Sensitive Saturdays? Naaahhhhh

“I can’t believe you’re leaving us.” Ughhhh. It’s only November and Matt’s already guilt-tripping me about next summer. I don’t have words, so I’m just trying to let it all unfold as it will and not worry about it too much.

Chef and I did not talk in accents all Saturday night, but they did come out a little more often than usual. He and Jason both seem to be doing much better.

Jason’s impertinence clearly states that he’s feeling chipper, at any rate. He’s nicer when he’s sick, and I told him so. “You have the weirdest comments, Ais.”

It’s no use trying to pacify him or equal his cheek. I tried both in one round. No good. Basically, he accused me of taking up too much space – a standing joke that started with Ricky Bobby ages ago – so I told him that perhaps he was better off prepping upstairs, which he then tried to make me out to mind, and even when I brought the radio upstairs while he was in the walk-in, he just brought it back down again and promptly continued his antics. I suppose I ought to note that I’m not actually complaining, mind.

Chef and Matt sent me downstairs shortly after service time had rolled around to check on what Jason was doing, ask if he needed help, ask how much longer he had, and to tell him to “hurry up and get the **** out of here.” “So what should I tell them?” “Hmm… Let me think… What do I want to say back…? Tell them… No, never mind, Ais.” “What?” “No, I don’t want to tell you; it’s not appropriate.” I related this exchange upstairs. “Ais, you’re not stupid; you know perfectly well what he was going to say.”

In truth, I did not, considering how uncharacteristically long it took him to decide on a reply which he then refused to relate to me. I do not trust myself to speculate, when instincts tell me that the referenced typical reply would have come like lightning, as it usually does, and furthermore, that he would not have had any reservations with regards to my ears, had it been the said typical reply, since I’m well used to hearing it by now. But I ran with the general assumption, since prolonging a debate over my actual stupidity seemed entirely unnecessary. And besides, if I’d tried to explain my instincts and thought process, they wouldn’t have taken it the way Jason would have if positions had been reversed. Jason’s used to my weird comments and ramblings, but he’s quite alone in that respect. And we’ve already established elsewhere that I’m a different breed of human being.

Anyway.

Jason also seemed strangely more nostalgic than usual, which I did not comment aloud on, but couldn’t help taking note of. The anger management sink prompted some reminiscence of Daveed’s crew members’ signature reactions to the sound. And something about Ricky Bobby always saying “Allen Chiversons.”

Oh, and I completely forgot to mention that when I told him as soon as I saw him next about our terrible clean-up job on OM Saturday, he apologized. I replied that I wasn’t looking for an apology. “Wait, what did you say?? That’s a good line, I should remember that. How does it go again?” I rolled my eyes and left. It took him a couple of tries to recall it, but now he uses it on me all the time, like when I had my knife kit open on the prep table, and he came down to use said table, and I moved my bag and apologized as I did so, in my usual manner. “Ah… Well played.” “Indeed. Well, but I did get it from you. You said it first.” “And it took you a couple of times to remember how it actually went.” “Yeah.” “Still.”

Nathan did another great job working expo. I hope, however, that I haven’t unconsciously developed any sort of reputation for being sharp – if I have, I can only cast it up to Josh driving me nuts when he’s not bartending – because Nathan was extremely hesitant to ask me to go take care of some desserts for him, unnecessarily mollifying [in response to absolutely nothing belligerent about my own mien], and profusely thankful. Have I ever mentioned that the FoH plates their own amuse and desserts, and garnishes some of the dishes? It’s awesome. Anyway, expo was a little crazy and I was free, but I had to tell Nathan several times over that he shouldn’t hesitate to ask me for anything when he sees perfectly well that I’m not busy, and he does do an excellent job of keeping tabs on the line. Bless his heart.

In direct contrast to the previous Saturday, this past Saturday was as smooth as one could hope, and we were all out before midnight. In fact, all the FoH was gone by the time I headed out to the bar with the prep list in hand, with the exception of Zach, who left very shortly afterwards.

Matt and I had a decent-lengthed conversation about it afterwards, prompted by Chef asking us what we’d thought.

Chef had worked saute last Saturday, I was on garde/tandoor, and Matt and Jason were both working middle/naans. The guys had been fighting with the fryer and constantly switching back and forth between re-lighting that and a using a backup pot of oil on the stove. And then there was that terrible point near the end where I somehow ended up doing stove-top fryer stuff while the guys tried to catch up on naans. It was a mess. And yet, this Saturday, we did about the same volume with Matt on saute and Chef working middle, the fryer completely eliminated in favor of the stove-top, and Jason having left before service really got rolling.

