The sun sparkles on the water and from my view in the kitchen I can see yachts slowly rising and falling. The restaurant’s outside deck is filling fast and I am getting ready to go and go hard. Yes, I am a little nervous that the fishing boats haven’t been out for two days but we managed to get 20 kilo of tuna from Wellington and although the couriers lost some precious cargo along the way, we replaced the larder adequately. I hope the spinach gets delivered. Why someone would have a side salad for lunch is beyond me, but there it is, it is on the menu.
I’m shouting last minute instructions to a staff that look as anxious as I’m feeling and yet the waiters seem content to chat behind the bar and fold napkins even though the front deck now looks completely full and tables are filling up inside as well. Happy groups of people and families streaming through the doors and past our wood fired ovens.
Now there’s a waiter asking me to explain the Fish of the Day dishes…again! and I’m getting scratchy.
It’s day 50 of the season and I have had all of three days off. We will feed 1500 people a week in the high weeks of the season between December and April and provide continuous food service for 10 hours a day, each and every day, with 4 flames and a semi trained team of me, my sous chef and 3 cooks. And the heavy part of the season is still to come!
I love it!
I decide to ring the bell and get the waiters to collect orders, talking over their objections that the tables aren’t ready to order….the last thing we need is 30 table orders all at once…and my pizza chef is asking me if she can have a break? Kerran, my sous chef, just raises an eyebrow.
The kitchen order printout machine starts to clack and I’m barking out the orders to the staff. “Calling table 48, 2 classic pizza, 2 focaccia to go, stand by mains, 3 paella, 3 fish of the day, 1 pork belly, 3 mesculun sides and 1 steamed greens!”
Order machine continues to spit out more and more dockets. Seventy-five percent of the dishes are on my section. I fight for one of the four flames and now I’m yelling that we have 75 dishes on order and need to move. Dishes are coming up onto the pass—the dispatch table—and the waiter’s bell is ringing, once, and then it breaks, as it always does. The pass is covered now with dishes destined for tables, we have food gridlock and where are the food runners! My head is spinning looking at everything and everyone, watching the dishes going out.
“NO! That’s table 36. Check your dockets before you grab the dishes! Come on Kerran we need more speed on 53. Hustle!” The machine clackers along unmercifully. “6 sashimi, 10 oysters natural, 6 tempura, 3 line fish, toasted brioche.”
I will stand in my position for 12 hours today and cook to order constantly, and prep when I can to replenish quickly diminishing stocks. Every now and then making sure everyone is ok, and we are traveling well.
I really need the pizzas to be moving out faster. There’s a line of them waiting. The crockery is running out and I’m screaming for pans. Suppliers ringing me and waiters getting short tempered. “Would it be possible to do seafood surprise platters for a table of 20 in the dining room?”
Responses of “Yes Chef!” are tinged with exhaustion and impatience as the machine spits forth its never ending orders. But we are going ok. Putting out 90 dishes last hour, moving at the right pace, the plates looking good…and thank the lord they are eating the rare tuna today!
Suppliers with laden trolleys are streaming in the back door and coming around for me to sign off their deliveries, expecting the general camaraderie that comes with the chef vs. delivery guy routine. Boxes get rapidly opened and the fresh produce comes to my station just in the nick of time. We are running out of fish. I ring the supplier and the woman who answers the phone must be having a bad day!
“Our trucks leave at 10 am, you can’t ring us now!”
“Do you have any fresh fish?”
“We can’t deliver it!”
“Do you have any?”
“We have some groper,”
“Can I send a runner to grab it now?”
Kerran looks at me. I tell him he can pick up the fish on his break. We should be ok till five…the lunch is winding down. Kerran is busy writing down instructions. He will cover all the stations and the freezers and fridges and start calling the suppliers to get us through the next 24 hours. Finally I am on my own for a couple of hours and start the set up for the evening. The owner swings by, “Had a great lunch, thanks, loved the sushi!”
I’m cursing that I let the kitchen hand go off early as I build a small landscape of pots and pans and assorted kitchen battery items on the benches. I am hanging out for a coffee.
A waiter walks past and asks me what I did for Christmas.