetcorn on it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fun Day In The Bar

Today I was scheduled back in the bar again. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I was a little out of practice having been over at the more laid-back weddings for two weeks. I arrived early, as usual, and immediately got the four family break welcome baskets of goodies ready. There were no chefs in today, as it was a fairly quiet, not too busy day. There were no head servers in either, and not a whole lot of prep to do. It was just the two usual cooks, me, and someone who normally works in the restaurant upstairs helping us out. I asked what I would be doing, and the cook in charge told me I would be on starters again, doing prep in my free time. And on my next days at work, he would show me more about how to cook proteins on the main course section.
So I went to work setting up the starter section, then the pastry section. I got some things ready such as the mashed potatoes, then did prep work between orders. In the middle of the afternoon, I was placing all the sauces that had been made in squeeze bottles. I don’t mind this job, the trouble is, I am not very skilled at it. There is a running joke in the kitchen that I make a mess every time I try to fill a bottle with garlic mayo. Actually, it’s not a joke, it’s true. I don’t know what it is about that stuff, but it’s messy. And delicious. I swear, I don’t do it just to eat more garlic mayo. It’s just such a tricky job. Usually if I make the sauces, I just put them into bottles straight away. But these sauces were vacpaced in bags. There are three techniques to do this – squeeze it from the bag, pour it into a piping bag and pipe it into the bottle, or pour it into a pitcher and pour it into the bottle. I have tried each of these techniques, and found none of them to be foolproof. So I was doing this, and being messy, and looked up to see the cook laughing and taking a picture of me. Haha. Then I asked him if there was an easier way, and he said, to use a piping bag. He showed me, and made a bigger mess than I did, cutting the hole too large, spilling it on the counter, and getting me to hold the bottle – so it was a two person job? Pouring mayonnaise from a pitcher also doesn’t work because there are no funnels. I thought I could handle the balsamic dressing, as it is more liquidy, but then they purposely distracted me to try to get me too spill that too. Anyways, I officially got banned from that job. I wasn’t trying to, but it’s for the best. As the cook said, “You lost seven liters on the counter, and put seven cups in your mouth.”
So, needless to say, it was a more laid-back, and fun kind of day, with plenty of friendly joking around in the kitchen. It wasn’t very busy, and I was handling both the starter and dessert section. We had two desserts of the day – a Bailey’s cheesecake and a warm chocolate brownie. 
Bailey's Cheesecake dessert of the day. 
I was praised several times today. They were glad I was back helping them out – because I get stuff done (standard procedures, but still, some people need to be told to do them) in advance and efficiently and take pride in my work. I am also willing to learn and can handle some pressure. It is important to have workers like this in the bar, more crucial than at more casual castle weddings. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rain, Movie, and Cheese

Today was a lazy day. It was pouring rain all day, and after working big weddings all week and going to the pubs last night, I was content to stay in bed late and rest. After lunch I took my boyfriend on a tour of the castle, where afternoon ceremonies were taking place. Next we watched The Titanic, then went out to supper.
The Coffeeloft
We went to the Coffeeshop, which is a little café above the village store. The top floor of the shop is a cozy space with several tables, chairs, a couch, a fireplace, bookshelves, and lots of décor, most of it regional or culinary-related. They also have wi-fi. Their online menu and the menu on the table says they offer all kinds of drinks – hot chocolates and coffees with different-flavored syrups, iced coffee, cappuccinos, lattés, different types of teas, smoothies, milkshakes, and even wine. The menu has an all-day breakfast, your typical full hot breakfast fare, several types of sandwiches, a few other quick hot items, homemade pizzas from scratch, and an assortment of plated desserts and baked goods, as well as ice cream. It seems like a pretty big menu for such a small shop, and fairly reasonably priced for a shop whose items are mostly overpriced. 
First we asked for the Goats Cheese Sandwich, but were told they were out of goat’s cheese. So since there was a Bacon Brie Melt on the menu, I asked if we could just sub brie for the goat’s cheese. We were then told they didn’t have any of the cranberry relish either, and then the sandwich just really didn’t seem like it would be much. Finally, we settled on trying their homemade pizzas, even though we really like the other wood-oven pizza place in town. We ordered a Billy Goat’s pizza with brie cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion and rocket, as well as some crispy breaded mushrooms with garlic mayo.
Billy Goat's Pizza
Overall the food was acceptable for a small shop, fresh, hot and tasty, but I would like to try their other offerings if they ever do have all the product in, and I wonder what else they would have been missing from the menu. The one young shop attendant there at the time did not seem very knowledgeable about the store or menu. 
Crispy Breaded Mushrooms

Saturday, July 25, 2015

250 Prawns, Pavlovas, and Asparagus Salads

Today I went in to work early – anticipating a busy day. We were expecting 250 guests at the wedding tonight, and the usual canapé cook was off tonight, so I was expecting to be either placed on canapés or on pavlovas, since it was another big batch and the dessert cook is tired of them. Instead, I was put on both. A tall order, but I was actually very energetic this morning and ready to move. As soon as I got there, the other cook had to leave, so she left me a list of things to be done and I got to it.

First thing was prepping the canapés for today – spiced chicken kebabs, vegetable spring rolls, and tempura of prawn – 170 each. The issue was I had never battered the prawns before. The breakfast chef tried to show me how to do it – telling me I had to work fast and dump them all in at once. I know from my experience frying things in the bar that this doesn’t work and just causes the prawns to stick together in a battered mess and not cook evenly. Also he was rushing me and I got tempura batter all over the kitchen, which he then got upset about. 

