Monday, February 06, 2006

Kitchen Confidential #4 - Everything's Gonna Be Alright

After last weekend’s eye-opening experience in Montecito, I felt a little bit more confident facing my first career obstacle as an aspiring caterer. My friend GW was throwing a bridal shower for her good friend at her house on a Sunday afternoon. One night, while on the phone…

GW: “So I’m the Maid of Honor for my friend’s wedding.”
Me: “That sucks. Why is she getting married so early?”
GW: “She found the one. So now I’m throwing a party for her at my house.”
Me: “………….”
GW: “You should cater it haha.”
Me: “I’m down.”
GW: “I’m just kidding, you don’t have to –“
Me: “I’m serious.”
GW: “Well then…”

After about two weeks of planning, we (GW and the Bride) decided on a menu. As we got closer to the date, I started to get a little bit nervous. I started to question myself and put myself in the hot seat. It was like I was in a dark interrogation room answering the questions of faceless voices with a hot beaming light from Ikea over my head. Will they like the food? What if there are vegetarians? Will the food run out? And more importantly, where would I find the room to do all of this? Certainly not at my West LA shack. For 5 days, these questions were like protons and neutrons bouncing inside my head like a nuclear reaction. I was going crazy. But that’s what parents are for. I called them and knighted them as my Sous Chefs - they gladly accepted. They weren’t happy about working for $0/hr though haha.

GW and I met on Saturday afternoon to do all of our grocery shopping. The night before, I had packed all of my weapons (cookware, utensils, herbs and sauces) and written out the ingredient list. Everything was going well, until I forgot that I had left my notebook on a shopping cart at our first destination. With only an hour left before I had to get to The Restaurant, there was no way I could’ve gone back to find the notebook. So we sat there and went thru every single item, and after 15 minutes, we were good to go with the ingredients. Done. Only half a day before judgment day.

I woke up at 7:30 am the next day. The night before, I clocked in 11 hours at The Restaurant. I could not move. I could barely keep my eyes open. I was this close to calling it quits because I was completely exhausted. I debated another 30 minutes of sleep but we all know what happens... 30 minutes becomes an hour and a half. Waking up at the moment was critical - it was the difference between having a fun, fulfilling career as a caterer or being out on the streets or working at Initech like Milton. But I couldn’t let GW down. I woke up the Sous Chefs and immediately wrote up the menu on a sheet of paper. Here’s what I served:

A. Bosc Pear, Candied Walnut & Goat cheese salad with Lemon/Honey Vinaigrette
B. Smoked Salmon and Dill/Sour Cream on Crispy Wonton Skins
C. Vietnamese Glass Rolls with Sweet Pork and Thai Basil (Sweet n’ Sour sauce)
D. Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin glaze
E. Crispy Prosciutto Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
F. Wild Mushroom Risotto with White Truffle Oil
G. Baby Spinach & Three-Cheese Lasagna

From 7:30 am to 11:30 am, it was complete madness. This is the best part about working in a restaurant on the line. The ticket machine is spitting out orders one after another. Sometimes 6-7 tickets in a row. It’s total action and it’s emotional. For four hours, we yelled at each other, we slipped all over the place like my kitchen was built on a giant Slip n’ Slide, pots and pans flew into the sink with thundering noise, apologies were made, people were told to shut the hell up and hurry the fuck up, blenders screamed, and worst of all, fingers were cut. Badly. Without my worrisome parents not knowing what I just did to myself, I ran into the bathroom to tend to the wound. If I had told them, the food would not have been finished and my first attempt at catering would've been a disaster. I gauzed my finger up and ran back on the line. The whole time, I was hiding my bandaged fingers up so my mom wouldn’t see it. We finished at exactly 11:20, giving me 10 minutes to get to the Bridal shower.

