Sitting At The Feet Of The Masters, Looking Up

I realized the other day that I forgot to update my last post about waiting to hear from the restaurant.

I got the job. Every day that I work there, I get to behold the craft and artwork of the kitchen. I’ve seen the same endive salad go past me several times, but I don’t get sick of looking at it (or over the desire to eat it). The pork belly is gorgeous, and I am jealous of every person I see eating it. The desserts… oh the desserts. Happily, our pastry chef is ever-evolving and has recently come up with a dessert of house-made pretzel balls with hopped ice cream served with a swath of brown mustard. Fascinating!

I was intimidated, being around that food. It sounds so silly, doesn’t it? It feels to me sometimes like I’m walking around a Hollywood backlot and at any moment some movie star could come around the corner, the energy crackles for me like that. The first day I was standing up front, over my shoulder the door opened, and in walked chef. I’d seen him on TV and in multiple publications. I knew his face, and it was smiling. At me. I managed to get out a smiley “hello!” as he walked by and headed to the kitchen.

Even simply being downstairs in the office, chef has his own part of the continuous desk that wraps around the room. On it are notes from the James Beard committee, a photobooth picture of him and his wife, some kids drawings and a photo of him with Wylie Dufresne. I take phone messages for him and leave them on the already-started pile. I don’t get starstruck well ever, but I can’t help but feel as though I’m in the house he built… I am, after all.

I apparently beat out 150 applications and was one of two people hired – the other had a personal in with the pastry chef. I have no idea how that happened, I don’t think I’m that charming, but they saw something in me that they liked and that’s been a nice esteem booster.

Two major perks: 50% off my bill (and with one other person no less) at both our and our sister restaurant – and rumor has it more than that – AND each shift I get a free meal. At lunch, a full meal and at dinner, an appetizer. We also do “family meal” each day, which is when the kitchen makes one big offering for the staff and we sit down and eat (though not all together at the tables, I have to watch the phone…boo). My first bit of food were sweetbreads, which were not as good as Custom House, but still good enough that I’ve gotten them twice.

It’s still a restaurant job and I’m still disappointed in myself to be working yet another one of those, but if I’m going to do it I’d like to think I’ve peaked working there. The clientele is totally different at a high-end place, in both good and bad ways, but I do know that I stand up straighter, smile more sincerely and while ultimately I would rather dine there than work there, it’s still an honor.

Oh and when I’m done with work tomorrow, I was instructed to go up to the pastry kitchen where the pastry chef himself is going to prepare the pretzel dessert just for me.

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