Next I moved on to putting a fruit order away, traying up petit fours, and cutting the remainder of the fruit for the pavlovas, along with whipping more cream to pipe on them. Then I began decorating all the pavloavs with the fruit – pausing only a few times to set up a few things for the canapés for the arrival reception in between. Then it was cooking, plating, and serving the canapés, along with the miniature scones. I am getting pretty fast and efficient at decorating the pavlovas by now. Then over to the marquee for the wedding service, which went quite smoothly again.

The couple wanted their impressive wedding cake and cupcakes to be cut by the kitchen staff and served with the petit fours, so of course I got to sample a bunch of the end pieces of the two cutting tiers – one chocolate and one white with a rich frosting. The head chef said to me, “You know that’s bad for you, right?” And I replied with, “I don’t care, I have a sweet tooth.” Then he said I could take all the end pieces home with me!
Cutting up the wedding cake - a chocolate tier and a vanilla tier
Canapés: Spiced Chicken Kebabs, Vegetable Spring Rolls with sweet chili sauce, Tempura of Prawn, Scones with Jam and Cream
Starter: Salad of Asparagus and Smoked Chicken, pickled girolles, hazelnut dressing, garden herbs
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls
Soup:  Vegetable Broth
Sorbet: Apricot Lime
Main Course Option #1 – Beef: Rib-Eye Steak cooked medium-rare, carrot and coriander purée, crushed potatoes with garlic and spinach, braised shallot, rich red wine jus
Main Course Option #2 – Chicken: Roasted Breast of Chicken, Champ, Wild Herb Stuffing, Chasseur Sauce
Main Course Option #3 – Vegetarian: Cashel and Blue Cheese Tart with Mediterranean vegetables
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Pavloavs with Fresh Fruit, Chantilly Cream, Strawberry Purée
Petit Fours: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles, wedding cake and cupcakes
Evening Buffet: Bacon Butties, Cocktail Sausages, Chicken Goujons, Vegetable Spring Rolls, wedding cake and cupcakes

Friday, July 24, 2015

Chocoholic Heaven

Today was a good day. I was put on canapés today, because dessert was easy – no pavlovas today, but a chocolate brownie, which had already been baked. Also it was a smaller wedding – 135 guests. Canapés were fairly simple today – spiced chicken kebabs, vegetable spring rolls, tomato and basil crustinis and phyllo tartlets with smoked chicken – 135 of each. They didn’t take me too long to prepare them, and plating and serving them was fairly easy too – two hot and two cold.

Staff lunch was excellent because there was a big bowl of leftover chocolate mousse from a wedding dessert put out for staff, and not many staff wanted it, so I ended up having quite a bit of it. I am a chocoholic and chocolate mousse is one of my absolute favorites – a weakness of mine. Also because I was the one setting up for canapés, I cleared out the lunch dishes and got the end of the mousse. The breakfast chef knows I am a chocoholic. Wedding service went well again – and the dessert was warm chocolate brownies with caramel ice cream and rich chocolate sauce, and there were several leftover so of course I got one of those too. 

More chocolate when I got home – my boyfriend surprised me with a jar of Nutella, not the easiest to find around here (but that’s another story for another blog post).

Here is tonight’s menu:
Canapés: Spiced Chicken Kebabs, Filo Tartlets with Smoked Chicken, black olives, and pesto, Vegetable Spring Rolls with sweet chili sauce, Tomato and Basil Crustini, Spiced Chicken Kebabs
Starter: Salad of Asparagus and Smoked Chicken, pickled girolles, hazelnut dressing, garden herbs
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls
Soup:  Vine Tomato Minestrone with fresh basil pesto
Sorbet: Champagne
Main Course Option #1 – Beef: Seared Fillet of Beef cooked medium, fondant potato, braised shallot, celeriac purée, and Madagascar peppercorn sauce
Main Course Option #2 – Fish: Pan-fried Fillet of Sea Bass, Mediterranean Vegetables, red pepper coulis, basil pesto
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Warm Chocolate Brownie, caramel ice cream, rich chocolate sauce
Petit Fours: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 
Evening Buffet: Bacon Butties, Cocktail Sausages, Vegetable Spring Rolls, cheesecake with crackers, fruit, and chutney, wedding cake
What seems to be the new rage at weddings - a multiple tiered, wedding "cheesecake". Tiers of different kinds of fancy cheeses, soft, hard, and semi-soft. Typically served with accompaniments such as crackers, fruit, and chutneys along side the sweet wedding cake with the evening buffet.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Pavlova Problem

The majority of my day again today was spent constructing pavlovas – another 230 of them for another large wedding tonight. I really don’t mind this at all, but then again, this is only my third or so time doing them. I just don’t like how the room I work in is always pretty chilly – as it needs to be with all the whipped cream and fresh fruit on the pavlovas. 

Here are a few things about pavlovas though. The meringue base is baked in advance, obviously, and most of the fruit is sliced in advance and kept in the fridge as well, which actually helps to draw the moisture out of the fruit so it doesn’t bleed into the whipped cream. The melon, pineapple, mango, and plum is all done in advance. However, as berries have a short shelf life, the blueberries strawberries, and kiwi need to be prepped the morning of. Blueberries are easy – just wash them, and strawberries just need to be halved or quartered and washed as well. Kiwi frustrates me – or at least the kiwi we get. They always end up being too ripe, making them difficult to slice thinly enough, and they turn to mush. Sometimes the mango is too ripe and slippery too, but if not ripe enough, there is no flavor to it. And we never seem to have extras around! That is the issue with pavlovas – I love the idea and I think they are really pretty, but when you are making over two hundred of them, it is hard to make them consistent and identical. Usually they are very close in size, and we use the same recipe each time, but the fruit can vary greatly! It will vary in shape, size, color, taste, and texture depending upon the season, ripeness, and how it was cut and prepared. I cannot get a lot of slices that are the exact same size from one pineapple, or a plum – the ends will be smaller than the middle. If you really want to make the pavlovas identical, you will need to buy a lot of fruit and waste (or repurpose) a lot of fruit, and that means a lot of money. 