It was several things, and part of it was that we were pretty well prepped this Saturday and weren’t running up and down for anything. I ran down twice for cream and onion gravy, both for Matt, because I actually had free time with Chef watching my proteins in the tandoor. But what it really came down to was frustration levels and switched stations, not helped by the fact that Chef and Jason were both sick at the time. Tendency-towards-[obviously-expressed-]frustration levels on middle/tandoor increases by day [as we near the weekend and generally go up in covers] and by person in the following order: Chef –> Matt –> Jason, an observation which I did articulate at Chef’s prompting. My thoughts were that if Chef’s going to be on the line with us anyway – something that Matt and I have both expressed our preference for and appreciation of – Tuesdays through Thursdays are great for the rest of us to be training on middle, Fridays are iffy, but Saturdays just work better when the guys are training on saute. Chef’s better able to keep tabs on us, keep us focused, keep our times in sync between stations, and ultimately help us enjoy the whole experience, when he’s working between us as opposed to all the way over at one end. 90% of jokes coming from [our side of] the line come from Chef. He keeps us on top of finding and fixing problems, letting go, and moving forward. Chef constantly reiterates the fact that he doesn’t hold grudges.

These constant reevaluations with Chef are certainly among the strengths of our team. And his emphasis on team, and even more, on family, really make the restaurant what it is. He’s always saying, “I got your back, son, don’t you worry,” and talking to us about the importance of being cognizant of each other’s difficulties during service so that we can stay on the same page. Problems aren’t allowed to fester; he addresses them as immediately as possible, sometimes with all of us together, and sometimes with individuals. On Saturday, I had time to talk to Chef and Matt together, as well as separately, and I know Matt had the respective opportunities to do the same. We cannot be indifferent towards each other. We have to care.

Fortunately, caring is far from difficult in this kitchen. Neither is it difficult to be completely honest with one’s concerns. Last week, I semi-begged Matt to stay for service and let Jason go early, partly because Jason was not feeling well, but mostly because lately, I’ve become much more accustomed to working the line with Matt, and thus Matt has a better handle on communicating exactly what he needs from me and when to make it happen. On a weeknight, I would have been more willing to run with it, but taking the anticipated volume into account and Chef not feeling too great, I preferred to avoid near occasions of frustration altogether. Matt understood.

Matt was craving wings, and I think we all felt that they would be well-earned, so he and Chef and I headed downtown immediately after finalizing the prep list.

Unfortunately, the kitchen had closed by the time we got to KnockBack. Matt had arrived first and gotten his drink, so we all had one and then left. People were making the most of the nicer weather, and downtown was alive and beautiful.

We ended up at Metropole. Jared was already at Yesterdays, but the bar was still open, and I guess Chef saw somebody he knew, so while he was having a nice chat with his friend and the bartender, Matt and I looked around at the front line and the lounge part that I didn’t make it to on Thursday. I had to laugh; Matt said he loved what he saw of the open kitchen, but that the dining area, while beautiful, was “so ******* pretentious.” I understand what he means… but if I’m with good company that isn’t born of the surroundings, I like, shall we call them, blending-in adventures. Like going to Embers for lunch with Michelle, in suits. It’s the same sort of harmless and highly enjoyable thrill as going to a Pride & Prejudice Ball, rising to the occasion and playing the side of one’s self that isn’t pretentious per se, but perhaps a little more inclined towards elegance. At any rate, Chef was still very much engaged in conversation [about Mantra], and Matt and I were hungry, so we got a sandwich order from Chef and headed to Gilpin’s.

Matt, knowing the order, placed it all together, but with my ninja reflexes, I beat him to the card and refused to be beholden to him for a delicious BLT with roast beef. *strikes pose* Before anyone calls me out on vacillating [again], let me divert everyone’s attention to an instance which caused me to use the word ‘vacillate’ at work earlier in the day, and was consequently told that I knew better than to use big words [around Jason].

Nathan came in wearing glasses – which he did not wear during service – and I commented because they become him quite well, but then Jason made some comment that Nathan had now joined “the cool kids.” I really couldn’t resist pointing out that before Jason started wearing his glasses all the time, the comment was “four eyes”; glasses were only “cool” now that he had joined the crowd [entirely out of necessity]. He did not have anything to say to that, and I feel less guilty about ninjas inconsistently being without honor.

Matt and I had both finished our sandwiches by the time Chef joined us at Gilpin’s, at which point, we all headed back to KnockBack. I suppose Matt stayed, but Chef and I headed back to Mt. Adams.

I was home well before 2, which is nothing short of crazy.

Matt’s promised that we’ll go to Hofbrau sometime. I’m holding him to that.

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