I have been watching one of our food runners start to take on more tasks in the kitchen. Usually her job duties would be limited to putting food on a tray and taking it to the correct table. Occasionally the food runners also serve as expeditors, telling the chefs what items are coming in on the tickets. A couple weeks ago, I started noticing a food runner, B, chopping onions and blending soup. She has been continuing to do more and more food prep duties, even cutting meat. I have been kind of impressed.
Saturday night, we were pretty busy. The kitchen was running semi-smoothly for just having lost our executive chef and also training a new line cook and salad worker who do not speak English. Chef P, who has suddenly become the executive chef, and been putting in crazy hours, had not prepared any new desserts and by the end of the night we were out of desserts. We thought we were through with service for the evening and Chef P went home. Then we had a couple parties show up wanting to eat, so Owner 2 was debating what to do. B said, “I’ll cook. I know all the dishes.” R1 said, “And I will make some dessert.” So B made some perfect dishes and R1 made some less than perfect dessert (Blackberries sautéed in brandy and red wine with some brown sugar, served over vanilla ice cream; it tasted good, just looked a little sloppy). So we served the two parties who were very happy with their dinners. One of my customers said, “Give the chef a raise!”
I recently read a book called Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch. It is a memoir about working in a fine dining restaurant. It was a good read and I liked it because I identified with her story of being new to serving, and also wanting to excel at it. In her restaurant, all the workers called each other “chef”, as a sign of respect. She did not explicitly say this, but I am assuming that this practice also helped keep in mind that everyone in a restaurant is contributing to the same goal of providing a great meal for the guests. I don’t know how actual chefs would feel about that practice (most chefs I have met are VERY particular about being called CHEF), and I am not going to suggest we try it at my work, but Saturday night I complimented B and called her “chef”.
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