After the pavlovas, I helped out with the canapés for today, then headed over to the marquee for the usual wedding service. It was another large wedding, but didn’t seem as stressful this time, except for some strange requests from the bride (gluten-free bread and canapés only, nothing else had to be gluten-free, soya milk available at all times, and absolutely no coriander or Chilean wine to be served, as the bride is allergic). What was annoying was the fact that the speeches got moved from being during canapés to being right before dinner, because they moved from outside to indoors due to the weather. I’m not sure why that caused the time to change too, but there were six speeches and they were all long, lasting much longer than the anticipated forty minutes, making dinner later and causing us to have to wait again.
Some of the cupcakes the couple provided to be served with the evening buffet.
Here is tonight’s menu:
Canapés: Spiced Chicken Kebabs, Filo Tartlets with Smoked Duck, black olives, and pesto, Vegetable Spring Rolls with sweet chili sauce, Breaded Mozzarella sticks, Smoked Salmon Blinis with Dill Crème Fraiche, Tomato and Basil Crustini 
Starter: Organic Goat’s Cheese Parfait, Ratatouille Chutney, Basil Pesto, Balsamic and Sherry Reduction
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls
Soup:  Vegetable Broth
Sorbet: Champagne
Main Course Option #1 – Beef:  Rib-Eye Steak cooked medium, fondant potato, braised shallot, celeriac purée, rich red wine jus
Main Course Option #2 – Fish: Grilled Salmon, Salad of Fennel marinated in Lemon, Baby Spinach, Vierge Dressing
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Pavlova with Fresh Fruit, Chantilly Cream, and Strawberry Purée
Petits Fours Assortment: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 
Evening Buffet: Bacon Butties, Chip Cones, Cheesecake, Cupcakes

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Practicing Knife Skills

Today there were no events going on, so we had a day of prep. I went in early again, thinking I could help out with breakfast. There was already another cook helping out with breakfast, but the cook I was to be working with was already in as well. So I got straight to prep work. My accomplishments of the day include: peeling 500 asparagus spears, dicing one box (about 30) red bell peppers, concasséing 24 beef tomatoes, dicing twelve leeks, dicing 64 stalks of celery, and dicing one bag (eight breasts) of smoked chicken. Honestly, it was a rather boring day of tedious prep work, but at least I was given different tasks instead of just peeling another 1000 asparagus. It was also a lot of standing in one spot all day, which I find tiresome. I don’t mind being on my feet all day, but I find staying in the same spot to be hard on the muscles.
At least this gave me a lot of practice on my knife skills today. I haven’t done this much chopping and dicing in a long time, and now my knife definitely needs sharpening. 
The salad that causes all the pain - five perfectly peeled and blanched asparagus stalks required for each plate.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lunch In Town

My lunch
Today was another day off for me. I had some business to take care of in town, and luckily the cheap bus was running today. I also had enough time to go to lunch with my boyfriend, at a café known for serving homemade, nutritious fare. We also stopped to take a look at the bakery, cappuccino bar, supermarket, and mall. Other than that, I just took it easy today.

Vegetarian Breakfast
            At the café, I had a five onion and cheese potato pie, a bean patty with spicy chili sauce, and beet salad. He had a vegetarian full breakfast – sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomato, scrambled eggs, baked beans, hashbrown, and white toast. All was good, service was friendly and fast, and food was hot. It was tasty, but not as impressive as I had been expecting. The lunch menu had not started yet, but today I saw it featured items such as lasagna, chicken cordon bleu, vegetarian burgers, soup of the day, potatoes, and vegetables. There is a deli counter with salads, quiches, and such, and plenty of home baked goods as well – scones, breads, and pastries. I would go back there and see what lunch has to offer. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

So Many Pavlovas and Sandwiches

Today began out as a nice, quiet, enjoyable day for me. First thing I was put to work making the pavlovas for tonight’s wedding – all 240 of them! I didn’t mind doing them though, the usual pastry chef didn’t want to do them, but I suppose over the years she has done many more pavlovas than me and grown sick of them. The meringue bases were already done, so I just needed to pipe the swirls of cream on top and add the fresh fruit. Most of the fresh fruit had already been cut up – but I had to prepare the strawberries, blueberries, and kiwifruit – tricky to slice thinly enough because they were so ripe and we didn’t have a lot of them. So I was set up in the old cookery school kitchen, which now serves as more of a storage area, with ten trays of twenty-four pavlovas all lined up, and I began an assembly line decorating them. The fruit has to be put on in a certain order – slice of cantaloupe, pineapple slice, mango slice to the right, plum slice to the right, slice of kiwi at an angle, strawberry half on top and two blueberries on the front. It must be done in this order. I find it most efficient to work one tray at a time and do all the cantaloupe, then all the pineapple, etc. Although I always want to be working quickly, these pavlovas need to be done with a delicate touch and everything needs to be placed on meticulously. I was alone in this room for the morning, and it took me a couple of hours to complete the pavlovas, but it was quiet and peaceful and I enjoyed the work. Pastry is where my heart really lies. I could do these delicate, tedious tasks all day. There is no immediate pressure, but later on the plates of desserts are stunning!

