The first time I ever stepped foot into a restaurant kitchen was at Roy's, a Hawaiian fusion restaurant. (The one located in Newport Beach) I was doing a Literary Journalism story my sophomore year of college on one of the chefs.
I dressed fairly nicely the day I went in to interview my subject; nothing really out of the ordinary from my regular wardrobe--button up shirt, leggings, and a pair of tan moccasins.
I was introduced to Edgar, a young chef of Filipino descent who had been cooking a Roy's for some time. I had spoke to him over the phone a few days before my visit to set up the appointment. He seemed friendly--and that he was.
We sat down at one of the dining tables while I debriefed him on what the angle of my story would be--Edgar the chef, plain, uncut, and uncensored. He was cool with that, so we proceeded.
He offered me a plate of food, nothing off the menu, just what the chefs and the other employees ate before opening to the dinner crowd. As the staff joked and laughed they made me feel like part of their family--not so much the hard-core, badass stereotype you hear a lot. They were...well...fun.
Edgar suited me up with a chef's coat (I was extremely excited about this part!) He poked fun at my moccasins, noting that they were in NO way kitchen footware. I told him that I didn't mind if they got dirty. He continued to chuckle as he offered to put bags over my feet. I laughed, and told him that I would rather get them dirty, than wear bags.
Stepping into the kitchen was like stepping into a compeltely different world. Heavenly music played as I slowly and carefully walked my way around the greasy floors. Braised meats sat in large catering trays under the salamander, the mise en place was all ready to go, pans were hung neatly on the walls, an array of colors and smells of fresh produce and seafood purfumed through the kitchen. It wasn't by any means a large ktichen, but it was enough for this restaurant.
As the rush of hungry diners began to flow in, the chefs, including Edgar, manned their stations--with a smile of course and a handful of jokes.
The kitchen got HOT quick.
But none of the chefs ever got to busy to ask me how I was doing and to make sure I was getting some good information about them for the story. They gave me platefuls of risotto, fish, and other things that were on the menu to taste. IT WAS GREAT.
They seemed...really relaxed. I'm not saying, by any means, that they "had it easy", there was definitely a sense of urgency and a need for speed and accuracy, but something about how graceful they moved and how much they joked made the job seem effortless and enjoyable--despite the heat and the greased up floors.
The orders kept rolling in and they knew what to do--which sauces when where, which seasonings were for the salmon and which were for the ahi, each dish finished with "finesse" as Edgar put it.
The kitchen wasn't the place for me. I wouldn't be able to stand the "heat" of the kitchen in every sense of the word, no matter how fun and easy they made it seem.
(I'll attach the article I wrote soon!)