I sped down the road and checked my phone. 8 missed calls from GW. Uh oh, she was freaking out. Luckily when I showed up, the guests were just rolling in and entertaining themselves with Mimosas. I unloaded the food and laid everything out on the table. I really wanted to get out of there. There was just way too much estrogen flowing thru that house. My finger was throbbing. And I had 30 minutes to get to The Restaurant. Talk about hell. One of the guests saw my finger and asked to check it out. Turns out her husband is a doctor.

Guest: “Let me see it.”
Me: “Are you sure?” (while drinking a glass of wine to alleviate the pain. So alchy haha.)
Guest: “Take it off.”
I slowly unraveled it.
Guest: “Uh, that’s bad. You can’t be here right now. You gotta to the hospital and get stitches.”
Me: “And stitch what?”
Guest: “Whatever they can.”

I downed my glass of wine and headed back on the road to a hospital. GW came running out with my reward: 24 bottles of Stella Artois beer. Yes! Suddenly I got a call from my mom.

Mom: “How’d they like the food?”
Me: “I think they like it. I didn’t see anyone throwing up.”
Mom: “I saw your trail. What happened to you?”
Me: “I’m going to the hospital.”
Mom: “Ai-yah.” (That’s Cantonese for ‘you stupid fool’)
Me: “Thanks for your help, you kicked ass.”

I sat there in the waiting room of the ER and looked over to my dad who had a worried look on his face. I told him I was fine, that it was all my fault, but we got the job done. In that four hours, it was nice to be with the family and work towards a common goal. That’s all that mattered. I now know what and what not to do next time around. For sure, I will be more than ready. GW called me to see how I was and tell me that the food was enjoyed by everyone. As my fingers throbbed, I leaned my head on the wall and sat back in the greasy, vinyl ER chairs, and gave a tired smile.

Thanks for reading.


elmomonster said...

HAHA! recruited your parents and had to hide the injury from your mom! Classic! That's exactly what I would've done...(hiding the injury) mom would've freaked out just like yours!

BoLA said...

So...your finger okay? I'll pull it for you..... ;)

Niiice...sneak peak for my Bridal Shower I'm planning next month! Teehee! Except mine's a Saturday lunch. I'll get together with JK on what she'd like for her get together as well as finalizing how many people she's expecting. Great pictures by the way! You're well on your way!!!

Anonymous said...

Bummer w/ the finger. Thank goodness it wasnt on your right hand huh.. otherwise you would have trouble navigatin the web for "tps" reports.

have fun in sf

Passionate Eater said...

Oh no D! Be careful with your injured finger. Keep it away from citrus juices and spicy foods like chile peppers and sauces--otherwise, it's going to sting like a "hoo-ha." I found that what helped me the most with my hand, was swabbing neosporin on the open wound, tightly wrapping a stretchable cloth bandaid over the opening, and wearing tight rubber gloves when cooking or washing dishes. Did you get stitches or your cut glued together? I hope you get better soon. Take care of your finger--I don't want my star food blogger to be on the injured list for too long.

susan said...

wow you rock dylan! so much work. and your parents rock too. :) the restaurant deal is tiring. i've cut down my hours drastically for the last few weeks. if you ever need help with the cooking get in touch with me!

Passionate Eater said...

I forgot to say, "WHOO HOO" for the estrogen! (Hey, estrogen is nature's natural "high." Just ask any woman about the mood-swings from PMS, and she'll tell you!)

Also, the food looks incredible! Mom and Pops did a fantastic job! Are pictures of the glass rolls and lasagna coming soon?

And.. You are coming to SF??? Tell me more!

Ron Oda said...

you are a bad dude... and you play hurt too...

extra points for bringing in your mom and getting the job done..
if you were in the NFL draft you'd be a definite 1st rounder on your way up to a lottery pick because of good combine workouts and solid work ethic...

Oishii Eats said...

Dang man...sorry about the injury. The food looked super yummy. Always enjoy reading your culinary journeys and caskets at Costco!

e d b m said...

Monster El, i think everyone should recruit their parents for something like this. It's your only opportunity to yell and disrespect them and get away with it haha. My parents kicked some ass. We used to own a restaurant in Palos Verdes and they are awesome cooks, so this was cake for them. Remember when you didn't get that Optimus Prime Transformer or Voltron set? This is the perfect chance to release the frustration.