After I finished the pavlovas, I moved on to making sandwiches for the evening buffet. There were no afternoon canapés for today’s wedding, but rather a larger evening buffet. I had to make 150 sandwiches of assorted fillings. Good thing I am used to making sandwiches in the bar and don’t mind making sandwiches either. I worked in the upstairs kitchen and chatted with the breakfast chef while I worked, until he left, then I was alone again. I had to cut all the sandwiches and artistically arrange them on a bunch of plates, then make sure they were well wrapped. 

It is surprising how long it takes to make 240 pavlovas and 150 sandwiches, and how fast this makes the day go by. Good thing dinner was set later tonight – 7:00p.m. The wedding service was slightly different today, as the numbers were so large, so we were working the entire time – dressing starters, pouring and garnishing soup, plating different mains, setting out dessert plates, etc. Overall, the service went very smoothly, however as always with large numbers, everyone is more stressed and on edge, so the servers and managers were a little cranky. 
rows and rows of pavlovas
Today's menu was as follows:
Canapés: Scones with preserves and cream
Starter: Salad of Asparagus and Smoked Chicken, pickled girolles, hazelnut dressing, garden herbs
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls
Soup:  Garden Pea with Mint Crème Fraiche
Sorbet: Orchard Apple and Pear
Main Course Option #1 – Meat: Sirloin Steak cooked medium, Crushed Potatoes with Garlic and Spinach, Carrot and Coriander Purée, Rich Red Wine Jus
Main Course Option #2 – Fish: Grilled Salmon, Salad of Fennel marinated in Lemon, Baby Spinach, Vierge Dressing
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Pavlova with Fresh Fruit, Strawberry Purée, and Chantilly Cream
Petits Fours Assortment: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 
Evening Buffet – Chip Cones, Chicken Goujons, Biscuit Cake, Chocolate Cake;
Sandwich Assortment: Egg Salad with onion and lettuce, Cheese with tomato and lettuce, Turkey with cranberry chutney and lettuce, ham with tomato and mayo, roast beef with onion marmalade, tuna with vegetables, on white and brown bread.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wedding Barbecue

Today was a different kind of day for me. I arrived at the castle for 11:00a.m. We had to prepare everything for the barbecue, a post-wedding day event for yesterday’s VIP wedding, to be ready by 4:30p.m. at the latest. We had a lot left to do, and I went to work bowling up the salad accompaniments, preparing the corn on the cob, and getting things ready for the dessert. Then we had to put everything in fancy dishes and wrap it, and bring it all upstairs to then give to the servers. I stayed upstairs and catered to the servers requests – can I have some corn heated please, can you get me more mayonnaise, do you have a bowl for this, etc. Meanwhile, I began some more prep for tomorrow’s large wedding of 231 guests. I also got to have some wedding cake – the couple had a milk chocolate biscuit cake specifically saved for tonight’s evening buffet, and I got to cut it. Which is easier said than done, someone had refrigerated it making it rock solid. This only meant that it crumbled a lot, and I got to taste the pieces. Delicious!

The barbecue menu was as follows:
Salad with assorted accompaniments: black olives, feta cheese, shaved Parmesan, garlic croutons, sun-dried tomatoes, Ceasar dressing, French dressing.
Burgers with assorted accompaniments: baps, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions, Monterey Jack cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard.
Meats: pork and leek sausage spirals, steak, chicken escalope, Cajun salmon.
Sides: baked potatoes, champ, corn on the cob
Assorted Breads: olive, wheat, country, sun-dried tomato.
Dessert: profiteroles with chocolate sauce, strawberries, Chantilly cream. 
Evening Buffet: Milk chocolate biscuit cake and leftover wedding cake. 
Milk chocolate biscuit cake with white chocolate coating - so yummy!
After the barbecue event was over (there were a lot of leftovers!), we still had to blanch all of the asparagus we had peeled yesterday (and apparently half of it was not properly peeled, and had to be redone), and finish off the roasted red pepper and tomato soup by straining it. So we ended on some tedious work and got out later than usual for a prep day.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another Visitor

Today I began in the castle, prepping for weddings again. It was more exciting today because it was a VIP wedding – not a huge deal but celebrities I wasn’t familiar with. I could tell it was a VIP wedding (not just from the obvious security on site and magazine photographers around) from the long function sheet and all the interesting requests. For example, the couple had rented a horse and carriage for guests to take rides around the castle, they rented an ice cream truck, they pre-arranged transportation in vehicles with tinted windows for certain guests and suppliers, etc. 
You know it's a big, VIP wedding when the cake is seven tiers
The cook that is usually in charge of the canapés was off today, leaving me solely responsible. Normally I would be fine with this, however, today’s canapés included two I had never made before, and two I had never seen made before. The other cook I was working with, the pastry chef, was not very good at explaining things, as I had learned before. So I went to work, preparing the miniature baked potatoes, only to be told I hadn’t chopped the bacon small enough. Then I went to work on the mini burgers – which turned out just to be frozen, prepared burgers. Sounds easy, but the problem was, they came already made up with cheese and tomato attached on the bun. The bride and groom requested all the burgers have no tomato, and some with no cheese. So I had to thaw the burgers and then scrape the tomatoes off every one of them (125 in total) and scrape the cheese off some of them (how many is some – it wasn’t specified). I thought this was a little ridiculous, I mean I am sure we could have ordered in plain burgers or made our burgers instead of somewhat successfully scraping off toppings. 

