Friday, November 11, 2011

Trained Assassins

Every Saturday, I would make my way downtown, put on my whites, my apron, and prepare for battle. Returning to normalcy the following Monday, aching but feeling a great sense of accomplishment. Attacking (we liked to use particularly violent descriptions for everything in the kitchen, which put just enough crazy into everyone to cope with the stress) the mise en place list for our Saturday service was like trying to play ping-pong, sew a sweater, and touch your elbow while saving a baby from a burning high-rise.. upside-down. Like clockwork, pots went on the burner, just as another was coming off. The Vita-mix blender re-used the moment it came out of the Sani-Clean. Machines and tools passed from station to station like a cheap whore on a "good" night. It was intense, but everyone knew their roles, and everyone was ready, without fail, every single day. This kind of work ethic I had never before experienced. I was surrounded with others who also shared the same stubborn desire for perfection and discipline. I felt at home in the kitchen.

So I plugged away at Colborne Lane as a stagiere for about 10 months, volunteering my weekend and pent up energy that I had leftover from my day job as a marketing professional. I'm not saying that the corporate environment was easy, but perhaps it's just relative.

By September 2010, the old chef had moved on, and I was offered a chance to work there part-time. I was told I would get paid. But the truth was, I didn't need the money, and it wasn't the reason why I did what I did. The gig was that I could continue to work a full day on Saturday, but that I would also come and work service on Friday nights after I wrapped up my day job. I agreed. Hey, I wasn't about to leave money on the table. For the first week or so, it was if I was living a double life. During the day, I would be decked out in corporate attire, and at night, a hardened knife-wielding professional that prepared some of the most amazing dishes in the city. I was addicted, and food would be my drug of choice.

Over the next few months, fellow cooks had come and gone through the revolving door the industry is famous for. Some had left to pursue another kitchen to learn from, others for more ideal work schedules. Perhaps the creativity had dried up, or that the type of modern cuisine that had once brought it fame and fortune, had faded. Suddenly no longer the apple of a foodie's eye. I've always hated how these foodies make it seem like they were the first ones to stumble upon a trend that existed a decade ago. Like a giddy fat kid whose eyes light up at the sight of a jelly-filled doughnut. The food industry was transient and everyone just wanted a piece of the next doughnut until every congealed mass of jelly filling was sucked out of it, rendering it meaningless.

I also began to consider what might happen should I decide to do this as a career. Did I really want to become a cook? Seriously become one of them?! Needless to say, I would ponder many questions over the next little while, as I continued to enjoy free booze after service, every week. After all, alcohol makes everything seem clearer and more obvious, right?

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