August 8 1998
A Day in the Life
that much sleeping?

The task of the day:

Laundry, Housing

I'm sitting doing my laundry again, and someone has country music playing. Bleah. I'd rather it was just quiet. Or if anything else but twangy geee-tars.

* * *

After a week I've decided that I really dislike these AM schedules. Here's how it typically goes. I know that I'm on AM again next week, and possibly the week following that.

5:00 - 5:15 wake up

5:15 - 5:45 Shower. Dress (this requires no thought, as I wear the same things every day). Gather tool kit, and anything else I need for the day.

5:45 out of the house

5:50 - 6:30 Arrive at school. Park in Outer Ulan Batur. Walk with the rest of the zombies (all of us in chef's coats and carrying our kits) into the school. Breakfast. I don't normally eat them, but this is one of only two meals for the day, and I need the energy for the morning's work.

6:30 - 7:00 Classroom. Review plans for the day. Go over recipes. Make plans of attack. Other team members arrive. Go over with them what we'll be doing.

7:00 - 8:15 Lecture. This is about what we'll be doing that day, with some overview about what we're trying to do or learn. Lots of questions get asked. It's generally a fairly free-form lecture. The chef often goes over the recipes we'll be doing, and makes sure our teams understand the assignments.

8:15 - 8:30 Coffee break. Mostly it's a chance to talk with the team now that we know a bit more about the assignments. Within about five minutes, we're generally gravitating towards the kitchen.

8:30 - 8:45 Aprons on. Side towels tucked in. Knives and tools out. Team checks final division of labor. Mise en Place for the recipes start. Foodstuffs for the day are gathered. Pots and pans are found. Any specialized equiptment is dug out. Missing items are reported to the chef so that he can go round them up. Ovens are turned on (they take 20 minutes to heat).

8:45 - 10:00 Prep work. Vegetables cut. Slowly, the workstation area becomes covered with hotel pans and small cups of prepared items. Long cooking items (stocks, sauces, braises) are cooked off.

10:00 - 10:30 Final prep starts. Chef is usually poking his head into things at this point, making sure that we're coming along and will meet the finishing goal. During this time, he'll typically call "Demo!" and have us come over to watch and discuss some item of a recipe's preparation.

10:30 - 11:00 Final final prep (things that must be done at the last minute). Major cooking of medium to large items. Sauces are brought to heat/warm. Garnishes are prepared (if they haven't already been thought of).

11:00 Fire! The command is given to begin final cooking for a plating at 11:30. "Fire" is a command in the kitchen. "Fire One Chicken" means "Cook one chicken entree (whatever that might happen to be tonight) and get it on a plate ASAP."

11:00 - 11:30 Total chaos! Groups that have done well during prep are fine here, as long as they have organized the recipe ingredients and pre-cooked everything well. Groups that have not done so (and are attempting to do prep-like things during this time) are In the Weeds. As items are cooked off, they are pulled from the heat and held for service. Hotel trays or platers are brought to the center of each team's prep area. Dirty pans are washed in the pot sinks. Empty Mise en Place cups and containers are tossed out. Work areas are wiped down.

11:30 - 11:45 Final plates are prepared from the cooked items and set in a central area. For a typical day, we'll plate one "demo plate" and place the rest in hotel trays or on a plater. We've learned that the "plating" of the plater also makes a difference in how the group judges our food. At first we just tossed stuff into the hotel pan and spent all of the time on the plate. We now divide it more evenly. An overwhelming majority of plates that we do look like something you would receive in a $30 per plate restaurant. Sometimes they look less stunning, but it's amazing what even the most disorganized teams consistently manage to turn out.

11:45 - 12:15 Lunch. We eat what we just cooked, helping ourselves to the items from the trays. Demo plates are left untouched until after lunch. Lunch service gives us set tables with drinks, coffee, salads, and deserts. A bit after noon, folks start wandering back into the kitchen, and start some cleanup work of the kitchen.

12:15 - 1:00 Discussion. The Chef goes over the items we prepared, talking about how each one came out. Plating of the food is discussed, with the Chef suggesting alternate ways to plate, or praising how we've done. Plates that "don't work" are adjusted by the Chef to suggest ways to fix the presentation. Quality of the food is discussed, with recommendations for changes in preparation, seasoning, and so on. Problems that people ran into are discussed, along with ways to resolve them. When I remember to bring my camera, I take pictures of some of the plates. When I get them developed, I'll post them here.

1:00 - 1:30 Cleanup. Workstations are wiped down. Trays and light utensils are washed. Pots and pans are placed in a rack for the potwasher to take care of. Work surfaces are wiped down. Ovens are turned off. Grill is cleaned. Floors are sweeped. Unused food is returned to the reach in areas of the fridge.

1:45 - 2:00 Home. Hair is pulled down. Sweaty clothes are pulled off. I rest a bit, and typically fall asleep with my head in the next day's reading assignments.

5:00 - 7:00 Somewhere in here, I wake up from my nap. Feeling crappy that I fell asleep, and basically wasted the afternoon. If I have video assignments, I'll put on some presentable clothes and head back to school for some watching of them. Otherwise, I might just read up on the next day's recipes. For very difficult days, I'll put together "Cue Cards" of things that need doing.

evening Recreational reading. Journal writing. If I'm getting together with folks from school, I might go out to the local brewpub. Most nights, however, it's more restful not to head back out again.

10:00 - 11:00 In spite of the afternoon's nap, I can't keep my eyes open any longer and fall asleep.

5:00 - 5:15 wake up. Repeat.

* * *

Going out for sushi tonight with Shawn. He's got a room for rent, and I'm thinking that I'll be taking it. It has (gasp!) phone access, a kitchen I can actually use, and a room that isn't painted pink. I think these are improvements. It's also cheaper.

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Copyright 1998 Tom Dowdy