I needed to double-check the canapés, but the pastry chef did not have the function sheet. She told me the breakfast chef did. Why he did, I have no idea, as the breakfast chef does not do any of the wedding prep, except sometimes sandwiches for the evening buffet. He wouldn’t let me see it, he was kind of rude and said, “What do you need to know?” I asked about the canapés, and instead of just letting me read the function sheet, he told me, “Oh, they are really easy. Just baked potatoes – with cheese, inn, and bacon – just chop up some bacon and cheese and shallots really fine, yeah? Then the chicken skewers and burgers from the freezer.” I then asked him what time the canapés were to be served, and he told me 4:00.

I finished up the canapés, and another cook came in to help out, and we moved on to peeling asparagus – we have 5000 asparagus to peel for upcoming weddings for a starter salad. Not a fun job, but it needs to be done. At 3:00 I glanced at my watch and decided I would begin to set up for canapés fairly soon, in case guests arrived early. A couple of minutes later, one of the servers came to tell me the church bells were ringing and guests were due to arrive in three minutes. I was confused – but quickly ran upstairs to fire up the oven and get the canapés ready as fast as possible. The head servers seemed kind of mad – demanding canapés NOW. Well, I can’t make canapés heat up any faster, and I cannot serve meat canapés that are not up to temperature. So I got them out as quickly as I could, including a plate for the bride and groom.

Normally, one or two plates are saved for the bride and groom. Usually one at the beginning and one near the end. One of the servers confirmed this for me. A few minutes later, the food manager walks in demanding another plate for the bride and groom. Well, I had a plate ready, but not one with burgers with no cheese, those still needed to be heated. Despite these few glitches, the canapés appeared to have gone over well, and I got the rest of them out quickly, then returned to peeling more asparagus. The bride and groom had four plates of canapés in total. 

Luckily, the wedding service went much more smoothly, and we successfully fed 117 guests. The menu was as follows:

Canapés: Spiced Chicken Kebabs, Miniature Cheddar Burgers, Miniature Baked Potatoes
Starter: Ham and Chicken Vol-au-Vent
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls
Soup:  Potato and Leek
Sorbet: Lemon
Main Course Option #1 - Chicken:  Roast Breast of Local Chicken, Champ Potatoes, Rosemary Jus
Main Course Option #2 – Fish: Grilled Salmon, Salad of Fennel marinated in Lemon, Baby Spinach, Vierge Dressing
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Warm Apple Berry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream
Petits Fours Assortment: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 
Evening Buffet – Bacon Butties, Chip Cones

But the best part of my day of all? I got another visitor today!! My boyfriend arrived and is staying for the month, so I am very happy to have the company!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Wedding + New Tea Samples

Today I started at the castle at 11:00a.m. again to prepare for today’s and tomorrow’s weddings. I started making the canapés for today, then bacon butties for the evening buffet. After lunch, as I was helping out and chatting with the breakfast chef upstairs, a delivery came with some samples for potential new items for afternoon tea. As the chef knows I love sampling, especially sweets, he gave me a taste of each. There were new macaroon cookies – but they weren’t quite as good as the ones we currently use. There were also mini pita breads and brioche buns, which were fun, but personally I prefer the scones, crumpets, and tea cake we have now. The most intriguing part was the bread – flat, crustless sheets of different colored and flavored bread. There was spinach, olive, cocoa, lemon, and tomato bread, in large rectangles, easy to make sandwiches out of without the waste of cutting off all the crusts. Apparently we are looking to amp up our afternoon tea sandwiches, and try out new filings as well. Currently we offer ham and mustard, salmon and horseradish crème fraiche, and cucumber and cream cheese on white and brown bread. Next week, we are going to try out the new breads and new fillings. 

Other than that, the rest of my day was filled with wedding prep jobs, plating canapés, and the wedding service. 

Tonight’s menu was as follows:
Canapés: Roasted Potatoes with Onion Marmalade and Crème Fraiche, Tempura of Prawns, Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce, Spiced Chicken Kebabs, Tomato and Basil Crustini, Cherry Tomatoes stuffed with Crab.
Starter: Confit Duck and Wild Mushroom Terrine, Spiced Pear Chutney, Balsamic and Sherry Reduction
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls. 
Soup:  Forest Wild Mushroom with Chive Crème Fraiche
Sorbet: Apricot Lime
Main Course Option #1 - Meat: Sirloin Steak served medium, braised shallot, celeriac purée, fondant potato, brandy and Madagascar green peppercorn sauce.
Main Course Option #2 - Chicken:  Roast Breast of Local Chicken, Champ Potatoes, Herb Stuffing, Chasseur Sauce
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Warm Apple Berry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream
Petits Fours Assortment: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 
Evening Buffet – Bacon Butties, Chip Cones
Dance floor backdrop at today's wedding - beach theme!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Another Castle Wedding

Today I catered another wedding in the castle. Today I felt a little better because I now know how castle weddings worked. This wedding was slightly larger, with sixty-nine guests, but otherwise not much different, and a menu I had done before. 