Bola, thank you, i'm doing fine. I'm just dreading the rebandaging part. It's so painful. Next time me you and MS go eat, bring out JK and we can do a little menu planning. For sure i will not be losing any digits okay? i just ordered an iron mesh glove from Surfas. The kind the butchers use.

MS, yes, good thing it wasn't my right hand...

PE, thanks for the warnings. You're sweet. Don't get me wrong, I love estrogen-abundant places... like bars, libraries, etc. I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Shoot me an email if you'd like to meet up for a drink or something dude. I'm here all week.

Yoony, thank you. My parents really kicked some ass. I thanked them about 1,000 times. There may be a change in my plans at The Restaurant as well. The catering path seems to be more suitable for me. Email me anytime you're interested. My boss, MH, is so awesome. She's willing to give anyone a chance. And i know that you're a killer cook and you'd give 110%.

Chili Fries, thanks for stopping by and for the compliments. Come back and check for more of my culinary adventures.

Jeni, thanks. Don't worry, there won't be any 'extra toppings' in my next catering event, like the Wendy's case haha.

StaceyBelle said...

well done! parties are nerve wrecking! well done. the risotto looks excellent. and the smoked salmon-- never seen a smoked fish I didn't like. nice.

StaceyBelle said...

ps- your finger looks like mine after my new knife incident! i didn't realize how sharp *real* knives are!? way to take one for the team.

e d b m said...

Stacey, thank you. My injury was sponsored by Wusthof (7" santoku). I think they make better knives than Henckels because they hold their edge longer. I use those two and Global. My favorite knife is actually this cheapie ceramic vegetable knife i got for $10. Everyone at The Restaurant loved it so much that i bought like 4 of them and 2 more for my friends. Lemme know if you're interested, I can mail one to you if you like.

Daily Gluttony said...

YOU RECRUITED YOUR PARENTS???? I would never have thought of doing that in a million years but that is so bad ass!!! Were the "Ai-yah's" flying all around the kitchen? LOL?

BTW, I would have hid the injury from my mom too. =P

MEalCentric said...

What an exciting day. I'm with you on hiding it from the mom thing though. Last month I was opening a box with a knife (not a smart move) and it slipped and went a good inch into my palm. My mom was expecting me for dinner so I ran out of the house to the ER where I called her and said "I'm running some errands, I cant make it". She would have fainted had she seen the knife sticking out of my palm.

Where did you pick up the cheapie knife? I get some super sharp "kiwi" brand knives from the asian grocery stores for like $4 and they last forever. BTW...your pictures look amazing this time.

e d b m said...

Pam, there weren't very many 'ai-yah's'. Only a constant flow of nagging lectures about my future, procrastination and taste in food. Try that for 4 hours.

Meal, thank you. You should've taken a photo of that injury. It would be sick. I got my cheapie, but goodie, knife from this store in ktown called Kim's Home Center. Email me if you'd like one. Only $10! I loooooove that knife. They also have a replica of a Santoku knife for the same price. Can't lose with $10. If you lose it, get another one! Lemme know dude.

Passionate Eater said...

I had such a great time tonight Eat, Drink, & Be Merry, it was great meeting you, and I'm definitely calling you up soon! Hope to see you again on Saturday!

StaceyBelle said...

Holla- a ceramics knife. I've heard of such things and seen the magic they can do. Are they really as good as rumor has it???

MEalCentric said...

Dylan- thanks for the offer. I think this just gives me an excuse for a Ktown excursion. Of course, ending with several plates at Manna.

Joycelyn said...

hi dylan, everything looks fabulous. i particularly like the sounds/looks of the chicken wraps!

Yuzu said...

I like this entry. It was really fast-paced and just..."aauugghh"...stressful (in a good way). Congrats on catering the party! And props to the parentals for coming to the rescue. ^__^


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