We were all gathering around at the beginning of class to take attendance and discuss the evening when I noticed that my partner, the fourth member of our group, wasn't yet in the kitchen. By the end of roll call, he still wasn't there so, before I freaked out, mentioned his absence to chef. "Jacques-leen, shall will close ze restaurant? No…we will be just fine." Ok, speak for yourself chef, because you're not the one who's going to have to handle the cod dish by yourself. The three of us started our prep for the night, which was doubled because a new group is taking over on Friday and we were asked to make sure they were well prepared on their first night, but I soon realized that it was going to be a rough couple of hours.
We had started the evening with the plan that I'd be cooking the cod, someone would be cooking the shrimp and the third person would be the runner and the plater, handling everything else that needs to be done. Once service started, though, it didn't quite seem to work out that way. For some reason, they were having a hard time with the shrimp, so the two of them focused solely on filling those orders. I was simply trucking away, searing, baking and basting in my own little world while listening to orders that were coming in, heating the Sauce Tomate and plating the dish like a little fleshy robot. It wasn't until one of my group members said, "Sorry I haven't been helping, we're kind of drowning over here," did I realize that half the night had passed and I was handling everything on my own just fine. In fact, I was keeping an extra cod piece (ha ha ha) on the warmer at all times, just in case an urgent order came in. Not too shabby, eh??
Luckily, the end of my evening went fantastically; the beginning, however, didn't start out too well. I was in charge of making a huge batch of the smoked potato cream for Friday, so I chopped a bunch of shallots, sweated them in butter until they were nice and pearly and then added white wine. I turned the heat up to quickly reduce to wine, and turned my back to start multi-tasking. A few minutes later (quicker than I had expected), I smelled something slightly bitter and realized that my pot was smoking. Nothing can prepare you for the anxious feeling you get while approaching a pot that's smoking on the stove, not knowing what you'll find when you peek your eyes above the edge. Well, funny story, what I found was a smoking heap of burnt shallots! Ok…no big deal. I dumped the pot, sent it to the dishwashers (their judging looks didn't help…like you've never burnt something mon ami) and started on a new batch of shallots. Everything went well this time, so I added the potatoes, boiled them in the stock until they were soft and strained everything out. In a large blender, I added the potatoes, the shallots and some crème fraiche and hit 'start.' Nothing. I tried a new outlet, and hit 'start' again. Again, nothing. Hmm…I walked that big blender around that whole kitchen and tried almost every outlet I could find, and still nothing. One with a keen common sense might think, "Silly Jackie, the problem is obviously with the blender itself. Just get a new blender!" Thanks guys, that's exactly what I did; I got a new blender base, took everything back over to my original outlet and hit 'start.' Nothing. It was already 7:45, and service was starting in fifteen minutes so I put everything aside, including my mounting frustration, and focused on the night's tasks. I still don't know what the problem was, but at the end of the night when my group member asked me if she could help with any of the prep for Friday, I directed her towards the abandoned blender in the corner.
In the middle of the evening, I received an order for four cod. I took the four fillets out of the refrigerator, placed them on a sheet pan to come to room temperature and seasoned each. A few minutes later, as I was preparing to cook the fish, chef got my attention and called me over to the pan. "Jacques-leen, you must be careful of ze worms." Hmm, that's weird, I'm pretty used to translating accents, but I'm not aware of a French word that sounds like 'worms.' I followed his gaze…and found a worm on the platter. A worm. A freaking worm. On the platter. Near the cod. A worm. He explained to me that cod is a wormy fish…so when I'm asked in the future: yes, Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 was the last time I ever ate cod.
By the end of the night, I had literally consumed nothing other than warm water for the past eight hours, so I was understandably starving. I had about three minutes to spare, so I made myself a small plate and shoved the food into my mouth, inhaling the solids down my esophagus faster than air. I glanced over, and a classmate, who I happen to be very good friends with, was slack-jawed, staring right at me. "What's the deal, creep?" I asked him. "I'm sorry, I've just never really seen anyone eat that fast before." Awesome. Since when did I become a frat boy? I should probably renew my feminine manners and etiquette…but maybe I'll wait until graduation.