I made up the canapés again, then helped out the breakfast chef by making a big batch of scones and bacon butties. Then some more odd prep jobs before plating and service time. Today, the arrival ceremony (which wasn’t really an arrival ceremony, since the wedding had simply taken place in another room in the castle, but really just canapés being served), was later, causing dinner to be later than yesterday. This meant a long time of us waiting between finishing prep and serving. It seemed like everything that needed to be done was done – sides and breads were baked, soups and sauces were on the stove, we were just waiting to put the main courses in the oven. So there was really nothing to do.
The dining table in the Castle gallery for weddings
I had two funny conversations with the executive chef who hired me today. First, he asked if I liked peeling asparagus. I remember this job from a previous wedding – we needed to peel the tough skin from the stalks of several boxes of asparagus for both an asparagus salad and a cream of asparagus soup. It was tedious and painful, but necessary. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but it was no worse than other such jobs, and better than picking crab. So I said, sure, I’ll do it. Then he asked if I liked making pavlovas (they are fun, just time-consuming and tedious as well, but I like pastry), and I said yeah! So he said, “Great! I’ll put you on weddings again next week!” And I was excited! I love doing weddings, and it means avoiding another hard week in the bar for now.

My second conversation was when chef asked me about school and if we had a service aspect in our culinary courses. I have been asked this before by other chefs, and I agree it would be good for culinary students to learn about service, but this is more for the hospitality students, who act as waitstaff in the restaurant where the students cook. So I told him I would be in the restaurant next year, and he replied, “What do you mean next year? Didn’t I tell you? You’re staying here!.” So I take that as a compliment that they like my work and want me to stay!

Tonight’s menu was as follows:
Canapés: Vegetable Samoas, Filo Tartlets with Smoked Chicken, Black Olives & Pesto, Roasted Potatoes with Onion Marmalade and Crème Fraiche 
Starter: Gateau of Avocado and Prawns, Marie Rose Sauce and Garden Leaves
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls. 
Soup:  and Corriander with Corriander Crème Fraiche
Sorbet: Celebration Champagne
Main Course Option #1 - Meat: Seared Fillet of Irish Beef served medium, braised shallot, root vegetable purée, fondant potato, brandy and Madagascar green peppercorn sauce.
Main Course Option #2 - Fish:  Grilled Irish Salmon, Salad of Fennel marinated in Lemon, Baby Spinach, Vierge Dressing
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: Pavlova with Fresh Fruit, Strawberry Purée, Chantilly Cream
Petits Fours Assortment: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 
Evening Buffet – Bacon Butties, Vegetable Spring Rolls, Cocktail Sausages.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

First Wedding In The Castle

Today I began work at 11:00 in the castle. I wasn’t totally sure what I was up for, having worked in the lodge the past few weeks, but I had taken a peek at the function sheets yesterday and knew there were weddings every day this week – some big, some small, some with new menu items, some with menus I had done before. Today there was a small wedding, only forty-seven guests. Therefore, the wedding dinner was held in the gallery of the castle instead of the usual marquee. It was a small, intimate wedding and the couple had rented exclusive use of the castle for the day.

This was my first time catering a wedding in the castle and not the marquee, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. It started out the same as usual – doing last-minute prep jobs for today and afterwards prepping for the next day’s function as well. I made the canapés and soup and such, then did prep work for the wedding dinner tonight, such as chopping parsley, cooking and plating the roasted potatoes and vegetables, baking bread rolls, etc. Then the jobs of serving the canapés and the usual plating and serving of the wedding meal. The thing was, there was no need to transport everything we prepped to the marquee; we could just keep it at the castle. We also worked at the castle all day – there was even a brand-new mini kitchen installed in the basement of the castle specifically for wedding prep. It doesn’t have much, but it has a large oven and a walk-in blast chiller. 

Here are the differences between catering a wedding in the castle, and catering a wedding in the marquee. 
1. Everyone on the wedding team works at the castle all day. We don’t split up into groups between the castle and the marquee.
2. There are minimal trips between the castle and the marquee. Of course, we did need to bring some of the dishes over from the marquee to the castle, but no food transport.
3. Everything prepped stayed put – so all our food orders and everything were all in one handy spot.
4. Everything was closer at the one venue, so if we were short on something or forgot something, we had plenty of back-up without having to run back to the castle or lodge.
5. We had more time. Because no time was spent wrapping, transporting, and unwrapping stuff, we had more time to focus on the actual work and get ahead for more upcoming functions this week.
6. It was more crowded and a bit hectic. Obviously the castle kitchen, dining room, and room we used to set-up plates were much smaller than what we were used to at the marquee, but still the same number of staff, so we were a bit short on space.
7. Less equipment. The marquee is specifically designed for functions, from the kitchen equipment to the long prep tables. The castle kitchen definitely is not. 
8. The entire process had to be altered slightly. Instead of plating mains on a long table, we had to do it on the kitchen counter where all the components were handy and could stay hot, and then the servers had to carry the plates from the kitchen to the gallery. The servers really have to know where everything is in comparison to where is it kept in the marquee.
9. Prep was done more last-minute. We couldn’t do what we usually do in the marquee and pre-plate everything, then slide the entire rack of plates in the oven. Instead, we had to cook the items separately and plate everything just before serving. This puts more last-minutes pressure on us, but does ensure everything is hot and fresh. And with smaller numbers, this isn’t too bad.
My first time trying the crème brulée dessert!
Tonight’s menu was as follows:
Canapés: Smoked Salmon & Crème Fraîche on Blinis, Mini Vegetable Spring Rolls, Filo Tartlets with Smoked Chicken, Black Olives & Pesto, Spiced Chicken Kebabs, Breaded Mozzarella Sticks, Tomato and Basil Crustini
Starter: Gateau of Fresh Crab, Avocado, Lime, Garden Leaves
Bread: Wheat bread, raisin rolls, sesame seeded rolls, white rolls, caraway rolls, red pepper rolls. 
Soup:  Cream of Celeriac and Smoked Bacon, with truffle oil.
Sorbet: Celebration Champagne
Main Course Option #1 - Meat: Seared Fillet of Irish Beef served medium, braised shallot, celeriac purée, fondant potato, brandy and Madagascar green peppercorn sauce.
Main Course Option #2 - Chicken:  Roasted Poussin with Ham, Champ, Herb Stuffing, Chasseur Sauce.
Side Dishes: Roast Baby Potatoes, and Roast carrots, onions, parsnip, and turnip.
Dessert: His – Warm Apple and Berry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream
Hers – Classlic Vanilla Crème Brulée with Raspberry Sorbet
Petits Fours Assortment: madeleines, cranberry white fudge, fruit jellies, flaked white chocolate truffles, Belgian dark chocolate truffles. 
Evening Buffet – Bacon Butties, Vegetable Spring Rolls, Cocktail Sausages

