First of all: A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my biggest brother! Hope it’s a great one!
So I’ve been on the day shift for a few days now and it’s very very different, but not really in a bad way.
First of all, the days absolutely fly by because we’re so busy, which is a nice change from the long stretches of downtime on Midrats that made the hours drag. However, I’m also now cooking for a LOT more people which is taking a bit of adjustment. On my first day, I was tasked with cooking 10 hotel pans of Vegetable Fried Rice for the vegetarian entrée that day. Unfortunately, we only had two and a half hotel pans of rice left from the night before and because today was my first day, I hadn’t been able to make rice the night before so I had to get rice cooked, into the blast chiller, then into the tilt skillet and fried up all within an hour and a half. I was simultaneously trying to shadow Max, who I would be replacing, to the learn the ropes of the “Salad Room” which is basically what we call Garde-Manger here. It was a lot to take in all at once.
Another difference I’m going to have to adjust to is just how crowded the kitchen is during the day. It starts with Mark and Chris and Zach coming in at 0400. Chris and Zach are cooks who run the egg line – omelets and scrambles and whole eggs (when we have them) to order and that has to be ready to go by 0530 when breakfast starts. Mark is the AM sous chef who is in charge of lunch. Sarah and I come to work the Salad Room at 0800. At 1100, when lunch starts, the PM sous chef Ralph and the PM cooks, Max and Myles come in. Lunch runs 1100 to 1300 and then we all break for our lunch from 1300-1330.
Then it’s back to work to get dinner out by 5pm. Floating in between all that are Sous Chef Kevin, and cooks Hayley and Joe – they fit in and around the regular shifts doing prep and filling in for people on their days off. Then you also have Todd the Culinary Manager and Russell the Executive Chef who come in and help with prep or special projects. In general, on a fully-staffed day like the Saturday we’re doing Thanksgiving Dinner, you’re looking at 13 people cooking for over 900. It’s a LOT of work. (It should also be said that this doesn’t include the Bakery, with a staff of four, who put out all our amazing baked goods, desserts, and breads every day.)
My specific role kind of has me wearing two hats. The first hour of my and Sarah’s day is mostly Freshies prep – washing and cutting lettuces and salad “toppers” like mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, etc, washing fruit, creating “composed salads” – tuna salad tossed with pasta is unbelievably popular here for some unknown reason to me but I’ve won a few hearts with a lentil and bulgur salad, a Thai beef salad, and a variation on a Waldorf salad which I chose to call the “McMurdorf Salad”. Anyway, from 0900 on, I work for Mark on the veg entrée and Sarah puts together her sandwich line for lunch. Once lunch starts, Sarah is on the floor serving up cold sandwiches and I do more Freshies prep – they eat a TON of salad when we can get it, so we’re always trying to prep ahead on that and the lower we get on Freshies, the more time it takes to be creative with what we can give them. We also make most of our salad dressings – the Ranch and Italian come from mixes but the rest is up to us so I’m back to my vinaigrette-making days and a lot of the ones from the Pub are coming in handy! After we break for lunch, it’s back to cold stuff until about 14:30 when I go to work for Ralph by starting the vegetarian entrée for dinner and Sarah takes over the cold salad prep. After I get dinner out, we start wrapping things up with various small tasks – we make most of our own yogurt and that’s almost always an end-of-day chore, as is making Jell-O – these people can eat some Jell-O! – and rinsing or starting sprouts. I’m not sure what the Antarctic Treaty would say about it but we do grow our own alfalfa and mung bean sprouts for Sarah’s sandwiches.
In general, I’m still getting to know all the new staff but so far I’m really enjoying it. There are some really different personalities on staff but we all seem to work together pretty well. The cooks I was a little worried about interacting with in the morning are actually not as bad as I had though and I’m particularly enjoying getting to know Sarah and working with her – she can make me laugh hysterically and we seem to be a good team!
I’m also trying to make my mark where I can with menu input – a few weeks back, when I’d had my sit-down with Todd, he had mentioned they were looking for ways to get through all the tater tots we had in the frozen warehouse. I had told him that a popular new concept at the sports bar in my old neighborhood was “Totchos”, or tater tots with nacho toppings, and that my friend had them in a bar in San Diego and said they were amazing. Well, Todd loved the idea and vowed to put it into use and then when I told Mark how excited Todd had gotten, Mark had gotten really excited too and the next thing I know, I’m being asked to draw up a sign for Sunday Brunch:
I also include here possibly my favorite video ever – Joe, you’re going to love this! So, last year, as we headed into winter, we got our last Freshies order in before the winter freeze on all C-17 flights. In this delivery was a crate ENTIRELY of bacon that was meant to last all winter but some FOOL unloaded it first and put it at the back of the warehouse, then unloaded everything else, which would have made it inaccessible for most of the season. Well, the camp wasn’t going to stand for such nonsense and so at 07:25, they undertook Operation Bacon Rescue (I think they should have called it Operation Save the Bacon).