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Lot To Digest

Another typical day off for me – catching up on sleep, relaxing, doing yoga, watching some cooking shows, reading, connecting with family members, visiting locals, going for a wander in the countryside, and eating staff meals (same lunch of roasted potatoes, but with Cajun this time, same penne with sauce, same garden salad – only here could a garden salad be too salty, chicken and sausage and beef leftovers, and same chicken curry with rice and chips for supper). 
A picture my parents sent me from back home - homemade strawberry rhubarb pie with fresh rhubarb from our garden. I must admit, I am drooling and more than  a bit jealous!

I will finish my little rant from yesterday by now listing the remainder of my responsibilities on the starter section of the bar.

Mise En Place
Refrigerated case: barbecue ribs, feta cheese cubes, diced red onion, capers, pitted black olives, red pepper relish, lemon wedges, lemon slices, crab claws, shelled and deveined crevettes, sliced smoked mackerel, smoked salmon slices, prawns bound in Marie Rose sauce, chicken salad mix, egg salad mix, cheese slices, ham slices, chicken wings, diced iceberg lettuce, herb salad, salad mix, salad greens. 
Refrigerator: blinis, whitebait, plain chicken, battered cod, garlic butter, garlic purée, grated Parmesan cheese, diced bacon, gluten-free white bread, gluten-free brown bread, sausages, back-up/extra of everything in refrigerated case.
Sauces: garlic chive mayonnaise, coriander lime yogurt, horseradish crème fraiche, tartar sauce, Marie Rose sauce, hot sauce, French dressing, balsamic dressing, Ceasar dressing, mayonnaise, red pepper essence, smoked paprika oil.
Side Table: sliced wheaten bread, garlic croutons, softened butter, sandwich picks, fish and chip papers, paprika, white bread, softgrain bread, brown bread, plain flour, crisps, salt.
Walk-In Refrigerator: chips, onion rings, gaufrette potatoes, straw potatoes, garlic potatoes, veg of the day, cos lettuce leaves, back-up/replenishment items.
Freezer: chicken fingers, vegetable spring rolls, battered squid rings, garlic bread, back-up of meats and seafood to thaw.

For service: small plates, large bowls, martini glasses, grey salad bowls, white salad bowls, white ramekins, grey ramekins, grey starter bowls, square plates, rectangular plates, wooden boards, fish and chip baskets, side cups, side saucers.
For preparation: numerous steel bowls, milkpan, small oval baking trays, small rectangular baking tray, small round baking tray, tongs, plastic containers, cutting board, knives, spoons, butter knife, glass.

Sure, some of it is simple prep – such as taking olives from a can, or finely dicing red onion. But some of it requires a lot of advance preparation – such as cooking, cooling, and dicing the chicken for the chicken salad, and combining it with the rest of the ingredients. Others require advance planning – thawing enough crevettes to last through a busy day, but not too many that you end up throwing a bunch out. And keep in mind they also need to be shelled and deveined, which takes time. Theoretically, the dishwashers and kitchen helpers are supposed to restock my dishes for me, but I cannot rely on them. They are busy people too, with many responsibilities, and as they do not make the dishes, I cannot expect them to remember exactly what dishes and how many of each I will need. They certainly aren’t responsible for providing my preparation tools, and during a busy service, they need to spend all their time washing dishes so customers have a clean fork to use.

Needless to say, I will be glad to give my brain a wee rest and have a break from the starter section for the week. I change scenery again and am working in the castle at wedding functions for the remainder of the week, where there is still a lot to be done, just a lot less direct pressure on me!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Unequal Responsibilities

Today I had another day off. It seemed slightly strange to be getting another two days off after only working four days, as last week I worked eight days before having two days off, but that is how it goes sometimes. In this industry, you take your days off when you can get them, and bank them for the times when you have to work long stretches. I didn’t do too much again today – I went for a nice walk down a country road. I had two nice staff meals – steamed green beans, baby roasted potatoes, and creamy penne for lunch, with curry, spiced noodles, and smoked salmon blini for supper.
A rabbit I spotted on my walk today
Days off tend to be days where I reflect on my work the past week. I know I have been working hard because even with resting, my legs were very sore all day. I am quite impressed with myself and how I have been handling the starter section at the busy bar all week – being the one mainly responsible for all the orders and prep. I have been reflecting on how much I have had to keep track of on this section in the past week, and realized that the starter section is actually probably the most challenging kitchen position of all on this entire estate. It has occurred to me that the pastry section, where I started off, literally is a cakewalk, and we hardly give it a second thought now, it just gets done as needed. But the main course section actually has it easier as well. Here is a glimpse of my responsibilities: 

Sandwiches, Salads & Classics - STARTERS
Classic Triple Decker Sandwich - Served with Garden Salad and Crisps, toasted if requested, with a choice of:
Free Range Chicken Sandwich with Bell Pepper, Lettuce bound with Mayonnaise
Or Ham & Cheese Sandwich with Castle Leslie Relish
Or Free Range Egg Salad Sandwiches with Scallion & Chive bound with Mayonnaise
Open Smoked Salmon Blinis with Horseradish Crème Fraiche, Red Onion, Capers 
Prawn Cocktail - Whiskey Marie Rose, Iceberg Lettuce 
Kitchen Salad Starter - Baby Gem Salad Leaves, Feta Cheese, Garlic Croutons, Black Olive, Cherry Tomato, Cucumber, Red Onion, Balsamic Dressing
Chicken Wings Tossed in Hot Sauce Starter, with Tossed Salad and Coriander Lime Yogurt
Barbeque Ribs with Garden Salad Starter 
Atlantic Seafood Platter Starter - Smoked Mackerel, Prawns in Marie Rose, Crab Claws, Battered Squid, Whitebait, Smoked Salmon, Garlic & Lime Mayonnaise
Starter Special of the Day

Main Courses
Traditional Fish & Chips - Battered Cod, Chips, Traditional Tartar Sauce, Side Salad
Kitchen Salad Main - Baby Gem Salad Leaves, Feta Cheese, Garlic Croutons, Black Olive, Cherry Tomato, Cucumber, Red Onion, Balsamic Dressing
Chicken Wings Tossed in Hot Sauce Main, with Tossed Salad and Coriander Lime Yogurt
Barbeque Ribs with Garden Salad Main
Atlantic Seafood Platter Main - Smoked Mackerel, Prawns in Marie Rose, Crab Claws, Battered Squid, Whitebait, Smoked Salmon, Garlic & Lime Mayonnaise

Main Course Accompaniments
Garden Salad for Goat’s Cheese Tart
Herb Salad for Pan Seared Coley
Side of Straw Potatoes and Three Onion Rings for every Steak
French Dressing for Chicken Breast
Herb Salad for Lambs’ Kidneys
Side of Gaufrette Potatoes for every Burger
Dish of the Day Accompaniment

Kids’ Menu
Breaded Chicken Fingers
Two Egg Omelette with ham and tomato
Panfried Pork Sausages with Onion Gravy
Battered cod
Vegetable Spring Rolls
Each kids’ meal is accompanied by a side of chips, mashed potatoes, or garden salad. 

Special Requests
Slice of bread, toast, or gluten-free bread
Slice of cheese, lettuce, tomato
Plain chicken or egg sandwiches – not the usual mix bound with mayo
Warm chicken on a salad
Substituting side orders or sauces
Half orders, or items to be split into two portions
Items served on different dishes than usual 
Starters served with main courses
Kids’ food to be ready early
Starters made into main course portion sizes

Side Orders
Garlic Chips
Gaufrette Potatoes 
Mashed Potatoes
Side Salad 
Onion Rings 
Garlic Bread
Garlic Potatoes
Veg of the Day
Garlic Butter
Any extra sauces on the side: Garlic and chive mayonnaise, coriander and lime yogurt sauce, tartar sauce, horseradish crème fraiche, Marie Rose sauce, hot sauce, French dressing, balsamic dressing, Ceasar dressing, mayonnaise, red pepper essence, gravy, white wine sauce, peppercorn sauce, barbecue sauce, pesto, red sauce, tomato sauce, red pepper relish, onion marmalade.  

So even though I do not cook nor plate the main course proteins – I am responsible for some aspect on every one of the main courses. This as well as all the sides, all the starters, and the kids’ food. And starter orders can come in with starters, with mains, starters made into mains, etc. While the main course chef only cooks the main courses, I have to worry about cooking for main courses and starters. So while I am trying to fill three main course orders, I get in two more orders that have starters that need to go out first, followed by more main courses I have to worry about. While the main course cook gets a breather (especially while the proteins are in the oven cooking), I never get a rest! You would think at least occasionally the mains cook could make their own wee herb salad or cook a batch of chips for one of their dishes, but no. Even though I have twelve other orders on the go, that steak needs to be topped with three fried onion rings, which are on my section. My job also requires running to the walk-in fridge and freezer for some ingredients that need to be kept there, while all the main course ingredients are right there at the mains station.

Fish and chips sounds easy enough, but then I have to remember that it goes in a special basket with paper and needs a ramekin of tartar sauce and a wedge of lemon, plus a side salad to accompany it. Seafood platters, either starters or mains, are the worst, because I have to run to the freezer to get a squid ring, get whitebait from the fridge and toss it in flour and fry those both, cook crab claws in a saucepan in garlic butter, line the board with garlic mayonnaise, have sliced bread for the bottom, make a garden salad, put salmon, mackerel, prawns, and a crevette on the plate, then time the cooked items perfectly so when the platter goes out – the hot items are hot and the cold items are cold, and the other dishes going out with that dish are ready too. And all the side orders as well – if someone orders one order of garlic potatoes, you would think the main course cook could plate up that order quickly for me, but it is my responsibility. 

Really the only thing besides cooking the main proteins (though I still have a lot of proteins to cook) that I am not responsible for is the kids’ tagiatelle with tomato sauce, and dessert orders (unless no one else is around to do them). Not that I am complaining – I am enjoying the rush and being busy and active and hands-on with food all the time. But once in a while, a break, whether for my legs or my mind, might be nice!